Dobbies has apologised to a three-year-old boy who was turned away from a Santa's grotto at its Gailey centre in Staffordshire because he wasn't on Father Christmas's list.
Oliver Terry and his father, Daniel, had been hoping to pass on his letter to Santa – but after queuing for half-an-hour they were turned away because they hadn't pre-booked their visit online. Mr Terrry said requests for Oliver to hand over his letter without receiving a gift, or to book a different session, fell on deaf ears.
Dobbies has offered to lay on a special tea with Santa for Oliver by way of an apology.
“Oliver got upset and emotional when he was told he couldn't see Father Christmas and he was holding his letter to Santa. Seeing that broke my heart and left me disgusted,” Mr Terry told the Stoke Sentinel. “I initially went online to find out about the grotto and didn’t see anything about booking in advance and at the garden centre no-one checked we had booked until we had waited in the queue and got to the front.
“I accept that we should have booked online and that was our mistake. But this should have been made clearer.”
Oliver made up for his disappointment when he was taken to Fletcher’s Garden Centre in Eccleshall, where he met Santa, had a train ride and received a selection box.
The Dobbies Gailey grotto attracts more than 1,500 children every Christmas.
Dobbies Garden World general manager Michelle Stretton said: “We’re so sorry to hear that one of our customers has had such a disappointing experience with us at the weekend. I would welcome the customer contacting me directly so we can make it up to the little boy and his father - we’d gladly arrange a special tea with Santa to make sure the little boy has a lovely Christmas experience.
“We work tirelessly to try to make sure every single child and their families have a truly magical experience when visiting Santa. Our grotto was, unfortunately, fully booked over the weekend. We make it clear in all of our customer communications and on our website that advance booking is recommended and have now ensured it is on all grotto pages. In saying that, our staff did whatever they could to squeeze in walk-ins over the weekend, or we’d normally always try to book customers in for a slot on an alternative date, as we want to try to give every child a fantastic Santa experience.
Mr Terry said: “It’s a lovely gesture from the staff and it’s good that they’ve made it clearer online that you need to pre-book so other children won’t be disappointed like Oliver.”