Friday, December 24, 2004

The Night I Worked for Santa Claus

My Spring 05 Classes

Since the days of the Great Depression, the Christmas season has been watched closely by economists, policy makers and securities analyists. This is a major retail event and retail sales at this time a year not only have a major effect on the economic health of retailers but also on manufacturers as the volume of retail sales has a direct effect on inventories.

Employment numbers also tend to increase as retailers and others take on additional workers to cover the longer hours and anticipated increase in consumer traffic.

In my student days I too had some part time jobs with department stores during the Christmas holiday season. But my really unique holiday job occurred on the evening of December 23rd about twelve years ago. At that time another fellow and I owned a small computer training and consulting firm and we worked out of some space in a photography studio owned by my partner's son-in-law.

Jim, the son-in-law, had a good business and that year he got the Santa Claus concession at the Foothills Mall. But he had some gaps in the schedule for his Santas so he asked his father-in-law and me if we would be interested in filling them when they arose. We accepted but, in the end he only had about three gaps, so my partner took two and I took one.

Mine was for the evening shift from six to ten. They had a small dressing room in one of the empty stores in the mall where I donned the pillows, red pants, coat and hat along with my long white beard and black boots. Fortunately, the clothing was light so it was not uncomfortable. I then took my position in the big chair in "Santa's Workshop" and waited for the children to come.

The Foothills Mall was not as busy in those days but we had a small, steady flow of children coming to see me. While not very good for the businesses, the light shopping crowd meant that the children did not have to wait in line to see me and did not have to be rushed off right after their pictures were taken. In the beginning were the younger children with their parents. The very young ones came forward hesitantly and barely spoke while the older ones strode forward boldly and provided me with very specific instructions as to what they wanted for Christmas. All were polite and well behaved. Some of the more organized ones brought me lists and I dutifully put these in my pocket. In my most reassuring manner I would assure each child that, if they went to bed early, I would stop by their homes the next evening with presents for them. However, and as a parent myself I certainly wanted store Santas to say this to my children, I cautioned that I had children all over the world to visit and I couldn't guarantee that I would have the specific gift that each one requested. But I would do my best and every child could look forward to a nice surprise under their Christmas tree. This way, if the child asked for something beyond the parent's budget or they secretly confided the gift in me, the parent's would not be on the spot when that hoped for gift was not under the tree.

A fringe benefit of the job was Christmas cookies that a few of the children brought for me. Another was the young ladies who stopped by later in the evening. Small groups of teenage girls doing last minute shopping would glance at our display and giggle as they passed. As the evening wore on and the younger children and their parents left, individual groups of these young ladies would linger a few moments and finally one or two from the group would get up the courage to come and have their picture taken with Santa. They were beyond the age of believing in Santa Claus but I am sure they had a great time the next few days passing around the picture of themselves sitting on Santa's lap.

My pay for the evening was $25 along with cookies and the satisfaction of having made a number of children, young and old, happy. Unlike the movies, all of the children that visited with me that evening were well behaved and believed in Santa Claus and the spirit of the season.

Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting job. Any idea where I can get a job like this next Christmas?