"I can't afford to buy groceries..."
February 20, 2016 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Dear Jeremy... starts the open letter from [former] customer service representative Talia Jane to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, highlighting her inability to live in the San Francisco's Bay Area on the wages paid by Yelp subsidiary Eat24.

Amongst Talia Jane's complaints:
Did I tell you that an employee at CVS overheard my phone call with my manager and then gave me, straight from his wallet, the six dollars I needed to drive into work

I make $8.15 an hour after taxes. I also have to pay my gas and electric bill. Last month it was $120. According to the infograph on PG&E’s website, that cost was because I used my heater. I’ve since stopped using my heater.

Maybe instead, you can let customers choose a donation amount during checkout and divide those proceeds among your employees who spend more than 60% of their income on rent? The ideal percent is 30%. As I said, I spend 80%. What do you spend 80% of your income on? I hear your net worth is somewhere between $111 million and $222 million. That’s a whole lotta rice.
After posting her open letter, Talia Jane was summarily let go from Eat24:
UPDATE: As of 5:43pm PST, I have been officially let go from the company.
Stoppelman replied a short time later with a string of tweets, including:

3/5 I've not been personally involved in Talia being let go and it was not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me.
Comments summarily explode, from the supportive to the critical.
posted by nickrussell (444 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me.

it's the kind of company where employment is so precarious that they can always find another reason to fire you.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:37 PM on February 20, 2016 [82 favorites]


'She wasn't fired for posting her living-wage letter publicly, she was fired because we are moving her job to a right to work state.'
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:38 PM on February 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


I read this last night. The whole thing is disgusting, especially his response. " Welp, cost of living is too high so I've been helping via lobbying and taking these kinds of jobs away entirely." Not surprising that a company who thinks $8/hr is acceptable would completely miss the point of someone trying to explain in a basic way why this is not sustainable for anyone. He literally thinks that the Bay Area is some blessed place where only high-paid people deserve to be.
posted by bleep at 1:39 PM on February 20, 2016 [27 favorites]


Some of her points are better than others, but even the most self-absorbed moments in her letter pale in comparison to the ludicrously point-missing response from Stoppleman:
1/5 Late last night I read Talia's medium contribution and want to acknowledge her point that the cost of living in SF is far too high.
Cost of living in the Bay Area is pretty goddam ridiculous, but her point (which Stoppleman has utterly failed to grasp) was not about how much shit costs, but about the fact that his shitty company fails to pay a living wage.
posted by dersins at 1:41 PM on February 20, 2016 [94 favorites]


it was not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me.

Yeah, pull the other one.

In my opinion, whatever other issues are involved in this, there is one basic, profound root cause of the affordability problem (and it's not a 12.25 minimum wage, which I think is low but within shooting distance of what I consider to be a generally acceptable $15 minimum wage): it's the SF/Bay Area laws that prevent high density/high rise development. In not wanting to turn into Manhattan on the Pacific, they've actually ended up making the bay area much, much worse.
posted by chimaera at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2016 [53 favorites]


We need a Living Wage amendment added to our Constitution. Kudos to Talia Jane. I hope everything will ultimately work out in her favor.
posted by pjsky at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


Good comment on the "critical" response:
If no one had ever bitten the hand that feeds us, we’d all still be working 80 hours a week in the coal mines, spending our script at the company store and begging for an opportunity to work for subsistence wages.
posted by fatbird at 1:46 PM on February 20, 2016 [190 favorites]


it was not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me.

Yeah, pull the other one.


He is probably not trying to pull your leg. The more likely explanation is "I am in such total and complete denial that I am incapable of telling myself the truth and incapable of recognizing how ludicrous this will sound to other people. I simply expect them to believe me, since I am rich and in charge of most of the people I interact with, so none of them dare criticize me. I mean, hey, you see what it got this woman, right? Thus, I am surrounded by Yes Men and completely out of touch with actual reality. You couldn't pipe Reality into my stratospheric business version of an ivory tower if my life depended upon it. TRUST ME! I AM RICHER THAN GOD!"
posted by Michele in California at 1:51 PM on February 20, 2016 [45 favorites]


Unfortunately the Internet only gives sympathy to men who are denied their entitlements and privilege. Everyone else shall be judged harshly and forced to endure endless mansplaining.
posted by humanfont at 1:54 PM on February 20, 2016 [34 favorites]


"Late last night I read Talia's medium contribution and want to acknowledge her point that the cost of living in SF is far too high."

If I recall Psych 101 correctly, this is known as "confirmation bias", or "I recognize that there is a problem, and that it has nothing to do with me."
posted by crazylegs at 1:54 PM on February 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


It's madness to have basic CSRs living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, but yeah, she's pretty naïve. It's foolish to think that one is going to get a high paid job posting clever tweets and memes and foolish to move someplace without determining if one can afford to live there. She's not a working class hero, she's a special snowflake literally complaining that her CEO doesn't follow her on Twitter.

Living wage is totally an issue, but there are far better voices that speak to the issue without all the entitlement.
posted by Candleman at 1:57 PM on February 20, 2016 [50 favorites]


Look, everyone deserves a living wage, but "I was told I’d have to work in support for an entire year before I would be able to move to a different department." Cry me a river.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:00 PM on February 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


She was naive to take that job. However, the blame for the scam she got caught up in should be laid at the feet of the scammers, not the victim of the scam.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:03 PM on February 20, 2016 [86 favorites]


Cry me a river.

you are totally going to get that Cadillac El Dorado.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:06 PM on February 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


These companies need to realize that the Bay Area isnt able to solve its housing shortage and cost of living problem. They should not be expanding their footprint there. Yelp could relocate these jobs to Sacramento and their staff would see their cost of living drop 50%.
posted by humanfont at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2016 [16 favorites]


Not looking to threadsit here, but what (for me) makes this post interesting are the facts that:

1) She had a minimum wage job and was either 'bait and switched' or not
2) With that minimum wage job, she had comparatively good health care/benefits
3) Yelp was already planning to move customer service work to Arizona
4) Stoppelman is both revered and embattled
5) Yelp's CFO resigned a week ago
6) She's running a self-funding campaign around all of this...

"Income inequality", or Techtanic sinking?
posted by nickrussell at 2:09 PM on February 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


It can't be both?
posted by selfnoise at 2:14 PM on February 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


We need a Living Wage amendment added to our Constitution.

Landlords will take every penny of that "Living Wage"

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=3wAn

well, per that graph maybe not all of it, but housing/transportation is the issue here, not wages.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 2:18 PM on February 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


To the typical Silicon Valley tech-bro-dude, property rights are the only rights that matter.
posted by klanawa at 2:21 PM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


There was an article (lost now) that said SF tech bubble essential converts VC dollars into rent – both office and residential. That as investors threw money into tech, both office and home rents rose so that the biggest cash beneficiaries were not the founders nor the employees, but the landlords...
posted by nickrussell at 2:22 PM on February 20, 2016 [31 favorites]


Another day, another thread about the perils of Bay Area living. I wonder how many more it's gonna take to convince me to break my inertia, pack my shit, and move.

Hopefully I'll still have a couple bucks left by then.
posted by delight at 2:23 PM on February 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


Hopefully I'll still have a couple bucks left by then.

Come to dark side Central Valley. It is far cheaper, but still has lots of the things about California that I love.
posted by Michele in California at 2:25 PM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


She gets out of college and takes a minimum wage job in the most expensive city in America. She's puzzled and upset when this doesn't work out to her satisfaction.

Talia, don't be mad at the CEO. Be mad at the string of relatives, friends, teachers and professors that all failed to arm you with sufficient critical-thinking skills to recognize that this is a terrible idea.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:26 PM on February 20, 2016 [64 favorites]


She also seems to have her own apartment (granted, 30 miles from the city), which is unheard of when you're young in most cities.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:28 PM on February 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


Yelp is the worst fucking company. God, I hate them.

I own a small record shop in Toronto and had all 5-star reviews. I then moved my store 10 minutes away and changed the address on Yelp. All was good until "Eric from Yelp" called and noticed that I'd moved and "wouldn't you like to buy some ads to promote your new location".

"No thanks. All is cool."

A week later he calls back and says, "You sure? It'd be good to have some reviews on a new store." I tell him I have good reviews already. "No," he says. "Go look while I have you on the phone."

And of course I do and Yelp has "deleted" my page and put a banner saying "This store has recently moved. Here's a link to their new profile." And of course the new profile -- they transferred my address, hours, photos, etc., but not my reviews.

I told him to go fuck himself.

Customers have since left all 5-star reviews on the new profile. Each one sticks around for a day or two and then gets buried due to their "algorithm".

In short, Yelp are a bunch of extortionist dicks -- shakedown artists to be blunt.

I read this open letter earlier today and wasn't surprised by any of it.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 2:30 PM on February 20, 2016 [343 favorites]


She also seems to have her own apartment (granted, 30 miles from the city), which is unheard of when you're young in most cities.

Personally I found the cat confusing. As far as I am aware, cats are not fond of rice, nor freezing temperatures.
posted by nickrussell at 2:31 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yelp is a scam anyway. Stop using them.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:32 PM on February 20, 2016 [15 favorites]


San Francisco's minimum wage is well over $8.15. It's $12.25 & will increase to $13 in July. Isn't this a San Francisco company? Or is it on the peninsula? Or did she mean net take-home?
posted by janey47 at 2:33 PM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Part of me was cynically thinking "Way to turn your shitty job into a media fundraising opportunity, girl," and also "How many other people are so used to this shit they wouldn't even think to complain, but you are privileged enough to do so, and therefore people pay attention, and that's just why this country makes me angry."

On the other hand, I find "pfft, stop whining" to be less constructive than asking "Does this person, however annoying, have a point? Is this in fact, crazy?"

In this case, even if she's a little naive/whiny, she has a point. You can't live on what businesses in the SF area pay, but they still expect you to live there if you want to work for them. Same in many other cities. What can be done about this? What should be done?
posted by emjaybee at 2:34 PM on February 20, 2016 [33 favorites]


She gets out of college and takes a minimum wage job in the most expensive city in America. She's puzzled and upset when this doesn't work out to her satisfaction.

Talia, don't be mad at the CEO. Be mad at the string of relatives, friends, teachers and professors that all failed to arm you with sufficient critical-thinking skills to recognize that this is a terrible idea.


The people who lack critical thinking skills are the ones who think that it is acceptable for this circumstance to even exist. It is deeply immoral to pay workers so little that there are cities in the country where they just can't afford to live, and the blame for that situation is one hundred percent on the money-grubbing thieves that perpetuate it both from the immorally low wages end and the immorally high rents end, not on the people being robbed.

But congratulations on being so eager to be part of the problem, I guess.
posted by IAmUnaware at 2:35 PM on February 20, 2016 [242 favorites]


Nice ____ you have there, it'd be a shame if anything happened to it.

That's Yelp's business model. Of course they fired her.
posted by adept256 at 2:35 PM on February 20, 2016 [48 favorites]


It is deeply immoral to pay workers so little that there are cities in the country where they just can't afford to live, and the blame for that situation is one hundred percent on the money-grubbing thieves that perpetuate it both from the immorally low wages end and the immorally high rents end, not on the people being robbed.

Maybe so (on the immorality), but this is not unique to Yelp, or San Francisco. This young woman has a car, a credit card, her own apartment, and a college degree. She didn't have to take that job.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:38 PM on February 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


IMO the following comments are hateful and toxic.

she's running a self funding campaign
The tired old "professional victim" attack. How dare this woman ask people for money.

she's a special snowflake
The old "toughen up kid, or I'll give you something to cry about. Who are you to decide when her suffering is enough to complain? Are you jealous the attention she's received. Or are you angered that se dares to have hopes and dreams of making it big in the Bay Area tech scene?
posted by humanfont at 2:39 PM on February 20, 2016 [80 favorites]


This young woman has a car, a credit card, her own apartment, and a college degree. She didn't have to take that job.

I would say that the apartment, paying for that degree, car, and credit card *are* the reasons she had to take that job. I'm sure if a better one had been available, she would have taken that one.

Reality is, when created the Minimum Wage was intended to be a living wage to stabilize the economy. The solution is simple to make it a living wage again.
posted by mikelieman at 2:41 PM on February 20, 2016 [52 favorites]


It's possible to think there should be a living wage and think this girl is a special snowflake.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:44 PM on February 20, 2016 [18 favorites]


It is deeply immoral to pay workers so little that there are cities in the country where they just can't afford to live

If it's deeply immoral, then it's happening in virtually every single city on the planet. Don't you notice the mass transit systems and roads and stuff developed so people can work and live where they want and need to?

Deeply immoral? That's "old man yells at cloud" territory.

Popular places are expensive and entry level jobs don't pay well because they don't generate much value. This is the first day syllabus in an Econ 101 class.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:53 PM on February 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


Talia, don't be mad at the CEO. Be mad at the string of relatives, friends, teachers and professors that all failed to arm you with sufficient critical-thinking skills to recognize that this is a terrible idea.

the funny thing is that 40 years ago, dudes like you would be taking a puff on their cigars and saying, "son, I took a job in mailroom and put my nose down and worked my way to the where I am today!" but now it's just "sucker!"

you're maybe gonna get the steak knives, but not the caddy.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:59 PM on February 20, 2016 [105 favorites]


Who are you to decide when her suffering is enough to complain?

To post a public letter is to invite commentary and response. To be blunt, I have the talent, skills, and connections to make it in the SF tech scene (and a ton of privilege that made that possible) and choose not to, in part because the cost of living there is so insane. Instead I chose to work for a company that is based in medium to low cost of living areas and in fact makes a point to try to provide decent jobs in areas that need them. But we don't pay six figure sums to people to post tweets.

And that's ultimately part of the answer - getting good jobs to where people can afford to live. There will always be desirable areas that working class people have trouble surviving in. The answer is not to merely pump up wages, because as others have noted, in space constrained, high demand areas, landlords will expand rents to take it.

She's welcome to aspire to whatever she wants, but if she doesn't have the skills to back it up, that's entitlement. Expectations have to be reasonable.
posted by Candleman at 3:01 PM on February 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


I've never been to San Francisco, but it confuses me how the same thing is happening in this country. Places like London, Cambridge, Manchester and to a lesser extent Leeds are overheating - there are more jobs than they can fill, there are more people moving there than they can house and costs are rising fast. That's without even starting to mention the pressure on infrastructure, transport, traffic and so on in these areas.

My sister has a good, well-paid professional healthcare job in a major city and whenever she goes to view an apartment, there is a parade of others in and out of the door and constant competition. When she went to the estate agents to sign up to pay £675 a month for a one-bedroom flat, she was asked "Is that all you're offering? We've got a couple willing to go £725." This was for a rented flat. Meanwhile, there are large parts of the country struggling to make ends meet with a dearth of jobs and rows of empty houses.

We're in a technological situation where a lot of jobs, especially office and tech jobs, can physically be done from pretty much anywhere. So why is this work concentrated in a few very expensive cities where workers are having to battle for something as basic as a place to live? Why are company bosses going "I know, we'll base our business in this really expensive and overheated city" rather than going "we can get cheaper office space and lower our costs by basing ourselves in Middlesbrough or Barnsley"? Is it the prestige of having your company based in a fashionable city, or something else? I genuinely don't know.
posted by winterhill at 3:06 PM on February 20, 2016 [41 favorites]


She's welcome to aspire to whatever she wants, but if she doesn't have the skills to back it up, that's entitlement. Expectations have to be reasonable.

I suppose this could apply to all the people who teach school and make coffee and cook food and clean buildings and have the nerve to want to do those jobs without having to commute from Stockton.

Sometimes, the fact that someone can't take the heat is not because they are whiny entitled babies but because the whole damn block is on fire. It's a sign of systemic corruption and not individual weakness that is easily solved with handy bootstraps. We would rather pretend it's the latter, of course, because then that means it can never happen to those of us who got the right educations and training - we're too special for bad things to happen to!
posted by rtha at 3:17 PM on February 20, 2016 [165 favorites]


There will always be desirable areas that working class people have trouble surviving in.
I mean, you can feel sympathy for this particular person or not, but fuck. that. shit. There is no reason to accept that there will be places where working-class people have trouble surviving.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:20 PM on February 20, 2016 [77 favorites]


She's welcome to aspire to whatever she wants, but if she doesn't have the skills to back it up, that's entitlement. Expectations have to be reasonable.

Third prize is you're fired.

No really, unless you make it to the top of your pyramid someone is eventually going to decide you are too expensive, even for wherever you live.

There will always be desirable areas that working class people have trouble surviving in.

So, there are areas that don't have any working class jobs that need to be done? See you have this idea that "working class" jobs are just a cost on your business rather than one of the foundations of your business. The people who work these jobs have to have the "reasonable" expectation of working for whatever wage you set and getting fired when it's convenient for the company. What you don't realize is that you are expendable too.

Good luck!
posted by ennui.bz at 3:21 PM on February 20, 2016 [52 favorites]


Good message, bad messenger. I really can't go along with "the invisible people who refill the snacks in my office -- those lucky duckies get holidays and weekends off!" I'll bet you dollars to donuts those workers don't get to eat the snacks they fill the fridges with, the way she does. I'm guessing that, unlike her, they don't have health insurance (though kudos to Yelp if I'm wrong about this.)
posted by escabeche at 3:28 PM on February 20, 2016 [16 favorites]


Also, her math is very bad. If they save $24,000 every two months by not having coconut water (which presumably some people actually do want) that doesn't translate into $24,000 extra annual salary for her, unless they only have six employees in the call center, which I doubt.
posted by escabeche at 3:29 PM on February 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


I absolutely want teachers and other physically necessary jobs to be able to afford to live everywhere. That's why I'm opposed to putting jobs like this in San Francisco, as having more people move there to do jobs that can be done anywhere makes the problem worse.
posted by Candleman at 3:30 PM on February 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


Finally: let us not forget the part of the argument that goes "I'm not being paid what I'm worth. When I first got here, I offered reimbursement to every customer Yelp screwed over, and that was pretty expensive. Now I'm much better at my job; I only reimbursed $15 over 3 months, and all the other screwed-over customers went uncompensated!"
posted by escabeche at 3:32 PM on February 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


I can't see how any of us has enough information about her, her life, or her options to fairly pass judgement on her for taking this job.
posted by sallybrown at 3:36 PM on February 20, 2016 [40 favorites]


or her options to fairly pass judgement

ye olde INTP/INTJ divide . . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 3:40 PM on February 20, 2016


Jane is 25 years old and was raised in an environment that made her suicidal, which is to point out she likely does not have a very strong support network.

Her former employer does not value CSRs enough to pay them a Bay Area living wage (Jane made $12/hr plus benefits).

Yes, her naiveté did not allow her to see that people who write reasonably well (which she does) won't necessarily make bank tweeting on behalf of a tech company, nor did her naiveté empower her to realistically assess the likelihood of someone possessed of her skills (Lit major, smart enough to save employer small bits of money [$24K in two months which she naively believes is even noticeable to a company like Yelp]), etc etc. wet behind the ears.

Sure.

But why *shouldn't* she and many thousands like her be able to come to a city like, I don't know, San Francisco to take a job with a company that is headquartered there and earn enough to live?

It is the company's fault that their SF-based employees do not make enough to live in SF/Oakland (at the bare level of subsistence) and this is immoral.

The company is moving their CSR operations to Arizona and, hopefully, will pay those representatives enough to live, but I'm skeptical.

Blaming people or holding them in contempt for not being perfectly-informed and rationally-acting agents in the free market of Bay Area labor is spite, plain and simple. Such expression is rooted on self- and other loathing and is a step (if even) from blaming her for being victimized by an imperfect and seeemingly-at-times-malevolent system of capital.

So Jane is youthful and not worldy wise. She got screwed and now has to scramble.

Yelp and many other employers extract value from some of their employees to the extent that those employees are grossly exploited. At the low end of the wage spectrum, such exploitation is immoral.

This is a situation that ought to be corrected. Telling people, even young greenhorns like Jane, that they shoulda oughta thunk it through better is spiteful and unhelpful. What would help is employers paying their employees and contracted laborers a living wage.

San Francisco, included.
posted by mistersquid at 3:41 PM on February 20, 2016 [95 favorites]


I remember doing first level telephone tech support in 1990 for more than she was getting paid as a CSR in 2016. (And my rent for a room in a shared house in Seattle was $175 + utilities.) Admittedly there might have been slightly more tech knowledge required for tech support than what she was doing for Eat24. But it was still basically entry level and did not require a college degree. These low wages are simply appalling.
posted by litlnemo at 3:48 PM on February 20, 2016 [17 favorites]


From today's San Francisco Chronicle: In moneyed Marin County, demand grows for food bank’s services:
According to the Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, inequality has increased more rapidly in the Bay Area since 1989 than in California or the nation — and Marin is leading the way. It has the highest disparity between rich and poor in the Bay Area, a yawning gap of $397,296 annually between the average among the top and bottom 20 percent of earners.

San Francisco, with a gap of $300,000, ties for second in that distinction with San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
That, right there, sums up the problem. You can donate or sign up to volunteer at the SF-Marin Food Bank over here.
posted by zachlipton at 3:53 PM on February 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


I can't wait to see what SF is like, and how much tech workers like it, when all service workers get priced out of the city and Whole Foods can't hire a cheese monger who won't commute for two hours.
posted by supercres at 3:54 PM on February 20, 2016 [34 favorites]


She got screwed and now has to scramble.

"Got screwed" = wrote an open letter to her employer on the internet?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:58 PM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Whole Foods can't hire a cheese monger who won't commute for two hours.

some techbro will disrupt monging by encouraging everyone to stop washing their feet and enjoy their own foot cheese products instead. there will be a mefi thread on making grilled cheese sandwiches out of that artisanal bay area foot cheese and people who are repulsed by the idea will be accused of cryptofootist attitudes. an angry meta will be posted on whether or not something with an absence of dairy products can even be called "cheese" to begin with. a handful of vegan mefites will button over a side argument about daiya vs cashew cheese.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:59 PM on February 20, 2016 [29 favorites]


I remember doing first level telephone tech support in 1990 for more than she was getting paid as a CSR in 2016.

Agreed. I got paid more as a headhunter, with no specialized skills whatsoever, in 1999-2002. Complaining about how personally inferior this woman might be to all of us who were smart enough to be born way earlier is a distraction from the fact that ENTRY LEVEL WAGES ARE APPARENTLY THE SAME AS THEY WERE 30 YEARS AGO. There's no possible way that that is okay.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:05 PM on February 20, 2016 [164 favorites]


I remember that UPS used to run ads in the college newspaper in the mid-80s promising $15/hr. They were still running essentially the same ads, with the same promised wage, last time I looked a couple of years ago.

For that matter, I worked for Domino's for a couple of years before I got that tech support job, and their help wanted sign said drivers could earn $8-10 hr. They were still promising that same possibility years later, just about until the minimum wage in Seattle passed it by. (What, were people tipping less? Because that $8-10 was mostly from tips, not from wages. But I digress. )
posted by litlnemo at 4:13 PM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think guys like this watched the Simpsons episode with the promotional video for Cypress Creek where the homeless man turns into a mailbox and based their ideals of urban planning on it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:16 PM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, Jane was fired because Yelp relocated their CSR operations to Arizona. That was going to happen regardless of the letter.

I'd like to think better of you, roomthreeseventeen, but you seem to be saying that if she had been fired as retaliation for penning an open letter that it would have been her fault.

Do you think she is at fault for what happened to her?

(by which I mean being fired)
posted by mistersquid at 4:23 PM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't know. My first full time job out of college was a similar sort of CSR job in the Bay Area where my salary barely broke the 20K mark. I didn't have a lot of bargaining power because, frankly, if I quit the company could have pretty much grabbed any semi-literate person who happened to walk by the building to replace me since it wasn't a job that required a lot of unique skills. This attitude of the author, which reads to me as, "Hey, CEO, you have a lot of money, so why not just be benevolent and pay a big salary for unskilled, easily replaceable, entry-level positions out of the kindness of your heart" just seems extraordinarily naive.

It's also hard for me to get outraged over her losing her job over this, considering I imagine I would suffer the exact same fate if I wrote up a blog post where I mentioned the owner of the company I work for by name in a post mostly about how awful he is.
posted by The Gooch at 4:26 PM on February 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


Sorry, I misunderstood the circumstances.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:26 PM on February 20, 2016


This is the first day syllabus in an Econ 101 class.

"Whatever is, is right."
posted by praemunire at 4:43 PM on February 20, 2016 [17 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, Jane was fired because Yelp relocated their CSR operations to Arizona. That was going to happen regardless of the letter.
posted by mistersquid at 4:23 PM on February 20 [+] [!]


Where are you getting this from? I haven't read through all the related tweets, but from Jane's follow up to the Medium piece I'm not getting this impression.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:43 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't know. My first full time job out of college was a similar sort of CSR job in the Bay Area where my salary barely broke the 20K mark.

Just, y'know, out of curiosity, what year was that? Because it sounds like her salary is roughly the same (if she's taking home $8.15 / hour, her annual salary is probably somewhere in the vicinity of 24K). Good thing Bay Area rents haven't risen since whenever it was you were making about the same amount of money.
posted by dersins at 4:45 PM on February 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


The CEO said in his tweets that they were planning to move the operation to AZ -- I didn't get the impression that was the immediate cause for Jane getting fired. It sounded to me as if that would be happening in the future.
posted by litlnemo at 4:53 PM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


The other thing is that there's absolutely no way to deal with a rent increase when you're paying 80% of your income as rent. If you're spending 33% of your income on rent (yeah right!), it's possible, albeit painful, to absorb a rent increase by economizing elsewhere. But when 80% of your income goes to rent, any rent increase, even a small one if you're lucky enough to benefit from rent control, not somehow offset by a rise in income is going to be the end of you. And trying to move farther away to make up for it will cost you even more in both moving and transportation costs.
posted by zachlipton at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


I didn't have a lot of bargaining power because, frankly, if I quit the company could have pretty much grabbed any semi-literate person who happened to walk by the building to replace me since it wasn't a job that required a lot of unique skills..

She explicitly states that her job was NOT this type of job. What she says is that the more she was on the job the better she got at resolving issues without throwing the company's money away. She explicitly states that it would be in the company's best interest to pay employees enough money to buy their own groceries instead of trying to feed them junky snacks. In no way is she ever looking for a handout. Every thing she's asking for would directly benefit the company.

Sorry if she's not coming off as sympathetic but I think she only looks badly to people who are not actually listening to what she's actually saying. Instead you are applying your own biases based on what things were like when you were coming up in the 80s. It's not the 80s anymore and there are very few jobs that can run effectively with any old warm body being swapped out weekly.
posted by bleep at 5:15 PM on February 20, 2016 [58 favorites]


but you seem to be saying that if she had been fired as retaliation for penning an open letter that it would have been her fault.

Yeah no matter what this is a super fucked up message and I don't even know how anyone could defend it. She didn't write about "how awful" the CEO was either. On balance I'm on the side that the biggest problem here is Bay Area housing costs, and she's pretty naive about stuff but for fuck's sake you shouldn't get fired for that.
posted by atoxyl at 5:19 PM on February 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


She couldn't afford to live without roommates. She could and should have known that she couldn't afford that rent when she signed the lease. Or she should have rented out a room or even a couch if she had to. It's unreasonable to expect to afford life without roommates in San Francisco while working in a call center on minimum wage. I don't blame them for firing her for her online attention seeking either. Whatever
posted by knoyers at 5:49 PM on February 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yelp could relocate these jobs to Sacramento and their staff would see their cost of living drop 50%.

For the life of me I don't understand why large tech companies don't routinely have satellite offices in places with non-terrible costs of living, housing costs and commute time. There must be hundreds of thousands of very capable, very experienced programmers, designers and everything else who would love to get out of the tech hubs and into somewhere semi-sane where they could have a nice, affordable, balanced life. A sort of tech semi-retirement community? Don't pay them as much, don't work them as hard, keep them employed past 50+, let them enjoy their lives, see their kids grow up, and get some solid-but-maybe-not-crazily innovative work out of them?

