Cadbury has moved its annual Santa Postal Service online this year in response to the ongoing COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. In a world of social distancing and so-called "COVID-secure measures," Cadbury opted to turn its entire experience digital.
The service has already been hugely popular, with an online virtual queuing system in place to manage the crowds. It took me seven days of trying to access the service before I was finally successful. I managed to get into the queue on day one but the queuing software booted me out at 13th place, so I had to spend the following days trying to get back in again.
The service runs from Wednesday 2nd December to Monday 14th December, operating between 10am and 7pm on all but the final day. You can only send one bar, and it must be to an address in Great Britain or Northern Ireland. The service is free of charge as Cadbury wants to "inspire a spirit of generosity and giving this Christmas."
You can choose to send either a Winter Wonderland, Dairy Milk, Whole Nut, Fruit and Nut, Oreo, or Caramel chocolate bar.
Despite the generous opening hours, in my own experience, the first-come, first-served queue fills up prior to 10am and typically remains that way throughout the day. Somewhere between 9.50am and 10am appears to be the sweet spot.
Once in, you're rewarded with a live video chat with a "postal service worker" who interacts with you based on on-screen text messaging.
This person writes out an address label and pops a Cadbury bar inside a purple padded envelope, ready to ship out.
It's a brief interaction, but very personal. Cadbury has managed to capture the essence of the in-person Secret Santa Postal Service experience and transpose it directly online. It's almost good enough to forget all that time I spent in the queue. Almost...
After the brief video chat, I was moved to a messaging page where I could record a video message (with a Secret Santa mask to keep my identity a mystery). Alternatively, you can opt for a traditional text based message.
Cadbury then ships out the bar to the recipient, who scans a code to reveal your message. Delivery normally takes a couple of days, but is reliant on the Royal Mail network.
While this might seem like a lot of effort to go through for a chocolate bar - and don't get me wrong, it really is - there is another reason why you should order one. This year, Cadbury has partnered with the Trussell Trust food banks and has pledged to donate one chocolate bar for every one ordered via the Secret Santa platform.
You can access the Secret Santa service here on your computer or smartphone. Remember, it closes on Monday 14th December 2020 and the virtual queue is really long, so try to get in as early as you can.
Cadbury's Secret Santa service isn't the only website experiencing huge demand right now. Cadbury's online chocolate shop also has a queuing system in place, with wait times reaching to over an hour in peak periods as customers flock to order Cadbury hampers and other Christmas presents.
What length would you go to in order to blag yourself a bar of chocolate? Let me know in the comments below.