Overpriced Santa Photos

Hayley - posted on 12/03/2010 ( 185 moms have responded )

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Does anyone else feel completely ripped off by Santa photos? I just called our local mall to find out some details before bringing my daughter down tonight and boy did I get a sticker shock. For a one photo (one single printed photo) package it's $14.99!!! Really!!!! Apparently the packages go clear up to almost $50! Really? Who in their right mind pays $50 for mall santa photos????

I'll suck it up and get them for posterity but man do I feel ripped off! Anyone else fell this way?

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Dee - posted on 12/09/2010

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I have been a mall marketing director for 5 years, and heard this complaint a million times. What no one seems to remember is the expense involved in BRINGING Santa to the mall ... which is pretty significant. A quick overview:
$250-$500 thousand for a holiday decor set - which lasts at least 5 yearsm but still -
$20,000 every year to set up the decor
$10,000 for Santa, plus hotel and per dium if he is not local - and his background check.
3-5 "elves" at $9 an hour - and their background checks.
$5,000 for the camera, plus $1000 each for the computers to view the pictures before you buy them ... and then you have paper, supplies, etc!
Sure, I remember going to Sears and getting free pictures too ... but as the trappings have gotten more expensive, so has the product. But if you want a professionally trained Santa, background checked and in costume and a great setting, you get what you pay for.

Tracy - posted on 12/03/2010

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My kids are 4 and 9 yrs old, and I've yet to drag them to go sit on some old drunk's lap. They have pictures of them with Santa, it's their father in a Santa suit that he found at Goodwill for $40. I hate mall in general, and absolutely refuse to go near one from Black Friday to Jan 15. I'm just funny that way, I guess.

[deleted account]

Also, my local Wal-Mart always has a week or so where they take Santa pictures in the store (not the photo studio, just out in the store - usually a part of the seasonal section is roped off). They give us one free photo and then the packages are fairly cheap (though I can't remember what it was last year). For this Santa picture last year we had all 3 of the kids in the picture and it was nice having one with all the kids as well as the individual ones.

Bonnie - posted on 12/03/2010

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Where I live the cheapest santa photo is $10.99 and I believe it is 5x7. The packages go up to around $40 or so. We just buy the cheapest one, scan it onto our computer and print off sizes that we want:-)

Linda - posted on 12/10/2010

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If you check your local events, you can find fire companies and churches that do breakfasts and lunches with Santa and they will usually included one polaroid picture, but will let you take your own too so you can get as many as time and the wait will allow. Most of the Santa pictures my childre and grandson had done were done in this manner and then I choose how to print them

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Kaitlyn - posted on 12/10/2010

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They are definitely a rip off. Especially when you get a person who is incapable of taking a good picture. We do them purely for the experience and because it is only once a year. This year, the silly girl, who probably has not ever had even a single photo class, was not capable of snapping the picture when my baby was smiling. She just kept squeeking a silly toy and missed all the good shots. We were forced to pick "the best" of 5 shots which entailed Santa's hand in front of the baby because he was trying to keep her hands out of her mouth and the photographer didn't pay attention. Worst 20 bucks I ever spent, but who can stand to wait in line again to get another opportunity? If I had another option I would do it somewhere else, but I don't.

TJ - posted on 12/10/2010

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I was recently at the airport here in El Paso, Texas, and the airport was offering free pictures with Santa, try calling your closest airport and see what they have, i thought that that was the neatest idea...FREE...

Therese - posted on 12/10/2010

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My twins are 11 now but I remember those days. I used to buy the cheapest picture possible. I remember thinking how expensive it is and yet all these people are on line like me waiting for their kids to take a picture with santa. It's just one of those things that we have to do. just get the cheapest, even $14.99 is a rip off but years down the road you will see those pictures and they are precious. p.s. wait until school pictures..they are a bigger rip off but again you just buy the cheapest.

[deleted account]

Windows/Microsoft and Southwest Airlines are doing photos on the fly at the SkyHarbor airport and a few other airports.
They are taking pics with Santa for free!! you get one printed and the rest are emailed to you :)

Gillian - posted on 12/10/2010

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I feel the same way about the price of santa and easter bunny photos. I'm sorry but I won't pay that. Walmart every year has a couple of days before Christmas where they have a Santa in for photos and you pick them up in the photo center. If you want more than the free picture you pay the regular Walmart print fees. Also we have Bass Pro Shop that does a free 4x6 and they start right after Thanksgiving and go right up to Christmas Eve, plus they have crafts and games for the kids. Reprints are expensive (order online) but I just print them offf my home computer. Bass Pro also does Easter Bunny photos.

