With the festive shopping season in full swing, parents are being warned of the threat posed by rogue Santas. “One of these jokers could easily ruin a child’s Christmas,” warns Derek Trilby, of Staines Trading Standards. “Any kiddie visiting the makeshift grottoes set up by these bastards is bound to be disappointed – fobbed off with some crappy piece of shit from a pound store in lieu of a proper present and a grainy out of focus photo with Santa taken on a mobile phone.” Whilst most rogue Santas set up their grottoes in the most unfashionable corners of shopping centres and retail parks, fleeing at the first sign of security guards, at least one recently succeeded in infiltrating a department store, deceiving staff into believing that he had official status. “He strolled in one morning with his elf and Rudolf the reindeer and set up his grotto under the main staircase and started charging five quid for each kiddie,” recalls Mandy Croggler, assistant manager of the popular Bracknell department store. “We just assumed that he’d been sent down by head office!” Problems soon began to emerge. “We quickly noticed a damp patch on the trousers of his costume”, Croggler says. “At first we assumed that one of the children had wet themselves whilst sitting on his lap – however, it turned out that he had pissed himself. We later had a complaint from a parent that, after her daughter had sat on Santa’s lap, she couldn’t get the pungent stench of urine out of her child’s clothes.”

On another occasion parents complained when they walked into the grotto to find Father Christmas taking a pee behind an artificial Christmas tree. There were also complaints that Santa kept trying to persuade kiddies’ mothers and older sisters to sit on his lap and make a wish. It was also alleged that Santa attempted to beg money to buy alcohol from parents coming through his grotto. He apparently flew into a rage with one couple who refused to pay him and chased them out of the grotto shouting “Bastards!” whilst throwing Christmas presents and decorations after them. In another incident, the grotto had to be closed all afternoon after Santa broke wind violently after a three-hour lunchtime drinking session. “The stench was so noxious the polystyrene snow melted and the needles fell off of three Christmas trees – all of them artificial”, Croggler claims. “It took four industrial fans on full power for six hours to clear the smell.” When the grotto reopened the next day, parents were shocked to find Santa naked apart from his red hat and some wrapping paper around his nether regions. “Don’t worry, its business as usual,” he told them. “I’ve just had a bit an accident and the costume is in the wash.”

Curiously, parents were reluctant to let their children sit on his knee. There were also accusations that he had stolen some of the presents he was meant to be handing out and had sold them for beer money. “One parent complained that his seven year old son was highly upset when he opened his gift, only to find that it contained an empty vodka bottle”, recalls Croggler. “Another claimed that her child had had a violent asthma attack after finding that her present contained an unspeakably soiled pair of underpants.” Santa’s behaviour at the staff Christmas party proved to be his undoing. He became so drunk that he attempted to shag Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer in the grotto, shouting “It’ll be more than your nose that’s red after this you horny bastard!”, before throwing up into his beard and collapsing. “It took paramedics called by worried store staff three hours to remove the vomit from his beard,” says Croggler. “Unfortunately for him, the area manager was at the party – he started tearing a strip off of the store manager for employing a derelict as Santa. Of course, the store manager denied employing him, saying he’d been sent by head office. It was then that they realised he was an unofficial rogue Santa!” Consequently, Santa found himself out on the street three days before Christmas.

However, it isn’t just shopping malls and department stores where rogue Santas can pose a threat to unwary seasonal consumers, as visitors to a supposed Christmas theme park found last year. “We saw it advertised on the internet – it looked great in the pictures, loads of snow, authentic nativity scene, elves, Santa, the lot,” bemoans Dennis Ocklang, one of the victims of the scam. “But when we reached the address in Eastleigh given on the tickets we bought online, it turned out to be a bloody shed in someone’s back garden! It was covered in shredded polystyrene ceiling tiles masquerading as snow, and the nativity scene inside consisted of the Virgin Fork, the Baby Trowel and the Three Wise Shovels!” Ocklang was just one of hundreds of disappointed visitors who paid up to twenty pounds per ticket to visit Santa’s Seasonal Shed. “The day we were there a riot broke out,” he recalls. “It all kicked off when a kiddie having his photo taken with Santa in his grotto – which looked like a compost heap to me – was bitten by one of the reindeer, which were actually a couple of mangy looking dogs with cardboard antlers tied to their ears. The father went berserk and it all got out of hand – it only calmed down when Santa collapsed with a suspected coronary as he was being beaten with a Christmas tree.”

The owner of the ‘attraction’ has little sympathy for his disgruntled customers. “So a few paying customers got a bit arsey when they decided that they’d been ripped off, but that was no excuse for attacking Santa – who was being played by my seventy-four year old father, incidentally – and, even worse, beating up elves. Typical bloody bullies – afraid to pick on someone their own size!” declares forty-nine year old Harry Ribwold, who claims that he was merely trying to fill the gap in the crappy Christmas attractions market created by the demise of the notorious Lapland New Forest venture in 2008. “Frankly, I think they were missing the point of the Seasonal Shed experience – it was meant to be a rip off, just like Christmas itself! It truly was a Christmas theme park – promising much from behind its glitzy exterior, but once unwrapped proving to be nothing more than a pair of old socks and a Cliff Richard album.”