about that Yelp employee who got fired after publishing an open letter to the CEO…

A bunch of people have asked me about the whole deal this week with the Yelp employee who got fired after posting an open letter to their CEO about it being hard to live on what Yelp pays her. Lance Haun wrote a beautiful, brilliant, thoughtful commentary on the whole drama that I wish I had written. You should read it.

{ 836 comments… read them below }

  1. Me!*

    Another great post about this here – The Problem With The Bootstrapping Millennial Martyrdom Complex : http://www.moneyaftergraduation.com/2016/02/25/the-bootstrapping-millennial-martyrdom-complex/

    “The most insidious part of the bootstrapping martyrdom complex is that it distracts from a more important conversation. As long as the young employees are squabbling amongst themselves over who deserves what by using their own piddly wage as a measuring stick, no one’s going to the real ask questions of the corporations that employ them:
    •What is the appropriate and fair compensation to ensure an adequate ROI on a degree?
    •How much does someone need to earn in order to afford to meet their basic needs and pay off their debt from school?
    •What wage for the average worker is necessary to keep the economy on a growth trajectory?”

    1. NotASalesperson*

      Just wanted to comment with a few more links to internet commentary and discourse.

      The original letter for everyone’s reference: https://medium.com/@taliajane/an-open-letter-to-my-ceo-fb73df021e7a#.la7o304dx
      A scathing response from someone slightly older than the original letter writer: https://medium.com/@StefWilliams25/an-open-letter-to-millenials-like-talia-52e9597943aa#.96sa0l2jb
      An interesting analysis of both with a strong defense of the original letter writer: https://medium.com/listen-to-my-story/36-year-old-destroys-29-year-old-millennial-who-ripped-25-year-old-yelp-employee-who-got-fired-aa91972dedff#.7fjctn2yw

    2. sunny-dee*

      “What is the appropriate and fair compensation to ensure an adequate ROI on a degree?”

      But that’s not a question for a company AT ALL. That’s the question you ask before you declare your major. The only question for the company is “What is the appropriate and fair compensation to ensure an adequate ROI on for hiring this person?”

      1. Tea*

        I declared my major when I was seventeen. I sure hope my seventeen year old choices don’t dictate whether or not I’ll be paid a wage I can live on for the next decade or two.

        That said, you’re correct. ROI is a question for society, not the company to answer– what is a fair and reasonable and sustainable amount for people to be paid to be able to survive.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Um, actually, yeah, they do. If you drop out at 17, if you ace the SAT and get a degree in astrophysics, if you don’t go to college at all but learn a good trade or don’t get a job at all… you can make dozens of decisions at 17 that completely impact your professional career — and therefore finances and life — for decades.

          1. fposte*

            Or if you get busted for holding pot in a state where 17 makes you an adult and thus have to answer “Yes” to the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

          2. Tea*

            But most of these things (barring, I suppose, choosing not to get a job altogether or having such abysmal job performance that I can’t get hired anywhere) impacts the ROI of the community I’m living in and the minimum wage I would be paid as a result (degree or no degree). I’m not saying that young people’s choices don’t greatly shape their futures. I am saying that these choices should not dictate what a reasonable minimum wage is and whether you are able to survive on very least amount of money that can be legally paid to you by working full time.

          3. Nervous Accountant*

            I can attest to that. At 17 I decided that I just wanted to be a housewife and mother bc I didn’t feel I was smart enough to do any other profession. I liked to read and write so I majored in English. College was just to pass the time and maybe find a spouse if I’m lucky. I still worked part time throughout college just because but had no career direction. Did dead end low wage jobs, and wanted even more than ever to be a housewife. Did that for a few months after graduating and hated it so much. The next few years were spent in pursuit of getting my career shit together and I feel like I wouldn’t have struggled SO MUCH if I had just made better choices when I was in high school and college.

            Just wanted to share my experience.

            obviously I don’t think that way anymore….If Im ever blessed with kids I will do my damn best to make sure they don’t EVER think this way.

        2. TowerofJoy*

          Exactly. Making life long choices like this at the age of 17 is asking for disaster. A 17 year old has no life experience except what they are told by the adults around them, and the average school is teaching skills to get in to college and to take tests, not to make life changing decisions. There are the lucky few that have smart and capable adults in their lives guiding their decisions, but I don’t think its fair at all to say “you should have thought about that before you declared your major”. The 17 year old did use all the knowledge they had to declare their major, and as we all know that doesn’t necessarily turn out well.

      2. Mike C.*

        How in the heck can you even calculate that as prices go up in erratic ways every years? When you’re done, do you know what the economy is going to be like in 5 years? Which “hot jobs” are actually hot vs. hot only for those with years of experience vs. not actually hot at all?

        If I knew the answers to those questions I’d be a day trader.

        1. sunny-dee*

          It’s not that hard. If you’re trying to pinpoint whether the next hot thing is finance or law or medicine or whether to do chemistry or pre-med, yeah.

          But that’s getting really fine grained. Scads of majors have absolutely no relevance or value in the majority of jobs. If you don’t know what you want to do, business is better than English, marketing is better than drama or art history, and absolutely anything is better than a * Studies degree. Hard sciences are better than humanities. If college debt is the issue, get an associates at a 2-year school for undergad and then transfer (with a good GPA) to a larger or more prestigious school.

          These aren’t hidden secrets. The issue is that a lot of people simply don’t want to do them. Which is fine — that is your choice and your life and the experiences that you want to have, but then don’t complain because people aren’t paying you what you want or because you can’t afford other things. Just own the choice.

          1. Dan*

            And absolutely none of that is a guaranteed ticket to success. *On average* particular degrees have better prospects, but that doesn’t make it a sure thing for everyone who majors in them.

            Some days we talk about statistics, other days we talk about people.

            Count me in as part of the crowd who doesn’t think that 17 year olds should be condemned for the choices they made when they didn’t have the right life skills to make an educated decision.

          2. Bwmn*

            I think the law example is a really good place where this falls apart. For a long time, law was a steady degree investment. Go to a law school – any law school – do as well as you can, pass the bar, and boom – you’ll have a job to pay off your loans.

            But then what happened was that loads of young people went that direction. More universities made the business decision to open law schools because it was easy money for them and degrees entirely unrelated to the field’s demand started pumping out lawyers faster than anyone needed them. And this announcement of the law school bubble happened only after a number of people went through this. If someone had decided as a freshman to take a study path to make them attractive for law school (which I’ll note is usually heavy in the Social Sciences/History/PoliSci) – if they heard about the bubble their senior year, then what? Don’t apply to law school and do what? Or still apply to law school knowing it’s become infinitely more financially risky? And is it now someone’s fault that this senior pursued an otherwise solid academia to career path that has since bust?

            This thinking unfortunately puts too much of education in a high risk gambling scenario. Where wealthy families that afford the hit of making a mistake are left unbruised but where you’re demanding a far higher risk to be absorbed by families without as much.

            1. neverjaunty*


              The law school bubble is a classic example of the stupidity of blaming people in hindsight for taking the “wrong” major.

              1. RVA Cat*

                This. Law school was our economy’s version of a lifeboat on the Titanic – there just weren’t just enough of them….

            2. ArchErin*

              The architecture sector is another example of this. When the economy crashed and no one wanted to build or develop buildings because of the recession, you had not only fresh graduates looking for jobs in a dwindling sector – they also had to compete against experienced workers who had been let go by their companies because there just wasn’t any work for them to do. And an architecture degree is not very transferable to other sectors.

              1. Natalie*

                Same thing happened in the trades, which are regularly promoted as a great alternative to expensive 4 year college tuition. Get a 2 year tech degree at the local community college and then make bank as an electrician or whatever! Until the housing market collapses, the economy stagnates, and suddenly no one’s building anymore.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  The thing is, EVERY field of employment will be affected by the greater economy, by technology, etc.

                  It’s unrealistic to expect that the world will be stagnant.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ Toots, of course, and that’s precisely why it’s so frustrating to hear people clucking “you should have picked a more lucrative major!” or “you shouldn’t have gone to that expensive college!” when the economy is doing poorly, as though that’s some kind of guarantee against unemployment or low wages. It’s the economy version of “what were you doing in that bad neighborhood in the first place?”

                3. Anna*

                  The vagaries of the economy do impact all levels of employment, but as someone who works in training the next generation of tradespeople, even when the housing market was tanking there were still a need for a lot of hard skills.

                  The thing is there is no foolproof degree or training. A certain percentage of the population will be affected when shit goes down; you just hope the recovery is quick and your skills are still needed.

              2. Bwmn*

                The notion that there’s a way to “game” the university/career system is where so many of these problems come. On the one hand you’re encouraged to be as specialized as possible (be the best double major lawyer/architect around environmentally friendly building policies in the southwest US!), but then if that area becomes crowded – then what? So I think the question very much becomes a case of how much society wants to treat education like a gamble (such as the pursuit of being a professional athlete).

                My career has been built around grant writing and fundraising. Two activities that were no where near my brain during university as a career. And if I met a college freshman today who said, “I want your job, tell me what to do in school” – I have no advice around what to major in. What I can say about fundraising specifically, is that it’s a relatively easy field to get hired in. For lots of people who want to work for a nonprofit or in politics – fundraising is very rarely the thing that people get excited about and is often seen as a job someone will do for a few years until they can do something else. I even have a masters in Nonprofit Management, and of all my peers from school – the only friend of mine who also went into fundraising was getting her masters in French (medieval french to be exact – and she was hired a month after graduating because I referred her to a position).

                Now, I think I’ll likely have a job in fundraising for as long as I want one and as long as nonprofits need to raise money. But will entry into the field be as loosey goosey as it was for me in five years? Will it remain this grubby realm of the nonprofit world that is unliked despite being needed badly (and thus often paid better than other fields)? I don’t know. And if someone starts telling you they do know, I’d be suspicious.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  I would have said, to someone asking what to major in: “Major in something that will teach you how to think, reason, persuade, convince, read, and write. Anything will do, as long as there are assignments that make you read and gather info, form opinions, and express them. And it will be best if it’s an area of study that you personally find interesting, so that you’ve motivated to invest the brain time and the energy to work through all of those different processes of reasoning and communicating.”

                2. AthenaC*

                  “Anything will do, as long as there are assignments that make you read and gather info, form opinions, and express them.”

                  Thankfully, my kids are being taught that skill a good 3 – 4 years earlier than I was. Beginning in 6th or 7th grade or so. I believe this is a result of the way Common Core is changing public education.

                3. Shannon*

                  I find this fascinating. I’m in fundraising/nonprofit management as well, with an MPA in Non Profit Mgmt. I think the field is becoming very, very competitive with more employers looking for masters degrees for coordinator-level positions. Trying to break into a senior level position without a Masters is becoming increasingly difficult. 5 years ago ANY Masters would do, managers and the BoD just wanted the credential. I’d say in 5-10 years the type of Masters is going to make a big difference; i.e. it better be in Nonprofit or Business, or a direct field of expertise such as Social Work, etc. The sophistication in the sector is growing at a rapid pace.

                  The thing I’d disagree with is that fundraiser or non profit folks are paid better because no one wants to do the job…it’s a pretty low paying sector, usually, unless you’re in healthcare or education fundraising. Those fields pay quite well and are doubly competitive.

                4. Princess Buttercup*

                  +1,000,000 to TootsNYC: “I would have said, to someone asking what to major in: “Major in something that will teach you how to think, reason, persuade, convince, read, and write. Anything will do, as long as there are assignments that make you read and gather info, form opinions, and express them. And it will be best if it’s an area of study that you personally find interesting, so that you’ve motivated to invest the brain time and the energy to work through all of those different processes of reasoning and communicating.’”

                  I tried to force myself into a more “practical” major at age 17 (due to well-meaning but ultimately bad advice from parents and other adults) and was so miserable that I quit college at 19 and worked for 10 years before going back and getting my degree in English (which I had wanted my entire life but had been told wasn’t practical unless I wanted to teach) and a subsequent MLIS degree (though I don’t work as a librarian or anything related).

                  I have been in the professional world for over 30 years and have steadily climbed the ladder in several different fields / industries (large business, small business, academia administration, hospitality) based on my ability to write, reason, research, persuade, etc., and on my own drive, ambition, and work ethic. I am now in a very high level management position but I have never taken a business course in my life. I have learned a lot about business on the job, and when I don’t know it, I know how to source the expertise I need. A business degree isn’t necessarily needed to succeed in business, and we aren’t all cut out for getting a degree in the hard sciences. My husband and son (both math / science geeks), yes. Me? No f***ing way.

                  I’m not saying every person who graduates with a liberal arts degree will have the same career progression that I have had. But I get so tired of hearing people bash liberal arts as if having a liberal arts degree makes you unemployable. They were saying that 30+ years ago, and they are still saying it. Guess what – it doesn’t. It’s true that you may never make a living doing something that is obviously related to your degree but if you are smart and capable and willing to explore a wide variety of job options, you can find a decent paying job and potentially a very lucrative career.

                5. Donna*

                  I think bringing money into your organization will always be a skill that’s in demand, whether you are a salesperson, grant writer, or a professional schmoozer.

                  I don’t think there’s an easy answer to “What should I major in?” I always try to encourage students to major in what interests them, but they need to be realistic about learning job skills during their time in college. If a student wants to major in say, English literature (like all the letter writers) and isn’t interested in teaching, then I would recommend becoming proficient in web design, social media, graphics, marketing, and publishing, as well as taking several courses in technical writing, editing, and grant writing. And really, the degree is only half of what students need to know. Volunteer, intern, and work experience make up the other half.

                6. Bwmn*

                  @Shannon – my experience is in relation to what I made as a fundraiser at my organization compared to what program staff made in the same organization.

                  Obviously, in general it’s not a highly paid field – but I’m more looking at how jobs are valued within an individual organization.

                7. Yetanotherjennifer*

                  Sigh, and my 19-year-old, ever practical and lazy self majored in business management because it was the only non-science degree that didn’t require a thesis. At least it was a liberal arts school; but I hated Econ and it showed. Fortunately, I loved my more advanced courses. I just didn’t think a history major would get me a job.

            3. Walnut*

              Yeah, and even degrees in business aren’t a guarantee of anything. I went to counseling for anxiety my first year of college (right after 2008-2009) and while there were a lot of adjusting freshmen in the waiting room, there were also lots of business school students with ashen faces who were freaking out over the hiring freezes at the companies they thought were going to give them jobs. The therapist actually asked me if I was an undergrad finance major and whether I was worried because of the economy because it was that common. (And maybe because I was wearing my power blazer, the greatest defense against awkward feelings while in therapy, natch.)

              I agree with Dan above. We can talk about statistics all we want, and obviously some fields are, in general, more lucrative than others, but that doesn’t mean that we, as a society, shouldn’t care that people can’t make ends meet. We should judge ourselves by how well the people in the lowest income brackets can provide for and take care of themselves.

            4. swingbattabatta*

              Yup. Graduated from undergrad in 2007, aced the LSAT, went to a top-5 law school, and… halfway through On Campus Interviewing in the summer of 2008, the bottom dropped out. I was lucky enough to land a job, but a year and a half after I started working, my firm went under and I was unemployed for 8 months. My husband is a doctor (in his last year of residency), and between us we owe $500K in loans. We were supposed to be in fields that would guarantee a path to paying of these loans, but good god it has been 6 years and we have barely made a dent, even devoting 40% of our takehome every month to loans.

              All that being said, I feel very fortunate that I am employed and that my husband will (likely) be able to land a decent job when he is done with his residency. We have enough wiggle room that we were able to start a family, and we are slowly (slooowly) but surely chipping away at the loans. The thing that drives me insane, though? How some older people (my parents’ generation) make comments about how its my generation’s fault that the housing market tanked/is struggling for not “buying into” the housing market, investing in the economy, etc. WHAT. How does that make ANY sense?

              1. coffeepowerrd*


                My thoughts exactly. The cranks who got by with less than high-school are rich beyond their dreams with multiple houses, vacations, and retirement accounts, and the cream of the crop graduates are BROKE and own zero houses because we’ve paid most of our money to the almighty APR%.

                1. coffeepowerrd*

                  by the way congratulations in advance to your husband for finishing his residency. *respect* o7

                2. swingbattabatta*

                  Thank you – it has been a long, hard road, and I’m really proud of him (hell, and us) for making it this far. I’m just excited to be able to start really focusing on our loans, and to start saving for a house (because three of us in a 1 bed/1 bath is so. hard.). We also have a TON of catching up to do with saving for retirement and saving for our child’s education, because trying to pay down loans has sucked up all of our extra money. It’s going to be an interesting few years!

              2. Honeybee*

                I think nothing annoys me more than Baby Boomers complaining that my generation is a lazy, shiftless generation dooming the American economy because we don’t buy anything. I don’t own a house because I can’t afford one. Don’t you think I would love to own a house? But the median home price in my town is nearly $500,000 and I don’t have $100,000 lying around to put down on a house. I spent my entire 20s in school, so I’ll probably spend most of my 30s trying to save up enough for a down payment to actually purchase a house.

          3. Isa*

            Half agree, half disagree with that. If one wants to work in the arts, surely an arts degree is the appropriate degree, no? If one wants to be a curator, a collections manager, an arts researcher, an art professor, etc., then art history and museum/curatorial studies are surely vastly more useful than a physics degree. I can’t imagine that degree being attractive to a museum director in the hiring process.

            The problem I see is that far too many young people seeking those careers and pursuing those studies are not given practical guidance about how to parlay one to achieve the other. In other words, understanding why it really matters which program you choose, in which school or city, which arts internships one gets, what grants one should apply for, mentorship, apprenticeships, etc., to understand how to build networks in the field, etc. They fail because they don’t know what they don’t know – and schools ought to tell them!

            Meanwhile… if one wants to build a career (and a fiscally healthy lifestyle) as an arts *practitioner,* well, the schools need to require such students to take useful classes in business, entrepreneurship, marketing, etc. And there must be useful feedback to give someone a sense that is realistic about their talent and potential – i.e., if art is something they will excel at or may only ever be at hobby-level.

            1. Bwmn*

              In the arts realm, business aside – I think the other way to approach this is to heavily promote fine arts and art history degrees to be double majored with Education. A dual degree in art history and being a registered teacher would serve the dual purpose of looking good and having that “fall back career” component.

              1. Callie*

                NO. Do not EVER advise someone to look on education as a “fall back” option, unless they would genuinely be happy as a teacher. We have entirely too many bad teachers out there who are teaching because they can’t find anything else to do. Anyone coming through my teacher ed program who voices this “fall back” option nonsense gets weeded out real quick.

                1. BananaKarenina*

                  +1,000. Besides, it’s no longer a “fall back” option, and more like falling into The Vortex.

                2. Jenna*

                  And where do you live that people are hiring teachers? We have high class sizes and substitutes lining up for jobs when someone retires, here. If you teach science or math, it’s very slightly more likely that you might find a job. This isn’t a boom industry and the pay and the benefits are not what they were in your parents day.
                  Unless you live somewhere that all that is radically different than where I live?

                3. Jennifer*

                  Teachers are pretty dang miserable these days, especially the ones that get laid off every year by default. A friend of mine’s just given up on the profession entirely at this point because she may love teaching kids, but the rest of it’s not worth it.

                4. Callie*

                  When I was still a full-time public school teacher (music), I had a student teacher who wanted to be a performance major and his father, who was dean of a college of education, insisted he get a music education degree so he’d have something to “fall back on.” He didn’t want to be a teacher. He was absolutely the worst student teacher I’ve ever had, had no idea how to sequence instruction, absolutely zero patience for student mistakes (we are talking about kindergarten and first grade, here) and a terrible attitude. He was the only student teacher I have ever had whose university supervisor interrupted him in the middle of the lesson because it was so bad. After he was done, it took months to get my students to enjoy music again and to un-teach all the bad habits he’d taught them.

                  Just because you can DO a thing does not mean you will be any good at TEACHING that thing.

          4. Chinook*

            “It’s not that hard. If you’re trying to pinpoint whether the next hot thing is finance or law or medicine or whether to do chemistry or pre-med, yeah.”

            But that still doesn’t guarantee anything because there are unknown variables at play. When I graduated high school in ’92, every teacher I knew congratulated me on the smart career choice of becoming a teacher because they would all be retiring in a few years and there would always be a need for teachers. By 2003, teachers had gone through pay cuts that affected pension plans and most who were going to retire kept on for more years than planned, budgets got cut and, with it, teaching jobs and the number of universities in Alberta creating teachers doubled from 3 to 6 (which, in turn, doubled the pool of eligible new teachers). I was laid off with 1,000+ other teachers (some of them national award winners – so skill and talent didn’t matter) and have never been able to get back in due to the huge competition and a second round of layoffs a few years after the first.

            If I had had a crystal ball back in the ’90’s and told my mentors that the teaching profession would no longer mean a guaranteed job (as long as you were willing to move to the work), they would have thought I was crazy.

            1. Honeybee*

              PhD students were sold the same bill of goods throughout the 2000s. We were all told that any day now, all those Boomer professors would be retiring en masse and there would be so many tenure-track positions for all of us. Except that they didn’t – professors largely did work well into their 70s and 80s, and when they did retire, their tenure-track positions were converted into contingent teaching positions without tenure (or benefits, or decent salaries).

              1. JD*

                Almost all students were sold that lie. In the mid 2000s they kept saying that by 2010-2015 there would be tens of thousands of job openings in my field in the country because of people retiring and expanding businesses. Problem was, people were working longer and the business expansions never materialized. And the businesses didn’t know what they needed. They didn’t know the differences between a technician, a technologist and an engineer. I saw companies hire engineer after engineer to do technician or technologist work because they could get engineers cheaper(not counting the time lost training failed hires and the damage that they caused to the equipment).

