Harrods Christmas Grotto: Too Poor for Santa

by - September 23, 2018

I was still pregnant with Bowie when I booked his first Harrods Grotto Experience, he wouldn't be meeting any old low budget Father Christmas with a felt beard handing out half dead trees at the back of a garden center, oh no, he would be traveling to London fresh from the womb to meet THE Father Christmas in the most magical setting of all, regardless of wether he was just a little newborn potato at the time or not, just as I had done before him with my family. 

In fact Christmas at Harrods has always been a huge family tradition for us, Myself, My Siblings, My Mum, My Grandma, all of us! each year for as long as I can remember we would travel 2 hours to Harrods every single December and explore the Grotto and the Christmas shop, then devour half our body weight in food at one of the Restaurant before running riot in the Toy Section (when we got older this soon became running riot in the Food Hall, followed by the Wine Cellar) and those are some of my fondest memories not only growing up but as a Teenager, an Adult and then a Mother too.

 And it wasn't just Christmas, I've spent my Birthdays at Harrods each year too, from my 21st where pregnant I spent the majority my birthday mostly running in and out of Harrods toilets as well as spending hours in the baby section to my 22nd where I spent the day shopping (and eating Laduree out of house and home) at Harrods before meeting my friends for Harrods Wine.     

In Fact anyone that knows me (especially those who lived with me in London who were regularly dragged to Harrods with me kicking and screaming 'Please not Harrods again' against their will) will know that I only drink Harrods Tea bags and that I ALWAYS buy the pack of three boxes and give away the Earl Grey because who drinks Earl Grey? Seriously? (and if any of you know me and you are a weirdo that likes Earl Grey no doubt you have a stack of Harrods Earl Grey that I've dumped on you)

They will know that on my Kitchen side I have a collection of Harrods tins filled with Hot Chocolates, Coffee and Tea Bags (even though Harrods Coffee was served fresh from hell and I only keep that vile pot of mud because the Tin fiercely matches my Kitchen interior and looks mighty fine).
 They will know that my Kitchen Cupboard is stuffed with sleek black Harrods Wine boxes which are just too cute to throw away (although they're probably heading straight for the bin now, in your face stupid boxes) and that my bottle opener is also Harrods because once on my birthday when I cleared them out of half their Wine stock they pointed out that I probably didn't have a bottle opener with me in my Hotel, and they were damn right.

People that know me know that my drawers are overflowing with little Green Bags and they've probably been handed their left behind items back in one. They would have seen tacky Harrods Baubles hanging from my Christmas Tree each year and rolled their eyes at all of our singing Harrods advent calendars (and probably cursed at hearing the song over and over) and Chocolates lined up.

They will have washed their hands with our Harrods Teddy Bear Soap which is most definitely aimed at children but what children use actual soap? in fact what adults use proper soap anymore? US! and its Teddy Bear shaped, oooh yeah.

They would have laughed my unnecessary collection of Harrods stationary and random accessories from keyrings to phone cases. They would know that the first thing I purchased with my student loan was a handbag from Harrods (because what are family for if they aren't for sending you food packages because you instantly blew your student loan in Harrods?)

They will know that ALL my Makeup was always from Harrods even thought they were brands you could get just about anywhere (ah theres a Mac down the road from me that sells the exact lipstick I'm after, may as well sit on the tube for an hour though just so I can get the very same lipstick from Harrods instead)

They will tell you how I constantly had Harrods Boxes turn up in the University mail room and that reception didn't even look at the labels before sending me emails anymore. How I got my first ever Watch from Harrods and I couldn't even tell the time on it because it had no numbers, just diamonds.

They will remember how my Perfume was from Harrods, my friends and families Christmas presents from Harrods, my Grandmas Tea Towels from Harrods! (don't touch them, seriously, she contemplated divorcing my Grandad last time he touched them) They all hoped that I would pick them for Secret Santa because no one had to guess where I would be shopping.

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that when I did become a Mummy to Bowie he was instantly put in a Harrods Babygrow (I was instructing nurses to get a move on getting that Harrods Babygrow on him when his head was still hanging out of me) and that he had a gorgeous white and gold Harrods Dummy when he was born too. That he had Harrods Booties and Socks and Hats, Vests and T-shirts. He eats dinner off a little plastic Harrods plate each night, has a Harrods cup (which mostly ends in disaster), Harrods cutlery (lethal).

He has the entire Harrods Peter Rabbit range (of course!) He has all the Harrods Christmas Bears, a Harrods Bunny, this year enjoyed Harrods and Laduree Easter Eggs, Chocolates and Gifts. At Christmas his presents (probably from Harrods) sit inside his Personalised (itchy) Harrods Sacks of all sizes that we had handmade in store after visiting the Grotto (back before we weren't TOO POOR TO VISIT) He has Harrods Toys too and at not only two years old he would have visited Harrods more times than some adults in their entire lives. 

So what do you say? Would you class me a Loyal Customer? Or is being a Loyal customer more about spending a specific sum of money a year rather than 23 years of repeat custom and beautiful memories? Is being a Loyal customer more about what you earn each year rather than the little things and your support and love for a shop? I think we all know what Harrods think..

