Human Directionals

For many of you this title is going to sound strange, very strange.

What could it be? Well, I certainly did not know about it till I landed in California. As you neared major street corners, you would see young kids & older people at street corners holding signs, they are the living signs or sign twirlers. Not just holding signs, their job is to attract your attention, and do they do just that. The methods they use are pretty interesting, sometimes it is bright & skimpy attire, but mostly it is what they do with the arrow shaped signs they hold. They are spun, twirled, tossed, and what not. Mostly about new housing, it could also be about a new pizzeria in town, it could be whatever you want advertised, in the most alluring fashion. The pay is good, from $10 and hour to $60 an hour depending on how good you are with the sign.

Some counties, stating that these are traffic hazards, have insisted that twirling of signs is not permitted. So the signs are on stands and the holder, no longer a holder, but a side dancer.

As you near the corner, you sometimes see the bored/tired kid resting on his sign. Ipod phones in his ear. The California sun can be merciless, and a few quarts of water are not sufficient. Hang around for a while and you see the employer coming in her (I have not seen men handlers yet) SUV to castigate the kid. Sometimes you see that the replacement has not come in time and the chap has walked away leaving the sign at the corner. Some kids naturally get bored, so they chat around with other directionals at the corner, forming endearing relationships – hopefully, or well, they count the birds & the cars…

I wanted to write about them a few weeks ago, but I had not the faintest clue what they were called. I tried the internet, typing sign holders, placard holders, banner holders, moving signs, street corner signs, nothing worked. Maybe I should have typed ‘human billboards’. Then came
this LA times article that covered the subject in length, here is where I got to know the innards of the scheme.

Qualifications – clean cut, fine arms, athletic body, and ability to stand for hours ( usually 4-6 hours).

Moves – Trictionary covers Helicopter, backbend, crab walk, Blender, spanking the horse (The spinner puts the sign between his legs, slaps his own behind and giddy-ups)

The trainer is called spinstructor. They even have an annual awards competition.

It is a regular industry with AArow advertising training many hundreds for their jobs. Clients are charged $60-70 an hour.

They are mainly found in warmer cities like Florida & California, but if you go around the world, big cities have something similar, guys holding signs at crowded streets directing you to a pizza place or a dress shop that has a big sale going on. In Vegas and places like Madrid, Lisbon etc people are passing around cards advertising the vast possibilities with good & discreet escorts….In the 19th century, it was quite popular in London.

Not every car passing by rewards these chaps with $250 watches like one lady did, nor will Jay Leno always stop by to complement you, as he did once, but you could get pelted with eggs as it happens – a competitor maybe? Who said business is not cut-throat?

Like one directional said – In my city there is an abundance of teenagers and a lack of jobs, so man, I went for it. Look at it this way; an agent gets 6% for a house sale. Consider an average home price of $400K and the fact that if the agent hires a couple directionals, he would have increased his chances considerably!!

BTW it is very popular in Mexico and that is how the idea probably came across the border to California. And do you know why it is so popular? A vast majority of Americans are impulsive buyers. Point them in the right direction and you will be surprised to see the positive affect on sales (Smaller pizzeria’s claim about 10-12K increase per month!). More than everything else, they increase brand awareness!

But then, street corners can provide you other surprises in California. It is where people have their protest gatherings, be it the ‘Impeach Bush’ group or ‘save animals’ group or the group protesting their management for laying them off or reducing wages. If you are in agreement with them, you are expected to press your car horn once or if you really agree, pra pra bro bro (that is how American car horns sound).And of course, you also see the odd homeless man with signs round his neck stating – ‘hungry, need to eat’ or ‘spare me a dollar to buy gas’..

What people do to get other people to do, what they want done!! What people do to make a buck or many, faster!! Well, here is a master human directional at work…enjoy


Sri said…
Oh...was there so much misery behind those poor souls. Interesting info....I used to ignore them as jokers. Never again!
hari said…
Hi Maddy,

Intersting. Shows another side of modern life where selling is the ultimate aim.
When will it spread to other parts of the world?
diyadear said…
interesting post.. i think ive seen a gal doing this recently.. but cant rem if it was in india or here in US.. she was dancing n doing sumersaults.. but i think that was part of some fund raising.. anyways nice sales strategy..esp in the US where ppl r impulsive as u mentioned..
Wayne said…
Yep, Human Directionals do okay in Southern California. One of the most famous spinners, Randy J, spun a sign for Snoop Dogg and spins for no less than $60 per hour.