Heather - posted on 12/10/2010

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Our humane society was having a picture day, mainly for the pets but you could add your family also. It was $20, but going to a good cause.

Cathy - posted on 12/10/2010

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I take my daughter over to our local Bass Pro Shops and they always give us one photo for free and it's only #14.99 for the purchase of teh photo rights so I can take it to wal mart or Walgreens and duplicate it...

Benton - posted on 12/10/2010

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one year i didnt want to spend that much but was determined to get santa photos...petsmart had a santa and was doing it for free for kids and pets....there was a ton of parents there with the same idea!! then i purchased a framed picture of her for extra for only 5 bucks and it went to the aspca....i was a happy mom...with cute pics and a still mildly full wallet!

Jenny - posted on 12/10/2010

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yes, its crazy what they charge. I took my daughter to see Santa at the mall and was planning to take a picture with my cell phone but was informed that I could not take any pictures of my own unless I bought pics from them!!! I did not buy the photos, but she did get to see Santa. our local library is having a visit from Santa this weekend and photos are FREE!!! Before going to the mall check out your local area for events, you can usually find better deals on pics and ones that the money goes to charity.

[deleted account]

I think thats the same price for the Santa in the mall here. It does suck that they charge so much for a picture with a guy that just sits there. They dont even ask the kids what they want for Christmas anymore.

Erin - posted on 12/10/2010

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I agree that it is a total rip off. I do usually get one picture of my kids every year with Santa and at our mall it usually costs around $10. This year we had a Tree Festival in our downtown area and they had a Santa and Mrs. Claus so I just took a picture myself. It was Free.

Angela - posted on 12/10/2010

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We payed 36 and got 2 5/7 and 4 wallets. We got the deal because it said digital download comes with it. We discovered you can't download, just see the pictures online, so we were angry. The other downside is we live 1 1/2hrs. away so we cant just go drive back and ask for our money back. This will be the last year we do this. Next time we'll stick to local store free ones and scan it to make copies. The mall ones are a little nicer looking santa, but who looks at the santa and not the cute kids next to it. So yeah i agree rip off

Tracy - posted on 12/10/2010

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To answer your question: Yes! I got three free pictures(of my two kids) from our local "Felton Business Association" in the Felton Fire Dept! Plus, I took a few my self, with no lines! :) Last year we went downtown Santa Cruz, Ca. where Santa was sitting at a candy shop. We took our own pictures there. Always ask around, and look in your local paper, or call local fire dept. and see if they are doing it! Contact your local business association! Or, you could get together with other mom's with the same problem, and rent a costume! :) Good luck!

Kyle - posted on 12/10/2010

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I know that Bass Pro Shops do the whole Santa deal for free, and even give the kids a free breakfast!

Amanda - posted on 12/10/2010

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When I've traveled with my family out of town I've noticed that other malls do not allow you to take your own pictures, is that how it is for you? I know at my local mall I can take my own camera to take the pictures myself so I feel lucky to have that. I've stopped taking my kids to visit Santa when we're at a mall out of town because it costs.

Kami - posted on 12/10/2010

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You should check with Local banks or other companies that may hire a Santa to come in. Ours doesn't charge anything to take pictures! Its a courtesy they provide for being a customer.

Jessica - posted on 12/10/2010

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Our mall doesn't require you to buy the photos they take. They actually let you take your own photos with Santa if you want. Always ask if you can take your own, never settle for what they tell you!

Laura - posted on 12/10/2010

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Why not look for an alternative. Many local churches have "breakfast with Santa" where you can take free pictures or if you belong to any local moms groups (try looking on meetup.com in your area, there are lots of moms groups) many have Cristmas perties with a Santa, I know our local grocery store HEB has a free Santa day and Wal-Mart does something similar. You just have to do some research.

Michelle - posted on 12/10/2010

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Yep - pretty standard. But as others are saying, there's lots of oppportunities other than the mall. The mall is just more convenient for a lot of people. My son wanted to see Santa for the first time last year. Went to Bass Pro shop in heavy snow and was incredibly happy to find it was free - they gave out a 5X6 - made going out in a blizzard almost worth it!

Julie - posted on 12/10/2010

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who says it has to be santa pictures at christmas. look at the huge fantastic trees in some places and get the kids next to that. take them yourself and save a fortune. the commerialised side of christmas ruins it for everyone.