I know this is a million miles away from the American Tech Dream, or whatever, but it's the sort of disruption I could get behind.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:03 PM on February 20, 2016 [39 favorites]


Like, it's easy to see why this is bringing out the crab-bucket thinking ("she's complaining about a $20 copay when she has better benefits than 95% of people?") or the... taking potshots at another person's life decisions so as to reassure yourself that you are better off in that regard. But her situation is symptomatic of something being wrong, and it's not like she was even really trashing her employer.
posted by atoxyl at 6:06 PM on February 20, 2016 [45 favorites]


Why should we give an employer a pass for firing an employee that complains about work conditions? She's not a salaried PR worker; they're not paying for silence. Call me crazy, but I'd prefer a society where we don't assume a job requires forelock-tugging deference on your off hours.
posted by The Gaffer at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2016 [93 favorites]


This thread's popcorn is delicious. I'm having to reconcile and walk back a few presumptions with which I've become comfortable.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 6:26 PM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


As someone only slightly older than the letter's author who graduated into the Great Recession, I totally get the impulse to pick apart her story. Initially I found myself asking why she lived alone, what she was doing in an area with such a high cost of living (unlike my city, with my steal of a one bedroom apartment), why she believed the carrot of a real social media job dangled just out of reach.

But then I thought about a program I just heard about in my field. I'm getting close to graduating nursing school, and one of the most prestigious hospitals near me has an entry-level "residency" for new grads. You're paid much lower than average entry-level nursing wages for my area, you get no benefits, no paid leave of any kind, brutal hours with almost no scheduling flexibility. But if you make it through that year, you may get a "real" nursing job at that hospital, with all the associated benefits. Maybe, if you're lucky. Apparently the residency program bleeds people pretty fast and over-hires specifically so they can cull the ranks.

And this is nursing. One of those solid professions that everyone encourages folks like me and Talia to gravitate towards. One of the last bastions of widespread living wages.

I'm not going to rush to write Talia off as entitled, because the same folks that created her minimum-wage job are coming for my industry too. Hell, they're probably coming for yours too. Wringing our collective hands over who makes a perfect messenger for the cause of living wages is, ironically, distracting from the problem of wages creeping down or stagnating around us every day.
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:44 PM on February 20, 2016 [153 favorites]


why large tech companies don't routinely have satellite offices in places with non-terrible costs of living, housing costs and commute time

Google has a handful.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:55 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean I guess this is why our country is in the state it's in. People really think wanting to craft your future, work a decently skilled job and not starve are too much to ask? I hope none of you are elected officials.
posted by bleep at 6:59 PM on February 20, 2016 [48 favorites]


I hope none of you are elected officials

Nope. But Fiorina was the first but won't be the last of the techies to get into politics.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:07 PM on February 20, 2016


This has less to do with techies and more to do with a society deciding how they expect their children to build their adult lives.
posted by bleep at 7:16 PM on February 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


Recently someone asked advice on a librarian Facebook group about whether they should apply for a job at New York Public Library. (I'm at a different NYC-area library, but we're on the same salary schedule.) And it was really difficult to say, "Look, I love it here, but I can't make it work on this salary anymore, you might want to be able to live by yourself as you get older, it might make more sense if you have a source of outside money," but I felt like I had to say it.

And then my boss saw it.

I didn't get in trouble for it or anything, but, isn't there something wrong when I feel that ashamed for saying, "I want a landlord who cares if I have bedbugs, I want a landlord who cares if I have hot water, I think I deserve to have that," because it's somehow my job to be doing PR for my workplace even when I'm not on the job?
posted by Jeanne at 7:18 PM on February 20, 2016 [86 favorites]


Holy shit. Between the recent garlic bread thread and this one, I'm kind of ashamed and upset that this woman is being pilloried here on the Blue. What would it take for you to give a shit about a person like her? That she march through the SF streets wearing a placard that says "I AM NOT AS SMART AS ALL THESE PEOPLE JUDGING ME ON THE INTERNET"?

As has been stated upthread, the problem isn't her. It's that a huge chunk of us are going, "Well, what did she expect, working for a tech/social media company?" instead of "wait, what the fuck is wrong with this system and how impacts so many other people at her old pay grade and way the hell below?".
posted by Kitteh at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2016 [102 favorites]


Everybody rushing to pick apart Talia's story reminds me a lot of the reaction where people rushed to bash Barbara Ehrenreich for "being bad at being poor" and described how barely living paycheck-to-paycheck wouldn't be so bad if only lived her life better and made the right choices. Yes, there are things both of them could have done differently, but the fact remains that Talia got an entry-level job with a large well-known tech company and couldn't make ends meet by any remotely reasonable definition. And clearly neither could her colleagues. Saying she should get someone to sleep on her couch to help pay the rent is missing the fact that she's spending 17% of her after-tax income just getting to/from work.
posted by zachlipton at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2016 [62 favorites]


Awesome David Mitchell rant related to this subject begins at 1:54(SLYT). Why should you have to appear happy about a terrible job.
posted by humanfont at 7:40 PM on February 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


Google has satellite offices but there's still a lot of pressure to be in Mountain View to be able to get promoted to higher levels and have the most options of projects to work on.
posted by that girl at 7:43 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


" This young woman has a car, a credit card, her own apartment, and a college degree. She didn't have to take that job."

Oh, yes, she did. Did you read what her major was? NObody wants a girl who's good at English. I'll admit she probably didn't need to move to the Bay Area, but she had family there and family is supposed to be a backup for you if you are in dire straits. Also, this is how most college graduates are doing.

If you move somewhere with a cheap standard of living, there's not a whole lot of jobs there and nothing to do and nobody wants to live there so you don't get the cream of the crop (assuming you care about that). Note the people on AskMefi who are all, "I could get this great job, but it's in Shitsville where nobody wants to live, should I move there?" followed by "I moved to Shitsville for a job and hate it, what about my moving to Big City?" It's hard to get employees who want to move to Nowheresville. If you move where the jobs are and where one can have things to do on weekends and access to public transport instead of having to have a car in order to get groceries in the next town 30 miles off, it's rather expensive.

Also, a friend of mine applied at Eat24. As part of the "interview process," they made her come up with suggestions for how they would hold all staff meetings and team building while a good chunk of the staff was having to answer phones. I highly doubt they paid anyone for that. I told her just now she was lucky to not get hired here. Also love how they didn't love their paid employee's suggestions.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:56 PM on February 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


I didn't get in trouble for it or anything, but, isn't there something wrong when I feel that ashamed for saying, "I want a landlord who cares if I have bedbugs, I want a landlord who cares if I have hot water, I think I deserve to have that," because it's somehow my job to be doing PR for my workplace even when I'm not on the job?

I'm leaving my current job for another job of a similar level in a different city; while the other city is more expensive, the differential in salary goes meaningfully beyond that. I have told my boss very explicitly that I am leaving primarily because of the salary, which right now is not really covering the costs of living in a small one-bedroom walkup in a decent neighborhood near public transit, which is the least I think a professional with a graduate degree and several years experience ought to be able to have. I keep saying it to him in hopes that it will get passed up the ladder. I don't know what else to do. The whole situation makes me very sad, but at least I have some options. A lot of people don't.
posted by praemunire at 8:02 PM on February 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


Let them eat cake sleep on couches, four to a one-bedroom apartment!

Definitely a weird shoot-the-messenger vibe in this thread. Cities require low-wage workers to function. The Bay Area further requires those workers to commute 30 or 40 miles to get to work, which is brutal with the traffic.

Sure, Eat24 could (and apparently will) relocate to a locale with a lower cost of living. But not all lower earners can afford to do so. Moving is expensive, and often you have things tying you down to your location (ill family member, sometimes probation/parole, shared custody, etc). Not everyone is young, unencumbered, and mobile.

This person may have the ability to shift her situation to make things more tenable for herself. But by and large San Francisco, Oakland, the peninsula, and onwards to Seattle, San Diego, etc have tons of lower earners who should be able to live near their work and who may not be able to just pick up and move.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:02 PM on February 20, 2016 [44 favorites]


Yeah, I don't get what she did wrong beyond trusting her employer. She's an English Major who took a job that they said would be shit for a bit, but then she could move up in the world... and then that never happens.

I mean, that's the Library Science pitch right there.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:03 PM on February 20, 2016 [21 favorites]


My friend's update on Eat24: "I know they had low pay because they wanted to pay me as a senior project manager 30 hour as an FTE...or 60,000 a year. For SF that's low pay since rent is $2000-5000 a month."
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:07 PM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I don't get what she did wrong beyond trusting her employer.

For what it's worth, she said on her Twitter she was told she was being fired for violating the terms of her contract.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:12 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Indeed, if their employee turnover in customer service is anywhere near as bad as she says it is, and given the inability to live on those wages, I'll presume it is, is it so far-fetched to think that whoever hired her played up the potential for advancement? Or even that she was naive (naive? at someone's first real job? that's an unforgivable mistake!) to think she could quickly transfer to another position?

And how do you look for a better job when you have to work every hour you can just to hang on to what little you've got?
posted by zachlipton at 8:12 PM on February 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


I would say that she probably had a few dings on her record at the company. If this is the kind of things she was posting:

http://taliabobalia.com/image/139691534363
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:15 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree with 90% of the stuff people are talking about sucking, but also wish that people would acknowledge and accept that not everyone can all live in the same place. Also, there are places besides the bay area and NYC that have jobs and are decent enough places to live.

(Although occasionally cities like Chicago stretch the definition of "decent," depending on what neighborhood you live in and how you feel about gunfire)

Anyway, rents are going up everywhere. Salaries are not. That is bad.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:28 PM on February 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


also this person is a bit goofy and a little foolish. Identifying a goofy and foolish early-20 something is not really a clever bit of critical thinking though.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:29 PM on February 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't really understand the push to move these jobs elsewhere. At this point, minimum wages are set by city or by state. This job pays $12/h minimum wage in SF. If it moves to Arizona, do you think it's still going to pay SF minimum wage?? No, it'll pay local minimum wage.

Employees may be able to afford an apartment to themselves. Though maybe not since often there are much tighter rental markets outside of major cities. So a house might not be expensive to buy but you still need something for a down payment. And you're probably going to need a car, and insurance, and gas, none of which are a whole lot cheaper in AZ than in SF. On the lower minimum wage.

The problem is that there really isn't anywhere anymore where minimum wage is a livable wage.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:07 PM on February 20, 2016 [16 favorites]


I would say that she probably had a few dings on her record at the company. If this is the kind of things she was posting:


My goodness, people are trying super-hard to prove that this girl is dumb, spoiled, and shiftless, not like them, and therefore what happened to her could never, ever happen to them.

This is how your grandkids are going to end up serfs.
posted by praemunire at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2016 [156 favorites]


Well, for someone with a self-avowed goal of working in social media marketing she has pretty much shot herself in the foot. Diplomacy and professionalism is pretty important, and her deleted Instagram has already been archived and shared.

I don't know of any period of time - with the exception of a brief period of time in the sixties - where an entry level job was assumed to be enough to provide a car, a roommate-free apartment, and living in a desirable city. Yes, she is paid too little (although I find it incredulous that California is taxing her income at 30% as she claims), but it would be extraordinary for a college drop-out in her early twenties to be able to have the resources to live as she seems to expect to.
posted by saucysault at 9:24 PM on February 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


She expects to be able to buy food.
posted by bleep at 9:32 PM on February 20, 2016 [51 favorites]


Forget grandkids, what about us?

The SF homeless count isn't regarded as supremely accurate, but it's one of the better measures we have. 71% were living in homes in San Francisco when they became homeless. Of those, roughly half have been here for 10+ years. A good portion of the rest were living in another Bay Area county before becoming homeless. 25% say they became homeless because they lost their job and 13% because they were evicted.
posted by zachlipton at 9:39 PM on February 20, 2016 [16 favorites]


My goodness, people are trying super-hard to prove that this girl is dumb, spoiled, and shiftless, not like them, and therefore what happened to her could never, ever happen to them.

Nope, that's not me. My point is that the open letter was the straw that broke the camel's back.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 10:31 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


She expects to be able to buy food

Right, so that is where most people would look at their budget and do a bit of re-prioritization. She accepted a job for a year knowing what the wage was, but chose to pay the high premium to live alone even though that means her rent is 80% of her budget. How did she think this was going to turn out? Even if the minimum wage was a "livable" $15/hour (and she paid zero income tax or withholdings), the max rent she could afford would be less than $800/month. To afford her current rent she needs to be earning around $60,000. Very few people live alone in their early and mid-twenties; it is an unrealistic expectation that requires financial resources beyond an entry-level job. And it has been ever thus - check out NYC tenements from the 1800's or the cost of rent in 1700's London.
posted by saucysault at 10:45 PM on February 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


If she were one of a few people who mis-prioritize so badly that they can't afford food, then we could be justified in all the "she should just..."ing that happens in threads like this. But many, many MANY working people patronize food pantries to make ends meet, and swallow their pride to apply for SNAP.

It's systemic. It's not going to be solved by "get a roommate."
posted by rtha at 10:50 PM on February 20, 2016 [70 favorites]


Let's leave aside her poor long term thinking skills.I am almost positive every one of us was young at some point, and wanted something so badly they thought they could deal until they got to where they wanted to be. And remember how much ramen you ate and how many crazy housemates you had that stole your shit or ate your food or had their SO move in so they could loudly fuck and drink the night away so sleep was not an option for you.

We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Being able to eat shouldn't be a privilege, no matter what the circumstances might be. When did that start being an unrealistic expectation?
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 11:10 PM on February 20, 2016 [42 favorites]


I have lived in the SF Bay Area for almost 10 years. Rent is skyrocketing. $1245 for a place within reasonable commuting distance of SF is not a bad deal at this point, even for a room in a shared house or apartment. Furthermore, when I was recently looking for a new place to live, I found it a lot easier and faster to secure a (relatively) cheap (ha) studio through a management company than look for a place with roommates because I could interact with professionals instead of a bunch of strangers from Craigslist who liked playing master of destiny with several dozen people's lives and pulling shit like holding a potluck for all the respondents to a single room listing. (I declined the invitation.)

I have done tech support, QA, software development, and tech writing work in several Bay Area startups and have friends in similar jobs in similar companies. Customer and tech support agents and entry-level sales people (who do roughly the same amount and kind of emotional labor) are treated like absolute garbage in most tech companies out here. This is the case in most companies in most industries, but it's usually harder to see that, because everyone else has figured out how to quietly take advantage of CSRs by putting them in a call center in a faraway city, state, or country. They are treated as thoroughly disposable and interchangeable worker units, paid crap wages, and ruthlessly prevented from unionizing. Why bother to speak up, especially when treatment is shrugged off as "well, it's unskilled entry-level work, what do you expect?"

What's scary to me is that in the face of the growing existential threat tech cos are facing (i.e. the poor funding climate), I think entry-level sales reps and customer support agents in these companies are going to feel the hammer the hardest. They are the ones bringing in money through sales deals and premium support offerings, so why not maximize revenue by shipping them to cheaper and less union-friendly climes...just like most large, stable companies have been doing forever. It's like one of those super rapidly-dividing cell cultures of capitalism out here, where you get several generations of malevolent growth in a handful of years or months instead of decades.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 11:21 PM on February 20, 2016 [20 favorites]


And it has been ever thus - check out NYC tenements from the 1800's

So you're cool with human society not, like, making any progress then. Interesting.
posted by dersins at 11:26 PM on February 20, 2016 [45 favorites]


> Very few people live alone in their early and mid-twenties; it is an unrealistic expectation that requires financial resources beyond an entry-level job.

They *should be* married, cranking out babies, and paying off a mortgage... What's wrong with our economy and how do we fix it?
posted by mikelieman at 11:27 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


My friend's update on Eat24: "I know they had low pay because they wanted to pay me as a senior project manager 30 hour as an FTE...or 60,000 a year.

ahahahaAHAHAHAHAAHA what

no

they make at least 25-40% more than that in MILWAUKEE, where you can easily rent a 3 br for $1200
posted by desjardins at 11:31 PM on February 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is there a buzz that comes from being cold-hearted?
posted by maxwelton at 11:39 PM on February 20, 2016 [27 favorites]


If you move somewhere with a cheap standard of living, there's not a whole lot of jobs there and nothing to do and nobody wants to live there so you don't get the cream of the crop (assuming you care about that). Note the people on AskMefi who are all, "I could get this great job, but it's in Shitsville where nobody wants to live, should I move there?" followed by "I moved to Shitsville for a job and hate it, what about my moving to Big City?"

This is a bit much, no? Northern California is not the only cultured place in this country. There are smaller cities with jobs and weekend activities and grocery stores closer than 30 miles away. America isn't just the coasts.
posted by Monochrome at 11:49 PM on February 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


I don't know about SF, but here in Seattle "Get a roommate" doesn't really work as well as it does in other places because there's a real shortage of 2+ bedroom rental units, and the ones that do exist are close to the cost of a studio multiplied by the number of bedrooms.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:51 AM on February 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


Even if you think this particular individual and this particular job should move to a cheaper part of the country, the fact remains that San Francisco still requires the services of many people in jobs that actually get performed here, including the small army that cleans toilets, washes dishes, and does other taken-for-granted tasks, and it would be nice if those people could afford to eat too.
posted by zachlipton at 1:02 AM on February 21, 2016 [64 favorites]


> Or she should have rented out a room or even a couch if she had to.

What, on AirBnB? That gets only a bit more love than Uber does on the Blue for techxsploitation.
posted by fragmede at 1:10 AM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Low value tech jobs like hers that aren't tied to any specific location being located in some of the most expensive office space in the country seems to be an artifact of the current investor hysteria.

When all those jobs are inevitably shipped out to lower cost locales it might make things easier for the low wage workers that remain.
posted by zymil at 1:17 AM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]



The people who lack critical thinking skills are the ones who think that it is acceptable for this circumstance to even exist. It is deeply immoral to pay workers so little that there are cities in the country where they just can't afford to live, and the blame for that situation is one hundred percent on the money-grubbing thieves that perpetuate it both from the immorally low wages end and the immorally high rents end, not on the people being robbed.


This is totally ridiculous. If her wages were higher or her cost of living lower, everyone would want to live there. The wages fall and the cost of living rises until an equilibrium is reached. How is that "immoral"? She is, at best, extremely naïve.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:53 AM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Divide and conquer. Works every time.
posted by pipoquinha at 2:17 AM on February 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Nobody comes out looking great in this story. Not Yelp/Eat24 with Stoppleman's mealy-mouthed denial that his company fired Jane for writing about it. Not lower management if Jane's supervisor told her to take a $35 fine to get to work. Not the masses who rush to judgment of a person whose only power is her words. She used them and how does that hurt you?

Jane moved to SF to be close to her father, whom she has never had a relationship with but whom she thought connecting with might help her to heal. She got in over her head financially to the point where there is no easy escape. You know that if she has to break her lease she'll be thousands in additional debt, right? All the easy solutions to move closer to her job and get a roommate don't mean a thing if she has to magically produce an extra month's rent to leave in addition to first and last on the new place. I sincerely hope we aren't at the point where people want the return of debtors' prisons?

To the person who mentioned her cat as a reason to doubt her story: I'd feed my cats and warm them before I'd do the same for myself. Anyone with the guts to write publicly about her struggles and to put so much thought into how to help the local community deserves more benefit of the doubt.
posted by SakuraK at 2:27 AM on February 21, 2016 [46 favorites]


Why aren't there Sales and Account Management and CS Unions?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:10 AM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


My friend's update on Eat24: "I know they had low pay because they wanted to pay me as a senior project manager 30 hour as an FTE...or 60,000 a year. For SF that's low pay since rent is $2000-5000 a month."

That's way below market rates for the late '90s dotcom boom. Nearly two decades later, in the midst of another tech bubble with skyrocketing rent, that's just sad. It's barely more than I made in the year 2000 as an entry level front-end coder with no degree.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:34 AM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


For all the people saying "eh, not everyone gets to live on the coasts," give me a break. I just moved back to one of the coasts after seven years living in the Midwest. I had a two bedroom place with its own laundry room for $500/month, which was amazing! The city had incredible culture, cuisine, people, nature, indie movie houses, music scene, sights. I loved it.

But I was also hundreds of miles from my family, and I moved back because as fun as living in that other city was, being so far separated from my support system was not sustainable long term.

Do those of us who grew up on the coasts now have to leave simply because we didn't have the foresight to become tech innovators? Because we think it should be possible to work a normal full time job and still be able to afford a tiny place to live and just enough to eat? I already know I won't earn enough to own property or have kids. Does the fact that I grew up on the coast mean I'm not allowed to live here anymore because it turns out I don't make the grade to "deserve" a spot here?

This woman is, like most recent college grads, kind of a shortsighted dope. Does that mean she deserves to be banished from the place where her family lives for being unworthy? REALLY?
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:45 AM on February 21, 2016 [57 favorites]


Yes, her naiveté did not allow her to see that people who write reasonably well (which she does) won't necessarily make bank tweeting on behalf of a tech company

Do you know any writers? They generally don't have any expectations or interest in "making bank." They want a good steady job doing what they're good at. And they will obviously even be willing to accept a crappy job which has nothing to do with their background for the CHANCE to do what they're good at.

If their customer service reps are such an integral part of their company that it is required to work their to get a different position in the company, why does the job pay so terribly? ($8.25/Hr? Seriously?)
posted by deanc at 6:17 AM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


including the small army that cleans toilets, washes dishes, and does other taken-for-granted tasks, and it would be nice if those people could afford to eat too.

Right. And this article really doesn't feel like it's about the snack deliverers and the office cleaners getting paid more -- it feels like it's saying that college-educated people who are funny on Twitter and save the company a lot of money by successfully denying claims shouldn't have to live like snack deliverers and office cleaners.

But I am totally willing to believe that this is not how Talia Jane actually sees the world, just how she inadvertently comes off in something she probably wrote pretty quickly.
posted by escabeche at 6:25 AM on February 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


I don't blame them for firing her for her online attention seeking either.

Really? You would fire a low level customer service staffer who depends on the job to eat simply because she complained about the salary of their staffers in a medium post? WTF is wrong with you people?

I might add also that she lived nowhere near San Francisco: why her own account, she lived 30 miles away.
posted by deanc at 6:29 AM on February 21, 2016 [29 favorites]


I think she lives in Oakland, which is considered commuting distance to San Francisco.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:44 AM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


So basically: Go be poor somewhere else!

Or even: But but but she owns a refrigerator!

Or: Other folks have it worse, so fuck off.

Really mefi?

/sounds like my supervisor trying to sell my retail job with being actually paid (slightly above minimum wage) on time(!).
posted by ZeroAmbition at 7:38 AM on February 21, 2016 [26 favorites]


After reading all the comments above, where I come to is that there is a fundamental question in the United States of whether or not employment and income markets are distorted, or not.

What makes this case unique is that all the actors – Jane, Stoppelman, Eat24 management, customers – live within the same context of exploding price escalation. Each has a different reaction, that I now feel reflects many of the comments on the original Medium post.

1) Jane – I came to work hard and make it. This is fucked everyone.
2) Supervisor – You're lucky to have a job. Pay the $35. Get to work.
3) Stoppelman – We're moving the call centre because of things like this.
4) Customers – I'm deleting your app.

There are three things I take away from this:

1) The commentaries themselves are divided into those who:

side with Stoppelman – "I worked hard and made it. You need to try harder"
side with Jane – "I worked (fucking) hard and didn't make it. The system's rigged."
side with the manager – "You're right. Your job sucks. But then you blew it up and now you have nothing."

No actor feels empowered to change to system, or a responsibility to even address their role in the system.

2) That makes me wonder where this goes, because you have a situation of exploding prices, where on one side, people are quite happy, and on the other side, people are unhappy. Both sides perceive themselves to be powerless to change it, rather they side with those who have stories / experiences similar to their own.

3) Ultimately, that begs the question to which there isn't an answer that I feel is clear. Is this the result of market distortion? or is this the market functioning at its ultimate efficiency? Because depending on the answer to that question, we live with two different futures. One where this level of inequality is not natural, and at some point is challenged/changed. And another where this level of inequality is natural, and is the best outcome of the system.

(Of course I have an opinion as to which I would like it to be, but that doesn't help establish which case is more true/accurate)

I would say Talia Jane vs. Jeremy Stoppelman represents Sanders vs. Trump. Both are populist candidates attracting different bases. Neither would say that the market is not distorted, but that it's distorted in different ways. Sanders says the problem is distortion – that the system is rigged to amass capital upward. Trump says that the problem is population – that actually the system is working fine, we just need less actors in it to naturally drive wages up.

In the middle, there is Clinton – who ever though that she would be a true centrist candidate, not I – who will continue the policies of Obama, which is to say that both are true. The system has fundamental distortions, but rather than massively change the functioning of the system itself, we can address economic and social problems piece by piece. By working around the edges, we preserve the economic engine that is the miracle of Western Civilisation, and we also tactically address the negative outcomes of that.

I don't have an answer here, but I find it to be a required question. Is what we're seeing in the Bay Area a bad outcome, or a good outcome? Because if it's a bad outcome, then we need to address fundamental beliefs about capitalism and wealth accumulation. If it's a good outcome, then we need to address fundamental beliefs about social costs and welfare.
posted by nickrussell at 8:13 AM on February 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


i object to pretty much the entire framing of your post, which seems to assume economics hasn't progressed since adam smith. to understand san francisco you could do worse than look at his contemporary, david ricardo. people are profiting off the lack of new, affordable housing: with scarce resources, like land, an increase in the amount produced can actually cause the price of that good to increase.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:48 AM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Do you know any writers? They generally don't have any expectations or interest in "making bank." They want a good steady job doing what they're good at. And they will obviously even be willing to accept a crappy job which has nothing to do with their background for the CHANCE to do what they're good at."

Writers are generally considered to be the most unwanted people in the hiring world. They just want to be able to eat and survive. Get to do what you're good at for pay? Hahahahahahah, rare. You accept a crappy job which has nothing to do with your skills so you won't die.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:07 AM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


andrewcooke: You're right that most people miss Ricardo's point; as Demand increases, the price of a good will increase to the marginal cost of production.

This is still fundamentally supply and demand, it's just pointing out that the relationship is not smooth, especially for supply. In the the case of housing in most major cities, the issue is that we've intentionally increased the maginal cost of producing housing.

Using the example of farmland in your link, we've spent a great deal of regulatory effort making the water 'polluted' on all remaining farmland.

In SF (and the surrounding region) I can say confidently that we are making the problem worse with restrictive zoning, burdensome costs laid on the 'evils' of development (fees adding 30% to the cost per sqft of construction), and a hugely time consuming set of review processes (up to and including at the state level with CEQA) all *meant* to block development, and make it more expensive for all those 'luxury condo developers'. Well, joke's on those who thought they were only sticking it to those at the top. *Everyone's* costs go up as a result.
posted by zeypher at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Minimum-wage jobs exist, and pretty much suck, everywhere. The unique privilege of being poor in San Francisco is that people on the Internet pay attention to your suffering. If it were a sad tale of a CSR in Sacramento who couldn't afford their $800 rent on $8/hr, people would ignore it, or just point and laugh.
posted by miyabo at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


The new housing issue IS a key issue, and one that extends to many major cities. If I bought a house in San Francisco thirty years ago, I bought into a city of 700,000 people in 7x7 square miles. Let's say I'm in Cole Valley.