          5. Elysian*

            I really dislike how these things are spouted as if they are universal truths all the time. They’re not! These “success strategies” fail for people – all the time.
            Hard sciences are better than humanities.
            I have yet to meet a biology major who has a job that requires a college degree. They all thought that biology, being a “hard science” would be a path to success. One of my biology friends works at The Gap. Another is in sales. I don’t think either of their jobs even require a degree. They looked really hard for a job that would use their “hard science” background and came up short. A fair number of my humanities friends are doing much better.

            If college debt is the issue, get an associates at a 2-year school for undergad and then transfer (with a good GPA) to a larger or more prestigious school.
            So, so many schools will not accept those credits. And then you’ve wasted that money and time. People I know did this because they were told by someone who doesn’t know that it is the way to go, but that is only the case with certain schools. Usually state schools, and only in some states. I know many more people who tried this, and ended up dropping money and time on a useless associates degree only to have to go back to get a 4-year degree.

            So you say “it’s not the hard.” But yeah… it really can be. It’s not like there’s a magic formula. There ARE hidden secrets, both because we can’t predict the future and because some people are taught how to succeed in academic environments and other aren’t, etc. It’s not like people come of the womb with the knowledge of how to do well, and then deliberately don’t do it.

            1. Just Another Techie*

              Nevermind the billions of studies that say the monetary benefits of going to a prestige school come not from the education or even the name on the diploma, but from the personal connections and network you build while a student. If you transfer in halfway through, after all your peers have formed their lifelong friendships, how likely are you to be able to break into those groups and start building “social equity”? (I went to one of those prestige schools. I earned a 2.5 GPA and learned jack shit in my classes. I have never had trouble finding a job. I didn’t even have trouble getting into grad school, although I wasn’t applying to any R1s. I went to a state school for my masters to learn the skills I should have learned in undergrad.) I was phenomenally lucky in my choice of who to hang out with during freshman orientation week. That’s the only difference between me and someone with my same background who is struggling to get by today.

            2. AnonEMoose*

              I can remember my high school guidance counselor, back in the 80s, pressuring me to apply to the local community college and then transfer to Nearby University because the credits would transfer, blah, blah. On the face of it, not terrible advice; he knew my family didn’t have a lot of money.

              But it wasn’t the best option for me. (I actually took a class at Local Community College because I wanted to improve my study skills, and had the teacher tell me at the end “You don’t belong here” (intended as a compliment)). It wasn’t the best option for me because, at the time, I was thinking I wanted to go into teaching college. And I knew that an undergrad degree from Nearby University wasn’t going to cut it. Plus I was pretty sure I could get into the honors program at Big State University (which, I did). (And, to be honest, I was desperate to get out of the town I grew up near.)

              I’m also pretty certain that the guidance counselor was convinced I’d end up going for an “Mrs.” “degree.” He was a bit on the “old school” (read “misogynist”) side. But I digress.

              I didn’t end up teaching college, or going to graduate school at all until much later. But, despite the fact that I’m still paying off my loans from my undergrad degree, I don’t regret those decisions. I had some amazing experiences, met some incredible people, and learned a lot about the world in general. And through various convoluted circumstances, I’ve ended up in a job I’m happy with that pays reasonably well.

              I’m sad that so many students these days have to spend so much time working just to survive that they don’t have time for the kinds of experiences I had. Because it’s not always about the tangible benefits. Education isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom. And students these days, at least too many of them, are in a really tough bind.

              Maybe the young woman who wrote the original post made some poor choices. But as the link Alison posted says, who didn’t make some bad choices at that age? At least most of mine didn’t leave me at some risk for malnutrition! And it doesn’t change the reality that some people (employers, landlords, and even credit card companies) do deliberately target students and those just leaving college in order to take advantage of them at a time when they are vulnerable.

            3. insert witty name here*

              Agreed. My brother has a bachelor’s in biology, he works for a mortgage company. I have a degree in a niche-type of engineering, I work in market research. We both went to community college and transferred and missed out on all of the freshmen connections. In fact, my years at university yielded no networking opportunities to assist with the job search. I was very, very lucky that 10 years after graduation I was able to utilize an alumni group to help with my career.

            4. Lady Kelvin*

              Hard science does get you jobs (speaking as a biologist here), but what they fail to mention is that you probably need a PhD/MD/DDS/etc to get them. The BS is just a stepping stone. I actually only know of a few people from my graduating class that went out and got jobs without a higher degree. Even a master’s probably isn’t enough unless you want to be a lab rat for the rest of your life.

              1. insert witty name here*

                Agreed. I know someone with a master’s in physics. He ended up working automotive as a project manager (as in, nothing to do with physics).

              2. Dan*

                On the STEM side, I feel it’s fair to differentiate between “research” and “application” types of fields.

                If you want to research and be a PI and all of that, you need a PhD. Some hard science fields, like bio, are heavily research oriented.

                My aspect of STEM is more applied. The PhD has its uses but isn’t required. Software engineers? They hardly need a masters.

                1. Tau*

                  +1. My STEM PhD is… completely unnecessary for what I’m doing now. I ended up applying for, and ending up in, jobs I could have gone for with just a Bachelor’s. I’m happy I did a PhD for other reasons, but it was in no way necessary for my current career and occasionally an active hindrance while job-searching.

                  I would also not recommend research as a stable, well-rewarded, easy-to-find-a-job career to anyone ever, but I’m not really familiar with the various possibilities in bio.

              3. Chameleon*

                And let’s not forget that even a PhD these days is no easy path to a career. Schools are churning out *far* more PhDs than there are positions available if you want to have the traditional academic career. Most graduates now have to either suffer for years as poorly-paid postdocs, or find some non-research way to use their degree. (I say this as someone getting a PhD soon, and not following the research trajectory).

                1. Honeybee*

                  If I had to do it it all over again, I would not get a PhD. And I currently work in a job that requires one.

              4. Jenna*

                My niece has the advanced degree. She even has a job. It’s a decent job, but, she’s still going to be paying off those school loans when she retires, unless one of us wins a lottery and can pay it off that way.

            5. Anna*

              My brother has a degree in Biology and he works in his field. But only because we drilled it into his head, before he ever set foot in college, that he must get work experience and do internships in as many different areas of his field as he could. He did specimen preparations for museums, he did GIS stuff, he volunteered to clean up coastal oil spills, and he accepted a lot of field work jobs for nonprofits that paid minimum wage and were dangerous. (He frequently had to outrun lightening storms, and almost didn’t make it once.)

              I don’t think he’s necessarily high paid, but he loves his job and has a company car. I’m hopeful that one day he can get a higher paying job with the federal government.

            6. Violet Fox*

              I live outside of the US, and my little country is having a STEM employment bubble burst. Unemployment amongst engineers here is up 58% in about a year, and there is a big rise in unemployment in IT workers.

              Nothing is certain, and I honestly also seriously wondering if trying to push everyone and their cat(this is the Internet after all) into STEM fields and educations no matter how good or baldy that fits the person, seems like a case of trying to put all of our eggs in one basket, and I find that worrying.

            7. Anna*

              I am fortunate to live in a state that has a statewide agreement that all general ed credits earned at a community college will transfer over to a 4-year school. I was very lucky in that when I transferred I only had to take one additional math class before focusing on my majors. My husband on the other hand was leaving community college right at the time this agreement was being set up and was told none of his credits would transfer. He was so discouraged, he left school.

            8. Nonny*

              That describes my biology friends and one chemistry friend to a T. Same issues. One works in sales, another in graphic design, another as a translator, two in market research, one in finance, one is a freelance web designer. They all studied biology, except the translator, who studied chemistry. I myself studied statistics and my job isn’t remotely related to that, although it does require a college degree. We’re 3 years out of college.

              To be frank, *most* of my college friends are working in jobs that require degrees but are totally unrelated to their field of study, and some are also working in jobs that don’t require degrees at all. Those who studied hard science and then pursued an MSc have fared better, but then, it was the MSc that did it, not the BSc.

          6. Christina*

            Hard sciences are better than humanities? I bet all those scientists who need those humanities majors to help write persuasive grant and research proposals to fund their research would beg to differ.

            And a business degree being more valuable than English is just not true. Argh, this makes me so angry.

            1. cardiganed librarian*

              I find that one problem with this argument is that it presupposes that no scientists have ever learned to write well (a lot have) and that an English degree will get you job-ready grant-writing skills.

              I don’t really know what to do with the argument that a business degree is not better than an English degree. If I go to any job site right now, I can find places looking for commerce and business admin grads. I won’t find any specifically looking for English majors. Even when they want a writer, they often want someone who knows about something, who also has good communication skills. That may be an English grad, but may be a business grad who also writes well.

              (And I have a history degree! I just don’t think it taught me all that much that realistically is valuable in the workplace.)

              1. katamia*

                I’ve seen editing/proofreading positions that want people with English or journalism degrees. It’s clearly used as a screening out method; I have a degree in something else and have never gotten a response from one of those even though I’ve gotten positive responses from every other editing job I’ve ever applied for and am clearly qualified enough to at least be considered a strong candidate. Honestly, given my strengths, I might have been better off getting an English degree even though I had no interest in one. *eyeroll*

              2. Doriana Gray*

                I won’t find any specifically looking for English majors.

                Then you’re not looking in the right places because I see jobs all the time looking for English majors particularly in writing intensive positions in various industries (e.g. insurance, banking, publishing, healthcare, etc.).

            2. Lady Kelvin*

              My sister was an English major and she would never be able to “help” write scientific proposals. But STEM students take history, english, writing, speech, etc just like the english majors, and write in all our classes (weekly lab reports, etc). You’d be surprised at how much of our careers hing on being good writers, and its not something we can have someone else do for us.

              1. Honeybee*

                Not all of everyone’s skill set is learned in college – some of it is on the job. We had an editor in my research center who was an English major and her job was explicitly to help write and edit scientific proposals and journal articles. She learned by doing – and honestly, sometimes part of her job was to say “This has too much jargon, take it out.”

            3. Cath in Canada*

              I help scientists to write persuasive grant and research proposals to fund their research. My BSc and PhD were in genetics. You need to understand the science to write these things!

          7. Anna*

            Gosh, thanks for figuring it all out.

            What you’ve said here is really no different than the “bootstrap” stuff that is spouted everywhere by people who don’t want to admit to the help they’ve received. It’s overly simplified and tends to ignore HUGE vagaries in experiences.

          8. Honeybee*

            If I had a nickel for every time I heard this tired and incorrect argument…

            Much like the Stefanie in the second piece, you are making a lot of assumptions. Not everyone has the same access to information and social networks with that information as you do. When I went to college in 2004, I was the first person in my family to go to college, and prevailing wisdom was that you could major in anything and find a job because you had a College Degree. The idea of making $30,000 by myself was fine, because I grew up in a working-class family that never made a whole lot more than that anyway. And as a young black girl from New York I didn’t know any programmers or scientists or MBAs. So I picked a major I liked (psychology) and frankly I make a lot more than some people with more “useful” majors.

            So yeah, for some people these are hidden secrets or inscrutable information they simply don’t have access to.

            It’s also kind of sad when people think English has no relevance to the majority of jobs.

            1. JD*

              It’s not that English doesn’t have a relevance to the majority of jobs, it’s just that it isn’t the sole focus.

              There are always outliers in each field, but it seems to be trending down lately. Since so many people are going for these fields now, it gives the employers more room to lower wages. If the average wage for a job was $20/hr right now, but people can’t find work in it, they may jump for $19/hr. But then for the next graduates the average wage has dropped, so the companies offer below $19/hr, and so on.

              In a previous job they claimed that the job description we had was slightly different than what all of the salary survey groups had(worded slightly different, but same content and we had even more responsibilities than the position was supposed to have). They used that to justify paying us 60-70% of the average wage for the area, and when the average wage went down they used that to justify smaller raises.

          9. Jessen*

            You might be surprised at what counts as a “hidden secret” when you’re a sheltered 18 year old. When I was 18 the information I was getting was that an English degree would get you a good job, and an associate’s degree was unthinkable and wouldn’t be taken seriously.

          10. mander*

            I object to this in two ways. First, I think it’s kind of the equivalent of asking a woman who was sexually assaulted why she was dressed in a certain way. If our environment always leads us to expect that certain behaviours are safe, then it is actually unpredictable when something bad happens. Which leads to my second objection: young people are told to major in the things that they like and are good at, with the notion that “following your bliss” will lead you to a good career. Spend 5 minutes looking at career advice online and you’ll find hundreds of articles promoting this. Maybe some bright bulbs will realize that they are not actually going to become a writer or an actor and decide to switch to finance, but at that age everyone is encouraged to be idealistic and to believe in the impossible. I think it’s actually quite mean-spirited to tell people who are struggling that it’s their own fault because they didn’t think about the possibilities 20 years down the line.

          11. aebhel*

            Okay, so at my local community college, yearly tuition for an in-state student works out to about $4500. So you’re spending $9000 for two years of college right off the bat, for tuition alone. The local state school here (which is a good school but still…not a private college, not an Ivy League, a state school, which is generally one of the cheaper options for a 4-year degree), costs $11,100 per semester–again, just the tuition. So for a four-year degree, even taking the cheapest option, you’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $54K FOR TUITION ALONE. For a college degree that is increasingly becoming a game of Russian roulette even in a ‘stable’ field, because those fields get a glut of people looking for something they’re pretty sure they can get a job in. Law is one of those fields. Business is becoming one of those fields; so are nursing and computer science. A degree in something like chemistry, physics, biology is great if you want to dump even more money into the bottomless pit that is grad school, but even that’s no guarantee of success.

            tl;dr, yes, there are choices that people can make that are more likely to succeed, but they’re still a gamble. And with the cost of tuition, it’s an EXPENSIVE gamble. I have a decent job that pays a reasonable middle-class income and in three years of working here my total gross income of all three years combined has been less than I spent on tuition alone. And yes, I went to a state school for both undergrad and grad school.

            I guess I’m just trying to say that’s really frustrating when people act like there’s a simple path to likely success as long as you work hard and do good in school. That just isn’t the case, increasingly, for my generation.

        2. Anxa*

          The starting salaries for the jobs I was looking for in 2009, when I got my degree, weren’t even that much lower than they were in 2004, when I started.

          But I didn’t understand how many people were under and unemployed in my field, both before and after the crash.

          And yea, many economists and traders with decades of experience, solid educations, and high salaries didn’t predict the crash (though some did). Why hold college freshmen to higher standards?

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Not to mention technology. It’s changing more rapidly than ever and the next great careers have to do with stuff that hasn’t even been developed yet.

          1. Honeybee*

            This. It’s easy to sit on your high horse and tell a 25-year-old that they should’ve majored in computer science, but I’m only a few years older than Talia and when I went to college most of the social media and much of the technology that we use now didn’t exist yet. “Computer science” was working at IBM or Sun Microsystems. It wasn’t a sexy job yet. And there was no way to collect the enormous amounts of data we currently have, so statistics and data science weren’t sexy jobs yet either. The perceived lucrative jobs were lawyers and financiers. Ha!

            1. moss*

              I got my degree in math/cs. Been laid off twice. My senior year in college we had speakers coming in talking about how great we were and what a great field it is. Recession hit us hard. There are no guarantees.

      3. Bwmn*

        While it’s not up for a company to decide – I do think it’s reasonable to ask that of a society to have an answer. Because the voice of my parents generation (one born in the 40’s the other the 50’s), was that the BA was all that was important. Be it in philosophy or basket weaving, just get the BA.

        So when exactly was that majors started mattering to the extent where 18 year olds are expected to make that kind of decision? And if their parents are really in a position to guide them on those choices because the situation has changed since their youth – then what?? And how does that account for degrees like law in the US, where even if you graduate and pass the bar, it’s harder to get hired at an ROI to compensate for the loans. And how exactly is a student able to predict what’s going to happen with their incoming class cohort??

        It may not be a company’s responsibility to ensure fair ROI on a degree – but where should we except that kind of responsibility to come from? And how is that information shared so that young people and parents can make informed decisions.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Majors always mattered. I went to university in the 70’s and 80’s. Even then “you want fries with that” was the joke about liberal arts degrees. I wanted to get a degree in astrophysics but my Dad wouldn’t let me. He told me I needed to go into Electrical Engineering (which I did). Even then, it was hard to get a job when I graduated. The local unemployment rate was 35% in my town due to the collapse of the auto industry while I was in university. I had to move 3000 miles away for a job that paid less than what they paid the guy to run the copy machine. I had lots of roommates. I never bought a house until into my 40’s.
          My point? Every generation deals with uncertainty. My parents generation dealt with wars and the stock market bottoming. Both parents lost the farm. My grandparents dealt with more wars.
          You make your best guess and then you have to take hits and modify to account for surprises.

          1. Bwmn*

            But the big difference between the 70s/80s and now is that the cost of those degrees are much higher – even when factoring in inflation. So the uncertainty and financial risk being asked ends up also being higher.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              You’re ignoring the fact that student loans didn’t even exist back then. Yes, the cost is now higher adjusted for inflation. But in my day you had to “earn” your way through school. Either you went into the armed forces or you went part time and worked part time at minimum wage to get through. I worked and it took me 5-1/2 years to get a 4 year degree.

              1. Natalie*

                They most certainly did. The Perkins loan program started in the 50s and Stafford started in the 60s. Those were, however, government subsidized loan programs with limited interest rates, a far cry from the private student loan programs that are hobbling young adults today.

                1. Kiki*

                  You are right, they did exist. And the low student loan interest rate (for mine at least) was 8%. The big advantage we had was we couldn’t get a credit card at all. So it was cash all the way, and we had to learn to budget from day 1 or starve at the end of the month. And actually my grad school tuition, adjusted for inflation, is almost exactly the current grad school tuition. (tuition: $1800/yr, books about $800-1000)

                2. TootsNYC*

                  YES! to the fact that today’s student loans have much higher rates than the government loans of the 60s and even the 70s. I got a student loan (of just a few thousand) in order to fund my internship and my interest rate was amazingly low.

              2. Walnut*

                Okay – I did a rudimentary calculation and it would take about 8 years to graduate from a public university (Maryland, with Maryland’s minimum wage, at 40 hours a week with no vacations or sick days ever). I halved all discretionary expenses because Hypothetical Student is pinching her pennies. We’re also generously assuming that she’s getting raises that are staying on pace with the increase of tuition expenses, which is unrealistic, but I’m willing to play along with that assumption for illustrative purposes.

                I know you put yourself through college because that’s what a lot of my elders did, and it’s boss as all hell that you could do that. But certainly we can all agree that there are better solutions to this issue than what I’ve outlined above? Surely we can point out this situation and think about ways to move forward from this point?

              3. Jenna*

                A summer job could pay your tuition at a lot of schools back then! That has become completely out of reach most places now, unless you are talking community colleges.
                Things have changed. Colleges are more expensive. The student loans are more of a burden, and you can’t even discharge them in bankruptcy.
                There are more jobs that require a BA degree at least before they will even consider your application, and many of those jobs used to require only a high school diploma.

                1. Princess Buttercup*

                  Actually, the Pell Grant does still exist. The maximum Pell Grant for 2015-2016 is $5,775, according to the US Dept of Ed website. That being said, only the very lowest income students will qualify, and even the maximum Pell Grant is a drop in the bucket in the expense even at state universities.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  I paid my entire tuition with Pell Grants. But it was DECADES ago, and I went to an inexpensive university.

                3. Saturn9*

                  I used a Pell Grant to pay for all my classes at a community college. However, I failed to realize that taking “a full course load”* was not the same as taking “a full course load”** until I started really looking at how far I was behind on my credits about four semesters into school.

                  Now I have half a degree and I work at a call center. I am a cautionary tale.
                  *Enough hours to qualify for the grant without taking so many classes that I would end up spending a prohibitive amount out of pocket on books.
                  **Enough classes to finish the degree before the Pell Grant hit its time limit.

              4. Anna*

                That you did it in 5.5 years without student loans is actually more evidence for how things have changed. You worked, were able to pay rent and bills, and pay for classes and books. That isn’t where we are right now.

                I’m a Gen X-er. I like to say we’re the last generation to hear how college will get you a great job and financial stability and we’re the first generation where that wasn’t true. It is ridiculous that any person is in this situation, and it just keeps getting worse and worse.

                1. aebhel*

                  Yeah, that’s literally impossible now unless you’re already making significantly more than minimum wage (without a college degree? Good luck.)

                2. badger_doc*

                  It is actually not impossible now. I also majored in engineering and went to school for 6 years for my BS and MS working the entire time. My first year was paid for from scholarships from high school, my second year was paid for through savings as a high school student and I worked three part time jobs in college to pay for room and board. I did take out loans in the amount of $20k total and it has taken me 7 years to pay them back. But i majored in something that i made sure had good job prospects and a decent wage so i didn’t need to worry about half my income going to loans. I graduated in 2008 when the market crashed, and while it took me a while to find a job, i still had my campus job to fall back on.

                  The company i work for just hired a new graduate (2015) who graduated with a degree in engineering with ZERO college debt. She got scholarships and worked through school to pay it off right away.

                  IT CAN BE DONE! Tips: Don’t go to a private school and pay ridiculous amounts for tuition. Don’t go to school out of state unless you have scholarships or the funds to make up the difference from state schools. GET A JOB during school. Get a full time job in the summer. Wait tables, cook, bartend, make media in a lab, file papers, whatever… Yes, tuition is increasing. It sucks, but that is life. Make sure our high school students are prepared by teaching them good saving and work ethic habits early. Make sure they know how the job market is before they choose a major. It is OK to go to school longer if you need to work. It sucks that the choices you make at 17 can impact the rest of your life, but that is true at any age. The least we can do is help them prepare and ensure they are well informed.

              5. lowercase holly*

                but scholarships existed? let me know. i had a seriously amazing one in the late 90s and really wonder why they all dried up. did the funders decide the tuition was too high?

