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On the job, in the groove

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The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States, has been moonlighting as a guerilla marketer in Watertown.

At least that's what you might think if you've driven past the State Street location of Liberty Tax Service during the past three months.

If you have, chances are you've seen Paul K. Crandall, 23, Watertown, decked out in the signature green patina of Lady Liberty and dancing with a large sign.

With tax season rapidly drawing to a close, Mr. Crandall, who prefers classical and techno music as his soundtrack, has his work cut out for him.

“The real big rush is the last three or four days,” said Berle C. Roes, who owns the State Street franchise along with his wife, Cathy W. “That's the panic season.”

Hiring sign wavers to attract customers is one of the principal marketing strategies of Liberty Tax Service, which was founded in 1997 by John Hewitt of Jackson Hewitt fame.

“Our wavers are a key part of our marketing,” said Randall S. Cerone, manager of the State Street location. “They grab your attention. You may not even be thinking about your taxes when you see them, but you know you need to do them. It takes some of the stress off. If you're having a bad day and you see him out there dancing and having a good time, it makes you happy.”

“Gotta make them happy,” Mr. Crandall said.

Mr. Crandall is quiet and reserved. He seems to prefer to express himself non-verbally.

Originally from Syracuse, Mr. Crandall had shaved the initials S.U. into his short hair, showing support for his hometown Syracuse University Orange basketball team as it headed into the NCAA Tournament Final Four on Friday night.

The job allows him to express himself.

“I love it. It gets me going. I get to meet people. ... If someone's having a bad day, I try to make them smile,” he said.

His efforts have captured the attention of many a motorist, bringing several customers into the franchise, according to Mr. Roes.

Some people have even stopped to offer Mr. Crandall coffee, soda, food and gloves in the cold weather.

“It's not the easiest job in the world. Especially during January and February,” Mr. Roes said.

“It can be 10 below and he's still out there,” Mr. Cerone said. “He's the most dedicated waver we've ever had.”

Mr. Crandall said he likes his job because it has a “good atmosphere” and he gets along well with his co-workers.

It is not without its occupational hazards, however. He has occasionally suffered verbal abuse from passersby.

“Sometimes they flip me off,” he said. “I just smile and tell them, 'Have a good day.'”

“That's when we say, 'They're telling you you're number one,'” Mrs. Roes joked.

The Roes's State Street location is in its sixth tax season.

The couple also owns a Liberty Tax franchise on Arsenal Street, one in Evans Mills and one in Gouverneur.

Mr. Cerone said the franchises, which are part of a national chain with 4,000 locations, offer a “laid-back but professional” atmosphere and better accountability than one might find with an online filing program such as TurboTax.

Mr. Roes added, “When you sit down live with a preparer they're asking you probing questions that you might not think of when you're on your computer.”

The busy season for the business is January through April 15, tax day, but locations are open year-round.

In the off-season, the franchises offer tax preparation classes to the public. There's no tuition for courses unless students want to receive college credit, which is available through the University of Phoenix. There is a fee for books that varies from year to year.

The franchise also gets sporadic business during the offseason from soldiers returning from deployments and people who have missed the April 15 deadline and have to file at other times of the year.

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