Bad Elf: Mall Sacks Santa For Rudeness

11954455771165812125zeimusu_Santa_and_Reindeer.svg.medA mall in Maine sacked Old St. Nick who was neither jolly nor nice. The mall responded to complaint with a classic “Bad Santa, No Cookie.”  Parents say that the rent-a-claus would not let kids sit on his lap unless the parents bought a picture and would turn down the gift requests of children on the spot. The mall is now looking for a jollier Santa. The North Pole seems to be developing a criminal element. This follows the arrest this week of one of Santa’s helpers. What would be interesting is an infliction of emotional distress claim by one of the shattered kids. He is not among the fallen Santas this year. [Warning: Santa spoiler discussion below]

In one case, a little girl asked for an American Girl doll and grumpy Santa said no . . . she would be getting an “American football.” When Jessica Mailhiot and her 6-year-old daughter, Chantel, went to see Santa this week, he demanded $20 bucks for a picture before he would let the girl sit on his lap.

Such scenes can be hard to explain to kids without saying that the parents participated in a sham Santa scene. Saying “Santa is off his meds” or “Santa having a bad day” sort of destroys the image of the giant elf.

In Toronto, another Santa was fired after a parent complained that the elf insulted her three-year-boy. The Santa first was late to work and then said that the boy’s red plaid coat made him look like “Paul Bunyan.” I am not sure why the mother thought that was somehow insulting or wrong. She said that she had to explain who Paul Bunyan was — not a terribly upsetting prospect.

The second statement was clearly non-jolly. Noticing that the boy was wearing a Toronto Maple Leaf symbol, Santa reportedly said “you shouldn’t be wearing that, they suck.” She says that the boy was “inconsolable.” I can only imagine what the Maple Leafs are feeling as well.

I remember years ago a friend of my mother recounted that she took her son to a mall Santa. He was jolly, a bit too friendly in fact. When he asked the kid for his name and heard “Seymour” in response, Santa blurted out “you’re kidding, my name is Seymour too!” A nearby elf reminded him that his name was Santa. Too much egg nog. Indeed, drunk Santas have caused problems in the past as have Santas who have wardrobe malfunctions.

Some day, one of these cases will make for an interesting lawsuit. The problem is that the injury is not learning the truth about Santa but learning a few years too early and in a traumatic fashion.

One of my sisters is responsible for such a rude and premature awakening. When her son Thomas informed her one year in the car that he did not believe in Santa, she responded while driving that she was waiting for this moment when he realized that there was no Santa or Easter Bunny. After a silence from the back seat, she then heard a distraught voice say, “there’s no Easter Bunny?”

If a Mall Santa makes a similar or more egregious mistake, is there an injury that can be the legitimate subject of a negligence lawsuit?

Source: USA Today

19 thoughts on “Bad Elf: Mall Sacks Santa For Rudeness”

  1. Back in the day when I was trying to help mothers whose kids had made allegations of sexual abuse in the midst of divorce cases, I met with a prosecutor who didn’t want to take a case forward (this was a criminal charge against a step-father) because he said “this kid can’t be a good witness; she still believes in Santa Claus.” I said she COULD be a good witness. He said, “what if the defense lawyer asks her on cross whether she believes in Santa Claus?” I said, “I’ll write out the questions for you to ask on redirect.”

    They were:

    “So Amanda, you did say that you have seen Santa Claus, didn’t you?”


    “Did you talk to Santa Claus?”


    “What did you say to him?”


    “Did he answer you?”


    “And did you sit on his lap?”


    “And those things you say your Daddy-Rob did to you, did Santa do them too?”

    NO. Only Daddy-Rob. Not Santa.

  2. Would not the proper lawsuit be with the petitioners being children lied to by their respondent parents for child abuse in the form of teaching the children to be dishonest and punishing them for their consequent dishonesty?

    My parents never taught me to believe in Santa Claus; rather, the poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” was one of many fairy tales my parents brought to my attention starting when I was born, with the goal of my learning how to accurately distinguish true stories from false stories.

    I never got a Christmas present labeled with any form of “From Santa,” because every Christmas present was truthfully labeled with the name of the actual person who gave the present to me.

    For my parents, telling lies to children was abusive, and they were resolved to avoid abusing me. For my parents to have told me that Santa Claus gave me a Christmas present would have been an intolerably cruel form of lying to me.

    For Christmas in 1945, one present from my parents was Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen, “East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon, with Other Norwegian Folk Tales,” Row, Peterson & Co., 1912. This book is now available as a pdf download from the Library of Congress.

    One particular story in that book strongly attracted my attention when I first read it, and ever since. To me, in the fairy tale, “The Princess Who Could Not Be Silenced,” on pages 147-153, the Princess is analogous to the Adversarial System, such that my bioengineering research is analogous to the role of Boots in that story.

    Because my parents never lied to me, I did not learn to tell lies while I was in the age range when children can be taught the socially mandated ways of effectively lying.

