Scroogelike policies at Utah shopping malls are stealing donations away from a Christmas tradition - red Salvation Army kettles, organization officials say.
Maj. Bill Lane, commanding officer of the Salt Lake Salvation Army, said the organization could double its donations if its bell ringers and kettles were allowed inside Salt Lake-area malls. Ogden Salvation Army Capt. Doug Williams said it would have an even greater effect in his solicitations in Weber and north Davis counties."We are projecting to get $30,000. If we could get into the malls we would get up to $45,000 to $50,000 this year," Lane said. "We now get between $65-$70 a day in our kettles. In the malls we could get $100 a day."
Eight malls from Logan to Orem have policies prohibiting the Salvation Army or other groups from either soliciting inside the mall or on its property. Those having such bans include Cache Valley Mall in Logan, Cottonwood Mall, Layton Hills Mall, Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Ogden City Mall, Newgate Mall in Ogden, University Mall in Orem and Crossroads Plaza in Salt Lake City. The Salvation Army said it generally has not asked the University Mall for permission to solicit there.
Officials at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City and South Towne Mall in Sandy said they would allow Salvation Army workers inside, although there are none there this Christmas season. Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City allows volunteers to solicit only at one entrance.
"The only place we are permitted is the back door - the east door of Mervyn's at Valley Fair Mall. Mervyn's manager would like to be able to assist us, but the mall prefers us not to be there," Lane said. "This is our 102nd year in Salt Lake City. We're not fly-by-nighters."
The ZCMI Center in downtown Salt Lake City has allowed workers near its entrances but has never considered a policy restricting them inside because there has never been a request to station them there, spokesman Kent Money said.
Across the street, the Crossroads Plaza has refused to allow the bell ringers to come inside or even use shielded entrances, so the bell ringers stand on the nearest piece of public sidewalk, Lane said.
The mall bans cut deeply into money that could help extend the Salvation Army's year-round food bank as well as Christmas toys for needy children, Lane said.
Greg Curtis, vice president of management with Salt Lake-based Price Development Corp., said his company's malls generally do not allow Salvation Army workers on their property, but often do participate in fund-raising efforts for them. Officials contacted by the Salvation Army at J.C. Penney at Price's Cottonwood Mall told the Salvation Army that the mall had simply rejected their request and offered no alternatives. Mall Manager Philip Vise said he never heard of the request.
At Price's recently completed Boise mall, a wishing well was set up for the Salvation Army, but the Army's bell-ringing workers were kept away. After many callers protested the policy, Price Development changed its policy for the mall and has allowed the bell ringers inside. The Salvation Army said that before the change, the $500 the well gathered over 10 weeks was a drop in the bucket compared with what the organization received in the area last year before the mall was opened.
What makes mall operators shy away from the Salvation Army is the fact that some religious groups have sued for access to malls after one group has gained access. In fact, the California Supreme Court has ruled malls in that state enjoy no private property protection after such a case, said Linda Nielson, manager of Layton Hills Mall.
"You have to control that or you would have somebody in here on a day-to-day basis, from the Salvation Army to the Hare Krishnas. We are just trying to provide a safe environment to the shoppers where they don't have to be bothered."
Lt. Col. Leon Ferraez, Salvation Army's national communications director, said that the mall managers "bah-humbug" attitude is depriving them of the Christmas spirit and increased sales. Ninety percent of malls nationwide allow the Salvation Army inside. Many national mall chains have signed contracts with the Salvation Army to allow them to solicit in their malls. To help get around the legal problem, some malls have hired Salvation Army bands for entertainment or leased space to them.
"If developers choose to be imaginative they can have the community relations cake and get around the litigation issue, too," said Don Pendley, director of public relations with the International Council of Shopping Centers. He said the "vast majority" of malls in his organization allow the Salvation Army in their doors during the Christmas season.