Looking Down at Santa Claus, courtesy Flickr user magandafille
There’s a nasty suit brewing between the management of Tysons Corner Mall and Michael Graham, the bearded gentleman who has been the Tysons Santa for the last 18 years.
Graham, a carpenter from Tennessee, counts on the $30,000 he makes playing Santa, particularly since he bought a house last year. His contract was terminated on short notice, after Graham had already purchased the custom Santa suits and boots to make the whole effect as realistic as his snowy white beard. Tysons management insists that they notified Graham of the early termination of his contract; Graham says he didn’t find out about it until he called to schedule his first day of work.
The issue seems to center around how much money Graham is paid for Santa- the new events photography company the Tysons management hired says that Graham’s $175 per hour is “ten times the going rate” for mall Santas. And yes, $175 is a lot of money, but as with all things, you get what you pay for, and everyone seems to agree that Graham is a particularly excellent Santa. If the average mall Santa is making less than 20 bucks an hour, that probably explains the cheesy fake beards, the smelly suits, and the gin breath. And it’s not like your local Santa doesn’t deal with his share of hazards- uptight parents, panicked children, biohazards from kids peeing in his lap… if you want to deliver a quality Santa experience to your shoppers, you have to pay for dedication to the work, no?
UPDATE: One of the commenters at the Washington Times story tracked down some information about what actually is the going rate for mall Santas. It looks like Mr. Graham was not so wildly overpaid at all.
Its a shame Tyson has done this to Santa. I do not understand how anyone could fire a Santa as good as he has been with the children. You should have thought of the children and the parents. They are the ones who spend money in your Mall. You are going to lose big Time. Just think how much money those parent are not going to spend in your mall. I met him on vacation one year traveling through with my son. I had planned on another trip but wont be happening now. I have 2 sons now and live in Indiana. When we came before we lived in Texas. So far away families know of this Santa and he would be the only reason for traveling that far to go to a mall.
I’m not from the are,but what they did to that man after 18yrs. of service is on-call for. I would suggest a petition to find signatures so they can present to the mall or mail. The thing is that he has been in service for this much time , he probably know children that have grown up and now have children of their own. He is the living proof that we can still believe in Santa. Maybe not for ourselves ,but for our children to learn to have imagination..
I think in this day and age where there is so much negativity, taking a man away from a very important job such as santa’s helper is horrible. Our children need Something to believe in, and so the company takes away Santa of all things. SHAME on you!!!!!! Why don’t you try getting rid of the photographer and getting a new one? If you are doing a great job and everything is good, why mess with it?Isn’t the spirit of xmas charity and hope and love and magic? All the things this Santa has given all the children. Where is your charity, hope, love and magic? You need to hire that man back again and give him a raise! Don’t comromise when it comes to the spirit of Christmas!!!!!
what a shame…he looks great as santa!! plus he had a contract..so sue them!!
Tysons is going to lose out big time. Even though I live just down the road from the mall, I will now take my 3 year-old somewhere else during the Xmas holidays. I am instituting a family ban on shopping at Tysons.
Oh, and even though he had a contract, it really doesn’t mean anything. Virginia is a right-to-work state which means that an employer can terminate you for any reason whatsoever (as long as it’s not based on any EEO issues). The employee pretty much has no leg to stand on if they get fired.
I feel bad for the guy, but give this Sacred Santa routine a break. Kids should believe in the moral principles that Santa represents – kindness, charity, good will toward all – and not get caught up in the physical manifestation. Plus, kids are typically taught that Santa is a guy who gives you stuff, thereby associating him with their own personal greed. We can do better for our children than that kind of message.
Even Santa is subject to the right-to-work rules.
The guy it impacts – that’s sad, but doesn’t this also narrow the gap between children and the truth that Santa is a lie told to them by their parents?