Before I was writing serious books with less than serious titles (see: “Social Media Is BS”), I struggled to find work. Some of this was because I like to write naughty jokes on Twitter, but a lot of it was because my ex-wife insisted we live in Glens Falls, New York, where there are virtually no jobs.
When jobs did became available, you took what you can get. In my case, that was becoming a mall santa at the Aviation Mall in Queensbury, New York. And although I’d like to think I’m a trendsetter, no, I’m probably not the first Jewish Mall Santa.
So today I’m here to give you some tips and advice concerning your local mall Santa, who is hopefully not a 6’4” skinny Jew like myself. As it turns out, in many instances your mall Santa doesn’t belong to the mall at all. He belongs to a company, such as [the photography company] who employed me, that is using the space the mall has designated for them. This sounds like a minor point, but it’s not because if the mall hears you had an unpleasant Santa experience, it means that company will get the boot in favor of a better provider the following year, meaning it’s not in their best interest to provide you with a terrible experience.
Always keep this in mind: If they do a bad job, it’s probably not just for you, and you should not hesitate to complain to the mall management and not the photography company’s management.
That said, the photography company will do absolutely everything they can to price gouge you at every turn. Don’t worry. Santa isn’t instructed to push any packages on you, but the elves are. If you ask if you can take pictures, the elves will tell you no and that you have to buy a package. Of course, since they don’t technically own the space Santa is seated in, they can’t really stop you from taking pictures, so most savvy parents opt to walk around the fenced area where Santa sits, as opposed to in it, to take a photo of Santa and their child on their phone or camera. And most Santas will oblige you by making sure your child and he are orientated to face you.
Communication with Santa, and not the elves, is key.
But above all, there is one critical thing you must do to make sure your photo with Santa and the family isn’t money flushed down the toilet. Young children are irrationally terrified of Santa. I thought maybe it was just me because of how skinny I was (the body pillow they provided did NOT fill out my costume), but as I’ve been informed by other mall santas (yes, we’re organized if not totally unionized) children are just plain scared of Santa. I don’t know why.
What I do know is that a lot of these photo companies are not equipped for this. We were. So please know that although your child appears calm in approaching Santa, they may completely lose it the second he greets them. To ensure your photo comes out as good as possible, especially if you fall for paying the ridiculous premium on the package, the adult should always approach Santa first. ALWAYS!
This way, when the adult greets Santa, and Santa says hello to the adult (it’s better if you shake hands with Santa because then you’re making physical contact with him, which is important because your child is about to be sitting on their lap), your child will register it as ok to approach and sit with Santa.
There is no guarantee this will work everytime, but it works often enough that I and any mall santa will encourage you to take this route.
So, don’t go buying those expensive photo packages unless you really want them (remember: You can always take your own photos), make sure the adult approaches Santa first, and if you have a problem or nast encounter with the photo company providing the Santa booth this year, don’t hesitate to talk to the mall management.
These three items make all the difference and can save you some money to boot.
As for me, I’m now gainfully employed, but in my official capacity as a former mall santa, I wish you all a Merry Christmas.