Log in

No account? Create an account

So Much for Christmas Cheer

« previous entry | next entry »
Dec. 20th, 2010 | 06:19 pm

From my Facebook. This is what has had me down for the last couple of days.

For those who don't know, my dad and I have a set of elaborate Christmas costumes we don each year: he goes as the Grinch, complete with facial appliances to give him the looks, while I go as a white-tailed reindeer named Ramius. We've been to the hospital, were on the float for the Lee County Library in the local parade this year, and have been interviewed by the news crew on one of our annual mall visits. Each year, we randomly show up at said mall- usually the week right before Christmas- and spread holiday cheer to mall patrons. We're stopped for photos, answer questions in character, and hopefully bring a bit of holiday magic to children who may never see costumes like this otherwise.

This year, we were asked to leave the mall before we even got to the main halls.

The face of holiday rule-breaking for 2010. Please ignore the overjoyed lady in the background, as having fun with the costumes and taking a picture of the Grinch with her camera phone is clearly a sign of insanity.

It started like this: five years ago, I had a satyr costume from Halloween that I wanted to get more use out of- after all, the fur cost me nearly $50 and I was an eager college student with a love for playing characters. I adore Christmas, but a lot of people look at only the commercial aspects of it nowadays. My parents and I cooked up the idea that we could turn the costume into a reindeer costume instead, recycling the furry, unguligrade feet so that they'd not go to waste. We made a Santa coat, some small antlers, new hooves for the legs, and a nice makeup job. If you've not seen photos, check out either my Facebook albums for the older version or my Dad's Grinch album on his Facebook for the newer stuff. I've got a few in my Photobucket and in older LJ entries, too. In short, the costume isn't just something you can get in a store with novelty mask and boot covers.

The costumes from last year. No major changes to Ramius, though the Grinch has a new hairstyle and eyebrows, as well as a belt. You can't see the Ramius feet well, but I'm walking on my toes on a wooden hoof.

We finished the costume and headed to the mall, greeting excited children with hugs and candy canes. It was meant to bring some holiday fun- people would see the costume, wonder who I worked for, took photos on their phones and cameras, etc. The Ramius costume got a few upgrades in the two following years: new antlers, some bells, nicer gloves. I got to know the mall Santa, who was really nice and looked for me each year.

Eventually, we thought that instead of Dad walking along with me in a silly hat, he could be costumed instead. We built him his Grinch outfit, which includes green-furred legs, a cowl with a mohawk, and a makeup job that takes hours to get in and even more hours to get out of. Kids loved it! It was a character they recognized, and while some were frightened, many really grew to adore him over the course of a few minutes. It was like they were meeting the real Grinch. Adults couldn't help themselves, either- we usually take more pictures with adults than children these days.

How dare the Grinch make kids and adults smile from the unexpected appearance at the mall in 2009! Surely the insidious cur is going to steal their Christmases!

Next year, I'll be semi-retiring the Ramius costume in favor of a new one. I was really hyped up to visit the mall this year, see our Santa-playing pal, and give the suit a last hurrah. We had my brother helping us in and out of the car (not an easy task), entered through the JCPenney entrance (the only one with parking we found), made it through the store, and were greeted by security at the entrance to the main body of the mall. They informed us we had to leave.

I was pretty floored, to be honest: we've been doing this for four years, making this the fifth year, and we've never been told to leave or been asked if we had permission to be there at all. We usually tell people the Grinch is there for the community service he's been assigned for his various crimes against Whoville, but we gladly tell patrons that we're just average people spending their free time trying to spread holiday fun if asked. We see the guards every year, speak to them, and usually give them candy. This is the first time we've had any trouble. They told us the manager didn't want us in there because we weren't on the schedule. Though we were baffled, we did as we were told and headed out. We drove around to the mall offices in the hopes of speaking to said manager- again, these costumes take hours to get into, and we weren't going to chalk up that time wasted without seeing if we could make amends. The manager wasn't there and wouldn't be until Monday.

Dad called the managers today, first speaking to Cindy Childs. She was exceedingly curt to him, even though all he wanted to know was the proper procedure for being allowed into the mall and to see if we'd be able to get in any time this season. We've been literally doing this for years, and no one has ever told us there was a procedure to follow or asked if we had permission to be there. After speaking with her, he spoke with Jeff Snyder, who taught us a lot we didn't know about the Mall at Barnes Crossing.

