Friday, February 26, 2016

Open Letter to CEO Costs Millennial Her Job

Millennials have been maligned in the news and workplace as being self-entitled spoiled brats who don't quite understand what it means to do things for themselves, thanks to the helicopter parents who hover nervously over their children, and their counterparts, the snowplow parents who clear the way for their precious snowflakes.

Of course, Millennials have their own justified complaints about the state of the world, such as the high cost of college and the lack of decent employment when they're finished. They believe they've been lied to: that going to college would lead to a better job and better life. It gets worse when they go to work for a company where they're poorly compensated while the CEO makes several million dollars, plus bonuses.

(It doesn't help that many of them majored in English and Theatre, and then are shocked that companies don't have jobs for poets and actors.)

One Millennial in particular made the news earlier this month when she published an open letter to her CEO, complaining about her low pay in a city known for its high cost of living.

Talia Jane, 25, worked in customer support for Yelp/Eat24 in San Francisco, making $733.24 every two weeks and paying $1245 a month for an apartment 30 miles from her office. She took the job in the hopes that she could move to social media and put her English degree to good use.

That meant she also spent $11.30 per day to take the train to and from work. Jane was even considering canceling her Internet service, which she needed to start her freelance writing career. She hadn't started however, because she was "constantly too stressed to focus on anything but going to sleep as soon as I’m not at work."

Not too surprisingly, Jane was fired two hours after she published her blog post, which means she has plenty of time to rest up and finally start that freelance writing career.

Meanwhile, Yelp CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, and various spokespeople have said that Jane was fired for performance issues and not the letter. But Jane said she was told that it was absolutely because of her letter, as it violated the terms of her employment.

While I'm sympathetic to her plight, I don't feel bad that she was fired. If you want a raise, you ask your supervisor for one. You don't embarrass your CEO in the national media. If one of my employees did that, I'd fire them in a heartbeat. Of course, I'm the only full-time employee, so I'd know who did it.

Me: Erik, did you write this letter?

Erik: Um, no?

Me: Are you sure? It seems like something you'd write.

Erik: Well, maybe if you'd quit taking all the sprinkle donuts at the staff meeting!

Many people have been critical of Jane, questioning why she didn't have a roommate to cut her rent in half. Why didn't she work a second job? Why did she take a low-paying job in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and not get a roommate? Why didn't she sleep on the train and do her freelance work at home to earn some extra money? And why, oh why, didn't she have a freaking roommate?

All these criticisms were in the form of an open letter. Several of them, in fact.

The day after Jane's open letter went viral, another open letter soon followed. This one was from Stephanie Williams, 29, who criticized Jane's work ethic and sense of entitlement.

Then, a 39-year-old woman wrote an open letter criticizing Williams for criticizing Jane, claiming hypocrisy and double standards. And I'm sure there's a 49-year-old woman who's drafting her own open letter, which will be followed by a further drubbing by a 59-year-old woman.

Meanwhile, the world's oldest woman, Susannah Mushatt Jones, 116, is twiddling her thumbs, waiting for her turn.

Stoppelman says he has the solution to all of these problems. He recognizes that San Francisco has a very high cost of living, and so he's going to help his lowest-paid workers: he's moving the Yelp/Eat24 offices to Phoenix, Arizona.

Well, that's nice of him. Now, instead of increasing the pay of his poorest-paid workers, he's going to let them spend money they don't have to move to a new city where they can earn the same lousy pay, but make it stretch further.

Meanwhile, Talia Jane is still out of a job, and I doubt she's going to get another decent one right away. With this kind of notoriety, I'll be surprised if anyone gives her a chance to criticize them in an open letter anytime soon.

Don't worry too much about her, however. She's got accounts on PayPal, Venmo, and Square Cash, so people can support her until she finds a new job. You know, one that can put her English degree and love of social media to good use, and give her the high salary she's sure she deserves.

Maybe Jeremy Stoppelman can kick in 20 bucks.

Photo credit: John Fischer (Flickr, Creative Commons)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Kanye Asks Tech Billionaires For Bailout

Poor Kanye West.

No, seriously, poor Kanye West. As in Kanye West is poor.

$53 million poor.

The self-proclaimed music legend took to Twitter last week to bemoan his sad fate, saying he's "$53 million in personal debt."

Kanye's debt is roughly $15 million greater than the GDP of Tuvalu, the country with the smallest GDP in the world. Tuvalu would have to work for 1.4 years to pay off Kanye's debt.

So he asked a few tech billionaires if they would like to invest in him and his ideas "after realizing he is the greatest living artist and greatest artist of all time."

Your ideas can't be that great if you've made boneheaded financial decisions, like renting out AT&T Baseball Park in San Francisco and hiring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra so you can propose to your equally wealthy girlfriend.

"Mark Zuckerberg invest 1 billion dollars into Kanye West ideas," he tweeted. Other messages then followed, "Mark Zuckerberg I know it’s your bday but can you please call me by 2mrw … I am your favorite artist but you watch me barely breathe and still play my album in your house … I’m this generation’s Disney … I don’t have enough resources to create what I really can."

