A website set up to help parents with Christmas shopping has left thousands of small children distraught.
Santa-List.uk.web is a price comparison site with a difference.
Parents set it up providing a few details, such as email address, a maximum present price and a maximum number of presents. Their children can then go in and add their Christmas List, under the guise that they are writing their list on-line to Santa himself. The site uses Bayesian heuristics to turn what the child enters into something that can be searched through hundreds of on-line retailers to find the cheapest in-stock items. This list is then emailed to the parent.
"Generally," said co-founder Chris Pressy, "we've had great reviews back from parents, who have called us a mini-Christmas miracle."
Problems started when a disgruntled employee at the company left a so-called Easter Egg in the website that nobody found during the testing phase of the site.
An animated character sits in the top corner of the site, giving genial comments to the children. Generally, this is merely a series of child-friendly encouragements such as "Oh my, that's a nice present you've chosen" and "If you want that, you'd best be extra specially nice to your parents".
Clicking the figure was something not one adult using the site thought to do.
When the Santa figure is clicked, it brings up what at first looks like a standard 404-Page Not Found error.
However, instead of Page Not Found, the following message was displayed:
It goes on to explain that Santa is a parental ruse.
This sudden reality check is what has left thousands of children requiring counselling.
Santa-List.uk.web promise to have it fixed soon. Meanwhile, the site has been taken down.