09/01/2010 11:30 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

$300 An Hour for the Fat and Old

Imagine a help wanted ad in your local paper that reads: Job openings, overweight senior citizens only, preferred ages 60 to 75.

Hard to believe it, right? Well, believe it.

These are essentially the worker characteristics demanded by the employer in question of Newport Beach, Ca., the nation's largest provider of live St. Nicks for assorted functions around the country.

"We want people who are fat, old, bearded and have that grandfatherly look," says Bob Mindte, owner of the Santa supplier. There are also openings for a Mrs. Claus, who, like hubby, is expected to possess an expansive girth.

I last caught up with Mindte in early September of 2008. At the time, he lamented that his business that year would probably be down about 10% because of a deepening recession, a rising unemployment rate (just above 6% at the time), skidding home prices and a slumping stock market.

He was wrong. A late flurry of demand for Santas that year enabled his firm to just about equal 1997 figures. In fact, he has enjoyed solid Santa demand throughout the recession and the same applies this year.

"I think we've become one of those recession-proof businesses," says Mindte, whose firm, now in its 11th year of operation, has hired between 1,500 and 2,000 Santas over the years. Customers include such leading retailers as Saks and Nordstrom and the most recent Bush White House.

"We haven't heard from President Obama yet," says Mindte, "but it may be he doesn't want to do anything that his predecessor did."

At present, there are about 15 million job hunters out there or 24.3 million if you factor in people who've left the work force and part-timers who can't get full-time jobs. You, in fact, may be one of them. If so and you're looking to make some extra bucks, you just might want to consider a Santa stint. Or perhaps a Mrs. Claus stint.

Don't laugh. Depending on the time and location, a Santa can earn as much as $300 an hour (which is what some lawyers earn) or $6,000 to $8,000 for a six to eight-week holiday season (November and December). An accompanying Mrs. Claus is paid about half as much as Santa.

Here's a more specific look at dollars and cents Santa economics. If you're willing to play St. Nick at a mall, the pay is $1,000 a week. Willing to play Santa at a Christmas or New Year's eve party? That will net you $300 an hour. Or donning a Santa suit at an office party runs $150 an hour. Ditto appearing as Santa in a TV ad. A private visit to someone's house in Santa garb will earn you $100 an hour, as will a photo shoot at a photo studio. For outdoor charity collections, the going rate is $50 an hour.

If you're interested, the time to apply is now because Christmas is less than four months away and the hiring period will soon be over. Incidentally, there are no fees for would-be Santas; they're all paid by the hiring companies. To get all the particulars, e-mail Mindte at

So the next time you hear someone singing "Santa Claus is coming to town," they may well be singing about you.

What do you think? E-mail me at