Stop Street Spam!
September 7, 2002 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Stop Street Spam! Roadsides and telephone poles are full of the crap. Matt's link (and the double post) reminded me of something happening in the Austin area. Someone is spray painting "SPAM" over the herbalife and other signs [or painting over or cutting off the phone numbers]. Austin is also recruiting citizens [pdf]to root up these signs. Does your neighborhood have too many of these signs? I'm getting some spray paint and becoming a sign shark..
posted by birdherder (31 comments total)
if you prevent posting on street signs you also prevent people from communicating with the rest of their community
posted by ignu at 12:24 PM on September 7, 2002

I've noticed a definite decrease in the amount of signs around my neighborhood (which is also an industrial park; Burnet/Rutland/Metric area) here in Austin lately.

Local paper (the Statesman) also ran a couple of articles a few months ago about the street spam problem, including a guy who goes around on his own time with his truck and collects the signs to get rid of them.
posted by mrbill at 12:24 PM on September 7, 2002

ignu - "LOSE WEIGHT NOW" or "NEW HOME NO DOWN PAYMENT" is stopping people from communicating? These are the kinds of signs talked about here, the 8.5x11" (or larger) plastic-board-on-a-stick signs most commonly seen at intersections.
posted by mrbill at 12:25 PM on September 7, 2002

don't spray paint- that looks terrible. Just take down the sign, or if that's too much paper to lug around cut off any contact information and leave the sign up.
posted by dogwelder at 12:32 PM on September 7, 2002

If you spray the word spam on the sign, you are really making an ugly sign uglier. Might as well just tear it down.
posted by BentPenguin at 12:33 PM on September 7, 2002

Perhaps an exemption could be made for 'Found/Lost [Insert Pet Here]' signs?
posted by quam at 12:43 PM on September 7, 2002

I found it strangely amusing, when I first noticed it, that most of the wooden telephone poles in Seattle have iron-clad bases, covered with hundreds or thousands of rusting staples, after years of being constantly subjected to signs posted on them.

(Perhaps this is more strange because many more telephone poles in Florida, where I lived for sixteen years prior to moving to Washington, are made of concrete or metal. And few of the wooden ones are so maligned.)
posted by Danelope at 12:45 PM on September 7, 2002

ignu/quam -- I am talking about the commercial signs being planted into the weeds on the sides of the road at major intersections.

Forget for a moment about the content of the signs (although most of them are promoting scams). People using the public right-of-way for their own commercial gain is what I don't like. These signs are essentially litter and sometimes can be a traffic hazard.

If these people want to advertise their goods and services do so where the community has said it is ok (on your own land, or on billboards where permitted).

And BentPenguin, you're right. Defacing the signs doesn't solve the problem. Its original effect on me was to realize that I could do something about the problem.

Personal signs like missing pets and garage sales are fine with me. Most of these people do not plaster the entire city with the signs and take them down when the garage sale is over or the dog/cat is found.
posted by birdherder at 1:05 PM on September 7, 2002

ignu: "if you prevent posting on street signs you also prevent people from communicating with the rest of their community."

Street spamming isn't any more communication to the community than email spam. It's someone out there (usually a charlatan of some sort) metaphorically shouting at whomever may be within earshot (or eyeshot).

It's like someone running into a public place, interrupting whatever's going on, and screaming at stranger's to buy his crap. It's offensive, dishonorable, crude, and part of the reason why some people's faces squinch up like too many lemons when people start whining about a lack of community.

People didn't put bars on their windows cuz they like bars. They did it cuz they didn't like uncouth, offensive, dishonorable people breaking their windows. Street spam discourages community interaction. It helps perpetuate the desire for people not to interact because they just bother one another when they're trying to convince each other to buy this or do that.

Now I AM a hypocrite, cuz personally I don't mind seeing any street spam involving local independent music groups. To me, that's community talk. "MAKE MONEY FAST" is only community talk for me if that's the name of a band.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:05 PM on September 7, 2002

I personally don't have a problem with lost/found pet signs and yard sale signs. It's the people that think they can promote their businesses for free by stapling/gluing/nailing signs to telephone poles, fences and public property. Not only do these signs clutter up our neighborhoods with "spam" but they compete with and in some places completely drown out billboards and other forms of advertising that generate revenue for the neighborhoods in which they are located.

