I was 19 when I became a Hamleys elf. The closest thing I can compare it to is military service. Every elf was given a uniform and it was our responsibility to make sure it looked presentable. It was green and red, with matching shoes and hat, and striped tights that didn’t keep out the cold while we stood outside to welcome people in. Our timetable was extremely regimented: 09.00 hours: unlock front door. 12.00 hours: fake snow falls on Regent Street; appear delighted. 18.00 hours: check grotto for vomit.
The only skills needed were punctuality, projection and the ability to seem happy even when freezing. There were long periods of intense boredom interspersed with bursts of immense stress. The repetitive festive soundtrack was tortuous.