SANTA CLAUS was in his North Pole office when his wife came in to see him. "There is a delegation of elves outside and they want to talk to you."

"I'll see them in a moment," Santa Claus said as he picked up the phone. "Operator give me Tokyo. Hello, Tokyo, this is Santa Claus. What happened to that shipment of dolls I ordered from you people in July? I know there was a dock strike, but I have to have them right away. All right, but if I don't get them in time I'm going to start dealing with the people in Hong Kong."

Santa Claus hung up and told his wife to let the elves in.

A spokesman for the elves said, "We haven't made any toys this Christmas and we want to know why."

Santa Claus said, "I know it's tough on you, but I discovered that I could get them made cheaper in the Far East than have you people make them here."

"But we've been making toys for hundreds of years," an elf said. "It's the only thing we know how to do."

"I'm aware of the problem, but costs have gone up and it's not economically feasible for me to make my own toys and more. I can get electric trains from Taiwan for half the price that it costs you people to construct them."

"But what are we supposed to do?" an elf asked.

"That's a good question. When I was working for myself I could keep our factory humming. But since I sold out to a conglomerate I have to show a good earnings performance. All they're interested in at the head office is the bottom line."

"We're the best toy-makers in the world," an elf said. "When we made toys they lasted for years. Now they fail apart on Christmas Day."

"Gentlemen, it's out of my hands. In the old days children used to write me and tell me they wanted a racing car, an erector set, a doll house or a bicycle. Now they want everything they see on television. I can't give away a toy unless a child has seen it on a TV commercial.

"Last year we got stuck with a million tons of putty because the kids didn't even know it existed. The head of the conglomerate was furious and said I had to eat it. You can't imagine how miserable they make my life when something doesn't move."

"Whey did you sell out in the first place?" an elf demanded.

"I needed capital," Santa Claus said sadly. "I was unable to compete with the major discount toy companies, and when the conglomerate came to me they made me an offer I couldn't resist. They promised me I could run my operation just as I had in the past and they would not interfere with anything I was doing.

"I believe them. Then I sent in the figures for last year and they hit the ceiling. As you know we've never been a profit-making organization. So they sent up a team of Christmas consultants and said our problem was we were making our toys without paying any attention to cost control. They recommended to the head office that we close the North Pole factory, and build one in South Korea where elves get paid 50 cents a day."

"So that leaves us out in the cold," an elf said.

Santa Claus shrugged. "They said if I couldn't run this operation, they would find someone who could. And they meant it. You know how I feel about you little fellows. I've worked with you all my life. But what can I do when the Japanese start dumping Farah Fawcett dolls down every chimney, at a quarter of the price that we can make them for up here?"

"Boy," said an elf, "what a Christmas this is going to be!"

"I'm sorry," Santa Claus said, "but that's the way the beach ball bounces."

Donner, Santa's reindeer, came charging in and said, "Is it true we're not going to be working this Christmas?"

Santa's face turned red. "I'm sorry you had to hear if from somebody else. The conglomerate wants me to use Amalgamated Parcel Service. They say it's cheaper and more efficent than reindeer. The real truth is the conglomerate owns the APS company."