by Steve Robson
THERE are certain professions which would appear to be seasonal-only: Ice cream van driver, leaf blower and road gritter are a few which spring to mind. Perhaps these people are multi-talented and go from one to another as the seasons change. But one job which must surely be impossible to make a career out of is that of a Shopping Centre Santa.
The way I remember, it was simple – you queue up with other snotty-nosed kids, your mum or dad pays a couple of quid to a bored-looking Elf at the front, you go in and sit on the lap of some guy with a fake beard and a faded, red suit, you tell him what you want for Christmas and then he gives you something from Poundland which leaves you utterly disappointed by the whole affair.
Apparently, since then capitalism has shifted into overdrive and now a visit to Father Christmas is a whole different ball game. It’s about making Christmas “fun and profitable”.
When I went to visit Santa at his Grotto in the Arndale Centre I failed to realise that I needed to pre-book via the text messaging service in advance. I had hoped I might be able to catch him at the end of his shift and have a quick chat about what it’s like to be a Retail Santa.
But according to the supervisor I would need to contact the headquarters of ‘Great Grottos’, the events management company which operates the Arndale franchise, and get permission before I could speak to the Jolly Fat Man.
Apparently Santa does not do impromptu interviews, only scheduled press conferences with a hand-picked selection of journalists. Oh dear, I guess I’ll just have to have my people call his people.
Interestingly however, you can apply to be a Father Christmas at www.greatgrottos.co.uk . I imagined what the Job Description might be:
“Wanted: Overweight males, preferably with own white beard and jolly laugh. Must have Sleigh Licence and experience with deliveries. Drink drive convictions acceptable. Good judge of character necessary.”
Instead, a potential candidate must have experience in customer services, cash-handling and a full CRB check. How boring.
Needless-to-say I never got to the bottom of what ‘shopping centre Santas’ do the rest of the year. I guess I’ll just have to ask the next ice cream man I see. Unless they got bought out by Haagen Dazs and start operating via GPS signal Tweeted directly from your iPhone . . . now there’s an idea.