              6. Honeybee*

                But…that kind of proves the point, doesn’t it? You could earn your way through school and it might take you a bit longer but you finished without debt. When you graduated, you could start a family, buy a house, buy a car, without the spectre of debt hanging over you. In my generation, my professional friends have five-to-six-figure debt and that’s considered normal now. Very few of us own anything. The average age of first home purchase is 35 now. Even when we pay off the debt we sometimes can’t afford to buy anything in the expensive coastal cities where all the jobs are, and even at the point that we can buy something we’re often afraid to. That’s bad for the economy.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            This. This. Every generation deals with their own unique set of crap. I think rather than finger-pointing, it’s better to talk with our older generations and try not to make their mistakes, perhaps find things they did right and copy those things. BUT. In the end each generation still has to carve out a new path for itself, because that is how much everything changes in the span of one generation.

            I have a degree from a school that by normal means would have cost $120k (at that time). Around here it is the consensus that a BA/BS gets you a $30K per year job. A “house size” expense for sure. If I had to pay the full 120k for that education it would not have been worth it to me. I was dismayed by what I saw colleges give people for the amount of money that is spent.

        2. The Strand*

          This is what’s different. Companies stopped paying for training in the late 1980s and 1990s, and started expecting young people to pay for their own workforce training via the right degree. That’s when majors started mattering. Before, it was just important that you had a level of education allowing you to be trained, over several weeks, into the job they wanted you to take on. Now, if you want to move up, YOU get to pony up the cash, unless you’re an exec whose MBA is being paid for.

    3. Maya Elena*

      I think a lot of the spite towards Talia Jane is not because she criticized Yelp, or had a hard time, or made bad decisions. It is the grace with which all of that was handled, and the fact that plenty of people, her age and not, are in similar or worse circumstances and don’t complain in public.

      Also, I wonder about some of the assumptions underlying the sympathy for her. Why shouldn’t your decisions at 17 matter? Why does everyone deserve a guaranteed ROI on their educations? Why should the millennial generation have it as easy as their predecessors, who profited from a time when their country was the only one not destitute, Communist, or recovering from two World Wars on their soil?

      1. Natalie*

        Speaking only for myself, it’s not so much that I expect to have it as easy – I recognize that the post-WWII economy was a specific beast. I’m just sick and tired of having my personal situation (which is frankly blessed due to 2 rich, generous relatives) chalked up to being entitled, or spoiled, or lazy. It’s the economy, stupid, to quote Ford.

      2. Callie*

        “Why shouldn’t your decisions at 17 matter?”

        Well, for one thing, scientific research indicates that the parts of your brain that are responsible for executive functions (the cognitive processes that are involved in selecting and monitoring behaviors that are necessary for the attainment of goals) don’t really fully mature until your twenties.

  2. NotASalesperson*

    This is the response I’ve been looking for to this whole situation – it’s not our fault that we have to make difficult choices, but we have to recognize that difficult choices are necessary. I’m a millenial in an expensive US city trying to make ends meet, and unlike a number of other millenials, I’m not paying student loans; I’m actually sending money home to my mom so she can finance her own education.

    I can relate to both sides, and I’m SO glad someone wrote an opinion that covers a few different angles on this issue.

    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      I have a Millenials to pesky whipper snapper extension which makes articles like this so much more bearable.

    2. OhNo*

      Ha, I had to turn that off to read the articles on that letter without laughing.

      Snake people have to make hard decisions, too! :)

  3. TheAssistant*

    Hear, hear! I wish someone had sat down with me at 16 and had an honest conversation about the life I could expect to have as a working-class kid with dreams bigger than where I’m from. Dream big, sure, but be a pragmatist about what that looks like.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed. I wish someone said, “All that stuff you see on TV- it’s all fake. None of those characters can afford to live in that apartment, eat that food, or buy those name brand anythings. Life is not a sitcom.”
      I really had the idea that you get an entry job, get promoted in 6 months, get promoted again in 6 months, and then you can have the fancy things you see people with on TV.

      1. Jinx*

        Yes, it’s pretty crazy how television and media can warp your perceptions in that regard, particularly when you are young and don’t know better. Now I’m watching Seinfeld and wondering how George can be unemployed for so long without any noticeable financial strain…

        1. Who watches the Watcher's?*

          Is it a sign of aging that when I watch any TV show or movie anymore in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about things like this?

          Like with all the superhero movies I keep thinking, “man, who pays to clean up all this destruction? I bet the taxes are SUPER high to keep living in Metropolis/Gotham/New York etc.”

          1. Chameleon*

            Yeah, every time the Hulk throws a bad guy into a car, all I can think is “great, how is that poor guy supposed to get to work now?”

            1. Chinook*

              “Yeah, every time the Hulk throws a bad guy into a car, all I can think is “great, how is that poor guy supposed to get to work now?””

              Me, I just think “I wonder how that discussion with the police for the accident report and insurance for the payout is going to go?” I was so impressed on the Flash when they actually mentioned that “roof being ripped off by human shark” probably won’t be covered.

          2. AthenaC*

            And I’m the buzzkill accountant that saw Rent for the first time as an adult and thought to myself, “How do you expect regular income when you chose a career as a photographer?”

            1. Honeybee*

              I’m pretty socialist myself, but I saw Rent for the first time as a young adult living in New York and my immediate thought was “…well, what did any of you expect?” LOL.

          3. TootsNYC*

            Me too!

            I think there ought to be a superhero cleanup team. Vacuum Master, and Broken Glass Girl…

          4. Emily*

            I’m only in my mid-twenties and I think about this a lot, too! It would suck to be one of those people whose house/car/road/workplace is completely destroyed. Or to be driving on the road where a car chase is happening.

            1. Nonny*

              I’m in my mid 20s too and I can’t even watch most movies or TV shows because of the reckless, needless destruction of property that happens.

            1. Nina*

              I think one of the plots in “Captain America: Civil War” will bring up all the property damage the Avengers have caused. So there’s that…

              1. aebhel*

                And that’s a major subplot in the Defender’s TV shows…the amount of destruction is actually what gives cover to the criminal organizations springing up in Hell’s Kitchen.

              2. Connie-Lynne*

                The impact on regular folks of living in a city plagued by supers is a big part of Kurt Busiek’s _Astro City_ series (from the early 2000s, I think).

      2. Chinook*

        “Agreed. I wish someone said, “All that stuff you see on TV- it’s all fake. None of those characters can afford to live in that apartment, eat that food, or buy those name brand anythings. Life is not a sitcom”

        Maybe that was the advantage of living in a place that was the exact opposite of LA or NY – rural Canada – because I saw sitcoms based in those places as just as imaginary as Star Trek. To me, they were truly science fiction because how could you go out to a Christmas party after dark in a tank top without dying? Or go swimming in the local lake without chattering your teeth? Or drive from one ocean to another in just a couple of days? I still had big dreams about seeing the world and going to university, but I knew that I couldn’t rely on what I saw on TV because I never saw anyone live a life on it that looked anything like mine. Instead, I looked around at what I saw people I knew doing and aimed for better than that (though I never did make the goal of one employer for life like most people I knew – heck, I can’t even claim one career path per decade *sigh*)

      3. lowercase holly*

        i alllways wondered how the heck Rachel (Friends) lived in NYC in that apartment working as a barista. no way, no how. so obviously TV doesn’t depict reality. not even reality TV.

        1. LiveAndLetDie*

          I believe the argument was that the apartment was rent-controlled and in Monica’s grandmother’s name, so that it was (presumably) rent-controlled at an exceptionally outdated rate.

          1. TootsNYC*

            And that’s unrealistic, because there’s no way Monica could have inherited it from her grandmother; the landlord would have been very energetic in blocking that. Only if Monica had been living there as her grandmother’s dependent!
            It would have been factual if her grandmother had owned it as a co-op, and Monica & friends were only paying maintenance, but not mortgage.

            1. Angela*

              There was actually an episode where Joey had to teach the super how to dance because otherwise he was going to kick Rachel and Monica out because he knew that they were illegally subletting. I may have watched Friends too many times.

      4. Honeybee*

        Damn, me too. I grew up dreaming about moving back to New York as an adult and living the glamorous lifestyle. I certainly did move back to New York after college, and it was not at all what I expected after watching 1990s TV shows set in the city.

    2. Kyla*

      I agree with this to an extent, but I really hate how this economy often makes it impossible for young people to escape where they are from. Not everyone likes the town/state their parents chose to raise them in. Yet I fear that I will never be able to get out of here.

      1. Jen*

        Yes, this. Plus, there are some degrees that just always will make more money. If you’re a low-income kid with a talent in writing as opposed to STEM, you’re going to have a hard haul because working in writing is not lucrative. So should you have to force yourself into a job you dislike and aren’t good at because you were unfortunate enough to be born poor and can’t afford to be a journalist?

        1. Sparky*

          Oh man, my life. I wasn’t *poor* exactly, but we were definitely lower middle class. I was very good at writing and reading. I remember a teacher telling me I should become a children’s book author. Ha. I studied journalism and it turned out I wasn’t real great with the interviewing aspect. Things did not turn out the way I thought they would.

        2. Kyla*

          I just want the chance to be able to get out and try and build a career somewhere other than here….but to do that, employers need to start being willing to give young people a chance AND pay them a living wage.

        3. Lisa*

          This is where I think better career coaching would really help. Tech and other STEM related fields have a huge need for good writers to create documentation, marketing materials, training materials and more – and those are not low-paying jobs. Kids shouldn’t be getting the idea that the future belongs to those who are good at math.

          1. Mike C.*

            This is what I don’t get – STEM folks are generally terrible at writing and communication so you’d think these skills would be valued in those environments. Nope.

          2. Terra*

            Except that’s my field and it’s both over saturated and underpaid right now. Also more and more companies are requiring either insane years of experience or bundling writing duties with other job titles to let them short change people. I got stuck with a CSR job title and 80% technical writing duties for under $40,000 a year and I’m sadly still one of the luckier ones among my group of friends and classmates.

            1. Lisa*

              That stinks. However I have known multiple tech and marketing writers to make it into 6 figure salaries by their 30s. It may not be universal but it is a viable path.

              1. Terra*

                I’ll believe they exist but it’s a lot more luck and connections than people think, just like with any career. That’s why it’s stupid to penalize people for failing to go into a “good” career or do better in their chosen job path. I would absolutely take a six figure salary technical writer job right now if I could. Unfortunately, I’m not getting offered them.

            2. Honeybee*

              Many fields are doing this. I work in UX/UI and so many companies are trying to hire someone who can do both the research part and the design part, and maybe a little of the coding part too. Dude, that’s like three jobs.

          3. Tallyme Banana*

            Yeah… I have a tech writing degree, but because I don’t have a background in STEM I can’t write medical documentations. Companies prefer to hire someone who has a degree in a STEM field and perhaps a graduate degree or equivalent experience writing documentation.
            The route I had originally planned to go was information architecture. I learned PHP, HTML5, and CSS to prepare myself for writing software documentation or databases. Sadly, all of the entry-level jobs are being outsourced because it can be done for far cheaper elsewhere. I currently work in real estate and feel very lucky to have a job.

        4. the gold digger*

          It wasn’t my dream to sell group health insurance – but that’s the company that hired me out of college. I gave up the idea that I could get paid for doing what fulfills me a long time ago. I work for money and when I am not at work, I do the things that fulfill me.

          1. OhNo*

            It’s my dream to be able to do that – work for money and do the things I enjoy on my own time. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to conjure the energy and time to do both. Some of us have to make a choice between doing what we love at work, or not being able to do what we love at all.

            (I made my decision to be broke-but-satisfied a while ago, but sadly most of my same-age friends got hosed and had to choose the pay-bills-and-be-unfulfilled route.)

            1. Kristine*

              >It’s my dream to be able to do that – work for money and do the things I enjoy on my own time.

              I think this is getting harder for a lot of people. A big issue with the “always on” mentality is that people are working more hours and have less time to do things they enjoy.

              Obviously this is not a problem for literally everyone, but I know many people (myself included) who don’t get home till 9 or 10 pm on weekdays, and then spend their weekends working second jobs/doing the errands and chores they couldn’t do during the week/catching up on sleep and don’t get a meaningful break for hobbies.

              1. Sammie*

                Well, that’s it exactly. I work one job (tech marketing)–that has expectations of three jobs worth of (franky shitty) product. So I work 6 days a week 14 hours a day. On my one day off–I clean, run, errands and stare at a wall. I used to have friends and a significant other–but no more. This is has been going on for a year–so I’m assuming (at my current employer) this is the State of Things.

                I read job descriptions in my sector and they are always, absolutely two or three jobs morphed into one.

            2. TootsNYC*

              To do that–work for money, and pursue your passion/enjoyment outside work–you have to MAKE ENOUGH MONEY to have some sort of leisure time, and some sort of disposable income.

              That millenial from Yelp doesn’t have that.

          2. TootsNYC*

            this is the mindset that I think we need to tout more for people. Too many people get told, “do what you love,” and it’s just not a financially viable path.

            Far more sensible to be told, “Try to get a job doing tasks that you can enjoy, even if you have to find a way to enjoy them later.”

            1. Not So NewReader*

              My fav is do what you are good at. Everyone has natural abilities go with the flow of your natural abilities, don’t fight it. You can learn techniques for coping with boredom once you have mastered your arena or you can look for other natural abilities and apply/expand those. This makes sense to me.

              1. TootsNYC*

                And maybe some coaching about how to find the lucrative way to use what you’re good at.

                You’re good at writing–but there aren’t that many well-paying jobs for writers. Hell, not that many jobs, period.

                So what else can you do that uses writing? Grant writer, salesperson (sometimes)…

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  Insurance adjusting; risk management, compliance, and/or auditing jobs in various industries; business analyst; outreach positions; etc. You have to be really creative if you want to be a working and well-paid writer these days.

        5. fposte*

          I might frame that question differently, though, because it still seems to take “pursuing your dream” as the default. We’re in a very conflicted place about work in the U.S.–there’s the follow your dream narrative against the capitalistic market-driven view, and the second one is definitely the more pragmatic approach.

          The inclusion of journalism is an interestingly extreme example to me. Writing still has tremendous value, but that doesn’t mean being a journalist a good career plan any more than being a novelist is–just because you like to do it doesn’t mean there are people that want to pay you for it. Where I agree with you for sure is that as a result the less market-demanding career paths tend to favor the well-heeled and fortunate. But I also wouldn’t advise a well-heeled and fortunate kid to hitch her star to journalism or novel-writing.

        6. FiveWheels*

          My answer to that is yes. If the work you want to do isn’t remunerative, then you can either work for lower pay than you want or do a job you don’t enjoy as much for more money.

          Nobody has the right to get paid money just because they enjoy something. The calculus everyone has to do is balancing the benefit of your pay with any negatives of the job, and trying to get something with as good a ratio as possible.

          1. FiveWheels*

            Well that replied to the wrong comment and now I have no idea what I was trying to say. Ahhh well!

        7. Honeybee*

          This is why I hate, hate, hate the modern advice that so many adults give to teenagers to “just major in STEM”. Not every kid likes science majors, and not every person is talented enough in a science major to get a good job in that area. Some people would be miserable doing data analysis or pipetting samples or whatnot all day.

          Besides, it’s a false dichotomy: biology, physics, and chemistry majors don’t make all that much more than your average English or political science BA-holder. Math majors sometimes do if they know how to apply their mathematical knowledge to real-world problems. When people say “STEM” they usually really mean “computer science and engineering.” But if everyone majors in CS and engineering, then salaries will go down and those fields won’t be hot anymore.

          1. ProductManager*

            I majored in computer science and didn’t like programming (i.e. wasn’t good at it.). Started in CSR, graduated to QA and I am now a product manager making pretty good money in the span of 8 years. There’s a lot more paths, particularly with a rather generic degree like “computer science” than just software development.

          2. anncakes*

            And to add to that, it’s not as if we have unlimited capacity for STEM students. I’ve recently taken science courses at two different state universities as a returning adult student, and both schools have been struggling to handle the enrollments they get. They literally do not have enough seats to accommodate students, and you’re told that you may struggle to even get your required courses in. What good does it do to push students who have no interest and little aptitude for the sciences into these classes when they’re already at excess capacity? Every time I hear someone spout off that old canard about those young whippersnappers not wanting to do the “hard” subjects like science, I want to force them to go through the registration process to see how hard it is to get into these classes and I want to drag them into a lecture hall to see how many students are flocking to the sciences on the advice of all the people wagging their fingers.

            1. Honeybee*

              Yeah, this. I volunteer teach a writing and critical thinking program on Saturday mornings, and this morning we talked about the 2008 financial crisis and the impact it’s had on students and the workforce. I have sophomores and seniors, and as part of the exercise I asked them what they’ve been hearing are the new hot majors/careers. They said STEM, but they were rolling their eyes when they said it, and when probed revealed that all they ever hear about is STEM, STEM, STEM (and one girl astutely pointed out that not even the M part is really being pushed anymore since the perception is that math won’t make you any money either).

              They were absolutely shocked to learn that when we (their teachers) went to college in the early-to-mid 2000s, people weren’t pushing STEM. I had to remind/tell them that all the Internet and social media companies that have the “sexy” jobs these days either didn’t exist or were flying under the radar back in 2004-2008.

              One of my fellow teachers then told them what you said above…if everyone majors in STEM then salaries won’t be as high and jobs won’t be as plentiful.

          3. Freezing Librarian*

            And older workers get pushed out by the surge of younger ones equally qualified with brand new technology, which ends up making it a bad career choice in the long term – another thing that’s hard to foresee.

            My dad has an engineering degree and a master’s, worked as a computer programmer and systems analyst in the 80s and 90s, doing really well up until age 49 when he got laid off, and…never got another tech job again. He said companies were asking for “3 years experience with [new language or system]” so of course he was competing against young people who were 3 years out of college. And interviewing with managers my age who, he thought, would feel less comfortable hiring a guy who looked like their dad, with a higher salary history. He had to change fields completely, take a massive pay cut, reduce his standard of living.

            He says if he had it to do over again, he wouldn’t have gone into tech.

        8. mander*

          I think that’s the gist of the “pesky entitled whippersnappers” argument: know your place. If you come from a poor family, or don’t have the connections or experience to know what might be a good career to choose, then you should just suck it up and get whatever job you can get, because you aren’t good/smart/rich/whatever enough to move up.

          That’s how it reads to me, anyway.

      2. Jimbo*

        I don’t disagree the economy sticks but you need to sacrifice to reach your goals. I moved across the country at 19 with no college and a non-management retail job. It wasn’t easy but I really wanted it. I had a couple of roommates for years and not much spending money but I got out of my hometown. Once I established myself, I networked and got a better job. A few years later I moved again but was in a slightly better position.

        Years later decided I wanted to relocate again during the recession. It was almost impossible to get a job in a remote city because everyone knew you couldn’t sell your house. So I sold my house in advance, sold most of my stuff and moved the rest into a month-to-month efficiency apartment. Then I was able to market myself as house-free and ready to relocate and start within two weeks. Did I want live like that in my late 30’s when I already had a nice house? Hell no but I really wanted to relocate. I also got a great deal on a house in my new city because now I was house-free, had a little money in the bank, all-time low interest rates and it was a total buyer’s market.

        1. Kyla*

          But it’s not even that you need to make sacrifices, it is that in the era of unpaid internships and wages not being liveable, that it can be literally impossible. People are both criticising this woman for paying so much in rent AND saying you have to sacrifice to get out into a city.

        2. Honeybee*

          Not everyone has the resources to move to a new city without a job and hope that they’ll get something soon. I don’t have the savings yet to do that, so I wouldn’t. You’d actually have to be in the workforce for some years saving money in order to do that – or have support from a network (parents, a couch to sleep on in the new location, etc). You can’t make sacrifices of things that you don’t even have.

      3. misplacedmidwesterner*

        Sometimes I think that where you’re from even changes what you dream. When my dad was a kid, poor in a largish small town (or small city) in the midwest/south, the people he saw with money (not even rich money, just reliable money) were people with degrees and professions. So he went to college and got a science degree. Years later he was talking to someone who worked in a manufacturing plant. That guy was about the same age (classic boomer age) but growing up everyone he knew who had reliable money was in the union and working at a plant, so that is what he did.

        There was an interesting study a few years ago that tracked “career ambitions” of kids from elementary to high school. Lower income neighborhood kids tended to hold onto “prestige dreams” (rapper, singer, actor, athlete) much longer than middle class and above kids because they didn’t see other paths out of the neighborhood/economic situation they were born into.

        1. Jennifer*

          To be fair, rapper/singer/actor/athlete are long shot jobs, but they don’t require a college degree and can hugely pay off if you win the luck lottery, and are a rare example of an artist managing to make a living.

          1. misplacedmidwesterner*

            They absolutely are! And if you are in a poor neighborhood, they are the most visible and sometimes the only example you see of someone from a neighborhood like yours who suceeded.

        2. Honeybee*

          Not surprised. I grew up in a working-class community and used to work at a after-school care program for kids in grades K-8. One time I did an exercise in which I asked the kids about their dreams, and I was so appalled that such a large proportion of them (the overwhelming majority of the kids aged 8-12) had dreams of being athletes. Even the girls said they wanted to be professional basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, etc. players even though there were virtually no models of female athletes on TV making the big bucks. These were primarily young African American kids (I’m black myself) so I was appalled but not really that shocked. That was the only way we really knew how to make a lot of money and be rich growing up.

    3. Kristine*

      I desperately needed this conversation as a teenager. I was always told to pursue my dream, and when my dream was an Ivy League school that my working-class family could never afford, I was told to go for it anyway. So I did. And while I had an amazing college experience, I am now dealing with consequences of my decision. Unfortunately, my career has not been nearly as successful that I thought it would be. I thought a prestigious degree would help me get a job that would pay enough to pay the loans back, but I was wrong. I always knew I would have to pay back the loans but didn’t fully grasp that I’d be spending almost 40% of my take-home pay each month on the payments until it was too late.