One solution to this problem that I've seen is to erect spots around the city where people can post signage for free or for a very small fee, then outlaw commercial signage in the unauthorized locations. Not only does this clean up our neighborhoods, but it provides community information centers where members of the community can post items of local interest.
posted by fatbobsmith at 1:09 PM on September 7, 2002

Also remember it is a serious safety hazard. Should an utility employee get something caught on a staple or nail on the pole, it could cause him/her to lose their balance and fall.

I really don't think that any signs should be posted randomly, but if you want, call the utility company, tell them you lost your dog, and that you want to post signs on the poles. They could say, "ok, place them on poles 8752225 and 8752236, as they don't contain any major systems."
posted by benjh at 1:48 PM on September 7, 2002

uh, you guys are all kidding, right?
All of 'our' public spaces are filled with legal and paid-for advertisements. We are bombarded with ads everywhere we go. There is a little bit of space, where individuals can tell each other what is going on the the community. You want to take that away? Where else would you hear about local shows or issues? I love that people are spray-painting spam on herbalife signs - that' s funny. That's called culture-jamming. Please don't stop
posted by goneill at 2:00 PM on September 7, 2002

I got sick of the "Needed: 10 People to Lose 30lbs. in a Month" and "Work from Home" signs around Minneapolis. I've never been bothered by the "lost dog," "garage sale," "community picnic" or "Superchunk live at First Avenue" variety of signs, but the silly Herbalife signs were an eyesore, so one day at work I printed a ton of vinyl stickers that read "SCAM" and "- - - -" and placed them over the last four digits of the phone numbers on a number of the Herbalife signs. The funny thing was that they blended in with the signs so well that the signs stayed up for months with the modification. Hopefully it made someone laugh, as I had to chuckle every time I'd drive past one. I visited the above-mentioned link a few months ago and was glad to see that others were had the same sort of thoughts in regards to these signs.
posted by bucko at 2:37 PM on September 7, 2002

Really tho, Goneill has a point. All Advertising is spam, in the end and physical advertising like Lose wieght now signs , are pollution.
posted by BentPenguin at 2:38 PM on September 7, 2002

Well, I guess that's why our signs were taken down for the Book Punk event last week.
posted by animoller at 3:05 PM on September 7, 2002

there was a gentleman out walking his dog this am and he stripped flyers from every pole he passed. granted, i'm not a big fan of the more professional printed carpet and antique sale signs that dot my walkt to work along eigth, but there seems to be something anti community about pulling down garage sales signs and other flyers featuring local events.
posted by heather at 3:48 PM on September 7, 2002

There was a guy who lived on Eastlake Ave in Seattle who used to do that, methodically, a couple of times a week. He would strip down any and all flyers posted along Eastlake.

Now that postering is legal again in Seattle, resulting in lots of new posters returning to their traditional habitat, I suppose he'll be back out doing his thing, if he still lives here.

The interesting thing about the Seattle poster ban is that it didn't seem to stop the Herbalife-type posters. Maybe it slowed them down a bit, though. It sure seemed to kill band posters and non-mainstream political statements that used to be all over the place.
posted by litlnemo at 4:32 PM on September 7, 2002

Wow, I was just about to post the Stranger articles. litlnemo took the words out of my mouth. I'm personally having a lot of fun staplegunning up posters for events I've been putting on. And I think it's ridiculous that it was ever illegal to do.

Of course I agree about the herbalife posters though, I try to take them out on sight.
posted by Slimemonster at 5:06 PM on September 7, 2002

a very funny & well-researched article on Herbalife spammers (and one man's attempt to stop them) by my friend Rob Cockerham is up at
posted by luriete at 5:14 PM on September 7, 2002

there seems to be something anti community about pulling down garage sales signs and other flyers featuring local events.

What, now it's anti-community to want to keep your community looking nice?
posted by kindall at 5:22 PM on September 7, 2002

This is unfair to people like me, who need to lose weight, but don't trust diet plans unless they are stapled to a pole.

My question, though, is this: It's legal to put up posters (here in Seattle), but is it legal to tear them down?
posted by Hildago at 5:23 PM on September 7, 2002

there seems to be something anti community about pulling down garage sales signs and other flyers featuring local events.

