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Monday, March 3, 2014

New Job Creation: What Can We Expect?

RI-EDG64-182  Sign twirler Ray.
RI-EDG64-182 Sign twirler Ray. (Photo credit: e_pics)
Statue of Liberty?
Statue of Liberty? (Photo credit: Theophilus Photography)

Recently Seen on Facebook:
I'm curious how many jobs "created" in the last six years involve sign-waving or standing roadside in an embarrassing costume.

      As you have undoubtly have, I have also seen the sign twirlers, placard holders, and costumed chararacters advertising tax preparation services, new housing developments, or what have you.   Human advertising devices have been around for centuries.   Strangely in our age of ever-increasing technology there seems to be more use of old fashioned advertising techniques.

       In the decades before the 90's I don't recall seeing that much of this type of advertising.  I'm sure it was out there.  I probably wasn't paying that much attention or just didn't notice, but I don't think that there was as much sign carrying for the purpose of advertising as there is now.

       When I was a kid back in the 50's and 60's I associated sandwich-board advertising (a person carrying two large advertising placards front and back) with the depression.  I only saw it in old movies and cartoons.  I can't recall ever seeing a person in my real life walking the streets wearing a sandwich-board.

       After I moved to Los Angeles in 1991 I began seeing the human street advertising on an increasing basis as each year went by.  Maybe it's the nature of advertising in car crazy L.A.   It's one way of catching the attention of all the people who are on the streets.  Sign twirling and crazy costumes usually gets a second look if not a prolonged stare from those drawn by the spectacle.

       Maybe I'm just being more observant in the past few years, but lately I think I've seen more purveyors of street advertising than ever before.  Often I can look out my back bedroom window and see them across the street.  They're almost always on the corners of the major intersection nearest where I live.  They seem to be just about everywhere I go.

        Perhaps the increase in unemployment has flooded the market with more bodies willing to be human advertising devices.   I'm not sure how many new sign twirler employment agencies have opened in recent years, but I'm sure those businesses have been experiencing a boom as they take the desperately unemployed off the streets to put them back on the streets.

       I say desperately because to me one would have to be somewhat desperate to take a job of that nature.  There are so many downsides I can see to that job.  For one thing there's the bathroom issue.  That might mean an increase in business in adult diapers.  I hope not.

       It's good to see the job market opening up and Americans going back to work.  You can't outsource sign-twirling or street side waving dressed as an outlandish character.   All of the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam imitators advertising tax preparation services almost makes my heart swell up with patriotic pride.  Well, maybe not quite, but it's exciting to see Americans going back to work .

       Just another observation for whatever it's worth:   Most of the sign wielding folks I've seen on the street corners of late are advertising clearance sales for stores going out of business.  Make of that what you will.

        Do you see wavers and sign-twirlers in the area where you live?    Have you ever done a job like this or known someone else who has?     Would you do a job like this for minimum wage?

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  1. Great post Lee, I have seen many people here and in Spain about getting work that way. One of your pics mentioned Providence, I recall going there some years back.
    Great to be back. sent you and e/mail.

  2. We have a lot in our area. No way I'd want to be out there dressed as the Statue of Liberty though.

  3. I saw some sandwich board people in Boston in the 80s when I was in college. But the modern sign waving in costume thing was more prevalent on the west coast. I don't see it much here, except in summer b/c this is a tourist area. Some of the people I saw in Washington would be rocking out on their iPods which was always entertaining to watch.

  4. Hey Lee! We have a few of those sign wavers here in Chilliwack. I always feel bad for them that they have to do a job like that, out in the weather. Maybe they like it though. It definitely looks low stress. No taking your work home with you with that job!

  5. I wonder if it isn't a product of warmer areas. Don't remember seeing much of it here. Or maybe I am not being very observant.

  6. Yvonne -- Glad you're back on the blogs.

    Alex - Yeah, but what about an Uncle Sam costume? Now there's a patriotic guy gig.

