There are many things that I just don’t understand.
Several years ago, on a cold and rainy day in late February, I was driving through the small town of Mundelein, Illinois. As I made my way down Main Street, stopped at a traffic light, I saw, out my windshield on the right side of the road, the statue of liberty, standing in the pouring rain, waving to me.
Well, I said to myself, I wasn’t expecting to see the statue of liberty this morning. I quickly went back over the events of the morning, and was able to determine that no alcohol had been consumed. No controlled substances of any sort were coursing through my veins. I pinched myself and the resulting pain indicated that I was in fact awake and not dreaming. I blinked my eyes hard, and when I reopened them the statue of liberty was still there, on the right side of my car, in the pouring rain, waving to me. It wasn’t a hallucination.
Finally, it occurred to me that this statue of liberty wasn’t very tall, well under six feet in fact. I don’t care how high she held her torch, she wouldn’t make much of a beacon for anybody. Then I realized it was a person standing in a statue of liberty costume, which, in hindsight, probably shouldn’t have taken so long to figure out.
But here’s the part that I still haven’t figured out. Why? Why would anybody stand in the freezing rain in a statue of liberty costume, waving to the traffic that passed by? It didn’t take me long to see the sign on the building behind lady liberty that said, “Liberty Tax Service.”
Since that day, I’ve noticed every year in whatever town I happen to be driving through in “tax season,” at least every town that has a Liberty Tax Service office, there’s some poor schmuck in a statue of liberty costume waving to the cars.
And every time I see it, I ask myself, why? So far, I haven’t come up with a good answer, so it looks like I’m going to have to ask someone else. Here’s what I’ve been able to determine so far:
- The decision to advertise Liberty Tax Service with a live person standing in traffic while wearing a Statue of Liberty costume had to come down as a directive from corporate headquarters, because all branches seem to have not only their own statue of liberty costume but also their own poor schmuck.
- For some reason, this has been determined to be effective marketing strategy, because every year the poor schmucks are trotted out.
This is what baffles me. There had to be a meeting at the corporate office. Here’s the only scenario that I’ve come up with that makes any sense:
(The scene: A corporate boardroom. All of the functional vice presidents are present. The last one to arrive is Chet Campbell, VP of Marketing. Unlike the impeccably dressed and groomed other V.P.s with their neat stacks of papers and portfolios, Campbell is disheveled and unshaven and empty handed. His shirt is wrinkled and untucked. He takes his seat and buries his head in his hands. The other V.P.s whisper to each other in scandalous tones: it’s obvious that Campbell hung one on the night before. Just then, the C.E.O., an impressive looking guy named Richard Richards, enters the room and takes his seat at the end of the table as a fearful silence overtakes the room.)
RICHARDS: I’m going to cut to the chase and get right to the point. Things don’t look well. Our earnings are down and we’re getting clobbered by our competitors. With tax season rapidly approaching, the very survival of our company rests on a new and effective marketing campaign. I’ve asked Campbell to give us his idea for the new campaign this morning. Campbell, the floor is yours.
(Campbell is still resting his head in his hands. At first, he is unresponsive)
RICHARDS: (raising his voice) Campbell. CAMPBELL!!
CAMPBELL: (waking up) Huh? Yeah?
RICHARDS: The new marketing plan! Out with it!
CAMPBELL: Huh? Oh yeah, the new marketing campaign. Yeah, well uh, the thing is …
ROCHARDS: Out with it! Let’s have it!
CAMPBEL: Okay, okay, um, (obviously making things up as he goes), okay, um, what’s the name of our company again?
RIHCARDS: Liberty Tax Services
CAMPBELL: That’s right, I knew that. And we’re what, we’re an American company, right?
RICHARDS: (growing impatient) Yes, that’s right.
CAMPBELL: So that means most of our tax customers are Americans, right? (Richards nods) Well, what do most Americans think of when they hear the word, “liberty?”
RICHARDS: The statue of liberty.
CAMPBELL: The statue of liberty, ooh, that’s a good one. I was thinking of puppies, but the Statue of Liberty is even better …
RICHARDS: Campbell, do you even have a campaign?
CAMPBELL: Yes, yes, of course I do.
RICHARDS: Then out with it!
CAMPBEL: Well, here’s my plan. We take, uh, some poor schmuck – we should have at least one in every office – and we, uh, we buy him a statue of liberty costume and make him stand in traffic outside of the store.
RICHARDS: That’s it? He just stands there?
CMAPBELL: No, he doesn’t just stand there in traffic! That would be ridiculous!
RICHARDS: So what else does he do?
CAMPBELL: He, uh, he waves.
RICHARDS: He waves?
CAMPBELL: Yes, he waves to the cars as they go by.
RICHARDS: Then what?
CAMPBELL: Then, he waves again. Until the day is over, he stands there and waves.
RICHARDS: That’s it?
CAMPBELL: Yes, sir, that’s the new marketing campaign.
RICHARDS: I’m speechless. Anybody else want to comment?
JENKINS: As the Vice President of human relations, do you mean to tell me that we’d be asking our employees to stand in traffic while wearing a Statue of Liberty costume?”
CAMPBELL: Yes. Why?
JENKINS: Don’t you think there’s a safety concern?
CAMPBELL: Well, it wouldn’t be just any employee. It’d be just the poor schmucks.
(A murmur of disbelief and laughter runs through the board room. Finally, Richards calls the meeting back to order)
RICHARDS: Okay, enough is enough. Campbell, in all my years, I’ve never heard such a, a ….
CAMPBELL: I’ll go clean out my …
RICHARDS: I’ve never heard such a brilliant plan!! It’s so simple! It’s beautiful in its simplicity! Jenkins, I want a listing of every poor schmuck working for us from every branch office. Wilson, order us a statue of liberty costume for every store. And Campbell, effective immediately, you are here by promoted to my job!
CAMPBELL: But what about you, sir?
RICHARDS: I have no choice but to let myself go.
RICHARDS: I’m firing me, because I didn’t come up with your brilliant plan. You are the one, the only one who can save this company from collapse.
(Then the scene shifts, to the inside of a car. A man and wife are driving through town and talking …)
WIFE: So who are we going to get to do our taxes this year?
HUSBAND: I don’t know. With the capital gains, the inheritances we received, and the complications with our LLC, they’re going to be incredibly complicated.
WIFE: So we’ll have to find someone who is very good, a very advanced and senior tax accountant.
HUSBAND: Yes, it’ll have to be someone we can trust ex … wait, what’s that?
WIFE: Why, it looks like the statue of liberty! What is she doing?
HUSBAND: She’s waving!
WIFE: Yes, she’s waving to us! Look, there’s a Liberty Tax Service office!
HUSBAND: Well, problem solved! I guess we know who’s doing our taxes this year …
HUSBAND AND WIFE TOGETHER: Liberty! Liberty Tax Services, that’s who!