Mum blasts £135 Xmas experience where Santa looked ‘shoddy’ and left niece non-believer
A furious mum is demanding a refund from a heritage railway’s Polar Express after forking out £135 for the ‘shoddy’ experience.
The 35-year-old has accused Telford Steam Railways of ‘ripping people off and making a killing on a very shoddy show’ after attending the Polar Express Train Ride.
Melissa Evans said she was horrified to spot the smiling Santa, who she claims looked more like a ‘homeless person’ than the real St Nick.
She shamed the volunteer St Nick by sharing his photo on Facebook with a scathing review declaring he ‘looked nothing like Santa’, with his trim figure and short grey beard.
After boarding the train on Sunday 28 November, Melissa said she was horrified to see that the volunteer Santa looked ‘homeless’ – leaving her niece a non-believer.
The retail worker says the whole experience was ‘not magical at all’ – but left people divided after sharing her experience online, with some commenters slamming her decision to post a photo of the volunteer along with her disparaging review.
One defender commented that the man was just ‘trying his best’.
Melissa, from Cannock, Staffordshire, said: “There was no character of Santa, there was no ‘ho, ho, ho’, he literally just walked on and said ‘hi’ – he didn’t interact with the kids.
“I don’t want to say it because it’s nasty but he just looked like a homeless guy had got on the train. He just wasn’t in character, there was nothing magical about it.
“As soon as he walked off my seven-year-old said ‘that is not Santa’. We had to try and say Santa sends his helpers because he’s too busy this time of year to do it himself.
“But she’s saying now ‘I don’t believe it, Santa’s not real’ because the Santa was that bad. It was horrible.
“The seven-year-old then was telling my four-year-old niece ‘Santa’s not real’, which was really hard because I didn’t want to say ‘you can’t say that because she’s only little’ because I still want her to believe as well, she’s only seven.
“My brother said ‘I don’t know where this has come from’ and I said it’s probably because the Santa was that bad.
“Some of my friends sent me pictures of the Santa from their Polar Express and it’s what you’d expect Santa to look like – the big beard, being chunky and the little round glasses. It was a million miles away from what we got.”
The mum and her partner Adam Evans, 31, took her nine-month-old daughter Mylah-Jane, four-year-old stepdaughter Amelia and seven-year-old niece on the train.
it was advertised as ‘an immersive re-creation inspired by the iconic 2004 Polar Express film’ where customers can ’embrace the spirit of Christmas on their wonder-filled trip’ and ‘take home lasting memories of a magical experience’.
But Melissa says it started off badly as the shuttle bus dropped them off at outdoor marquees ‘in the freezing cold’ for over an hour wait before they were allowed to board the train at 4pm.
She also claims the entertainment on the 40-minute train journey was ‘rushed’ and ‘not magical at all’, unlike the advertised experience.
Melissa said: “When we got there it was absolutely throwing it down with snow and freezing and they’d put two little marques up that you’d probably use in the summer because they didn’t have any sides to them.
“There were busloads of people turning and nowhere for them to go and there wasn’t really any staff around so we were just stood around not having a clue what was going on.
“About 15 minutes before our train was due they opened an indoor marquee to put on a show but there weren’t enough seats – a lot of people couldn’t come in and we had to stand at the back.
“We got taken down to where the train was on the platform and I’ve got to say that part was magical – not all of it was dire – there was fake snow and the train was amazing but once we got on the train was absolutely freezing cold.
“They gave everyone a hot chocolate and cookie but they were rushing around to collect the rubbish before we’d even finished, it was really rushed.
“Where you get off there’s a shop which sells souvenirs and the kids can write a letter to Santa and that bit was quite good.
“I don’t know why they didn’t put that bit on at the start because we had nearly an hour to waste in the freezing cold but at the end it was rushed because the shuttle bus was on its way to pick us up.”
Some other parents commented in support of Melissa’s scathing review, saying they too were disappointed after booking the same ‘expensive experience’ and coming away with children ‘sceptical’ about Santa.
One said: “I’m so glad I’m not the only person to say this! I was mortified!! My 3-year-old son was even sceptical and that’s saying something!!!”
Another said: “I felt exactly the same, I’ve emailed as well. We paid nearly £200 for 4 tickets, feeling ripped off.”
Meanwhile, others slammed her as ‘entitled’ and branded her decision to post a photo of the Santa onboard alongside her complaint ‘rotten’.
One said: “What a bunch of self-entitled Karen’s [whinging] about how Santa should look in their eyes – kids probs had a good time anyway but Karen’s pd off because Santa’s beard wasn’t the correct length – get a f*g life.”
Another said: “If you’re making a formal complaint why post here. Bit of a rotten move posting this man’s pic on social media and bagging him out like this.”
Some even noted that the heritage railway is run by volunteers and questioned the mum’s accusation that the railway is ‘ripping people off’.
One commenter said: “You mean a bunch of volunteers with nothing in it for them except a sense of trying their best are ripping people off? Are you sure about that? They have nothing to gain.”
But Melissa remains firm in her complaint, saying the Santa onboard didn’t meet expectations after seeing how ‘magical’ the character looked in previous years and on other railways’ similar services.
Melissa said: “People were saying ‘what do you expect, Santa’s not real’ – we’re not stupid but looking back at the pictures from previous years the Santa’s look magical.
“When you read up on it, it’s made out to be this amazing, magical experience for kids where you were going to be entertained.
“My friends had just come back from the Stoke Polar Express and said how good the Santa was, that he sat with the children and had pictures taken – there was no opportunity for us to do any of that.
“The comments started to get abusive so I just removed the post and blocked them. I don’t let things like that get to me.”
After launching a formal complaint the day after her ‘dire’ experience, the mum is now hoping to receive ‘at least a partial refund’ for the five ‘golden’ tickets.
Melissa said: “To me £135 is a lot of money to spend to see Santa for him to turn up like that, it was 100 per cent not worth the cost.
“I took my little girl to a place local to us where they did storytime and dancing with elves and met Santa – it only cost me £8 and they had more joy out of that than the train.”
Telford Steam Railway responded to Melissa’s complaint on social media and wrote: “We have strengthened our customer service team and all open enquiries are being dealt with by our volunteers as quickly as possible.
“We thank you for any constructive feedback and we appreciate your patience and will liaise with any dissatisfied customers directly via private message or email.”