Trip to see Santa: Take One!

After much thought we decided that we wanted to take Charles to see Father Christmas.
I asked on Facebook if anyone knew of places to go around here to see him. I was greeted with just two responses.

We decided we wanted to go have a look at some sofas at DFS in Norwich so we went into the garden centre which we pass on the way there.
It looked busy which is always a good sign.
Charles was really excited and had been talking non stop about seeing Father Christmas in the car and as we walked across the car park.
After taking 15 minutes to find the grotto (no signs guiding your way there) we joined the end of the queue.
We then saw a notice saying we needed a ticket before we get to the grotto. So my husband and Charles went to get one whilst Harry and I kept our place in the long queue.
My husband was gone around 10 minutes and eventually came back and said that you buy the tickets at the front of the queue so, confused, we asked the other grotto-goers infront of us where they got their tickets.
"Over there, but the queue is now closed"
They informed us.
And sure enough there was a sign saying "the queue for the Grotto is now closed"
What? This must be wrong! Its only 2.50! We'd been in the queue for 10 minutes also and this sign was there when we arrived but looked like it was randomly placed there until the queue was infact closed.
As we tried to find our way out (not easy at this particular Garden Centre) we came across the information desk.
There I saw a notice stating Grotto opening times.
"10 until 4.30"
4.30! And we were being turned away at 2.50!
Now even more angry, I asked the member of staff what was going on.
"We have to close the queue now as it takes that long to get through the Grotto"
What?? It takes over an hour and a half to get through a tiny grotto. She must've been joking.
So I questionned this.
"You're seriously telling me it takes well over an hour to get through that Grotto"
"Yes. I'm sorry about that"
"Well, I just think that's ridiculous. And we now have a broken hearted little boy"
With that we walked off. Walking past other children jumping for joy at the prospect of seeing the big man in red, soon to be leaving disappointed with more parents saying the same as us...
"We'll never come here again"
There could've been a sign on the entrance door also saying that the Grotto was closed, rather than wasting time walking around this big garden centre trying to find where Father Christmas was based!

So maybe we were wrong (would love to know others opinions on this) but surely the opening times should be 10-3 rather than 4.30? Giving 4.30 as the closing time gives the impression that customers can buy tickets up until that time, indicating nowhere that the queue will close an hour or so before this time.

I worked at Boots and Superdrug and we never closed our doors at 5.00 because it would take half an hour to get all the customers from that point to shop and go through the checkout.

Also my problem is that Christmas and in particular Father Christmas is supposed to be magical for children.
Highway Garden and Leisure, (at Framingham Pigot, Norfolk) obviously don't feel this way and have no problems sending away disappointed children.

I immediately posted my disappointment on Facebook and had some interesting responses from friends saying they'd had bad experiences also.
One saying:
"We went there last year and qued for ages, then got rushed through seeing him, so couldn't get a very clear photo and toy was crap!! I wouldn't go again!!"
And another saying:
"We had to wait ages to see him, then he walked past us, completely ignored the girls and went into the grotto, nobody told us we could go in so we waited around for a while and then eventually just walked in to find he wasn't even completely dressed as father christmas...not unless he wears jeans anyway!!"

So it looks like we had a lucky escape.

Hopefully our trip to another garden centre will be more successful today.

Dear Highway Garden and Leisure.
I wouldn't bother with a Grotto next year if I was you!
Children should be leaving skipping and smiling, excited that they've just seen Santa.
You are not providing this service properly and therefore have children leaving heartbroken and parents desperately thinking of a suitable reason to tell their child why they couldn't see Santa.
Do it properly or not at all!
A lost customer.
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