Becky - posted on 12/10/2010

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When my son was 3 months old in 2008 I paid $18 for a 5x7, 2 keychain photos and a picture CD that I used to make endless copies at Walmart for my family. I thought it was a little high but still reasonable. Then we wanted the same Santa the next year and when we got there it was $35 for a flash drive with the picture and a $20 Shutterfly card (which I was too busy to use before it expired). We were outraged but at that point it was late in the season and we didn't have time to shop around. We said we'd never do it again. This year we went to Bass Pro for free Santa pictures. Instead of waiting in a super long line we got an appointment card so we could shop for 45 mins and then go to the head of the line for a picture at our appt time. After wasting 45 mins we go for our appt only to find out 20 other people had the same appt card and the line for our appt was long. We left royally pissed off. So we ended up back at our original Santa at our mall because I figured the price of our time and gas was equal to the cost of the mall Santa photos. We were surprised that the packages were more reasonable this year...still pricy but we got the lowest package for $27 and it had 2 5x7's, a $20 Shutterfly card (that I am determined to use) and a picture CD. So I will go make .25 cent copies as good as the originals at Walmart. It's crazy how much of a racket it is but I justify it by realizing it's the one time of year that I splurge for something like that and I really like that he has the same exact Santa every year. My family loves getting them and they turn out cute. They also let me bring my camera and get pictures and so I have a whole little picture story showing my husband handing off and reassuring my son and then a few Santa pictures and then maybe my husband consoling him afterwards. And we go to Sears and take pictures of them playing on the pretty red mowers. I try to make it more about a big trip to the mall to see Santa instead of just the pictures so I can ease my own mind about the cost.

Annette - posted on 12/10/2010

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If you have little kids, just buy a santa outfit, and use your digital camera.Every year you can use it plus you can start a tradition and have santa visit your house for Christmas functions.

Lenice - posted on 12/10/2010

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Not sure where you live but i live in Australia and we have some spots where you can get free santa pic (just one 10x8 size) or you can buy a family package. I only ever get the free as i think most santa pics are a rip off

BONNIE - posted on 12/10/2010

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Always take your own camera. That way you get the pictures you want with out being forced to buy the quick rushed shot.

Sandra - posted on 12/09/2010

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yes Dee, you are right, but it depends where u live, i am in grand junction colorado, and the mall is not big at all, the decor it's only arround santa, the camera is not that expensive, and the pictures are just as expensive, plusssss...THE SANTA IS NOT EVEN FAT!! i decided to find a cute christmas tree and do it with my own camera!! i did take it with santa last year, but at least that santa was worth the money!

[deleted account]

Christiana Fire Co is having Brunch with Santa this Sat, 12/11 from 11am to 1pm. Admission is $6. Kids age 2 and younger are FREE. Includes hot dogs and mac&cheese with refreshments. Also, balloon animals and crafts. A moon bounce for kids age 5 and under. Bring your own camera for pics with Santa! Can't beat all of this for price!!!! Newark/Christiana, DE

Pamela - posted on 12/09/2010

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go to kildonan mall ..they are free and they video it for you..send it all email

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That's better than our mall. It's $16 for a 5x7. But I find it worth it. It's the only professional photo we have and it means a lot to have it.

Michele - posted on 12/09/2010

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seriously...skip the latte a few days and it will pay for santa pics!!!

Michele - posted on 12/09/2010

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Polaroids used to be so much cheaper, so is sending the out to a lab...they are expensive for a few reasons..minimum wage has gone up, plus since people want their photos "right now" there is the cost of ink and photo paper plus the cost of the computer and printer...as a photographer, its actually cheaper for me to have a lab print professional photos rather than do them myself...which sounds crazy...but its true... so, ya...they are expensive for what they are.

Brenda - posted on 12/09/2010

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$35 at the mall in Albany Oregon last year. I said "pass". Really, how important is it? When my son was little, (he's 21 now) it was $5 at the malls in the SF Bay area. What happened???? They found out that some people will pay it. So, if 50% are willing to pay 2-3x as much, it's just as much money and less work.

Leland - posted on 12/09/2010

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You are mistaken...They certainly can, that some choose not to, or that some donate a portion to charity is the exception not the norm.

Libby - posted on 12/09/2010

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If I'm not mistaken, they can't charge you anything to let the kids sit on Santa's lap. Have someone stand back and take a pic. It may not be as professional looking, but are they ever?

Sara - posted on 12/09/2010

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We had ours done last night...my son was not about to sit on Santas lap! lol, So me & Daddy decided we would be in the pics too..we got 1-5x7, 2-4x6's, & 12-wallets...expensive I agree, but I was actually shocked that we got that many pics for $28, considering Easter Bunny pics were $16 for one 5x7!

