Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

Shortcake survived Black Friday. This won't be a full post because she needs to write a performance report and go to bed, so she can repeat today tomorrow. (She feels like she's in an Abbott & Costello sketch: Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday is pitching. I Don't Give a Darn is a shortstop!)

She started working at 9:30am, and went until lunch break at 1:30 without a break, and barely noticed the time passing. She worked the full 4 hours as an Usher elf, which was awesome. She got to talk to so many people, many from Massachusetts, oddly enough.

During lunch, Shortcake ate a turkey sandwich, then curled up on a bed she made herself with cubes, and slept for 30 minutes. After lunch she ushered, Santa elfed, and Photo elfed. She spent the entire day working in the Village, which was exciting since she got to see so many kids, big and small, excited to see Santa! Santa elfing and Photo elfing is still very high pressure. Maybe it'll get better over time, but there's so much to remember, and everyone to be nice to, and buttons to pass out. She managed to break the photo computer twice in 10 minutes! Oops.

But Shortcake survived, and everyone seemed to like her. She even got a button in reward for setting a good pace. Let's hope she can do the same thing tomorrow!

(Shortcake is still sore. Somehow, being on her feet for 7 1/2 hours didn't do anything to ease the soreness in her legs. And now her abdomen is sore, and she has no idea what she did to do that. Maybe laugh a lot...? Ideas are welcome. As are recommendations for stretches for muscles in the back of the thigh - Are those hamstrings?)

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Shortcake will post again later this weekend, after she survives Black Friday. She's just booked solid between elfing, stage managing, doing show laundry, ushering and sleeping.

Shortcake survived working the parade. It was fun, but now she is sore (from running, jumping, dancing and shouting for 4 hours straight) and exhausted after being up at 5am, then working the parade, then doing Thanksgiving dinner, then ushering for a show, and then coming home to clean up from Thanksgiving.

Shortcake is going to collapse into bed. There will be more details about the parade, promise.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Training: Days 3 & 4

Yesterday's training consisted of two hours devoted solely to the Village. Shortcake practiced being an Usher elf, a Santa elf, and a Photo elf. She practiced both about twice, which was good, but it's still a scary prospect because there's a lot of remember, and most of the instructions are geared towards a 45 second visit during busy times. It's a lot of pressure.

Shortcake had a lot of fun pretending to be customers. She was a child that pretended to be an elephant for the entire visit. Then she was part of a French family. She asked Santa for allergies and a new sister.

It's all fun and games until Day 4, when Santaland was opened for real (for about 2 hours). Santa doesn't officially arrive at Macy's until the day after Thanksgiving, hereafter known as Black Friday. Customers in the store came through; school groups came through; non-English speaking adults came through. Shortcake deeply regrets forgetting all of the French she learned in high school and never learning another language. Curse you, American school system! Luxembourgian children are fluent in 4 languages by the time they graduate high school!

Shortcake started off the day as a Santa elf. Again, the pressure. Shortcake just isn't very aggressive yet, partly because she doesn't have the routine down. Also, because they prep you for families with kids, and we had a lot of adults. Of course, everyone's welcome at Santa's, but it's weird to be giving adults buttons and telling them "Merry Christmas" (when Christmas doesn't start until the day after Thanksgiving, but Shortcake won't get into that) and you have managers and veteran elves watching you. The criticism was great, simply because it was a lot to remember in a few short days, and the confidence isn't there yet, but it's just a scary endeavor. You don't want to do a bad job, or slow down the line, or let down Santa, but you don't want to ruin the visit either.

Being a Front Line elf was much more fun. Front line is when elves stand at the entrance of Santaland and either corral the line, or try to get people to go see Santa. Because they were overscheduled, to give the new elves as much practice as possible, there were about 15 elves at the front line, which is a little nuts, considering there weren't that many people in the store on a Tuesday morning. So, Shortcake danced to the music, waved to people, said "Merry Christmas," and invited people to see Santa. Some people came, most just walked past. It's an easier job for Shortcake because it's so similar to ushering for theaters. At theaters you tell people where the bathrooms are and say "Enjoy the show." At Santaland, you invite people to see Santa, tell them where the bathrooms are, and say "Merry Christmas." There's more energy involved at Santaland, and more freedom for movement, but essentially, it's all crowd control. Shortcake can do that.

After Santaland closed, the elves were sent to an Awards ceremony where veteran elves and managers and Santas were honored for their Christmas spirit and dedication. Shortcake was given a certificate stating she was qualified to spread holiday cheer. Everyone who was given an award was honored, and a few people cried. It felt a lot like watching an American Girl gathering, except Shortcake hadn't been there long enough to appreciate the sentimentality fully. Also, American Girl may already hold the place in Shortcake's heart that Macy's holds in other elves hearts. Maybe after a season or two, Shortcake will love Macy's as much as AG, but right now, AG holds the place of pride.

It's weird to think Shortcake will make friends of the elves, and drop into the managers offices, as she used to, but then it was awkward the first summer at AG too. And now those people are her best friends.

The best part of the day came at the end. Since Shortcake will be entertaining VIP children at the parade, she was given - wait for it - parade credentials! Yes, indeedy. Shortcake is an official elf now.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Training: Day 2

Today, Shortcake was taught the positions in the Maze, Village, Crowd Control and Registers.

Registers are scary. The price list is daunting, and there are two computers, and so many buttons. Scary! Of course, it could get better with practice, but there are so many better stations to work.

Crowd Control leads to The Maze which leads to the Village, where Santa sees visitors. Those are the positions that interact with children, as Shortcake learned when she got to practice being the elf for about 90 people.