First of all, according to Mr. Snyder, we were "soliciting" by handing out candy canes. Last time I checked, the modern definition of solicit generally implied that you were asking for something in return- this is not the case. We don't ask for money, don't ask for donations or anything. The candy canes sometimes calm down kids who are leery of the Grinch, but we hand them to everyone who wants one, kids or adults. We pay for them with our own money- they're not donated to us, and we don't ask for donations for our mall walks. I'd be okay with not handing out candy canes if we had to, though it does make people happy. I love seeing people smile as they're asked if they'd like a candy cane, especially when it's an older person. You're never too old for candy.

Secondly, what we were doing was considered "visiting," which isn't allowed by the mall. That's right, guys. According to the mall manager at the Mall at Barnes Crossing, you're not allowed to socialize or visit at the mall, as it is a place for buying things, going to movies, and eating. His words, folks. The mall isn't for chit-chatting. He's clearly never seen teenagers at any mall. Ever.

We understood that the mall is private property. We got that people in masks might be against the rules, but neither of us was in a mask (and frankly, if you look at these costumes, you can see we're not in a position to steal stuff and run from the police, either). We answer questions as ourselves if we need to. We didn't put up a fuss when we were told to leave. We weren't aware we'd broken rules, but we followed them once we did find out. Jeff (but not Cindy, who claimed to not have time for us) told us we could have called a 24/7 line when we were kicked out to ask about it, but no one informed us we could- not even in the office.

Overall, the heavy-handed treatment of the managers on the phone was not appreciated. We really would have liked a, "Sorry for all the trouble, these are the rules you weren't aware of, maybe you and your daughter to come down and show us the costumes and we could pencil you in," or something that resulted in them realizing that we're not dangerous criminals, we didn't realize we were breaking rules, and we would like an outlet to reach as many people as possible. Instead, we were met with, "Well, you should feel lucky you got away with it for so long." I have a hard time believing the manager of the mall never caught wind of two people in complicated Christmas costumes parading around the building (sometimes during the week, when he would have been there) in the past four years. There are a number of business owners in the mall who know exactly who we are and could have told him how to get in touch with us, too. We really just wanted a way to explain that we're not bad people or anything- we're a little odd, I'm sure, but not criminals.

Ultimately, I can't help but feel this is kind of the opposite of what the costumes were meant to do. They were supposed to be a random act of kindness that brought joy to people during the season. Not everyone has money to pay for a picture with Santa, but everyone can see us and take pictures if they'd like. We even attempt to learn random cameras handed to us in seconds so the owners can get in the picture themselves (as they often do). It gives kids and adults a fun memory to share with friends- they saw the Grinch at the mall! What other community has costumes like that and people willing to share them? Not meaning to brag, but I'm always impressed with my dad's costume when he puts it on. He really becomes the character.

Instead, impromptu fun is shot down. We didn't get to see our friends or the store owners who look for us each year. The mall managers said they're too busy to deal with us now, so it looks like we won't be going to the mall this Christmas. Needless to say, I've been incredibly disappointed about the whole thing.

In the end, we ended up going to Sam's Club in Tupelo, which had a host of employees who welcomed us with open arms. Photos were taken, merriment was made. We will be heading back there, hopefully to ring the Salvation Army bell next year. ♥

Link | Leave a comment |

Comments {15}


(no subject)

from: eric_hinkle
date: Dec. 21st, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)

Great suits! Sorry to hear about the refusal by the mall, though; you think they'd rather be all over this and allpw it if not use it to bring in some business and/or some positive media attention. Oh well, their loss.

Good on you and your Dad for doing this. Both of you have a very Merry Christmas up there in Whoville. ;)

Reply | Thread

Head-Bangingly 80's Grimme

(no subject)

from: grimmhooke
date: Dec. 21st, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)

I agree- we were kind of surprised that since we generate a lot of positive attention and draw a crowd in that they wouldn't mind us being there, or would at least hear us out once we'd learned we broken rules. Alas- their loss is a gain for other places, though. We'll still be able to spread the joy of the season, but it'll be at other locations in town. We're going to give bell-ringing for the Salvation Army a try next year. I'm really looking forward to it. ♥

Thanks for the support! You have a Merry Christmas, too!

Reply | Parent | Thread