Robots put Whittier Boulevard sign spinners out of work

Robotic sign dancer on Whittier Boulevard/C.J.Salgado

The ongoing push to  automate and computerize nearly job possible now apparently threatens the living of  “sign spinners”  and “sign dancers” who spend their day on street corners, twirling and tossing signs up into the air to draw attention to insurance agents, beauty salons and other businesses. On Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles, resident and Eastsider contributor C.J. Salgado spotted an automated sign-spinning robot employed to promote an insurance company. Could this mean an end to the human sign spinners of Whittier Boulevard? Says Salgado:

Last year, various businesses like auto insurance firms on the boulevard employed “sign dancers” to promote their services and products.On the intersection of Whittier and Atlantic Boulevards,  for example, sometimes you would see two or three shaking their stuff at once. I felt for them because it was surely hard work, there in the hot sun for hours doing a peculiar sort of Gangnam style-dances that didn’t seem to pay well. But, I thought, at least they had a job.
Nowadays, those courageous dancers have been largely replaced by motorized mannequins! Wow, what’s a poor fellow or gal to do these days to get a semi-decent job? Now, that’s a tough economy!

You can buy a battery-powered, sign-spinning mannequin on ebay for about $800. One company said a robotic sign twirler is “never late and never complains” and replaces “lazy, incompetent sign spinners”


  1. Part of the main reasons you had to hire sign spinners was to take advantage of a loop hole in the law that prohibits businesses from placing signs on the sidewalks. If the sign wasn’t resting on the sidewalk, it wasn’t *technically* illegal. This seems to not fit within that loop hole…

    Hopefully the business owners understand this before investing in one of these robots…

    • Hear, hear… This is a “structure” that is taking up public space for private commercial advertising. Hopefully, one and all will feel free to dismantle, take, or repurpose these obstacles in the public right of way without fear of prosecution.

    • Hah! I would not have thought of that. You are absolutely right. These are resting signs and therefore illegal. Get ’em out of there! (However, I”m also not a fan of seeing grown people dressed as pandas and holding a sign in the heat to make ends meet.)

  2. Two comments:
    1) this should be a wake up call to all of us… if you want a good future, make sure you have skills that are hard to outsource.. whether to a robot or to a foreign country. This doesn’t just apply to low-skill workers. Many good paying software jobs have left the country to India and now China. Get skills that are needed locally.

    2) great applications for robots are dangerous tasks (like bomb sniffing) or repetitive, routine tasks (like manufacturing). Robots don’t require overtime pay, worker’s comp, call in sick or complain much. However, I might argue that sign spinning is not a good application, because a spinning sign itself does not generate interest.. it’s typically the sign spinners with some type of personality and goofy dancing that catch my eye.. 🙂

  3. I’m kind of okay with this. At the end of the 1800s, farming jobs disappeared, and Americans went to work in factories, and around the mid-1900s those jobs disappeared and Americans developed a service sector economy. Automation will now free sign dancers and their talents to other facets of the American economy. We should all greet this worthwhile story with great enthusiasm.

    Also, if the street performers are really interested in maintaining their skills, perhaps one day El Cid will boast not only Flamenco shows, but also sign twirler shows.

    Just my two cents.

    • You are free, sign spinners, go forth and live lives of penury! Really. We mean it. Go.

      If you have no debt and $.02 you are richer than most Americans.

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