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Robocalls versus illegal street signs

I so love this.

The cheap signs smashed into lawns and along the corners of busy intersections are hard to miss. “We Buy Junk Cars!” ”Cash for Your House!” ”Computer Repair.” The eyesores have vexed Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober for the past few years as he wastes valuable resources plucking up the signs only to watch them pop up in even greater numbers.

While stopped at a red light a few months ago, Bober studied the unsightly signs and came to a realization that would help him fight their proliferation: The criminals had left their calling cards in the form of business phone numbers.

“These people want us to call them, so let’s call them so much their head spins,” said Bober, who bought a $300 software program in March that makes robocalls to the businesses. The volume of calls has reached as high as 20 calls each to 90 businesses in a day.

The signs are eye-catching and cheap, and businesses place them mostly along the sidewalks and medians of high-traffic intersections where there are no homeowners to complain. Companies can blanket an area with signs for a few hundred dollars and have been emboldened to continue because there have been virtually no consequences.

To city officials, the signs are costly litter that require city workers to pick them up. Posting them is also a crime, a relatively minor offense that carries fines of up to $250 in Hollywood.

Officials in Hollywood had struggled with how to discipline the companies because they are sometimes based in another state where they don’t have jurisdiction.

That’s Hollywood, FL, by the way, not California. Apparently, the Mayor’s crusade against this visual blight has been successful: The robocalls have led to a 90% reduction in the number of signs on the streets. The robocalls leave pre-recorded messages – in this case, announcing that the signs are illegal and that the calls will continue until someone comes down to city hall and pays a fine for them. Only seven such companies have actually done that, so I presume the others have stopped putting more signs out, which seems to me to be enough of a win to make this worthwhile. Some other Florida cities have tried this as well. I’m thinking Houston might want to take a look and see if it might be worth the effort.

One more thing:

South of Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale officials are also struggling with signs that littered a busy intersection advertising child support reductions and credit repairs, including a sign from Caravan Credit Services.

But company officials said they didn’t order the sign spam.

“It must have been an old sign. We stopped doing that,” said Ross Linthicum, executive vice president of the Houston-based company. “A couple of salesmen took it upon themselves to do that. … You do get people that still go out there and do it, but it’s in our paperwork not to do it.”

Mm hmm. This is what’s now known in the industry as the Eric Dick defense. It wasn’t me that put up those signs, it was my overzealous supporters who did this entirely on their own without my knowledge or consent. Blame them, not me.

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2 Comments

  1. Jj says:

    Hear, hear!

  2. EdT. says:

    Were I to go out and post a bunch of sign spammage on “behalf” of my employer, I suspect their response would be along the lines of

    “We didn’t authorize this. One of our overzealous employees did this without our knowledge or approval, and his employment with our company has been terminated. For cause.”

    ~EdT.