Dear Retailer: Please Stop Asking my Child About Santa

Dear Retailer,

It happened today. Not for the first time, but for the first time this year. I was at the shops with my boys, and the you turned to my 4-year-old and asked, “Is Santa going to bring you some presents soon?”

There are (at least) three things I find objectionable about this question.

  1. “Soon” is a relative word. We’ll be going home “soon”. Daddy will come home from work “soon”. If you’re good, you may get a chocolate “soon”. But when you’re four years old, 50 days is absolutely, definitely not “soon”. So thank you for encouraging my son to ask me every fifteen minutes whether it’s Christmas yet. I’ll send my liquor bill to you.
  2. You have no way of knowing whether we celebrate Christmas. This may come as a surprise to you, but not every person in the world considers Christmas to be a sacred holiday. We could be Jewish, or Muslim, or Pagan, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or, in fact, any religion other than Christian. So thank you for potentially alienating my son by assuming that he subscribes to the same religious doctrine as you.
  3. Even if we do celebrate Christmas, we may not necessarily share in the “Santa brings presents” mentality of Christmas. Whether through religious beliefs, personal beliefs, or financial necessity, Santa may, in fact, not bring gifts to our home at all. So thank you for potentially making my son feel that he’s missing out on the presents that we are going to buy him.

Now, I understand that you work in customer service. I understand that, as a retail sales assistant, your very job depends on you finding something to talk to people about. I understand that you’re in a store full of Christmas decorations, Christmas music, and Christmas sales targets. I get it: Christmas is on your mind. And, really, what else do you have in common with a 4-year-old boy?

I understand. I do. I worked in retail for 15 years. I know what it’s like.

But there are more appropriate ways to begin that conversation. How about:

  • Are you looking forward to Christmas?
  • Are you excited about Christmas?
  • Do you like our Christmas decorations?
  • Do you like Christmas?

These, at the very least, don’t focus on Santa or gifts or an indefinite time-frame, and allow for the answer to be, “No. In our family we have <insert alternate celebration of choice>.” And if the child loves Santa, he’s going to immediately tell you all about it.

But if you must ask my son about Christmas, then I ask just one thing of you. Please, please, please, whatever you do, don’t ask the question that one retailer did last year:

“So, is Santa going to give you a bike for Christmas?”

Unless you’re prepared to buy that present, don’t suggest it. Because that just leads to tears on Christmas morning when Mummy and Daddy couldn’t afford one this year, and a mythical fat man didn’t pop by at the last moment and leave one under the tree.


Thank you.



Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion

14 responses to “Dear Retailer: Please Stop Asking my Child About Santa

  1. Never been a big fan of the fat man in the red suit. I don’t like how kids who live in poverty might get a small gift from Santa while some overindulged brat gets an entire room full of presents from Santa leaving the poor kids to wonder, “why does Santa hate me?”

    Awesome post.

  2. Twins saw a commercial featuring Santa last night. Stupid me started in on the whole explanation…..forgetting in my own excitement that it is still 50 days away. I’m hoping they forget all about the conversation. But I did not suggest any specific gifts. 🙂

    • It’s fine if it’s your own kids, though. If I’d been the one to suggest a bike, at least that would have meant that I was considering buying one. I just got angry that a random lady suggested it to him in the middle of the shopping centre. She wasn’t even in a store that sold bikes!

      It sounds like you’re a big Christmas fan, though, so I’m sure the twins will have a blast this year.

  3. I’m not opposed to marketing in general – I sort of “minored” in marketing, in a sense, in my MBA. There are positives and negatives to it. But marketing to children is particularly crass and fraught. Children’s brains, while amazing to me in their capacities, are nonetheless not fully developed – especially the part that regulates their desires and restraints and inhibitions. Marketing directly to children takes advantage of that lack of restraint, creating the idea of a need that didn’t exist before. This can affect adults, too, but children are at a natural disadvantage simply by reason of their still-developing biology.

    • Agree, agree, agree. But when you market to children, you end up with parents giving in and buying , just to get a little bit of piece and quiet. I don’t know what TV advertising is like over there, but in Australia, children’s TV shows are interspersed with ads aimed directly at kids: junk food, drinks, toys, movie tie-ins, etc. It gets to the point where more time is spent showing ads in any given hour than is spent showing the programs themselves. (My boys aren’t allowed to watch those channels, incidentally.)

      • Yes Television for kids is exactly like that here, too. In fact, I daresay we likely pioneered the practice in America.

        We don’t have cable in my home. That doesn’t mean no TV… but the TV my children will consume will as much as I can control it be TV without ads.

  4. I guess being a fiction writer helps you explain all the Santa stuff to the kids. I always wonder what they think when they find out we’ve been lying to them all that time…

  5. That is beyond frustrating – and I can’t believe the woman who asked if Santa was delivering a bike!

  6. Pingback: Santa Claus: The Magic of Christmas or a Big, Fat, Bearded Lie | The Happy Logophile

  7. Pingback: Bring on the Christmas Spirit(s) | The Happy Logophile

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