Kids have been photographed on Santa's lap at shopping malls for decades, but in the age of cell phone cameras, parents who snap their own sometime find malls aren't happy about it.
Many mall operators hire outside companies to run the Santa photo spots. Cherry Hill Photo takes the pictures at the Westfield Culver City, and other Westfield malls in the Los Angeles area. The firm has a sign on its Santa set that states: 'Personal Cameras and Cell Phone Cameras are not permitted. Visits are always welcome.'
“It turned me 'Bah, humbug!' for a moment,” said Angie Sanders, a stay-at-home mom from Tarzana, who saw a similar sign when she took her 3-year-old son to sit with Santa at the Northridge Fashion Center. The cheapest Santa photo package she could buy there was $25. More than she was willing to pay.
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"Because $25 is more money than you spend on one gift," Sanders said. "I just felt it was so unfair."
Worldwide Photography shoots Santa photos at the Northridge Fashion Center and other malls operated by the General Growth Properties, including the Glendale Galleria. From Worldwide's statement regarding photos with Santa Claus:
Santa Visits at GGP centers in your area are always free. Photo purchases are not required. We realize Santa Claus visits are a holiday tradition many of our shoppers look forward to year after year - and so do we! We ask that patrons refrain from using any photo devices within the confines of the set so that we can bring this tradition back year after year.
Angie Sanders understands that she's not required to purchase the photos, but believes she should be allowed to take her own.
" I told other friends," Sanders said, "They were like ‘we didn’t care, we’re just going to take it anyway.’ But then that makes us the bad guy. We’re not following the rules," she said.
Jesse Tron , a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said it’s not just at malls where professional photographers have to deal with everybody having a camera.
"You have plenty of other scenarios where this is somebody’s job, this is their livelihood, this is how they make their living and yet, you know, people have the ability to just snap a photo kind of at will," said Tron.
Worldwide Photography's statement asks patrons to not use their own cameras so that it can bring the tradition back year after year. Santa, his set, and staff cost money, and photos pay the bills.
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