Oh, yes, Shortcake wore the costume. Her costume this week consists of red pants and a green shirt. The sleeves are too long, but that's okay. There are pockets in the shirt, and this is the list of supplies she will carry in those pockets: water, cough drops, hand sanitizer, tic tacs, and kleenex.

Shortcake spent 40 minutes at the Bear Band station in the Maze. As there were few people in the maze on their way to visit Santa, Shortcake had a lot of spare time, so she named the bears in the Bear Band: Hans, Franz, Fritz, Wilhelm, Percival and Reginald. Franz and Fritz are brothers. Percival & Reginald are the English cousins of the German band. Wilhem is a Major, Franz is a Lieutenant, and Hans is a Sergeant. The other three are junior officers and Reginald is a Majordomo/baton twirler. He had no musical ability, so they gave him the baton.

Shortcake's favorite station was Usher elf, the elf who leads families to Santa. She got to talk to the kids, parents, etc. and she met a 7 year old who wanted "5 expensive gifts: a Wii, 2 games for the Wii, an iPod and a laptop. Her little brother wanted a handyman set.

Oh, and one kid brought presents to Santa because Santa only brings presents, he doesn't get them. Today, Santa got a truck. It was super-cute.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Training: Day 1

Today was the first day of elf training. Orientation was on Wednesday, but Shortcake had to miss it because of a conflict with her show. So, today was her first chance to interact with other elves and begin the elvish process.

Shortcake received an elf manual replete with all of Macy's attendance policies, descriptions of the elf positions, suggested elf names (which, obviously, Shortcake did not need, as she had chosen her name weeks in advance), and explained how to say "Merry Christmas" in many languages, including sign language.

Shortcake was taught how to be a photography elf, i.e. pose people for their pictures with Santa, how to take the picture, where to draw their attention with a "Magic Ticket." There was also a brief lecture on register training. Shortcake hopes there will more hands on training with the registers, as there were a lot of rules regarding selling of pictures and merchandise, and the difference between computers and registers.

Then Shortcake was sent to the costume cage, - so called because it has low ceilings - and fitted for a costume. The exciting news is that she gets a new costume every week, so come visit often! Every week you could get a different picture since the shirt and pants will be in different prints and fabrics.

But wait! There's more!

Shortcake volunteered to work (don't worry, she'll be getting paid) on Thanksgiving, entertaining the kids in the VIP section for the parade! Yes indeedy, Shortcake will be getting up to be at work at 6:30am on Thanksgiving to bring joy to children. Is there any higher purpose for an elf?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Hiring Process

After Shortcake was officially hired, two things needed to happen: paperwork and HR training.

The paperwork was easy. It took about 15 minutes, and Shortcake just had to write her name, address, phone number, social security number about 1600 times. (Not really - that was an exaggeration.) The hardest part of figuring out how many tax exemptions to which she was entitled. (Prepositions are so awkward.) Th second hardest part was calling her brother, Dorkwad, to ask his address, so he could be listed for the travel insurance in case she was asked to travel in her duties as an elf and died. Dorkwad was vastly amused.

HR training consisted of watching videos on shortage, registry use, harassment, and something else that was so not exciting it was promptly forgotten. After the videos, Shortcake was sent to a computer to be trained on the register by a CD, and then be orientated - oriented - into the Macy's corporate ethic. If anyone was wondering, Macy's core customer is a woman who shops 78 times a year, earns more than $78,000 annually, may have children, and about half are married.

American Girl's HR training is so much better.

The Inspiration

This blog is dedicated to following the trials, tribulations and joys of Shortcake, an elf working at Macy's Santaland. She works at the Herald Square location in New York City, the one features in Miracle on 34th St. If you would like to visit Santa and Shortcake, come by Tues-Sat from 9am - 5pm.

Why, you ask, would anyone sign up to be an elf?

Well, once upon a time, okay, two years ago, Shortcake's father made her listen to a series of David Sedaris stories published on NPR. These consisted of David Sedaris reading chapters from his holiday book about being an elf at Macy's. A year ago, Shortcake picked up the book Holidays on Ice and read the whole thing. It was hilarious. It did not inspire a desire to change career paths and follow Sedaris on an elf-career.

About 2 months ago, Shortcake saw a job listing on the internet for an Elf. She was in need of a second job, and it didn't look like the Parade thing was going to work out. She applied to be an elf, strangely excited about it. "I'm short. I'm peppy. I'm perky. I worked with kids at American Girl for 3 years. I work in children's theatre. I read kids' book and seek out animated films. I understand kids. I would be a great elf!" she thought. "If David Sedaris can do it, I can! And I won't be as snarky as he was."

Thus, the impetus was born.

Shortcake went through a long application process on the Macy's website, and an interview with the hiring manager. She managed to convince him with her bright and sparkly personality that she was worthy of being an elf, and thus, Shortcake was born. (Disclaimer: Shortcake's birth name isn't actually Shortcake. The nickname came from a tour in the spring. It is a useful nickname, however, because it easily translates to Crabcake for Bitter Week or Cupcake or Cheesecake or...)

After Shortcake received her schedule, she started having doubts. She had never worked a retail job before - only office and theatre jobs. She had never had to interact with customers for 8 hours a day, standing on her feet - although ushering and stage managing is probably great preparation for it. For five days a week, between the two jobs, she would end up working 14 days. This was turning into a daunting venture, rather than an exciting one.

But Shortcake is not daunted. Okay, she is, a little bit. But the feeling of excitement is returning, particularly as people are charmed and amused by the idea of Shortcake the Elf. This will be an adventure, albeit without fedoras or wands or whips or dragons or teleportation (Seriously, scientists. If you could get working on the teleportation technology, Shortcake would appreciate it.).

So, visit Shortcake often, gentle readers. The adventure, in its entirety, will unfold before you.