Fast-forward thirty years. The city has grown. As software ate hardware, the tech scene moved from San Jose to the city itself. The city was quite happy to green light business development in downtown, South Park, SOMA, and Mission Bay. That side of the city exploded in both income, rent, and density. Which I'm fine with because my house has gone up in value. I tolerate it because while I see a bit more traffic, the density of the city outside those areas remains relatively constant. Prices are going up, which is bothersome, but not untenable, especially given the appreciation of my house.

Now, I don't want San Francisco's residential density to increase beyond what it is already. I'm willing to tolerate it downtown and in areas where it's already happened, but I'm not going to condone the wholesale redevelopment of neighbourhoods with increased density, because that's not the city I bought into. I bought into a city of 700,000 people, with a density of 14,000 per square mile. It's possible to push that up, but I don't want to.

Therefore, myself and people like me block every attempt to increase density outside of the core. In the BART / CalTrain arc, you can do what you'd like. But there's only a finite amount of land there. So I block every attempt as not only do I not want to live in Tokyo, but also it serves me as a homeowner to have limited supply, because of the price inflation. Finally, I moved here thirty years ago and made it a place that was awesome, and I feel I should have control over what this place becomes. It doesn't matter that you want to be here. The reality is that I already am here, and I don't want it denser than it already is. I'm entitled to an opinion, and you are not (because I own the land)

Now, that's hypothetical, but you see my question. It's not a matter of resources alone. It's that the density argument changes the constitution of the neighbourhood and city. Perhaps the asset value is what drives the uniqueness and to destroy the asset value is to destroy the uniqueness. Again, don't know the answer, but in that hypothetical, you see the market working very well for some people, and not at all for others.
posted by nickrussell at 10:03 AM on February 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


Looking for reasons to ding the author's post miss the point. We currently accept that there are haves and have nots, not just in the world, or the US, or in San Francisco, but under the same roof. We have a generation of workers who are not developers, who don't have the connections and network that lend them the safety to "bootstrap" the next big thing, working for low wages in the service of millionaires and billionaires.

For every Jeremy, Mark, and Larry in San Francisco, there are thousands of Talias, all living one misfortune, illness, or rent increase away from joblessness, homelessness, or bankruptcy.

For the millionaires and billionaires, it is someone else's problem -- the cost of living. They rarely work within their own domains to reduce disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest.
posted by zippy at 10:03 AM on February 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


This thread is just so bizarre to me in that anyone who dares mention that the author bears any responsibility at all for the predicament she finds herself in or suggests that she was rather foolish to think that working an entry-level job would provide a sufficient income to live on her own in one of the most expensive regions on the planet is almost immediately treated to a "Well, you're obviously a terrible, cold-hearted person" reply.

Yet, I can't help but suspect, based on how other similar questions have gone, that had the author come to AskMetafilter with a question along the lines of, "I would like to move to the Bay Area. I already have a job offer in place for a position that pays $12.25 an hour. Will that salary be enough to live comfortably on my own within BART-able distance of San Francisco? Snowflake details: Do not want roommates or any other shared living situation" the responses would be little more than a long chorus of HELL, NO's.

Look, I'm on the side that says this is a job that deserves more than minimum wage and the Yelp CEO's response of, "Yep, you're right, the Bay Area sure is an expensive place to live" is a terrible look, but the fact is, this is just not the type of job that is ever going to pay all that great. If the author is paying 80% of her take home income to rent, that's tragic, but she realistically needs a massive pay increase to make her living situation a tenable one and this is simply not the type of job where that is ever going to happen, since this is a position where the average salary is far lower than what she needs to make her living situation workable (the link suggests that to pay the amount of rent she is currently paying one should be earning about 50K a year, the other links puts the average CSR salary in the mid-30s). I don't see why it makes one an awful person to point out that expecting the CEO of the company she works for to pay an highly overinflated wage for a basic entry level position as the answer to her problems is not realistic.
posted by The Gooch at 10:15 AM on February 21, 2016 [18 favorites]


But the Talias of the world are their own strongest argument why the situation cannot be helped. Thoughless, clueless and unable to manage her life, abilities vs wants and delusions (do you follow me on Twitter? If you did you'd know I'm ready to be paid to post funnies on Twitter!). Her post demonstrates in multiple ways that she is ignorant (I could have gone to law school!) and does not seem able to do quantitative thinking (coconut water) nor learn.

She's young and young people are often lacking in perspective and the clue that having worked at all at any job prior to exiting college might have given her. The supply of people like her is infinite and the solution is basically the system we have now: if quiet warnings didn't do the trick, maybe a blunt alarm will get her to stop and think, possibly for the first time in her life.
posted by rr at 10:15 AM on February 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


The underlying question is whether or not it is acceptable for someone to become fabulously wealthy by exploiting the naivety and desperation of their fellows.

The answer to this question seems to be "no," to me, but I'm pretty naive and uninformed.

Some people have reasoned themselves into a position where they think that somehow becoming fabulously wealthy by exploiting the naivety and desperation of their fellows is acceptable or even good; that even if, like Talia, like most people, you're being ripped off by employers on one side and landlords on the other, the benefits of being around the ripoff artists somehow cancel out the exploitation. The typical line — which I think is a load of shit, but who am I? — is that the misery inflicted by the ripoff artists is compensated by the benefits of being in a dynamic economy or somesuch; that capitalist schemes like the one run by young Mr. Stoppelman throw off wealth and pleasure like sparks, benefiting society on the whole despite the thievery at the heart of the mess. I have a hunch that this is gibberish, largely because capitalist enterprises tend to be very good at capturing the positive externalities of their schemes, while dumping the negative externalities on some other sucker. But I'm naive.

Nevertheless, I can't shake the feeling that the world would be better if Mr. Stoppelman's enterprise were forcibly broken up and the money inside it distributed evenly to all the CSRs in his employ. I like Talia. From her written output, she seems a little daffy, but smart and sweet and fun to hang out with. If she could live without serving someone like Mr. Stoppelman, I'm sure she'd make the world a brighter place. Young Mr. Stoppelman's writings, on the other hand, show him to be shallow, stupid, and cruel. And his writings aside, let's look at his business: as other people have documented above, the world would, simply stated, be better off without Yelp.

It is very sad that we have no real means at present to get rid of it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:31 AM on February 21, 2016 [28 favorites]


How is Talia being ripped off exactly? Because she can't have everything she wants?
posted by rr at 10:32 AM on February 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


Mr. Stoppelman's business model, for reasons I cannot intuit — it may actually make no underlying sense whatsoever — apparently involves a bait-and-switch scheme where he tells people they'll be hired to be content producers after working for very low wages as CSRs for a year. This is a ripoff. Moreover, in general, employment contracts that depend upon the employee's immiseration — that pay less than a living wage — are likewise ripoffs.

If you think that employment contracts (or rental contracts, for that matter) signed by people with disparate levels of power — where one party is desperate and the other party is very comfortable — are inherently fair, you probably don't think this is a ripoff. But, because I am a slow person, I can't begin to follow that reasoning.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:37 AM on February 21, 2016 [29 favorites]


Back in the late 90s I got to tour Amazon's distribution center (warehouse/shipping) in Seattle. Someone asked our guide, who worked there, are you in a union? He laughed and said "we like it here too much to unionize."

Not long after, Amazon shut down that center for ones in much cheaper parts of the country.

It doesn't much matter if you believe in your employer and speak their lines for them, or post open letters complaining, is my point.
posted by zippy at 10:39 AM on February 21, 2016 [18 favorites]


We don't actually know what they promised or did not promise her. And anyway she didn't work the full year so who knows.
posted by rr at 10:41 AM on February 21, 2016


To me, at least, this seems like a fine way to run a society.
posted by HITLERTRON 5000 at 10:43 AM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


How is Talia being ripped off exactly? Because she can't have everything she wants?

Christ on a crutch, expand your thinking beyond the Talias of the world here. There are people that SF requires in order to continue to function (food service workers, clerks, transit workers, hell even the contractors that Google hires to perform menial software tasks) who cannot live anywhere near their work and must commute 2 hours one way to their job. I worked at a materials science/technology company near Palo Alto, and we wouldn't have been able to do our work without the technicians who ran the tests and experiments and often had a significant body of knowledge based on, in many cases, more than a decade of experience in that position.

Some of those techs had to commute from Tracy.

This situation fucks over a broad swath of humanity, not just people whose crime is of youth and inexperience with the world.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:56 AM on February 21, 2016 [70 favorites]


We have gone on a multi-decade experiment to undo all the social and economic progress that was fought for by working class and poor people. A hundred years ago, people were getting shot by private security and cops for daring to strike.

Focusing on this one story is exactly what the capital owners want you to do. They don't want people thinking systemically about how fucked we all are. Take your scraps and be happy we're not letting you die of cholera in a slum. If you too work hard you can be rich like me. It's all a pack of fucking lies.
posted by Automocar at 11:13 AM on February 21, 2016 [42 favorites]


There are people that SF requires in order to continue to function (food service workers, clerks, transit workers, hell even the contractors that Google hires to perform menial software tasks)

And wages for those people are not going to go up until they're not able to find people who will work for what they're offering. They're not going to offer more out of kindness. These businesses are competitive and the expense could mean the difference between success and failure. (in their mind)

And people are not going to stop taking those jobs at the pittance they're offering, because the people who are doing that are desperate. These are people who would take an unsafe job if it was legal. But it's not...

The only answer is to force it with labor organization or regulation. When nobody can accept the unlivable wage, it will go up. Also, some people who could scrape by on $8-something an hour will get screwed by not finding one of the new-minimum-wage jobs and not having the option to settle for less.
posted by ctmf at 11:30 AM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yes, The Bay Area is insanely overpriced and is currently heading towards peak overcost. No amount of discussion or living wage activity is going to change it; the cycle has to play out.

But what smart people do under these circumstances is recognize that it has been like this every 7 years or so since the 80s. It will continue to be so. Free movement and desirability creates the situation and nothing will change that. No amount of additional housing will change it. The Bay Area will continue to wander between expensive and insanely expensive.

There are plenty of other areas in the country. Go to one of them. Otherwise understand the deal you are making.
posted by rr at 12:13 PM on February 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Nevertheless, I can't shake the feeling that the world would be better if Mr. Stoppelman's enterprise were forcibly broken up and the money inside it distributed evenly to all the CSRs in his employ.

Yelp is a publicly traded company. It doesn't belong to Mr. Stoppleman. It belongs to its investors, mostly mutual funds. It is other people's retirement.

For you to suggest that someone who worked hard for decades and set aside their wages for their retirement should now have their hard work seized and payed out to some twenty-year-olds who have done maybe a year of work is utterly ridiculous and cruel.

You have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:33 PM on February 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


- Christ on a crutch, expand your thinking beyond the Talias of the world here.

- Focusing on this one story is exactly what the capital owners want you to do

In fairness, this FPP is focused solely on this one, specific story. I don't think it is really fair to criticize people for engaging with a post as presented rather than on some hypothetical other post focused on broader issues that you may have preferred.
posted by The Gooch at 12:36 PM on February 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


There are competing tensions in the portrayal of the current economic reality.

The people who are well-situated to be influential on issues like a minimum wage hike or rent control (the "influential class") should be expected to be more sympathetic to the stories of those who are more like them.

There's some tension there, though, because the more like the "influential class" you are, the less likely that you're interacting with the minimum wage or unaffordable housing. You likely benefit from a number of structural advantages. There are more likely to be non-systematic problems that have led to your current situation. These are easy to point to and pick at.

Someone who does not resemble the influential class, though, is not as relevant or interesting to them. The hard-working, mentally and physically stable 24-year-old who is making minimum wage is not likely to be enough like the influential class to get publicity for their problems.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:36 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do those of us who grew up on the coasts now have to leave simply because we didn't have the foresight to become tech innovators?

Unfortunately, yes. It really is that simple. Did it ever occur to you that when they or their ancestors moved to expensive cities, they were displacing someone else? That the demand induced by their arrival gentrified their neighborhoods and forced out other people?

There are hard and sometimes unfortunate economic realities that push people around. Of course we should mitigate their worst effects: we must not let people suffer for lack of access to basic medical care or housing or nutritious food. But living in San Francisco is not in my opinion a basic human right even if you were born there.

Because we think it should be possible to work a normal full time job and still be able to afford a tiny place to live and just enough to eat?

Yes, but they want more than a "normal full time job and food and housing" — they want to live in the most expensive cities on earth too. And, yeah, no kidding, not everyone can afford that.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:39 PM on February 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


For those saying she needs to leave the area: It's hard to move when you have no money. It's incredibly difficult to save money for moving when 80% of your income goes toward rent and the rest of your paycheque is used to barely scrape by.
posted by toerinishuman at 12:41 PM on February 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


Or, in other words: I don't know where the "perfect" victim is. I don't know if one even exists.

Some people with large advantages fail because of their own flaws or problems. It can be frustrating to see that failure held out as evidence of a structural problem. But it is. Someone who has a lot of advantages (who also has some issues) should not be in a situation where they have to worry about health care or food. No one should be in that situation.

People who push these narratives as evidence of structural issues downplay the non-structural failings of the example person. Others feel manipulated and annoyed by that. Why? Probably because the structural issues, to a large extent, favor people like the author of the article. It feels disingenuous to ignore that. But at the same time, it is not really relevant to the broader point about the minimum wage and housing costs. You can get to a bad place in a number of different ways. That place should not be that bad. Its badness should not be exploited so that other people can make substantial profits.

Anyway, some half-formed thoughts, but I think they are relevant ones.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:44 PM on February 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's hard to move when you have no money. It's incredibly difficult to save money for moving when 80% of your income goes toward rent and the rest of your paycheque is used to barely scrape by.

I think what people are saying though is that she chose the situation where 80% of her pay went to rent.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh, boo hoo hoo. They could have chosen a job with a proper pension or earned enough during their career not to have to worry about retirement at all. They should have thought about things like this before gambling with mutual funds.

Where do you think the money that is paid out by a pension comes from?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:06 PM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


it's the kind of company where employment is so precarious that they can always find another reason to fire you.

You mean all of them everywhere in this garbage can of a society?

Mr. Stoppelman's business model, for reasons I cannot intuit — it may actually make no underlying sense whatsoever — apparently involves a bait-and-switch scheme where he tells people they'll be hired to be content producers after working for very low wages as CSRs for a year.

Everyone going "lol well she chose this situation because she wanted to live in a ~cool~ city" needs to read this until they get over themselves. She was rooked. This is a common maneuver in this industry.

Amazon does it with their 18 month managing out BS(right before your signing bonus and moving costs would have been considered "earned" and you'd be more permanent). Most tech internships do this. People move to expensive cities for mediocre jobs that promise to turn in to good jobs all the time if computers are involved.

I wonder what percentage of CSRs get promoted/hired on for the promised higher up position? I wonder if it's even a two digit number?

She did her own internal calculus on this being worth it based on lies. She didn't do this going "i guess i can work it out to make almost nothing", she was promised a clear path to making a decent wage. Companies like this SURVIVE on churning people who have knowledge and skills far above their compensation and either burning them out or managing them out and replacing them with new disposable meatsacks.

Yelp is 12 years old. I wonder how many CSRs or supervisors therein have been there for even 10 years? or 8? 6?. A real company that age that wasn't fucking exploiting people and lying would have at least a few people who had been there long haul. I bet like 3 years is a greybeard at a place like this in these roles, and not because people are getting promoted out of them.

There was a really good post on here recently by someone talking about working for postmates, and how ridiculously low the pay was and how much they lied. Just because she sat a desk doesn't make this business model or situation any different.

I generally have very little sympathy for the "well don't try and live in a cool coastal city then god you entitled millennial" narrative, for a shitload of reasons including that's where the jobs are, but this is a pretty clear cut case of bait and switch.
posted by emptythought at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2016 [40 favorites]


this thread is so crazy balls

--no one is going to break up yelp and give it to CSRs
--although that would be funny, honestly
--yeah, stockholders are not necessarily all Mr. Burns
--at the same time, they're not necessarily entitled to endless capital gains at the expense of workers
--that's why their retirement shouldn't be in mutual funds, frankly, because they're subject to things like changing market conditions, as in, someone might raise the minimum wage

--you can't argue that people should be, essentially, forced to invest in mutual funds for retirement purposes because they're "safer" than government programs and then turn around and say we can never do anything bad to any shareholder-owned entity because look, all the poor little old ladies will be eating cat food!!!! that's where they put their retirement!!!

--well, you can, but it makes you look like you want to blackmail the government into not regulating business by encouraging sympathetic people to invest in business

--which I think sucks, and is bad, because we should be able to regulate how workers are treated without being (credibly!) accused of wanting the world's most sympathetic hard-working grandma to go hungry
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:15 PM on February 21, 2016 [17 favorites]


Where do you think the money that is paid out by a pension comes from?

The sweat of younger workers' brows plus the fairy dust generated by people who don't think the only way out is to die early.
posted by rewil at 1:16 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess I finally figured out why the republican powers that be are so interested in privatizing retirement, though

sneaky / brilliant fuckers
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:17 PM on February 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


As someone who has hired a lot of people, the way you guys are making a very big deal out of the supposed advancement opportunity thing is amazing to me and speaks to inexperience. I can only assume the people who are interpreting things the way Talia has are at least equivalently inexperienced.

Putting aside that it doesn't sound like she's been there a year and that, from her own description, there wasn't any promise made.

Being told that you need a year's experience in some form "before I’d be qualified to transfer to media" is not a promise that they will move you into media when that year passes. Realistically movement into an organization means there are open positions which has nothing to do with time spent. Moreover, what that person was actually trying to tell her - gently - is that she is unqualified for the position and that maybe in a year she would be.

That's not a promise; it's nothing at all. And she's not qualified and from the writing she's *still* not qualified for pretty much anything.

What fraction of CSRs move into marketing? Probably not just a single digit percentage; probably 1% or so. Because the people who take CSR jobs in general aren't qualified for anything and CSR is kind of a dead end, barely white collar-ish kind of gig that you give a kid until they come to their senses and move on.

From hiring a number of millennials, the observation I have is that the most clueless ones would tell a story like hers. They come in for job X and immediately ask how they can move from job X to job Y (which, inevitably, they are utterly unqualified for). 23 year olds coming in and asking how long it will take to be a VP, that kind of thing. It's so common that I assume it's a meme in the millennial generation - some book or more likely a blog has told them to ask and move up. The only answer you can give them is this: that's not what this job is, but at least you'll be around the people who do have that sort of job and if they see something in you no one is going to oppose it. I imagine they are busy writing blog posts about how we promised them that they would have the opportunity to move up.

No company makes promises of the sort you guys are claiming were made; even the author isn't claiming that.
posted by rr at 1:37 PM on February 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


--you can't argue that people should be, essentially, forced to invest in mutual funds for retirement purposes because they're "safer" than government programs and then turn around and say we can never do anything bad to any shareholder-owned entity because look, all the poor little old ladies will be eating cat food!!!! that's where they put their retirement!!!

I was responding to someone who literally suggested that we seize Yelp's assets and redistribute them to its workers. There is a big difference between nationalization and regulation.


Where do you think the money that is paid out by a pension comes from?

The sweat of younger workers' brows plus the fairy dust generated by people who don't think the only way out is to die early.


What are you saying exactly? You started by suggesting that retirees who invested in mutual funds somehow deserve to lose their savings because "it is gambling" and suggested that they should have gotten "pensions" — most pensions invest in mutual funds, so your suggestion doesn't make sense. I have no idea what you're talking about anymore.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:41 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


At some point, I stopped really reading the comments here. But someone up thread said something about why minimum wage was created and I don't believe it was accurate.

I read a book about the history of minimum wage. It was intended to bring the Deep South in line with better wages in the rest of the country. There were multiple contributing factors to low wages in the South, one of which was the racist practice of paying blacks half as much for the same job.

So, the law was intended to redress some deeply rooted racist practices and also help post the post Civil War South integrate better with the country it had tried to secede from.The law was passed prior to WW2 and the result was massive firings of blacks because Southerners were largely opposed to "paying a black man a white man's wage." This helped fuel an exodus out of the South of large numbers of blacks, many of whom moved to Northern cities to get jobs.

Minimum wage was a failing effort until WW2 began. The war put pressure on the economy to produce and skilled blacks who could not get "local" jobs at minimum wage started being hired by the federal government.

The minimum wage law has since turned into a theoretical floor to try to make sure unskilled workers get a living wage, but that is not its origin story.
posted by Michele in California at 1:42 PM on February 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


I was responding to someone who literally suggested that we seize Yelp's assets and redistribute them to its workers. There is a big difference between nationalization and regulation.

yeah I know, but your arguments apply broadly to anything that might have a substantial impact on stock prices

if you think that a higher minimum wage could be a good idea even if it destroys everyone's mutual funds, I apologize for the mischaracterization.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:47 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Milton Friedman is not the best speaker for anything, but he has documented that minimum wage was originally a sort of internal tariff to prevent mass migration of jobs to the (much cheaper) south (see his 1973 Playboy interview).
posted by rr at 1:49 PM on February 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


the minimum wage is arguably a lot of things. (notably, a government-enforced floor on the concessions that can be extracted from powerless labor).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:50 PM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was responding to someone who literally suggested that we seize Yelp's assets and redistribute them to its workers. There is a big difference between nationalization and regulation.

yeah I know, but your arguments apply broadly to anything that might have a substantial impact on stock prices

if you think that a higher minimum wage could be a good idea even if it destroys everyone's mutual funds, I apologize for the mischaracterization.


But I didn't apply those arguments broadly. Discussions are more productive if you respond to what's said rather than your imagination of what could conceivably be argued.

I don't think that a higher minimum wage would solve this problem anyway since they can move her job anywhere in the country.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2016


But I didn't apply those arguments broadly. Discussions are more productive if you respond to what's said rather than your imagination of what could conceivably be argued.

Look, to make this interesting (vs us talking past each other), you can do one of two things here: 1) acknowledge that there's no clear limiting principle to determining the desirability of government action based on how it affects ownership interests but you still don't like the idea of dismantling Yelp to give it to CSRs because it obviously falls on one side of a fuzzy, subjective line, or, 2) suggest a clear limiting principle. "Regulation is different from takeover" is both technically true, and not particularly clear, given that taxation is generally considered within the bounds of regulation (perhaps you disagree and think it's a third category of thing).

Takeover sounds worse, I guess, is the argument. If you'd care to, I'd like to hear a clear principle that differentiates the two, and that makes "it would be bad for shareholders" relevant in one scenario, but not the other. In both scenarios, shareholders will lose the value of their shares. What about regulation that effectively kills an industry? Does it matter that shareholders will lose value then? Or only when the ownership interest is distributed to others (which it would be in the case of the businesses being killed by regulation, although those people would likely be creditors instead of CSRs).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:07 PM on February 21, 2016


(Apologies if I've mischaracterized your comments, by the way--that's not my intention. I tend to sometimes use others' comments as a sort of springboard for ideas and arguments that I find more interesting than the highly generalized "no u" type stuff that tends to go on in this type of thread but I realize that it can be obnoxious and/or confusing)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:08 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


As someone who has hired a lot of people, the way you guys are making a very big deal out of the supposed advancement opportunity thing is amazing to me and speaks to inexperience.

If everyone knew as much as you do, you'd be making minimum wage, too, so I wouldn't express so much shock at the fact that others are not also experts in your field.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:10 PM on February 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


…acknowledge that there's no clear limiting principle…

Right. This will always be a tug-of-war between young people who are working today and old people who worked yesterday. Each side is prone to characterizing the other as self-interested and greedy. There are no easy answers.

At least if each side acknowledges the other, you won't end up with calls for nationalization.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:15 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think that a higher minimum wage would solve this problem anyway since they can move her job anywhere in the country.

That works fine: either the job can't be moved (cleaning, food, etc), in which case the costs get moved up the payscale to the people who need that job to be done, or the job can be moved, and people have more choice about where to live. And of course, there's plenty of theoretically minimum wage jobs which are done much better by people in better functioning cities (UK, but same applies in the US). This is how markets work. They need regulating to avoid labour dumping, because people are poor at setting their own labour price, and have pretty sever optimism bias. So if there's a locally set minimum wage which provides liveable conditions, then the markets will clear, and labour will go to where it's most needed.

I was responding to someone who literally suggested that we seize Yelp's assets

Yeah, it shouldn't be necessary to have to deal with suggestions that are that far outside the envelope of the possible.
posted by ambrosen at 2:19 PM on February 21, 2016


"Regulation is different from takeover" is both technically true, and not particularly clear, given that taxation is generally considered within the bounds of regulation (perhaps you disagree and think it's a third category of thing).
There's a clear difference between changing ownership of shares, and share values declining for other reasons. The point is that the business can't be liquidated based on umbrage about the CEO, because it's not owned by the CEO but by public stockholders.
posted by the mad poster! at 2:36 PM on February 21, 2016


[Couple of comments deleted. Please don't launch a separate meta argument about whether this thread is the worst, whether Metafilter is the worst, etc.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:06 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Author Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant, who lives in Contra Costa County, responds.
posted by wintersweet at 3:45 PM on February 21, 2016 [22 favorites]


Nice ____ you have there, it'd be a shame if anything happened to it.

Place I like to go got called for Yelp advertising. They said no. Suddenly their reviews were shit. Not only that, but when the regulars figured out this was happening they tried to go give positive reviews, but their reviews didn't even show up.

They say they don't remove bad reviews when paid, and don't give special focus to the positive ones, but they sure do seem to blackhole a bunch.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:29 PM on February 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


This thread is just so bizarre to me in that anyone who dares mention that the author bears any responsibility at all for the predicament she finds herself in or suggests that she was rather foolish to think that working an entry-level job would provide a sufficient income to live on her own in one of the most expensive regions on the planet is almost immediately treated to a "Well, you're obviously a terrible, cold-hearted person" reply.

This thread looks bizarre from most angles I guess - there are many details in her story that do make me ask WTF she was thinking but I still think people are being terrible and cold-hearted saying she had it coming getting fired.
posted by atoxyl at 4:39 PM on February 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


The wages fall and the cost of living rises until an equilibrium is reached. How is that "immoral"?

How is that even a hard question to answer, much less a rhetorical one that you think wins an argument? It's immoral because it fucks up people's lives. Jesus.

The level of callous contempt for a worker's basic desire for a livable wage here is really astonishing; good evidence that the toxic cocktail of culture-war divide-and-conquer tactics and economistic ideological bullshit that make up so much of American work culture still do their jobs all too effectively.
posted by RogerB at 4:41 PM on February 21, 2016 [40 favorites]


No company makes promises of the sort you guys are claiming were made; even the author isn't claiming that.

I work in the tech industry and i can tell you that this is objectively wrong. Interviewers lie like fucking army recruiters or car salespeople. It may not have happened in this specific case, but lies like that are often repeated multiple times.

I may be young and somewhat inexperienced, but i'm a couple jobs into this industry and from the conversations i've had with my friends and colleagues this kind of stuff is happening out there rampantly. It isn't nearly as pollyannaish or naive as you seem to think.

"X job can turn in to Y job and very often does, Jaime started here a year ago and now they're doing Y! We promote from within and bla bla bla" and then when compensation comes up they beat that hammer again in a very yea kid, but you're starting out on the ground fuckin' floor! sort of way.

Add even more of this chili sauce if it's a "hip" company or a startup. Sometimes it's even more explicitly promising "this job will turn in to this other job as we grow the team and add people underneath you", usually with a time frame.

Can i see that this is very very often bullshit? Yea. Do i blame anyone for falling for it? No, not really. They're being sold something they want to buy via a dishonest salesman with ulterior motives. It's BS in the same way predatory credit card sign ups on college campuses with lying promoters were. And we banned that.
posted by emptythought at 4:46 PM on February 21, 2016 [35 favorites]


People who push these narratives as evidence of structural issues downplay the non-structural failings of the example person. Others feel manipulated and annoyed by that. Why? Probably because the structural issues, to a large extent, favor people like the author of the article. It feels disingenuous to ignore that. But at the same time, it is not really relevant to the broader point about the minimum wage and housing costs. You can get to a bad place in a number of different ways. That place should not be that bad. Its badness should not be exploited so that other people can make substantial profits.