    JoJo -- It seems those sign folks usually have some music or something going in their heads. Seems like you'd almost have to.

    Eve -- Unless you call sore muscles, tired feet, or sunburn taking your job home. I hope they like what they're doing, but most of them look like they'd rather be doing something else.

    Jo -- It might be a climate thing. I sure don't remember seeing much like it prior to moving to California.


  7. I have noticed more and more sign twirlers. Every time mom and I drive by one twirling around the sign she says something like, "I can't read the darn thing if they twirl it around like that." And she is right. Seems like it would be better to have a propped up sign and wave something else to draw attention to your sign.

    In addition to the types of signs you've already mentioned, I see lots of "We Buy Gold" signs for jewelry stores and pawn shops.

    While the increase of sign wavers means more jobs, it doesn't mean more GOOD jobs. So, in the terms of the State of the Union, I don't see this as a good thing. It's more like a sign of just how desperate it is getting out there. ::scary indeed::

  8. I think it's a sign of an economic upturn when we finally see Americans taking jobs that Mexicans refuse to do.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  9. At least if you were in full costume, no one would know it was you and you could have some fun with it.

  10. We've got one of those Statue of Liberty costumes dancing on the sidewalk here. Other than that and the occasion car wash signs from various organizations, I haven't seen much street advertising.

  11. We have the sign waivers/twirlers here as well. Usually they are late teens/early 20s, have ear buds, and are very talented the the spinning. and yes, they are advertising 'going of out of business'.

    It seems to me to be false hopes and blinds.

  12. There used to be a lot more of this type of advertising, though the guys with sandwich boards are before a lot of people's time.

  13. Robin-- I forgot about those "We buy gold" signs. Just another indicator of the bad times and the desperation people feel to get money any way they can. The growth of bad jobs is not a good omen.

    StMc -- And you're right. I rarely see Hispanics doing the sign-twirling or waving.

    L.Diane -- Fine if it's kind of a cold day, but those costumes can really get hot and uncomfortable unless they're the expensive kind like the theme parks use. The costumes wavers probably don't have those.

    Bish --Actually I've been seeing less car wash signs on the street. Don't know what that means. Maybe it's just the time of year.

    Susan Kane-- The "going out of business" sign twirlers means that the sign guys days may be limited but the store employees will be on the streets looking for jobs themselves.

    Kelly -- Sandboard advertising seems really old school. I have seen a few of them at Venice Beach and on Hollywood Blvd. Might be a more recent trend maybe.


  14. Here's an interesting tidbit for you. There's this pawn shop on the way to taking my kids to school that used to employee sign wavers. Now, however, they have a mannequin out front with an electric crank that waves their sign. Unless you're close to it, it looks just like a person out there doing that.

  15. Rural Britain has none of these, I feel we may be missing something.

  16. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I find it creepy that certain things have made a comeback from the Great Depression.

  17. Between them and our large collection of "Hungry vets who are homeless", and manage to keep white pants and new shoes clean while begging, I've had my fill, thank you.

  18. I can recall doing the costume bit as a teenager but that was some time ago for a restaurant and during the upswing of the boom of the late 90's

    Some places, I've been told, are either hiring out to some of the homeless or using someone already employed at the company. Nothing solid to base that on so take that for a grain of salt :-)

    Since I've always seen sign-carrying folks about, it doesn't seem odd to me. The twirling kicked up a notch as I noticed more of the twirlers sporting iPods or mp3 players. We even had one sign holder that would boot-scoot boogie in her cowgirl boots lol!

  19. Sometimes around the warmer holidays I'll see people dressed up to advertise a sale, or more depressingly common, a going out of business sale.

    And yes, at my age (48 1/2) I would give serious consideration in doing something like that, if only to add to my bank account and give myself some breathing room.

  20. Andrew -- I forgot about those. I've seen some around here. Some look like sexy females from a distance, but then as you get close you realize they're mannequins. Add to those the mechanized gorillas and other figures, the large inflatable figures, and the fan driven windsock wavers. Costco was even selling a little fluorescent green man with a flag that some businesses have been using. Even the sign wavers jobs are doomed. Even for the fanciest contraptions that may cost in the thousands of dollars, it's still cheaper in the long-run than a hourly paid human. And they probably get more attention.

    Rob --In your case you might be missing something seeing as how you enjoy rather bizarre things.

    Shelly -- When the movie studios start making big time musicals that will be a sure sign we are in a serious depression.

    CW-- Around here I think some of the commercial sign bearers have been edging out the homeless for space.

    Angela -- Maybe more originality and flair gets them more jobs.

    GB -- In truly desperate circumstance of extreme need I guess that job would be better than no money coming in.


  21. Yes, yes, yes, they are EVERYWHERE here. In fact, there's a plaza just outside of my house that has 3 pizza places. So on 3 separate corners of the same intersection there'll be 3 rival sign tossers for these pizza places, all of them (I guess?) trying to "out-toss" the others.

    To which I've always wondered the efficiency of these things. These guys will be out there for at least 4-5 hours. Say you pay them $8 an hour. That's $30-40 worth of business that you'll have to have made because of those sign guys just to break even.

    I don't know about you, but I've never seen a guy spinning a sign and said to myself, "Wow, look at that sign. I should probably stop in here for pizza."

  22. If I don't go into our town each week, I miss the newest store. Businesses come and go so fast these days, that I feel I'm watching an electronic marquee.

  23. Beer-- The only time I've been lured by the sign tossers is for the "Going out of Business" Clearance sales. I like a good bargain though I hate seeing places going out of business. Also I recently checked out a new development of townhouses near where I live (they have up to six sign people on weekends). My wife and I were curious about the places but they were so overpriced I lost interest. If they sell all the units quickly then maybe the human signage will be worth the price. But I too have wondered if the cost of sign tossers really has much financial benefit for businesses.

    C.Lee -- Same where I am. Some businesses barely last and others that have been around for ages will suddenly just close.


  24. 'I'm sure those businesses have been experiencing a boom as they take the desperately unemployed off the streets to put them back on the streets.'

    Yikes. Lee this was eye-opening. It's funny how we can 'look' at things and not see past them to an indication of something far more fundamental. Your comparison to the sandwich-board advertising of the Depression is a shock to the system. History is painted with such broad, dramatic strokes that we sometimes can't see it playing out again in subtlety right in front of our faces.

    Great post topic.

  25. Suze -- I guess most of us are so busy living that we don't see where our lives are going. If our society doesn't learn anything from history then it's difficult to make sense of the possibilities that the future holds.


  26. LOL! This was hilarious.
    I haven't seen any in the town where I live in England, but there are occasionally people in animal suits. I don't know why. Maybe I'm missing something?
    Job creation and adult nappies - we've come a long way since sandwich boards!

  27. Ha ha! I love your tag: sign twirling! I'm sure that must be one of the qualifications on the job app, since that seems to be the MO of such gigs.

    Just followed your blog and I'm checking out this A-to-Z challenge! Thanks!

  28. Yeah, they're all over here in the Midwest. We also have people dressed for Little Caesar's pizza. I remember it being so hot, and I just couldn't believe someone would wear that costume in 95 degree heat and St. Louis humidity.


    There's a car wash that has a mechanical gorilla that waves to people. It kinda freaks me out.

  29. Fanny -- If we didn't laugh about it then we might be worrying ourselves sick. There dark side to all this, but it is funny in many respects.

    Tethered - Thanks for the follow and hope you join A to Z in April.

    Jay -- Yes, I've seen Little Caesar on occasion. Those costumes would be so miserable on a hot day. Especially as the costume gets older and a lot of people have worn it before.



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