December update

OFT investigates North Pole Christmas monopoly

For the fifth time in three minutes, the Office of Festive Trading (OFT) has launched an inquiry into market manipulation. On this occasion the investigation centers on alleged closed-shop practices in the North Pole and its impact on monopolistic toy delivery at Christmas. Predicting the inquiry’s outcome at this early stage is tricky, although it seems likely there will be huge media coverage, followed by public outrage and raised expectations, then the whole thing will be rounded off with a declaration that all is fine.

Pressure for an inquiry has been mounting for several weeks, since industrial action at the North Pole present factory in October, led by works agitator, Red Dwarf. Readers will be aware that he had previously acted as one Santa’s main helpers, but since the advent of Chip & PIN, his role had largely become redundant. Emboldened by his election as union convener for the North Pole sector, RD called a strike and demanded overtime throughout December and normal time for the non-working months of January until October. Also on the table were greater pension rights – a huge issue for Santa’s Grotto and the Polar Pension Fund (PPF), where the average age of most workers exceeds 800 years. Nonetheless, the brinksmanship showed by CEO, Claus in relation to the strike was bold to the point of folklore, as he publicly declared that should the strike continue, he would “close Christmas down forever”.

As we now know, this threat seemed to work and North Pole operations were soon back in swing, whilst Red Dwarf has since become an MP. However, the whole affair has raised questions about Lapland’s desire for independence (with so many workers involved in one industry) and it has also not stopped OFT investigators raiding the offices of Claus Inc, in an attempt to find collusion between Father Christmas and his toy suppliers in the Alaska – Russia – Arctic (ARA) region.

Perhaps most significant of all is the fact that Department of Eating Christmas Cake (DECC) has finally woken up to the fact that not only is Britain heavily reliant on lots of toys for children from a source without any serious competition, but also one that is located outside of the UK. In fact Noël the First, general secretary, DECC has been quoted as saying: “It’s all very well saying we’re happy to rely on the market to deliver at Christmas, but do people really understand how tenuous the supply chain is? Yes we accept that St Nicholas has historically done a good job, but fundamentally we’re talking about one man, a sleigh and 8 reindeers delivering presents to around 15m children in the UK. Plus our emergency toy stocks (CSO = Christmas Stocking Obligations) only make arrangements for 65 days of toys to be held at any one time, which takes you through to late February – nothing really, particularly when you consider that most presents are broken by Boxing Day or put on E-bay by 1st January.”

The likely beneficiary of this whole brouhaha is of course Antarctica based, Krampus Claus – estranged step brother of Santa Claus and president of the ederation of Present Suppliers (FPS). For years Krampus has been trying to muscle in on the North Pole operation, although his tactics of replacing presents with cinders and occasionally taking off naughty children in his sack, have largely been condemned by the industry. Even so, this still seems Krampus’ best chance to finally make some headway; after all, the public has become increasingly wary of big corporations reaping the rewards of monopolistic supply positions and that pretty much sums up Santa’s operations. Plus, there can be no argument that Santa is very much part of the Establishment and with his flashy robes, fat-cat corpulence and devil may care attitude, his behaviour is dangerously reminiscent of the banking fraternity. On a more practical level, Krampus will be more than happy to see climate change significantly reducing Santa’s North Pole operating base, which has led to much rationalisation of toy factories and reindeer landing strips.

Father Christmas himself has been unavailable for comment, but Mrs Christmas has been more forthcoming, a reflection perhaps of the pressure that her husband is feeling in the run-up to what (most would agree) is a busy period. “I’m in total agreement with Roy Wizzard,” said Mrs C. “You will remember that he wished it could be Christmas every day’. Well so do I, because then at least our activity would be spread across the year. Every year, we warn our customers that December is a busy period and that to expect us to get all the deliveries out in one month is unreasonable. But do they listen? Do they Donner and Blitzen! So we end up with the crazy situation, where our assets are primed and ready for delivery all year round, but we still end up making all our deliveries around a few days in December. And now we have the OFT making accusations that we are taking advantage of our position in the market, when it is the government who could solve the whole problem by spreading Christmas evenly throughout the whole year. Anyway, it’s the children I feel sorry for, because we know exactly who the people are in the OFT and there is no way that their kids will be getting any presents this time around.” On that note, our reporter made his excuses and left.

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