He then topped it off with "Mark, I am publicly asking you for help. . .one of the coolest things you could ever do is to help me in my time of need."

One of the uncoolest things you could do, Kanye, is ask Facebook's CEO for $1 billion on Twitter.

Then he turned his attention to Larry Page, CEO of Google, asking the same thing.

"All you dudes in San Fran play rap music in your homes but never help the real artists…you’d rather open up one school in Africa like you really helped the country…All you guys had meetings with me and no one lifted a finger to help…."

Yes, Kanye really thinks bailing out a rich rap artist is much more important than educating dozens of children every year for decades to come. All he needs is one of these billionaires to dump a billion dollars into him so he can generate ideas.

I'd come up with ideas all day long for $100,000. I'm not greedy.

That's just .01% of $1 billion, and I'd give you all sorts of ideas. Like a rocket that fires nuclear waste into the sun. Or a Magic 8 ball that asks questions instead of answering them. Or self-roasting marshmallows. Or a radio that makes all your favorite songs sound like Kanye wrote them.

See, four great ideas, and I just spun those out for free. Imagine what I could come up with for a hundred grand. And I wouldn't do anything stupid with it either, like renting out a Little League Park and hiring a kazoo band so I can re-propose to my wife.

But Kanye's giant ego wasn't done yet. A day later, he was back on his Twitter horse, comparing himself to Saint Paul.

The actual saint, not the city. Saint Paul the Apostle.

It's not a fair comparison though. While most saints lived lives of poverty, they didn't do it because they made galactically stupid financial decisions and then ask rich people to bail them out.

"Verily, I am the greatest living apostle, and greatest apostle of all time. I say unto you Emperor Nero, wilt thou investeth 10,000 talents in me and mine ideas?"

(I don't know how people actually spoke in the first century. I just imagine everyone who lived more than 300 years ago sounds like bad Shakespearean dialog.)

Except Kanye may not really be in debt after all. The day after the Apostle Debacle, he admitted that "yes I am personally rich and I can buy furs and houses for my family."

Another boneheaded decision: buying furs for your family when you live in California.

He also said "If I spent my money on my ideas I could not afford to take care of my family.  I am in a place that so many artist end up."

Also, if you didn't spend your money on stupid stuff like extra houses filled with fur coats, you could afford to take care of your family and your ideas.

Kanye, you're $53 million in debt because your ideas either a) are not financially viable, or b) suck. If you're lucky enough to find someone to dump a billion dollars into that empty black hole you call your "ideas," I would imagine they'll require you have financial and business experts to advise you on the idiocy of most of your plans.

Just stick with music and rebuild your empire.

Or maybe just get a paper route.

Photo credit: David Shankman (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, February 12, 2016

What About Saying Cootchie Cootchie Coo?

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2005.

While most new parents are eager to show off their new baby, and positively beam when people coo at and marvel over their newest family member, one hospital in Halifax, Scotland is putting a stop to all that.

According to an October 2005 story in The (Edinburgh) Scotsman, the Calderale Royal Hospital has instituted a ban on looking at, asking about, or even cooing to newborn babies in the maternity wards, to prevent visitors from ". . . gawping at newborns or questioning the mother."

Debbie Lawson, a neonatal manager, said that even babies have a right to privacy. "We need to respect the child," she told The Scotsman, presumably looking straight at the reporter interviewing her. "Cooing should be a thing of the past, because these are little people with the same rights as you or me."

Of course, Lawson and her fellow anti-cooing activists don't seem to have a problem being looked at. Or at least they haven't told people not to look at ask about, or gawp at them. So they're already creating a double standard.

Lawson and her cronies have even hammered the point home with a doll carrying the message, "What makes you think I want to be looked at?" (To which critics responded with their own little signs, "Don't flatter yourself.")

This prompted an outcry from Dolls Have A Right to Privacy (DoHARP), who were upset that a doll was used to reinforce the hospital's Draconian new rules.

Needless to say, the new ban has taken everyone by surprise, including the new mothers.

"Who says the babies don't want to be looked at?" asked one critic. "When an infant can tell me he doesn't want to be stared at, I'll respect his or her choice. But I'm beginning to wonder if the wee bairns even care."

"Right!" hollered another critic. "I mean, what if the baby's an aspiring model or actress, and she's trying to get an early start on her career? A ban like this could hurt her future chances for fame."

"But what if the baby wants to be a spy or cat burglar? Aren't we depriving that child of the anonymity required to pursue their chosen profession?" asked a ban supporter.

Linda Riordan, Halifax's Labour MP, said this was "bureaucracy gone mad. . . (I)n a case where a mother did not want to answer questions, it should be up to that individual to say so."

I suppose this is the real question: are new mothers complaining about people cooing at their infants? Do we have a ward full of Dennis Hopper babies shrieking "stop looking at me!" Or John Cusack who asks for the most visible table in a restaurant and then gets upset when people approach him? Or are the neonatal folks hopping on the outraged-and-indignant bandwagon and putting words into their young charges' mouths?

