TCS Daily


Will E-Commerce Replace Santa?

By James K. Glassman - December 25, 2000 12:00 AM

"Christmas may come but once a year," says Santa Claus, CEO of Saint Nicholas Enterprises. "But after 1,700 years of riding a sleigh all night, I get a bit tired." Still, he plans to stay on the job, he tells Tech Central Station host James K. Glassman, because new federal regulations make retraining his elves as Web site operators too costly and he worries that releasing Rudolph and the other reindeer in the wild, as environmentalists want, could raise havoc with airlines.

James K. Glassman: This is your season to be jolly. But is E-Commerce digging into your business or are you using it like other retailers to expand?

Santa Claus: Well, Jim, don't mind if I call you Jim, do you?

Glassman: No, go ahead.

Claus: Well, Jim, to tell you the truth I'd really like it if the Internet would take a bit more business from me.

Glassman: Why is that?

Claus: Look at me. I'm overweight and out of shape. Christmas may come but once a year, but after nearly 1,700 years riding a sleigh all night, I get a bit tired. I mean, when I was just simple St. Nick from Turkey, it wasn't so tough. No presents, you know. The Dutch made me add them, and it kind of stuck. But, at any rate, it isn't like I'm in a good old Ford Explorer, riding nice and high, doing rollovers in the sky and all. No, I have to sit behind eight stinky reindeer for a whole night that lasts 24 hours, because, you know, I have to go around the world. And you think my nose and cheeks are red because I'm jolly? No, it's darn cold up there. Below freezing actually. Which sort of cuts down on the smell of the reindeer poop, but, even so, I'd just as soon give it up.

Glassman: But wouldn't that destroy the illusions of hundreds of millions of children? I mean, after all, the editor of The New York Sun once told a friend of mine, Virginia O'Hanlon, more than a century ago: "Thank God! He lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood." Wouldn't your quitting sort of spoil that, just leaving it up to UPS, Federal Express and the Postal Service to deliver?

Claus: I didn't say I was going to quit. Besides, none of them deliver on Christmas anyway. I just said I would like to. Only e-commerce hasn't taken off as much as I hoped. People still expect me to jump down that chimney, which is a real mess. You think Mrs. Claus doesn't get mad at me when I bring my outfit home all black and sooty. She has to wash that outfit every day the rest of the year to get it clean again. And there I go and mess it up. We get a greeting every year from Tide thanking us for our business.

Glassman: I think we're getting a little off track. After all, Tide isn't really high tech.

Claus: I don't know. You see those bubbles. Gotta have a chemistry formula to get those bubbles just right. But, go on, ask your next question.

Glassman: I wanted to get back to the second part of my first question; you didn't quite answer that. Has the Internet helped your business in anyway, e-mail, Web sites, whatever?

Claus: Well, I did start getting the elves into a little bit of it this year. I figured, you know, if Barnes & Noble could go up against Amazon.com on the Web, maybe I could, you know, streamline my operation a little using it, too. But I got to hand it to those big companies. You get into the Web nowadays, and they got all this talk about Internet taxes, and Online Privacy disclaimers, and all that. Like I've got to share my Christmas lists with parents at times, you know, but if I do I'm supposed to let the kid know I'm doing it or I might get sued like DoubleClick did, especially if I they thought I wouldn't tell anybody else. I mean: Have you ever faced a trial lawyer? I dang well don't want to, not after what they did to the tobacco industry. Why, I can't even smoke my pipe in my own factory at the North Pole anymore without some little elf saying they're going to take me off to OSHA or force me to kick into a settlement of some kind.

Glassman: Elves do that?

Claus: Oh, and much worse. You heard about what the munchkins did when they were off the set from making The Wizard of Oz? Even had a movie about it? You didn't see it? Just as well. Terrible stuff - with animals and all. Never can hear someone say, "You little munchkin" again without thinking they've done something filthy. Well, elves are worse, especially with the reindeer flying around. I almost regret that the Communications Decency Act didn't pass, even if it was unenforceable and would have kept a picture of a statue by Rodin off the Net. I mean, at least, I could have tried to keep the elves from downloading all that triple-X stuff. But that's another story, you were asking ...

