Having just come back from a visit to Bletchley Park this week which was an incredibly interesting experience, I did have a few hours to spare and was tempted to go in search of Father Christmas after seeing the bright lights of the Milton Keynes Winter Wonderland. The website photos show a jolly bearded Santa with his five reindeer along with the offer of husky dogs and ice skating the whole family can enjoy.
Winter Festival ice rink not all it was cracked up to be…
However, not all is well in Wonderland it would seem, as consumers who paid £6 per child to meet Chris Cringle in his grotto found that he didn't appear until around 4 pm. This was a free festival which promised a lot and delivered very little, with several poorly suited and booted St Nicks who took the shine and sparkle out of the Christmas magic. In fact the only thing that seemed to work was the point of sale machines that coined in customers hard earned cash, although the Facebook website now has been taken down, the event has closed after just a few days and apparently refunds have and will be given.
There is a danger when using photographic images to promote an event or indeed goods and services, that consumers could be misled as to what is on offer, but consumer legislation is very clear about services and goods being “ as described”. There was an ice rink at this event, albeit some plastic sheeting around a small rink of ice, and two husky dogs made an appearance with some reindeer but there, it would seem, the resemblance to the promise of a land filled with winter wonder, came to an abrupt halt.
Christmas event not quite as described as consumers found out to their cost
I can fully appreciate that Lapland will not magically materialise in the middle of Milton Keynes, carefully avoiding the concrete cows, but the comments and feedback from disappointed and angry parents made it clear that not much of an effort was made to provide anything near what was advertised. There is a vast difference between those who can afford around £400-£500 for the day to fly to Lapland from Manchester Airport and those who have scraped the money together to treat children to a visit to Santa in his grotto, and some people would say that you pay for what you get, however the MK Winter Wonderland advertising did seem to be skating on thin ice. As consumers we don’t want to feel that we have been conned and especially when it comes to treats and events for children, so a little less airbrushing and glam shots and a bit more realism and honesty this festive season please.