How Does the Letter Spacing on Signs with Moveable Letters Get Screwed Up?

Often I’ll drive by one of those signs with the movable letters and see that a new message has been created, with the spacing correctly laid out. Then after a few days or weeks, the spacing goes all squirrely. For example, it’ll start out like

and by the end of the week it looks something like

How do the letters wander around like that? Even if they only sat loosely in their tracks, it doesn’t seem like the wind, or traffic vibrations, would be enough to jostle them around, given that they are pretty stable for at least a few days. And I can’t imagine it is done intentionally; a joker wouldn’t horse around with the spacing, he’d make anagrams like SWILL $2.99 or something.

The answer to this question is probably obvious to someone who has set up a sign like this. I haven’t, and I don’t know how the letters are mounted or moved, so it is a complete mystery to me.

I thought kids did it as minor “vandalism”.

If the letters are similar to the flexible plastic ones I placed 20 years ago when I worked briefly as a car salesman you bend them and they spring into place behind the retaining shelf/ledge of the sign. I never really noticed much letter spacing migration, but over time some regularly used letters get beat or chipped and don’t fit properly. I don’t see it as a big stretch that these less secure letters would wander or blow out entirely in high winds or if the shelf bar is loose.

Never underestimate the cumulative effects of small vibrations.

The letter on tall signs are placed using a telescoping pole with a suction cup at the end. You simply angle the plastic letter into the top of the track, and then let it fall into the lower track. There is plenty of wiggle room, and wind or vibrations certainly can move the letters around.

I hated having to do that when I worked at a Wendy’s many years ago.

Lazy jokers, perhaps - the spacing is the only thing that can be adjusted on those signs without figuring the right way to completely remove a letter from the rack. And some of them around here have grills that you’d need to unlock to remove/add letters, but you can still poke fingers through enough to shove them around.

[sidetrack]I was sent out to do this at the Hardee’s I worked at years ago. Sent out in high winds. The suction cup doesn’t hold a letter too well in such conditions, and a letter popped off while I was trying to angle it in, swooped down, and split my upper lip open from mouth to nostril. Yay! I think I killed a few appetites in the dining room when I walked in, as blood was pouring from the split.[/sidetrack]

The cumulative effect of vibrations is often enough. If you ever stand near one of those signs, you’ll hear/see the thing swaying in very light breezes. The letters are actually pretty loose in the signs to facilitate easy changes using the suction-cup pole, and wind hitting at the right angle can cause the letters to scoot around pretty easily, in addition to vibration-caused shifting.