The Herald Bulletin

July 2, 2013

Emmett Dulaney: A smile and a wave can sway decisions

By Emmett Dulaney
For The Herald Bulletin

— When you think about it, two of the most important decisions you can make that you don’t deal with on a daily basis are: who to trust to file your income taxes for you and who to appraise/sell grandma’s treasured ring set to. Those are both areas that the majority of individuals have very little experience with and want, above many other factors, to find someone who will be friendly with them and help them get it over with as quickly as possible.

Given that, it is interesting to note that both the cash-for-gold industry and tax preparation agencies are among the largest employers of individuals who wear sandwich boards and wave at vehicles along busy roads. Quantitatively, there are not that many individuals driving around with a car full of gold just wishing they could find someone standing beside the road in a superhero costume to help point them in the right direction where they might get a fair price for it. Likewise, I can’t imagine anyone making a decision about where to go to file their income taxes based on whether it is Lady Liberty, a Monopoly man, or an Uncle Sam waving to cars at the side of the road and talking on their cellphones.

The simple gesture of waving implies friendliness and it is contagious. Try not to wave back when someone is waving at you and you’ll find that there is an impulse there that is hard to resist. When he became ill, my father used to park his lawn chair at the end of his driveway and wave at the cars that went by even though he knew no one in them. I thought it kooky and wanted nothing to do with it, but for months after he passed away, strangers who had never spoken to him would stop at the house and ask where he was; they missed his being there when they rounded the corner and headed for home.

It is my assertion that an economic value can be associated with waving and that is why the aforementioned businesses employ them. It may sound preposterous, but I wonder what would happen if it were taken to a grander scale? What would be the result if a city were to station people at exit ramps with panhandlers, there were greeters? How would visitors react if residents along the road did nothing more than smiled and waved at them when potential businesses came to tour the city? Making a decision about where to (re)locate a business is a lot like trying to decide who to trust to file your income taxes or sell those treasured heirlooms to – it is not something you do every day and a little warmth from a wave can stand out in a world in which it has become so rare.

Emmett Dulany is the author of several books on technology and an Anderson resident. His column appears Tuesdays.