Celebrating the people behind British small businesses

The smalll businesses that make Christmas happen – what it’s like to be a gift tester

Buying gifts online is brilliant – you can do it in your pants, at 4 am, after a few too many sherries, or on your lunch break. An increasingly number of specialist gift websites are popping up, catering to consumers who want to get their friends and family top-drawer presents, but are lacking inspiration. But a website can’t just advertise a gift – they have to know it’s good enough for their site. Which is where Paul, Buyagift’s ‘Santa’ comes in. He has possibly the best job in the world… testing every single gift, from cream teas to skydiving, before they’re put up for the public to buy! We had a chat with him about what it’s like driving Ferraris and eating mince pies for your day job.

How did you get into this line of work?

It was quite a random course of events, to be honest. I was actually interviewing with Buyagift.com for the SEO Manager role, as my background is predominately in digital marketing, and in the interview itself I mentioned my love of Christmas and how I dress up as Santa every year to celebrate (!) – and that was when an idea started to form.

The team at Buyagift.com were already trying to figure out a formal way to recruit someone as a ‘toy tester’ as they knew they wanted a point of contact with the gifts to ensure they were all providing the perfect experiences for the customers, and I was more than happy to oblige! As such, I juggle my SEO manager hat with my Santa one, which is brilliant as it gives me a real feel of the business from both ends.

What’s the best part?

We worked out recently that over the course of the year I’ve had 124 afternoon teas, 87 hours of high speed driving, 17 riverboat crosses, four bungee jumps and a skydive! So it’s all the best part really when there are just so many thousands of gifts on offer to try out! If I absolutely had to pick it would be the driving experiences – driving a Ferrari was my boyhood dream, so it was amazing to get to do that.

Is it as fun as it sounds?

Yes – maybe just the one bungee jump would have sufficed though!

Has a gift ever been not what you expected?

Definitely! I was most hesitant over the spa and beauty experiences as I’ve never done anything like that before. They’ve actually all been really terrific and the staff who work there have been great with me. Another one would be the ‘zombie battle’, which takes place in an abandoned shopping mall. I thought it might be one for the sci-fi geeks, but actually it’s brilliant fun. Both the staff and the people who attend get really in to it – which made it as scary as I’m embarrassed to say it was!

What’s been the wackiest gift you’ve tried out?

The zombie experience is definitely up there, but the self-titled ‘wacky racers driving experience’ is probably the strangest – you jump on a 87mph sofa and get chauffeur-driven around windy country lanes on a bed!

What’s been the worst/best gift you’ve tried?

As I said, the bungee jump wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, although that might have been due to the amount I’ve had to re-live it! The most unique and really stand-out experience was a weekend stay in a tree house. It’s a fantastic setting up in Snowdonia, and the cosy little treehouse just absolutely makes it. I won’t be forgetting that one for a long time!

Do you test the gifts all year round – is it like Christmas every day?

I balance time between testing the gifts and my SEO role in the office, but yes, it is all year round! Every week is different, which is my favourite part of the job. No two days are ever the same. I tend to rotate between each category, so in one week I might have done a driving experience and a spa day, and the next week might be an afternoon tea and a trip up to the top of the Shard.

Do you get sick of Christmas sometimes?

If anything the job just makes me even more excited, as I always have Christmas on the brain. It means I’m really eager to give all my friends and family their presents (as they’re ones I’ve tested out myself), and can’t wait till they get to check them out!

Want to get in the festive spirit? Why not read the rest of our Christmas business features?