This article investigates the occupational practices of perhaps one of the most immediately recognizable of interactive service workers, the Santa Claus performer. It draws on a series of semi-structured, in-depth interviews, and explores why those individuals who choose to perform the role of Santa do so and how they enact it in a manner that aims to transcend the mundane characteristics of interactive service workers (ISW) and, in doing so, mediate the tensions and contradictions that characterize its performance. The article concludes with a summary of the research findings and a reaffirmation of the significance of sensitivity to the role that a desire for recognition might play in the lived experience of providing ISW more generally.
The labour of interactive service work, particularly its emotional and aesthetic dimensions, has been the focus of significant research. This article investigates the occupational practices of perhaps one of the most immediately recognizable of interactive service workers, the Santa Claus performer. Through a series of observations and in-depth, semi-structured interviews, it explores both the conditions of employment encountered by these workers and the practices and techniques by which they aim to bring a level of authenticity – one perceived to be unparalleled in similar roles both service and theatrical – to their performance. In doing so, the article explores work characterized by the pursuit of interpersonal recognition derived from the self-esteem that is desired and, in many instances, achieved from the perceived authenticity of this performance, that is, by being Santa Claus.
‘Being Santa Claus’: the pursuit of recognition in interactive service work
Work, Employment & Society December 2013 27: 1004-1020, first published on April 15, 2013 doi:10.1177/0950017012461836