      1. Melissa B*

        This is my exact situation. So many delayed life decisions because I simply couldn’t afford them after paying my student loans. As a first generation college student, we simply didn’t know any better.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Yup. Although I’m fortunate in that I never dreamed of owning my own home (love renting – things break, I don’t have to pay to fix them. Yay!), getting married, or having kids, so the whole paying-loans-for-the-rest-of-my-life thing is only really impeding my travel plans (which really aren’t delayed, but more pedestrian than I would like).

      2. Milton Waddams*

        The Ivy League is a bit of a hustle in some ways, because it markets itself as this magical boosting device, when there has always been a pecking order. You get into the Ivy League, but not one of the Big Three — instead of sneering about your state school degree, people smirk about you feeling proud about a degree from Cornell… or maybe the stars align and you get into Harvard, but… not into the Porcellian. Before your career even starts, these set the soft power limits of your dreams.

        In all these cases, of course, it isn’t enough to be a “grind”, even if you need to grind to get there in the first place. You need to be extroverted enough to take advantage of the networking opportunities, BUT with enough of an understanding of those subtle upper-middle-class norms that you don’t come off as a crass public school kid among prep-schoolers who grew up together.

        It’s a very thin tightrope.

      3. Alexa D*

        I experienced something similar, and what they don’t tell you: even if you get to the prestigious school, whether on a scholarship or you take out loans to make it happen, once you graduate, your peers who come from wealthier backgrounds are, generally, going to do better than you. They have the dual springboard of the degree from the Awesome School AND the parents who can support them in unpaid internships/paying for rent in the expensive city, etc. The wealthier kids can better take advantage of the networking opportunities that great school was supposed to afford you. I was hit in the face with that reality after graduating, and while I made it through (accepting a different career trajectory than the one my degree/networking had promised), I wish someone had warned me. We tell kids that as long as you get into that school and/or get a full ride, you’re set for life, and it’s just not true.

    4. Golden Yeti*

      I don’t feel like I was force-fed “follow your dreams” by family and such. However, I had the expectation of, “By the time I’m 30, I’ll have my career figured out and I’ll be living comfortably.” For me, *that* was probably the poison pill–and media helped with that one. It’s not like a significant portion of thirtysomethings in TV and movies were portrayed as still living in scarcity and still figuring out life.

      That, and in lieu of “follow your dreams,” I was always told that an English degree is highly adaptable for a host of careers (hence why I had expectations of stability), so I trusted my advisors when they said that I would be okay. While in hindsight I can agree that an English degree is adaptable, it is not the most marketable–which is what I wish I had been told.

  4. Sparky*

    The part about people who live in high-cost places still wanting baristas and retail workers and fast food employees, but aren’t willing to make sure those people can live in those areas really stuck out to me. The residents would be upset if all those employees actually took the advice “if you don’t like it, find a new job” and moved away to take those jobs in smaller, less desirable communities.

    1. Daisy Steiner*

      Yes, this gets me furious every time. The same as that guy who said all the poorly paid Disney World employees should just get better jobs / move away. I mean, great – then who’s going to run Disney World?

        1. neverjaunty*

          Exactly. These people would scream like toddlers if nobody was there to empty their garbage cans or brew their pour-over coffee.

    2. Kyla*

      This is what I never understand. Who is going to make the Starbucks in NYC or SF when the baristas can’t afford to live there?

      1. Windchime*

        I’m wondering how the baristas can afford to live there now? My son and his wife both graduated from a state school. He has about $20k in loans, she has over $50k in loans. They earn close to $100k together, but between the high rent here in Seattle and their crushing student loan debt, they have very little wiggle room in their budget. They both drive cars that are over 20 years old. Sure, they could move to a cheaper part of the state, but then they’d be stuck with lower wages and the same crushing debt.

      2. it will happen*

        My question is when did making starbucks become a career – or flipping burgers or any of the many other low wage jobs? Those jobs used to be mainly for High School and College students or even retired people who wanted to make extra money. It drives me crazy that all of a sudden those jobs ‘must provide a living wage’. If those wages are increased and those really are career paths then what does happen to the High Schoolers, College kids and retirees who want to make some extra scratch?

        1. LadyTL*

          It happened due to experienced workers having to take entry level jobs to have work and thus leaving what was usually jobs for high schoolers for people with entry level experience.

        2. Honeybee*

          First of all, that’s never been true. Retail and food service and other low-wage jobs are inhabited by lots of different people – single mothers with a high school education, new high school graduates who can’t go to college, teenagers who are helping to support their poor families…I would be willing to bet that high school and college students looking to make a little extra money are in the minority amongst low-wage workers. Low-wage workers are disproportionately women and disproportionately from lower-income backgrounds. I have a lot of retail and food service (and custodial and low-wage service and other low-income) workers in my family – including my mom when I was growing up, who worked both retail and food service at various points – and trust and believe a lot of them are struggling to support their families on that wage. Maybe I’m biased…but I kind of value them being able to eat over a high schooler having a little extra spending money for weekend movies.

          Secondly, the economy is so tight now that even many college-educated folks are having to take low-wage work to keep a roof over their heads while they search for something better.

        3. Mike C.*

          First off, why does it drive you crazy?

          Secondly, the reason is has a great deal to do with solid middle class jobs moving out of country, and being replaced with lower paying service work.

          The average age of someone working around minimum wage is now in the mid-30s.

        4. mander*

          I’d love to see some statistics about the demographics of workers in these jobs over time. I have always been very suspicious of the argument that fast food or shelf stocking or similar low-paid jobs were intended for people who just wanted to make extra money. I’m pretty sure McDonald’s wasn’t established with the aim of providing after-school jobs, for example.

          1. Mary*

            I would have thought that someone working 40 hours per week in any job is living on the wage the job offers. Whether that is a living wage is a whole other discussion. This is why many countries set minimum wages, per hour for any job. Many people working minimum wage jobs say they cannot make ends meet, but as Mike says the average age of those working minimum wage jobs is now mid-30s.

        5. aebhel*

          When manufacturing outsourced and the only jobs you can get without a college degree (which costs upwards of $60K) are in the service industry.

          Also, the whole point of minimum wage is to pay a LIVING WAGE. If you work full-time at a job, any job, you should make enough money to feed yourself and keep a roof over your head. This isn’t a new concept.

        6. TootsNYC*

          LadyTL is right–those became people’s “real” jobs because there weren’t any OTHER “real” jobs.

          If we had alot more “real” jobs that paid a reliable wage, the Dairy Queen could go back to hiring college kids.

          But Honeybee’s got a great point as well–the STEREOTYPE is that high school kids worked those jobs. But it wasn’t the full truth. (for one thing, high school and college kids are in school when Starbucks is open.

        7. Anxa*

          I hear this point all of the time, but it really does bother me.

          Of course it’s not good if young people can’t get started on a career ladder or a retiree with no hopes of getting back to old career can’t supplement their SS.

          But why do they matter more than adults without access to SS or parents to depend on? How is extra spending money more important than rent? Than food?

      3. Francis*

        Yeah, when that starts happening, something will change. That is how the economy works: it doesn’t just stay the same for decades on end. How many occupations have appeared and how many have disappeared over the decades?

        But, for now, these places that pay their employees crap have been able to operate for two reasons: (1) people keep patronizing them and (2) there have always been people who will take their low-paying jobs. Those employees live lives differently than most—they are edge cases, people who can afford to live in an expensive city and make minimum wage—but there have been enough of the edge cases to fill the positions so far.

        If there stops being enough people to take those low-paying jobs, the company will either go out of business or pay a higher one (if they can afford it).

        I live in a relatively left-wing area, but to the credit of some people here, they don’t expect the government [i.e., the branch of society that commands obedience using the ultimate threat of physical force] to fix all of society’s ills. They get off their asses and remind people that what you don’t pay for will go away. Your actions have consequences, so do the right thing.

        What a concept: when you don’t like how things are, appeal to people’s hearts and minds instead of passing a law every time trying to maintain the status quo.

        So if you are concerned about what will happen to the underpaid baristas, do something (complaining on an Internet forum is something, but you could do something more direct) yourself. Find out which places pay their people well and start going to those places. Better yet, convince other people to go to those places.

        1. TootsNYC*

          “If there stops being enough people to take those low-paying jobs, the company will either go out of business or pay a higher one (if they can afford it).”

          One really interesting thing that’s happening is that restaurants are unable to find people to cook. No one wants to work that hard for that little money. (They used to hire Mexicans and other Latin Americans, who all learned to cook at home. Those workers aren’t available to them–either that particular cohort isn’t learning to cook, or they aren’t coming here anymore–and the non-immigrants they try to hire want more money (because they learned to cook at a school of some sort and want to be compensated) or don’t know how to cook well enough.

          But if they raise the wage, they’ll have to raise their prices, and they’ll have fewer customers.
          Very classic.

          It’s fascinating to see how it’s playing out in that one industry.

    3. voyager1*

      Yep. Could imagine if Starbucks or Target or Whole Foods or Costco had to close stores because they couldn’t find workers… LOL. Sadly we expect low wage workers to do low wage work, and yet we tell them they can better themselves, then we as society say we can not afford for them to
      get better lives or get a living wage. If you want to see it in disturbing reality look at the Alabama min wage bill that died yesterday. The whole state pulled together to stop Birmingham (a city) from raising their min wage (by city council vote). When I see stuff like that I wonder what all the point really is. We have the best govt big business can pay for.

      1. Mike C.*

        To their credit, Costco is well known for much higher than industry average wages and full benefits for employees. Their shareholders constantly complain about this.

        1. MashaKasha*


          Yelp, on the other hand!… I’ve talked to a few small business owners both online and in person lately, and what I am hearing is that they all have to deal with ridiculous fees from Yelp. Like, they have to pay a certain amount (couple hundred a month?) to have Yelp keep their competitors’ ads off their business’s page.

          I uninstalled the Yelp app after this story broke out, and won’t be using it anymore. I’d been pretty incensed about their business practices before this happened. This was the last straw.

          1. anonintheuk*

            In the southern English county I live in, they have had to partially close a hospital because of recruitment issues, and are apparently having serious difficulty getting teachers. House prices have far, far overshot local earnings.

            1. Honeybee*

              That’s happening here (Seattle). When I moved here the teachers were on strike; they wanted a wage increase. Our local paper interviewed some of the teachers who said they couldn’t afford to live nearby the schools they worked in, and they faced really long commutes to get to the schools – making their days really long and not worth the pay. People don’t want to raise teachers’ salaries, but they’ll complain if they don’t have high quality teachers (and our public schools are generally fantastic). The housing market is ridiculous here.

              1. YouAreHere*

                Same here- I live in the Southeastern US and I can’t afford to live in the county in which I’ve worked for the last ten years.

      2. Sparky*

        “McDonald’s employees can’t make $15 an hour, because *I* make $15 an hour and I am way more skilled than a McDonald’s employee. How insulting can you get? If someone at McDonald’s wants $15 an hour, they need to better themselves and go get a better job.”

        Or *you*, fictional ranting person, could maybe take your own advice and go find a job somewhere where they actually pay you what you’re worth.

        1. Kate M*

          Ugh yes. It’s one of those arguments that keeps people at the bottom fighting against each other and let’s the managers and CEOs at the top get away with making on average 204x what the average worker makes. Like, you can both be underpaid at $15 per hour. Nobody should be working a fulltime job and not be able to make ends meet, in my opinion. Sure, not everyone might be able to afford a car/vacations/gym memberships, but basic housing, food, insurance, transportation costs, medical expenses.

          1. aideekay*

            It’s a little sad if you think of it this way: why are you so invested in making sure I don’t make as much as you do rather than in making sure you’re paid what you feel you’re worth?

        2. TootsNYC*

          I make so much more than a McDonald’s worker. And my job is SO much easier than a McDonald’s worker’s.

          1. babblemouth*

            I used to work as a cashier in a large warehouse store. No doubt that it was by far a harder job than what I’m doing now – and I’m making much more money than i used to.

      3. Honeybee*

        That actually is happening, sort of. There have been a couple of reports in the news about Wal-Mart stores with empty shelves because they don’t have enough workers to keep their shelves fully stocked. Shoppers are complaining about it. Meanwhile Wal-Mart workers make the bare minimum, are on public assistance and people balk at raising their wages.

    4. Chameleon*

      Exactly. I’m in Seattle, where a one-bedroom averages $1600 a month. For one bedroom.

      Yet the same people complaining about the $15/hr minimum we just approved are the same ones who vote against affordable housing legislation or decent transit funding. Exactly where are these people supposed to live? On the streets? Oh, wait, they hate the homeless also…

      1. Mike C.*

        Don’t get me started on Seattle NIMBYs, holy crap. Hearing established couples complain that their house 5 minutes from downtown might soon be next door to an apartment complex and how it “destroys the character of the neighborhood” makes me livid. There’s your entitlement right there.

        1. Chameleon*

          Plus for a city that prides itself on being progressive, we’re sure good at making it difficult if not impossible for people of color who have lived here their whole lives to stay in their neighborhoods and businesses. Look at the fiasco on 23rd Ave.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          Yes, let’s all complain about the cost of housing and then complain even louder every time anyone tries to take any action that would reduce the cost of housing.

          I literally lost friends when I took a job at a tech company. I’d lived in Seattle for 8 years at that point and I’d been unemployed for a year, but tech workers are the enemy and a couple people were not shy about letting me know it. I’m job searching again now and I’ve gotten a lot of thinly veiled scorn for wanting a job vaguely comparable to the one that laid me off — “Well, you’re PICKY, so…”

        3. neverjaunty*

          By which they mean “Waaaaaa my property values!” These idiots infest my “liberal” neighborhood too.

          1. Natalie*

            These types completely derailed (ha ha pun) a commuter line in my city, nevermind their ceaseless complaining about traffic and poor public transportation. WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT???

              1. Xay*

                Unless you’re in Atlanta where public transportation is a communist plot to rob you of the bliss of sitting in traffic for hours.

        4. OriginalEmma*

          American zoning policy as a whole is messed up and is a big reason why there’s no such thing as affordable housing in many places. Single-family residential zones are elevated above all else, not to mention the most easily financed. Now, single family detached housing isn’t the enemy of affordable housing – single use zoning is. Single family houses can exist quite happily alongside density – Minneapolis is a good example of this.

          However, the predominate Euclidean zoning method also means you can’t have any else nearby – no delis, dry cleaners, bars, shops, comic book stores…nothing within walking distance (if you even have sidewalks to begin with). The current rules make building all those multi-use buildings that predominate in traditionally-developing, pre-WWII cities nigh impossible. And guess what? Where are people flocking to in droves nowadays? Those traditionally built cities. The Hobokens, Jersey Cities, and Seattles of the world. Because people want to be able to walk and bike to fulfill their activities of daily living nowadays, not drive at least 30 minutes from their homes.

          1. Kristine*

            I am reading a great book on this issue right now. It’s called The Next American Metropolis and it discusses the problems with prioritizing single-family suburbs over mixed use neighborhoods. It was written in the early 90’s (1994?) and everything it predicted about housing prices, traffic issues, etc unfortunately came true. But it’s interesting to learn about the proposed mixed use developments that would help alleviate these issues.

            1. OriginalEmma*

              There are so many great books on the topic that I’ll never get through them all! Great blogs as well. Thanks for your recommendation.

      2. justsomeone*

        Me too. The rent I pay on my two bedroom place in RENTON of all places is more than my parents mortgage on their huge house with a giant yard 200 miles away. I told my mom what I pay monthly and she choked on her drink. Don’t get me started on what we paid to live in Redmond. I’m convinced I’ll never own a home here.

        1. Jennifer*

          I just love those people who are all, “You could rent a house in my city with that money you pay on rent!” Yes, but then I’d have a commute and have to depend on a car to get to work. I pay that much money so I can walk to work (I live close by) and get home quickly and have a life outside of work.

        2. Honeybee*

          Hey neighbor! I’m in Issaquah. And the rent on my two-bedroom is more than double the mortgage on my parents’ four-bedroom house with an in-ground pool in an Atlanta suburb. I’m disheartened about owning a home here, too; I’d love to stay in Issaquah but I can’t afford to buy much of anything here.

          1. cbackson*

            I moved from Seattle to Atlanta – the drop in my cost of living was amazing. Honestly, economic opportunity is just so much greater when you’re not crushed by housing costs (and the attendant increase in prices in everything else driven by said housing costs). I now live in a condo that’s actually larger than my house was in Seattle, my mortgage is $1000 less per month, and I walk to work (which wasn’t an option in Seattle unless I wanted to live in South Lake Union).

            1. Honeybee*

              You walk to work in Atlanta? See, I see that as less of an option, but that’s because I lived in Atlanta almost 10 years ago now. I went back to visit this summer and it’s actually changed a lot – some areas more cosmopolitan and a little bit better designed for walking.

              My husband and I really wanted to move back to Atlanta, and that was in large part because of the home prices and cost of living there. I initially focused my job search there. But the industry in my field – and what will probably be his – isn’t really there (yet?).

      3. Kate M*

        And how sad is it that that sounds like a great price to me? In DC, you can maybe get a studio for $1800-2000. Sometimes I really hate everything.

          1. Kate M*

            And everyone is like, “well that’s what you get for living in a popular city.” Um, I’m pretty sure these cities are popular because that’s where jobs are. I mean sure, some people could find jobs in other less expensive cities probably, but that also comes with less chance for advancement in a field. I work in politics. If I had stayed in my 1,000 person hometown to live with my parents and save money, what would I be doing? Sure I could work on campaigns (which is seasonal work) or work in state politics elsewhere maybe, but those jobs sometimes aren’t even year-round, and probably don’t have the potential that jobs in DC have.

            1. aideekay*

              For a group so quick to extol “simple market forces” for why the complainers are being paid what they’re paid, that group isn’t so quick to carry the one to the next column when suggesting someone go somewhere else and find a different job. People moving around causes jobs and markets to shift around. If everyone moved to a cheaper place, that place would no longer be cheaper.

              You need infrastructure and support for all of your systems, too. You can’t tell all the underpaid temps to “find a better job” without losing the work they were putting in. Something has to give!

              1. Francis*

                If everyone moved to a cheaper place, that place would no longer be cheaper.

                Of course, people would stop moving there when it stops being cheaper. That’s like an employer saying, “If I increase your salary, you’ll end up making more than me!” I’d settle for splitting the difference.

            2. Honeybee*

              This. I work in tech. When I last moved, I looked for jobs in Atlanta, a relatively low cost-of-living city. I would love to live in Atlanta and buy a house there for $250K. But there’s really not much of a tech industry in Atlanta, and besides, the cost of living is lower for a reason: the salaries are lower, too. So I moved to Seattle, where there is a large tech industry.

              1. cbackson*

                Erm, when did you last look at jobs in Atlanta? There’s actually a massive tech worker shortage here, especially in fintech. Jobs! We have them! And we need you!!!!

                (Sadly, however, the $250,000 houses are mostly gone.)

                Also, I got a $35,000 raise by moving to Atlanta…in my industry (law), Seattle paid well below national market rate. Not sure how tech salaries would compare, though.

                1. Honeybee*

                  This was just last year, in May. And the caveat is that I’m not a programmer. My background is in psychology, and I work in UX. The only company that I saw really hiring UX researchers was Home Depot. (I also would’ve been happy doing market research or strategy analysis/research, and applied for those jobs too. What’s also true, though, is that my job search happened far more quickly than I anticipated – I started actually applying for positions in mid-May and I had a great offer in Seattle by early July, so I don’t know what would’ve happened had I looked longer.)

                  And when I said “Atlanta” I kind of meant the greater Atlanta area. The $250K houses I’m thinking about are in the suburbs where I grew up – I grew up in Lithonia but I was thinking more like Lawrenceville, Loganville, Grayson, etc. Although if I did move to Atlanta with a salary comparable to the one I make now, I would consider living in one of the really beautiful old Atlanta neighborhoods or Decatur.

        1. Crissy from HR*

          Got to move to the outskirts of DC before they gentrify that too. $1100 for a one bedroom + den in a quiet, metro accessible residential neighborhood between Petworth and Takoma.

          None of my friends paid less than $1600 a month in other buildings near by. DC’s changed dramatically in the past 10 years.

          1. Dan*

            I went to school *in* in the late 90’s/early ’00’s, and the changes have been interesting to watch. DC itself is rather small geographically (and population wise too, it’s only about 10% of the metro area at large), so sometimes it’s hard to tell what parts of the DC metro area people are talking about when they say “DC”.

            DC also has restrictions on high rises and things like that, which limits how much can be built in the downtown core.

            I live in the ‘burbs, just outside the beltway. It’s fun talking to millenials who think you live in West Virginia. Not too long ago, I went to a dinner in Ballston and someone said, “I’ve never been this far outside the city before.” When I was in school, nobody gave to shits if your mailing address sported a DC zip code.

            1. Kate M*

              If you live that far out though, you have to have a car basically. Which sort of negates the rent you save. But nice dig at “millenials”, though. :/

              1. anncakes*

                Yeah, no kidding. My husband and I are millennials (he’s barely one, and I’m among the older set), and we live almost an hour outside of the city. Couldn’t afford to buy or rent much closer. Of course, if he were to drive in to work, he’d have to pay over $300 to park in his building, so instead he pays $200 a month to take the bus. It’s not about “millennials” not “getting it” so much as it is about transplants who are pretty new to DC and can afford to live in the city not exploring the rest of the greater metro area. Which is hard to do without a car.

      4. Anna*

        I’d kill for a $1600/month one bedroom. In manhattan, it’s $3400/month if you want a doorman and gym. $2800/month if you want to deal with a walkup with no washing machine.

    5. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      So I live in a city that likes to refer to itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World” but guess who can’t afford to live here anymore? Yup, the musicians.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          NPR did a really interesting story a few years ago that all the people who are moving here for the “keep it weird” vibe are the ones pushing out everything that made this city eclectic.

      1. YawningDodo*

        Oh man, I went to grad school there and people kept asking me if I was going to try to stay there and get a job after I graduated. I thought they were crazy for even entertaining it as a possibility.

