So last year I gave you way too many words on which local Santa is our favorite. (Santa Max at Carolina Place mall if you are local.) Basically, I don't want to take my own picture - even if I have to pay way too much for it, and I want a Santa that will smile. This year we went back to our favorite Santa and our experience was SO great I have to tell you about it.
As I predicted last year, I knew this would be Laney's crying year. It's just that stranger-danger part of her development so I was prepared for her to be afraid. What I WASN'T prepared for, was for Charley to put on the brakes about 20 feet away from the jolly ol' fellow. She STOPPED in her tracks and was not moving at all. Of course, this surprised us because besides her stranger-danger year, we've had nothing but smiles and happy Santa visits otherwise and she hadn't mentioned being nervous at all up until that point.
So, we tried to talk her into it, but she really wasn't having it. I definitely wasn't going to force her to visit him. I figured that I would look back at each year's Santa picture and I would say "awww 2016 was the year Charley was afraid!" so I told John just to let it be. I was prepared to just get our crying Laney picture and go home. John at least got Charley to walk into the queue line by telling her she could just watch Laney but that's as far as she would go.
At the same time, I'm holding Laney at the front of the queue line because we were the only guests there. It was around 7:00 on Thursday, December 1st, so early enough that there were no crowds whatsoever. One of the helper elves came over to me to get my girls' names discreetly while John was still trying to convince Charley. I told him I was holding Laney, and that was Charley over there but it didn't look like she was going to visit Santa this year. He nodded and walked on over to Santa.
A minute later, here came Santa out into the queue line! With a jolly ho, ho, ho, he walked over to Charley. "Well hello Charley!" and she loosened her grip on John just a bit. She was still hiding a little bit behind him, so he continued on. "You know Charley, somebody told me you wanted a garbage truck for Christmas. Is that right?" She shook her head no. "I didn't think that was right! I know Charley and I knew that wasn't something she'd like!" She starts to giggle. And it went on and on for a few more minutes. He was so wonderful! But, despite his best efforts, she said she still didn't want to visit with Santa. Again, I'm fine with that so I'm thinking ok - let's just get Laney's over with.
Then Santa said "Well Charley, I'm going to go out and feed the reindeer real quick so I'm going to step out. Feel free to take a seat in my chair if you'd like!" and he walks off. I'm BEYOND confused. I'm like really, Santa? You are taking a break right now!? So I just stood there holding Laney with a look of total confusion on my face as he left.
Mr. Elf comes back over and ushers us to Santa's chair, where we all sit. Ohhhhhh ok, they are just going to let us have a family picture, I think. So they take a TON. Adjusting Laney's legs, having me shift this way, trying to get Ms. Serious to smile (it wasn't successful).
And I'm happy with that because family pictures are hard to come by, but, I still wanted Laney to visit with Santa. And then. THEN! I feel a warm hand on my shoulder and realize Santa had been in our family pictures after all!
|I mean, at that point even I didn't know he was back there so I know my kids didn't know!|
Maybe I'm a bit slow, but it took me all the way until then to realize what they were doing. These guys were pros at this! They knew just what they were doing! On top of making sure they got a sale either way, they were getting Charley comfortable.
After our shoot was presumably "over" as far as the kids knew, Santa walked around to the front of us and pretended he had just missed our whole shoot. Charley giggled, but was still apprehensive. Then he asked Charley if she'd like him to read her a book. Sure, she says! So I get up, Santa sits down and he begins reading her a book.
And before you know it, we have this.
So, he read to her for another minute, and then came the real test. Laney. I was right in my prediction with that one.
She cried, we got a few shots, and I took her right back.
From there, we paid for the whole shoot because it was either $20 for prints of one shot, or $35 for everything they took and some prints. (Turns out if I had made my reservation online I could have saved 20% and I would have gotten another $5 off if I'd printed a coupon for coming so early in the month. Argh! I'll know for next year!) I needed a picture for our Christmas card and I was sure at least one of those family ones would work because they took so many. I of course chose the crying one as my print because I had to.
Aren't great customer service experiences so satisfying?! I think I'm so used to having bad ones or ones that are neither good nor bad that a really great one shocks me. Terrible, right? I came home and found Santa Max on Facebook and will keep up with him all year long. I'm a believer!
And this is what we (er, I) chose for our Christmas card this year. Last year I tried taking my own family picture for the card and there were tears involved on my part, so I wasn't looking forward to trying that again. I shared all of the pictures already from our last session with a photographer (I like to have a new picture to share on a Christmas card) so I knew I wasn't booking another photographer so soon after the last one. So this chance experience really worked out perfectly. Thanks Santa Max!
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merrrrrrrry Christmas!