And what sort of message is being sent to these impressionable youngsters? Will they grow up to be sullen teenagers who shout "Hey, I didn't ask to be looked at!" at their parents?

A spokeswoman for Calderdale said she believed it was as much to do with reducing infection risks as it was upholding the rights of these newborns.

"Staff held an advice session to highlight the need for respect and dignity for all patients and the potential risk of infection in vulnerable infants, to new moms and their families," she said in a statement. The statement did not say why they allowed people into the maternity ward who can shoot infection from their eyes.

Potential risk of infection aside, exactly how much dignity does an infant have? They sleep constantly, waking only to eat and poop. How is that dignified?

Let's face it, if you're a child of God, you have a place in the world. And if you occupy that place, people are going to look at you. They'll coo, touch, point and laugh, and yes, even gawp at you.

While I understand the sentiments behind Calderdale's rules of privacy, they should leave it up to the parents to decide whether people can look at their babies, or the child will grow up to be a spoiled brat.

If a child wants to become a hermit and refuse to interact with other human beings, let them make their own choices. It's not up to hospitals and their overzealous staff to police whether people become social misfits.

We have Star Trek conventions for that.

Photo credit: Tim Marchant (Wikimedia Commons/, Creative Commons)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, February 05, 2016

A Dude and a Bro Walk Into a Bar

When did I become a "bro?"

Not a brother, a "bro." As in, when I walk into my favorite local taco place, and they ask, "s'up, Bro?"

I look around. Did someone walk in after I did? Is there a frat boy with a backwards baseball cap and sunglasses pushed up on his forehead behind me? A hipster wearing skinny jeans and a flannel shirt in 90 degree weather?

Nope, it's me. I'm the only one there.

I'm the "bro."

And this guy, who's also wearing a backwards baseball cap and sunglasses on his forehead, is talking to me.

"So you want some tacos, Bro?"

I hate being called "bro."

It's awkward and overly familiar, like me and my new bud should be gym posing with other frat boys, proudly displaying our puka shell necklaces and tribal tattoos. And now this guy thinks we're bros, and should address each other as such.

Except I will not.

"Whattya want on your tacos, Bro? Steak or chicken, Bro? Bro, steak or chicken? The steak's really dope, yo. . . Bro."

"Son, I'm twice your age."

"Son? You're not my father."

"Yeah, and I'm not your brother either."

Except it doesn't happen that way. I'm more polite than that. Instead, I'll just sit quietly and eat my really dope steak tacos. Later, I'll complain about it to anyone who'll listen.

"Hey, Bro, d'you like the tacos!" my taco bro calls after me, as I leave. "Was I right about those steak tacos, Bro?"

"Yeah, they were totally dope, Bro! Thanks for the dope tacos, Bro!" I shout back.

No, I don't. That's a lie. I could never do that. I'd feel like an idiot. I've never been comfortable using slang, other than calling things "awesome," or using a well-timed swear word. Maybe I should try 1920s slang instead.

"They're the bee's knees, and how!" I'll shout to the big cheese. "Don't take any wooden nickels!" Then I'd ankle it out of there, and make tracks back to the mill.

The only nickname I ever use is "dude," and even then, you have to earn it. I call my 13-year-old son "dude." As in "hey, dude, can you mow the lawn?" Or "Dude, don't stand in front of the TV!" And I call some of my friends, "dude." But I don't go scattering it around indiscriminately, like pearls before swine bros.

It's not that I don't like nicknames, it's that I can't pull them off. When I use slang, I sound like Leonard Hofstadter trying to sound "street." I can't reel off a "s'up, bro?" or "nice hat, Vincent van Bro," partly because I'm not cool enough, but mostly I just think it's idiotic.

"Hey, Man, what can I get started for you?" my barista asks me.

"I'd like a latte, Other Man."

What do I say to a grown man calling me "man?" Referring to him as "barista" just seems dismissive and rude.

"Barista, I require a tankard of your finest coffee! Prithee, where is thy organic sugar?!"

"It's over there, next to the creamer, dawg."

If there's anything I hate more than "bro," it's "dawg." I've got so much gray in my beard that Gandalf is giving me the stink-eye. So what makes you think I would answer to "dawg?"

I'm also not fond of "buddy," "my man," or "homey."

So why do these damn hipsters keep addressing me like we're peers? Broskis drinking some brewskis? Broseph and the Amazing Technicolor Bro-Coats?

I appreciate that you think I'm youthful and hip enough to be addressed like we're in the same posse, or whatever you young people call it. But it's a little disconcerting when AARP has me in their "almost there" file, and some of my high school classmates are already grandparents, but my bartender wants to know if I want to play hacky sack and listen to Phish.

It's not that I think I'm better than everyone else, or that I just want these kids to get off my lawn. I'd just like to be addressed like a normal adult who doesn't live in his parents' basement, or in a beer-stink house with six other 'roided-out dudebros who spend all their free time at the gym.

I just hope they avoid the worst possible insult anyone could direct at me. Something that's sure to ruin my day, and possibly even the worse.

"Can I get you anything, sir?"

Oh man, that's the worst! "You're killing me, bro!"

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.