Just like there's no "perfect rape victim," there's no perfect poor person. There's not a life in existence that can survive rigorous scrutiny for poor choices, especially when trauma and deprivation are involved. If we hold out for that perfect victim, we can be sure never to have sympathy for anyone at all.
posted by praemunire at 4:58 PM on February 21, 2016 [41 favorites]


If we hold out for that perfect victim, we can be sure never to have sympathy for anyone at all.
I think that may be a feature, not a bug.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:05 PM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Author Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant, who lives in Contra Costa County, responds.

I don't get it - Prop 13, terrible as it is, exists explicitly to prevent this from happening. How can people be driven from their homes by property tax increases when Prop 13 caps those increases at 1% a year? Anyway, whether I get it or not, it is sad when people are priced out of the areas where they have roots. And I don't think there's really a way to run a city if the only people who live there are rich.
posted by GuyZero at 5:06 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


No company makes promises of the sort you guys are claiming were made; even the author isn't claiming that.

I call bullshit on this too. It happens ALL the time. Talk about being naive.
posted by futz at 5:14 PM on February 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


Meta
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:16 PM on February 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Everyone in this thread appears to be approaching this from a slightly different angle — hence all the arguments — but I'm curious about one thing: surely there was a better option for her than to spend 80% of her take-home pay on rent, right? Did she do the math ahead of time to understand how that was unsustainable?

There's shitty stuff about this situation even leaving aside the rent thing, but I wonder how much of this gets better if she finds a roommate or something. I'd much rather be talking about the stuff that's specific to this situation (like whether there was genuinely a bait-and-switch with the CSR thing or just a misunderstanding) instead of letting the CEO redirect this to be a general “Bay Area cost of living is ridiculous” rehash.
posted by savetheclocktower at 5:31 PM on February 21, 2016


Seconding everything emptythought said, with a dash of "and actually, it DOES sometimes happen!" I worked for a company with a customer service team that did regularly move people from customer service into other positions, at least in the early days. It's not uncommon to see people move from customer service to QA, product, marketing, at early-stage growing startups. Do they usually expect you to stay in the customer support role for at least a year? Yeah. Is it a guarantee? Absolutely not. But it does happen.

Qualified customer support for the kind of tricky new businesses that tech startups create, is actually a pretty tough job. There's a reason it is often on-site with the rest of the company in the beginning; there's no tools, everything changes often, and stuff breaks a LOT. They need fairly intelligent humans to work around the gaps in the system and the breaks in the logic, because the new business can't afford to rapidly churn through customers that they've often spent so much valuable capital acquiring. So they hire smart, ambitious, college-educated kids to do the job, and the churn through them and burn a lot of them out, but also give them the chance to work their way up.

I think it's scammy when these companies get bigger, and they could be investing in making these jobs better or frankly just moving them to lower cost of living areas, and instead they keep churning and burning people in them. Yelp certainly counts as a company who should be at the size to be doing better. But there's gonna be a point in-between the sweet early days when you could work your way up easily from customer service into something else, where it could be a stepping-stone job for the right ambitious person and before they move those jobs elsewhere, when they're misleading their hires and taking advantage of their gullibility. That seems to be what happened here. And it sucks for her. Was she naive? Maybe, that doesn't mean she wasn't treated really poorly in the process.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:36 PM on February 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


What fraction of CSRs move into marketing? Probably not just a single digit percentage; probably 1% or so. Because the people who take CSR jobs in general aren't qualified for anything and CSR is kind of a dead end, barely white collar-ish kind of gig that you give a kid until they come to their senses and move on.

Hi! I reactivated my account specifically to respond to this part, because I couldn't believe not a single other soul had called this out yet. I know there are other CSRs, current and former, who are members here, maybe they're just too busy to respond to this. But I saw it and my heart just sank right into my guts... so dismaying to see this attitude going unchallenged.

I've been a CSR off and on for the past 20 years. I'm not a garbage human of the variety you described, so worthless and unqualified for anything that I deserve to be treated poorly. The jobs I've held where I wasn't a CSR? I got those jobs either through being poached by outside companies for non-CSR positions because of the strengths of my CSR background, or because I was promoted to a non-CSR position within the same company. In fact, I just got a promotion last week, from CSR to project manager, in a mid-sized financial IT firm where the average employee sticks around for about 15 years and starts out as a CSR of some variety (we have a LOT of CSRs in branch offices all over the country that service different products). They're real big on promoting from within at my company... and they don't devalue the work that the front line CSRs do, because guess what? The people answering the phones and the emails and talking to the clients every day are a hell of a lot more knowledgeable about the day to day needs of the clientele than a manager with limited client contact.

Without CSRs, business can't function. If you're a hiring manager and all you ever seem to encounter are CSR candidates who are so terrible that they really deserve to be denigrated like this... well, I'd just like to point out that the only common denominator in this scenario is you.
posted by palomar at 5:38 PM on February 21, 2016 [150 favorites]


Centralization of your operating plants/offices was Billy Durants' genius for building up GM. Centralization meant cheaper costs and a better, less expensive product.
For example, The Fisher Bros., various paint concerns, and Weston-Mott axle. The idea was to buy out the competition so they don't gouge you and a better handle on the means of production.
The consolidation of workers in one city also helped keep the product under local supervisory control and helped build your business friendly political base.

But that would later back fire, especially with the building of the Durant office building (I think Albert Kahn did that) or GM building out of town. Plus over leveraging, and not adhering to new production ideas.

Point being, Durants' genius was for customer relations (some historians consider him one of the greatest promotors of the 19/20th century.)

The thing is he provided untold fortunes to many and employed countless people but he didn't give back to the people, he just kept dreaming, getting rich then losing it.
He was loved in his time but there is no foundation in his name and his monument is hidden in plain sight.

Durant made more money in 8 months then Mr. Yelp (how apt) made to date.
Durant would advise creating a company to counter Yelps business model.

Remember, Mr. Yelp, because running a bowling alley at age 80 is right up your alley.
posted by clavdivs at 6:00 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


The way this SHOULD work is this:

COMPANY: We have a job for you. It is a job which would preclude working anywhere else, given the expected working hours. It is in our Hot City Downtown Office.

THE PEOPLE: This is a full-time job, by definition.

THE PEOPLE: Workers have the right to live within a realistic half-hour's travel of their workplace.

THE PEOPLE: Workers have the right to live in a one bedroom apartment or its equivalent if they desire.

THE PEOPLE: Workers have the right to spend no more than 30% of their take-home pay on housing. Workers have the right to have 30% of their take-home pay be available for discretionary spending.

THE PEOPLE: Workers have the right to be compensated for their life experiences and age-relevant living costs. If you insist on certain levels of experience for the job, a multiplier will be added based on the average cost of acquiring that experience.

THE PEOPLE: Therefore, your job must pay at least

[average rent of one bedroom within half hour of workplace]
+
[average cost of non-housing expenses in the area]
=
[non-adjusted wage]
*
1.34 (discretionary wages)
=
[adjusted entry wage]
*
[experience factor]
=
[take-home wage]
+
[federal, state and local taxes on this wage]
=
[minimum wage you may offer]


THE PEOPLE: Thank you for listing an actual job. If your company cannot afford to pay this wage, society is not willing to make your executives rich by subsidizing your exploitation of workers.
posted by maxwelton at 6:19 PM on February 21, 2016 [46 favorites]


I'm ten years into a career as a CSR myself.

My first position was shitty. I made $8.25 straight up, not just after taxes (admittedly I live nowhere near San Francisco, and I had 3 or 4 roommates at the time.) Today I'm making $17. A lot of people would still call that shitty, and I guess it some ways it is. I'm no jet setter and never will be.

Yet, I'm really proud of my tenacity and what I've accomplished in character sticking to this line of work. I'm really good at what I do, and what I do is really important. The company I work for clearly doesn't believe that it's important, nor do most people I ever have or ever will meet. The cold tone embodied in this thread and the off-putting wastebasket of the category of so-called "unskilled labor" have haunted my self-esteem. It has taken me many years to realize my truth: the only thing I don't like about my job is that other people don't like or respect me for doing it.

This should not be the case. A kindly, intelligent, non-neurotypical gal like myself out to be able to just work out her years in peace rocking customer service and ever expanding the specialized and technical niceties of that skill if she wants to. But not so fast! In American society, something about me is just not allowed, is just wrong. I constantly feel like I need to be ashamed, like I need to want to do something else, probably something involving amassing more crushing education debt with very few guarantees of an ultimate successful outcome.

Although unions for CSRs would be a beautiful thing, I would settle for basic acceptance from my fellow humans.
posted by dissolvedgirl22 at 6:27 PM on February 21, 2016 [64 favorites]


This is reminding me of this "how to be an editor in NYC financially" post.

"Breakfast can easily turn into lunch. If you put off breakfast, tada, it’s lunchtime! That’s one meal you don’t have to pay for.
Lunch: If you want to stay healthy and save money, make your own. Most of us give in to the sandwich bar. Reasoning: you’re too busy as a working woman to prepare food. Sadly, this can’t carry through to dinner unless you want to blow all your money. Another way to save money: take out industry people. It’s professional, enjoyable, and it’s a write-off or your company will reimburse you.* Did I just say that out loud?
Dinner: Rice and beans, most nights. Cabbage is fantastically inexpensive, too, and I highly recommend choking down some if you’re worried about nutrients. When the yearly bonus arrives, add chicken."

posted by jenfullmoon at 6:36 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


For you to suggest that someone who worked hard for decades and set aside their wages for their retirement should now have their hard work seized and payed out to some twenty-year-olds--

Hoo boy. You mean those people who had cheap college educations, stable jobs for life and (often) final salary pension plans, or at very least ample money to invest? Because if you're turning it into a thrifty Boomer vs pampered Millennial thing, that's going to bite you back pretty bloody hard.

For the life of me I don't understand why large tech companies don't routinely have satellite offices in places with non-terrible costs of living, housing costs and commute time.

Well, they do, in places like Bangalore and Manila. And this isn't making a "relative poverty" argument, either: it's asking where you draw the line when moving low-wage jobs to low cost-of-living locations. And as others have noted, the well-remunerated 'founders' (ugh) and executives certainly don't regard the people doing those CSR jobs as '[not] qualified for anything' (ugh): they expect their CSRs to be bright young things who eat shit while being paid shit because good times are just around the corner.

So yeah, it may be easier from a conventional labour-movement perspective to sympathise with the immigrant sleeping in a dorm and spending 14 hour days cleaning toilets, but the graduate who's doing white-collar metaphorical-shit cleanup is being exploited too.
posted by holgate at 6:36 PM on February 21, 2016 [22 favorites]


In American society, something about me is just not allowed, is just wrong.

But every American is entitled to above-and-beyond customer service that acknowledges them as a special snowflake, because America, and if it were possible for CSRs to be paid $2.18 plus tips their bosses would be on that like shit off a shovel.
posted by holgate at 6:49 PM on February 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


Her situation sucks but even if her company wasn’t a shitty employer there’s no way for Yelp/Eat24 (which has only had what, two profitable quarters in its existence?) and the other companies in San Francisco to systematically fix this situation by paying all their low level employees more in an attempt to give them a living wage, because the additional money that gets paid to them is just going to get consumed by rent increases. There’s not enough housing, and people are still moving there even while the rent skyrockets, and they jostle with everybody else for housing.

So people are either stacking up like cordwood like Seanan McGuire is describing or they find some apartment to live in by themselves that takes up 80% of their take home wages even if it’s way out in the boonies. Some people are in apartments under rent control (at least until the owners figure out a way to evict them, because the financial incentive is so strong) but they have to stay in that apartment and never ever leave. Some people say that if there wasn’t rent control the prices wouldn’t be as high, and that’s possibly true but not true enough, because the only way it can be true is if it made a lot of people who could no longer afford the city move somewhere else, reducing the pressure.

This problem can’t be solved unless a great amount of new housing is built. If you expand what qualifies for rent control, then you just make it so people like her wouldn’t have been able to move to San Francisco to begin with. If you give people more money, then the rents increase until it takes up more and more of their wages and we're back to not quite subsistence wages even with the increase.

I support better minimum wages, I think she probably should have been paid more, I think it’s important for cities to work on increasing their affordability, but there’s no way in San Francisco at least that the problem of workers not making enough money to afford rent can be fixed without some serious changes that companies alone can’t make happen. I think You Can’t Tip A Buick is right that the free market isn't working for housing (if we define working to mean functioning in a way that lessens misery for the majority of people) and that there has to be a big push for public social housing to be built routinely and frequently:

https://www.metafilter.com/157209/Tensions-over-private-commuter-shuttles-in-SF#6403768
https://www.metafilter.com/147904/Well-San-Franciscos-right-out#5972195
https://www.metafilter.com/147904/Well-San-Franciscos-right-out#5972495
https://www.metafilter.com/153915/Sure-its-a-massive-time-suck-but-think-of-the-savings#6249697
https://www.metafilter.com/154465/This-is-my-ongoing-horrified-face#6274951
https://www.metafilter.com/132401/The-Rent-Is-Too-Damn-High#5213298
posted by foxfirefey at 10:27 PM on February 21, 2016 [7 favorites]



We need a Living Wage amendment added to our Constitution.

Landlords will take every penny of that "Living Wage"

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=3wAn

well, per that graph maybe not all of it, but housing/transportation is the issue here, not wages.


This is why we can't have nice things. Our bosses give us a raise, and those darn landlords just take it right out of our hands. No wonder Stoppelman needs to get paid so much.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:44 PM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I live in the Bay Area and make minimum wage, like this person does (though through a variety of different strategies I make it work in a more financially sustainable way), and I found her attitude kind of naive and whiny. I agree that something needs to change, but she didn't do this issue justice in the way she wrote about it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:45 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Really? You would fire a low level customer service staffer who depends on the job to eat simply because she complained about the salary of their staffers in a medium post?

Yes. When you deliberately create negative publicity about your employer to get attention and sympathy online, you are putting your eggs in another basket, regardless of whether you objectively have a point or not. She made the choice to turn against her company and call them out. That meant giving up on that job. Very few people are in a position to publicly degrade their employer and expect to get paid for it
posted by knoyers at 11:13 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


knoyers: “Yes. When you deliberately create negative publicity about your employer to get attention and sympathy online, you are putting your eggs in another basket, regardless of whether you objectively have a point or not. She made the choice to turn against her company and call them out. That meant giving up on that job. Very few people are in a position to publicly degrade their employer and expect to get paid for it”

So, just to be utterly and completely clear here, you are saying that whistleblower laws, which give protection to employees who report the illegal or unethical actions of their employers, and which are actually very common in the United States (and even in California!) are bunkum and should be eradicated.

Are you really prepared to stand by that argument?
posted by koeselitz at 11:21 PM on February 21, 2016 [16 favorites]


That exception applies to reporting illegal and criminal behavior to authorities. Whistleblower laws aren't for calling your employers greedy online mainly because you carelessly misspent your modest salary and didn't get a wished-for promotion
posted by knoyers at 11:28 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


They are for reporting unethical behavior that might not be illegal. In this case, we're talking about whether that's the case. So, yes, they apply here in many cases.
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 PM on February 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: “For you to suggest that someone who worked hard for decades and set aside their wages for their retirement should now have their hard work seized and payed out to some twenty-year-olds who have done maybe a year of work is utterly ridiculous and cruel.”

Ha. Do you know anything whatsoever about Jeremy Stoppelman? He pretty much made his retirement money in four years working at PayPal, mostly because he was an early employee and got to cash out massively when eBay bought it in 2003. He wasn't slaving in some chromium mine somewhere for eons, and he wasn't punching a clock at the paper mill for fifty years. He was a solid developer and engineer for maybe two or three years, and then got to step back and cash in because he happened to be in the right place at the right time.

He's made money at Yelp, yeah, but he could have retired right then and there if he wanted to. He probably stuck around mostly because he was very young when the money train came in, so he figured it'd be nice to have something to do.

"Decades." Ha!
posted by koeselitz at 11:34 PM on February 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


My goodness, people are trying super-hard to prove that this girl is dumb, spoiled, and shiftless, not like them, and therefore what happened to her could never, ever happen to them.

Yep. Big empathy fail, and one that will increasingly matter when it comes to society functioning and political stability and stuff.
posted by iffthen at 11:36 PM on February 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


That exception applies to reporting illegal and criminal behavior to authorities. Whistleblower laws aren't for calling your employers greedy online mainly because you carelessly misspent your modest salary and didn't get a wished-for promotion

Something that is not a mere "exception": the laws guaranteeing the rights of employees to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment. "A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action." (Her post is arguably, though not indisputably, the latter.)

https://www.nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect/employee-rights

It's like people are actively trying to forget our labor laws.
posted by praemunire at 11:41 PM on February 21, 2016 [25 favorites]


No, whistleblower protection only applies to reporting illegal behavior (only possible exception is physically dangerous conditions). And you would have to get fired for reporting the illegality to government authorities or to supervisors at the company. Not for attention seeking online writing or social media activity

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/WhistleblowersNotice.pdf

Two or more employees can go to their employer, ask for more pay, and cannot be fired as retaliation. That is not the same as an individual calling her employer greedy etc. online
posted by knoyers at 11:46 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Two or more employees can go to their employer, ask for more pay, and cannot be fired as retaliation. That is not the same as an individual calling her employer greedy etc. online


As I just said...not at all necessarily. An individual employee calling her employer greedy online in an attempt to rally her fellow-employees to press for improvement in pay, etc., would generally be covered by our labor laws.
posted by praemunire at 11:50 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


That's not what your link to the nlrb says
posted by knoyers at 11:52 PM on February 21, 2016


Ha. Do you know anything whatsoever about Jeremy Stoppelman?

We're not talking about Stoppleman. I was responding to buick who suggested that Yelp should be nationalized and given to its employees. I was talking about average people who work all their lives, and then live off their pension or 401k. These people have everything to lose in that scenario. It's not a lot to ask you to read the thread of two messages before making your reply.

For you to suggest that someone who worked hard for decades and set aside their wages for their retirement should now have their hard work seized and payed out to some twenty-year-olds--

Hoo boy. You mean those people who had cheap college educations, stable jobs for life and (often) final salary pension plans, or at very least ample money to invest? Because if you're turning it into a thrifty Boomer vs pampered Millennial thing, that's going to bite you back pretty bloody hard.


Well, for the ridiculous argument of nationalization of the Yelp, which is what I was responding to, yeah, it's the old vs. the young. Are you really suggesting that people who "had cheap college educations, stable jobs…" deserve to lose their savings?

So yeah, it may be easier from a conventional labour-movement perspective to sympathise with the immigrant sleeping in a dorm and spending 14 hour days cleaning toilets, but the graduate who's doing white-collar metaphorical-shit cleanup is being exploited too.

I agree that absolutely anyone in any station of life can be exploited, but these two examples are a stark contrast of exploitation. Presented side-by-side with the "immigrant experience", she would look positively whiny.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:56 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Two or more employees can go to their employer, ask for more pay, and cannot be fired as retaliation. That is not the same as an individual calling her employer greedy etc. online

This is a quickly developing area of labor law, but the NLRB has recently been supporting the idea that workers have the right to criticize the terms and conditions of their employment online. One of the more extreme examples has been Pier Sixty, LLC, where writing that a manager "is such a NASTY MOTHER F—ER don’t know how to talk to people!!!!!! F—k his mother and his entire f—ing family!!!! What a LOSER!!!! Vote YES for the UNION!!!!!!!” was ruled to be protected activity (it's not clear whether you could get away with that one outside of a contested union election though). There have been a number of cases where broad social media policies were deemed to be unfair labor practices and where the Board has upheld the right to discuss working conditions online, even if that means criticizing your employer.

Whether her entire post constitutes protected activity is obviously an open question, but given the decisions of the last few years in this area, it well could be. (IANAL, this is not legal advice, go get some before you decide to curse out your boss on Facebook.)
posted by zachlipton at 12:50 AM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


No, whistleblower protection only applies to reporting illegal behavior (only possible exception is physically dangerous conditions).

This varies by state, and in NY, last time I discussed it with an attorney, my take-away was that IN NY STATE, whistleblower protection only applies to physically dangerous conditions. IIRC, there was some discussion in the legislature to change it, but I don't know if it's gone anywhere in the past few years.
posted by mikelieman at 1:31 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's weird that people are saying that the folks who are unsympathetic to Jane specifically have no empathy for people who are underpaid, especially by companies that can likely afford to pay better.

It's not hard to simultaneously hold the belief that a. wages are too low and this is a central injustice of the capitalist system, b. Jane made bad decisions with no blinders on that led to the situation that she was in.

Yelp customer service does not pay enough for her to live in an apartment by herself in the most expensive city in the country. That is a fact on the ground. That doesn't make it good, or right, or fair, and it doesn't make people who recognize that as a fact unempathetic. But she did not have blinders on when she took the position. And she still took the position.

On top of that, her story of surviving on a 10 lb bag of rice would be heartbreaking, if it were true. She is all over social media talking about the fancy food and alcohol she's consuming. A week before she was canned, she tweeted about having a 30 dollar bottle of alcohol delivered to her at work.

This was a carefully calculated bid for attention, and it went off like gangbusters, but her situation is a combination of fiction and bad decision making, so that's why I don't feel all that much sympathy for Jane. That doesn't mean I think what Yelp is doing is right, or that people shouldn't help one another, or that the wages at Yelp aren't a travesty.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:33 AM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


It's not hard to simultaneously hold the belief that a. wages are too low and this is a central injustice of the capitalist system, b. Jane made bad decisions with no blinders on that led to the situation that she was in.

Right. It's reasonable to say in response that Yelp should pay more, or the SF minimum wage be higher. Also reasonable to say that on the other side of the equation, the cost of living should be lower.

But it is also reasonable to mention that, regardless, there is rarely going to be a case where you can pay whatever you wish for rent, utilities, and groceries. That's the situation of most human beings on the planet. I have never had an unlimited food budget... not necessarily because everyday food is always priced out of reach, but because I have other bills too.
posted by the mad poster! at 4:03 AM on February 22, 2016


It's not hard to simultaneously hold the belief that a. wages are too low and this is a central injustice of the capitalist system, b. Jane made bad decisions with no blinders on that led to the situation that she was in.

The thing that rankles me about that particular argument is that we hear it, or some variation of the undeserving poor speech, for every specific Jane who ever comes up on Metafilter. Remember his girl whose bag of Doritos rendered her insufficiently poor for our sympathies? It's not isolated or particular to any individual, although it's always presented as if it were; essentially every poor person is presented with some form of this criticism.

Now we've got Jane who is, I think unquestionably, in a situation where her employer doesn't pay her enough to live in San Francisco, and we've got a whole website apparently devoted to cataloging every time she bought a cupcake or some bourbon or some fucking Pringles? That's disgusting. If you only see injustice for systems and not for the specific victims of those systems, you're not actually seeing the injustice, no matter what you claim. If you think that "poor decision making" justifies denying an employee a wage they can live on, you're a believer in the "central injustice of the capitalist system" not a critic.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:22 AM on February 22, 2016 [31 favorites]


cataloging every time she bought a cupcake or some bourbon or some fucking Pringles

But the other Pringles woman wasn't asking for money, and didn't say she'd only eaten rice for weeks. If you're going to ask people for money then they'll probably expect you to be honest with them.
posted by colie at 5:30 AM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


So how is this girl not being honest?
posted by palomar at 5:41 AM on February 22, 2016


Let's be clear about what she said. She said "I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job," "I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that," and "Bread is a luxury to me." None of that equals "I have only eaten rice for weeks."

What we've got in that "debunking" website is: some cupcakes, a few meatballs, some Chick Fil-A, some Pringles, and a single bottle of bourbon. Stuff she describes as "food I didn't pay for." There's no reason not to believe her on that, so there's no evidence she's being dishonest. What she can afford is mostly rice but someone, other than her employer, occasionally provides food, so she's not subsisting entirely off rice. Oh and the debunking website also has some pictures of her with cosmetics or making a sex joke, which reads purely as misogynistic shitting on a young woman. It's a disgusting website.

In any event, unless you believe it's possible to live on her wage in San Francisco, all of that is irrelevant to her actual point.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:53 AM on February 22, 2016 [25 favorites]


Are you really suggesting that people who "had cheap college educations, stable jobs…" deserve to lose their savings?

Honestly, I'd be quite comfortable with a redistributive raid on savings if you could target it at those who got cheap educations and stable jobs, then voted themselves lower taxes under Reagan, supported cuts to welfare, etc. There is a substantial cohort of Boomers that voted to fuck over every generation younger than itself, and now thinks it reasonable to accuse those generations of whining. That's hard to implement, even though it's an economic clusterfuck to have so much wealth locked up waiting for people to die.

In practice, I'd be comfortable with a bit of redistributive taxation towards large investment funds.

Presented side-by-side with the "immigrant experience", she would look positively whiny.

Well, how much of that is because many people in white-collar non-physical jobs internalise the idea that white-collar workers can't be treated like serfs? That's just Steinbeck's "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" thing at work.
posted by holgate at 5:55 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Haven't seen this response posted here yet, which is what I felt like I wanted to write, but in a way that is so much better than I could have said:

An Open Letter to Millennials Like Talia…

Yes, income inequality is a thing and something that should be addressed in some manner.

Yes, it stinks there are cities like SF where low income workers can't find affordable housing (well, at least without roommates).

But in this particular instance, Talia seems to have combined poor choices with a sense of entitlement. I feel for her situation (because many of us have been there, or in far worse places), but I just don't get how the world -- or her ex-CEO -- is responsible for it. Or could fix it in any meaningful way that wouldn't require significant, long-term changes in the way our government and capitalistic society works.
posted by docjohn at 6:02 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Bread is a luxury to me" cannot be a true statement if you've baked your own fancy cup cakes at home around one week previously. I just think she laid it on a bit thick.
posted by colie at 6:06 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Poor people are allowed to have fun\hobbies\luxuries too.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:10 AM on February 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


This may not end well.

By "this", I mean the actual hiring of actual local people (at minimum wage) to do actual local tech/CSR work. It was alluded to up-thread when people asked, "Why don't tech companies just move their CSR centers to Iowa or Idaho or someplace else with a lower cost of living?" But just this morning I heard this report from KQED (the NPR affiliate in San Francisco) about how even small businesses (like, say, a guy and his friend with an idea for an app) can do just about everything via app-based outsourcing. Here's the money quote:

“Outsourcing has become an unpopular word, so recasting it as the gig economy sounds much better,” he says. “The next great app can be a lot of fun to use. The next service may be great to have. It’s the bigger picture. What cost is to the economy? What’s the longer-term future for the workforce and overall for the quality of life?”

[...]

These are big questions to ponder, but business owners say they are just trying to survive. Instapage CEO Quick says he needs cheap, flexible freelancers to compete. Right now, he says, local full-time people are just too expensive.

(The difference between this story, and the now-standard story of large companies moving their call centers overseas, is that these new app services like Upwork let small companies and even individuals easily purchase on-demand services from international tech workers with very little friction or overhead.)

That's bad news for Talia. It's bad news for us all. It makes it rather difficult to organize labor when management doesn't have to truck in scabs to work the mines; they can just easily, efficiently, invisibly hire people in India to do the same work at a third of the price.

I'm not sure what the answer is to this problem. But I can say that it won't be easy.
posted by math at 6:31 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


So how is this girl not being honest?

For many people, apparently, the simple fact that she exists as a female is sufficient.
posted by aramaic at 6:33 AM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


When I read the post, about buying only a 10 pound bag of rice since she moved to S.F., and bread being a luxury, and drinking liters of water to drown hunger pangs, I did think that's what she was surviving on (and pistachio nuts.)

