by Mike Sharkey
There’s one surefire way to know it’s tax season: the Liberty Tax Service wavers dressed as the Statue of Liberty have popped up all over town.
The highest concentration of wavers may be at the Liberty Tax Service on Atlantic Boulevard, just east of St. Johns Bluff Road. Most days during rush, general manager Stephanie Scruggs has four wavers within a couple hundred yards of the office.
This isn’t a typical “waving” job, either. Scruggs hired 15 but had 35-40 apply. Everyone who applied knew they had to wear the costume, which is the company’s logo, had to pass a physical test and show some personality doing it. Not all of the wavers spend their entire shift jumping up and down, interacting with motorists. But, they aren’t stoic, either.
“They were required to wave for one hour and show some interest and motivation and that they could physically do it,” said Scruggs. “Our slogan is ‘We make taxes fun’ so they can wear their iPods and listen to music to keep them motivated.”
The work is part-time and wavers put in four-hour shifts. Many of the wavers are students, but some just need a job. Joey Hochman starts massage therapy school later this month.
“I actually found the job on Craig’s List,” he said. “It’s fun and I have held signs before.”
Aaron Newton worked for Scruggs last year so he knew what he was getting into. He enjoys the job as well and has found most of the motorists to be at least nice and even amused.
“Every light one car honks or someone waves,” said Newton. “Either they ignore me or they are nice.”
Both Hochman and Newton said this week’s temperatures have been a challenge at best.
“This week it’s been pretty good, but this morning it was cold,” said Newton Wednesday afternoon.
Liberty Tax Service is based in Virginia Beach and its CEO is Don Hewett, who cofounded Jackson Hewett in 1982. Four years later, Jackson Hewett started selling franchises. Eventually, Hewett sold his tax services and three years ago opened Liberty Tax Service in the United States.
Scruggs said the wavers work.
“It is our major marketing and our biggest success. We have a new owner of this office so you have probably noticed more (wavers). This branch owner believes in heavy marketing,” said Scruggs. “When we first started tax preparations, we did about 200. Last year, we did 800-plus. Our goal this year is 1,200 to 1,400. Marketing definitely helps.”
Scruggs said the wavers first hit the street the Friday after Thanksgiving and will continue through the end of tax season.
“Our busiest week is the last week of January and the first two weeks of February,” she said. “That’s when it hits real hard.”