Virtual Santas are replacing real mall Santas — and kids don’t seem to mind
Santa is in high speed
No more waiting in long mall lines to sit on Santa’s lap. He now comes in high speed.
A new crop of video-chat companies, like Talk to Santa and Welcome Santa, is giving families the chance to talk to St. Nick from the comfort of their own smart devices.
Welcome Santa was founded last year by Alaska resident Meredith Lueck. It was inspired by her own childhood, according to a report in Insider, when a family friend would call her family’s phone each year around the holidays, posing as the jolly giant himself.
She decided to make it more visual and came up with a five-minute video chat concept.
Users can schedule a call with Santa, purchase a pre-recorded message as a gift and include personal information about the person Santa will be talking with. The company employs 20 actors from the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas.
A single call costs $29.99, comparable to the price for a photo with a mall Santa.
Welcome Santa is just one brand offering video. Users can live chat with Santa for $34.95 on Talk to Santa or pick from a carousel of mobile apps that offer similar services.
The Denver-based Talk to Santa employs more than 300 actors, per a report in the Wall Street Journal, which it said will deliver more than 10,000 live and taped videos.
That’s still a small fraction of the estimated 5,200 real-life Santas in the United States, Susen Mesco, founder of the Professional Santa Claus School, told the Journal.
But the industry has the potential to grow.
While not everyone is on board — like Nick West, a father who thinks children are already exposed to too much screen time, and some seasoned, grumpy Santas who don’t want to embrace the new technology — many children themselves don’t seem to mind.
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"The kids are so used to it,” Lueck told Insider. “They FaceTime with their grandparents and they talk to everybody through video calls anyways, so this is totally natural.”
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Plus, for children with disabilities and families who can’t make a long trek to a mall, the virtual Santas can be a reprieve. This could be the “wave of the future,” Mesco said
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