If you're Uncle Sam or Lady Liberty, long may you wave for tax business

Adam Bolin, left, and Eric Williams wave to motorists on S.C. 160 on Tuesday at Gold Hill Road near Tega Cay as they advertise for Liberty Tax Service.
Adam Bolin, left, and Eric Williams wave to motorists on S.C. 160 on Tuesday at Gold Hill Road near Tega Cay as they advertise for Liberty Tax Service.

FORT MILL -- The trucks honk, and the pretty girls wave. Maybe the sun stays out. And this job where busy S.C. 160 and Gold Hill Road meet sure is all right for eight bucks an hour. Then, the road dust rises in the faces of Eric Williams, 19, and Adam Bolin, 18, and the red and white striped pants aren't the coolest on any boulevard, and the smell is exhaust.

A guy once gave them "the bird," and a big truck turned on its water hose one time to try to soak them.

The hat is a bit funny looking, too. The blue jacket went out of style even before I wore one just like it to the prom in 1981.

But those bad times are rare, and traffic is why you are there on the sidewalk a few feet from the taxpaying world as April 15 approaches like a stampede. Because the job title is "waver."

And if you are wearing an Uncle Sam costume and your job is to get people to pull off the road to find out what the heck is going on with you or maybe a girl dressed as the Statue of Liberty, what do you expect but attention?

Attention is what Liberty Tax Service wavers are all about.

"We get noticed, that's for sure," said Rock Hill's Williams. "You can't worry about being embarrassed."

Bolin, a senior at Fort Mill High School in his second January-to-April tax season, said other kids at school know about his job, and some drive by to see him. He recruited his buddy Williams this year.

"I guess everybody knows I'm Uncle Sam," Bolin said.

The only time either one was embarrassed was the time each put on the Statue of Liberty costumes and waved.

"Hot," Bolin said.

"The foam hat was kind of uncomfortable, too," Williams said.

Yeah, guys, the long dress probably wasn't a good style to impress ladies, either.

Yet, that is the hook for this company, the Statue and Sam. Liberty Tax has franchises all over the country and crows about being the fastest-growing company of its kind in the land.

The wavers did it.

The shtick started in 1999, when the company shot a TV advertising spot in Washington, D.C. A woman dressed as the statue walked around and was gawked at, ogled. The response was overwhelming, so the company decided to do it at stores.

"The wavers have become our icon," said Martha O'Gorman of Liberty Tax national marketing.

One 30-year-old lady from Columbia named Annie Fuller was so successful as a waver she started her own franchise in Newberry last year. The store broke all Liberty sales records for any size market -- in little Newberry. She is now a sensation who spends the off months as a recruiter and motivational speaker/waver. This week in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Fuller -- nicknamed "Annie Oakley because I shoot straight" went to help a flagging store -- the place is booming with business now -- she will be waving. Her son might be right there with her, dressed up, too. She will wear the Statue costume to eat lunch, just like Bolin and Williams stay Uncle Sam in Fort Mill at the nearby Subway and the Bojangles.

"Honey, it draws attention," Fuller said by phone Wednesday. Anybody calls me honey, I love her already. "I never get tired of it. It works. You done your taxes yet?"

Now, that is a saleswoman. Hustling me from Tennessee.

Not everybody sticks it out as a waver, though.

"A few say it's too strenuous. Some don't like the attention after they try it, but let's face it, a lot of people love the attention," said Candice Bizzell, the 27-year-old marketing representative for the Clover store, who started out as a waver herself. Bizzell hired this year's stable of wavers that included high school kids, college students, a stay-at-home mother looking to make a few bucks, and even two people she described as "older." Waving has ended for the season in Clover, though. Sadly, no more wavers in Clover, Rock Hill, or York until January.

But Fort Mill has its wavers for a few more days.

"It's not as easy as it looks," Bolin said. "Your feet hurt after a while."

But there is no other way than to stand and wave, or walk and wave. Smile and wave.

Wave, these wavers must. At strangers, at everybody.

Until Tuesday. Then, the waving ends until tax season comes back.

And taxes will come back. A tough job, waver, dressed as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty, on your feet. But yearly taxes mean one thing is certain: Job security.