Meanwhile she has free food at work, she bakes and cooks frequently, she's buying liquor and cosmetics...

I have no doubt that she's eating mostly rice in between treats, and that at times she can't buy some bread until she gets the next paycheck. Is that really such a unique situation? Then I and a lot of people have years of Medium posts to write about eating mostly rice and pasta for dinner.

I can feel sympathy for her situation, and I can agree that she should be paid more. But she wasn't living horribly, in my view, when she was at Yelp. I hope she'll land on her feet and find a way forward.
posted by the mad poster! at 6:41 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't figure out why you all are so focused on the minutia of this one woman's actions. It's not like she's unique in her inability to figure out a way to live anything approaching a normal life in a big coastal city. Yelp didn't single her out to treat her shitty, that's the way that they treat everyone. She may have played this game badly but it's an unwinnable game for any but a select few.
posted by octothorpe at 6:42 AM on February 22, 2016 [24 favorites]


I keep on seeing everyone mention this "fancy bourbon" that she is getting, but when my curiosity gets the better of me I see she has a bottle of Bulleit. I think I might need to re-calibrate my idea of "Fancy" spirits. I mean Bulleit isn't bad, but it certainly isn't anything I would classify as Fancy. Hell at only $30 a bottle it is probably cheaper than getting on some other medication.
posted by koolkat at 7:05 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Bread is a luxury to me" cannot be a true statement if you've baked your own fancy cup cakes at home around one week previously. I just think she laid it on a bit thick.

I think you're missing the point of the statement. It is a luxury, but it is also a necessity, so she buys it anyway, sometimes. And cupcakes.

Also, [incredulous laugh] at her being accused of luxuries for BAKING HER OWN CUPCAKES. So now she's not supposed to buy flour and sugar and eggs either? Or should she just make sure everything she cooks is gray mush, so that it looks appropriate for a poor person's diet? "You made your food like nice, so you're a liar."

This is literally "let them eat cake", here.

People who buy their groceries on credit cards because their salaries don't cover the cost aren't lying when they say that they cannot afford it. But since "starving to death" is actually harder than "going into more debt in order to make it through this week", they buy the food anyway.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:12 AM on February 22, 2016 [31 favorites]


Or should she just make sure everything she cooks is gray mush, so that it looks appropriate for a poor person's diet?

Absolutely not but that's what she said she was doing (or at the very least, strongly implied it - you could forensically pick over the words). It reminds me a bit of the scandal around James Frey's book A Million Little Pieces. Nobody doubts that drug addiction is a terrible thing but some people didn't like the fact that he exaggerated his experience of it in an annoying literary style.
posted by colie at 7:16 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


You're doing a lot of mental work to justify refusing to have sympathy for a person living on minimum wage in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Why? What is it about calling this woman a liar that gets you that excited?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:18 AM on February 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


She said she can't afford to buy food. People have said "aha, but she DOES BUY FOOD!!!!" as if this makes her a liar.

It doesn't.

I can't afford to buy X =/= I do not buy X.

I spent years buying groceries on credit cards, knowing that I would have to pay for them at a later date, plus interest. I could not afford those groceries, or occasional bottles of wine, or new pairs of pants. But I bought them anyway, on credit, because “sitting in an unheated room gnawing carrot stubs the grocery store threw away” isn’t actually a reasonable thing to expect of the poor, and to me the burden of debt was more bearable than the burden of never having a filling meal, or never having a glass of wine, or never having a nice dessert made by my own two hands.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [34 favorites]


I feel like there's a pretty wide gulf of difference between making millions from selling a story about a harrowing addiction that you clawed your way free of while countless lives around you were destroyed in horrible ways, and one time making some cupcakes while poor.
posted by palomar at 7:33 AM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


I can't figure out why you all are so focused on the minutia of this one woman's actions.

I think people are focused on the details because its becoming apparent that she's disingenuous.

I think you're missing the point of the statement. It is a luxury, but it is also a necessity, so she buys it anyway, sometimes. And cupcakes.

I think you are missing the point. She misrepresented herself: she said she could not afford to buy bread. She's also asking for money, which unfortunately means people are going to scrutinize her more closely because they want to feel like they are giving to someone who is really in need. Having booze delivered to your office and buying expensive facial stuff doesn't give her the appearance of seeming needy. She could have racked up credit card debt or gotten money from a friend to make these purchases, but it makes the premise of her article seem like a lie. If she had told the truth, I think she would have gotten sympathy because people understand the need to take care of yourself and that sometimes that involves splurging.

You're doing a lot of mental work to justify refusing to have sympathy for a person living on minimum wage in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Why? What is it about calling this woman a liar that gets you that excited?

I'm not saying she doesn't deserve to be paid a living wage or that she doesn't deserve to have luxury items. She does deserve a living wage, and it sucks that she's getting severely punished for speaking up about it.

But, I also is reasonable to look at the details of Jane's story and her life -- and see what's there. I mean, her article/story is the crux of this entire thread. Also, she chose to write and publish this article and share these details about herself. Unfortunately, the end result is that whatever she posted/posts online is in my opinion is fair game.
posted by emilynoa at 7:37 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


If she had told the truth, I think she would have gotten sympathy because people understand the need to take care of yourself and that sometimes that involves splurging.

I disagree. I've seen this play out on Metafilter and elsewhere too many times. There is no scenario in which this woman gets sympathy for buying little luxuries. We've literally had threads where people claimed that buying Doritos means you're not really poor. How she describes her life, what purchases she made, it's all irrelevant to how this thread would go. No matter what, we'd be hearing about how she's not really that bad off, or deserved it, or just needed to tighten her belt.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:47 AM on February 22, 2016 [35 favorites]


I haven't had a roommate since college aside from romantic partners. Somehow, the idea that in order to attain shelter, it should be a requirement to live with people you barely know is pretty abhorrent to me. Hell, that's a freaking subplot from Make Room, Make Room, yet here we are just glibly accepting it as a requirement of modern life.

This is not naïveté speaking, it's outright disgust. The sneering response is "this is the way the world is" and the person saying that? They are a part of the reason the world is like this. How things are has nothing to do with how things should be, and cheerleading for the enshittening of the world, or shaming people who yearn for a better world is absurd. Shelter. A basic need. I don't even want to know what people would say about drinking water.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:56 AM on February 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


Given the whole 'cardboard-box-you-were-lucky' problem here, let's perhaps reset and ask questions from the other side:

- where do we expect customer service people for SF/Bay Area-based tech startups to live, given that you can barely live a middle-class adult existence in the Bay Area on a professional salary?
- how much do we expect them to earn?
- how do we expect their careers to progress?
- how do we expect them to behave towards us when we send an email or make a support call?
posted by holgate at 7:58 AM on February 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


Minimum wage in San Fransico is 12.25 USD per hour. Annualized = a bit over 25K. I was mildly annoyed that she gives her after-tax hourly wage.
posted by theora55 at 7:59 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying she doesn't deserve to be paid a living wage or that she doesn't deserve to have luxury items. She does deserve a living wage, and it sucks that she's getting severely punished for speaking up about it.

But, I also is reasonable to look at the details of Jane's story and her life -- and see what's there. I mean, her article/story is the crux of this entire thread. Also, she chose to write and publish this article and share these details about herself. Unfortunately, the end result is that whatever she posted/posts online is in my opinion is fair game.


It sucks that she's being punished for speaking up about it, so you're going to punish her more because she spoke up about it?
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:59 AM on February 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


to sir with millipedes: “It's weird that people are saying that the folks who are unsympathetic to Jane specifically have no empathy for people who are underpaid, especially by companies that can likely afford to pay better.”

Yes, it is. A lot of weird things are true.

“It's not hard to simultaneously hold the belief that a. wages are too low and this is a central injustice of the capitalist system, b. Jane made bad decisions with no blinders on that led to the situation that she was in.”

Yes, it's possible to hold contradictory beliefs if you don't realize how they contradict each other.

“Yelp customer service does not pay enough for her to live in an apartment by herself in the most expensive city in the country. That is a fact on the ground. That doesn't make it good, or right, or fair, and it doesn't make people who recognize that as a fact unempathetic. But she did not have blinders on when she took the position. And she still took the position.”

Look, let's talk about this, because it's a central fact of the discussion, and a lot of you "Talia Jane just seems worthless" people seem to want to ignore it completely:

Keeping employees ignorant is an intentional and essential Yelp strategy here. You can see how this must be true, right? And you can see how it's the glue holding all of this together, right?

People here have said "we agree that wages are far too low – but this woman was stupid to take this job in the situation she was in." It's funny, because they don't seem to want to follow that train of thought to its conclusion. Okay – she was stupid to take a minimum-wage job in freaking San Francisco of all places. I can agree that that was an ignorant thing to do. And it was not smart for her to believe half-baked miracle stories about that wonderful dream marketing job she just might get if she held on a bit longer – stories that were mentioned cannily by her employers but apparently very carefully not phrased precisely as promises. That was naïve, I am sad to say, in the sense that an older person or a person with more experience would have understood how sleazy folks are and seen through that as a ruse.

But here's the rub: if she's ignorant to have taken a minimum-wage job in San Francisco – then isn't every single person at that CSR office ignorant in precisely the same way? And isn't it remarkable that hundreds of people at that office – and tens of thousands of people around San Francisco – are ignorant enough to live where they live and have the jobs they have? Some of them are probably trapped by circumstances, or aren't willing to leave a place that means a lot to them – since that's often how humans feel about places – and those people, I guess you might extend your sympathy to and say they're not quite ignorant. But the rest – which is a lot of people! – well, they're "ignorant" just like Talia Jane.

So why are they ignorant? Well, let's think about it. Who is their ignorance benefiting? That's easy: it's benefiting the huge tech companies that are getting very, very cheap labor in a city where they probably shouldn't be able to get away with getting very, very cheap labor. It seems that Yelp and companies like Yelp are extraordinarily lucky to have found a whole bunch of relatively ignorant people who are willing to work for much less than they deserve. How in the world did that happen? I'll tell you how: Yelp and other companies like them are actively working to keep their employees ignorant.

If you think that last bit was a stretch – if you think the idea that Yelp intentionally dumbs down its workforce in order to keep them willing to sacrifice their well-being for crappy low-paying jobs – then keep in mind that we have very real examples of how this is happening: to wit, we have stories about how employees are apparently encouraged to believe that if they stick it out they just might land that wonderful cushy marketing job that makes their career and sets them on the right path. I've worked for companies that do this sort of thing before; they very carefully skirt the line between promises and suggestions, and they push the workforce to believe that "anything is possible!" to create a haze of hopefulness about the future that covers up present misfortunes that most employees would rather forget anyway. Heck, I used to be a CSR for a few companies like that. It's an ugly thing, and it can really trap you.

If you dislike Talia Jane – if you think she's being silly – and you're telling yourself that you can dislike her whilst still wanting justice for people in her position, maybe keep this in mind: she is a product of her circumstances, to a greater degree than you might realize, and most of her faults are faults that make her the ideal candidate for a shitty job at Yelp. She is the face of the people they are exploiting. If you find those people distasteful, if you'd rather not advocate for a bettering of their circumstances, then that's fine – everyone is entitled to their opinion. Just be clear on where you stand: you're rejecting her case because you don't like her minor personal attributes; and in rejecting her on those grounds, you are probably rejecting a very large chunk of the exploited folks working at the bottom of the ladder in these situations.

“On top of that, her story of surviving on a 10 lb bag of rice would be heartbreaking, if it were true. She is all over social media talking about the fancy food and alcohol she's consuming. A week before she was canned, she tweeted about having a 30 dollar bottle of alcohol delivered to her at work.”

I'm sorry to have to say this, but: you don't know anything about what it's like to be poor.
posted by koeselitz at 8:09 AM on February 22, 2016 [77 favorites]


i had no idea so many crabs had metafilter accounts
posted by entropicamericana at 8:12 AM on February 22, 2016 [21 favorites]


Again, I don't know anything about the tech industry or San Francisco. But I absolutely was aware of industries in New York in which people were expected to "pay their dues" for a few years by working for unsustainable salaries, and then they really could be promoted into good, well-paying positions. The idea, I think, was that most of these people were going to be subsidized by their parents, although they typically didn't talk about how they were making it work financially. And there definitely were some non-parentally-subsidized people who assumed that there must be some way to make it work, because everyone else was making it work, not realizing that everyone else had invisible income streams. You could argue that those people were naive, but I'm really hesitant to blame people for not being able to read the unwritten rules.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:21 AM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


then isn't every single person at that CSR office ignorant in precisely the same way?

Maybe, but maybe not. Not everyone is in the same situation as Jane - some may be living with family and have no rent. Probably a few actually did get the promised better jobs with higher pay. In some cases, per Freakonomics' "Why Do Drug Dealers Live At Home" some of those people are essentially sacrificing current living conditions to compete for imprved conditions in the future if they "win" the "contest" that is Yelp's workplace. And different people have different levels of tolerance for that.

Anyway this is a digression, but even if we agree that this woman was totally screwed by the system (if), it doesn't follow that all her peers are also being screwed.

Now, why do we live in a world where simply having a job is accurately compared to gladiatorial combat? I don't know.
posted by GuyZero at 8:23 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


one of the most prestigious hospitals near me has an entry-level "residency" for new grads. You're paid much lower than average entry-level nursing wages for my area, you get no benefits, no paid leave of any kind, brutal hours with almost no scheduling flexibility. But if you make it through that year, you may get a "real" nursing job at that hospital, with all the associated benefits.

ActionPopulated, as I'm sure you know, this is not the standard for the rest of the nursing jobs. You said they're coming for your industry but they will only succeed if nursing students sign-on to that too. People have told you to go into nursing because its a job that pays well and is in high demand. The "high demand" part is what gives individual nurses power to call BS on these kind of labor practices.
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:38 AM on February 22, 2016


GuyZero: “Not everyone is in the same situation as Jane - some may be living with family and have no rent. Probably a few actually did get the promised better jobs with higher pay. In some cases, per Freakonomics' 'Why Do Drug Dealers Live At Home' some of those people are essentially sacrificing current living conditions to compete for imprved conditions in the future if they 'win' the 'contest' that is Yelp's workplace. And different people have different levels of tolerance for that.”

Do you really believe that a significant proportion of the people in San Francisco working for the minimum wage of $12.25 an hour are living with their parents? This is an old theory people used to have, but it's largely become clear how untrue it is – actually, ArbitraryAndCapricious described it a bit better up above. There's this assumption that everybody in the city (this is true in most cities) is getting a "hand up" while they "pay their dues," that they're living with their parents or getting help from a relative or living with a buddy until they get on their feet, or something like that. That was the attitude in the 1980s and into the 1990s in most major cities. That assumption led directly to the rise of unpaid internships – the purpose of which was to acknowledge that assumption ('you'll work for nothing for a while to get on your feet') whilst simultaneously exploiting it for the profit of companies that were happy to have skilled labor for nothing. Since the 1990s, it's become common knowledge that the bulk of "unpaid internships" lead nowhere. But the lies are still being spread in many ways to keep exploiting cheap labor, and one of the ways this happens is when laborers are told that they might have advancement opportunities further down the line if they keep working at their crappy rate for a while. This is how labor exploitation lives and breathes in the world today.

“Anyway this is a digression, but even if we agree that this woman was totally screwed by the system (if), it doesn't follow that all her peers are also being screwed.”

So, uh – your takeaway from all this is that there might not be a problem with exploitation of low-wage workers in San Francisco? Really? That's a... novel idea, I guess. Maybe next we could explore the possibility that there isn't actually any problem with health care in America, or that the prison industrial complex turns out not to be a very big deal after all.
posted by koeselitz at 8:44 AM on February 22, 2016 [21 favorites]


You said they're coming for your industry but they will only succeed if nursing students sign-on to that too. People have told you to go into nursing because its a job that pays well and is in high demand. The "high demand" part is what gives individual nurses power to call BS on these kind of labor practices.

So the people to blame for this abuse is nursing students who don't know better, rather than the hospitals offering these garbage programs?

Man, young graduates desperate for work have so much power that I never knew about!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:44 AM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


I used to work for a tech company that decided to consolidate all of its US CSRs--who had been working remotely, from very affordable places across the US--to San Francisco. It made no sense to me at all, and it made life a lot more stressful for the CSRs. I don't get, I will never get it.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:45 AM on February 22, 2016


As a person of thrift and virtue, I sure am glad that bell doesn't toll for me.

Seriously, as workers* are squeezed tighter, middle class virtues are more like signs of the elect than risk abatement.

*way closer to all workers than is even selfishly comfortable
posted by The Gaffer at 8:53 AM on February 22, 2016


I used to work for a tech company that decided to consolidate all of its US CSRs--who had been working remotely, from very affordable places across the US--to San Francisco. It made no sense to me at all, and it made life a lot more stressful for the CSRs. I don't get, I will never get it.

The most charitable interpretation is blinkered incompetence. That's giving the benefit of the doubt behind a decision to deliberately consolidate low-paying positions to an area with famously out-of-control living expenses.

The other interpretation is functionally psychopathic malevolence. Doing such a consolidation deliberately increases the stresses on that arm, degrades performance of that arm predictably, and down the road justifies a decision to offshore the department to an area that can pay dramatically less. (Down the road from that, of course, leads to its own costs, but by those are costs that are borne by someone else entirely, because the decision makers here will have long since transferred elsewhere or moved on to some other company.)
posted by Drastic at 8:55 AM on February 22, 2016


your takeaway from all this is that there might not be a problem with exploitation of low-wage workers in San Francisco?

so now I find myself in the awkward position of getting all Bill Clinton up in here... it depends on what your definition of "exploitation" is.

Are minimum-wage jobs in San Francisco inherently exploitation?

"yes" is a legitimate opinion, I don't think it's my opinion. That said, it's basically below what the poverty line should be given the cost of living in the area. As the NPR news item noted this morning (I think on this case) the federal poverty line is the same in San Francisco and rural Mississippi which is kind of nonsensical.

"no" is also a legitimate opinion I think considering she knew what she'd be making. Not all terrible jobs are exploitation.

And as obvious as the issues are to everyone here, local rents have been exploding in the last few years while wages remain stagnant overall so this particular gap has grown much faster than employers and civic leader have been able to deal with it. Employers could simply pay all low-wage workers more, but I'm not about to hold my great waiting for that to happen.
posted by GuyZero at 8:59 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


And I should add to complete that thought, local cities have been passing increases to the minimum wage, which I think is a good thing, but those changes are slow to come into effect, like in the scope of several years. AND, that said, I think there are some minor problems with a higher minimum wage, but those are very minor compared to the overall positive effect.
posted by GuyZero at 9:03 AM on February 22, 2016


It's interesting that a company built on enabling frictionless accusations would have created this shitstorm.
posted by aramaic at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


koeselitz's point about unpaid/piss-wage internships -- very popular in NYC print journalism and fashion, or in DC political jobs, limiting access to those with affluent parents and friends/family providing free couch space -- raises the question of whether the fundamentals of exploitation remain constant and only the appearances change with supposedly disruptive tech companies.
posted by holgate at 9:12 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


What if we reframe this as an efficient income distribution problem. A handful of people in the company are making a lot; while the lowest tier of workers are barely getting by. Sure she could manage her money differently and make different life choices. However the idea that the CEO and other execs get millions in compensation while their employees struggle seems like an inefficient system. I don't begrudge his reward, but I think that as a country we need to consider settings some limits on the ratio of executive compensation to ordinary workers related to the cost of living.
posted by humanfont at 9:16 AM on February 22, 2016


It sucks that she's being punished for speaking up about it, so you're going to punish her more because she spoke up about it?

My intention is review sources besides Talia Jane's narrative to see if what she's saying is accurate -- and to what extent. The best case scenario here is that Jane exaggerated her circumstances to create a better story, and the worst case scenario -- which I don't believe this is -- is everything in Jane's narrative is an outright lie. She wanted to speak truth to power, it seems like she won't succeed because she has appearance of or actuality that she's exaggerating or lying in her truth.

Also, I don't think think that scrutinizing or critiquing Jane and her story counts as punishing her. Maybe another word would be more applicable?
posted by emilynoa at 9:17 AM on February 22, 2016


FYI for those who care but don't know:

- SF minimum wage is currently $12.25 which at 40 hours a week for a year amounts to $25,480 of gross pay. Assuming you actually get that many paid hours.

- The 2015 federal poverty line for a single person in the contiguous 48 states is $11,770.

In theory a minimum-wage job in SF puts a single person well above the poverty line. In practice due to crazy rent levels and the high costs of commuting in the area the poverty line in SF should probably be closer to double the national level.
posted by GuyZero at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, I don't think think that scrutinizing or critiquing Jane and her story counts as punishing her. Maybe another word would be more applicable?

The word I would use for it personally is "irrelevant."
posted by GuyZero at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


but I just don't get how the world -- or her ex-CEO -- is responsible for it. Or could fix it in any meaningful way that wouldn't require significant, long-term changes in the way our government and capitalistic society works.

Um hi there those significant long-term changes are exactly what need to happen. You done solved your own question.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:31 AM on February 22, 2016 [17 favorites]


Also, I don't think think that scrutinizing or critiquing Jane and her story counts as punishing her. Maybe another word would be more applicable?

Nah, I think punishment is a pretty accurate description of having tons of strangers dig through her online history in an attempt to prove that she doesn't have it so bad because she found a few brief moments of joy and felt like sharing.

I get that you don't intend your actions to be part of punishing her, and maybe if it was just you, it wouldn't be, but your actions don't happen in a context free vacuum. It's absolutely a systemic punishment, and not one doled out by any one person, but that doesn't absolve the people who are participating off responsibility for being part of the system.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:41 AM on February 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


Minimum wage, as compared to cost of living, has decreased dramatically in the US. I found the article not very well written. The writer is overwhelmed, she seems to be lacking some skills for managing adult life. But. If it's hard to a person who is educated, abled, well-spoken, probably white, with no kids, to make it, how about the people who don't have privilege? I think the writer deserves a decent wage because everybody deserves a decent wage. Nobody should have a mountain of education debt. Low wages are part of the inequality problem, a great big part. Take her story and add in medical issues, a kid or 3, and it gets impossible fast, no matter how mad your frugal skills are. We can do better.
posted by theora55 at 10:02 AM on February 22, 2016 [16 favorites]


I remember that UPS used to run ads in the college newspaper in the mid-80s promising $15/hr. They were still running essentially the same ads, with the same promised wage, last time I looked a couple of years ago.

For that matter, I worked for Domino's for a couple of years before I got that tech support job, and their help wanted sign said drivers could earn $8-10 hr. They were still promising that same possibility years later, just about until the minimum wage in Seattle passed it by. (What, were people tipping less? Because that $8-10 was mostly from tips, not from wages. But I digress. )


There are a couple of McDonald'ses in Asheville, NC (just about as Bay Area as you can get in North Carolina/the South, in terms of rent) that are hiring right now. The marquee boards list "$9 PREMIUM PAY" for "natural leaders." So not only are you expected to bring "leadership" to a food service job, you are going to be grateful for that PREMIUM PAY of $9/hour before taxes and premium subsidized housing (if you're lucky) or premium trailer in a rural area 30 miles outside of town (if you're luckier). No word on how to support a family or pay for transportation with that premium pay. It's shamefully bad that this is an acceptable offer, and that they think it's good enough to advertise on the goddamn marquee.

But/so/anyway, this is what a worker can expect if they do move to any place where there are opportunities anywhere. Even if it's North Carolina.
posted by witchen at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


My intention is review sources besides Talia Jane's narrative to see if what she's saying is accurate

You accuse, but you've zero actual evidence to dispute her claims or prove that they are inaccurate. You don't have access to her bank and spending records. So what are we to make of you accusations and need to somehow find some evidence that she's unworthy. No person speaking truth to power is perfect, and few victims are either.
posted by humanfont at 10:49 AM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


who suggested that Yelp should be nationalized and given to its employees.

I don't believe we should nationalize the business, but I do think that employees should accrue substantial interests as they continue to work for a company. It is unfair for the company to direct all its profits to those who provide the capital. If we don't have the stomach to mandate this by legislation, then workers need to organize and use their pooled resources to buy a meaningful chunk of the company, held by the workers who are represented by at least half the seats on the board. This is the only way we will force an equitable distribution of wealth and prevent those at the top from continuing to suck up almost all the gains.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:20 AM on February 22, 2016


Can't wait to see questions from a bunch of you on AskMe so I can answer with, "Fuck you, looks like you made the wrong choices."
posted by klangklangston at 11:23 AM on February 22, 2016 [31 favorites]


then workers need to organize and use their pooled resources to buy a meaningful chunk of the company, held by the workers who are represented by at least half the seats on the board.

And if the business fails as Yelp is pretty much always on the edge of actually doing? Why would workers want to concentrate their risk in having their savings tied up in the source of their income? If I was a Yelp employee I'd invest anywhere but Yelp simply to diversify my risk.
posted by GuyZero at 11:26 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Can't wait to see questions from a bunch of you on AskMe so I can answer with, "Fuck you, looks like you made the wrong choices."

There are a fair number of answers that are basically that minus the "fuck you" part.
posted by GuyZero at 11:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I imagine most people would reply on AskMe with things like "have you considered getting a room mate while you look for a new job?" and "don't do the open letter thing about the CEO unless you want to get fired" and "maybe don't publicly slag off other employees."
posted by colie at 11:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


Can't wait to see questions from a bunch of you on AskMe so I can answer with, "Fuck you, looks like you made the wrong choices."

How about "you need to get a roommate" and "rice is delicious with some tomatoes" and "funny rant, but don't publish it on the internet"?
posted by the mad poster! at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Do you seriously think it is right that someone's ability to speak freely and honestly should be sold for less than a living wage?
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Or even "if you have trouble making ends meet, don't you dare EVER bake cupcakes or drink whiskey unless you want a bunch of internet smuggos to stalk-shame you into silence."
posted by dersins at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2016 [28 favorites]


Also, it's kind of funny how we're not all searching through the CEOs online presence to find out if he's really telling the truth about fighting the rising cost of living in the area.
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:51 AM on February 22, 2016 [26 favorites]


You can bake cupcakes and order whiskey, just don't tweet about it AND expect universal sympathy if you post about how poor you are. 'Cause living in SF may suck if you're not rich, there are plenty of people who would probably kill for four walls and cupcakes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:51 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


Also, it's kind of funny how we're not all searching through the CEOs online presence to find out if he's really telling the truth about fighting the rising cost of living in the area.

Technically moving all the minimum-wage jobs out of state raises Yelp's average worker income in California.
posted by GuyZero at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


You can bake cupcakes and order whiskey, just don't tweet about it AND expect universal sympathy

Can you really not see that this is not, as you seem to be suggesting, ideologically neutral, pragmatic sage advice but in fact an open endorsement of viciously victim-blaming scab labor politics? If so, try "solidarity" for the imputed goal in place of "universal sympathy"; maybe that'll help.
posted by RogerB at 12:03 PM on February 22, 2016 [26 favorites]


Mr. Stoppleman is the villain here. Talia is one of Mr. Stoppelman's victims. Mr. Stoppelman's acts of villainy are normalized in our society, and villains of his category are seen as respected leaders. This does not make him any less of a villain.

We should do everything we can to individually protect ourselves from falling into the hands of people like Mr. Stoppelman. However, one way we can protect ourselves is by helping and defending the people he's already victimized — if we use whatever means we have available to us to ostracize people like Stoppelman and inform people like Talia of the game he's running, if by some chance we help young people avoid falling into his nasty little game, his business model falls apart and his firm might get supplanted by something more ethical. This would prevent future Talias from being victimized. This would also, as a positive side effect, help in a very small way to drive up our own wages — if the supply of naive young adults to victimize dries up, companies might have to start paying real wages.

