Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's NOT Looking a Lot Like Christmas

It got rave reviews, but not the kind of raving its owners hoped for.

The Lapland New Forest Christmas attraction opened in Britain November 28, promising a “magical Christmas experience.” The site looked good on the internet, but the BBC web site has a photograph of a dreary looking place with old discarded tires lying on the ground.

"Hardly anything that was advertised was there,” complained one customer. “I knew it was bad when even the catering staff were moaning."

They had a lot to moan about. The attraction was based in a muddy field at the border of Dorset and Hampshire which has been used in the past for flea markets. The British call them “car boot sales” because people sell their crap out of the trunks of their cars.

To some visitors the magical Christmas experience might as well have been a car boot sale. A “glorified” car boot sale in the words of many of them, but hardly worth the admission cost.

Unfortunately there was no ice skating because the generator was broken and there was therefore no ice, despite the cold weather. The “Tunnel of Light” promised on the web site was a few Christmas trees sprayed with artificial snow, and the “nativity scene” was a badly painted billboard. According to one report, customers were pointing at it with their fingers and laughing at it. The “log cabins” visitors were promised turned out to be empty metal tool sheds someone painted green.

There were two reindeer who were kept out of sight of most visitors. They looked so unhappy someone called the RSPCA. As for the dogs, according to one visitor: “When huskies aren't running about they are kept chained up and 'go berserk' with pent up energy. They also turn the snow a fairly revolting yellow and brown.”

Oh, my. I think he means the dogs pooped all over the phony snow. So much for the animal attractions.

Santa’s Grotto was there, but Santa turned out to be a typical nicotine addict. When no one could find him after waiting in line four hours, some kid spied him behind Santa’s Grotto with a cigarette dangling on one lip. Customers could not take his picture without paying an additional £10 in addition to the £25 per person they paid to get in. To make matters worse, an irate customer tried to punch Santa out, and there were concerns the management might be punched out by irate contractors who said they had not been paid. Other customers punched out three of Santa's little elves and pushed one of them into a pram. A security guard, hired to keep order, resigned after someone punched him out.

He told the BBC the decision point for him occurred when a family removed a dying woman from a hospice to celebrate what will likely be her last Christmas. When they arrived at what some customers were saying was more like Crap-Land than Lapland, it was too much for him. He decided he was "ashamed to work there".

He should have stuck around a couple more days. When the county trading standards officers got 2,000 complaints about the place and disgruntled customers went on TV in droves to complain, business dried up. Soon Lapland turned into Flap-Land. All the animals were trucked out, employees were turned away and a sign that said “Closed” was hung at the entrance. According to one account a woman stood at the entrance shooing away visitors with the words “Santa is f**cking dead.” It is not clear whether she was an employee or not.

Despite that, one of the directors of the company told the press: “Many of our visitors did have a great day with us.”

Oh, really. One poster on the internet had a different view of it. Said she:

“‘Slapland’. ‘Crapland’. ‘Winter blunderland’. Oh, dear.”

The company offered refunds to disgruntled customers and directed them to their web site. But they had to move fast. The web site was swiftly shut down.

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