Glassman: I was asking whether the Internet helped you in anyway?

Claus: Oh. Still thinking about those munchkins. Answer: No.

Glassman: Why not?

Claus: Well, as I said, I got started, but then I got scared when the Clinton administration put in the new rules on repetitive stress disorder. I just couldn't take the chance with my disability insurance that the elves would act responsibly, you know. Can't trust elves. Maybe other people, not elves. You see, they have short fingers, and they go and stretch them typing stuff for a Web site or playing with a mouse - although, you know on Christmas they don't stir much - ha! That's a joke. Have to have a sense of humor if you're going to work with elves. At any rate, they'd be sure to claim some disorder, and then where'd I be? You get out on the street up at the North Pole and it's really nasty. . So, no, haven't used the Internet much for my business, other than for e-mails.

Glassman: Oh, what's your e-mail address?

Claus: Nope. Won't give it out, except anonymously to a few close friends. Otherwise MAPS might get on my case - you know, for spam, when I reply to all those millions of queries and all. You see, there's another privacy issue I don't get. If you got millions of people sending you e-mail and you respond to them all, why should they go after you for somehow damaging their right to privacy or block your e-mail simply because some little kid didn't opt-in to getting messages from you. Kids don't know what it means to opt-in, at least not those young enough to believe in me. So, no, I won't give you my e-mail.

Glassman: Well, is there anything in the telecommunications area that serves you?

Claus: Got a phone. And a cable. Wanted to get broadband, you know, sort of combine the two, do my Internet surfing on the side even - though surfing up at the North

Pole is pretty tough you know, get frozen just at the top of a curl, ha! That's another of my little jokes. But, what was it? Oh, yes, broadband. Would like a high-speed line; that would be good. Only, my local Internet Service Provider sued the cable company, demanding access, even got the Federal Trade Commission or Communicatons Commission or some such, involved. So, that's hung that up. And then I thought about trying to do it through the phone company, only they don't like serving these rural areas. So, I may go to satellite, and get a cell phone. Then could call Mrs. Claus from anywhere, although, you know, the way I travel, I really got a watch for those roaming charges.

Glassman: So, what you're basically telling me is that the New Economy means little to you so far?

Claus: That's about it. But I'd like it to. I mean, as I said, sitting behind those reindeer, is a real bother. Although it isn't as bad now that I've switched them to genetically modified corn from that bone meal and animal byproduct I had been giving them for protein. No mad cow among my herd, that's for sure. Don't tell the environmentalists that, though, or they might get on my case again about releasing my reindeer back into the wild.

Glassman: What's that?

Claus: Let 'em go out in the wild. Think about it. Can you imagine what would happen if flying reindeer started breeding in the wild? The air traffic control system would go haywire, not to mention all the people having to duck their heads all the time for incoming. People might spot Rudolph, with that big red nose, but reindeer don't yell, "Slops" like the medieval folk did when they emptied the cistern. No fizz in that plop-plop, I tell you. Might bring back those big broad-brimmed hats, though. And get all those kids to turn their baseball caps back around, too. Yes sir. But, no I couldn't do that, despite what the environmentalists say. But I have pulled back on my handing out lumps of coal to bad little boys and girls.

Glassman: Oh, you believe in global warming then?

Claus: Nope. If it was getting warmer, I would`ve felt it. And, you know, it's still awfully cold up there. And here, too, for that matter. No, it's just that it at least keeps Greenpeace activists from dumping the stuff back in my yard after I've put it in their stockings. I don't give them anything now.

Glassman: Well, Mr. Claus, I believe that will do it. And on behalf of Tech Central Station, I want to thank you for granting us this interview at this busy time of your year.

Claus: Don't mention it. Don't mention it. You know what I always say: "Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"

Glassman: Good-bye.
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