Also, an apartment in (I'm guessing from her commute length) Concord is not an irresponsible Bay Area luxury. It's an overpriced box nowhere near anything. The idea that a worker is being irresponsible by taking an apartment by themselves in the middle of nowhere is ridiculous. Arguing that we all need to double and triple up only serves to drive down our wages, by indicating that we're willing to accept a lower standard of living.

I mean maybe my worldview is a little too influenced by YA fiction, but uh you guys seem to have forgotten who the real enemy is.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:07 PM on February 22, 2016 [33 favorites]


You can bake cupcakes and order whiskey, just don't tweet about it AND expect universal sympathy if you post about how poor you are. 'Cause living in SF may suck if you're not rich, there are plenty of people who would probably kill for four walls and cupcakes.

Justify your poverty, indigent! We all know that you are merely faking for attention and sympathy, for you tweeted that you ATE A CUPCAKE THAT ONE TIME
posted by Existential Dread at 12:08 PM on February 22, 2016 [31 favorites]


Or hey, we could be going through Eat24's business decisions trying to show that if they'd just done THIS one thing right, they could afford to pay their workers a livable wage. Maybe they had a lavish party with whiskey and cupcakes once! That'd totally pay for raises.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:15 PM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


I mean, going through a young woman's social media account and selectively taking posts out of context to discredit and humiliate her...these are the tactics that Gamergate uses. I feel like maybe we should be better than that, at a minimum.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2016 [36 favorites]


There’s a scene in Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig’s character makes herself a decadent, beautiful cupcake, because her dreams have been crushed, because her finances are a wreck, because she works a humiliating customer service job where she has to swallow her pride daily, because she’s been forced to move back in with her mother, because she’s good at making cupcakes, because she misses it.

I guess I never realized that the moral of that scene was “how dare you eat a cupcake while being poor, you pathetic poseur, all your unhappiness is your own fault, gruel is all you deserve”
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2016 [35 favorites]


Neither bread nor roses.

Neither cupcakes nor whiskey.
posted by rtha at 12:19 PM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


I'm kinda amazed at how quickly the slightest whiff of "Maybe there's something we can tear apart someone's online presence for" makes anyone look like a justifiable target for unjustifiable tactics.

She's also asking for money, which unfortunately means people are going to scrutinize her more closely because they want to feel like they are giving to someone who is really in need.
Nope. Not going to do this. You know what, I'm tossing her extra just for this. Cupcakes, bourbon, I really don't care, she's earned it just from having to deal with this sort of sanctimony.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:22 PM on February 22, 2016 [21 favorites]


"Also, it's kind of funny how we're not all searching through the CEOs online presence to find out if he's really telling the truth about fighting the rising cost of living in the area."

If he wrote an article lambasting an employee, I'm sure we would. Hell, most of us probably believe he's a dick without knowing much about him. I do. But she's the wanna be social media icon (which is fine) publicly pointing fingers (also fine) at the head of the company where she works. Of course people are going to be judging her, that's part of being on social media.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


You can bake cupcakes and order whiskey, just don't tweet about it AND expect universal sympathy

I really thought there was a high bar to clear back when it was people not being able to buy luxury goods. But no! Now people may not purchase ingredients -- flour, sugar, milk, oil, eggs -- and spend their own time and labor preparing baked goods. Not even an entire cake, mind you, but cupcakes.

We should not ask people to win the race to the bottom before they can expect sympathy. We should not ask people to forgo every and all pleasures in life before we take them seriously.
posted by cjelli at 12:26 PM on February 22, 2016 [30 favorites]


If he wrote an article lambasting an employee, I'm sure we would. Hell, most of us probably believe he's a dick without knowing much about him. I do. But she's the wanna be social media icon (which is fine) publicly pointing fingers (also fine) at the head of the company where she works. Of course people are going to be judging her, that's part of being on social media.Of course people are going to be judging her, that's part of being on social media.

You do know his responses were via tweet, right?
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, it's kind of funny how we're not all searching through the CEOs online presence to find out if he's really telling the truth about fighting the rising cost of living in the area.

He's donated to SFBARF, an organization that fights for increased housing density in the SF bay area.
posted by gyc at 12:28 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


BUT DID HE DONATE ALL THE MONEY OR DID HE USE SOME TO BUY A CUPCAKE WHAT A HYPOCRITE
posted by dersins at 12:39 PM on February 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


To be clear, SFBARF only fights for increased housing density, rather than to improve renters' situations more generally, because there's a good argument to be made that it's basically an astroturfing group for real estate developers. Despite calling themselves a "Renters Federation," they have no interest in advocating on renters' behalves except insofar as they want to build more luxury apartments. They also want to take over the local chapter of the Sierra Club by amassing people on Reddit (lots of shenanigans in that links).

So sure, it's well and good that Stoppelman is in favor of building more housing and threw a few thousand bucks at a PAC, but that shouldn't be confused with him caring about whether his employees can afford groceries.
posted by zachlipton at 12:46 PM on February 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


who suggested that Yelp should be nationalized and given to its employees.

I don't believe we should nationalize the business, but I do think that employees should accrue substantial interests as they continue to work for a company. It is unfair for the company to direct all its profits to those who provide the capital.


I disagree with you there. It is totally fair. That capital is the the labor of yesterday's young people who are donating it to businesses. They are motivated to take these risks by the potential reward.

If we don't have the stomach to mandate this by legislation,

(a completely ridiculous example of nationalization)

then workers need to organize and use their pooled resources to buy a meaningful chunk of the company, held by the workers who are represented by at least half the seats on the board.

Did you read the part where she was living on rice? She can't afford to buy "a meaningful chunk of the company". Probably none of us can either since Yelp is $1.5 billion.

This is the only way we will force an equitable distribution of wealth and prevent those at the top from continuing to suck up almost all the gains.

The people providing the capital are not "at the top". They are not the 1%. They're just old people. Maybe your parents. They're people who worked yesterday or are working now and are saving a fraction of their income in retirement accounts. That's where the capital comes from.

I'm not sure what the right distribution of wealth should be between labor and capital, but if you think that labor is getting a bad deal, then the easiest way to change the situation is through taxation. Tax capital gains more (doesn't help with dividends), tax corporations more (encourages corporate flight), tax income less. This is always going to be a political tug-of-war between the old and the young, and there are always going to be old people trying to protect their savings, and young people fighting for the value of their labor — political change will be hard.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:10 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


> people providing the capital are not "at the top". They are not the 1%. They're just old people. Maybe your parents. They're people who worked yesterday or are working now and are saving a fraction of their income in retirement accounts. That's where the capital comes from.

This strikes me as bullshit. Some well-off (rather than wealthy) older people have investment portfolios, certainly. But the vast, overwhelming majority of the wealth of the nation, and the capital of the nation, is controlled by the .01%. Ordinary people may have some small amount of skin in the game or whatever, but the real money and the real influence is held by just a few special people.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:14 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: “The people providing the capital are not 'at the top'. They are not the 1%. They're just old people. Maybe your parents. They're people who worked yesterday or are working now and are saving a fraction of their income in retirement accounts. That's where the capital comes from.”

I'm sorry – I don't understand this at all. Since when is Yelp funded by retirement accounts? Or what exactly are you saying? Why does employee ownership in a company equate to stealing money from old people? Maybe you can help connect the dots for me here.
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The people providing the capital are not "at the top". They are not the 1%. They're just old people. Maybe your parents. They're people who worked yesterday or are working now and are saving a fraction of their income in retirement accounts. That's where the capital comes from.

Horseshit. May I direct your attention to "Figure 1: Net worth and financial wealth distribution in the U.S. in 2010"
posted by RogerB at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm sorry – I don't understand this at all. Since when is Yelp funded by retirement accounts? Or what exactly are you saying? Why does employee ownership in a company equate to stealing money from old people? Maybe you can help connect the dots for me here.

It's 95% owned by mutual funds.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:20 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean, even if we just assume (incorrectly) that most of the capital in the United States is tied up in retirement accounts, that's clearly not true of Yelp or its origins. Yelp was a well-funded startup from its inception, founded by former PayPal employees who were equipped to go the long haul, and it took in $15 million from 2005-2006 in investment capital from Benchmark and Bessemer. Neither of these venture capital firms have significant holdings in retirement accounts. Maybe there's some sense in which they have a less direct relationship with retirement accounts? I'm not sure. As I said, I don't know exactly what you're getting at.
posted by koeselitz at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2016


May I direct your attention to "Figure 1: Net worth and financial wealth distribution in the U.S. in 2010"

There's no question that wealth distribution is very lopsided and that this is problematic for other reasons. That doesn't change that "the people providing capital" as a whole are not a small subset of all people. It also is true that most of the capital is provided by a small number of people.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2016


that's where the jobs are

Yeah, I mean, this is a real issue. It seems like partly this is because both companies and employees benefit from spatial clustering. It's easier for a group of companies to attract hires, compared to a single company that's the "only gig in town," for instance. And if you leave a company to start your own, you're pretty likely to do it where you already live. It also seems like it's better for employees because if you get fired, you have a better chance of finding a new job a) sooner, b) in the same industry, and c) without having to suddenly uproot your life. I keep hearing that strain of "CEOs and plucky young Millennials should just move to Milwaukee/Buffalo/Detroit!" and I just don't think it's a realistic solution as much as a kind of stress fantasy.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:24 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: “It's 95% owned by mutual funds.”

Aren't most mutual funds not retirement funds?
posted by koeselitz at 1:25 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry – I don't understand this at all. Since when is Yelp funded by retirement accounts? Or what exactly are you saying? Why does employee ownership in a company equate to stealing money from old people? Maybe you can help connect the dots for me here.

Yelp is a publicly traded company. It has a market cap of about $1.5B. Various people and entities, collectively, own $1.5B in Yelp stock. These range from individual investors to mutual funds, which in turn have their own investors. Some of them are inevitably retirement accounts. Some are undoubtedly investment banks. Some are Yelp employees and former employees who receive stock-based compensation. If you want to give 100% ownership to the employees, you need to either take $1.5B in assets away from all those people, or come up with a suitable amount of money to purchase it from them.
posted by zachlipton at 1:25 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: “It's 95% owned by mutual funds.”

Aren't most mutual funds not retirement funds?


No?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:26 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Citation?
posted by koeselitz at 1:27 PM on February 22, 2016


She's also asking for money, which unfortunately means people are going to scrutinize her more closely because they want to feel like they are giving to someone who is really in need.

Two years ago, almost 7,000 people combined to donate $55,492 dollars to a person who asked for $10 to make potato salad. I don't remember anyone interrogating that man's choice of intoxicants at any point, despite the obvious indication of their use by all parties. No, this is about making her into a sufficiently unsympathetic character to justify turning a blind eye to the wealth inequality she represents. After all, if (the general) you really don't think she deserves your money, all you would have to do is not give her any. You don't give people money all the time. You usually don't accompany it with meditations on the venial sins precluding the other from sainthood.
posted by Errant at 1:27 PM on February 22, 2016 [32 favorites]


Citation?

Really? Did you search for "401k mutual fund"? http://www.kiplinger.com/article/investing/T041-C000-S003-101-most-popular-mutual-funds-for-401-k-s.html
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2016


For completeness we must now investigate the creator of the debunking site. Was it the creation of a corporate crisis communications agency or just ratings of a stalker?
posted by humanfont at 1:35 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, this thread is definitely the best place to debate how it works when an existing firm's capital assets are nationalized. Ideally let's also do it from first principles without any data, specialist knowledge, or history
posted by RogerB at 1:35 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: “Really? Did you search for '401k mutual fund'? http://www.kiplinger.com/article/investing/T041-C000-S003-101-most-popular-mutual-funds-for-401-k-s.html”

I'm aware that most retirement plans nowadays are based in mutual funds. I just don't know enough about mutual funds to know whether most mutual funds are driving retirement accounts. I would have guessed not, but as I said, I don't know.

“It's 95% owned by mutual funds.”

See, that is something I totally did not know going into this conversation, and I'm glad to learn it, so thanks. What you're saying may have made more sense if I'd known that.

I still don't know if this is all so simple, but probably a lot of us will agree with you here:

“I'm not sure what the right distribution of wealth should be between labor and capital, but if you think that labor is getting a bad deal, then the easiest way to change the situation is through taxation. Tax capital gains more (doesn't help with dividends), tax corporations more (encourages corporate flight), tax income less. This is always going to be a political tug-of-war between the old and the young, and there are always going to be old people trying to protect their savings, and young people fighting for the value of their labor — political change will be hard.”

I will add that this is a big problem with allowing tech companies to go public – they then become part of the ecosystem, as you're pointing out, and since tech companies are notoriously unethical, we're led to difficult situations when trying to manage them. I agree that taxation is probably the right way to go.
posted by koeselitz at 1:37 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


(Also, for whatever it's worth, it looks like the holder of the most shares in Yelp is actually an "Asia-focused hedge fund that bets on rising and falling stocks" called Tybourne Capital Management. And – looking further down that Major Holders sheet – apparently the vast majority of Yelp holders are hedge funds, not mutual funds. "Institutional and mutual funds" do hold 95% of Yelp, yes, but almost all of that 95% is the former, institutional funds, not the latter, mutual funds. Mutual funds appear to hold maybe 15% of Yelp.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:48 PM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


A Lot of Rice has a Twitter account. The first follower of eight people the handle follows Stef Williams a freelance writer in NY who has written her own condescending take down
posted by humanfont at 1:49 PM on February 22, 2016


She tweeted about not just buying whiskey but having whiskey delivered to her office a week before she was canned. It's not that I think she doesn't deserve cupcakes or whiskey or a living wage. It's that I think her story isn't true, and she has made stupid decisions. Again, you can think that a company being shitty is wrong AND think that this person is irresponsible. Sorry it's so hard for some of you to hold two ideas in your head at the same time.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 1:54 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


The people providing the capital are not "at the top". They are not the 1%. They're just old people. Maybe your parents. They're people who worked yesterday or are working now and are saving a fraction of their income in retirement accounts...

It's important to call this one out, as it's definitely the new pro-corporate lie being peddled. As if most people had ANY money in the stock market. (Only 49%, according to one fairly recent study, including those in pensions. http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/18/investing/stock-market-investors-get-rich/) As if most of the money in the stock market DIDN'T belong to the well-off. (Same link shows that, of those who have investments at all, the top 10% of incomes have nearly $300K in the market, the middle class has $14K, and the bottom 20% only $6K.) As if the elderly should have a really significant part of their holdings in equities post-retirement. (And that's even before you get to the real answer, which is that if Grandma received decent wages over her lifetime she wouldn't be required to engage in the speculation which is stock-market investment, but could invest more conservatively and still be able to live.)

The most insidious part of the argument is the implication that poor Grandma is suffering right now because of cruel regulations affecting corporate profits, when, in fact, she's suffering because of the low interest rates being paid on her savings account--a result of ZIRP--which serves to prop stock prices up!
posted by praemunire at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2016 [16 favorites]


"Institutional and mutual funds" do hold 95% of Yelp, yes, but almost all of that 95% is the former, institutional funds, not the latter, mutual funds.

Yeah, confounding "institutional and mutual funds" for the sake of this particular argument is pretty darned disingenuous. Grandma doesn't have a stake in Citadel, unless she's Mrs. Emily Gilmore.
posted by praemunire at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Regardless of minimum wage laws, it should also be law that employers must offer a reasonable telecommuting option for every job that could be done by a telecommuter. Programmers and the like should be working at home (or elsewhere, anyway) most days of the week. Call them in once a week or once a month for meetings if you absolutely need to smell them for some weird reason, but then send them off home again. Use some of this fantastic technology coming out of San Francisco to enable employees to get the fuck out of San Francisco.

With all the telecommuters disbursed about the state or further away, prices would come down in the overheated cities and rise elsewhere.

Of course, once you can do your San Francisco job from Fresno, someone else can do your job from Duluth or Mumbai...
posted by pracowity at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


So her story isn't true because she ordered something online and had it delivered to her office. Do you think she was secretly living the high life while making $12.25/hour?
posted by humanfont at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


Sorry it's so hard for some of you to hold two ideas in your head at the same time.

I...I think maybe I might suspect that your expression of sorrow could possibly not be entirely sincere.
posted by dersins at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


[Crap. Dispersed. Though maybe disbursed, too.]
posted by pracowity at 2:20 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sorry it's so hard for some of you to hold two ideas in your head at the same time.

...you mean like holding the ideas that people can be poor AND still sometimes treat themselves to a "luxury" item like mid-level liquor because sometimes having a small treat is the thing that keeps you from eating a fucking gun barrel that day? Like, that kind of holding two ideas at once? Yeah. I'm sorry that's so hard for some of you, too, buddy.
posted by palomar at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2016 [31 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, maybe just everybody go for a walk or something at this point.]
posted by cortex at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Relevant Maakies.

(sorry about the potato-quality image; it's the one where Drinky Crow gets a job and shops at a general store that sells whiskey and handguns.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2016




Ugh, Quartz is the worst.
posted by My Dad at 2:55 PM on February 22, 2016


Welp, one thing that Quartz article points out is exactly what I suspected: the food pics in her social media are things she got for free, and OH MY GOD HUGE SURPRISE, her social media presence is specifically intended to be happy-go-lucky so that her loved ones won't worry about her.

I'm like 90% sure that will fly over the heads of the people excoriating her for being a "liar", though.
posted by palomar at 3:01 PM on February 22, 2016 [37 favorites]


I mean the shit of it is that there is very little we can do at the present moment about unethical business practices like the ones Stoppelman's company uses. the only options available to us at the moment are:

  • Materially supporting campaigns to raise minimum wages to match living wages.
  • Materially supporting programs to control rent (affordable housing initiatives, rent control initiatives, public housing initiatives, and so forth)
  • Materially supporting people who've put themselves at risk by speaking out against unethical business practices (people like Talia Jane) — this empowers more people to speak out, because they'll know we'll have their backs if they do.


  • Also, we can do everything we can to educate young people and desperate people on how to avoid falling into scams like Stoppelman's — to tell them, for example, about how the practice of stringing desperate and naive people along has been normalized in our employer-dominated workplace culture, not from a jaded, savvy position of "pfft everyone knows they won't give you a straight answer," but instead from an empathetic, helpful position, something more like "remember when making decisions that recruiters lie, because it is not in their interests to tell you the truth."

    People who simultaneously hold that:
    1. this wasn't a scam and
    2. Talia was dumb and wrong to fall into it
    are outing themselves as being deep down not concerned with the well-being of people like Talia. People like Talia need to know, therefore, that these people are not to be trusted.

    Likewise, people whose line is "well, can't workers lower their standards of living more?" out themselves as being deep down hostile to the idea that the people who make the motor of capitalism move should have access to the benefits of capitalism. Trying to change their minds or reason with them is a fool's game: instead, just make a note for yourself that these people are actively hostile to your well-being and, again, not to be trusted.

    posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:30 PM on February 22, 2016 [24 favorites]


    I think that's part of the issue, You Can't Tip A Buick. You have to come from a fairly privileged position not to know that the bosses are not your friends, not to know that pie in the sky is not a reasonable answer. That, I think, is what people are reacting to - not so much that minimum wage is not enough to support a person in cities like SF, but the idea that the bosses were going to give her a job with amazing pay and benefits to post memes because she was just so gosh-darn special, unlike the /other/ rubes that would stay in CSR forever.
    posted by corb at 3:39 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


    And this can be seen in her outrage that lowly SNACK STOCKERS and CLEANING CREW got good hours. I mean, they might not even have a degree in literature! Looking to her as some prime example of class solidarity is looking for what you want to see, rather than what is.
    posted by corb at 3:41 PM on February 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


    Nevertheless, it's best practice to be sympathetic with the victims of scams, rather than the perpetrators — first, because it's the right thing to do, but secondly because it is difficult for people who sell their labor for something close to its value to compete with kids who've been taken in by scams.

    "Pfft I'd never fall for that!" is itself a naive position, since it overlooks how we lose not just when we fall for it, but when anyone falls for it.
    posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:44 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


    Please point to where she sneered at the "lowly" cleaning crew or snack staff for not having degrees.
    posted by palomar at 3:45 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Did you read a different open letter than I did, corb? Where are you seeing these bits about "amazing pay and benefits" and "lowly snack stockers and cleaning crew?" Or are you maybe reading a whole lot into the piece that isn't actually there?
    posted by dersins at 3:45 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


    yeah, this sounds like another version of the "every victim must be a perfect victim" fallacy. I don't care whether or not Talia is a good person or a solid Marxist or an intersectional vegan or whatever. What I care about is that when her pocket gets picked, my pocket gets picked too.
    posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:46 PM on February 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


    That's a fair analysis. And sure, ultimately it may make more tactical sense to organize around the Talias of the world, sympathetic, white, pretty, social media connected, of the same class as the influencers. But I think it's a bit unfair to expect people to like it.
    posted by corb at 3:53 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


    To take a similar example, when a white "respectable" college girl gets smashed in the face by a cop, suddenly the world is aware of police brutality. And it would be stupid not to organize around her on that, and take advantage of the world sympathy. And no one deserves police brutality. But when no one gave a fuck when the police were breaking anarchists bones and setting dogs on antifa, it's a little hard not to be at least a little bit frustrated.
    posted by corb at 3:57 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


    I really do wish, though, that it were possible/easier to keep conversations like this one focused on the scammer rather than the scammed. The impulse to go through Talia's literal-and-metaphorical garbage really must be rerouted in favor of going through Stoppelman's literal-and-metaphorical garbage. Let's figure out what that fucker's been doing with his money. I am absolutely certain that it's way more interesting than what Talia Jane's been doing with her money, if only because Stoppelman's got so much more of the stuff to play with.
    posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:58 PM on February 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


    One other point to consider - college itself is a negative cashflow proposition with an implicit promise of better payoff in the future. And people are told that education is a good thing and they need it to advance. So it's not like moving to a new city and giving a job that doesn't pay quite enough to have a positive cashflow with the hopes of soon getting a career and stability and good pay is in any way different from going to college in the first place.

    The thing is, that it is worth it to go to college. And if you don't make sacrifices for career advancement early on, you have a good chance of getting stuck in a dead-end job that never pays more and will eventually go from enough to live on to too little. The goalposts keep shifting further and further back and young people are expected to foot more and more of the bill of just getting in the door.
    posted by Zalzidrax at 4:02 PM on February 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


    I get that. But it's always going to be easier to hate on the petit bourgeoisie, because the things that frustrate people about the class are closer and easier accessible. The bosses can smear themselves with refined orphan tears encrusted with gold, and it's not going to really affect most people, because it's too remote and they already expect it.
    posted by corb at 4:10 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


    I mean, yeah, there are a lot of people in the world more fucked over by capitalism than Talia Jane. But it's not like there's any danger of people like dropping all their movement work altogether to support the Talia Janes of the world — the real danger, as has played out in this thread, is falling into unproductive, pseudo-savvy "hah hah look at the dumb millennial thinking she should get to live in an apartment, let's laugh at how dumb and entitled she is" crap.
    posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:23 PM on February 22, 2016 [16 favorites]


    See also: "screw those greedy public school teachers and their union, I pay their wages and don't get holidays at all."
    posted by holgate at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


    Let them eat cupcakes!
    posted by humanfont at 5:32 PM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


    i had no idea so many crabs had metafilter accounts

    This entire cloaca of a thread was worth it for this comment tbh
    posted by emptythought at 6:42 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


    I like it how, no matter what happens in the fucking world, it's always somehow the fault of the person getting paid like a buck an hour.

    "Oh she has a college degree and a car, she could basically get a job anywhere in the golden land of endless opportunity that is America!" Like, of course she has a fucking college degree and a bomby old car, she's grown up believing that's the only way to get through life in America.

    The only convincing argument I can see for moving to San Francisco is because that's apparently where all the tech jobs are, but then when you get to San Francisco you don't get paid a living wage and therefore can't afford to live in San Francisco (or run your bomby old car, or pay off your overpriced college degree)...but that's where all the jobs are, so uhh?

    Let's add another stepping stone on the path to success in golden America! Don't be born black or poor, don't get arrested or shot to death, grow up nice and get a college degree and a car...and then work as a streetsweeper in Fort Buttfuck, Indiana? Or something? And hopefully don't get sick? And somehow pay down your debt and put enough thousands of dollars in savings that you can afford to have a job in San Francisco for a year before you maybe get promoted and earn above minimum wage?

    Paying money to have a job. Amazing.
    posted by turbid dahlia at 7:01 PM on February 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


    Or even "if you have trouble making ends meet, don't you dare EVER bake cupcakes or drink whiskey unless you want a bunch of internet smuggos to stalk-shame you into silence."

    Also and ok i wasn't going to say it originally, but part of the reason this thread royally cheeses me off is that i've been in this situation, making either starvation wages with way too few hours that will never really increase(but your schedule is always "floating" and you gotta be available or you'll get canned), plus randomly having to stay two hours late or come in on a saturday or whatever, and then eventually just unemployed.

    I borrowed money. I came up with clever ways of making money, making things work, and getting little stuff i wanted. I had a really cheap used iphone i bought cracked and repaired. When my laptop died, i got a pretty nice one from... a guy who lost his job and needed some money to keep things going, for cheap, and we had a big conversation about it. Then when that one got stolen i eventually hunted down another decent one from someone else who had the same damn story. Some of my other stuff came from rich people who "just wanted it out of my basement" or garage.

    Where i'm going with this, which you can probably see already, is that i got a TON of shit for being under or unemployed and fairly broke and having anything cool at all. I also got shit for not living on like, a cot in an unfinished basement in the shittiest possible part of town. I remember posting a picture of a nice dinner my mom made(she's a chef) with food i bought with goddamn foodstamps i had just gotten and there was more than one comment being like "oh wow, that looks expensive, hmm...". I was just excited to finally eat something that wasn't beans and rice on a stale tortilla and people were throwing shade all over me.

    This was in the deep dark depths of the recession, and slowly my place filled up with more and more friends who used to have sort of ok jobs you could live on here(like say, being a full time server at a decent restaurant and getting lots of tips) and now worked sketchy shifting part time hours at a sandwich place.

    Eventually i got a job, an actually sort of ok job(at first, it turned in to something pretty shitty and unfair but that's another story), and suddenly EVERYONE SHUT UP.

    All the assholes who talked shit on me behind my back or to my face, or gave me shitty looks whenever they saw i had anything worth anything at all, shut up. I never heard it again.

    But boy o boy holy fuck was so finely attuned to hearing people do it to eachother, and my friends after that.

    As soon as someone says they don't have much money, or somehow displays that, even if they aren't asking for money everyone else suddenly becomes a certified expert in how they should and shouldn't be spending their money, and how they should look/dress/act and what objects should be around them or in their lives. And no one realizes how ignorant or full of shit they sound doing it.

    wooo boy, i need a beer.
    posted by emptythought at 7:04 PM on February 22, 2016 [47 favorites]


    IF YOU DIDN'T BUY THAT BEER YOU WOULD HAVE GREATER OPPORTUNITIES FOR MORE FISCALLY REWARDING WORK
    posted by turbid dahlia at 7:25 PM on February 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


    Yeah, and if you don't buy a latte every day you'll save $6.75 a day by drinking the office coffee!

