Due to a looming workers' shortage during this COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Claus might not be coming to the malls this Christmas after all.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Christmas event bookings are on the rise this year, with more demands for a Santa Claus appearance. However, many agencies have been struggling to fill the spot for an older, overweight worker to play jolly old Saint Nick because of their risks against the virus.
Data showed that a popular Santa Claus service in the U.S. has only 15 percent of professionals on board, while Santa bookings are up by 120 percent. Unfortunately, a lot of their regular players have either died from COVID or are turning down in-person events because of their health concerns.
Picture Taking With Santa Back
Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the risk of hospitalization or dying from the virus is greater for those above 50 years old. To protect the workers, malls decided to shift Santa appearances to the virtual environment or have installed plexiglass around their talents.
However, because of the vaccination rollout and with restrictions easing off this Christmas season, some malls are resuming picture taking with Santa with mask policies enforced. The only problem is they do not have enough workers to fill the demand.
Rick Rosenthal, who runs a booking agency in Atlanta, told WSBTV that they have had a Santa staff shortage since September. He said that they don't usually "run out of Santa" until mid-November.
One town in California is foregoing its traditional meet and greet with Santa Claus because they still could not book an elderly person willing to take the job. They will not be having the Santa visits as well since the workers are afraid to interact with unvaccinated kids. Even Mrs. Claus workers are not signing up for gigs for the same reason as the men.
Increase in Compensation
Meanwhile, workers who do sign up for the job may now ask for better compensation. In Orlando, Santa Claus actors can command a 25 percent increase in rates. In other states, Santa workers could charge between $175 to $300 an hour.
Susan Mesco of the Professional Santa Claus School in Denver said that their talents are working through weekends and weekdays to cover the demand. On a regular year, the Santas do two or three jobs a week but this has increased to five or six jobs a week for a year.
Meanwhile, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced that children may start sending their postmarked letters to Santa Claus by November 15. They should iinclude their specific requests for a gift.
By November 29, these letters will be uploaded on the USPS Operation Santa official site, with the children's personal details omitted, to allow generous and verified businesses to get involved and help Santa grant the kids' wishes. Operation Santa has been a USPS project for the last 109 years.
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