I was a Santa, for 1 season, in Sun Valley Mall, around 2000. And there was, of course, my favorite elf.

Bev Reading a book He wouldn't come close to me

I enjoyed it. Kids clearly aren't perfect, but they're not dumb, they're gonna get stuff. They'er as good as they can manage.
I had a couple 'sorta pull the beard' and quickly realize that was a mistake.
I had one boy come and jump up in my lap. Mom said, "we were here yesterday, but he wanted to come back.
He just wanted to snuggle. So I did. Mom looked pretty normal. Why did he come to the mall to get a snuggle?
I asked one boy, "What would you like for Christmas?"
"I want my grandpa to get better." Talk about something taking your breath away.

I didn't do it for several years, but went back and did substitute ['cause with all those kids, Santa's getting sick].
And I told 'em, "Don't pay me, but at the end of the season, I want a Santa suit." I now have a Mall Santa suit.
These days, I just do it at church, preschool, and for friends. That's my story, and I'm stickin to it.