Thursday, December 24, 2009

Better than a fruitcake, slightly worse than a poorly crocheted scarf

And now for something completely different.

I’ve mentioned that I like to write lousy fiction when I'm not writing lousy news stories. (To clarify, when I say “lousy,” I’m describing the quality, not the subject matter.)

Here’s a seasonal example of my handiwork. Consider it my gift to you. Like most gifts you will receive this holiday, you didn’t want it; and it has nothing to do with either Jesus, the Maccabees or Saturnalia.

I call it:
Santa’s memo to the vice president of elven labor, explaining the need for layoffs.

Let’s cut to the quick. It has been a bad year. In fact, it’s been a bad century.

We continue to apply outdated production and profit models that haven’t been effective since Mrs. Claus was a size 6. As a result, we face financial collapse.

We have been deficit spending since the 17th century. Sure, that worked when all the banks were handing out loans like sugar cookies; but now that capital is scarce, we’re left with no way to fund our operations.

I don’t blame the elves. This is a management issue. This is as much my fault as anyone’s. It was my idea to give the toys away. What was I thinking? You never give away content for free!

We also missed a merchandizing bonanza by letting my licensing rights lapse. It all seems so obvious post-Mickey Mouse, but how was I to know the value of likeness fees? We’re talking millions of dollars, hundreds and thousands of gifts for good little boys and girls — gone — because of the stupid public domain.

Put simply, we can no longer support our staff at its current size. Our accounting department tells me that we need to cut as much as a fifth of the elves. They suggested targeting the toy train department. It’s bloated from previous years of heavy demand, but who seriously asks for a toy train anymore? They are expendable.

We can also trim staff without hurting output by updating our equipment. Yes, our handmade goods separate us from our competition, but they also triple our expenses.

We are long overdue for the installation of some production lines. And I realize “outsource” is a dirty word on the factory floor, but we can no longer afford to hold the moral higher ground. We’re going to need to subcontract some of our simpler designs to other countries. It pains me to say it. It pains you to hear it, but we are out of options.

You are not the only department that has been affected. We will be down to seven reindeers this year, as we do not intend to replace the retiring Vixen. Even Mrs. Claus has offered to work in a part-time capacity.

I’d love to tell you that these are simply lean years, a dip in the road on our return to solvency, but this is the new norm. We must all tighten our belts. (Not literally, of course. I haven’t been able to tighten my actual belt since I was a single Kringle.)

Forgive me if I seem brusque or unsympathetic. I feel each job loss as if it was a pound of my own flesh, but I am resigned. These cuts are necessary — inevitable, even — if we are to proceed.

Please provide a list of suggested cuts by Dec. 26.

Finally, I don’t need to mention, but will anyhow, that this matter should only be discussed among management for now. It’s not that I want to be surreptitious, but rumors do not help morale. Besides, I’d hate to ruin Christmas for any of my employees.

-Jason Lea,

P.S. Don’t worry. I won’t make a habit of foisting my fiction on you. Merry Christmas, ya’ll.



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