The Handbook
The Handbook

Father Christmas famously only wants to know one thing: have you been naughty or have you been nice? He will then make a value judgment as to whether your child warrants a new Nintendo or a sack of coal. And the way that particularly dysfunctional section of our legal system works is such that would leave kiddie Hitler, Stalin and Chairman Mao playing multiplayer Mario Kart well into Boxing Day. In the season of goodwill to all men, children are the most generously accommodated. But not at Harrod’s.

The Santa at Harrods’s has added a new criteria to the ‘naughty or nice’ policy: ‘how rich are your parents?’ For real.

The Grotto at Harrod’s is usually a favourite for a certain type of middle class parents, giving them an excuse to rinse their credit cards in the iconic department store’s many gaudy sections, all in the name of taking the kids to sit on Father Christmas’s knee. For a relatively extortionate fee, Santa will tell their offspring that he will, indeed, bring a diamond encrusted goldfish, or whatever it is, little Rupert and Jemima have requested. It’s become as much a part of Christmas as leaving sherry for the reindeer or your racist drunken great aunt ruining Christmas lunch.

But now to be allowed into Father Christmas’s hallowed presence, an elf will first have to check your Harrod’s Reward Card. And if your parents haven’t spent enough in Harrod’s then you’ll be unceremoniously handed a sack of metaphorical coal and be immediately escorted away. We decided to check this ourselves and I sent one of my reporters down to the Knightsbridge cathedral to mammon, to check out exactly how grasping Harrod’s santa really is. Two-year-old in arm and clutching her Harrod’s Reward Card.

“I’m a regular Harrod’s shopper so turned up, two-year-old in arms, at the toy department on a quiet day and asked if I could buy a ticket, as I have with my other children each year and always been welcomed straight in. An officious lady, presumably not Mrs Claus, explained that there ‘could be availability’ but they’d have to check my rewards card first, before shuffling off to Santa’s Workshop to run the numbers. I waited for 30 minutes. Finally she returned and explained that they couldn’t accommodate me after all and I didn’t qualify, clearly because I’d not spent enough. I wasn’t allowed to introduce my daughter to Father Christmas. Child in tears, we left the store”

Online Harrod’s state that “not much has changed for Father Christmas, “love, family and friends; and time for a little self-indulgence, are still the most important things about Christmas”. The press office was a little more direct, explaining that the Grotto is “by invitation only. Customers invited to visit the Grotto this year were sent an email invitation on 22nd August. The invitation list was based on a range of factors, including frequency of custom and spend. We care hugely about making a visit to the Grotto as magical as possible, therefore tickets are extremely limited”.

It’s reported that clients with £12,000 annual Harrod’s spend are being turned away, but the up-side is that a number of alternative destinations are stepping into Harrod’s place. Our two-year-old reporter’s first memory of Harrod’s may well be being given the finger by their Father Christmas, but her brand loyalty will be quickly replaced by any number of alternative stores and destinations. Selfridges or Harvey Nick’s, anyone?