Some were surprised, some said it was a foregone conclusion, but either way, the findings are in. Judge Penfold Dangermouse Jackfrost, after reviewing hour after hour of testimony and page after page of printed exhibits, has ruled that Santa Claus is, in fact, a monopoly.

To support this conclusion, Judge Jackfrost issued the following findings:

  1. While nothing in existing antitrust law specifically forbids Santa Claus to give away gifts at no cost to the recipient, the sheer volume of gifts emanating from Claus' North Pole compound simply overwhelms all other sources; consumers are forced to accept that the vast majority of gifts they receive will come either from Santa Claus, or from subordinate Clauses acting as surrogates under license.

  2. Though Chanukah and Kwanzaa survive and even thrive in the current marketplace, their partisans are subjected to considerable pressure by the Claus operation. Further, while no one questions the viability of Chanukah, which has a long history of its own, or of Kwanzaa, which is newer but which has the backing of an enthusiastic minority of consumers, relatively few of Santa Claus' customers can be expected to convert to these alternatives, which have substantially different system requirements. Santa Claus thus retains market share by reason of sheer inertia.

  3. Constant advertising by Santa Claus and by Claus affiliates, concentrated in the last five weeks of the year when retail sales are the highest, serves to create artificial demand for the very gifts which Santa Claus distributes. Chanukah and Kwanzaa, in an effort to remain visible during these periods, have staked out positions near the edges of the Claus campaigns — Chanukah's peak period, while it fluctuates somewhat, is often near the beginning of the Claus blitz, as it was in 1999, while Kwanzaa opts for positioning itself toward the end — but in between, consumers are deluged with wave after wave of Santa Claus material.

Though the findings are in place and on record, Judge Jackfrost has not yet specified the nature of the actions to be taken against Santa Claus, and it is not at all clear at this time exactly what can be done to curb the Claus monopoly. Requiring Santa Claus to sell off subsidiaries, such as the Father Christmas operation in the British Commonwealth, would probably not substantially affect Claus' status in the United States. Dividing the operation into smaller regional units, in the manner of the AT&T divestiture in 1983 which created the so-called Baby Bells, would likely result in consumer confusion without necessarily increasing competition. For those of us who have our doubts about antitrust actions in the first place, the solution may be simply to have Santa Claus sign a consent decree, which, like all such, will say, in effect, "We didn't do anything, and we'll never do it again." It may seem like an unsatisfying solution, but you can't please everyone.

The Vent

#177
18 December 1999

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