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Ready for business to land in his lap

Santa Claus reads a child's letter.

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: It's easy to be cynical about this time of year.
When people are knocking each other down to grab the last Nintendo Wii left on the shelf.
But if you look closely enough, you still might catch a glimpse of the sweetness in the holidays.
Maybe on Santa's lap....

SANTA: Look over, right at the camera, and smile.

CHILD: Cheese.

SANTA: This is Santa Claus. And I've been doing this now for 15 years. But, of course, for much longer than that.


JAGOW: OK, so the real Santa was too busy to talk to Marketplace. We found one of his stand-ins. And he explained how it works.

SANTA: I'm an independent contractor. I'm hired between the mall and the photo company, basically, is what it is.

Uh, yes, it's pretty lucrative. Let's say it's over 10 [$10,000]. I think the Santa at the Macy's in New York ... I think he makes like 35 [$35,000] for the season.

The Santas that work in the malls under contract, they are required, usually, to have a natural beard. A lot of times adults will walk by and go, "Is that real?" And I have to say, "Oh, yes. It's real." And also I have to make sure that the little babies' hands stay down. Because they'll just reach up and grab a handful of it.

Our marketplace world has gotten to the point where little kids are asking for iPhones and X-Box300s and things like that to where, obviously, I always will tell them, "Well, I don't know. I have to talk to your mom and dad about that."

SANTA: Come on up here. And what do you want Santa to bring for Christmas?

LITTLE BOY: I want Star Wars stuff.

It's pretty cliche, but what I do is I wait till the kids ask me to do ho-ho-ho and then I'll do that. Or they'll say, "Ho-ho-ho." And I go "HO-HO-HO-HO-HO-HO!"

JAGOW: That's the Santa at Glendale Galleria mall near Los Angeles. We don't know how many stand-ins Santa actually employs but there are more than 48,000 malls and shopping centers in America. So he's got a pretty big workforce, I'm betting.

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