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Desperately looking for Santa Claus … When the Covid leads to a labor shortage

“Looking good old cheerful guy with a well-groomed natural beard, white or tinted for the season, excellent dental hygiene [indispensable contre la mauvaise haleine! ], able to smile often, to know how to listen, to sing loudly and to lift more than 10 kilos “.

These days, we can no longer count the number of announcements of this kind to recruit Santa Claus. “Everyone’s in a mood to celebrate, everyone wants to see Santa Claus and get back to normal,” says Brittany Skipper, owner of Royal Entertainers in San Diego, a white-bearded extras agency that has seen its reservations double compared to the previous year. But at the same time, Brittany Skipper has lost seven of her 20 Santas, mainly due to a pandemic. Same sound of … bells at Hiresanta.com which has seen a 121% increase in demand this year as the number of available applicants has fallen by 10%. Several hundred died, especially as a result of the Covid, others retired, still others decided that it was better to remain in quarantine at the North Pole.

As the holiday season approaches, America is in crisis. There is no longer a single Santa Claus. It is, however, well paid. The gentleman in the red suit sitting on his throne in a shopping center earns around $ 30 an hour, but a Santa Claus with experience (who has completed more than 100 hours of training in one of the various specialized schools where we teaches him how to curl his beard) can earn more than 150 dollars. In the Washington Post, Courtney Bryant, the employee of an NGO in Texas, tells how for a company party, she made 50 calls before finally finding one with a false beard for a two-hour appearance. Cost of the operation: $ 320. “If we had picked the one with a real beard, it was $ 100 more,” she said. But she hasn’t seen a photo and he’ll contact her just 48 hours before the party. What makes him fear a disaster scenario like that of the movie Bad Santa in which the Santa Claus of the store is a small alcoholic crook addicted to sex.

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It must be said that the job is not always fun. According to the survey organized every year among his classmates by Santa Tim Connaghan, 30% of Santas say they have to take on their knees a hundred children a day, 31% have experienced unwanted leaks, 88% have beard hairs are pulled to see if they are real, including 24% by adults, especially ladies …

Santa Claus of all “origins”

And the Covid has not helped. It is not very convenient to wear a mask on a fake beard, and then the children will not recognize you. Then, rubbing shoulders with legions of unvaccinated kids is not reassuring. And having to constantly move around in the middle of crowds in department stores or at nightlife doesn’t promote social distancing. However, the usual candidate for this role is generally a man over 65, rather plump – 112 kilos on average – who is therefore one of the categories most at risk for the virus. According to Tim Connaghan’s poll, 18% of working Santas out of the 8 to 10,000 in the United States have stored their sleds and reindeer in the garage. Even more worrying, only 88% say they are vaccinated.

Suddenly, everyone is forced to innovate in terms of recruitment. Some recruit young people by relying on make-up to create illusions, others Mothers Christmases or Mrs Claus, still others tempt the ethnic Santa and too bad if he does not have a lush white beard. The Old Navy brand has launched a program to train Santa Claus of all “origins”, hear a little less white. Less than 5% of Santa Claus are from a minority background compared to half of American children under the age of 15. In the 30-minute online training, candidates learn the ropes: how to answer tricky questions from kids, how to express themselves in Spanish or sign language and most importantly how not to miss the photo.

But even if we end up finding the ideal bearded man, we are not at the end of our troubles. Santa Claus costumes are out of stock because many are from China and given the supply issues are stuck on a freighter somewhere in the Pacific. “To provide its own black leather boots and metal-rimmed glasses,” reads an advertisement.

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So what to do? The agencies advise the virtual Santa Claus by Zoom easier to book, or even to postpone the Christmas evening … to January!


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