I know I’m supposed to tell you whom the Mulletville Corp Thanksgiving Gift Basket Committee picked as its turkey recipient, but if I don’t write about what happened Friday night I am going to explode.
Chuck, Junior and I went to the West Farms Mall. I knew Santa had already arrived at the mall—he comes after Easter now, right?—I just didn't realize he had changed so much.
Did you know he up and moved to Narnia?
Hell ya. He's now shacking up with the Ice Queen. In his new digs, he has a magical throne that makes your butt cold when you sit on it (that was the helper’s enticement to try it out, not mine). Snow globes through which you can walk. Televisions that blare scenes from the new Chronicles of Narnia movie, Voyage of the Something Something.
Gone were the little wooden trinkets and jingling bells of years past. This Santa was 100% Disney-fied. Bigger. Brighter. Balls-to-the-wall action.
Of course Junior wanted to meet him. Of course. What pre-schooler doesn’t want to say hi to the man in red and inquire about his reindeer?
We made our way through Narnia and found Santa, who invited Junior onto his lap.
"Have you been a good boy? Do you know I like cookies? Wasn’t that last scene from the Chronicles of Narnia riveting?"
Yes, yes, yes, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp and Walden Media. I mean, Santa.
“Let’s go, Junior,” I said sweetly.
And then, from Santa, came this: “Do you like LEGOs or Hot Wheels, little boy?”
I didn’t know Junior knew race cars by a particular brand name, but he surprised me by saying “Hot Wheels.”
“Well. Then you’ll love the Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Speed Set! Make sure you ask for it!”
I grabbed Chuck’s arm. “Did Santa just name drop a specific product? Did he just tell our son to request a mother fucking criss cross speed set? Did he?”
“Yes,” Chuck said. “Santa just target marketed to our son.”
Junior climbed down. We walked away.
I felt dirty.
For the next few hours I couldn’t help but shake my head. The Narnia vomit was bad enough, but to have Santa ask pointed questions about Junior's toy preference and to then have him recommend a specific product was, well, disgusting. It confirms every feeling I have about what the Christmas holiday has become: over-commercialized, mechanical and soulless.
I kept thinking, Santa’s a sell-out. Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing.
Over the weekend I contemplated calling the mall to ask how much Santa gets paid for his product pitching. I also wanted to know the name of the marketing company that dreamed up this let’s-get-Santa-to-market-specific-toys campaign. Not only because it is evil, but because they didn’t even execute the campaign correctly.
A helper should have been listening to the kids’ responses and should have immediately handed the kids custom coupons for the products for which they’d shown a preference. Then the company would have known how many of Santa’s pitches converted to actual sales.
If you’re going to sully the lap of the Big Red Man you should at least be able to track your fucking sales leads.
But maybe they were just dabbling this year, trying out the idea. Maybe next year Santa will be on the Pirates of the Caribbean ship, pitching Bratz dolls, and that’s when we’ll finally sink those last few inches to the murkiest of murky bottoms.
P.S. I thought about writing a Letter to the Editor to share my experience but realized the nearest newspaper, The Hartford Courant, probably wouldn't run it, seeing how they sponsored the Ice Palace. Those pesky conflicts of interest!