        I did end up getting a solid job in an affordable city, but a.) I moved somewhere I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen, and b.) I was in the privileged position of being *able* to pack up and move because I was single and because I had my parents for a safety net.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I know a few people finishing their MBAs here in town and it’s amazing how many of them are looking outside the state.

          1. YawningDodo*

            Different degree, but when it was me I spent my final semester literally applying for any job that sounded like something I could live with for a year or two. I got a whopping one offer (a temporary position, no less) and that offer decided what state I moved to. It’s worked out pretty well for me, but in hindsight it is a bit of an intense way to decide the course of your life.

      2. Honeybee*

        I’ve heard a lot about Austin pricing everyone out. I think Seattle used to be like that, too – a great place for musicians and artists. It’s way too expensive for them to live here anymore.

    6. Xarcady*

      Many years back, I read about a neighborhood in a city that decided that they no longer needed the public transit bus stops. No one who lived there used them, so they could just get rid of the unsightly signs and shelters.

      Until someone from the transit company pointed out that all their hired help–the maids, the nannies, the pool cleaners, the groundskeepers–took the bus, because they sure as heck weren’t living in that neighborhood. Without the bus service, they wouldn’t have all the staff to keep their homes and neighborhood looking nice, cook their meals and watch their kids.

      The bus stops stayed.

      It’s the same with the arguments that full-time employees of companies like WalMart still need public assistance–food stamps, medical coverage, etc. You can be working, and working hard, and maybe holding down two or three jobs, and still not have enough money for the basics.

      The letter made some good points. Unfortunately, there are a few paragraphs that seem whiny to me, and those are distracting people from the real issue–you can have a full-time job with benefits, and not afford to live.

      1. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        Completely agree. I have a FT job with benefits and I live in a mid-size Midwestern city with a comparatively low COL. And if it were just me, I wouldn’t have enough to live. I’d have to be pushing 40 and needing a roommate. Luckily I’m married, but if I wasn’t, I’d be SOL, I’d have to move home with my dad.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        SO MUCH of this. Honestly, I think we should start dropping heavy penalties on companies whose workforce still requires public assistance. (Though of course I know that would get screwed up, the cutoff line for public assistance would just get dropped until it as nothing and more people would suffer. But I can dream…)

      3. Terra*

        Who are these people holding down multiple jobs and how? I couldn’t get a job in high school because everyone wanted college kids and then when I hit college and did find a minimum wage retail job, well… technically you were allowed to have a second job but they would not guarantee you a set schedule, you could be fired for missing all or part of a shift, you could be fired for switching shifts too many times, you could be fired for refusing to come in too many times when called and asked. And everywhere else I worked or applied was the same.

        They may say you can have a second job but they certainly do everything in their power to stop you from being able to find and keep one.

        1. Anxa*

          I’m also curious about this.

          Also, a lot of the rhetoric aroudn a living wage is centered around working full-time, but doesn’t address the issue of an inability to find more hours.

      4. lowercase holly*

        was it beverly hills? because the places the buses stop there (on sunset) don’t have shelters or benches. maybe there are signs… no sidewalks either so there are always people walking along the sloped grassy areas. it is not safe.

        1. Laura W*

          Hmm, I just spent a week in BH for a work meeting, and went jogging all over the area every day. Never hit a part without sidewalks. Though I did notice in the residential parts in the early morning or evenings, the only people I saw on said sidewalks were what looked to be maids, landscapers, etc on their way to or from work walking to the bus. No other joggers or people walking their dogs, or just folks out for a stroll.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          No-bench, no-shelter bus stops are common all over Los Angeles. SF, too.

          Is it different in other states?

    7. fposte*

      I remember a friend from Jackson Hole talking about the fact that the whole service sector has to come in over a mountain pass to work–so when the weather’s bad, no service sector.

    8. LizB*

      Heck, in my Bay Area hometown, many of the teachers in our prestigious, highly-funded public schools can’t afford to live in town and have to commute in. It’s ridiculous.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        ha! For me, it’s a college town in my state. The profs are fleeing as the prices for everything are sky high. Taxes look more like a mortgage loan than taxes. Complicating matters even more there are so many laws to preserve the historical flavor of the town that one almost has to ask permission to burp.

      2. Honeybee*

        There was an article about that a few months back. I remember reading tandem ones within a week or so of each other – one about teachers in the Bay Area and one about teachers in Seattle during our strike.

    9. TootsNYC*

      In a way that’s what we need–for all the low-paid employees to simply leave. And then employers may need to charge the wealthier more for their lattes so they can pay the baristas more.

      We all actually buy so much more than we can afford, because we don’t pay enough for the things we do buy.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Exactly. And you can see the overflow of goods at garage sales and flea markets. I went around this year and picked up things to fix up my house. I bought a five gallon bucket of paint for $5 bucks (regularly $100). I bought cupboards for $75 each, regularly $1200 each. People just gave me a rug, NICE ceiling lights, a coffee pot and other stuff by saying, “Here take this, too, we want to get this out of here.” We are buying stuff, NOT using it, and dumping it. NPOs have warehouses full of donations that they cannot distribute, there are no people/resources to distribute it.

        1. TootsNYC*

          It scares me silly sometimes, to see all the stuff in thrift stores and garage sales. I’m not sure why, but I truly get frightened.

          Some of that stuff they can’t distribute? It’s because nobody WANTS it!

          1. mander*

            I read an article recently about the CEO of IKEA saying we have reached “peak curtains”, meaning that people had stopped buying so much useless decorative stuff to the extent that they are looking at changing their business model.

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Right. On the news a couple months ago, there was a bad house fire and during the story they mentioned that 14 people were living in that two bedroom apt. Its so freakin expensive around here. And I thought I had it bad several years ago because my two kids and I crammed into a one bedroom for a year. It was eye opening to say the least.

  5. Random Lurker*

    I’m glad this whole debacle has opened up a conversation about affordable housing, the cost of college, and entry level jobs. We need to start talking more about this.

    What I’m not happy about – NONE of these are excuses for calling your employer out in a public forum. And that seems to have been swept under the rug in the back and forth on the Internet. I don’t care what generation you are, or what your situation is. You gripe about your boss and they hear about it, expect consequences.

    1. the_scientist*

      THIS THIS THIS. This response was by far the most compassionate analysis I’ve seen. Calling out your employer in a public forum is not a smart move, and the author lost her job and (hopefully) learned a lesson there. Everyone has made a few stupid mistakes in their life; she was unfortunate enough to make her big mistake in an extremely public way. But the real problem is that we can no longer ignore how pressing the issue of housing affordability is, and the way it’s hollowing out cities. I’m so glad this response called attention to this issue!

      If you’re interested in further excellent reading; Sarah Kendzior has written very eloquently on housing affordability, educational costs, and the move away from training entry level employees (including increasingly defining “skills” as “specific corporate contributions”). She often quotes another writer who describes cities like New York and SF as “gated citadels where the 1% reproduces itself”- but you can’t have a city of only millionaires, because someone has to pick up the trash, serve the coffee and food, and clean the offices (among other jobs, of course). This is not a millenial problem, it’s an everybody problem.

    2. Mike C.*

      Calling out your employer in a public forum has a rich and storied history in this country, starting with the mine strikes of late 1800s to 1920s.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and the people who do it are the ones who pay the price. Maybe later someone else will benefit, but it’s always a risk.

      1. Random Lurker*

        While I don’t disagree, I certainly wouldn’t compare her trials and tribulations to the mine strikes. If she knew she was going to die on this hill, would she have written the original piece? I don’t know, I don’t know the woman. But sweeping social change didn’t seem to be her motivation anymore than losing her job seems to have been a consideration.

        1. TowerofJoy*

          People don’t normally wake up with sweeping social change in mind either. It happens in inches. This could just as well be the start of a social movement as older historical strikes might have started with someone drunk and angry in a bar after work. They aren’t always pretty or clean cut.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I hope that it causes sweeping social changes. We can argue the particulars of her setting but deep down we all have to admit something is verrry wrong with what we are doing.

            “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” I think she felt she had nothing left to lose and probably does not care that she lost her job. With her budget she was hanging on to something that was letting go (slippery slope type of thing). If she did not tank now, she would have tanked later on. She had nothing more to lose.

    3. Washington*

      For me, that’s the part of this story that makes the most sense. I even wondered if her employer had the right to fire her for it, assuming that her facts were true. I didn’t understand why it wouldn’t fall under “concerted activities”. I know social media is kind of a gray area, but if her post were public and people had the ability to comment, that seem like the ability to discuss working conditions with co-workers.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I would presume there is a clause that says, “don’t trash the employer in public.” Or “good conduct.”

        And even if there isn’t–you can fire anybody for any reason.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You can’t fire them for an illegal reason though — which includes exercising the rights protected by the NRLA to discuss wages and working conditions with your coworkers. That said, in this case, it’s not clear that that right would be in play (it’s a public letter published to the world, and I’ve seen arguments that it reveals confidential information about their training practices, among other possible code of conduct violations). But I do think there’s at least some question about whether they may have violated the NLRA here.

          1. Observer*

            In fact, I’ve seen posts on a number of employment law related blogs that discuss this issue. It seems like it really depends on whether she can credibly make the argument that she was trying to get her co-workers riled up (protected) or just venting (not protected.) Also, apparently, the name she was posting under might be an issue. If the company makes the argument that identifying herself and talking about the company as a CSR with that name is what got her trouble, they might be in the clear.

        2. lowercase holly*

          can you fire someone if they are clearly unhappy in their job and don’t want to be there? would that count under at-will?

    4. Sunflower*

      Personally I think she wrote it knowing either 1. No one would see it and nothing would happen or 2. It would go viral and set her up for the kind of job she wants.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          We (our society) are such a diverse group of people that I can almost bet that someone will hire her.

      1. Mike C.*

        “…set her up for the kind of job she wants.”

        That’s a rather interesting take, since if she can clearly make something she wrote go viral and spark national conversations, then she has some skill in the area.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep–I think she actually did this with a lot of thought and that it’s based on Yelp’s own business model. Yelp is, itself, a place where people go online and complain about companies. And often, the company will cave and give the customer whatever they want, because they don’t want to have a bad review. Talia gave Yelp, essentially, a bad Yelp review (yes, I know she did it on a different site, but you know what I mean). She wasn’t being thoughtless, she was addressing them in their own language. And either it would cause Yelp to change, or it would get attention and put pressure on Yelp from outside.

          1. Jennifer*

            A friend of mine applied for a supposedly high up job at this girl’s company and they were offering pretty much peanuts AND demanded that interviewees do free work for them by proposing how they could hold staff meetings and team building sessions while a good chunk of the employees were manning the phones. I told my friend to be glad they didn’t hire her, they sounded all kinds of shady.

    5. BRR*

      I agree that it’s causing discussion of very important topics. The things being addressed to me are huge problems that aren’t going away but those are being discussed so my point is different. To me one of the huge issues isn’t just calling out your employer but a lot of this is on the LW. They accepted the job hoping to use it to move into another job. Wanting a person to stay in a position for a year is reasonable in my book. Plus taking the customer service position is no guarantee they could move to a different role. I get that sometimes you have to accept a job but this job was clearly taken because the lw hoped to use it to get where they wanted which always comes with risk. Also specifically moving to an area they can’t afford. They weren’t stuck there, they went there.

      Again, it’s an example of problems that many people of all ages are facing. But this doesn’t seem to be a situation the lw had to take. Plus going back to lurkers point, trashing your company isn’t a great idea.

    6. Tallyme Banana*

      In this instance I completely agree, but in other cases I disagree. Remember all of those Amazon warehouse exposes? Things like that should not stay a secret.
      But yeah, what she did was unprofessional, inappropriate, and definitely not the way to get what she wanted.

    7. Observer*

      I liked the article precisely because he doesn’t dismiss that. He acknowledges that she made a whole lot of bad choices, that she’s whiny and seems to have a bad case of entitlementitis.

      But, that doesn’t mean that all of the reactions are any better – so many reek of the same problems.

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      I think she was just at her wits end, spread super thin and having an emotional (justifiably) moment and I’m sure she knew she’d be fired.

  6. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

    While Talia Jane’s original piece did cause me to roll my eyes, it was that response that just really annoyed me. This piece really helped me put my finger on why I had that reaction, and made some great points along the way, thank you for posting this.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I still don’t have it in me to read that response. Just tried and had to stop when I got to the part about how she lost a job, then immediately wandered into a family friend, who immediately gave her another… my god, the struggle is real.

      Ironically, I could probably deliver the “I ate shit in my 20s and look how well I turned out” better than anyone. I came to the US at age 29 with a 4-year-old and a 15-month-old; and the four years before that had been ridiculously crappy for my family. We never complained, because there were families around us that had it a lot worse. But what’s the point? Is there a contest for who had it the worst? What’s the prize? Hopefully not the “character-building experience” load of BS. Back in the “old country”, we lived next to a family of in-laws, also in their 20s, who had it massively worse than we did. Finally after two years of hard work, being broke, and living in crappy conditions, they allowed themselves a vacation. They left their 18-month-old toddler with other relatives and flew out to visit their family with their 3yo. While they were out of town, the toddler got sick and died within 24 hours. That’s not character-building experience. That’s a shitty situation that wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been forced to live in shitty conditions despite all their drive and hard work. This is also the kind of a life event that would mess one up for life. Not “build character”! Christ on a cracker.

      Extreme poverty, dead-end jobs, are not “character-building experience”. To paraphrase what I saw on another comment thread on here the other day, life is not a frat. We don’t need to go through a goddamn hazing in order to form a better bond with whomever life throws into our path. And there’s sure enough no need for anyone to orchestrate the hazing, which IMO is what Yelp was doing here.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Rock on.

        These are human beings we are talking about. And, honestly, by luck or by God or by fate or by whatever you want to call it – this could be me, or you who read this, or those people right next to you, right now.

        We are all one catastrophic illness away from being in this woman’s shoes. Or catastrophic storm as the case may be–which we seem to be having quite a few of this year.
        Life is harsh and we can prove that in so many ways. More harshness does not solve the problem. So what, she chose the wrong area to live. She should have known? Is that the correct response to this woman? How about our own problems. If we get told the answer to our own problems is “well you should have know”, how does that help us? How does that fix the problem? We have to be careful about statements like this, they can sound like smug put downs.

        1. TootsNYC*

          one thing about the expensive areas to live–they are often also the places with a better shot at a job!

    2. HarryV*

      For me, it was the fact that she updated her blog to ask for handout by posting her paypal, venmo, square!

      1. Honeybee*

        I honestly don’t get people’s issue with this. If one doesn’t want to donate to her, one doesn’t have to. I also never see anyone calling it a handout when someone starts a Kickstarter or GoFundMe to start some kind of crazy business or try out some idea. It’s only when someone wants to eat and pay their rent.

  7. Jade*

    This piece was spot on about the inter-generational fighting that’s been going on these days. I want to share with everyone a comment I saw someone make a while back on an article about these differences. It has stuck with me this whole time because of how it hits the nail on the head of the issue so beautifully:

    “People can’t imagine that things have changed from their sepia-toned, hazy memories, and blame the young people suffering from the impact of their decades of decisions for ‘being lazy’ for wanting a job to pay enough to live on. As if the only reason we aren’t all millionaires is because we don’t want it enough.”

    People have been whining about the younger generation’s faults since the time of Socrates. We ALL own a piece of the blame for the problems in the world.

  8. Anonymous Educator*

    Thanks for sharing that link. Most of the responses I’ve seen have had absolutely zero nuance.

  9. twig*

    One of the things that struck me about this whole debacle was the fact that the low pay she is complaining about is roughly the same as the entry level pay that I had at my first job out of college FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. My rent, at the time, on a two bedroom shared apartment in the Sacramento area was about $500/month — my share being $250.

    Prices on just about everything have gone up, but wages haven’t.

    1. Renee*

      That was what I was paid at an entry level admin job in 1994. Meanwhile the pay of C-level execs has soared. It’s mystifying to me that folks have a “bootstraps” reaction to any suggestion that this isn’t a reasonable wage. It’s not, and there’s money there to fix it, but the folks at the top just get greedier and greedier.

      1. Chameleon*

        “My first job only paid $8 an hour, and I did fine! The fact that was in 1984 has no bearing on this situation!”

          1. HarryV*

            I was paid about the same for my student IT job at college. No benefits. You know what I did? I worked my ass off, graduated school and found a full time job doing graveyard shift that no one wanted. It wasn’t ideal and pay wasn’t that much more but I progressed. Rinse and repeat. Now I’m head of a global network engineering division.

            I was never the sharpest tool in the shed but I made sure there was no one who worked harder than me.

            1. Mike C.*

              So what about the people that fill in behind you? Shouldn’t they be paid enough to afford what is needed to live?

            2. TootsNYC*

              and how long ago was that?

              Also–your having been able to make it work for you doesn’t mean other people can do that.

              1. Heather*

                Or maybe they recognize that those stories are either about exceptional people, who are rare by definition, or conveniently leave out the amount of help the so-called bootstrapper received from others on their way up.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yep, around that same time I graduated from a trade school and still remember the job I got paid $8.14 an hour. Met my future husband at that job and thought he was so rich because he made 40k a year.

    2. MashaKasha*

      20K/year at an entry-level programming job nineteen years ago. And it was far from being a dead-end job. Yes, for the first year, the pay sucked, but it grew exponentially when I changed jobs again and again over the next few years. Can this happen at a call center? Hardly. That’s the big difference that the “just suck it up and get through it” crowd does not seem to get. There IS no “through”.

    3. SJ McMahon*

      Yes, this exactly. I made 8 bucks an hour in 1996 at a call center. Paying people that amount in 2016 – let alone in San Francisco – is outrageous. Companies need to pay a living wage *relative to the area in which their employees live and work*. If they can’t do that, maybe they’re the ones who should move to a different city.

    4. Jennifer*

      Yeah, this is why I’m having to “downsize” my life. My rent is heading towards being 75% of my paycheck at the rate rent increases are going up, and my job will never get a raise again.

    5. PeachTea*

      Remember the wage quoted is AFTER tax. So she really gets paid something like $12 or more an hour, not the $8.25 she quotes. It’s a very misleading quote.

        1. Emily*

          Except I’m fairly sure that’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone give their hourly rate as an after tax amount… It’s just not how we typically describe and compare salaries.

          1. Honeybee*

            Sure, but the point of the letter was to demonstrate how little she has to live on. She gave the after-tax amount because that’s the amount of disposable income she has available to her – it saves you doing the math and guessing what her tax rate is. She also gave the net amount she makes biweekly – $733 – to contrast with her rent (which was over $1200 a month).

            And honestly, even if she does get paid $12/hour gross, that’s even worse – it’s a pretty good indication that $12/hour isn’t really a living wage in San Francisco, either.

  10. Bwmn*

    So well put. I think the field of journalism/writing is particularly fascinating in the way industry has changed in just a few decades. Current/retired journalists in their 60s/70s – it’s very common to have seen them major in generic liberal arts fields – especially English. Carl Bernstein didn’t even graduate from college and did the “worked his way up” route by working for news papers since his teen years. Then after that (40s/50s), it’s far more widespread to see journalists who have degrees from Journalism school and pretty fast (20s/30s) it’s already the shrinking print media/expansion of the blogosphere and if you can even be paid. That’s a lot of industry change.

    If your parent was part of the 60s/70s group of journalists (or loads of other careers) – what kind of advice or guidance can they provide a young person? I’m sure I’m not the only person who got bad/weird advice from my parents on student loans because they had no clue what it meant – not out of poor intentions.

    I just think that in addition to so many new and different obstacles being stacked against young people, there’s that double edged sword of not really having readily obvious mentors to say yeah or nay. Parents, professors, industry professionals…..the realities for being new to the workforce are just so different now.

    1. Jennifer*

      You really can’t advise anyone what to do any more because the world has changed so fast and so drastically.

    2. Alexa D*

      You bring up one of my exact pet peeves! I majored in journalism and graduated in 2006–ie: the worst time ever to graduate w/ a JO degree and try to get into the industry (seeking FT employment w/ benefits, that is)… and I see much older individuals/journalists give piss poor advice to today’s teens who are applying to college. I hear the “major in anything but journalism” advice, which, yes, could work for a lot of kids but could actively HARM many of them: jobs no longer want to train you, and having a JO degree from a school known for training journalists gives you an edge. BUT. The real advice is you shouldn’t bother majoring in/pursuing journalism at all unless you have a huge safety net (I always ask whether a kid has parents who could, if they needed to, pay their rent/support them for half their twenties) and/or you are really, really, really comfortable hustling for freelance/contractor jobs. I see the older journalists talk about jobs, period, and they don’t realize: full time, stable jobs that pay a living wage more or less don’t exist anymore for young journalists coming out of school. They talk of working their way up the ladder and don’t realize that ladder has been burned all the way down to the bottom rung. And the starting salaries if you CAN find a FT job? Have been the same for the last 25 years. You’re lucky to earn more than 30K starting out. It’s obscene.

      Frankly, even I can’t give good advice because I received bad advice (from journalists who came of age in the 60s & 70s) and then couldn’t actually find a job as a journalist. (I work in marketing, ie: the dark side, where they actually pay a living wage.) The best advice givers graduated after 2008 and work for places like Buzzfeed… and their advice will be outdated soon, I’m sure :/

  11. Kyla*

    Maybe I’m a biased millennial but Talia Jane’s piece really resonated with me. I feel like everyone older than us thinks we are little more than entitled brats, but all we want is the chance to do something with our degrees other than being retail/fast food/call centre workers and earn a living wage somewhere we’d like to live (sometimes your hometown doesn’t ‘fit’ you and that’s ok. It’s not entitled to want to live somewhere other than your home state or small town in the south). We feel like we can’t get any of the opportunities the previous generation had…..no one wants to give us a chance, it feels like no one wants us to succeed and it feels like our futures are hopeless. It’s depressing. It’s miserable.

    1. sunny-dee*

      It actually is the definition of entitlement if you think it’s something you deserve and therefore someone else has to make it happen.