    Is this where I note that my unemployed friends get Starbucks gift cards for that?
    posted by jenfullmoon at 7:28 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


    everyone else suddenly becomes a certified expert in how they should and shouldn't be spending their money

    Oh god that's the basis of a huge lump of the American charitable-industrial complex, which now includes things like GoFundMe where people get to perform public moral judgement on other people's needs.
    posted by holgate at 7:31 PM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


    Oh, another deep thought for the thread:

    "Two years ago, almost 7,000 people combined to donate $55,492 dollars to a person who asked for $10 to make potato salad. "

    Would this have happened if a girl asked for $10 to make potato salad?
    posted by jenfullmoon at 7:38 PM on February 22, 2016 [16 favorites]


    I donated; not a lot--just something. I see upthread she spent recently donated money on groceries. Works for me.
    posted by pjmoy at 7:44 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


    You know what? I really, really like Talia. Most people don't make it to her age without developing at least a little bit of bitterness and cynicism. (For me it was really in high school, when I realized how incredibly unjust it was that the poor minority kids were shuffled into vocational stuff and the rich white kids all went to college.) But Talia isn't cynical at all -- she's angry, because she feels entitled to certain things, and she's completely right. She reminds me of a friend who heard that Google was the best place to work (years ago) and literally wrote them a letter asking for a job despite having no qualifications. I mean, he was crushed when he never got a response, but I really admired the chutzpah and innocence of that kind of thing -- I gave up on those kinds of dreams practically before I even had time to dream them. Don't let the world crush you, Talia. Stay angry.
    posted by miyabo at 9:01 PM on February 22, 2016 [25 favorites]


    hell yes. what miyabo said.
    posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:27 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]




    There's also something to be said for the way the attitude miyabo is describing is responded to when it's a woman(or girl) vs when it's a man(or boy).

    A bunch of my friends, some of whom do cool stuff now did stuff like that in high school. Some of them stayed like that after. One of them was determined to be an animator. He drew little stop motion cartoons throughout high school. You know what he did? He won an animation contest to make a commercial for samsung and got some money and a free computer at the end of high school. He ended up meeting pendleton ward by complete chance who said follow your fucking dreams, and now he makes fucking magazine covers and illustrations for magazines and newspapers.

    I have a whole bunch of stories like that. Some of them "failed", but didn't lose their spirit and are still out there trying to do their thing. Some of them ended up in situations like this.

    But you know what i realized? Almost all the ones who didn't get bitter or cynical and didn't give up are men. Women are talked about so ridiculously more harshly when it comes to stuff like this. If you're a guy, it's "heh i remember when i was like that, you'll learn" and you succeed or you don't. When you're a lady it's all "you stupid entitled *insertfavoriteshittywordhere*" and lots and lots of talking about how stupid they are for thinking they can do that and well... this thread.

    Is it any wonder so many people give up?

    Just because you don't succeed doesn't mean you're wrong, or what you wanted was wrong. Or fuck, what you expected was wrong. But jesus fuck damn do you get so much more leeway to want the wrong thing or feel that you deserve the stupid thing if you're a guy.

    Like, signed a guy who wanted to be a successful musician since he was like 7 and didn't get cynical or bitter until after college(and actually had some minor success!)... But watched a whole bunch of my friends just get crushed.

    This thread is a perfect example of why i feel like my lady friends who didn't give up and succeeded had to be twice as fucking strong as the guys who did. Even when they were starting to really succeed people were still loudly shitting on them. The sentiment "men are given room to be mediocre" has been floating around a lot on the internet lately, but it's not even just that. It's more like men are also given room to want the wrong things, or have unrealistic beliefs about what they'll get or how things will work. If you're a guy, you're usually told that's unlikely or it'll be hard(or almost impossible). If you're a lady, you're usually told that you're stupid and that's wrong and you don't understand how it works.

    I don't know if that even makes any sense, but your post brought up some really long standing strong feelings about this shit that this thread had really reboiled.

    I also think this is a large part of the reason that so many of these tech startups are started, run, and staffed by mostly men. Trying or believing in ridiculous shit is just way more encouraged.

    Basically i guess i don't think a lot of people would be shitting on a guy for trying to turn a CSR job in to something more at a company like this and failing in the same way. I just don't. I'll never believe it. There might be a couple harsh comments, but the general response is always "well, at least you learned something!".
    posted by emptythought at 10:53 PM on February 22, 2016 [48 favorites]


    Kimberly Crawley: A Message for the Talia Jane Haters…
    A bright young woman in the San Francisco area works full time for a very wealthy Silicon Valley employer. Her roughly $1500/month pay isn’t even enough to pay the rent of the cheapest apartments within a 50 mile radius of San Francisco.

    She writes about it on the internet, hoping that maybe Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman might show concern and pay her enough to have a roof over her head and eat.

    Do you:
    • Show concern, realizing that thirty years ago, even the lowest wage jobs in America paid enough to both rent a modest apartment and buy groceries for one person.
    • Donate $5 to her PayPal account[...]because everyone in America deserves basic survival at the very least.
    Or, do you:
      Call her a “typical whiny, entitled Millennial.”
    • Rant to her about BOOTSTRAPS!
    • Go on and on about how poverty in America is no big deal because there are starving children in Africa, or something like that.
    If you fit into one of the former categories, congratulations! You’re a decent, empathetic human being.
    posted by zombieflanders at 6:20 AM on February 23, 2016 [25 favorites]


    There are plenty of reasons to hate on millennials, but expecting honest wages for an honest day's work is not one of them. (Okay, she worked for Yelp, so maybe give her a pass on the honest part.)
    posted by entropicamericana at 7:51 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Everytime someone calls Talia Jane an entitled whiner, it just makes me want to send her a dollar to spend on cupcakes, Bourbon or whatever the fuck she wants to spend money on. So keep it up, bootstrappers!
    posted by thivaia at 9:17 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


    I'm a 53 year old white guy who hovers around the bottom of the so-called middle class. I pay-palled her 10 bucks because it was all I could afford. I hope it helps.
    posted by Devils Rancher at 9:51 AM on February 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


    A Message for the Talia Jane Haters…

    ugh. All these hot takes on hot takes are terrible in their own unique ways.

    Someone upthread said that you have to give poor people agency at the same time that you fight against people exploiting them. You know who else has agency?

    You Americans have voted for politicians who supported “free trade” agreements that shipped what were good paying domestic factory jobs to sweatshops overseas.

    JFC. American politicians are not in charge of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Mexico and the dozens of other countries that the US trades with. Factory jobs were not that great, although they use to pay well enough. But just like women are no longer barefoot and in the kitchen, the rest of the world isn't in the primitive economic state they were in the 1950's. The only people who think Reagan was even more superhuman than the Republican leadership are people on the left who seem to think he singlehandedly built trillions of dollars of overseas factories and moved a few billion Chinese people out of rural poverty and into the cities and special economic zones.

    Congratulations Talia Jane, you're going to have to change your name to Tabula Rasa because everyone is projecting their own economic issues onto you getting fired from a minimum-wage job.
    posted by GuyZero at 9:52 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


    Also yes, before some else says it, I just did a hot take on a hot take on a hot take.
    posted by GuyZero at 9:52 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


    I have been thinking this over, and the comments in this thread advising that she needed a roommate really bug me.

    Since WW2, the population has diversified away from a nuclear family with a mom, a dad and 2.5 kids while housing stock has converged towards family homes for a nuclear family with a mom, a dad, 2.5 kids and blessed with an upper class situation where dad makes scads of money so mom can be home with the kids. SROs and boarding houses are largely a thing of the past. This is why the standard wisdom is that all young people need to share an apartment with someone they may barely know in order to survive: Because we mostly do not have housing suitable for the needs of single young people, while simultaneously having lots more of them.

    And it sticks in my craw because I have always been horrified at the idea of rooming with a stranger. In my mid thirties, I got a diagnosis for an incurable, life threatening congenital problem. After years of being treated like a whiny, neurotic, lazy person, overnight that changed to "wow, you were brilliant to protect yourself so well without a proper diagnosis."

    I didn't have a proper diagnosis in my twenties. I don't think someone in their twenties should need a damn doctor's note to justify a desire to have a place of their own. There should be market rate, decent, affordable housing that suits their needs in sufficient supply that young people do not have a gun to their head to get a roommate.
    posted by Michele in California at 10:40 AM on February 23, 2016 [16 favorites]


    I choose and have chosen to have roommates, but I realize it's not a possibility for everyone, and it shouldn't be a necessity for surviving.

    The frustrating thing is that I will hear about something (like these NYC microapartments) that I would think should be an affordable solution to this problem (260-350 square fee, mini fridges, 2 burner stovetops with no oven) but they are still not at all affordable ($2500+ for the non-subsidized units). Some are subsidized for low-income earners but are still not cheap-- ~$950 for someone earning around $25000/year IIRC. And good luck even getting into one of those units, since it's a lottery and they will turn you down if you earn a penny more than the maximum or if you don't have great credit.

    I can't speak to the situation in San Francisco, but in New York it's all about profit and given the choice between renting to poor people or rich people, developers will choose rich people every time. And luxury building after luxury building goes up in New York and those who aren't rich live... where?
    posted by matcha action at 11:17 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


    So Talia Jane and Stefanie Williams, the author of a scathing rebuttal to Talia's Medium article, are now buddies on Twitter. If nothing else, Talia is handling the fallout with grace and is now probably in a great position to get a social media related job. She's also really funny.
    posted by grumpybear69 at 11:22 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


    I don't have a link handy, but San Francisco also has insanely expensive upscale micro apartments for the fortunate few young people with awesome jobs who are not yet ready to settle down (ie marry) and/or procreate. This seems like it is probably the very definition of "the privileged few."

    Micro apartments should be a thing for ordinary young people, not yet another class of luxury housing. I mean it would be fine for some of them to be luxury housing, but there should be housing that people of ordinary means can afford.
    posted by Michele in California at 11:24 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


    I'd point out she was already living pretty far out from the city, likely toward the end of one of the BART lines based on the fare she said she was paying. There are some luxury microapartments in SF, but nobody's building those 30+ miles away. Yes, some people commute from even further out, but she'd have higher transportation costs that way too.

    Anyway, here's some brand new condos in Hayes Valley (some of the highest rents in SF) hitting the market right now. $500,000 for a 320 square foot studio.
    posted by zachlipton at 11:36 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


    As far as I can tell, it is a fairly reasonable assumption that any new construction within 10 miles of a major city is, or aspires to be, "luxury apartments" (aside from the requisite 5 units out of 100 that go into the affordable housing lottery)
    posted by theorique at 11:53 AM on February 23, 2016


    I lived in Fairfield, midway between San Francisco and Sacramento. It was 45 miles from each. The drive to Sacramento was about 45 minutes. The drive to San Francisco was at least an hour, if you were lucky, and could easily be two hours in heavy traffic. Fairfield is in Solano County, "the cheap seats" of the SFBA. It has a high percentage of families, relatively speaking, and, at the time, about 40% of workers living in Solano commuted to another county for work. In other words, they lived there and put up with long commutes for the wonderfully "affordable" housing it offered.

    We moved there from Ft. Irwin, a military base in California. My husband was an E-7 ("senior NCO") and, on Ft. Irwin, our on base housing was a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath duplex with over 2000 sqft and an attached garage, yard, and nearby playground. In Fairfield, we rented a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment and had our two adolescent sons share a bedroom. The apartment was just shy of 1000 sqft.

    We moved in a couple of days before Christmas. When his pay hit the bank on January 1st, his COLA for the Bay Area had not yet caught up. He called finance in another state and told them he desperately needed his pay straightened out as his E-7 pay with about 14 years in the Army was insufficient to cover our rent, never mind feed his family, without the COLA he was due. And the guy in finance said something like "Well, you shouldn't have rented something so ritzy." which just infuriated my husband who was shoehorning his family into a tiny apartment in spite of his well established career with good benefits.

    Never mind new housing or within 10 miles of the big city, there is nothing at all affordable in the entire Bay Area within at least 45 miles of San Francisco. I am sure the Talia's of the world would be okay with an older building 10 miles out if it could be had for the roughly 30% of their income that most of the world thinks financially responsible people should pay for a place to live.
    posted by Michele in California at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


    I think there just isn't enough housing to possibly support everyone who wants to live in the bay area unless we start building up a lot, and fast.

    Even if we magically subsidized housing for everyone so they could pay exactly 30% of their income for exactly the amount of space they needed, people wouldn't be able to move here or live here because there wouldn't be any place for them to live.

    Even Tokyo with its density and high rises still has people commuting in from over 2 hours away by train. I would be all for building more small studio apartments for single people (~300 sq ft is not bad at all when you're living on your own), but then you still have the people of all stripes who'll complain that the new housing is changing the character of the neighborhood. But we have to do that if we want to be able to support more people living here, and more people do want to live here.
    posted by that girl at 1:17 PM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


    I have a phone interview on Friday about a job (a pretty good one, too) in downtown San Francisco. My family and I currently live in the mid-Atlantic area (in a detached four-bedroom house with a small yard and some trees) and our mortgage is a reasonably small percentage of my take-home pay.

    My first question will be, "So, how's the weather out there?" and my second question will be, "Do you provide housing?"

    I think it's going to be a short interview.
    posted by math at 1:26 PM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


    My first question will be, "So, how's the weather out there?" and my second question will be, "Do you provide housing?"

    They won't provide housing, but this does give you a fair amount of leverage in salary negotiations and if they don't go where you need them to yes, it will be a short conversation.

    Assuming you have enough equity to buy a house here (heck even if you rent) just budget $4000-ish monthly (probably $5K if you want a better school catchment and your kids are school-aged although SF itself is open-enrollment) and then figure what you need on top of that and you're set.

    So basically you'll need about $80K annually before tax just for housing (assuming an effective tax rate of about 25%). If you want housing to be a mere 1/3 of your income, ask for, say, $240K.

    There is literally no counter-argument to that proposal. They'll take it or they won't.

    And I realize it may sound crazy, but if you're the right fit for the job it's not crazy to ask for that much at all.
    posted by GuyZero at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


    FWIW, every time I talk to a recruiter about working in Midtown or The Financial District or Hoboken, I point out that I *will not* commute, and that if they're willing to talk real money to **live** in Manhattan, than I'm certainly willing to discuss details.

    Funny, they all seem to disappear after that...
    posted by mikelieman at 2:03 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


    I've got a naive question. Why do people want to live in SF's orbit unless they are, well, rich? I don't mean people with strong existing ties but rather those that are just sort of generally enthusiastic about living in a place that sounds a little hellish unless you have crossed some economic line that makes it "FUN."
    posted by Pembquist at 2:24 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


    San Francisco has a great climate, great food, great museums, great geographic proximity to outdoor recreation, and is highly bikeable and walkable (for American values of bikeable and walkable). I would move there tomorrow if I could afford it or if I were a little less practical/chickenshit.
    posted by entropicamericana at 2:34 PM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


    When we moved to Fairfield, I was an Environmental Studies major with hopes and dreams of going into urban planning. The first time my husband took me to SF, I was enthralled. I have been through many big cities, both American and European, and never felt like "WOW, I want to LIVE here!" But I felt that way about SF and, on the way home, I bought about $300 worth of books about urban planning and related topics.

    The city is beautiful. The street grid laid over hills makes it easy to find your way around yet still picturesque. The weather is fantastic. The city if full of gorgeous architecture and the culture is wonderful. I completely understand why people want to live there. I really didn't want to leave, but couldn't afford to remain in the SFBA after my husband moved out. I was failing to get a job and getting by on alimony and child support and it was about to be cut because the army relocated him.

    The entire bay area is full of natural beauty and urban environments that are similar to the sophistication of Europe, something you see in few places in the U.S. My mother is European and I have lived in Europe and I just loved that about the bay area. It has good public transit and even relatively small cities have grocery stores that are open 24 hours a day and the community colleges are dirt cheap. My husband was able to take Latin at a CC in Solano County. Latin! You can't find that at most CCs in the US.

    There are over 100 cities in the bay area and...there are just a million reasons to love the area, in spite of how galling house prices are.
    posted by Michele in California at 2:35 PM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


    I moved here in 2001 and I love it here and I am not rich (well, except by global standards, I guess). You don't have to be rich to enjoy the weather and the beaches and the burritos. When I moved here, right at the beginning of the last dot-bomb, I started in retail and lived in a room in a shared house and I didn't have a ton of money but I could still go out sometimes and go to shows and stuff. This remains true (mostly) for my friends who are now working do-gooder non-profit jobs. But their housing situations are much more precarious than they used to be.

    You may get a skewed view of living here from threads like this. It is not all horrible, though a lot of it - too much of it - can be harder than it needs to be for too many people.
    posted by rtha at 2:37 PM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


    San Francisco has a great climate

    Yes, although please just a bit more rain.

    great food

    I subscribe to the Chronicle even though I live in the South Bay - yes, I'm a luddite who gets dead-tree newspapers - and I hate-read the Food section every Sunday. SF food is actually incredible but it is overshadowed by its collective self-satisfaction with itself.

    great museums

    eh, they're OK - like walkability it's great by American standards. Although I went to the Legion of Honor for the first time only a month ago and it's a really great building and a great collection. Once the SFMOMA re-opens maybe it'll be overall great again.

    great geographic proximity to outdoor recreation

    Arguably it's the greatest region in the US for access to outdoor activities. Mostly this takes the form of me feeling guilty for having spent a weekend day running errands instead of going for a bike ride.

    and is highly bikeable and walkable (for American values of bikeable and walkable)

    It's not bad on this front as long as you feel comfortable riding with traffic. And don't mind the occasional hill. :)

    And for all its warts, the economy here is going crazy. People are moving to the region because of high-paying jobs. Most cities would love to have San Francisco's non-self-inflicted problems.
    posted by GuyZero at 2:49 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]




    So where does "shitting all over someone just for writing that their job doesn't pay enough" rank on this theoretical embarrassment scale?
    posted by dersins at 6:04 PM on February 23, 2016 [20 favorites]


    I actually think that Stefanie Williams piece is sort of weirdly tone-deaf about Williams's own advantages. Not everyone has parents in the New York suburbs with whom they can live, for instance, or family friends who will offer them jobs in New York that pay a living wage if you can live with your conveniently-located parent in the New York suburbs. She didn't get that hostessing job because of her superior work ethic. She got it because her parents knew the bartender. And if her network had been in Peoria or Sioux City or Davenport, then I think it's pretty unlikely that she would be the professional television writer that she says she is today.
    posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:08 PM on February 23, 2016 [22 favorites]


    Maybe try to depersonalize it? Instead of seeing everything in the world as one person "shitting on" another and taking umbrage, why not interact with the truth? Some of her points made sense to me.
    posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:10 PM on February 23, 2016


    Micro apartments should be a thing for ordinary young people, not yet another class of luxury housing. I mean it would be fine for some of them to be luxury housing, but there should be housing that people of ordinary means can afford.

    No, they should be flat out illegal unless they match the $/sqft of normal apartments.

    I know i sound like a NIMBY since i've been against them since day 1 in seattle(which is, as far as i can tell, close to ground zero for their existence judging by google). My biggest issue with them is that in any market i've seen them in besides maybe sf(and $2500 for one still sounds like this would be true) they cost the same damn price as a regular studio. Not every studio, but like, lets say, a reasonable market rate.

    Like microstudios can be well over $1000 in seattle now. Some are like $1200+ even. You can go rent a studio for that much. Hell, you can hunt around and find a studio for ~$800. Maybe even less if you find a particularly cheap or odd building. And that studio will have a real kitchen, and a real full sized bathroom, etc.

    You end up creating a market in which:

    1. Real studios are highly prized commodities. Everyone said micro studios wouldn't drive up normal-studio prices. This is observably non-true. Regular studios are barely less than one bedrooms now and there's a lot of price overlap.

    2. Regular studios rent REALLY FAST. Not as fast as reasonably priced one bedrooms(which have reached under-a-day SF/NYC status) but very, very fast. A lot of them don't hit the normal craigslist/etc rental market and people get directly referred to landlords by friends, etc

    3. As a result, most people renting micro studios are those without strong networks. Even if they grew up in the area, i'm talking about people who just don't have many friends, local/living family, or are disadvantaged in some way like mental health issues. They're all corporately managed and have slick application/rental processes and there's tons and tons of them.

    I've heard bullshit arguments that frame them as a fast food product for people who are too lazy to apartment hunt and try and sell them as some out of towner taking er jerbs product... But i honestly feel like they exist to exploit people who don't have the time, knowledge, or connections to play the ridiculous housing game.

    And so i fucking hate them. It's not even hard to argue that they're oppressive and exploitative.

    Also, holy shit we have a ton now. Any cry to regulate them in some way is answered back with SHUT UP U FUCKIN NIMBYS in a way that's transparently funded by developers, and developers are building them as fast as they can because they've realized the $/sqft they get is insane. Like, london insane.

    Maybe try to depersonalize it? Instead of seeing everything in the world as one person "shitting on" another and taking umbrage, why not interact with the truth? Some of her points made sense to me.

    Ok yea i would maybe be willing to play this game in general, but i'm not willing to divorce this from the immense beyond 4chan sized wall of hatred she's been getting that it is inarguably part of. Why are so many big sites hosting this trash? It's practically a gamergate level of harassment at this point, and the "truth lies somewhere in between"-ness is really REALLY starting to stink the way that did to me.
    posted by emptythought at 6:19 PM on February 23, 2016 [23 favorites]


    Not everyone has parents in the New York suburbs with whom they can live
    most people renting micro studios are those without strong networks

    Both of these are excellent overlapping points. Without family or really close friends, it is extremely hard to get that first job or apartment. I'm not talking about Daddy putting in a word at the golf club so you get hired as a management consultant, which is kind of obvious. I'm just talking about someone to help you get that job as a server and find a cheap but ok basement apartment and sell you their beater car. Networks matter, and people often take theirs for granted.
    posted by miyabo at 6:36 PM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]


    Why are so many big sites hosting this trash? It's practically a gamergate level of harassment at this point, and the "truth lies somewhere in between"-ness is really REALLY starting to stink the way that did to me.

    This is exactly the opposite of dispassionate contemplation of points that I was suggesting. She's not getting "a wall of hatred" or "harassment"! She published an "open letter", and people are responding to it with their opinions about her letter. I think it's possible to disagree with someone without referring to their article as "trash" — surely, if Stefanie's article is trash, Talia's is outright garbage :)
    posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:43 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


    So we've reached the "actually, ..." part already?
    posted by maxwelton at 7:10 PM on February 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


    surely, if Stefanie's article is trash, Talia's is outright garbage

    Sorry, but this is false equivalency bullshit. Both articles were pretty poorly written for a number of reasons, but one of them was a sincere--if possibly misguided--attempt to speak truth to power by someone who has none, and the other was an actual attack by a (relatively) successful person on an unsuccessful one. If you can't see how resoundingly different those two things are, I don't even know what to say.
    posted by dersins at 7:21 PM on February 23, 2016 [17 favorites]


    The problem with romanticizing Talia's letter as "truth to power" and dismissing opposition as "an attack by a more successful person" is that it's pretty obvious that the people who will most readily disagree with Talia are people who succeeded in her situation. So, you're begging the question — assuming what you are trying to prove.

    Ultimately, both letters will resound with different kinds of people. It's okay to accept that not everyone in the world will agree with you, and that that doesn't make the detractor's experience "bullshit".
    posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:36 PM on February 23, 2016


    ...So, you're begging the question — assuming what you are trying to prove.

    This is sort of a baffling attitude, if sincere. I have made a series of observations related to the topic under discussion, but I'm not "trying to prove" anything, as I do not believe that a conversation is a thing which needs to be won. You should consider a similar approach.
    posted by dersins at 8:58 PM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


    This is sort of a baffling attitude, if sincere.

    Indeed one might, by this point, be reconsidering that premise
    posted by RogerB at 9:30 PM on February 23, 2016


    Indeed one might.
    posted by dersins at 10:34 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


    Would this have happened if a girl asked for $10 to make potato salad?

    If she were attractive: $100000 and lewd comments

    If she were unattractive: $10 and insulting comments
    posted by theorique at 5:10 AM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


    The problem with romanticizing Talia's letter as "truth to power" and dismissing opposition as "an attack by a more successful person" is that it's pretty obvious that the people who will most readily disagree with Talia are people who succeeded in her situation.

    Ugh. Where to even start. I succeeded in Talia's situation, and that is precisely why (besides the fact that I'm a human capable of compassion) I agree with her. I look back on my broke-ass early 20s as a "there but for the grace of God go I" situation because things only improved after my work ethic + social network + plain luck combined in a perfect storm of opportunity. So I support Talia as she awaits her better circumstances.

    And an aside: this "interact with the truth" business smacks of MRA-type prioritizing the "rational" over the "emotional." It's not productive.
    posted by witchen at 8:00 AM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


    I'm not convinced the entire episode isn't a slick PR maneuver, but regardless it has brought out the worst in pretty much everyone except Talia.
    posted by grumpybear69 at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2016


    She has another open letter up which is somewhat egomaniacally addressed to 'you'.
    posted by colie at 10:37 AM on February 24, 2016


    So now addressing a letter to a group of people as “you” is egomaniacal? What?
    posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:50 AM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


    And anyway, in case anyone actually cares about Talia Jane herself, she recently did a couple of radio spots.
    posted by grumpybear69 at 10:53 AM on February 24, 2016


    I guess I was expressing an opinion about the tone of the second open letter. She's a writer, she uses words for effect, it's all part of the situation under discussion.
    posted by colie at 11:03 AM on February 24, 2016


    she's a woman on the internet it's all part of the situation under discussion
    posted by twist my arm at 11:09 AM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


    She asked us to discuss the letter and the situation. Any writer puts something polemical up, the language they use and what they're trying to achieve with it is part of the discussion.
    posted by colie at 11:12 AM on February 24, 2016


    She's a writer, she uses words for effect

    ≠ "my contention about this word's effect is defensible"
    posted by RogerB at 11:13 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


    OK, not wanting to derail from hearing any other reactions to her second open letter, or to defend something that wasn't a fully made point, I concede that it's not egomaniacal to address an open letter to 'you' instead of the more common individual or whatever - point taken.
    posted by colie at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2016


    She asked us to discuss the letter and the situation. Any writer puts something polemical up, the language they use and what they're trying to achieve with it is part of the discussion.

    A polemic is an attack, though. While her initial letter was absolutely a polemic, this second one is anything but. In fact, it is remarkably (and impressively) good natured, warm and inclusive, especially given the amount of vitriol to which she has been subjected over the last couple of days.
    posted by dersins at 11:38 AM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


    She has another open letter up which is somewhat egomaniacally addressed to 'you'.

    Oh cool, now that's she's caught a break, she wants to help others. That's a pretty good outcome and good on her.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:40 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


    In her new "Open Letter To You", Jane writes
    Call me entitled, but I don’t think you should be barred from growing and exploring and taking risks because your income isn’t in proportion with the cost of living in your area.
    which I'd take one preemptive step further (prior?) by saying that "all income should be in proportion to the cost of living in your area."

    I also very much appreciated (Medium user) Pavel's comment to Jane (sorry for reproducing it in its entirety, but every word seemed right for this thread)
    I have to admit, I didn’t really pay much attention to this until I saw the reactions calling you entitled, bitchy, and worse for essentially realizing that the track you’re on is a hopeless soul-sucking void of nothingness and the promise of a better future through the means that worked only 20–30 years ago is basically a lie. Apparently, much of America expects you to go to a university (which is often more focused on football than academics), get a job (while most employers have no career track for entry level employees), find a place to live (but not anywhere people actually want to live, that would be “wasting money”), commute 2+ hrs/day to this lovely job, and if or when you actually look up and think to call bullshit, to not. kudos on calling bullshit. it needed to be said. it needs to be said by many more.
    posted by mistersquid at 12:52 PM on February 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


    but not anywhere people actually want to live

    Hey, wait, that's where I live!
    posted by ftm at 2:02 PM on February 24, 2016


    I used to love college, but I am just so jaded on it these days. I kinda feel like to some degree you have to do it just so you won't get ruled out of a job for no college degree*, but you have to rack up a ton of debt that you probably can't ever pay off just to have any kind of a shot at getting a job, which your degree probably didn't prepare you all that well for getting, and whatever job you get probably can't pay back the loans so well. School skills aren't necessarily work skills.

