You’ve seen them: The men and women who stand on city street corners, dressed as the Statue Of Liberty. The "Wavers." With tax day fast approaching, we decided to find out who they are.
They show up in mid-January each year, and disappear April 18th. Maybe you’ve smiled at them, shout words of encouragement, and sometimes insults. But most wavers are not discouraged by bad manners or verbal attacks, because they love what they do.
And just in case you think their presence is folly: Sharon Smith, manager of the Easton Liberty Tax office, where wavers operate from, says they bring in 85 percent of their business. It's the only form of advertising the company uses.
“It’s a very hard job,” Smith said. “We take really good care of our wavers, and they are our presence to the world, so they are very, very important to us.” She looks for people who are outgoing and smile, which is part of the company’s desire to make paying their taxes a pleasant experience.
Smoking and cell phone use on duty are no-no’s. To avoid health problems, wavers do not work in rain and snow storms, Smith said. Most of the wavers are men; women don't seem to stick around because of the cold temperatures.
Matthew Korpics, 19, of Easton, who joined the company’s five-man crew of wavers, knows his job, he said
“Pretty much you have to try to get people’s attention without causing them to get in an accident,” he said. To get people’s attention, Korpics swings his advertising signs which offer a variety of services, discounts and coupons.
Other attention-getting efforts include nods, dances and more, with the every-ready smile on his face, some 50 to 100 motorists pass by every hour, many honking their horns in support of the wavers.
“We don’t encourage [honking], because it can become an annoyance to neighbors, Smith said. She recently had a call asking if this “thing” is going to go on through April 15th. Smith replied, “No, to the 18th.”
On the coldest days, Korpics keeps warm during the usually four-hour shifts by wearing thermal wear, army leggings, a long-sleeved hoodie under his costume, gloves, and a beanie to keep his ears warm. Hand and foot warmers, snacks and beverages and the Miss Liberty outfit are supplied by the company, he said.
“I make people laugh, and get Liberty Tax out there,” he said.
Training to become a waver includes a video and a 30-minute trial on the streets in costume. Hourly pay is more than minimum wage, but Smith would not divulge salaries
Waver Steven Shrope, 31, who describes his job as “shaker-boarding”, is in his second year with Liberty, and says most of the public responds positively, encouraging him to keep up the good work, but he admits he has been given “the bird,” told “you suck,” and “get a real job,” while other more enthusiastic baiters hang out the car window and threaten to beat him up.
Shrope doesn’t understand why people tell him to get a real job,” he said, because he has a real job and get paid for doing it, he said.
“I am not going to get mad; it’s not going to offend me; I just let it go in one ear and out the other,” and trying to get even “wouldn’t be setting a good example,” he said.
Although new on the job, Korpics has some advice for future wavers.
“You can’t have a big ego,” he said. “Some people are just going to be rude and that’s how it is. You just have to be able to relax, smile back at them and laugh it off. If you have a big ego, you probably aren’t going to last long."