A familiar figure in Christmas folklore, Santa Claus brings toys and joy to children throughout the world and, miraculously, accomplishes it all in one crazy night.
As you might imagine, that kind of extensive, concentrated traveling can be a logistical nightmare, so the organization behind it must be whip-smart and letter-perfect to ensure that it goes off without a hitch. We spoke with the CEO of North Pole Enterprises, Santa Claus, about the business end of his Christmas Eve spectacular and all the folklore attached to it, and learned that pulling off this incredible feat is even more challenging than it sounds.
Bankrate: Let's talk about the economics of your job. The whole Christmas Eve enterprise seems like an impossibly complicated and costly venture. What are some of your greatest expenses?
Santa Claus: Elves. We have several thousand elves working for us, and we pay them a living wage and then some. We give full benefits, pension, 401(k), and free shoe lifts for life. Plus, the uniform is free.
Bankrate: Is your disability insurance higher than average?
Santa Claus: Ever see an elf crushed by an Xbox? It gets hairy up there. Plus, tools are flying in a relatively small space. We try to give everyone enough room, but accidents will happen. Luckily the elves are small, so if a wrench goes flying, it's only half as likely to hit one as it would a normal-sized person.
Bankrate: Insurance seems to be getting steeper by the day for businesses.
Santa Claus: My health insurance premiums are the worst. My HMO claims I'm "too fat," so they raised my rate 75 percent. Plus, the way I fly, I had to make all these modifications to my sled to get it covered. Seat belt harnesses, padded interiors. It takes a lot of the fun out of flying. The danger was part of the thrill. Now, I'm like a kid in a womb in that thing. I'm a grown man, for crying out loud. Let me take my own risks.
Bankrate: Any other special insurance you need?
Santa Claus: Dung insurance.
Bankrate: Excuse me?
Santa Claus: If reindeer droppings hits a house or car -- or person -- they could sue. I'm insured.
Bankrate: Good point. The elves tried to unionize a few years back, and it didn't go well. What happened?
Santa Claus: Look, I didn't know a lot about the unions then. I just knew that people who knew nothing about my business were trying to interfere.
Bankrate: There was talk of goons...
Santa Claus: Untrue. They weren't goons. They were polar bears. Locals. They live here.
Bankrate: Let's talk about the Village itself.
Santa Claus: I own the property that Santa's Village rests on, as well as the buildings themselves. I was lucky. I bought early -- around 1700. Got a solid deal from Peter The Great, who was in the process of moving on. The value of the property is up around 15,000 percent. It was a good deal.
Bankrate: That's the best case of getting in early I've ever heard.
Santa Claus: Sure, if you ignore that I had been renting for 1,000 years before that. Renting! What an idiot! I could have been so much wealthier. Oh well, be grateful for what you have.
Bankrate: Is it an expensive property to maintain?
Santa Claus: Heating bills. You can't imagine.
Bankrate: Gas heat?
Santa Claus: Whale blubber.
Bankrate: Gotcha. Let's talk travel expenses.
Santa Claus: Good topic. Business-wise, the smartest thing I ever did was move from ocean-based, rowing propulsion to air-based, reindeer-propulsion.
Bankrate: You used to travel by ship?
Santa Claus: Can you believe it? But that's business. You make your mistakes early and you learn.
Bankrate: So what's involved in maintaining reindeer?
Santa Claus: Not that much, thankfully. It's surprising how much they eat of what's just laying around the woods.
Bankrate: How do you get the reindeer to fly?
Santa Claus: Proprietary technology. Can't really talk about it.
Bankrate: Because there have been rumors ...
Santa Claus: Yeah, I know. (Sigh.) Look, I can't give away all my industry secrets to address every crackpot theory that comes down the pike. But I promise you and all your readers that steroids NEVER came into play here. Not now, not ever.
Bankrate: So that whole Rudolph controversy...
Santa Claus: He had a cold! Let it go!
Bankrate: Any other expenses involved in the travel?
Santa Claus: Dry cleaning bills and suit storage get very costly. People don't realize I'm sliding down chimneys all night. I go through about 750 suits in one night. The soot cakes up really fast. Funny story -- I had this accountant once who tried to convince me that I should bill the families with the worst chimneys for "chimney sweeping services." Needless to say, he wasn't with me long. That's clearly not in the spirit of what I do.