      I guess I’m stumped what “opportunities the previous generation had” that we don’t. Um, getting paid nothing and depending on parents or roommates or both to make ends meet? That’s not the end of the world. Getting laid off, working multiple jobs … this is all normal. No one has the right to live in a nice apartment in a fancy city by themselves. Like, it’s something you have to pay for. I don’t get the sympathy for “well OF COURSE she should be able to have an apartment in San Francisco without a roommate!” It’s crazy expensive there. She obviously sucks at budgeting and hopefully she’ll get wiser as she gets older as we all do … but I don’t understand the sympathy like that’s something that we should find a way to fix. No. It’s called Life Experience. It’s like crying because you fell off your bicycle. That’s not a cosmic injustice — it’s part of learning to ride a bike. It’s what you do and then it gets easier.

      1. Kyla*

        Uh no, the previous generation could actually get jobs in their field that paid a living wage and were not expected to work for free in the form of unpaid internship in the desperate hope a paid position might come out of it. Unpaid internships are a despicable form of exploitation and I can’t believe people defend them.

        Secondly, you’ll call me entitled for this, but I don’t believe anyone who goes to work and puts in a full time working week should have to go and get a second or third job just to be able to pay rent and to buy food. I hate the way people think it should be normal or a badge of honour to work 80 hours a week to survive. No. A full time worker should be paid a living wage.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Would that be the generation with “stagflation” through the 1970s? With recessions in the mid-80s, or the one in the early 90s? Or the first dot-com bust and post-9/11 recession? The really old one with the depression followed by a world war?

          Seriously, which generation had it easy?

          1. Honeybee*

            The recessions in the mid-80s to 2001: bad, but nowhere near comparable to the great recession of 2007-2008 either in terms of impact or in terms of length. Talia’s a few years younger than I am and literally graduated into the recession. Kyla didn’t say any generation had it easy, but there’s a lot of financial analysis that’s been done (and easily accessible on the Internet) that makes it pretty clear that Boomers had it easier than millennials do now – especially if we’re comparing college-educated Boomers to college-educated millennials.

            Were new college graduates in the 1970s and 1980s expected to work unpaid internships and jobs for a few years before they actually got paid? Were they told they couldn’t live in coastal cities altogether? No, they were not.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          Uh no, the previous generation could actually get jobs in their field that paid a living wage

          This simply isn’t true.
          Your other statements are off too. People took 2nd jobs even as baby boomers. I know that many times I worked 60-80 hours a week because I didn’t want to lose my job.

          Your views of what others have to put up with are incorrect.

          1. Honeybee*

            It’s true on a larger scale. There’s actual economic analysis of this. Millennials have lower real wages, larger debts and more trouble finding entry-level positions than Baby Boomers did in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s not that there weren’t individual people who had hard times back then; it’s that on average, conditions were better for young entry-level workers. And that was especially true if you were college-educated then.

        3. Jeanne*

          I feel like I was privileged. I graduated college in the early 90s. I lived with my parents about 6 months while job searching then I got a job in my field (science) with decent pay. I had my own apartment although I was in a small town. I often worked more than 40 hrs but I did not have to take a second job. I worked fast food during college but did not have to consider that as a career after graduation. It’s hard now even in science. So many lay-offs have happened in my industry. There are much fewer jobs available doing what I did.

          Entitled graduates or not, we need to acknowledge that our country has undergone huge changes in the workforce. We need to find ways to adapt, teach and encourage. Maybe college, then two jobs at WalMart and McDonalds is not the way to go. What should our children be doing differently? That’s what we need to investigate. Work Harder is not always the solution.

      2. J-nonymous*

        Well, Gen-X (the generation that preceded Millennials, and my generation) by and large had a lot less student-loan debt to pay back, so there’s an opportunity (or at least the lack of a similar burden).

        It’s true that Gen-Xers entering the workforce in the 90s faced economic recessions, but I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that the Great Recession had a far more significant effect than any of the ones my generation faced.

        1. Chinook*

          “It’s true that Gen-Xers entering the workforce in the 90s faced economic recessions, but I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that the Great Recession had a far more significant effect than any of the ones my generation faced.”

          I would disagree because we Gen Xers are also having to fight the reality of the Great Recession after having survived the one we graduated in. too often, the people getting laid off are the last ones in, which usually means the Gen Xers who also have families to support. Plus, if we have been able to save anything for the future, it can’t grow like it did for previous generations because interest rates are so low.

          As for the thought that you have the right to leave your hometown and find work because you don’t fit in there, that to me is entitlement. You should absolutely be able to make a living wage at a full-time job, but no one owes you the right to have a full-time job of your choice in the location of your choice. I come from generations of people (and lived in communities of people) who had the choice to live where they chose and do the work that was available OR to have a job of your choice where ever it is available. It is only in the modern society that the majority of us have the luxury to even dream of doing what we want and still put food on the table. I don’t know too many who worked the coal mines or the oil fields or joined the army or (fill in the blank) because that was their childhood dream. Most knew that, if they wanted a comfortable life and be able to support a family, you did what work was available. Sure, they wanted better for their children, but they knew that nothing was guaranteed.

          1. J-nonymous*

            There’s a fair point to be made about how wealth loss might have affected Gen-X (and older generations) worse than millennials when the housing market collapsed in the US. And I definitely know that people across generations were displaced from the workforce as a result of the Great Recession. But I do think coupling the much higher (on average) student loan debt with the higher rate of being displaced from the workforce (or being chronically–even still–underemployed) hurt Millennials worse.

        2. insert witty name here*

          As a Gen Xer, I can tell you it sucked for us, too. We’re just naturally cynical so we weren’t too surprised by it.

      3. NotASalesperson*

        There’s actually no indication that Talia had much familial support, and she references having a very challenging home life situation growing up that seriously impacted her mental health. She also references living in East Bay; Oakland is a lot cheaper than SF itself. She references coworkers struggling as much as she did.

        I’m not saying she didn’t make bad financial decisions; I’m saying she was in a difficult situation even before taking this job, and it’s not a bad thing to recognize that she’s coming from a difficult place.

        1. J-nonymous*

          And giving her the benefit of trust in recounting her finances, her commuting costs were pretty high. That’s another cost to balance — how far outside your workplace do you work before the costs of commuting (financial or time) outweigh the benefits of a lower rent.

        2. aideekay*

          >Oakland is a lot cheaper than SF itself

          While true, I’d like to point out that it is indeed cheaper, not cheap. (You never said otherwise, I’m just adding perspective for people who are unfamiliar with the area.)

          A real estate group just released some really interesting data about housing in the Bay Area (you can see that here: http://paragon-re.com/Bay_Area_Housing_Affordability), and part of it is median rent.

          In SF, a median 1-bedroom costs $3,400. In Oakland (Alameda County), it’s $2,145. Obviously that is a significant difference! Now look at the median for Ausin, TX: $1,100. Or Los Angeles: $1,795. Chicago? $1,666.

          Before taxes and before deductions, you need 3.5 weeks of a $15/hour full-time job to afford that on your own. With 1 roommate, minimum wage could do it – but guess what? That’s before taxes. Before taxes. And, still, it’s eating up 60% of your gross paycheck, not dissimilar to Talia’s own calculations.

          And, again: that’s Oakland, not San Francisco.

          Is this not just a tiny bit crazy?

          *Yes, median means 50% is under that number. Note, however, that Alameda county is big and is up to 45 miles away (Livermore) from SF, and most definitely is not efficiently served by public transportation.

          1. lowercase holly*

            while i do think that housing in the bay area is ridiculous, as is $12 as an entry-level hourly rate, i also can’t get past the fact that she chose to move there. that area has been completely out of control housing-wise for at least a decade, if not longer. so while she needed to leave her current location for mental health reasons, maybe don’t pick the most expensive place in the country unless you do have a reasonably paying job lined up. otherwise, pick one of the other places where housing isn’t a complete nightmare.

            1. aideekay*

              Sure, if you have your choice of places. She said she deliberately chose the area because she hoped to build a relationship with her father who lives there.

              She doesn’t have a support network she can turn to. Where do you go if you need to escape? Seriously asking.

              1. lowercase holly*

                i don’t know the whole story with her dad because she didn’t write about it. but if i was planning a big move anyway just to escape, almost any other place than SF. unless she’s from there, how about columbus, OH? rents seemed decent there.

            2. Honeybee*

              Because she was 24 and she had dreams of living in the big city. Come on. It’s not that uncommon for twentysomethings to want to live in New York or San Francisco or Boston or whatever. It’s also true that the economy there may be better than in other places. I mean, it’s all fine and good to tell people to move to Fargo or Kansas City where it’s less expensive, but those people still have to find jobs, and transportation costs shoot up because you need access to a car in those places.

              Besides, having done this kind of work in graduate school, people move to places like New York and San Francisco for a variety of reasons. I did some outreach work in New York and met many a poor, sometimes homeless young adult who moved to New York because they were abused and ridiculed in their hometown for being gay or trans. Maybe they were struggling and eating ramen and not sure how they were paying their rent, but at least they weren’t in fear of their lives anymore and could live openly. Or for young people of color, moving to a smaller less expensive city isn’t confronted as an option because there aren’t huge networks of color in those cities, and that’s important to them. The social services for the poor are also better in these cities than they are in more rural and suburban locations in the South and Midwest.

        3. Fifi Ocrburg*

          She grew up in SoCal, went to Cal State Long Beach. She’s not the child of someone who crossed over from Mexico with no documents. She thought that she’d get to write clever quips for Yelp, but didn’t realize that she’d do a year in customer care first. She could have gotten room-mates or freelanced on the side or taken a second gig, but no.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            This is where I am. She had choices; she just didn’t like her choices. I mean, most of us don’t love budgets, roommates, coupons, Ramen, and cheap booze, but most of us go through those lean years, and we suck it up.

            While there is a lot of merit to the argument that you should get living money if you are working full time hours, you still aren’t entitled to the exact life you want on the exact schedule you want it. Plus, your job hired you so you can do what they need done, not so you can do what you want to do. You don’t get to run the place after a month.

            (Please note that I’ve been out of college 19 years and I STILL keep a few hours at my second job.)

          2. Honeybee*

            What is a fresh-out-of-college 22-year-old going to freelance on the side to do to make money? Freelancing takes time and has start-up costs depending on the kind of freelancing you do, and companies don’t just hire starry-eyed 22-year-olds to freelance for them just for kicks. She may have had to start off writing her first few pieces for free just to get some bylines that she could then leverage for money, but time is a resource that she didn’t have a lot of – especially with her commute.

            When you work full time, when do you have time for the second-gig that would bring in any significant amount of money? Sounds like she was working around 45 hours a week at Yelp at least. Remember, a lot of these retail jobs expect you to be available 24 hours a day, don’t just schedule you in the evenings anymore and give you your schedule a week or even a few days in advance. They’re hard to juggle with a full-time job. She’d also have to try to find one that’s on a BART line within a reasonable commute of her home and her job so that she could get there after one or the other. AND she’s adding additional commuting costs, which eats into the total additional take-home she could expect. Not to mention that she’s now balancing the additional stress of juggling two jobs. It takes more time than just the combined hours to do that.

            Besides, let’s again step back and realize that we’re saying that a 22-year-old college-educated person should have to work TWO JOBS in order to make ends meet. Not to save extra money or to invest or to live alone, but simply to be able to feed and house herself. Why does this sound normal to people? Why are we treating this like it’s okay?

            We don’t know her full story because she chose not to share it. Maybe she is the child of someone who crossed over with no documents. But even if she’s not, there’s plenty of poverty and complicated situations to go around for natural-born U.S. citizens, too.

            1. Fifi Ocrburg*

              She wrote about her family for Cracked. And lots of people do TaskRabbit or dog walk or wait tables as a second gig. She wasn’t mining coal for 12 hours a day.

      4. MashaKasha*

        What about the dead-end jobs though? I’ve had those. I hated that. One of the reasons why I left my home country and came here, but now it’s happening here too and it’s apparently all good and a Life Experience? What’s the career path from retail/fast food/call center?

        1. Nicole J.*

          In my (admittedly UK) experience there are paths out of basic retail/fast food/catering jobs. They don’t have to be dead-end. I have worked all of those jobs – part-time and full-time. If you have aptitude and ambition, and if you’re working for a chain, you can go from shift worker to shift supervisor to unit deputy/general manager and from there, it is definitely possible to move to up to head office, usually through some form of area management/sales. Or move on to better-paying general manager jobs in higher-quality units – more restaurant than fast food (although you might have to go down a level to move sideways.) Most of those companies have training opportunities along the way.

          But, I do think attitude plays a part. Some people get hung up on being in a job that’s somehow “beneath” them, and I do think that can hold people back.

          Generation-wise, I fall between Millennials and Gen-Xers – not really sure what I am.

          1. Honeybee*

            It’s not just aptitude and ambition. It’s partially luck and partially having the socioeconomic-based disposition to “network” your way up there. There are tons of low-income workers for whom retail or food service is their actual career – the only job they’re ever going to get – who would love to be management but won’t ever get promoted up there. Moving to the corporate office from low-level food service or retail work is the exception to the rule.

      5. Sparky*

        But it doesn’t always get easier. It took me FOREVER to learn how to ride a bike as a kid. I failed a lot. I fell a lot. But eventually, with a lot of help from other people, I figured it out.

        There are lots of people out there who don’t have anyone to help them learn how to balance.

        You could argue that, oh well, that’s life.

        You could also argue that helping someone learn to ride a bike isn’t taking away from your own bike-riding enjoyment.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          With “help from other people”…. as opposed to “scorn from other people”, right? People don’t usually learn too much when the people around them point out how wrong they are. So probably people came along and gave you some tips/information on what to do, so you could ride the bike more safely.

      6. Anonymous Educator*

        I totally agree she should get a roommate if she doesn’t have one, but the “minimum wage” in San Francisco is a joke. Even with a roommate, it’s tough living here. (Obviously, it’d be a lot easier than without a roommate.)

        The real issue with Ms. Jane’s letter in terms of entitlement is the idea that waiting a whole year to get promoted being outrageous… is itself outrageous (as Jem would say, “Truly, truly, truly outrageous”). That’s barely paying dues. And that’s not a generational thing. That’s her. I know plenty of Millennials who are paying their dues and not entitled at all.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            No, you absolutely should not. The issue isn’t that she thought she should be paid a living wage. She absolutely should be paid a living wage. As I said before, even with a roommate, living in San Francisco on minimum wage is extremely difficult.

            That said, no matter what your wage, you cannot expect to be promoted (and actually outraged that you’re not) in less than a year at a job.

              1. Grace Love-s*

                You can’t expect but there are a lot of companies that it happens (says the person who was promoted 9 months into her third job, and then 6 months later… but I wasn’t an ‘entry level hire’ as it was the third company I’d worked for by that point)

            1. J-nonymous*

              One caveat: a company that doesn’t pay living wages to entry-level employees, doesn’t provide adequate training, and structures their benefits and perks so that entry-level employees cannot take advantage of them shows very little commitment to promoting from within, with our without the (standard) year-long wait in a role before being promoted.

            2. Lisa*


              The thing that struck me, generally, when I first read her letter Saturday was not “entitlement” but “unrealistic expectations”. Is it entitled for a 25-year-old college graduate to expect to live on her own in the Bay Area while working her first full-time job? Maybe it isn’t entitled, but it isn’t *realistic* in a city where CEOs have roommates. Expecting a promotion and transfer in three months, being annoyed by a $20 insurance copay, being frustrated that the free workplace snacks are not substitutes for groceries.

              And it isn’t realistic to expect to harass your CEO on Twitter, publish a diatribe slamming your employer, call your employer’s attention to your social media profile containing questionable recent history, and not only not get fired but somehow get a job in the media department. I am confident that everyone in marketing and media at Yelp now hates this woman.

              1. mander*

                I agree. I do have a lot of sympathy for the generally unworkable situation that many people are in, with their wages being so wildly out of sync with the cost of living. But she does herself no favors in this letter with her very unrealistic expectations.

            3. lowercase holly*

              totally. it def was the part of the letter where i didn’t feel so bad for her any more. but just her. overall, the wage sucks.

            4. Tiffany*

              $12/hr is definitely not a living wage in San Francisco. I used to work at UCSF Medical Center and I was sure that the custodians made more there than what she listed at Yelp.

              I just looked up the salary range for custodians at UCSF and it is around $16-21/hr. Lead custodians can make $18-25 an hour.

              I remember hearing about one custodian that lived in Fresno and would drive to San Francisco for work every day because he could not afford to live in the city. For those of you not from the area, Fresno is 3 hours away WITHOUT traffic.

            5. Connie-Lynne*

              In my early 20s, though, this notion that you couldn’t move to a new role quickly was total news to me. And we all thought it was SO unfair: what was even the point of taking a job to “get your foot in the door” if you had to wait a whole year to apply for the job that you wanted?

              Sure, that seems a ludicrous thing to be surprised or upset about now, 25 years later, but at the time we all thought it a huge injustice.

        1. Kyla*

          Why do people equate ‘paying your dues’ with ‘not being paid enough to put a roof over your head and food in your stomach’.

          Do people want homelessness and starvation to be part of ‘dues paying’?

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Of the older people who have publicly commented, I have to wonder if they have forgotten entire chapters of their own lives. Or perhaps they have forgotten the struggles of their good friends and close family members.

              1. Honeybee*

                THIS. Or what it was like to be 20-25. Yes, she may have made some objectively poor choices, but EVERYONE makes objectively poor choices when they are in their early 20s and just starting out in life. Most 23-year-olds have big dreams and some unrealistic expectations. It’s just that some people have the network, the safety net, the privilege to not have their poor choices mean they can’t eat this month. Others don’t have that privilege.

                Also, hey, hindsight is 20/20. I know NOW that New York is one of the most expensive cities on the planet with rent that’s untenable without roommates, sometimes several of them. Did I know that when I was 22? No!

              2. Connie-Lynne*

                This is why I like the article AAM posted. It has empathy, and the writer seems to remember a little bit about what it was like to be 20 and broke.

            2. I'm a Little Teapot*

              Kelly L. made a great comment on another post about how the world made so much more sense to her when she realized that a lot of people think “I suffered, therefore other people should suffer as I did.” It’s that fraternity hazing mentality.

              1. Kyla*

                And that always gets me. I know people my age who hope the next generation has it *worse* just because it will ‘kill them’ to watch he next generation not have to go through what we did, yet I hope my 1 year old niece DOESN’T have to suffer all of this and can get a decent chance in life if/when she graduates.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  , yet I hope my 1 year old niece DOESN’T have to suffer all of this and can get a decent chance in life if/when she graduates.

                  My niece is also 1, and I’m terrified for her. Things are going to get so much worse before they get better, especially for young black women.

      7. Mike C.*

        I guess I’m stumped what “opportunities the previous generation had” that we don’t.

        Economies where the median household income rose with per capita GDP. Outsourcing wasn’t a thing. Pensions were a thing. You could actually work somewhere for more than 3-5 years while progressing and being promoted up the ranks. College was really, really cheap – a full time job during the summer could easily pay your expenses for the coming year. Vocational work wasn’t being devalued and moved away.

        Sure, this didn’t apply to significant segments of society, and that’s something we’re still working on as a society.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          And you could get a good paying factory job with just a high school education. Now you have to pay $30K to a trade school so you can drain oil at a car dealership for $9 an hour.

          1. the_scientist*

            Not only a well-paying factory job, but a well-paying factory job that might have been unionized and probably came with a pension, both of which barely exist anymore.

          2. TowerofJoy*

            And the older employees who got the trade job with no degree think your degree is useless because what you really needed was on the job training, which doesn’t exist in very many sectors anymore.

        2. TootsNYC*

          “a full time job during the summer could easily pay your expenses for the coming year. ”

          Boy, this is gone! But it was a real thing.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            My friend talks about the days when you could work your way through law school, paying in full as you go. And she went to Big Name School.

          2. Kyla*

            My father was able to do this. He took a year off between college and high school and worked full time for his uncle’s business. He paid for 4 years of college in full without needing any loans. You can’t do that these days.

        3. Lady Kelvin*

          No to mention that when adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage 30 years ago is MORE than the current minimum wage. So you could argue that we are actually paying people less while costs increase. Which makes it very difficult to survive on a minimum wage job. Which is supposed to be the minimum necessary to survive.

          1. Natalie*

            “So you could argue that we are actually paying people less while costs increase. ”

            It’s not even a ” you could argue” – we literally, actually are paying people less. People treat inflation adjustment like it’s an optional thing, like a filter on your Facebook photo, but it’s not. If you’re not comparing constant dollars, you might as well be using 2 different currencies, or money and puppies, or space credits.

      8. Tea*

        “Um, getting paid nothing and depending on parents or roommates or both to make ends meet?”

        I think that may be true of past generations (though to be honest, I know plenty of middle aged folks who did none of those things), but this is also an issue facing many younger workers these days, except with the issues multiplied. I know many a millenial (I’m one too), who does all of these things– roommates, parents, multiple jobs, scraping by, but with student loans at 20k, 50k, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands and few ways of being paid back on minimum wage. Plenty of them try to find jobs, but fewer companies are offering entry level positions or even want them to do “unpaid internships for experience”, that are actually full time entry level job that they just don’t feel like paying for anymore. It’s easy to say “Well then, maybe you shouldn’t have taken on all that debt,” but on top of the cultural narrative of “college opens all doors”, plenty of people are in school when college costs began to inflate. I was in my third year of college when my tuition increased by 50% (FIFTY PERCENT), and then doubled my final year. It’s been some 4 years since I’ve graduated, and tuition has now tripled. Is it the smart thing to do to walk away 2, 3 years into a degree, maybe try again when tuition has quintupled? Should young college students take on the extra and unexpected tens of thousands of dollars of costs now, in hopes that their jobs will allow them to pay for it down the line? Should they try to go into the job market with just a high school degree? There aren’t any easy answers.