I'd agree with you if the same people who put the flyers up would remove them themselves after the event was over, which is rarely the case. When you just put pieces of paper all over the neighborhood without cleaning up after yourself, it's not communication, it's vertical litter.
posted by Hildago at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2002

Maybe I'm in the minority, but in my neighborhood here in Baltimore, the signs on the street poles are pretty useful, often quite creative and even entertaining. Most advertise yard sales, missing pets, concert dates, art shows and even free book givaways. The people posting the signs seem to be able to control themselves as far as overkill is concerned, and staples on poles aren't much of a problem since most of the street light poles and telephone poles are made of metal.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 7:43 PM on September 7, 2002

but in my neighborhood here in Baltimore, the signs on the street poles are pretty useful, often quite creative and even entertaining. Most advertise yard sales, missing pets, concert dates, art shows and even free book givaways.

I love those types of signs and have no problem with them. There are parts of town where those types of signs flourish. I couldn't imagine the drag without signs posted on the light poles.

But in my suburban sprawl part of town there are lots of areas of right of way on the sides of the road where people put signs on sticks and drive it into the ground at the intersections. Then there are well-manicured greenspaces in town that is littered with "We buy houses!" and "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days" type commercialism.
posted by birdherder at 8:16 PM on September 7, 2002

The worst are the "100 signs for $99" signs, the roadside equivalent of email spam offering 750,000 email addresses for sale.
posted by Daze at 8:34 PM on September 7, 2002

In this case, the posting of signs between the sidewalk and street has actually been illegal here (in Austin) for 20 years, it was just never as big a problem as it has been the last few years. These things are seriously sprouting up like weeds everywhere ... even in some pretty sleepy neighborhoods and not just the major intersections and roads. I have even seen some in downtown. They can make a pretty place seem ugly fast, because it isn't just one or two.

I say if you want to advertise your business (or scam) on the side of the road, buy a billboard, don't block the sidewalks. At a busy intersection, I once had to walk out into the street to get around all the signs while crossing the street. That's ridiculous and dangerous.

I'm pretty sure that a few years back they made it illegal to post signs on telephone poles too, or maybe you had to get a permit or something. I can't find any info on it at the moment. No one is saying that you can't post lost pet signs and such. Yes, it's technically still illegal, but around my neighborhood, the commercial signs are getting torn down and everyone is leaving the lost pet type signs up. Garage sale signs have been staying up as well. Personally, the only time I notice a telephone pole is when I want to be sure not to run into it. :D So those signs annoy me less. Those nasty plastic scam spam signs have got to go though.
posted by Orb at 8:36 PM on September 7, 2002

Frankly, I need a job, and if somebody out there is willing to pay me hundreds of dollars a day to work from home, I need to know about it.

Posters are an entirely different animal from the semi-permanent scam signs. One of those is on a telephone pole in the parking lot outside my apartment -- except it's about 12 feet off the ground. I imagine they worked from the top of a truck, and I've often considered working from the top of my truck to rip it down. Anyone ever have luck complaining to the phone company? My city is anal enough about certain things that I'd half expect them to do it if I complained, but they've also failed to do anything about the now-rotten sofabed propped against the factory across the alley.
posted by dhartung at 10:25 PM on September 7, 2002

There are a fair number of these herbalife ads and such along my route to work, however I haven't seen a single one that wasn't ripped in half. Even ones that appear in places I haven't seen them before are torn apart by the time I see them.

posted by CrayDrygu at 10:51 PM on September 7, 2002

The whole poster thing has become so horrible in my neighborhood that it is not worth even trying to advertise a garage sale or anything. People don't vandalize others' posters, they simply cover them up with a different one. Put a flyer up and in about an hour, it will be covered. This holds true for bulletin boards for flyers or should you desire to use a phone phole or the like.

I have mixed feelings about it. One one hand, you can get useful info about local events. On the other hand the postering world has taken on aspects that once were reserved for the grafitti world. It is an urban blight.
posted by lampshade at 9:52 AM on September 8, 2002

"When you just put pieces of paper all over the neighborhood without cleaning up after yourself, it's not communication, it's vertical litter."

this is cole valley - people remove their signage. course, i'd prefer an update to know whether or not fluffy ever did return home.
posted by heather at 10:10 AM on September 8, 2002

Yes, stop street spam, we must preserve the sanctity and beauty of street signage and posts.

please help. preserve the plain.
posted by the_ill_gino at 1:06 PM on September 8, 2002

« Older Top 10 NFL games to watch.   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments