Next Victim Of The Economic Meltdown? Santa.

Christmas Creep may be more out of control than ever this year (Were Veterans Day sales always Christmas-themed?), but that doesn’t mean that these are happy holidays for professional Santas. Yes, according to the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, an organization that actually exists according to the Wall Street Journal, Santa bookings are down. Way down.

Santa bookings have dropped so steeply that the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, which represents 700 jolly souls in red velvet, held a series of meetings to discuss their economic survival. Among the tips: If clients can’t afford an extended Santa visit at $125 an hour, offer them a quickie drop-in. “Have him read a story to the group instead of having everyone come sit on Santa’s lap,” suggests Nicholas Trolli, who says bookings are down 50% for the 20 Santas he represents along the East Coast.

This trend of skimping on civic cheer comes as a blow to many families. Their holidays at home will be more modest this year. Office parties will also be subdued. Now they can’t even count on cherished holiday traditions in the town square.

This is tragic, because as everyone knows, if Santa is broke he’ll have to cut back on health care for the elves and that’s just going to place an undue burden on the taxpayer. Or worse yet, he’ll have to outsource his toy making contracts to gnomes.

Glum Tidings: Santa Gets Sacked as Cities, Companies Look to Save [WSJ via Buzzfeed]
(Photo: silent (e) )

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  1. Brazell says:

    Damnit, and when I got into this business, I thought that it was a recession proof industry.

  2. thrashanddestroy says:

    Woah woah woah, $125 an hour? Does this extended to all Santas, such as shopping-mall Santas, or just the Santas that pop into elementary schools and parades?

    If it does include mall Santas, I no longer feel the least bit of sympathy for them having to deal with screaming children and pissy parents.

    • U-235 says:

      @thrashanddestroy: It applies to santas in the AORBS. These are the high class santas with real beards and jolly rotund bellies.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        @U-235: Accept no substitute.

      • selianth says:

        @U-235: I’m trying to figure out why my dad does not make some money on the side playing Santa. He’s got the rotund belly. He’s got the full white beard. C’mon, Dad!

    • m4ximusprim3 says:

      @thrashanddestroy: I actually sat next to a santa in my local diner and the Santa business is really, really interesting.

      Good santas work 10 hour days, 6 days a week, for 10 weeks leading up to christmas. Apparently one of the big problems is (or was, if bookings are down) dropout from old guys who sign up for the first time because they have a beard and end up not being able to hack the schedule. Apparently there are whole systems in place to find “replacement santas” when this happens.

      This guy was fascinatinng. I asked him how he got into it and he said he actually used to be a higher-up in HP (I’m in san diego where HP is headquartered)- he has an MBA and everything. He just got tired of being retired and someone told him he looked like santa, so he decided to try it.

      • downwithmonstercable says:

        @m4ximusprim3: That’s pretty interesting. I figured the Santas were hired off the streets, or walk-in interviews or something. Who knew there’s a whole market out there…

    • Tmoney02 says:

      @thrashanddestroy: As mentioned above, these are for the high class santas. These guys probably went to The santa college and were the top of their class and go to conventions during the summer to stay up to date on the latetest toys and kid fads.

      It’s pretty fascinating.

      • thrashanddestroy says:

        @Tmoney02: @U-235: Right, right. I could have phrased that better, but what I meant was whether mall Santas are members of this AORBS or if there’s a looser requirement for who gets to have kids on their laps all day. Ahem…

        For instance, I saw who was set to be our local mall’s Santa. Older guy, big belly, and an honest-to-goodness beard. Now we’ll assume he’s a part of AORBS. Lets say some other non card-carrying Santa came in, would they pay this second Santa just as much or less?

        • U-235 says:

          @thrashanddestroy: I’m not positive but I’d say much less, based on the concept that you pay non-certified individuals less than certified individuals because you are not guaranteed of their value. You know an AORBS Santa is good, or the AORBS will send you a replacement. Some random Joe Santa doesn’t have that guarantee. Noone is ‘vouching’ for him.

          • Tmoney02 says:

            @U-235: Yep being an AORBS santa says your dedicated to the your craft – playing Santa – and you aren’t just some guy that is looking for a little extra holiday money.

            Its like hiring some guy off the street to be in your play/movie or hiring an academy award wining actor.

        • Anonymous says:

          So everyone knows, AORBS is only a SOCIAL group and does NOT vouch for the members abilities nor finds employment for its membership. AORBS does nothing to insure the quality of Santas either within their ranks or Santas-at-large.

