How one man stood in Santa's way

An advantage of being around so long is that I've built up contacts in the most unlikely places. One of these, who has to remain anonymous, has slipped me a copy of the minutes of a recent disciplinary hearing ...

Mr Fingerpoint, personnel department, said the case concerned Llewellyn Jones, also known as Jones the Post, who had been suspended from duty since 10 October.

Jones was employed to collect incoming mail from numerous points, ensuring it was delivered promptly to HQ. However, it was alleged he had indulged in unauthorised activity, namely distributing a leaflet of his own design during working hours.

The leaflet, said Mr Fingerpoint, was decorated with a holly leaf border, and carried the bold heading "Sign Up for the SPS". It explained how householders could provide their names and addresses to the Stocking Preference Service, to avoid having what was described as unwanted junk put down their chimneys at Christmas.

"I cannot over-emphasise the seriousness of this," he continued. "There was an immediate short-term effect. The orders department thought we were heading for a record-breaking season, but after data capture, it turned out that a large number of the letters were responses to Jones' leaflet.

"One hundred thousand extra people have now signed up to the SPS. A further 5,000 came from teenagers who only read the headline and thought they were joining the SAS.

"Long-term, Jones' action could be a serious threat. It undermines corporate strategy, which is to increase shareholder value through expansion of both gift production and our unique Over-Nite distribution system."

Jones admitted the leaflet was his. He had produced it for what he believed was the public good. "People always say they get too much stuff at Christmas," he explained. "Either they don't know what to ask for and then don't like what they get, or they ask for something they think they want and, when they get it, they find they don't. I just wanted to reduce waste."

The chairman said he could not accept this argument. Over-production was not the company's responsibility, and there were well-established mechanisms for recycling unwanted Christmas presents, such as Oxfam shops.

He added that the seriousness of the offence would normally warrant dismissal, but the publicity surrounding the case made that difficult. Jones should be transferred to a job with less contact with the public, possibly the reindeer stables: "We'll have to rename him Jones the Brush, ho ho ho."

Jones said he was glad not to be sacked, but that he would be leaving the company anyway. "That Mr Clifford has got me into the next series of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here." Also, he added, "I'm writing a book, Santa's Little Whistleblower."

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