    The following three excerpted quotations are from University of Massachusetts-Amherst psychology professor, Robert Feldman, “The Liar in Your Life,” Twelve, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2009, and are used with written permission from the publisher.

    Quotation #1, from page 258: “There’s a dirty secret I’ve been trying to avoid emphasizing in this book, but its about time we faced it. All of us are liars. Yes, that means you. And yes, it means me, too.”

    Quotation #2, from page 73: “Parents of children with autism often report that their children are simply incapable of lying. While at first glance unrelenting honesty might be seen as a virtue, in fact it is at the heart of the social difficulties children with autism experience.”

    Quotation #3, also from page 73: “Consider the irony of the situation. Honesty in children with autism is viewed as a manifestation of their disorder. Subsequently, autistic children who were originally unfailingly honest but have begun to show signs of lying effectively are considered to be showing improvement in their condition.”

    In terms of being autistic, I have never shown improvement in my condition, because I have never begun to show signs of lying effectively.

    That does not mean that I have learned to use words such that other people are able to understand what I say or write accurately, and it never much surprises me when I am unable to find words that work adequately in accurately conveying my intended meaning. I am, however, able to tenuously grasp a mental model as to why, when I am truthful, people who have learned the ways of lying effectively sometimes will project their distorted self imago onto me in error.

    My parents are not alone in having consciously and deliberately decided to never tell lies to their children.

    So, what gift does Santa Claus really bring to children? When parents lie to their children, their children are being abused.

  3. Santa Claus is a HO Ho Ho….

    ‘ A beginning Santa can earn an hourly wage of $100, while veteran Santas can earn an average wage of $175 to $200 per hour. The really big pay rate comes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; that’s when these Kris Kringles can earn wages of $175 to $200 for their first hour of work, and $100 to $300 for every hour after that. ‘

    ‘Many Americans were upset earlier this week that a mall Santa had been fired without cause, …’
    these guys are employees and as any employees have a level of performance that must be maintained to keep management out of litigation…everybody knows the REAL SANTA is up North and very very busy….

  4. Darren Smith wrote:

    “Sling wrote:
    “we would find that they came from bad gnomes”

    actually it is bad genomes.”

    Actually, it’s “broken gnomes”

    1. Hey EC, you show up once a year…… Are you related to the gnomes of the north… Raised by elves…. Good to see you’re still around….. You are missed…. Stick around….

  5. Good for you, Darren. Figuring out that there’s Santa Claus in every store or shopping mall has been a rite of passage for generations of children in the Western world . Sleazy Santas are a recent phenomenon though. It’s as if some Santas are saying to themselves ” This would be funny in a movie script ” ; that would be not amusing to a child who has been showed maliciously taught that selfishness sells.

  6. I don’t believe in a reasonable court a plaintiff could prevail on a suit brought by a parent against a santa who revealed there was no santa regardless of the age of the child.

    Having knowlege of a santa claus is not common in all cultures of the world and those having no cultural reference to santa seem to produce children without any out of the ordinary set of expectations in life.

    Maybe the defendant santa could claim a contributory negligence of the parents for conditioning the child with the falsehood that santa actually existed and if they had not taught the child this falsehood they would have not created the possibility the child would be upset at knowing reality.

    Then I suppose there would be the counter-argument that American culture is such that parents, and subsequently children, are socialized into accepting the myth of santa and it is considered a cultural taboo to reveal the truth about santa, much like certain other aspects of adulthood could be traumatizing to young children. But there is a difference here. Violence and abuse witnessed by children is harmful in all cultures. A child who has never been conditioned into believing santa is real would not react with any trauma if it was repeated to him at a young age santa did not exist.

    I guess if the bar for filing a lawsuit was so low a person could sue for what was alleged in this article there would be many politicians sued for fraud and unlawful inducement for conning the voters into electing them.

  7. “she then heard a distraught voice say, “there’s no Easter Bunny?”

    Straying a bit from Santas, but staying with imparting knowledge to children….

    My father tells a story of a family – parents and one child at the time – driving along.

    The daugter was obviously thinking about something, as she had fallen silent.
    Then it came… “Mummy. Where did I come from?”

    The parents exchanged looks and decided that perhaps this was a good time to explain ‘stuff’.
    The mother explained the process.

    There was a short silence while the child thought about it.
    Then she said… “Listen! I’m being serious here!”

  8. Sling wrote:
    “we would find that they came from bad gnomes”

    actually it is bad genomes.

  9. Oh my…… Well, we can add to the list Honest Attorney……Happy Housewife…… Myths…… And the beat goes on….

  10. I don’t think that “Can we sue?” is really an answer to a societal problem.

    I would bet that if we were to dig into the backgrounds of these problem santas and elves, we would find that they came from bad gnomes.

  11. If a Mall Santa makes a similar or more egregious mistake, is there an injury that can be the legitimate subject of a negligence lawsuit?

    How about negligent infliction of damage to the ability to properly hallucinate?

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