Marketing opportunity with a hip U.S. clothing chain
Linda is probably just one of those people who stands out in a crowd—even when she isn’t carrying a advertising sign roughly twice her own height.
However, when I saw her in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue on the afternoon of Friday, December 6, that’s exactly what she was doing—walking around the South Granville shopping area carrying a sign that looked all of 3 metres high and I have to say that she carried it off wonderfully.
Partly it was simply the ridiculous disparity of scale. Here was this petite young woman with bright auburn hair, tromping around in over-sized gumboots and gripping in big yellow work gloves a garish plywood and corrugated plastic assemblage that towered over her comparatively diminutive frame—that was a striking enough sight by itself.
But as the sign and the woman repeatedly wobbled past by my window seat in the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue, what really caught my attention and earned my appreciation was the unconsciously theatrical way that she maneuvered the ungainly sign to and fro (not to mention up down and sideways) through the flow of pedestrian traffic—accompanied by suitably wide-eyed facial expressions of alarm, effort and mock frustration.
Her gesticulations and unconscious mugging, as if for some unseen camera, made a drudgery look like a kind of slapstick comedy performance.
It was funny and somehow touching to watch and I couldn’t let this unexpected little star turn on the stage of life pass without a modest tribute.
Fortunately, an hour into her gig and after she assured herself that I really was a blogger and not just some perv with a camera, the sign-bearer was happy to take a break to chat with me and pose for some photos. In turn, I was happy to buy her a cheeseburger to help replenish her energy, so the show could go on, as they say.
Another proverbial sign of the times
The woman’s name, as I’ve already mentioned, was Linda and the huge red, black and yellow sign that she carried was for the American Apparel store, located just around the corner on South Granville Street. It read like an ad for a closing out sale:
“Entire store 70-90% off…Nothing held back. Everything must go!”
More than anything else this was a sign of just how desperate things have gotten for the American Apparel clothing chain, with the U.S. parent company now having filed for bankruptcy a second time in a little over a year.
But it also arguably signaled the difficult economic plight of all the 20- and 30-somethings who staff these low-paying retail store jobs—if they’re lucky.
I’m been given to understand that quite a large number of well-educated millennials spend their days scrambling between various retail jobs and even lower-paying blue and white collar casual labour jobs—apparently one e-transfer and a college degree away from being evicted and having to live on a friend’s couch—if they’re lucky.
Not to say that Linda was in dire straits financially. She told me that she was being paid $12.50 an hour to parade the sign around the South Granville shopping strip for exactly four hours but in the same breath she said that it was just a favour for a friend.
In any event, she more-or-less lugged the sign around the South Granville area for four straight hours—her panache fading some in the home stretch.
She held out until exactly 4 p.m. when, with the pedestrian traffic dwindling, she finally tucked the long sign under an arm and, with a big smile on her face, called it a day and a job well done. Click the images to enlarge them.