Department store Santas are being taught how to give recession-friendly answers

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Because of a marked increase in lap-requests like, "Can you bring my parent a job?" the ruddy-faced guy dressed up as Santa Claus now has more to worry about than keeping his whiskers curled and his "ho-ho-hos" hearty. At the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, the lesson plan has been revamped to make sure your friendly department store Santa doesn't make any promises he can't keep.

According to the New York Times, Santas are now being trained to keep their eyes on the shaking heads of parents and improvise creative ways to say "no" to elaborate Christmas lists. Heartbreakingly, Fred Honerkamp, one alumni of the so-called Harvard of Santa schools, came up with a tale about "a wayward elf and slowed toy production at the North Pole." But other Santas, like former Alabama state trooper Rick Parris, are decidedly more pragmatic:

“When kids start asking for the world now, I just say, ‘Hey, look, Johnny, you ain’t getting all that.’"

Perhaps many of these department-store Santas are the right men for the job, though. With the economic downturn, enrollment at the Charles W. Howard School in Michigan has peaked; the classes now include many professionals who need to supplement their incomes, or have lost their jobs and incomes altogether. It might be easier for Santa to break the news to Mary Sue that Santa won't be able to help daddy find a new job if Santa himself is struggling. Christmas suddenly got a lot more real.