Santa vs. FedEx

December 18th, 2007 by Chris

So in a not-so-typical free moment, I was talking with one of my coworkers (Hi Jeremy) about the now famous internet/email message about the supposed impossibility of Santa’s magical Christmas Eve trip.

You know, the one that you can read here, or here*… and umptien bazillion other variants.

It occurred to us though that in the modern era, Santa is far more likely to make use of the services of hundreds of thousands of delivery workers distributed throughout the globe as part of his multinational corporation (think FedEx). Here’s how it works…

Back when Santa first got into the present business (under the name of St. Nicholas) back in about the year 300, the planetary population is estimated at between 200 and 300 thousand people**. If we stick with the assumption that St. Nick was handling only Christian homes, well, it’s clear that the “Christmas” population was probably manageable by Nick and a few friends.
Over time, excellent name recognition (canonization will do that for you) and extremely successful branding (think of the royalties!) allowed St. Nick to pass down a massive multinational corporation to the present day Santa Claus. Consider the number of times the Santa visage appears on holiday paraphernalia, it wouldn’t take too many fractions of a cent to fund that holiday toy giving.
Ok, so I’m not going to go into the economics, but a little lesson in what FedEx does every day reveals that delivering several hundred million toys in a single night is not only possible, but quite feasible.
According to the aforementioned calculation Santa must travel at an average speed of 650 miles per second (2,340,000 mph). To reduce this to a more achievable figure (say 23 mph) on the order of 100,000 delivery vehicles are needed. In fact it would be considerably less if we considered that the population is very densely packed in general. 100k seems like a ridiculous number of delivery personnel, but in reality this is only a portion of FedEx’s worldwide staff (according to this FedEx article the worldwide staff is approximately 280,000…. they also claim to assist Santa in his delivery process which furthers my theory). DHL also has about 280,000 employees and UPS has even more at 483,000. Yes, about 1 MILLION people are employed by those three companies (1 in every 6000 people on the planet work to deliver stuff). If even 1 in 10 of those employees did double duty for Santa on Christmas Eve, we’d be in the black already.

Consider that UPS, FedEx and DHL can handle well over 30 million packages a day (combined), it’s reasonable to believe that with 364 days of advanced planning, a single 31 hour push could probably deliver to the 91 million houses described in the famed “analysis”.

So rest well all good children of the world, Santa Claus Corporation is preparing its yearly charity give away, and the delivery companies of the world are standing by.

* Even a slightly amusing rebuttal and an alternate physics explanation.
** Numerical facts and figures from wikipedia unless otherwise stated.

3 Responses to “Santa vs. FedEx”

  1. Heidi Says:

    Rocking theory!

  2. B.Ruhsam Says:

    This dovetails well with the Theory of External Delivery.

  3. Chris Says:

    Yes, I’ve been following this on Cectic – The Comic. I love the parallels.