HEARTWARMING efforts to bring joy to youngsters were left in ruins after a shop worker threatened a pensioner dressed as Santa with police if he didn’t leave.
Kind Rod Elliott, 71, was resplendent in full Father Christmas regalia and sleigh at Tesco Express, Station Road, in Hayling Island.
But the Hayling Lions volunteer was forced to leave without issuing a single gift when a store worker said he did not have head office permission and he would call police if Rod did not leave.
Rod said: ‘It wasn’t actually just the fact that we were thrown off the site, it was the way that it was actually done.
‘The particular representative of Tesco at the time threatened to call the police and have me arrested, which I thought was quite nasty bearing in mind I was in full Santa and beard and the rest.
‘It was somewhat lacking in Christmas spirit.’
My ho, ho, ho is slightly deflated after SaturdayRod Elliott
The Hayling Lions have been handing out presents and fundraising for youngsters at Christmas for 20 years.
The debacle on Saturday – which happened outside Tesco and not in the premises – is the first problem the group has ever had.
Disappointed Rod added: ‘My ho, ho, ho is slightly deflated after Saturday.’
He said the conversation started ‘reasonably enough’ but the worker told him he needed head office permission – but refused to give out the address or details to apply.
‘At which stage he said “I don’t need to do that”,’ Rod said.
‘It all descended into farce after that.’
Each year the group ensures around 70 disadvantaged children get presents.
Missing out on the fundraising opportunity also means the group lost out on around £300, president Derek Knight said.
Derek, 91, said: ‘It wasn’t funds we were looking for, it was children.
‘We have a Father Christmas there so they can come into the sleigh, and get a sweet or lollipop.
‘It was the kids we were disappointed about. I think somebody got out of the wrong side of the bed.
‘I’m surprised, I don’t know who it was at Tesco but they’ve overdone it.’
He added that Tesco had been supportive in the past.
Shocked supporters of the Lions posted on Facebook.
Nikki Shepherd said: ‘Disgraceful non-community minded behaviour from Tesco management.
‘Prepared to risk wasting police time too. I will absolutely not use that store until there is a public apology to Father Christmas and Hayling Lions.’
A Tesco spokesman said: ‘We have apologised to the Hayling Island Lions Club for their experience when they visited our store recently.
‘We hope to welcome them back to our store soon so that they can raise funds for the excellent work they carry out in the local community.’