Shopping centre Santas are giving Christmas grottos and the genuine Father Christmas a bad name with bad dress sense and poor attitudes to the important tasks of gift-giving and naughty-or-nice list compiling, a recent study has discovered.
Amongst the queues for a chance to sit on Santa's knee, researchers found a litany of pillows up Santa suits, ill-fitting elf outfits, poor beard discipline and cheap presents.
"It's shocking," said Mark Hall, gentleman creation officer at sock subscription service Socked.co.uk who conducted the research. "Father Christmas is a true role model for millions - if not billions - of kids around the world, but his representatives up and down the country are letting the legend down with poor dress sense.
"Kids want a genuine experience with the big man that they'll remember for a lifetime, not obvious cotton wool beards, garden centre wellie boots, and a pillow sticking out of his suit.
“Standards are slipping, and we are in danger of losing the essence and spirit of the season. Something must be done," Mark added.
The main causes for concern were:
Cheap presents: 10p bubbles, mini chocolate bars, and worst of all one poor child was given a spatula. The child’s concerned mother said: "We queued for 20 minutes and paid £5, now my child who had been looking forward to Christmas since July thinks that Santa doesn't like him. What is a 5-year-old going to do with a spatula?"
Expensive access to Santa: £5 to sit on his lap for a minute, a 10p present and a terrifying photo.
Poor Santa discipline: A distinct lack of "Ho-ho-ho" and effective Naughty/Nice interrogation in some quarters was noted. Some fear that Santa may not even have come from Lapland this year!
Poor Santa hygiene: He's a busy man at this time of year, but surely Mrs Santa won't let him leave for the grotto in the morning without brushing his beard and cleaning his teeth, right?
Some of the Santas encountered had breath that could melt a snowman. One mum said: “Shane couldn't believe his eyes, and I've never seen him so happy. Trouble is neither could I with that ciggie breath and scary beady eyes.”
Poor Santa fashion: Clothing trends move on, but Father Christmas stays the same. However, and we are pretty certain about this, he never turned up on Christmas night with holes in his socks and a silver belt buckle that was made out of tin foil.
Lack of elf discipline: We found Father Christmas let down by badly dressed helpers with a poor attitude to the job. The researchers call for urgent reforms in the National Elf Service.
An official North Pole spokesperson commented, "I can assure you the real Santa is a gentleman and we are aiming for another record breaking year in present delivery and efficiency.
“Santa's outfit is in pristine condition as is his beard and he is currently carefully reading the who is naughty and who is nice book 2012.
"In and amongst the billions of presents scheduled for delivery I can confirm we have 357,897,32 pairs of socks to deliver!”