          Qualifications to become an AORBS member is that you have a real beard, portrayed Santa at some point with your real beard, and you have paid your yearly dues. AORBS is NOT a “union” and does NOT set standards for ANY Santa.

          To reply to the $125/hour question, no this is NOT for the average Mall Santa. Although the amount can vary widely, this $125 would be approximately what a top Santa could make (real beard or not) by doing private parties depending on their locale.

          Keep in mind that those individuals charging this amount have to supply their own suits for starters. A cheep yet nice looking off the rack suit will cost about $250 and up, and if they do many visits they’ll need at least 2 suit for when one is being cleaned. However, the look those suits afford would not likely allow that Santa to charge top dollar. To get that, the Santa would need something along the line of a custom suit that has been sized and designed specifically for him, the price range could be from $500 to over $1000 a piece. And again a minimum of two would be needed. I won’t even go into the scenario of one suit at the cleaners and a baby has just spit up on your second suit AND you have another visit after leaving the one you’re at. But you can see where having even 3 suits could be a necessity.

          In addition to a custom suit, these top Santas usually have a leather belt ($125-$300), real boots ($100-$450), Insurance ($200+/year), background checks ($35-$100/year), perhaps white gloves that WILL get to the point a washing won’t do any more ($20-$50), and may require beard bleaching done once every week or two (($80-$150). There can also be other accoutrements that may or may not need to be replaced. Gift bag, candy bag, eye glasses, rouge for the cheeks and nose, hair product to keep the beard looking good and the mustache properly curled, books, props to use while reading the books, business cards and other self marketing items, magic tricks, etc.

          We’re talking thousands of dollars invested in order to justify the higher rates. Believe it when I say that 99% of all Santas are NOT getting rich from putting on the red suit. Frankly they’re lucky if they break even for the season and many don’t even come close to that. Fortunately, most Santas earn their reward by putting a smile on someone’s face and joy in their hearts, and they will love every minute of it. Let me not forget that most Santas have a special heart for giving to charities and they charge fees in order to be able to afford spending time with those that have nothing to give. Someone getting into being Santa to just make a buck simply won’t last.

          Now let me comment on the article of Santa business being down. As a Santa myself I have to say that it isn’t actually that bad. A few past clients have said that they are cutting back this year, but most of those slots have been filled by new families and businesses. IF my business is down at all it is no where near 50% down. It would be closer to 5 to 3%. But the season hasn’t even started yet. Last minute bookings during the season are the norm and should more than cover the shortfall so far. I fully expect to increase my clientele and will refer out or have to unfortunately turn down some requests.

          I hope this helped answer some questions and further expand everyone’s knowledge.
          o

  3. jdhuck says:

    On the way to work / school drop-off this morning I looked next to me and Santa was driving a Ford Contour.
    My daughters started yelling and waving.
    I guess times are hard when Saint Nick trades in the Sleigh and reindeer for a Ford.

    And yes, it really was Santa Claus, or at least a mall Santa. he had a big Santa Lou sticker on the side of his car.

    Note: I did not smell whiskey as his windows were rolled up.

  4. bsalamon says:

    I hope Hanukkah Harry isn’t harmed by this

  5. humphrmi says:

    There are so many Bad Santa lines here, but unfortunately all of them are NSFW.

  6. dcarrington01 says:

    Anyone know what Mr. Hanky brings down a hour?

  7. ElizabethD says:

    The heck with Yoda Claus. I want Anakin Skywalker in my stocking.

  8. EricLecarde says:

    Don’t Gnomes live in South America?


    + Watch video

  9. battra92 says:

    Well, I do know that our company will still be doing all the usual Christmas items.

  10. fencepost says:

    Wow, after doing some reading on AORBSantas ([www.aorbsantas.com]) it looks like Santa-ing has some internal politics issues!

  11. chrisjames says:

    Nicholas Trolli has got to be a perfect name for the Order of Santas. Tell me they’re all named with wonderfully festive and jolly names and I’ll donate whatever it takes.

  12. synergy says:

    I think the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas is going to be the next ones at Congress’s door asking for a bailout.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is a poor workman that blames his tools. Worse yet, is a failing Santa that tries to explain away his own inadequacies by the state of the economy. Just because you grow a beard and buy the accouterments of Santa Claus, it doesn’t make you a Santa.

    The title of Santa is entrusted by a child every time they believe. Parents know this, and this is the kind of Santa that they will take their children to, or have into their homes.

    Yes, quality Santas are loosing some repeat events, but many of them are getting new opportunities that off set the losses. As with anything, if you give more than bargained for, over the course of time you will have the children and their parents waiting in line.