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Groupon grotty grotto rage forces Santa's chief elf to quit

How the Groupon voucher stole Christmas

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Santa Claus won't have to look too hard to fill out his naughty list this year: seriously irate parents have been yelling abuse at his staff in a Christmas grotto in York over a dodgy Groupon deal.

The small city centre grotto didn't exactly live up to the description in the Groupon offer, and the decorated present bunker's employees took so much flak that the most senior elf has even resigned.

Penelope Ward, organiser at York Winter Wonderland, told The Register the grotto had been inundated with families, particularly over the weekend, who had come from all over the country with Groupon vouchers promising a "magical train ride" along with a chance to meet Father Christmas.

Unfortunately, the grotto doesn't have a train, nor does it have the space for the hundreds and hundreds of families who turned up, which killed off the Christmas spirit in quite a few people.

"On the weekend, it's been absolutely manic," said Ward. "We've had hundreds and hundreds of people queuing outside saying, 'Where's this magical train ride?', and we've had to say: 'We're really sorry, we don't have one.'

"People were complaining, saying it's appalling, which is really disheartening for our staff. They were really angry because they couldn't get in, and they're still coming now, still today we're having the same issue."

The grotto was only expecting to handle about 200 people on Saturday and Sunday, but around a thousand showed up with vouchers in hand expecting a huge event.

"This weekend we had about a thousand people through the door and obviously we're just a small Christmas grotto so imagine the mess. It's trashed the site, it's worn away the carpet because we weren't expecting that kind of footfall," Ward said.

"They're calling us The Grotty now, which is quite amusing but not really - it did look a bit a grotty after we'd had all those people," she added.

Grotto trashed by technical error

A spokesperson for discounts website Groupon apologised for the mix-up and said there had been an error on the vouchers.

"Owing to a technical error, we apologise that the picture and wording used in this promotion may have indicated that a train ride was available at York Winter Wonderland when this wasn’t the case," Groupon said.

"We corrected the promotion immediately as soon as we discovered the error and have today sent out a bulk email clarifying what is included in the promotion for customers that are yet to redeem their vouchers."

Ward said that the grotto did want to sell tickets through Groupon, but claimed that there were issues with the voucher and they had never signed the contract.

"We wanted it to say please pre-book your timeslot. There was problems in the text - it implied that we were some sort of huge event like Alton Towers and we're just a Christmas grotto in York," she added.

As well as trashing the grotto, getting staff yelled at by the public and ruining everyone's Christmassy fun, the mistake had financial repercussions for the organisers as well.

"The other problem was that the toys we give the children, we have to buy all those toys and we're not getting a lot of money from the Groupon vouchers, just a couple of pounds," Ward said. "We had to go out and buy thousands of toys that we'll never see the money back for, it's just basically we're doing it for free."

The Grinch-y Groupon Grotto gripe was first flagged by The Telegraph. ®

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