Cruel and Unusual

So on my way home each night I drive by a vitamin store where there is an interesting person dressed as some sort of bug. I want to say that it is a giant tick, with giant teeth and angry, angry eyes, but I cannot confirm or deny what kind of insect he is. "What does this "thing" have to do with vitamins?", I ask myself every night as I drive by.

Usually the tick, as I have named him, is very energetically waving and jumping up and down trying to get people to pull in and buy some vitamins. But yesterday as I drove by he was just standing there. No waving, no jumping just sort of limp. All of a sudden my heart broke for my little tick friend. I want to believe that he was crying in his costume because after cleaning up the stock room, his boss said that it was time for him to strap on the tick costume and drum up some business. My little friend, after giving the tick marketing strategy all that he had these last few weeks realized he was not in the mood to strap on the 50 lbs costume in the 80 degree weather and dance around in rush hour traffic. Or he could of had diarrhea it's hard to say.

What kind of a person or business makes their employees dress in unusual costumes, stand outside in the blistering cold or hot of Utah to drum up some business? This seems to be a troubling trend that I am seeing more and more on the street of Utah.

There is a particular company in Utah called Liberty Tax Services who I take particular issue with. During the tax season they hire people, men and women mind you, to dress as the Statue of Liberty with the torch, crown, and toga to stand on the side of the road and wave in business. Keep in mind that January and February are the coldest months of the year in Utah and so most of the "Lady Liberties" are very wide looking due to some down coats layered underneath their togas. Frankly they can barely raise their torch to wave at all with all those layers.

Everyone has their own style of waving people in. Some put on their IPOD and "booty pop" with their torch, while others like to do the ever so popular "point at the driver and wave" technique. No matter how they spin it I feel embarrassed for them. Much like I feel embarrassed for waiters at restaurants that have to dance to "Greased Lighting" while you are trying to eat your appetizers.(See Blog post "I wept for them" for my feelings on that topic)

I thought about why this exploitation of employees bothers me so much and I think it goes back to an experience I had a couple of years ago. One of my co-workers was let go from our company and I knew that she was looking for other work. Well one day as I was driving down State Street, I saw her, yes, dressed as Lady Liberty, except she was not dancing around, rather, her head was down in shame,obviously embarrassed about having to stoop this low for a paycheck. Even now, all these years later I get upset thinking about my friend at what I am sure is one of the lowest moments of her life.

Friends let's stop supporting organizations that make their employees dress up to drum up business. I feel like it so exploitative and unethical. I mean these are people we are talking about here. We have People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) but what about our own kind. People for the Ethical Treatment of People (PETP). Together we can help our friends dressed as bugs and national monuments. Let it begin,and let it begin with me.

10/29/08 Update- I drove by the tick man on my way home yesterday and to my relief he was back waving and bouncing around. He must have just had diarrhea the other day. Thank goodness.


Erin said…
Robbie, I applaud you. Yes, I do. Look at your writing a blog every day! That, in itself is helping humankind. It's fun, huh!
I am laughing so hard right now, which is embarassing considering the fact that I'm sitting alone in my office, with the door opened, and people probably thinking I've finally cracked. Thank you for that, friend!
Jason said…
As an owner of a Liberty Tax franchise I do not understand why you see a problem with a company providing jobs for people. All of my waivers are provided with hand warmers and whatever they need to stay warm and come in for frequent breaks when needed. Most of the people who do this work enjoy working out doors and enjoy having a job that allows them to listen to music and have some fun. As the owner I go out and fill in when I don't have a waiver and enjoy getting out of the office. If it is not the type of job that you would like to do, that is understandable, but many like it and come back year after year.

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