Salvation Army’s bells go silent at upscale O.C. mall

Salvation Army workers and their red kettles are stationed outside Bloomingdales and Macy’s at the upscale mall with an ocean view, but they have agreed to a request to not ring their bells.

“You have to respect store owners, people,” said Salvation Army Major Antonio Orta, who oversees the three bell ringers — their actual job title — on the property owned by the Newport Beach-based Irvine Co.

“We have to comply because we solicit on their premises,” Orta said. “We’re there to build relationships and let the community know that we work and we’re here to serve.”

In fact, bell ringers at Fashion Island haven’t been allowed to ring-a-ding-ding for a least the last few years, he said.

Some shoppers said they missed the sounds. “You expect to hear it around Christmastime,” said Kent Paul of Costa Mesa as he took a break from some last-minute shopping Friday. “The weather really doesn’t change much around here, so it’s nice to have a little reminder of the season and I guess the Salvation Army bell is one of them.”

Added Steve Manship of Huntington Beach: “I’ve always looked at that as a part of Christmas.”

An Irvine Co. spokesman said the decision to allow the workers outside a store’s door is up to the tenants.

Bloomingdales and Macy’s managers who were reached Friday evening said they believed they were complying with a shopping center policy.

Nevertheless, the location is the only one in Orange County that Orta knows of where bell ringers cannot live up to their title. He now refers to his crew at Fashion Island as “kettle workers.”