Bring me your tired, your poor, your receipts and exemptions

Joseph Ritsch

Photo By Tom Angel

Twenty-one-year-old Joseph Ritsch was born in Paradise and raised in Chico and has never been to the Statue of Liberty. That last fact hasn’t stopped him from enthusiastically throwing himself into the larger-than-life role of Lady Liberty herself. You’ve probably seen Ritsch and his fellow young employees decked out in patriotic costumes waving at Mangrove Avenue traffic and handing out 100 Grand candy bars as part of the marketing strategy of a newly opened franchise of Liberty Tax Service, one of the world’s largest tax preparation companies.

How has the promotion been working?

It’s actually working great. … There are a lot of people that are coming in because they’re seeing us out here.

Where’s the giant blow-up Statue of Liberty that used to be here?

That’s only the weekends and Friday.

Didn’t there used to be someone dressed up like Uncle Sam?

Yeah, there’s Uncle Sam’s out here, but we’re short on staff today.

Do you do Uncle Sam too?

Yeah, I’ll dress up as both.

How are passersby responding to you?

People flippin’ me off. There’s people yelling. … Girls blow kisses at me. I’ve seen everything. Somebody was like, “I hate the government today!"—yellin’ out their window. Some people get annoyed having to wave at us every day. … They’re like, “Great, now I have to see that Statue of Liberty guy.” Everybody’s usually pretty friendly around here, though. [A grinning older man in a white pickup with a border collie in the passenger seat drives by and lets out an “ah-ooh-gah!” with his old-fashioned horn.] There’s so many people with that horn around here.

You catch any flak for the Statue of Liberty being French?

No [laughs].

What happens after tax season?

[Pauses.] We go find another job.

Are you having your taxes done here?

No. I actually got my taxes done at Jackson-Hewitt. We get them done for free here, but I wanted the money the next day.