CHRISTMAS spirit was not in the air at Smyths Toys last night (Monday) when Santa Claus was thrown out whilst attempting to buy gifts for children.
The incident happened as Santa and a group of his ‘little helpers’ were inside the Tamworth store on Ventura Retail Park.
Santa had arranged to meet three families at the store on Monday night so that they could choose gifts for Christmas.
‘Santa’ told Tamworth Informed: “The idea was that the parents of three of the families we had chosen met us at the store to buy gifts. I told each of the families to choose goods to the value of £500.00 each and that when they got to the till we would step in and pay for them.”
Rob Bowker who is probably better known as ‘Bibbledy Bob’, who took on the role of Santa continued: “I walked into the store dressed as Santa and was approached a member of staff who told me I had to leave as I did not have permission to be there from Head Office.
“I was just shocked, she even got the security guard to escort me out of the store. I told the lady, what we were doing and why we were there but she still said I had to leave.
“I had to wait outside the store whilst the Santa’s Little Helpers Team went inside and paid for the presents for the parents who we were meeting there.”
Despite being thrown out of the store by security, Santa’s Little Helpers still went on to purchase trolley loads of toys within the store as they did not want to let the families down.
‘Santa’ Said: “We spent around £1,350 in the store as it is the biggest toy shop locally, we could not let the families down.”
Rob Bowker from Tamworth, formed a group of local volunteers – ‘Santa’s Little Helpers’ to raise funds for less fortunate families in the area.
The idea behind the group is that four local families have been nominated and that these families get to choose presents. These presents are then wrapped up and taken by Santa, who then delivers them in a personal visit on Christmas morning.
This year, £4,500 has been raised, with funds being donated by local residents and collections taking place within the town, including bag packing by Santa’s Little Helpers in Tamworth’s Home Bargains store.
The families are chosen with the help of local charity Simon’s Heroes and Flamingo Entertainments who work closely with community groups in the area.
Rob Said: “We were not filming or taking pictures inside the store, so I do not really know what permission I needed. One customer did ask if she could take a photo of me with her child and she did this on her phone. This is something that often happens when I am in character.”
Despite the non-friendly approach from Smyths, Rob said that he will not be put off his community efforts, he said: “it has not put me off at all, I will still go on to do it again next year, it would me nice if Smyths could work with us, rather than against us.”
Smyths Toys have been approached for a response and at this time, have not come back to us.
Within responses on Smyths Facebook page however, a spokesperson has said: “As a customer in our Tamworth store was with a photographer taking photos with children without the permission of their parents or guardians, our manager asked him to desist.
“Regrettably, he refused and so we asked him to leave the premises.”
Smyths has also this evening, told BBC Midlands Today, that as a gesture of good will, they will be donating toys to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.