    * except now they rule you out for not having a SPECIFIC degree.
    posted by jenfullmoon at 10:53 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]



    And an aside: this "interact with the truth" business smacks of MRA-type prioritizing the "rational" over the "emotional." It's not productive.


    It is pretty outrageously sexist to suggest that prioritizing rational discussion is the domain of men. Both men and women are capable of rational dispassionate discussion. (And what this has to do with men's rights I have no idea.)

    I was only suggesting, since it seemed that some people were taking the subject very personally, for people to try to interact with the issues dispassionately. You can empathize with someone's difficult situation while at the same time recognizing that there's not much that can be done about it.

    As people have pointed out, a higher wage means higher demand on housing, which means higher rents. When rent is 80% of what you spend, that magnifies this effect so much that I doubt higher wages would change much for her (unless she were the only person to get a raise rather than everyone making minimum wage.)

    That's the problem with this story. Yes, she's poor. We all have our impressions about whether she is a victim of circumstance, or a victim of her own naïvety, or a victim of her attitude. What matters is what can be done about it, which is in my opinion, not much.

    I do think that progressive taxation and higher minimum wage are a good idea, but I don't think it will help her situation very much.
    posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:14 AM on February 25, 2016


    It is pretty outrageously sexist to suggest that prioritizing rational discussion is the domain of men. Both men and women are capable of rational dispassionate discussion. (And what this has to do with men's rights I have no idea.)

    It's probably because trotting out a "fuck her, got mine" argument and calling it logical or rational makes a person sound like a very specific kind of man who is often also an MRA.
    posted by palomar at 5:51 AM on February 25, 2016 [12 favorites]




    What's the problem with that response? It's clear, well reasoned and gives a nice framework for someone to work from if they are prone to thoughtless financial commitments like the subject
    posted by rr at 7:23 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Flavorwire: Something to Consider Before You Laugh at Millennials Complaining About Minimum Wage "If you managed to avoid the Great Open Letter Crisis of February 2016, then rejoice"
    posted by tofu_crouton at 7:35 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


    That article is kind of all over the place, though.
    posted by tofu_crouton at 7:38 AM on February 25, 2016


    What's the problem with that response? It's clear, well reasoned and gives a nice framework for someone to work from if they are prone to thoughtless financial commitments like the subject

    Well:
    "I know that many people face income inequality, rising rent, lower relative pay, and a lot of other hardships, but using those issues to provoke your readers when ~90% of your income goes to rent seems disingenuous...[list of budget recommendations]...Now that we have a viable path to navigating your current circumstance, how do we improve beyond that? Well it all comes down to you saving money, and investing in your personal development...Before I conclude my advice, I want to recognize again that there is a lot of wrong in the world. We see it frequently on the streets and in the news. Many of our peers legitimately cannot do some of the things we all take for granted, like obtain a credit card or apply for an apartment, because they cannot speak English or lack a formal education."
    How the hell is it disingenuous to complain about rising rent and relative paybecause she pays a lot in rent relative to her income? That doesn't make any sense. Is he saying that only people who aren't affected by rising rents can complain about them? Seriously, it's completely nonsensical framing.

    Having dismissed her right to complain at the outset, he then makes a comparison to the plight of people who 'cannot...apply for an apartment' as an example of 'what's wrong in the world,' implying that because she can afford an apartment, there is nothing wrong with her situation. There is no systemic problem here: there is only her personal failings and lack of 'investing in [her] personal development.'

    And about mid-way through,
    All it takes is scaling down your living expenses with your income until you get that promotion in a year or find a new job. Then feel free to scale up reasonably when you have the budget.
    Let's be clear: this is not 'here's how to live in SF on $17,597.76' a year. This is 'here's how to scrape by until you make more money.'

    This is far, far from being a dispassionate 'helpful budgeting!' recommendation; it dismisses all of her complaints as baseless, blames her situation on a personal moral failing, rejects the idea that there might be any systemic issues influencing her situation, and, as a baseline, assumes that making the minimum wage is only a temporary step up the economic ladder.

    It, ah, seems disingenuous for the author to frame this, as he puts it, "separat[ing] the polarizing issues inherent to socioeconomic inequality from the actions that you are fully capable of taking to help yourself." There are a lot of assumptions embedded in his budgeting, his language, and the fact that he's mansplaining budgeting to her in the first place that are anything but 'separate from' issues inherent to socioeconomic inequality.
    posted by cjelli at 8:01 AM on February 25, 2016 [13 favorites]


    Two things:

    As I said upthread, everyone projects onto Jane. No one actually cares about her problems, all these responses are reflected through the prism of their own problems. Sure he's mansplaining, but ultimately he's just talking about himself as are all these respondents.

    And an interesting article referenced on Twitter: " reflecting on your own past experience with a specific misfortune will very likely cause you to underappreciate just how trying that exact challenge can be for someone else (or was, in fact, for you at the time). You overcame it, you think; so should he. The result? You lack compassion."

    People who face adversity are more compassionate except when it comes to the same problems they've faced in which case they're actually less compassionate. And struggling to make ends meet is a pretty common issue.
    posted by GuyZero at 8:28 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


    No one actually cares about her problems

    [citation needed]
    posted by cjelli at 8:32 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


    The people writing all these open letters in response to the original open letter. Sorry, that's who I meant.
    posted by GuyZero at 8:41 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]




    I feel like I should publish some sort of totally snarky response to the 36-year-old, just to keep the cycle going.
    posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:11 AM on February 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


    Jane responds to questions like, "What do you make of the criticisms you've received, like the suggestion that you could've just found a roommate, or that you shouldn't have spent any money on luxuries like bourbon that posted to your Instagram?"
    posted by blue suede stockings at 10:16 AM on February 25, 2016


    From Jane's response:

    Companies in the Bay Area like Yelp have helped to over-inflate housing costs, and if they can't pay their workers to be here, they shouldn't be here.

    Which is exactly what Yelp's CEO indicated they were doing. Which, as she says further down the Vice piece, doesn't do anything to help current employees and may actually end up with local layoffs, but hey, the invisible hand also has an invisible middle finger.
    posted by GuyZero at 10:20 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


    So your issue with it is that he's not making her impossible dream possible, basically?

    I want to live in Manhattan on $2k a month. It is my employer's fault this isn't possible.
    posted by rr at 10:29 AM on February 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


    Yelp's status as a dickwaddy company (or the CEO's dickwaddy rationalizations) isn't relevant. For all the good it does her to complain about her wages, Talia Jane may as well be howling at the moon. Unfortunately the working reality dictates that, earning a minimum wage, you can't afford to live in San Francisco. This is the way it is, but is it the way it has to be?

    Driving up the minimum wages seems like a reasonable thing to do, but it doesn't really solve any problems--the issue isn't what you earn, it's what you can afford. Only high-paid workers can afford to live in San Francisco. Is there a way to treat the cost of housing differently from the price of tomatoes? Does equity mean that workers earning minimum wage mustn't be able to live on the coast?
    posted by mule98J at 10:40 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


    36 year-old DESTROYS 29-year-old millennial who “ripped” 25-year-old Yelp employee who got fired after complaining about her salary


    Medium's got a pretty sweet racket going on here. I look forward to the next episode in the series.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:37 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


    rr: "So your issue with it is that he's not making her impossible dream possible, basically?

    I want to live in Manhattan on $2k a month. It is my employer's fault this isn't possible.
    "

    No but it's her/his fault that they're paying you less than $12/hr in one of the most expensive cities in the country.
    posted by octothorpe at 11:46 AM on February 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


    So your issue with it is that he's not making her impossible dream possible, basically? I want to live in Manhattan on $2k a month. It is my employer's fault this isn't possible.

    Are you saying that properly budgeting isn't going to make it possible for your to do that? Because that sounds a lot like you're saying her situation -- her 'impossible dream' -- isn't something you can budget for. So how is it 'well reasoned' to tell her budget better?
    posted by cjelli at 1:31 PM on February 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


    Debunking that Millennial's Open Letter to that Millennial Who Wrote an Open Letter to Her CEO:
    As it turns out, Stefanie's experiences in the New York City metropolitan area around 2009 are not at all comparable to Talia's experiences in the San Francisco metro area in 2016.
    posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:31 PM on February 25, 2016


    A self-righteous open letter to people who write self-righteous open letters to people who write self-righteous open letters
    First: You don’t know shit about the writer, besides what she wrote. Yes, fine, you are fully entitled to the emotional reaction that the blog post inspired in you. You also certainly have the right, if not entirely the responsibility, to respond to what she wrote.

    But let’s temper our judgment with the appreciation that the contents of an emotional blog post is not the totality of the circumstances. This goes for any autobiographical essay. It’s okay to ask questions, but maybe don’t feel too assured in your conclusions, okay?

    (Exception to this: That guy who demanded the SF City Government solve homelessness because it was starting to inconvenience him and his fellow, deserving, “wealthy working people.” That dude fully deserves your scorn.)
    posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:33 PM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Wow, so one of Joseph Gurl's links linked to this article, which kind of explains the "why didn't she live with her mom the way I did" question.
    posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:48 PM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


    The article on budgeting, as I noted originally, gives her a framework by which she can understand that her wants and her means are not compatible. She doesn't appear to have that level of insight and seems to have graduated from college with an inability to do basic arithmetic.

    So yes, I think an article on how to budget is absolutely appropriate and helpful. It is clear she has no knowledge of the concept.
    posted by rr at 8:22 PM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Wow, so one of Joseph Gurl's links linked to this article, which kind of explains the "why didn't she live with her mom the way I did" question.

    Does it ever. Yowza.
    posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:34 PM on February 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


    Per that article. She and her mom were forced to go into witness protection when she was ten after her mom's best friends murdered and dismembered several people. And then her mother had serious mental health problems for the rest of her childhood. Yet she still isn't allowed to complain about her low wages, long commute and lack of career advancement opportunities. Not unless she a given a lecture about budgeting and her lack of math skills.
    posted by humanfont at 8:41 PM on February 25, 2016 [15 favorites]


    Budgeting only works when you have enough money to cover rent, heat, hot water, electricity, food, transportation, and the other essentials. There's a minimum amount of money needed to live in a one bedroom within 30 minutes of a full-time job, and if you don't have that, all the budgeting in the world won't help.

    And *that's* the issue. Companies paying everyone poverty wages.

    Face it, if that's what your company needs to stay in business, you're a failure and the sooner bankruptcy comes, the healthier the economy will be.
    posted by mikelieman at 9:00 PM on February 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


    a framework by which she can understand that her wants and her means are not compatible

    "Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked for more!"
    posted by RogerB at 11:08 PM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


    This is not a good faith discussion, truly. Stepping out.
    posted by rr at 12:04 AM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


    there isn't much use in day 5 of THIS IS A BUDGETING PROBLEM vs THIS IS A SYSTEMIC PROBLEM anyways.

    re: stefanie williams the 29yo response person, she went on fox & friends for a segment on this and the wussification of america (literally it says that on the screen).

    williams on jane:
    But you are a young, white, English speaking woman with a degree and a family who I would assume is helping you out at the moment,
    williams on blm:
    And this is one of th many reasons the #BlackLivesMovement has zero credibility. What a fucking joke.

    The #BlackLivesMatter movement isn't about respect, it's about simply hating another race. No class at all.

    #NYPD #BloodOnDeBlasiosHands #BlueLivesMatter
    that last tweet of hers links to a screenshot comment that starts out "I am as liberal as the day is long." includes scare quotes around "murder" re: eric garner and mike brown. it was clear in her original article, but in case anybody was on the fence about how she understands her own privilege, she doesn't. (and i shouldn't have to say, this isn't meant to be a referendum/derail on whether those specific BLM activities are ok or not. i think it's sufficiently tone deaf to, as a white person, throw around "zero credibility", "simply hating another race" and "no class".)

    she does however have plenty of advice on how to treat your bartender. things that i happen to agree with because i've been there too. things that mefites have argued to hell and back over. but it's easy to turn around and tell her fuck no, bootstrap your damn self, if you want to get paid, don't take jobs that depend on tips. the customer is always right now make me that fucking mojito. just as jane chose that job that couldn't meet her needs, tipped workers choose jobs that rely on social customs rather than laws. and that's what happens when we turn on each other. everyone feels comfortable shitting downhill.
    posted by twist my arm at 1:05 AM on February 26, 2016 [12 favorites]


    Face it, if that's what your company needs to stay in business, you're a failure and the sooner bankruptcy comes, the healthier the economy will be.

    Food delivery (Eat24) is a very low-margin business though. After you've paid the restaurant and the delivery person is there really enough left over to pay everyone in the call center enough to live in a Bay Area apartment? Something has to give for the math to work in this situation. I think moving the jobs to a place where the rent is lower as they've announced they're doing is probably the most straightforward solution.

    I'm not against jacking up the SF minimum wage but in this particular situation (SF cost of living) the lion's share of the increase is going to be eaten up by the limited housing supply, so you can't just index income to rent. Either the housing supply needs to increase or companies need expand their offices to other locations.
    posted by the mad poster! at 1:31 AM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


    Either the housing supply needs to increase or companies need expand their offices to other locations.

    C) Declare bankruptcy, liquidate your assets, and return remaining equity to the shareholders.

    Game over. Insert quarter and try again.

    Their **BUSINESS MODEL** is fundamentally flawed if it is predicated on the Goverments' subsidy of cheap labor at "Minimum Wage".
    posted by mikelieman at 4:22 AM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


    How much of her troubles do we lay at the wages Yelp offers? Why isn't $25,000 with full healthcare benefits (2x federal poverty level) enough to afford a single person a modest just out of college existence? To what extent do social policies play into this. For example the Bay Area's insane housing market and things like AirBNB exacerbating a shortage. or consider how the US Higher Education has left her with a big debt load right as she's getting started.
    posted by humanfont at 4:39 AM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


    >Why isn't $25,000 with full healthcare benefits (2x federal poverty level) enough to afford a single person a modest just out of college existence?

    One bedroom rent w/in a half-hour of that gig in SF is what, 3 grand a month? Or isn't a 1br 'modest' enough for the Economic Calvinists out there? Or is the desire to spend < an hour of your waking day commuting not 'modest' enough?

    Yelp is a symptom of the systemic problem.

    The way we fix it is is to require everyone to pay a true living wage, and then process the bankruptcy paperwork for the losers who can't make the proper capitalist decisions to run a business profitably given the realities of the world they live in.
    posted by mikelieman at 5:00 AM on February 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


    C) Declare bankruptcy, liquidate your assets, and return remaining equity to the shareholders.

    Why is it mandatory for the call centers to be in SF, at arbitrary SF cost of living that increases like a feedback loop (higher wages -> higher COL -> higher wages)? Like most savvy companies, Yelp is actually incorporated in Delaware.
    posted by the mad poster! at 5:28 AM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


    It's not clear to me exactly what she was doing in the call center, but I could see how there could be a benefit to having call centers staffed by people who were familiar with the local area.
    posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:04 AM on February 26, 2016


    Yelp's decision to want to hire people is a major city is *their* choice. If they want to make that choice, they have an obligation to pay the people they hire to work there enough money to have a life outside of working and commuting to work and worrying about buying groceries or going to the movies or whatever...

    Yelp's problem is that their business model and/or strategy is wrong, or they're executing it incorrectly.

    Think of it as Capitalist Calvinism, corporate evolution where "Survival of the fittest" has meaningful criteria, specifically not transferring public money to their business by requiring taxpayer subsidies of their minimum wage employees.
    posted by mikelieman at 7:43 AM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


    This problem won't be solved with higher wages alone. Those most of those wage increases will end up in the hands of landlords. The problem seems to be much more one of housing supply.
    posted by humanfont at 11:03 AM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


    This problem won't be solved with higher wages alone. Those most of those wage increases will end up in the hands of landlords. The problem seems to be much more one of housing supply.

    Does housing supply make that much of a difference? There are no states where the minimum wage would cover the median rent. Some key quotes:

    The 2015 Housing Wage is $19.35 for a two-bedroom unit, and $15.50 for a one bedroom unit.
    There is no state in the U.S. where a [federal] minimum wage worker working full time can afford a one-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent.


    Looking at SSA Statistics for 2014, the median wage was 27,457 which translates to $13.20 per hour (assuming 40 hour work weeks).

    These are national averages, so I know they are low for higher priced cities. The top 10 most expensive cities all have a Housing Wage over $30 per hour for a 2 bedroom unit. And those cities are located in states where the minimum wage is higher than federal but none are more than $10 per hour.

    After some googling, it looks like there are about 18M unoccupied homes in the US. Does anyone know what that number needs to be for the housing supply to be sufficient? How much would the housing supply have to increase for the Housing Wage to drop to the actual median wage? How do we keep wage increases out of the hands of landlords?
    posted by LizBoBiz at 12:41 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Does housing supply make that much of a difference? There are no states where the minimum wage would cover the median rent.

    Yes, it makes a huge difference. Minimum wage does not need to cover median rent. But, 30% of median wage should cover median rent and there should be decent housing you can get for 30% of your income if you are working full time. Otherwise, something is seriously broken.

    Having studied the issue, I am confident that lack of match between housing stock and current demographics absolutely is a serious root cause of the general economic distress we are seeing across the nation.
    posted by Michele in California at 12:57 PM on February 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


    Why is it mandatory for the call centers to be in SF, at arbitrary SF cost of living that increases like a feedback loop (higher wages -> higher COL -> higher wages)? Like most savvy companies, Yelp is actually incorporated in Delaware.

    Maybe call centers in particular don't need to be located in SF, but there are definitely many low-wage jobs that require physical locality: food prep, landscaping, retail. Regardless of what city you're in, there are a lot of jobs that are individually low-value and replaceable, but collectively add up to a lot of high value. Until 7-11 is completely automated, somebody still has to work in the convenience stores in San Francisco.
    posted by theorique at 1:27 PM on February 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


    I may have misworded that but yes all of my comment assumes that only 30% of your income is supposed to go to housing costs.
    posted by LizBoBiz at 1:48 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


    I guess my thinking is that increasing the housing supply would not lead to decrease in rents because of a few reasons:

    1) housing is fairly inelastic
    2) the rise of foreign investment in real estate and not using it
    3) bank foreclosures that aren't being used (and the related drop in home-ownership rates that drives up rents)
    4) the rise of corporate property management which allows for properties to sit empty longer than if it was a local landlord
    5) the housing stock that is added tends to be luxury apartments and not middle or low income

    Like I mentioned in my comment, there are about 18M vacant houses in the US. I would like to know if someone has an idea of how much more it needs to be increased to decrease rents? Or is it more of a factor of too much housing in some areas and too little in others?
    posted by LizBoBiz at 1:55 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]




    You are fundamentally looking at the problem wrong.

    We need an increase in specifically affordable housing stock that is matched to the needs of the demographics being underserved. This has been accomplished in the past when the country as a whole decided to do exactly that just after WW2. It was supported by a confluence of events, such as World War 2 ending and people coming home who were entitled to help with purchasing a house and who had money in the bank, but it was facilitated by a) the nation creating new institutions specifically to finance the housing and b) new building practices.

    Thus was born "Levittown" and modern American suburbs. They were slapped up whole sale across the nation at breathtaking speed in response to both high levels of housing need and high levels of ability to purchase. So they simply made up new stuff, starting at the federal government level on down, to make that happen. And, boy, did it ever.

    Currently, it is flat out illegal to build a lot of the kinds of housing that would help solve this problem. That needs to be resolved at a regulatory and policy level. There are, for example, broken attempts to "preserve the rural character of the neighborhood" by requiring incredibly large lot sizes. The result: Huge houses with huge yards that cost a fortune, while the rural character of the neighborhood dies anyway. (See Apple Valley, California if you want a good example of this.)

    The whole "new urbanism" movement was all about trying to figure out how to build the sorts of pedestrian friendly, people friendly housing that was the norm at one time in this country before our planning guidelines got whored out to treating cars like they matter so much more than human beings. So, there are a lot of places where you can no longer build row housing, narrow streets etc because we want wide-assed streets that cars can go ZHOOMING down and to hell with people and their whiny shit about wanting a home or wanting to be able to walk to the grocery store. MUST HAVE BETTER ROADS.

    Additionally, it is currently incredibly hard to finance forms of housing the would better serve our current demographic. I have read articles on things like co-housing, which has the potential to help redress the situation. Last I checked, co-housing is so different from what all financing mechanisms in the US cover that you essentially need a few rich people interested in doing it to self-finance the project. This tends to undermine the likelihood that a co-housing project will actually increase the availability of affordable housing to people of average means. The co-housing project winds up mostly serving a group of close knit friends, who tend to have similar levels of income.

    So another thing that needs to happen in this country is we need to invent new financing mechanisms that will help support the creation of something other than single family homes of 2000 sqft or more and other luxury housing.

    It is not true that we have no choice but to just let builders create luxury new homes to line their damn pockets. Housing has to a) comply with urban planning guidelines in order to get approved b) have a financing mechanism in place and c) probably other stuff that is not coming to mind at the moment and I don't really have the time today to do this comment justice.

    But, yes, increasing the supply of affordable, decent housing has real impact. Housing is typically the single largest expense in most household budgets. If you can get more housing on the market that ordinary people of ordinary means can actually afford without crowding together to a degree that is a violation of housing codes, yes, this will help enormously.

    The way to do that is to get involved in changing government policies from the city through to the federal level and inventing new financing mechanisms. It would also help to make some changes to the tax code. We currently have tax breaks that actively encourage homeowners to buy or build larger houses and these codes help create a divide between the haves and the have nots because they make it such that if you can afford a home at all, you actively have encouragement to be part of the problem and not part of the solution by getting a 2000+ sqft home with 3 or 4 bedrooms and crap like that in spite of having only one child and, thus, 3 total family members.

    In a nutshell: As the supply of large size and/or luxury housing is going up, so is the incidence of homelessness. These are not unrelated phenomena. They are directly related.
    posted by Michele in California at 2:25 PM on February 26, 2016 [15 favorites]


    I will add that I am personally disinclined to just point fingers at "landlords" and builders because during the Irish Potato Famine, landlords were willing to let tenants in distress live rent-free out of compassion for their hardship and because they knew that the problem was so widespread that throwing them out into the streets would not allow the landlord to rent the place to someone else. There were simply too many people experiencing hardship.

    Then the government decided it wasn't getting enough in taxes and decided to change the rules such that landlords got bled for taxes for occupied units even if they weren't being paid any rent. The landlords could not afford to pay those kinds of taxes while getting no rent, so they had no choice but to start throwing people out into the streets.

    There were food shortages all over during the Potato Famine. Ireland was on a short list of countries selling food to other countries to make a buck. Most countries were hoarding food to feed their people.

    So every single variable that you listed as contributing to financial distress for ordinary Americans is not something set in stone. It is something Americans can choose to change. For example, other countries make laws limiting foreign ownership. If we collectively decide that foreign ownership is A Problem here, we can put limits on that.

    But, first, we need to return to the ideals upon which this country was founded: That The People matter more than anything else.

    That really isn't something pie in the sky. You fail to do that, you see things go to hell. It is a standard that works better than worshiping the almighty dollar. You want a healthy economy, you need an economy that takes care of its people. The people are the engine running your economy. You piss all over them, do not be surprised when your precious wealth stops being secure.

    See "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith.
    posted by Michele in California at 3:44 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


    Look at the satellite map of Apple's existing campus in Cupertino. Thousands of people work there. Yet it sits Ina sea of low density residential structures. It isn't like Apple moved in recently. Where are the multistory high density buildings for all these young workers. Apple is now building its new spaceship HQ. Did they factor in housing? Nope. Just a huge office building surrounded by parking lots. Oh and private busses from the high rise condos in downtown SF an hour away or more in rush hour.
    posted by humanfont at 4:33 PM on February 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


    There are actually half a dozen high-density multi-story developments going on in the area - downtown Sunnyvale recently resolved a developer lawsuit and will hopefully be selling/renting units soon. A new development at Lawrence and Monroe is not only high density, it was approved with less than one parking space per unit. And there are a few other developments going on in the area.

    Residential housing developers don't have a $200B bankroll to use to accelerate their projects. But there is change happening slowly.

    That said, yes, everyone who lives around here has a love/hate relationship with it.

    Finally it's not going to be surrounded by parking lots - the entire surface will be greenspace according to the plans. All parking will be underground and I wage there will not be enough for everyone, just like at Google's campus.
    posted by GuyZero at 5:02 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


    After thinking about this all day, the real villain here is not Talia, but the lack of land in San Francisco.

    There are two options I see that we can implement to make living in SF attainable for the common person:

    1. Demolish all residential buildings fewer than 100 stories tall and replace them with 100 story buildings. SF is nowhere to be seen on the list of the world's most densely populated cities. That has to change.

    Or

    2. Immediately began reclaiming land from the Pacific Ocean, until every man, woman and child who wants to live within the SF city limits is able to do so for the same price it would cost to rent an equivalent space in Topeka. I'm sure Tokyo and Honolulu won't like becoming SF suburbs, but you have to break eggs to make an omelette.
    posted by reenum at 11:37 PM on February 27, 2016


    After thinking about this all day, the real villain here is not Talia

    Gee, you think?
    posted by dersins at 12:25 AM on February 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


    The willingness of so many ordinary people to collaborate with their own oppression and defend it as inevitable will never cease to baffle me.
    posted by howfar at 2:33 AM on February 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


    began reclaiming land from the Pacific Ocean,



    Foster City, CA was founded in the 1960s on engineered landfill in the marshes of the San Francisco Bay, on the east edge of San Mateo. The city was named after T. Jack Foster, a real estate magnate who owned much of the land comprising the city and who was instrumental in its initial design. His successor firm, Foster Enterprises, run by his descendants, is still active in real estate affairs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Pop density of 8,600 people per square mile. $2.5 k a month can get you a small rental apt.
    posted by tilde at 3:17 AM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


    began reclaiming land from the Pacific Ocean

    See also Mission Bay.

    SF is nowhere to be seen on the list of the world's most densely populated cities.

    San Francisco itself is actually the second densest large city in America, after NYC. SF is compressed into a very small area. The Bay Area as a whole, yeah, that's more diffuse.

    Even so, SF is less than half the density of Brooklyn, much less Manhattan. I love a good 100-story arcology as much as the next nerd but you wouldn't need them to make a big difference, given that a lot of SF is single-family houses and two-story townhouses. (I actually love the architecture of the Sunset, but I'd love it just as much if the buildings were, you know, bigger.)
    posted by en forme de poire at 3:32 AM on February 28, 2016


    (Exception to this: That guy who demanded the SF City Government solve homelessness because it was starting to inconvenience him and his fellow, deserving, “wealthy working people.” That dude fully deserves your scorn.)

    Justin Keller shows us programmers need a heart

    “Tech bros” and their sense of entitlement will be Silicon Valley’s undoing
    posted by homunculus at 3:12 PM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


    There is plenty of land in the Bay Area. They don't need to demolish every single family dwelling to solve the problem. Build 200 apartment complexes at about 200 units each. That's an 8 story apartment building half a block deep. That creates 40,000 new units which is enough to start to turn things around. The biggest problem is finding the money and getting through the site planning process.
    posted by humanfont at 5:24 PM on February 28, 2016


    Meanwhile, single mom Jaymee Senigaglia shares her experience of getting fired from Yelp. Yelp responds with their usual class and tact.
    posted by pxe2000 at 3:48 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]




    Good. Yelp is doing all sorts of crooked shit--treating employees like crap, basically blackmailing people to pay money or else look bad online, etc.
    posted by jenfullmoon at 10:35 PM on March 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


    I wonder how much of that is because it was her boyfriend in the ICU instead of her husband? Though I also feel like those "training periods" where they don't give you time off and can fire for whatever are mostly legal ways to figure out who will need a lot of PTO and fire them for it.
    posted by corb at 12:22 PM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


    « Older We’re not doing science, we’re doing magic.   |   I am like you. You are like me. Newer »


    This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments