SANTA SELLS OUT           by Art Buchwald

Santa Claus was in his office at the North Pole when his wife came in. "There is a delegation of elves outside and they want to talk to you."

"Iíll see them in a moment," Santa Claus said as he picked up the phone. "Operator, give me Tokyo.... Hello, Tokyo, this is Santa Claus. What happened to that shipment of dolls I ordered from you people in July?.... I know there was a dock strike but I have to have them right away. All right, but if I don't get them in time I'm going to start dealing with the people in Hong Kong."

Santa Claus hung up and told his wife to let the elves in.

One of the elves spoke up: "We haven't made any toys for Christmas this year and we want to know why."

"I know it's tough on you," Santa Claus replied, "but I've discovered that I can get them made cheaper in the Far East than have you people make them here."

"But weíve been making toys for hundreds of years," an elf said. "Itís the only thing we know how to do."

"I'm aware of the problem but costs have gone up, and itís not economically feasible for me to make my own toys any more. I can get electric trains from Taiwan for half the price that it costs you people to construct them."

"But what are we supposed to do?" an elf asked.

"That's a good question. When I was working for myself I could keep our factory humming. But since I sold out to a conglomerate I have to show a good earnings performance. All they're interested in at the head office is the bottom line."

"We're the best toy makers in the world," an elf said. "When we made toys they lasted for years. Now they fall apart on Christmas Day."

"Gentlemen, it's out of my hands. In the old days children used to write me and tell me they wanted a racing ear, an Erector Set, a doll house or a bicycle. But now they want everything they see on television. I canít give away a toy unless a child has seen it on a TV commercial.

"Last year we got stuck with a million tons of putty because the kids didnít even know it existed. The head of the conglomerate was furious and said I had to eat it. You can't imagine how miserable they make my life when an item doesn't move."

"Why did you sell out in the first place?" an elf demanded.

"I needed capital," Santa Claus said sadly. "I was unable to compete with the major discount toy companies, and when the conglomerate came to me they made me an offer I couldnít resist. They promised me I could run my operation just as I had in the past and they would not interfere with anything I was doing.

"I believed them. Then I sent in the figures for last year and they hit the ceiling. As you know weíve never been a profit-making organization. So they sent up a team of Christmas consultants who said our problem was we were making our toys without paying any attention to cost control. They recommended to the head office that we close the factory in the North Pole and build one in South Korea where elves get paid 50 cents a day."

"So that leaves us out in the cold?" an elf asked.

Santa Claus shrugged. "They said if I couldnít run this operation they would find someone who could. And they meant it. You know how I feel about you little fellows. I've worked with you all my life. But what can I do when the Japanese start dumping Farrah Fawcett dolls down every chimney at a quarter of the price that we can make them for up here?"

"Boy," said an elf, "what a Christmas this is going to be."

"Iím sorry," Santa Claus said, "but thatís the way the beach ball bounces."

Donner, one of Santaís reindeer, came charging in. "Is it true were not going to be working this Christmas?"

Santa's face turned red. "Iím sorry you had to hear it from somebody else, Donner. "The conglomerate wants me to use Amalgamated Parcel Service. They say itís cheaper and more efficient than reindeer. The real truth is the conglomerate owns the APS company.

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