Human Signage: Wasting Money One Employee at a Time


Human Sign Holder

Hammer the sign in the ground and call it a day!

As a small-business owner myself, It bothers me to watch companies throw dollar bills out the window of their marketing budget, and many times I catch myself saying “they paid for that???”. “Human Directional Signs” are one of those things that make my eyes roll and my head shake. It seems that only an elite few are even capable of accomplishing the near impossible task of… holding a sign?

Here are my issue(s).

Not too long ago I drove by a local K-Mart. There was a guy on the corner of an extremely major, dual 5-lane intersection holding a sign. The only problem is that whoever hired him must not have read over his resume’ and noticed that the guy didn’t pay much attention to detail. THE SIGN WAS UPSIDE DOWN! I proceeded past the guy and his awesome sign-holding skills to a movie with my wife, grabbed some dinner afterwards, and then started on my way back home. The outstanding employee of the month that was holding the sign for $6.00 an hour had close to 4 hours to realize that his sign was upside down [I'm shaking my head], yet still somehow was not able to disengage his addiction to “upside down sign holding.”

You think it stops there? It doesn’t. On that same road, about 1 mile away and about 3 days later, I saw a new professional sign holder. K-Mart wasn’t the only business to fall victim to such mediocrity. Hi-Fi Buys was paying a man to lean a sign up against a telephone pole while he smoked a cigarette and listened to his iPod… while sitting in a lawn chair. I guess he could have been taking a break. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

I’ll give you one more for now. It’s a smaller intersection, so you may appreciate the “small town, feel-at-home” atmosphere that this sign holder was providing. This guy brought a folding chair, an umbrella, a cooler and a sign. Did I mention that he had his sign attached to his cooler so that he didn’t have to hold it? You think I’m joking, but I’m not! This dude was getting paid to drink lemonade and count the U.S. states on license tags as cars drove by.

It’s not all bad news. I must recognize the people who “own” the sign-holding market in my area. Little Caesars, Verizon and Liberty all have outstanding sign holders. They move, they dance, they jam out, they’re dressed in costumes and best of all… they have their signs in an upward readable position. Who would have thought?

In conclusion, I’m not against human signage. It can be very effective if executed correctly and under some supervision. Here are some good tips for hiring “human directionals” for your company. All of the tips are very basic. Good luck.


1) Hire high-energy candidates. You don’t want them taking sitting breaks every 5 minutes.

2) Smiling is a requirement and so is waving at people that drive by.

3) They must have a good attitude. Customers can tell when an employee doesn’t like their job.

4) They need to be able to lift .0876 pounds (the weight of the sign)

5) If they come to a “sign holding” interview with a hammer and a folding chair, ask them to leave immediately. They’re probably not what you’re looking for.

6) Give them some job requirements. These days, you shouldn’t expect somebody with a sign-holding job title to know that they are actually supposed to be holding a sign. Tell them what they’re supposed to do, how long, where at, why and what music they should be dancing to. If it were me I would provide audio of motivation speakers saying “hold that sign!”, “hold it high”, “hold it proud”, “please check to make sure you have the correct sign”, “you can do it!”

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