In all seriousness, and I'm not often serious, Harrods means a lot to us all, I'm emotionally attached to it because its a huge part of my childhood and I grew up with it and have so many memories there with my family. Harrods Grotto is and has been a huge part of it and I've never missed a year, even back in 2014 when I dragged my Uni Housemates along too and we all crammed ourselves into the tiny sledge and years 1-20 flashed before my eyes as I feared I would never actually get my big behind back out of the sledge again. We fed Carrots to the reindeers (well, to bags on the floor), we took a hilarious photo of the girls and Father Christmas kicking the boys down to the floor. We had such a laugh with Santa and took so many comical pics in our silly cardboard hats that we ended up spending half our student loans on the photos!

In the past, as a Harrods Reward Customer who carries her (now utterly pointless) little black Harrods Card with her and keeps her Harrods Birthday Receipts as keepsakes because they have little balloons on them, I have always been 'invited' to Harrods Grotto. We were all given a date that the hundreds of slots and dates would be available on the Website and it was first come first serve, fair for all just as it should be. Everyone had an equal chance to get a slot and without fail every year I did and I'm not exactly a technology wiz. Everyone would book the day off work and count down the days for our Family Tradition. It would cost £10 to book which would then be put straight back on your Rewards Card to spend in Harrods on the day and we would of course spend that and hundreds more whilst we were there because who goes to Harrods and doesn't empty their bank accounts and life savings on actual tat? 

However this year Harrods have suddenly changed their policy, and with not much warning. This year only 'Selected' (filthy rich) Customers who have spent a certain (huge) amount in the last 12 months have the privilege of meeting Father Christmas. This year hundreds of Families traditions are ruined, hundreds of disappointed Children won't understand why they can't visit Father Christmas like before, years worth of family photos will suddenly stop and like me, 23 Years of the same tradition each year has come to an abrupt, sad and unecessary end, simply because I don't earn enough money to make me a 'loyal' enough customer. Despite all the days over the years that I have walked through those doors, despite all the Harrods items scattered around my home, despite last Christmas our entire family waking up at 5am on a Wednesday morning to get Bowie to Harrods for opening to be the first to the Grotto.

 I am good enough to visit Harrods each year, I am good enough for them take my money year after year, but I am no longer good enough to take my Son to meet Father Christmas, and I am not the only one that has been hurt by this...

 Years and Years of loyalty is being shunned and Money is being rewarded, as usual. Harrods claim that its due to a high demand in tickets yet the Grotto has been running for years and has always accommodated for hundreds of families so what has changed this year?

 Rivals such as Hamleys and Liberty of London who also run Christmas Grottos have a completely normal and fair online booking system open to everyone and no one has struggled getting tickets that way, In fact I booked Bowie in to Hamleys this year as an alternative just two days a go with no issues. Even huge shops across the pond in New York like Macy's are managing without an absurd hierarchy system.

John Lewis have also had Christmas rooftop gardens and virtual sleigh rides open to the general public which people have just walked into off the street, similar to Harrods Grotto in the past (the good old days) which was on a queuing basis. Harrods answer is that you can still visit Harrods at Christmas without visiting the Grotto which is about as stupid as their new policy and as many Mothers have pointed out, how do you explain to a child as they are dragged around a big, overwhelming store past a beautiful Grotto that they aren't allowed in? despite watching other Children of the same age walking through the doors (Sorry baby, their Mummy drives a porch so they're allowed). How do you explain that even though they have been every year before, they aren't allowed anymore? That they are 'Too Poor for Father Christmas'

This year I won't get to see my Son's face light up like years before when he enters the Grotto and he won't have the privilege of Meeting Father Christmas and his lovely Elves. This year our Christmas will have a gaping hole in it where a family tradition ends and next year, or in the years to come I wonder if I will even visit Harrods again. I wonder if my love and loyalty my entire life ends here. This year I won't be running my annual Christmas Harrods Bear competition on my blog and this morning I deleted my previous raving reviews of their Grotto. 

Hello Selfridges... fancy a new customer?

 Harrods won't officially 'reveal' how much you have to have spent a year to be one of the elite invited to the Grotto from now on and to be honest I don't care to know anymore!

 Rumors are swirling around from £2000- £20,000. Some Mothers who have spent £12-£15,000 have spoken out to Newspapers about not even making the cut so its unclear what sort of ridiculous factors they have taken into consideration when carefully picking the lucky families. The Horror film 'would you rather' comes to mind, families fighting to the death for the golden ticket to Harrods Grotto.
All jokes aside, the families that did get selected most definitely deserve it and I hope they have a magical time! Its just a shame that anyone had to be excluded or that wealth even comes into consideration when it comes to something aimed at a child. 

As far as I'm concerned, a price shouldn't be put on a Childs happiness and what is a five minute to visit Santa anyway? Not worth thousands of pounds in my opinion, if they want to reward big spending customers there are other ways to do it without breaking thousands of little hearts. 

What do you think about Harrods new rules? Is being Loyal to a store all about the big bucks? let me know in the comments!

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