The Iffiness of Santa

Santa.jpgMore than 95 percent of the children were visibly indifferent or hesitant as they approached Santa.

This research finding, reported in 2004 by Professor Emeritus John Trinkaus of Baruch Business School in New York City (we described it here a year ago), and replicated in a study Professor Trinkaus published in 2005, will again be put to the test over the coming weeks, as thousands upon thousands of children are dragged to shopping malls to visit Santa Claus.

Professor Trinkaus also found that the parents, in contrast to most of their children, were delighted to be visiting Santa.

Professor Trinkaus, we are told, is conducting a further follow-up investigation. Perhaps other investigators will, independently, each camp out and gather data at their own local shopping malls.

NOTE: Professor Trinkaus, you probably do not need reminding, won the 2003 Ig Nobel Literature Prize for publishing more than 80 detailed academic reports about things that annoyed him.

UPDATE: later the same day.

Investigator Kurt Huber writes:

Being that I am a “Mall” (Department Store) Santa Claus myself, I agree that many of the children who are brought to see Santa Claus do not enjoy the experience, although I would put Professor Trinkaus’ number of 95% of children as being “visibly indifferent or hesitant” as quite high.? Having done this for 4 years now, in the suit and as the photographer, I can say with conviction that easily 1-2% of the children who visit a Santa Claus genuinely love the persona, from which I infer they also love the experience.? A larger percentage, easily approaching half of all child visitors, are very excited to be seeing Santa Claus, and show no hesitation or indifference.? Even if one conservatively halves my estimation, that still leaves 25% of young visitors enjoying the “ordeal”, from the beginning.? This is a far cry from 95%, but I realize you are just reporting on the continuance of a study.? Not having (yet) read Prof. Trinkaus’ report, I cannot say exactly who was included as a child, but surely there is some skew to the numbers.?? Other factors to consider, of which I have personally experienced their importance, are the environment of the experience, including the size of the room, number of extraneous people observing, and number of children per visit.? Large, open-air mall setups tend to be overwhelming, especially when you add in the sights and noises of the crowd.? Smaller rooms, something like 12 ft. by 12 ft. or roughly thereabouts, do wonders, as do the addition of over-sized toy props placed high on the walls, and a Christmas tree.? A large soft chair, and whether or not it’s placed on a dais, also seem to have an effect.? Only a photographer, if desired, and a helper “elf”, if needed, should be present for the visit, as anyone else unfamiliar can be too overwhelming, for small children, and embarrassing, for children of a certain age, say 8 yrs. to 12 yrs., when they feel like they shouldn’t still be talking to Santa, as they generally have discovered by this time that Santa isn’t “real”.? Any payment for photos or keepsakes should be done around a corner, or through a door, away from the old guy with the promise of presents.? It’s completely true, of course, that the Santa Claus visit with obligatory photos for the grandparents is mostly a parent’s deal, with the children being dragged along.? In our setup, we strive for professional quality photography, which makes it a true alternative to posed studio shots that most children would be far more indifferent or uncooperative towards.? I realize that I won’t sway anyone’s opinion about whether or not (and how many) children enjoy visiting Santa, because not all do, and the ones that don’t are far more vocal about it, crying and screaming bloody murder, but my main purpose was to provide a counter-point from another observer, if only for fun.

PS. Some words about why I sit in the chair: When I was 21, my ex-girlfriend, a new manager at the Santa outfit, asked me to help out and take some Santa shifts, as the “realbeards” tend to get worn out as Christmas approaches closer.? This is when I discovered Hot College Girl Elves.? Seems they like Decent-looking College Guys who are willing to dress up in a funny costume and talk to kids.? Every year, some planning-on-returning Hot College Girl Elves wonder if I’ll be back.? It’s a guarantee.? (I also enjoy talking with the children.)