        Also just one thing– the original author, Jane, lives in the Bay Area, paying $1200 for rent? Perhaps somewhere else, she confirms that she has no roommates, but depending on where she lives I’d think it’s more likely she has anywhere from 1-3 roommates. I was born and raised in the BA, and rent is absolutely b a n a n a s there. I’ve seen one bedrooms going for $3500 a month+

        1. Kyla*

          People are also forgetting that even jobs like retail ‘prefer’ college degrees these days. There is VERY little you can do with just a high school diploma. So of COURSE we feel like we need college degrees!

        2. MashaKasha*

          To your last paragraph – someone said East Bay/Oakland. Your b a n a n a s statement is right on point. My son moved to the Bay Area for work two years ago and it took him a while to find a 1BR for under $2000. He tried to secure an apartment online while he still lived with me, no such luck. He’d find a good deal, call and email the landlord, prepare to PayPal the deposit over to them, then at the last minute the landlord would call and say: don’t do the transfer, someone just walked in and paid me the deposit in cash, and I gave your apartment to them instead!

          1. K.*

            Yeah, I was thinking there’s no way she lives alone if she’s only paying $1200 in the Bay Area. I have a friend in Oakland and I think she pays $2200 for her place. (She moved there from DC, so she’s used to a high COL. But still.)

          2. aideekay*

            I’m sharing this link all over today because I think it’s been really enlightening: http://paragon-re.com/Bay_Area_Housing_Affordability

            Some stats on housing affordability in the Bay Area (i.e., lack of affordability).

            I live in East Bay. My moving history makes me sad. I started at $1200/mo in 2010 for a 2 bedroom townhown, cheap even for the time. (That place now rents for $1600.) In 2013, I moved to South Bay and paid $1650 for a 1 bedroom townhouse, cheap for the area. In 2014, I moved back to East Bay and now pay $2700 for a 1-“bedroom” loft. The $2700 ($2500 when I first moved in) is excessive, but since it also comes with all utilities and internet it’s probably closer to a “real” $2400. When trying to find other 1 bedroom places in the area, I’m easily looking at $2100. Studios are hard to find, too.

            I’m lucky enough to be able to afford it, but I sure as hell don’t want to. As far as hindsight goes, I wish I’d known I wouldn’t stay in South Bay more than a year – I’d have just commuted from that first place, which I absolutely loved AND was cheap!

        3. Chinook*

          “I was in my third year of college when my tuition increased by 50% (FIFTY PERCENT), and then doubled my final year.”

          This isn’t a new phenomena though (which still doesn’t make it right). That was my experience when I went to university in the 90’s. If it wasn’t for a last minute scholarship, working 3 jobs during school and one all summer, and living with my grandmother (because my family lived 2 hours away), I would have had to drop out my last year of university due to lack of funds (because student loans were harder to qualify back then and living with grandma would have made me ineligible). As a Gen Xer, I also was raised hearing how pension plans would go broke due the boomers and social services would be overburdened due to the population bulge in front, so expect nothing in the form of support and save all you can (but we aren’t hiring right now). Atleast no one was sugar coating the future for us where I lived. Maybe that is part of the reason I roll my eyes at seeing articles complaining about how new grads these days have it so hard – it isn’t like this is a new phenomena. Part of me wants to yell “what were you expecting – a life of rainbows and unicorns? Life sucks and we don’t get to live life our parents do now.” I also wonder how many of the heard the stories from their parents about scrapping by when they started out, living in crappy one bedroom apartments and choosing which bills to pay. It took time for them to build the life we see when we kids graduate and we shouldn’t expect to start out with the same level of comfort they achieved – it is something that is built up over decades of work.

          1. TootsNYC*

            “I also wonder how many of the heard the stories from their parents about scrapping by when they started out, living in crappy one bedroom apartments and choosing which bills to pay. It took time for them to build the life we see when we kids graduate and we shouldn’t expect to start out with the same level of comfort they achieved – it is something that is built up over decades of work.”

            My brother and sister-in-law got bit by this–my SIL admits it. They ended up with pretty big debt because they thought they should have all the furniture, TV, etc., etc., that their parents had. And she said, “We really didn’t think about the fact that when THEY were starting out, our parents didn’t have that nice stuff, or very much, etc.”

            1. Lisa*

              This is a really good point. It actually gives me another reason to be glad I had my kids young. They have childhood memories of used cars breaking down, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, “dining out” at Applebees and vacations of road trips to cheap motels. So when live got a little more comfortable, I didn’t fear that it would spoil them, they already knew that it doesn’t start out this way and you have to work your way toward it.

            2. I'm a Little Teapot*

              Honestly, a lot of older people have all their nice stuff because they were lucky enough to buy real estate in a market that went through the roof, or stocks whose values soared. They don’t “deserve” it much more than a lottery winner does.

              1. doreen*

                I’m lost- what does buying real estate in a market that went through the roof have to do with buying nice stuff? My house is worth three times what I paid for it – doesn’t improve my standard of living one bit. And even if I sell it , whatever I buy will probably cost 3X what it did when I bought my house. Sure, if I sell this house and move to a lower cost of living area, I’ll be able to buy more nice stuff – but that has nothing to do with my hypothetical son who just entered the workforce believing should have the lifestyle I have achieved after 30 years of working full-time.

          2. mander*

            My first year of college I went to a private school, and had both loans and scholarships to pay for it (in 1992). The next year the tuition doubled, and I would lose my scholarship and housing assistance, so I transferred to the state school and moved back in with my parents. I was able to pay for the next two years of college without any loans by working part time, but by the fourth year I had to take out several thousand in federal loans — and this was at a small local branch of the state university. I did have a couple of small scholarships (a few hundred dollars each), but the costs started inflating noticeably. By the end of my degree (which took me 7 years because I dropped to part-time in order to work) I had to take out around $10k in loans every year.

          3. aebhel*

            My parents were able to support themselves and three kids on my dad’s salary, which he made as a college dropout with a 2-year degree and a criminal record. ‘Paying his dues’ meant not making a ton of money–not being literally homeless, or having to decide between necessary meds and heating the house.

        4. Lisa*

          She has confirmed that she has no roommates. She’s living somewhere in East Bay and commuting a very long distance in order t have a place of her own for $1200/month.

            1. Honeybee*

              It is in dense urban areas when you don’t have a car. The entire island of Manhattan is 11 miles long and to take the subway from one end to the other would take you about an hour and a half. The equivalent commute in New York (from the western part of Long Island to Columbia University, for example – a distance of about 33 miles) would take an hour and a half to two hours and that’s not including the commute from your house/apartment to the train station on the front end.

              Actually, come to think of it…30 miles is a pretty decent distance even if you are driving. I live 8.5 miles from my job and regardless of whether I took back roads with no traffic or the highway with no traffic, it takes me 20 minutes to get to work. There’s a guy at the job who lives about 30 miles away, and IF he could drive on the highway the entire time I suppose it could take him 30-45 minutes to get to work depending on how close to the highway he lives. But in early morning traffic? Double that. And I work in the suburbs; driving into the city every morning would be bananas.

            2. Anonymous Educator*

              30 miles from San Francisco is a long distance. If she drives in, there’s nowhere to park (and the traffic is horrible coming from the East Bay). If she takes the BART in, it’s super expensive (about $240 a month).

          1. K.*

            Wow. I stand corrected. I truly didn’t think places that cheap, relatively speaking, existed in that area. I wonder how much her commuting costs are?

            1. aideekay*

              If she’s in Concord, which is what her PayPal page says, that’s $11.60 in BART fare, round-trip, daily; or $6 in toll ($2.50 if she can find a carpool). For a regular full-time employee, that comes out to about $230 for the BART or $120 for tolls. Mind you, that does not cover parking, or gas, wear & tear, etc. Just the fare for using the roads.

              Yelp likely (I hope) has a pre-tax commuting account which would at least allow her to deduct that amount from her paycheck pre-tax, but I don’t know if entry-level employees would have access to that.

          2. Lisa*

            She seems to think it is a very long distance :) point taken. Her commuting costs are something like $200/month.

        5. Honeybee*

          Good point. I know that the rents in the Bay Area are comparable to or exceed that of New York, and you can’t even find a studio in New York for $1200 let alone a one-bedroom. $2400 for a two-bedroom is pretty normal. If someone told me they were paying $1200 in rent per month in New York I would assume they had 1-2 roommates.

          1. doreen*

            That’s not entirely true – my son and his roommates have a four bedroom and pay about $2000 and my daughter and her fiance pay $1600 for a one bedroom. Both in NYC and both market rate. But they aren’t in Manhattan or Williamsburg or Long Island City or any of the other fashionable neighborhoods.

          2. Anonymous Educator*

            If you’re in San Francisco proper, a studio is at least $2200 and a one-bedroom is at least $2800. However, if she’s living 30 miles outside SF in the East Bay, it’s entirely possible she got a studio for $1200. That’s no an easy 30-mile commute, however.

      9. Natalie*

        “I guess I’m stumped what “opportunities the previous generation had” that we don’t. ”

        There’s plenty of data out there on the changes, but the gist of it is that living costs have risen immensely (particularly education, housing, and health care) while wages have largely remained flat. Someone who spends most of their money on student loan repayment and rent is going to tread water for the rest of their life, and our society and economy kind of rely on people *not* treading water.

        I’m happy that things have been comparatively easy for you. They’ve been comparatively easy for me, too. That doesn’t mean I have to stick my fingers in my ears and ignore that reality is different for most of our peers.

        1. Heather*

          Elizabeth Warren’s “The Two-Income Trap” is fantastic at explaining the expenses-rising-wages-flat phenomenon, for anyone who hasn’t read it.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            But the other side of it is lifestyle creep. When I graduated we expected to have roommates, we expected to drive beater cars, we expected to live in tiny places. We camped to go on vacation (and it was in the US). We didn’t even go out to movies often because it was so expensive (and there were no movie rentals).
            I really think that there are two things going on here. Yes, inflation has taken its toll. But people are ignoring that what we consider to be a “minimum” lifestyle is way nicer than the “minimum” 30 years ago.

            1. OfftheRecord*

              I didn’t go on vacation at all, I had roommates, I drove cars that were anywhere between 10 and 15 years old, and I lived in apartments between 400-900 sq ft., the larger ones with roommates. I didn’t even grow up in an expensive area of the US, and I worked multiple minimum to just above minimum wage jobs. Most weeks this was over 60 hours. I was a hard worker who took the extra shifts and got promoted relatively quickly though “promoted” in retail and restaurants meant 50 cents more an hour. I was still in debt up to my eye balls by the time the recession hit – which buried me financially. I wasn’t doing anything extravagant. Hell, I wasn’t doing anything that could be considered “lifestyle choices” unless you considered picking the $1 frozen pizza over the 10 cent ramen some nights a lifestyle choice. I just didn’t have family to fall back on or marry up or any of the other things many of my friends had in their 20s to save them.

              I did everything “right” according to bootstrapper rules, and still ended up on my face. Sure there are people who make lifestyle choices that make their situation worse, or make them seem like charlatans but its very real even for those who don’t.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                OfftheRecord, you have lived my life. Very well said. I’m just now starting to be able to take long weekend trips to semi-nice places, buy clothes that are presentable and appropriate for a corporate environment, and dine out at modest restaurants. I did everything “right,” and still barely made ends meet. My life has never been extravagant, and probably never will be unless my books become bestsellers, which is not likely to happen. And if it does, I’d be an Outlier and wouldn’t expect that just because I was able to do something other people should be able to do it too.

            2. TootsNYC*

              The Yelper isn’t, really.

              She just wants to buy groceries.

              She IS driving a beater car; she DOESN’T go on vacation; she lives in the equivalent of a “tiny place” (instead of size, she sacrifices in distance).

            3. Heather*

              Well, your lifestyle 30 years ago was nicer than the minimum lifestyle 30 years before that, and so on and so on. Technology improves. If your beater car broke down 30 years ago, you were dependent on a stranger being kind enough to stop and offer to go for help. Now you can just grab your phone & call AAA. Many of the things we now consider essential are essential for a good reason – they make us safer or reduce some kind of major inconvenience.

              Do we also have plenty of things that we don’t need or are even harmful? Hell yes. But that’s not because of any one individual’s lifestyle choices, it’s because there’s a multi-gazillion dollar industry that uses our own psychology to get us to want stuff. Even those of us who know the tactics still fall for them sometimes. When you’re surrounded 24/7 by “you NEED this!” and “you’re a loser if you don’t have this!” it’s unreasonable to expect people to be able to resist constantly. Especially if that’s all you know. At least those of us with childhoods before the internet and social media know what it’s like not to be constantly bombarded. Kids now don’t know anything else.

              1. Windchime*

                You have to be able to afford a cell phone and an AAA membership first. Someone who can’t afford to eat anything other than rice is unlikely to be able to afford a $56 AAA membership.

                1. Heather*

                  This is true! I was just using it as an example of something that could be considered lifestyle creep but is beneficial, but you’re absolutely right.

            4. Walnut*

              “When I graduated we expected to have roommates, we expected to drive beater cars, we expected to live in tiny places. We camped to go on vacation (and it was in the US). We didn’t even go out to movies often because it was so expensive (and there were no movie rentals).”

              I’m not sure what you think has changed so much. I have always had roommates, have no car, and have no TV or movie tickets (but Netflix streaming on a cheapo laptop, shared subscription). My apartment is cheap for the area because it’s very poorly insulated and underground. In one year of living in this city, we’ve been priced out of most neighborhoods. True, we go on vacations, but a $30-40/night AirBnB and a four hour drive to some neighboring beach town in the off-season aren’t terrible expenses, split between a group.

              Maybe Talia made some not very money-smart choices, but that doesn’t obviate the fact that people are graduating with a lot more debt than they were in the past. And while certainly other generations had debt from different sources, I think there’s a profound cost to having so much debt when you’re starting off. You can work two jobs and still not make ends meet, because you’re just starting out and wages are low. That’s okay, until you remember you have a loan payment in the hundreds of dollars each month. You can try to “pay your dues” but you’re just tossing the money that would otherwise be made into a safety net/emergency fund into loans that can never be refinanced or expunged. Obviously, I can’t speak for how it was, but I think you’re mischaracterizing how it is.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                Starting with debt is the key discriminator here. In a way, it is the equivalent of the home-mortgage crisis where people got loans greater than their ability to repay them. The broken mindset was “I’ll have greater income later so I’ll be able to repay them then”. People do the same with credit cards – rolling the dice on the future. The problem, of course, is that the future is never a guarantee. You could have unforeseen medical, job loss, etc.
                The key problem is people made an analysis based on flawed assumptions. That doesn’t fix the issue now however.

                1. Walnut*

                  Yes, I definitely agree with this. But I don’t know if those flawed assumptions were derived by, say, careful consideration of the world at large, or because they were given some very bad advice by trusted adults.

                2. aebhel*

                  Right, but there’s no way to get a job without a college degree. It’s not the equivalent of the home mortgage crisis if the option is ‘don’t go to college, spend your life doing minimum wage in the service industry’ or ‘go to college, get a ton of debt in the hopes of getting a job’. There are very few practical options for gaining marketable skills without a mountain of debt.

                3. Honeybee*

                  Student loan debt isn’t directly comparable to a mortgage or to credit card debt, though. It’s not like you can rent a degree. Your choice is “pony up $200K to get a college degree or be relegated to a small and steadily shrinking subset of jobs that don’t pay enough to live on.” Even retail managers and food service managers are increasingly being expected to have a college degree these days.

                  It’s not a flawed assumption – college graduates make far more over their lifetime than high school graduates, and even A fully-paid $200,000 degree will have a good ROI (I think the current math is that the average college graduate earns over a million more in their lifetime than a high school graduate, and that’s not even taking into account the greater quantity and quality of jobs available to them). It’s just that the debt makes your 20s and early 30s really suck.

            5. A grad student*

              I really disagree with this depiction of my generation. I’m in graduate school and therefore privileged in having my student loans deferred, and nobody I know expects more than what you remember. Myself, even going camping ruins my budget for about a month due to increased food and gas costs. And I get paid a living wage.

              1. Cafe Au Lait*

                Yes. I went camping this year in a borrowed tent, with borrowed pots and pans, with a borrowed propane stove. I still spent ~$500.00.

                –Had to buy a cooler. We choose to invest as I want to camp in the future.
                –Air mattress. Husband almost vetoed the trip until we found an extra high air mattress.
                –Swimwear that fit.
                –Wrath of God thunderstorm that hit our campground our first night. We needed to dry all of our stuff.
                –Breakfast out (due to WoG storm).
                –Easily made food for camping.
                –Camp site was $36/night. State camp ground, during the week. Pit toilets are an absolute “no” for me.

            6. aebhel*

              No, it isn’t. You’re comparing apples and oranges: there were privileged people 30 years ago and there are people living 3 to a room in shitty apartments now. The problem is that you’re comparing the people living in shitty apartments 30 years ago to the the most privileged subset of Millennials–and also, things like internet access are not optional for job searchers.

            7. Honeybee*

              I completely disagree. I’m 29. When I graduated we were expected to have roommates, drive beater cars, and live in small places too – smaller places and more roommates than our parents. When my friends and I went on vacation we rent a big house together and camp out on air mattresses on the floor if there aren’t enough beds…for 2-4 days because that’s all we can afford. And yeah, they’re all in the U.S. My husband and I have never been on vacation together, not even a honeymoon. That’s the reality that most of my friends have lived, too.

              This is why I hate articles about “the millennial generation” because aside from being obnoxiously haughty, they’re also inaccurate. I’d like to meet all the millennials people talk about who expect BMWs, CEO jobs and summers in Europe at the age of 25 because I absolutely don’t know any of them.

              1. Diluted_TortoiseShel*

                The no honeymoon thing is a good point. I read an interesting article about how married millennials are different than previous generations, and one of the points was the majority of us who are married have never gone on a honeymoon and probably never well.

                I’m not sure where this idea that Millenials expect so much more than previous generations and that’s why our finances suck is coming from. We don’t expect more than previous generations, most of us have stopped expecting even what Genexers enjoyed, all we want are living wages and work opportunities commiserate with our education and skill level.

                1. doreen*

                  I’m not sure where this idea that Millenials expect so much more than previous generations and that’s why our finances suck is coming from.

                  I am becoming more and more convinced that the problem is that there are two very different groups of Millennials , and I think a large part of the difference is their Baby Boomer parents . I know plenty of Millennials who don’t expect more than previous generations- but I also know plenty of Baby Boomer parents who are delaying their own retirements so they can finance their Millennial children’s lifestyles. Wealthier parents have always helped their kids more than the less well-off , but parents in the past didn’t put off retirement because their kid couldn’t afford rent in their preferred neighborhood or to pay for their daughter’s $30K+ wedding. I’m not saying they didn’t help, but they helped within the limits of what they could afford rather than what they could afford if they worked an extra five or ten years.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          My parents were depression kids. They had more than their parents had because none of my grandparents owned their own home. My parents did own a home. To say they were frugal about most things does not fully describe. If we bought something it was expected to last FOREVER. If anything had to be replaced it was a bfd.
          My father bought us a small place but it was in good shape, the house was $15k in the mid 1960s. I am sure he was earning about 7k. These are not the ratios we see now, at all. In the mid 70s he bought a brand new truck for $5k. Again, this is no where near the cost to pay ratios we see now.

          Unfortunately, we have built a society that is based on people spending money as you are saying. Businesses use the constant growth model, if you are not constantly growing then you are dying. I do not see this as sustainable. I think we have a problem.

      10. Jinx*

        I think one of the problems with the whole debate is that we get lost in details like that. It’s not a demand that every college grad can afford a New York apartment by themselves on minimum wage. It’s about opening a conversation about the society we live in, and how those structures are contributing to people (of all ages) getting stuck in debt and unmanageable finances.

        To me, it’s a little like telling someone who gets mugged in a bad part of town “well, it’s your fault, you shouldn’t have been there” or “I was mugged there too, so quit whining”. Maybe that’s true, but it places the entire burden of a larger problem on someone’s individual decisions, which is easier than admitting that the larger problem exists.

      11. Heather*

        Um, getting paid nothing and depending on parents or roommates or both to make ends meet? That’s not the end of the world. Getting laid off, working multiple jobs … this is all normal.

        Mission accomplished, Corporate America. The peons have acquired full-blown Stockholm Syndrome.

        Seriously, these things are only considered “normal” because a few people at the top managed to convince everyone else they were, so they could keep more of the GDP for themselves.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I know, right? the most amazing thing to me is when the people at the low end of the economic ladder defend the privileges and profit margin of the 1%.

          Satan is winning.

      12. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        I would say that in the 90s when Gen X was graduating HS and college the economy was booming. Jobs were a lot easier to come by. Which is probably what she’s refering to. However, even though things were booming in the 90s, I also think things changed for Gen Xers dramatically in the intervening years. Two recessions, wage stagnation, etc. Sure most of us might have started with a decent job in the 90s, but doesn’t mean we still have it. Some Gen Xers were able to climb out of the pit and are making decent money. They recovered from losses in the recessions and doing well. A lot of us though, weren’t that lucky. Job losses, going back to school for a useless degree, have kept us firmly in the same pit a lot of Millennials find themselves in.

        1. OriginalYup*

          Things weren’t booming in the 90s though– only at the very end (promptly followed by the tech bubble burst in 2000, which wiped up a bunch of investment & retirement plan wealth and a ton of jobs). Early 1990s were a recession. Not 2008 level recession, but definitely high unemployment and wage stagnation. As a high schooler at that time, I had a part time job in retail and nearly all of my coworkers were recent college grads who couldn’t work in their fields yet. (I was lucky enough to have gotten my job there just before the recession hit.)

          I agree with what you wrote, just wanted comment as a fellow Gen Xer on the 90s piece. That era is where the term “downsize” was born.

          1. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

            Well, booming relative to now. And yes, you’re right, not the whole time.

