Let’s get a few things straight: I don’t mind the little expenses that come with being a parent, such as the field trips, book orders and activities, but the child portrait tends to get under my skin. Let me clarify. The thing that really gets me is that you are required to pay for the photo prior to receiving it. How is this possible that you can charge for something sight-unseen? Anywhere else that you have your picture taken professionally usually takes numerous photos, and you pick the best. The schools snap one and you’re done. This past year we were disgusted at our child’s photo. He wasn’t even looking at the camera and had a half-hearted smile. Surprisingly enough, the photo studio agreed; after a phone call, we were refunded our money—no questions asked.
Fast-forward to [a recent] weekend with Santa. Santa has visited the surrounding malls ever since I can remember. I remember a time where Santa was actually paid by the mall and was there for everyone’s enjoyment without the extensive photo shoot. Now, of course, this has become a pretty ridiculous money racket. For the minimum price of $15, we can all cherish one lackluster 5-by-7 photo of our kid with Santa, complete with a high-pressure sales technique for a larger $60 package. Knowing this before I left the house, I had the brilliant idea to bring along my own digital camera. After all, I figured I was as good a photographer as Santa’s elf.
As my son stood in line, I decided to get a closer view. I was asked if I would be purchasing a photo and replied, “I would like to see it first.” As soon as I whipped out the camera, the elf told me that now I was forced to buy a photo since I was taking my own. Now riddle me this—does taking my own photograph really hinder the shady business that Santa is running? How is it possible that I am forbidden to take a photo of my own kid in a public place? Why am I suddenly obligated to purchase an unseen photo of my child?
I responded to the elf that he wasn’t being very jolly and I could take my own picture if I wanted to. After all—my camera, my kid, public place, free country—right? The elf responded by twitching his nose and calling mall security. Embarrassed by the altercation and fearful that Daddy would give Santa a black eye, my wife promptly paid the greedy little elf and we were on our way. So what would have happened if we refused to pay? Could I have been arrested? Laughable. Could they take away my camera? Still laughing. Was I attempting to break a law? I think not. How is it possible that the North Pole can get away with this? I can’t wait until our next visit, when I ask Santa for a refund.
– Michael Srijayanta