Santa Claus may be the only man who holds it, but being Santa Claus is a job, and a big one at that. If you'd want to follow his comings and goings, you can check up with him at his blog.
1. Can you break down the criteria for ending up on the naughty and nice lists? (Not that I'm trying to game the system, but just to clear up any gray area.) While there is a fairly complex algorithm that we apply in compiling the official list, it really just boils down to the basics here: Do you treat others as you would treat yourself? Do you obey and honor your parents? Said differently, we apply the basic tenets and values of Judeo-Christian tradition.
2. How *do* you visit all those homes on a single night? The key is North Pole Time. I am not the right person to explain exactly how it works, it is far too technical for me... but I can say that because we sit at the junction of all the time zones, there are some unique capabilities we have realized in moving easily between time zones. That in and of itself is not all that remarkable. But there is something magical about how we can travel within a time zone and return to the North Pole - no matter how long we have been gone - within the same hour we left as long as we arrive and depart from the Launch pad. The Launch pad is directly on the true North Pole. Time doesn't stop so much as it "re-sets." It is this capability that we leverage to deliver to 302M homes in a 24 hour period. If you want to know how we determine how many homes, see my December 20, 2007 post.
3. How is global warming affecting the your work, if at all? Global warming is an issue that we should not take lightly; however, we have been fortunate that it has not yet affected our work in a negative manner. While it is questionable whether or not human activity is the prime contributor to the current warming trend, I believe we should operate under the assumption that it is. As such, we have made changes to become a "greener" operation. Every year we manufacture or procure several billion toys that are then distributed worldwide. It is a huge challenge to minimize the impact of those operations on the environment but it is a challenge that we are not shying away from. We are proud of the progress we have made but we are not satisified. We believe we can do more. We have set some ambitious goals and we will not rest until we meet or exceed those goals. Check out a few factoids about what we have done... or are planning on doing... to minimize our impact on the environment:
*Our worldwide distribution and business travel produces NO greenhouse gases thanks to our reindeer-powered sleighs. The sleighs' on-board electronics are all powered by solar cells.
*Our company-owned manufacturing and office facilities are all powered by wind-generated energy. Our facilities are all equipped with windmills that produce enough energy to not only offset our own usage but to also put surplus energy back into the grid.
*All of our third party partners must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage by 10% year over year for the next 10 years. Failure to do so will result in the cancellation of their contracts.
*We currently re-plant one tree for every Christmas tree we cut for use at the North Pole and/or for delivery. Our goal is to re-plant 3 trees for each Christmas Tree by 2010.
*We recycle every Christmas tree we use on North Pole Inc. property.
*We are actively sponsoring a campaign to eliminate artificial Christmas trees. While on the surface they may appear to be more environmentally friendly, 90% of those "trees" end up in landfills within 10 years.
*We recycle or re-use 70+% of our waste from toy production every year. Our goal is to be at 90+% by 2010 and at 100% by 2015.
*Our goal is to reduce waste from our toy production by 10% year over year.
*We are actively lobbying toy manufacturers to provide recycling programs for toys and batteries. By 2012, it will be a requirement for any manufacturer wishing to supply the North Pole operations.
*You can learn more about what we are doing at our website.
4. Is becoming Santa something anyone can aspire to, or do you have to be born to it? How about being an elf? There is only one Santa. At least until I pass. I was born "Santa." I don't claim to have any magical powers despite what some of the storybooks, movies, and fairy tales may lead you to believe. The only thing possibly magical about me is the fact that I'm several hundred years old and still in sound physical and mental shape. Candidly, I don't know how or why I have been blessed with such a long life and good health. Some have speculated it is the fact that Iive at the North Pole, in the middle of some 'timeless vortex'. Others have speculated that it is God's reward for living a life of giving. I don't know... I am just thankful. Assuming I may pass someday, I have set up a perpetual trust that will allow the North Pole Inc. operations to continue. Someone will be named CEO to succeed me and that person will perform the role I have today, but Santa is my name, not a title. So whoever replaces me will not, at least technically, be "Santa."
As far as being an elf, you cannot aspire to be an elf. Elves are a race. You have to be born an elf just like you are born to be Caucasian or Asian or any other race. But if you are referring to being a toy craftsman at North Pole Inc., yes, you can aspire to that. We are an equal opportunity employer. As long as you have mastered the craft of toy building, you can work at the North Pole.
5. With today's modern electronics, do you find you have to outsource some of the work, or can the elves still make everything in their workshop? We do outsource quite heavily. And have done so for a number of years indirectly in that we have contracted major manufacturers to build product on our behalf. We don't build that Nintendo Wii you got last Christmas.... we contracted with Nintendo to build it for us in mass quantities. Every year I spend much of my "off-season" negotiating rates & product availability with various manufacturers of electronics and other toys for all of the items we anticipate will have the greatest demand in the upcoming Christmas season. This past year, we established more direct outsource operations across India and China. It was not a case of laying off anyone -- all of our current employees remained in their jobs -- but rather a case of increasing capacity that we simply could not add at the North Pole due to physical constraints. Even so, it did create a lot of angst and led to a strike by the elves' union. Fortunately, we were able to resolve the dispute and the elves were back to work in time to not jeopardize the Christmas season.
6. I've never quite understood the economics of the magic of Christmas. I mean, isn't it expensive to provide gifts for all those kids? Where does the money come from for the labor, materials, and transportation? We are a non-profit operation. Virtually all of the funds come from my personal investments, though a few major corporations do donate goods and labor. My father was an exiled king. Before I was born, he had ruled a kingdom that stretches across much of what is now Germany. Soon after my mother became pregnant with me, my father's younger brother, who had been the next in line for the throne, conspired with a neighboring king to overthrow my father. Fearing for the life of my mother and me, my father fled to Norway. Despite fleeing, he remained extremely wealthy. It was my father that started the tradition. Even though we remained wealthy, we lived like paupers and my father gave away bags gold anonymously to many of our neighbors every Christmas Eve. I was well into my adult years before I even knew about the family fortune, my father's past, or his anonymous generosity. After he passed and I inherited the family fortune, I set about an even grander vision of genorisity. Having stumbled onto the flying reindeer and subsequently being introduced to the elves earlier in my life, I saw possibilities for expanding the scope of our giving to a scale that my father never dreamed possible during his lifetime.
7. How do you get down those chimneys? I just dive in. I have to stay in shape to be able to dive and catch myself at the bottom so I maintain a regular running and weight-lifting regimine. I dive head first because it is the easiest way to see any obstacles, including still smoldering coals. It is important to note that my scout team checks out the chimneys ahead of time so I know which ones are safe to dive into and which ones require me to enter the house by some other means. Even with the scouting team's work, I have been stuck more times that I care to admit. We carry retrieval equipment for those times. Please note to the children that read this.... It is IMPERATIVE that you NOT try chimney diving or any other type of chimney entry. Such activities are only for trained professionals.
8. If you couldn't do what you do, what would be your second job choice? My second job choice would be to be a school teacher. If that weren't possible, I'd want to be a coach.