Sign Spin

Any given day in Jacksonville, you can drive down the street and see several people standing on the sidewalk spinning signs about with varied enthusiasm that ranges from eye-catching flips and spins, to monotonous wobbling and wiggling. Though most people see these human billboards and simply pass by, no one can deny that sign spinners are popping up everywhere, and some of them have some pretty damn impressive moves. Sign spinning might even be a great way to lose some weight.

Tyler Payne is a local sign spinner for Little Caesars Pizza in Atlantic Beach who explained that a “human directional” is the proper name for someone who is a sign spinner. Since this issue focuses on health and fitness, we strapped a pedometer to Payne to see just how much of a workout this new form of advertising really is. In only two hours, Payne had taken a total of 10,424 steps. This means that during his two-hour shift, Payne walked over five miles!

How many steps are in a…

• One flight of stairs averages 10 steps.

• 1 mile = 2,000 – 2,500 steps

• One city block is about 200 steps.

• 10,000 steps is 4 – 5 miles.

“I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if people just used it [sign spinning] for a workout because it is pretty good exercise as long as you keep moving and don’t fall into too simple of a rut,” said Payne. “But, it’s not like you just hold a sign and shake it around and all of a sudden you lose weight. You have to actually get your body into it.”

Payne, who pointed out that he thoroughly enjoys his job, began sign spinning merely as a way to make some money, but soon found that he was enthralled with the job, and began to hone his sign spinning skills by practicing and researching moves. “At first I didn’t really [practice moves], I kind of just picked them up whenever I saw them,” said Payne. After he got more serious, Payne implemented more of his moves from breakdancing, varial dancing and other similar visual arts. This not only made his spinning more attention-grabbing, but also added to its difficulty as a workout.

In the world of sign spinning, the better you are and the more moves you know, the more traffic you can drive to the store, resulting in higher pay. This is what drives sign spinners to get better, which can result in pay increases from $10 an hour to a whopping $60 an hour in certain cities, such as Los Angeles where sign spinning has been a paramount form of advertising for years. “For a company, the more I move, the more I get paid,” said Payne, adding his best move is his one-handed cartwheel. “It’s always a crowd pleaser.”

Sign spinners get a lot of different reactions from people driving by as they perform on the street. Some can be quite rude or cast strange looks, but many people seem to enjoy the sign spinners, and this is one aspect of the job Payne said makes it worthwhile. “I’ve gotten all types of reactions. I’ve gotten older gentlemen looking at me like ‘What the…’ and little kids freaking out and screaming, or little smirks from people laughing,” said Payne.

Payne said he has also gotten unexpected reactions from drivers; one in particular, he didn’t mind at all. “The other day a car was driving by and a girl lifted up her shirt,” he said, with a laugh.