Experiencing Santa

Standing in line, waiting to visit Santa. The setting is beautiful, magical. The wait is… Well, if you have children you know what the wait is. Whew!

It’s a well-known fact that this is the best line you’ll stand in all year. Nobody grumps about it, even when it’s been an hour or more… Partly because they’re full of the Christmas spirit, and partly because they wouldn’t want their children to see their ugly, impatient side.

One point about the Experience here at the Concord Mall, that I’ve noted every year since we moved here: this mall surrounds Santa’s realm with benches.

These are great for:

  • grandparents
  • cranky children
  • cranky grownups

Not all malls do this, but they all should. (At the moment the bench next to where I stand holds my daughter, doing her homework. How else could I be writing?)

Out-of-season P.S.: there are never enough benches at amusement parks, either.

Tip: Make customers comfortable.

Emerging trend: the phantom line. Most folks have a cell phone in this line tonight, and many children aren’t even in the line because of it—one parent stands in the line, the other eats or shops with the children, and waits for the call that it’s time to rush over. I don’t know if I should mourn this, but I do; I think the standing in line, building anticipation, is part of the experience. It creates those hard-wired memories that brand experts call “sticky” memories. Will children who rush in at the last second, get a photo, and run, have the same nostalgia for the annual visit to Santa?

Tip: Build anticipation.

New this year: a nice lady walks around taking photo package pre-orders. (Does this save me time or them?) From an Experience standpoint, for just a minute it makes me feel as though Santa’s helpers empathize with my suffering.

Tip: Understand your customer’s point of view. Be an active part of their Experience.

A smile and a joke 45 minutes before we spot Santa and Mrs. Claus, and I contentedly stand, occasionally lurching forward a few feet, around and around Santa’s lovely, temporary home.

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson