Business

Kids can call Santa Claus for free with SLO-based service

Allison Quackenbush handles reception at Advantage Answering Plus. The company offers a free Santa Claus hotline during the holidays.
Allison Quackenbush handles reception at Advantage Answering Plus. The company offers a free Santa Claus hotline during the holidays.

A San Luis Obispo-based virtual telephone receptionist service is offering phone calls of Christmas spirit to kids of all ages with its Santa Claus Holiday Hotline.

Advantage Answering Plus, founded in 1992 by Marci Imes (who owns the company with husband Bob Imes), set up the festive answering service in 2008. The hotline allows callers to leave messages for Santa. Callers (or their parents) can then request copies of the messages via email.

The service was created to spread holiday cheer and give kids an opportunity to experience a sense of Christmas magic, said Marty Imes, director of vision and culture, and son of Marci and Bob Imes.

The hotline is open for calls through Dec. 26. As of Tuesday, it had received 778 calls this year, above last year’s overall total of 754 calls. The Santa hotline has gradually gained momentum, Marty Imes said.

The hotline attracts a variety of callers, Imes said. Some children call to wish for the safety of a parent deployed overseas, and some parents use the hotline as a disciplinary tactic by leaving a message for Santa about their misbehaving child.

“There’s a lot of humanity and emotion that gets picked up in these messages,” Imes said.

Although about 80 percent of callers on the Santa hotline are from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, the hotline does receive calls from across the nation. About 90 percent of the callers are children, and the majority of requests for voice mails are from parents whose kids have left a message, Imes said.

Imes estimates that the free service costs the company about $750; he listed phone-line costs and employee time. The Santa hotline helps to spread word-of-mouth buzz about the business, Imes said.

Advantage Answering Plus may expand its Santa hotline in the years ahead to reach a larger audience and include periodic updates from Santa, Imes said.

To leave Santa a message, call 805-546-1121. To request a copy of the message, email santa@advantage-plus.com, along with your name and telephone number.

Danielle Ames: 805-781-7902

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