Personal Finance

It's Tax Day, let's party
On April 15, the nation's post offices will be the scenes of protests, parties, and other pizzazz.
April 15, 2004: 1:01 PM EDT
By Gordon T. Anderson, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - If you're one of the millions of Americans who wait until the last minute to file your taxes, you may encounter some obstacles at the post office today.

No sour faces on these lemons  
No sour faces on these lemons

Among them: political protesters, belly dancers, and folks dressed up like giant lemons.

It's tax time again. Across the country, all sorts of people are using April 15 as a day to sell stuff and to say stuff.

In five cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Westin Hotels have rolled out beds onto the sidewalks. Employees in fluffy robes demonstrate the virtues of a cozy night sleep -- either in a hotel or at home, since the chain's beds and linens are for sale. In each city, Westin plans to give away a bed to the last filer on line at a stroke before midnight.

Snapple is a familiar presence on the steps of the main New York City post office on Eighth Avenue. Last year, Snapple's man in the street wore a gorilla costume to hand out some 5,000 bottles of the company's Go Bananas drink, according to Judy Klym, a spokesperson.

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Bananas are off the menu this year, and so is the gorilla. In its place: a group of women dressed up as lemons, handing out samples of the new Super Sour Lemonade.

"Life hands you lemons on Tax Day," said Klym. "We're saying 'Drink lemonade.'"

If lemonade's not to your taste, how about doughnuts? Krispy Kreme is handing out free food as well as discount coupons in Atlanta, Seattle, suburban Detroit, and Kansas City, among a number of other places.

Anti-tax protests

As usual, activists will be out in force, too. The Libertarian Party (LP) will show up at dozens of locations nationwide to promote limited government.

Lines at the post office: a familiar sight for procrastinators  
Lines at the post office: a familiar sight for procrastinators

In Minneapolis, Libertarians will carry signs emblazoned with Donald Trump's picture. The tag line: "You're Fired, but I can't fire the IRS." Protesters there will also hand out $1-million bills, phony notes intended to dramatize the party's point that the federal government spends $1 million every five seconds.

"We wanted to show a sense of humor with a serious spin," said Corey Stern, a member of the Minnesota LP.

Anti-tax protesters -- some dragging balls and chains, others dressed as patriots -- will also be out in Duval County, Fla., according to Doug Klippel, chairman of the Florida LP. "There is even a rumor that Lady Godiva may show up," he said.

Taxes won't be the only item on the political agenda, either.

Gay rights activists are using Tax Day to challenge a proposed amendment to the Constitution, which would explicitly prohibit legal recognition of gay marriages. The group Don't is organizing protests in several cities.

A dirge for the brass band

Why use April 15 as a promo day? No particular reason, other than the fact that people congregating at post offices represent a captive audience. So much the better if marketers can coax a smile out of otherwise grumpy or frazzled filers.

The bed can be yours, if you wait long enough  
The bed can be yours, if you wait long enough

"There's nothing we really want to get out of it, other than to show we're a part of the community," said Krispy Kreme's Amy Hughes.

Events at post offices aren't sponsored by the Postal Service. "A lot of times, people just show up uninvited," said Jim Rock, a spokesman for the USPS in the Chicago area. "My favorite are the Elvis impersonators."

Anyone can just appear -- it's public property, after all -- but logistical issues do arise.

In Idaho, the Boise Philharmonic used to send a brass quintet to serenade filers with funeral dirges and the like. The multi-year tradition ended last year, after Postal Service employees complained that the musicians were getting in the way of taxpayers.

"They moved us to a place across the street, where nobody could hear us," said the orchestra's Tony Boatman. "The only thing we got out of it was five cold musicians."

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Musicians will rock on outside of Washington, D.C., however.

In northern Virginia,"Tax Blues Night" at the Clarendon post office has become an annual ritual, sponsored by the Clarendon Alliance since the mid-1990s.

"Every year, we try to bring a little happiness to people at a trying time," said Sona Virdi, a spokesperson for the group. This year, there will be eight bands, food from local restaurants, and belly dancers.

Belly dancers? It wouldn't be Tax Day without them.  Top of page

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