Officials at the Maine Mall in South Portland say they're looking for a jollier Santa and hope to have him in place Thursday.
Jessica Mailhiot and her 6-year-old daughter, Chantel, went to see Santa this week. They tell WGME-TV that he was rude and wouldn't let the girl sit on his lap when they said they didn't want to buy a $20 photo.
Chantel says when she asked Santa for an American Girl doll, he replied she'd get an "American football."
When the mom posted her story online, others shared similar experiences on "The Maine Mall" Facebook page.
"Got to tell you just got home from the mall and had the worst experience in 10 years with Santa today my youngest was scared to death and he wouldn't even talk to her. This was something my 2 oldest kids always looked forward to and having pictures to remember it by," wrote Stacey Knight.
"If any of you have little ones DON'T bring them to see Santa at The Maine Mall. One mom and her little girl came all the way just to see him, but because they had no money for pictures she was not allowed to say hi and put his hands across his lap so she couldn't even sit on him. The little girl was heartbroken. I understand money issues and
all, but don't be cold and heartless to innocent children who still believe in Santa. That's NOT okay. Go elsewhere with your kids. Just because a family has no money doesn't mean the children should be treated as such crap. It ruins the holiday spirit. Be traditional, ask the child what they want, no pictures at all, and they can leave happy. THEN WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT? BECAUSE ITS VERY SAD!!!!!!!!!!" wrote Karmen LeWCSH 6.
The Maine Mall Management responded on Facebook to the complaints about a $20 picture fee required to visit with Santa:
" We're not sure where she heard that from, but purchasing pictures are optional. There was a lot of confusion resulting from a very grumpy Santa Claus, but our policy is still that any child who wants to visit Santa can do so for free. We have a new Santa who started today who shares this belief with us, and we were delighted to see him happily waving and chatting with kids as they passed. We're still keeping our eyes and ears opened for folks affected by bad experiences before this gentleman's arrival, so feel free to pass our management office number along to your daughter if she knows of someone who deserves an apology. That number is 207-828-2063."
The station contacted the Santa, but he didn't want to comment.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.