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>> Friday, December 06, 2013

- Dangerous Minds, December 6th, 2013.

Dear Mr. Wilson,

Thank you very much for your application and interview of November 23, 2013 of this year.  We see many hundreds of candidates every year, and I may say without any exaggeration that out of all the hundreds of candidates Mary Anne, Richard and I met with this year, your interview was by far one of the most memorable any of us could recall in a combined total of forty-three years of experience between us.

As you are aware, Macy's has a long and proud history of offering small children the opportunity to meet with Santa Claus as the Christmas season gets underway.  It is a tradition that has become not just a Macy's institution, but even something of a national tradition, celebrated in such works as the many versions of "A Miracle On 34th Street," a beloved story that has become a part of many families' Christmastime rituals even if they have never experienced the pleasure of shopping in any of our fine establishments across the country.  So I am sure you understand that Mary Anne, Richard and I consider our role of hiring Santas here at Macy's primary location at 151 W. 34th Street to be something of a sacred duty.  We are keepers of the Santas, so to speak, and we do not think of the Santas as mere actors or employees hired to "play" a "role," but instead think of them as avatars or representatives of the Santa.

Mary Anne, Richard and I agree that of all the possible Santas we met this year, none shared the same exuberance and enthusiasm you brought to the interview.  Indeed, I do not think any of us can recall ever meeting a Santa as enthusiastic and exuberant as yourself, Mr. Wilson.  This is very much to your credit, and is part of the reason for this direct and personal response in lieu of the standard "regrets" letter we mail to all the Santas we did not choose.  A Macy's store Santa meets hundreds of children a day, thousands of children in a season, and interacts with at least as many parents, many of whom are as cranky and frustrated as their children sometimes are despite our best efforts to make every shopping experience at Macy's pleasant and relaxed.  It is simply the nature of the season that many people find themselves stressed-out and anxious, and one of a Santa's most vital tasks is to reign over an island of calm, joy and childlike wonder.  A Santa also conducts this noble work for many hours on end with no more than three five-minute breaks to use the Santa Room and a single forty-five minute break for lunch/dinner if Santa-ing for more than six consecutive hours.

This can take a lot out of even the best Santas, so Mary Anne, Richard and I look for enthusiasm first and foremost among all the qualities a Santa might have, because enthusiasm is the fuel that keeps a Santa as joyous and excited to meet the five-hundredth child as the very first of the day.

This is why it is so very sad for us to have to write this letter.

You might be surprised to hear that not every Santa comes to us in costume, although many, like yourself, do.  While Macy's provides all of our Santas with a standard Santa uniform modeled, of course, after the real Santa's jolly red suit, it is usually a good indicator of enthusiasm when a prospective Santa meets with us dressed as if he is already a Santa.  It is often, though not always, an indicator of a Santa's lack of seriousness, commitment and engagement if he comes to us dressed in his street clothes, or wearing his costume and makeup for an off-off-off Broadway acting engagement elsewhere in the city (we do not want "actors" who consider Santa a "role", we want Santas who will represent the real Santa, too busy making toys to personally appear at Macy's as he surely would if he weren't so busy).  Mary Anne, Richard and I cannot recall ever turning away a Santa who interviewed in costume and who passed the background check, drug test, polygraph and who showed appropriate enthusiasm.

Until now.

Mary Anne, Richard and I would like to make clear that this rejection is not because of your weight, which appears to be on the lower end of what physicians would consider "obese" but not anywhere near the girth normally associated with Santa, whose tummy has been known to "roll like a bowl full of jelly" when he laughs (which is often).  We have had many slender, even skinny, Santas who were required to compensate for their lack of physical presence with foam padding.  We would also like to make clear that Macy's is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and that this refusal is not a consequence of your race or ethnicity, which were unknown to us during your interview and only became apparent when we viewed the floor security videos the day following your interview, or your gender, which was painfully obvious whenever you were standing up, or your sexual preference, which we can only speculate upon under the circumstances (while declining to actually do so).

However, we would be less-than-candid if we failed to inform you that your unorthodox choice of Santa uniform is, indeed, the reason we cannot accept your application to be one of our Santas this Christmas season.  While Macy's is proud to innovate, Mary Anne, Richard and I have to agree that the particular innovations your apparel would bring to Macy's are not in line with Macy's mission to provide families with a memorable opportunity to meet Santa, to sit on his lap, and to ask for a special present while a Macy's Elf takes a photograph that the child's parents may purchase for a nominal and reasonable cost to commemorate and remember their child's Christmas joy.

It must be expressed that Mary Anne, Richard and I feel vindicated in our decision-making process by the reactions on display both when you entered our premises on 34th Street by way of the main floor and your exit along the same route (in spite of Mary Anne's offer to allow you to use the service elevator in the employees' area and her suggestion that you might prefer to leave by the freight docking bay).  Recorded video of the events depict screaming, disconsolate children, mothers vainly attempting to hide their childrens' eyes, at least three fathers and one mother physically threatening you, and (upon your exit) an unfortunate pursuit through Dishwares involving three loss prevention officers (one of whom inadvertently explained why your costume didn't show any "lines" when he got a partial grip on your belt buckle).

Under these circumstances, we must not only decline your generous offer to Santa for free (an option that would not be allowed under New York labor laws, in any case, but thank you) and also request that you not enter or remain on the premises of any Macy's Department Store in the United States.  Our legal department has strongly recommended this ban vocally and in writing, and Mary Anne, Richard and I must agree: Macy's Department Store will prosecute you under any applicable laws if you set foot in any of our stores.  While we may not know what your face looks like, we do have a very good idea of other ways you might be recognized.

Our best wishes and good luck in all of your future endeavors.  Merry Christmas!

Wilton M. Cheshire,
Macy's Store Santa Supervising Chief,
Macy's Department Stores,
151 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001

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