Jamie - posted on 12/09/2010

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well most malls will allow you to take your own photos now a days! I would bring your own camera, and ask them if you can take some.

Gina - posted on 12/09/2010

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Take your own camera. It starts at $10 at the malls in my city and the money does NOT go to charity.

Rachel - posted on 12/09/2010

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I got to take my children for free photos through our local ECFE program. Check with your schools and county. There are lots of free places to take them.

[deleted account]

This is for anyone who will be taking their child or grandchild for a picture on Santa's lap. It will help to
ensure that you and Santa are still sane at the end of the day:
1. Make sure that any diaper changes have taken place right BEFORE you set your child's bottom on Santa. Santa cannot run out of the mall and make a wardrobe change.
2.Try to work in your child's picture at least an hour before their nap time. A cranky baby never takes a good picture.
3.Take the age of your child into consideration-- infants under 18 months usually have a better chance at a good picture rather that a child who is 18 months to three year. This is when they can get their first bought of separation anxiety and may not want to be ripped from mom's loving arms to a strange bearded mans lap.( don't forget: we spend 364 days of the year trying to AVOID this situation !) this is the time mom AND baby may be on Santa's lap.
3. Please don't put a sick child on Santa's lap (see reason 1)
4.Dressing kids for Holiday pictures is a mom's secret fantasy ( guilty as charged) but please don't put them in something that is terribly uncomfortable or may stab or impale Santa. ( Don't ask how I know that)
5. There ARE good Santas and bad Santas- find one that has a real beard. If you suspect something is wrong with your mall's Santa report it to mall security.
6.--- The last one is the hardest-- keep your sense of humor.

Cara - posted on 12/09/2010

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I hear what you're saying and totally agree! Check around, some places will allow you to take your own photo. Walmart does do free photos but the Santa always looks so fake.

Jamata - posted on 12/09/2010

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Last four years I've been taking my daughter to Santa's Crib (fruitvale in Oakland).. Not only do you get to take a free picture with santa (no purchase required) but the prices for packages are very reasonable.

[deleted account]

Hayley,
Merry Christmas! this time of year I often feel like i just need to hold my wallet open--nothing's going to be left in there at the end of the day anyway.There are many rip offs during the holiday season--but pictures of Santa are ,in my opinion- worth it. For several seasons, I was one of "Santa's helpers" and took pictures of kids on Santa's lap. First, let me point out that neither Santa nor his helpers have anything to do with setting the price for pictures. Payroll for Santa and his elves are only a part of the cost- you have the camera(digital) and other supplies, but the malls have to insure themselves against any possible liability (pet day with Santa)-- and they also want to see some profit. The business of Santa has to meet projected goals, just like any other business.
Having said that, get that one obligatory picture for the family album-or for grandma's Wall of Fame. But most of the mall Christmas scenes are beautiful-- bring your camera and take some candids around the scenery. I remember a group of 5 very tall(and big) teenage boys all dressed up in holiday sweaters--looking too tidy for regular Christmas shopping. They told Santa that they never,ever sat still for pictures with him growing up-- and their Christmas gift to their mom was one good picture -put in a frame. So two of the boys sat on Santa's lap and three stood behind him... it turned out to be a great pic that they could not have taken by themselves. Different companies have set different prices for their packages-- are some of them too high? You bet. But PLEASE- don't blame the elves . I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas and make many special memories together--with or without the mall!

Gwen - posted on 12/09/2010

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look around at wal-greens or k-marts . some small store. see if you can get one free picture made. sometimes they will do this. then take the free one home and make copies of it off your printer. it will save you lots of money this way.

Anna - posted on 12/09/2010

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well we made it a family thing to have someone dress as santa every year and we give the kids presents before Christmas so we get good pic and it becomes great memories with all the family. Even the older ones look forward to it. Its the memories and the wonder of Christmas not the stress for the best picture...and someone always has a camera if you forgot yours..or just don't have one all just a get together and fun,memories,lots of love...

Beth - posted on 12/09/2010

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I feel the same way. No where does it say the money goes to charity at our malls. I would love to have my youngest take one with the big red guy, but I just can't justify the money nor can I afford that. And I did notice this year that each time I've gone to any of our malls there hasn't been a line like their usually is. People simply can not afford it!

Pamela - posted on 12/09/2010

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Yes, I keep telling people to rent a Santa costume and do pictures. I think it is sad that malls are charging so much!!! Sometimes the kids are scared and the photo turns out terrible but you just spend $50!

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