      13. neverjaunty*

        When I was your age, it was entirely possible for someone with a GED or a high school degree to get a manufacturing job that would allow a decent, if modest, standard of living. College tuition was a tenth of what it is now and wages were not. It was actually possible to get a crappy apartment in San Francisco and pay for it by working at an entry-level job.

        So if you’re genuinely stumped, maybe it’s because as a young person, you (understandably) don’t have the experience to know things have not always been this way.

          1. Tea*

            And as an in-state alumnus of a CA state college, I’ll just chime in and say that tuition has tripled in the last 8 years since I initially attended as a freshman.

      14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Previous generations fought like hell for a 40-hour work week. And now people are just shrugging and telling us we should be going back to 12-hour shifts 6 days a week? The Victorian era is over, and should stay over.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Thank you for saying this. I was wondering about people who say, “Don’t like your 80 hour work week? Suck it down.” We are going backwards, not forwards.

      15. SJ McMahon*

        I can give you one solid example of an opportunity the previous generation – mine – had that you, for the most part, don’t.

        I graduated from college in 1989. My total student debt was two thousand dollars. I went to a state school, got grants and scholarships, kept my grades up for that aid, and worked part time. It was totally do-able. I worked about ten hours a week on average, if I recall correctly.

        It is not totally do-able today. College tuition has become so inflated that it is, for the most part, impossible to graduate without significant student loan debt. Which would you pick – graduating two grand in debt, or fifty grand in debt? This is a big deal. It’s a HUGE deal. I watched the bottom fall out of the job market I was trained for as my senior year wound down, so I know this isn’t a new thing. I also know that having a manageable debt load right out of the gate made all the difference to my chances for success. And that’s not because I was stronger, better, wiser, more hard-working, or anything else to do with me.

      16. lowercase holly*

        i know at least one opportunity i had was tuition/books fully paid for by a state scholarship. as long as i went to an in-state school. so graduated in 2002 with no debt. i have no clue what happened to programs like that… i was in FL so maybe the governor post-2002 got rid of it? then again, there are people in my age group who still had huge loans so it wasn’t an even opportunity throughout the country.

        1. lowercase holly*

          also i had a friend move to NYC around 2003 and her first job was a barista paying $11. i remember all that cuz i was like hoooow do you survive? but she lived in a basement studio apt with a friend out in a unfashionable part of brooklyn. they split it in half with a curtain. so her rent was ~$600 which was about 50% of her take-home (assumption based on talia’s description of her take-home and pre-tax rate.) anyway, the opportunity was that rent wasn’t so terrible, i guess? plus transit was cheaper: the ride into the city was about 30 min, and the nyc metro at that time was def cheaper than it sounds like SF’s bart is now.

          1. Honeybee*

            The NYC metro is still cheaper than BART is now. MTA fares are a flat fare and not distance-based, so you can ride anywhere in the system for the current one-way fare of $2.75. That includes transfers to regular buses – so even if you have to take two buses and a train to get to work your fare is still $2.75. And because the costs are predictable there’s a monthly pass – I think it’s currently $112/month. Considering that most New Yorkers take the subway/buses everywhere and not just work, it’s usually cheaper than paying as you go. BART doesn’t have monthly passes since your fare is dependent on mileage.

        2. A grad student*

          If the FL program I’m thinking of is the one you’re referring to, tuition in state schools went up significantly without raising the aid, and books were no longer covered. It made more financial sense for me to go out of state where I had tuition fully covered.

        3. Honeybee*

          I went to high school in Georgia where there used to be a program like that – the HOPE scholarship. Get a 3.0 GPA in high school and you could attend any Georgia public college or university tuition-free. Hooray! Back then tuition was only around $3,000 a year, and room and board even at our major flagship – University of Georgia – was around $7,000 a year, I think.

          Now? The scholarship only covers about 60% of tuition at our flagship universities and you have to fulfill an “academic rigor” requirement, meaning you have to take honors, AP, or IB classes in order to be eligible. There’s a new program called the Zell Miller scholarship, but in order to get that you have to graduate with a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 on the SAT (math + reading) and even then the scholarship only covers 80% of tuition. And room, board, and expenses? Over $13,000 now.

      17. Stranger than fiction*

        I don’t know why she didn’t get a roommate but it sounds like she was running away from a bad situation and the apt she has is half hour from the city. I think she thought this job was going to be much different and like the golden ticket to moving up and out but sadly found that was not the case. Don’t agree with everything she did/said but it was clearly emotionally charged and I could feel her desperation .

      18. Honeybee*

        Getting laid off and working multiple jobs is not normal. When millennials’ parents (largely Baby Boomers) went to work in the 1970s and 1980s, they largely did not face the same kinds of financial challenges that young people have today. The average length of time you rented in the 1980s before purchasing a house was 2.6 years; it’s 6 years now. People could afford to buy homes younger then.

        And let’s not pretend that real wages for entry-level jobs haven’t fallen – if you can even get an entry-level job. Or that the cost of education has skyrocketed these days, so my generation is burdened with a greater student loan debt burden than Boomers. The average these days is $30,000 – I have almost $40,000 of student loan debt and I don’t even mention my debt in conversations with friends because they all have at least twice that.

        Not everyone has parents to depend on to make ends meet. My parents were barely keeping their head above water in my early adulthood; I couldn’t rely on them to give me any money. I was on my own. Talia made that clear in her article, too.

        And I don’t see anyone saying that she didn’t make poor financial choices or that she “deserves” to be able to live alone in San Francisco. But honestly, living with roommates wouldn’t make her wage all that livable either – maybe she wouldn’t pay $1200 a month, but she’d certainly pay $900-1000 a month. So she’d save, at least, around $300 a month, which still doesn’t sound like enough when she’s getting paid less than $1500 a month.

    2. Omne*

      Um opportunities? Mine consisted of enlisting in the Navy and then getting an part-time entry level, marginally skilled phone job, after I got out that had nothing to do with what I did in the service. I then spent 25+ years working my rear off, along with a few lucky breaks, to get into management. No degree but I did have a divorce and one of my apartments literally burned to the ground with everything I owned in it ( Hey, who needs renter’s insurance…. ). I got help from the Red Cross.

      Go ahead and enlist, they at least cover food and lodging.

      1. Crissy from HR*

        Statistically, it’s “harder” to get into the military than it is college.

        The acceptance rate into the armed forces hovers around 25% and has dropped in the past 3 years. About 20% of high school graduates processing through MEPS fail to graduate and are excluded from service, 19% fail for prior drug/alcohol involvement (this covers every thing from arrests to disclosing that they’ve smoked a joint/drank underage even once. That alone can disqualify them permanently from military service.) another 30% can be disqualified for health reasons. Diabetic? Don’t have the documentation explaining that surgical scar from childhood? Asthmatic? Sleepwalker? Depression? Sorry, no cigar. During the surge in Iraq, you absolutely could get a waiver and join (I got three! Pot, bad vision, fought someone in high school and disclosed it). But now? Fat chance

        I loved my time in the Army. My partner and many of our friends were able to emerge from poverty and dodge crippling student loan debt because of it. However, it’s unrealistic as hell to expect everyone is a) physically/mentally able, b) philosophically/culturally a fit for service c) less than than a Veteran who has struggled for not heading down the same path.

        The Army & Marine Corps have especially depressing unemployment rates and transition programs for recently discharged Veterans anyways, so it’s entirely possible to join poor and leave poor.

        1. Anxa*

          Excellent point on how not everyone can even enlist, that not you should have to enlist to have economic opportunities.

          I had forgotten about this, even as I had realized years ago I can’t just enlist do to a mild health issue.

        2. Kyla*

          I wish people would understand this.

          I couldn’t join the military even if I wanted to due to my asthma and low vision.

          I’m sick of it being touted as a solution for everyone.

      2. Terra*

        You mean in the military that has already fulfilled a third of the recruitment quota for the year in February? Where many enlisted people and their families still have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet? Where often getting out makes it harder to find a job due to concerns about mental instability? Doesn’t seem like a great offer.

        1. Crissy from HR*

          +1. Every single earner family I was stationed with in GA and NC qualified for food stamps and WIC at the E4 and below level. Waiving the military as a magic wand to fix all your poverty problems is a lazy argument at best.

        2. KH*

          Where often getting out makes it harder to find a job due to concerns about mental instability?

          Back in the day (she says, clutching her cane), former military were considered the best of the best to hire. They were disciplined, motivated, trained, and employers respected them for their service.

          Today my ex and my former brother in law both take their Marine Corps service off of their resumes and don’t bring it up in interviews. The fact that they were combat veterans and risked their lives in the service of their country is held against them.

        3. Honeybee*

          Dude, this. People always say “join the military,” but it’s hard and the pay isn’t as great as everyone makes it out to be, especially at lower ranks and in higher-cost-of-living cities. There’s also the fact that it makes it difficult for a spouse to work because you move every few years, so you’re probably usually a one-income family. There’s also the whole deployments, temporary duty assignments, and life-in-danger-sometimes thing.

    3. Former Bay Area resident*

      The location thing is tough. I grew up in the SF Bay Area and lived there a while after college when things were still manageable for someone right out of college (I graduated college in 2004), and then ended up leaving the area for an opportunity in Chicago. Now as I’m starting a family, there’s nothing I’d love more than to be near my family again as I raise my children, but I don’t see any way my husband and I can make that work in a way that is financially responsible for our little family. And we make a combined $180K!

      I’m hugely sympathetic to how hard it is to get started in the world these days, especially without financial/career support from family. But I do also think location is one of those huge tradeoffs/sacrifices that people can make in the short term that can really help their success in the long term. And that doesn’t mean staying in their hometown or a small town in the south, but there are a handful of places in this country that are just so astronomically unaffordable that I don’t think it’s sensible to pick up and move there as a young person with no support there unless there’s some pretty clear financial benefit to be had.

    4. LiptonTeaForMe*

      Kyla, I am in my mid 50’s working in a call center and am a federal employee with a bachelor’s degree to boot. It is not only the young’uns dealing with this issue. I too would like to have a living wage, but as someone else further up the responses said, “everything but our wages is going up”. I live hand to mouth much of the time and all the things financial folks say to do to cut corners isn’t even an expense in my life. All the things people think they have to have, I don’t own: IPAD, SmartPhone, DVD player, CD player, flat screen TV, etc. I drive a 17 year old truck, haven’t seen a movie in forever, don’t have Hulu or Netflix or even an internet ready TV. Sometimes life just happens and you make the best of it until you can change the circumstances around you.

  12. Mike C.*

    A lot of great comments so far, and I really appreciate that Alison posted this piece.

    The thing that always strikes me as a 33 yr old is how much help I’ve received from others to get where I am. Sure, I grew up in a poorer family and was the first to go to college, but I received a ton of financial help from others to attend a school that really opened doors I never knew existed. Sure I’ve worked hard but I’ve also been very lucky and I can think of many times in my life where if I didn’t have a little help or a second chance things would have turned out much, much worse. These things add up!

    Personal decisions matter a great deal, but the support system that surrounds you (or doesn’t!) is a huge multiplier effect. I wish more would acknowledge this support. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    1. Daisy Steiner*

      I love when people acknowledge that hard work and lucky circumstances are not mutually exclusive! I’ve been so lucky in my life. That doesn’t mean I didn’t work hard, and it doesn’t mean that everyone with my luck would have done as well, but I sure as hell remind myself frequently that without luck, hard work often gets you nowhere.

      1. MashaKasha*

        +1000. And the support. I really like the idea of giving credit to those who helped us along the way.

      2. Honeybee*

        This, and it works both ways, too. A person could be doing all the “right” things, with that mystical ambition and aptitude everyone talks about. Then something catastrophic happens – they get hit by a car and have huge medical bills; a family member falls ill and they need to move to care for them, or spend significant financial resources to care for them; they unexpectedly get pregnant; their house gets robbed – and the bottom falls out.

    2. OriginalYup*

      Agreed. None of these things are happening in a vacuum where effort + intelligence = rewards! Support systems, macro economics, and even just random circumstance all come into play.

      The two financial situations that have had the biggest positive financial impact on my life were sheer dumb luck. #1- I fell ill in college and dropped out, which was a disaster at the time. But I later got a job that offered some tuition reimbursement and allowed me to finish my degree with no new loans. That was huge. I avoided so much debt because of that. #2-My husband received a generous severance package when he got laid off in 2009, and found a new job within months.

      Did it help that we work hard, save, and are fiscally responsible people? Sure. But plenty of people are those things and can’t make ends meet or get ahead simply because they didn’t randomly benefit from good fortune in the way we did, or because they didn’t have family to live with or rent from to help them save, etc etc.

      I’m really glad to see pieces like Alison posted and comments like yours where people are speaking compassionate truth.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      And as a 54 year old, I have also had a lot of good breaks. Sure, I didn’t have much money, and it took a lot of work to pay for college (I had to leave my first choice college and finish at a cheaper one). Sure, it took a few years after I got the degree before I got the job using the degree. But I managed to finish college with no debt (I’m not sure college loans even existed, or at least I wasn’t told about them), I didn’t make any early devastating financial mistakes, and had some very good breaks in property ownership.

      That is why I spend a lot of my current abundance on others, mostly college age, who are struggling. If I can help them in these years, they will be more able to help others when they are my age. They are living in much different times, and some of the things I was able to achieve when I was that age are simply not available to them. And others are the common struggles that I had at that age too.

      1. Windchime*

        I didn’t even finish college. I took a couple of years of community college and managed to break into IT at a time when it was possible to do it with no degree and some aptitude. I don’t know if that’s possible at all these days.

        1. Sammie*

          Me either. 4 Years at a state school–no degree. I worked retail for 20 years–then moved cross country. I fell in with the right group–someone took a chance on me. Worked hard–then boom–software marketing career.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          Yup. I didn’t get my degree until my 30s; I started as a secretary in my 20s RIGHT AT THE EXACT TIME in our country’s history where people were having secretarial staff do the work that years later would become System Engineering.

          Talk about your lucky breaks! My life would be so different.

    4. Kate M*

      Exactly! I was raised pretty solidly middle class. My parents didn’t let me hold down a job during high school (other than babysitting) because they wanted me to focus on my studies and extracurriculars. I had SAT prep. I had vacations/went to camp/music lessons growing up. My parents paid 90% of my undergrad education (minus the semester I studied abroad). I’m a white, straight woman. The only privilege I haven’t had heaped upon me is being born male (and maybe rich, I guess).

      I’m working in the field I wanted to, but I’m still strapped with student loans from grad school. I’m almost 30 and still live with roommates in DC. I’m barely putting anything away for retirement because of my loans. I still had to work at unpaid internships to get where I am, which caused me to ring up some debt. Even with all my advantages in life, I still felt like I was starting from behind, at least monetarily. I can’t imagine buying a house, having a kid, or anything big like that in the next few years because of it.

      So the point is, I didn’t get where I am by myself. I had a lot of support and help. Even with all that, I still feel behind where previous generations were. So I can’t even imagine how others get through that didn’t have the privileges I had.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        YES. I am in a pretty similar boat. I was raised in an upper-middle-class household with parents who paid for my college education, as well as music lessons. Even so, if my parents hadn’t helped me out in my 20s, financially and otherwise, I’d have ended up homeless. I owe them everything. I have only made above $30k one year out of my whole life, despite having a master’s degree. I am 34 and have been a temp for almost six years. Being in this position with all my advantages has given me the greatest admiration for people who face it without what I was given through no effort or virtue of my own.

    5. AthenaC*

      “Personal decisions matter a great deal, but the support system that surrounds you (or doesn’t!) is a huge multiplier effect.”

      Absolutely! My personal success involved me frantically working my tail off to finish school, plus:

      – WIC
      – Food stamps
      – Daycare assistance (where the state of Alaska paid for my daycare so I could go to school in the first place)
      – GI Bill
      – Student loans
      – Women’s shelter
      – Housing policy at the university that let me live there simply because I was a student and didn’t call my previous landlord in order to hear about the damage my now-ex caused in the apartment
      – University that was generally very friendly to nontraditional students
      – Military wife during an extended deployment who stayed with me and became my “wife” for a few months because she was lonely
      – Marrying a guy who doesn’t feel emasculated by being a stay-at-home dad
      – College professors who have good relationships with all the local accounting firms
      – Community of young, broke student parents who passed hand-me-down baby clothes around and collectively watched each other’s kids from time to time
      – My now-ex-husband’s deployment to Iraq, which really allowed me to relax and focus on school and parenting

      Embed all of that and many, many other things into my personal “support” variable in my success equation.

    6. Jennifer*

      Heck yeah. I graduated in 4 years without debt and have been ridiculously lucky when it came to job stuff for the most part (or at least, I’ve only been unemployed for 2 months), because my parents had the money/inheritance to pay for my college without loans, and college was cheaper then, and I took summer school and finished in four, and I got lucky on getting jobs.

      Most people do not have those things these days.

  13. Jubilance*

    I struggled with the original piece, because my first thoughts after reading it were “Why do you live alone instead of with a roommate? Why do you have a car? Why did you move to SF for an entry level job and then get mad when you learned you couldn’t move to a new role immediately?”. I don’t agree that the source of her issues are the pay gap between CEOs and entry level employees – she made some questionable choices that added to her financial woes. But overall I agree that it’s a conversation we need to continue to have. So many people are against paying fast food workers a living wage because of the argument that people with degrees are making $15/hr or less. The problem isn’t that fast food workers want $15/hr, the problem is that wages are depressed for everyone, including college grads, and there’s tons of folks who aren’t making a living wage.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yes, this!

      And I get that some small businesses can’t survive when the minimum wage goes up, but couldn’t the minimum wage have exemptions in cases in which the employer’s profits are below a certain threshold and the employer herself isn’t making even double what the lowest paid employees are making? (I’m thinking of a specific independent bookstore that had to close down last year.)

      1. Kate M*

        Right. I’ve always liked the idea of a CEO wage cap. Like a CEO can’t make more than 30x what the lowest paid employee at that company makes. Sure, a CEO could raise their own salary, but they would also have to raise others’ along with it.

        I’m sure a lot of people are going to come back with the whole “the market decides what you’re worth” and “a CEO brings a lot more value to a company than a janitor or entry-level worker.” Well, yes, that’s why they would be paid 30x more than that person. But the way I see it, a company’s success is a direct result of its workers – from everyone to the janitor (how productive would other workers be if they had to clean up after themselves?) to the CEO. If a company is doing well, I think everyone should be rewarded. And there’s nobody that can convince me that a CEO is worth 500x what another employee is. Their time is worth more, sure, but not by that much.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I’m all for this. Maybe it’s not enforced by law, but it could be enforced by the market itself. If consumers viewed it as a worthwhile principle for a company to hold to, consumers themselves could choose to put their money into those companies. So it would then be in the companies’ (and shareholders’) best interests to have a slightly fairer (but still extremely skewed) pay disparity.

          I remember going on a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont. There was a little intro video about the history of the company. I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but I think it was something like Ben & Jerry wanted their CEO pay to never be more than ten times what the lowest-paid worker made, but then something changed later (did they go public?) and then that all went away. It was quite sad.

          1. twig*

            I remember learning about this on a 20/20 or 60 minutes type show where they showcased Ben and Jerry’s when I was a teenager. I think that B&J were bought out by a larger company and the CEO pay cap ended.

        2. TootsNYC*

          “Right. I’ve always liked the idea of a CEO wage cap. Like a CEO can’t make more than 30x what the lowest paid employee at that company makes. Sure, a CEO could raise their own salary, but they would also have to raise others’ along with it.”

          I love this too–but you absolutely know that they will find a way to work around it.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        If the business can’t afford to pay its employees a decent wage, should it be hiring employees?

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I guess you could make that argument, but it seems to me the same mentality as “If you don’t like your barista/waiter job, just leave” and then somehow getting upset when you don’t have baristas and waiters serving you any more.

          I like my independent bookstores and movie theaters (and bring my business to them whenever I can). If they can make enough to stay open, I’m all for it. But if raising the mininum wage slightly makes them go out of business, I don’t think it’s worth raising the minimum wage for them, not when Yelp and other large corporations could easily raise theirs.

          1. Kate M*

            I kind of agree with this, but kind of not. Like, I’m really sad that independent bookstores are going out of business. I would like to find ways to keep them alive. But that might be a pipe dream in the economy going forward, just because of the changed way we buy books. Even the big box corporate bookstores are going out of business, mostly because of Amazon and Kindles. I know that the “saving the independent bookstore” has become a trope of the little guy vs. corporate America (thanks You’ve Got Mail), but honestly I don’t think small independent bookstores should be the face of this cause anymore.

            I do know of thriving small businesses, like coffee shops (that some people frequent specifically because they’re not Starbucks), small restaurants, clothing boutiques, things like that. If an industry can’t support paying people a living wage, maybe that means it’s already dead.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              Maybe bookstores is a bad example, then. I wish more people would visit locally owned independent movie theaters instead of going to the multiplex ones. Honestly, these days, the locally owned ones still show the big blockbuster movies in addition to the smaller arthouse ones.

          2. Honeybee*

            I think it is, because somebody has to staff the independent bookstores and movie theaters. I don’t like the idea of the people operating the projector or working the cashier going home and not being able to feed their children just because I like the ambiance of an independent book store or theater with cheap books or tickets.

          3. Connie-Lynne*

            When an Indy bookstore here was looking at closing due to minimum wage laws and awful rents, they began a sponsorship drive. They’ve now got cash in the bank for improvements *and* they could stay open for at least two years without doing another drive.

            Sponsorships are $100; you get advance signings and some other perks, but the biggest perk of all is that our bookstore stayed open.

        2. TootsNYC*

          “If your business doesn’t bring in enough to pay your employees a living wage, you don’t have a viable business.”

          This has always made sense to me.

          1. TootsNYC*

            The only reason Southern cotton plantations were viable businesses is because they didn’t pay for labor.

            Labor is a legitimate cost, and you should pay for it in a way that makes it fair.

            Now…capitalism has created a situation in which businesses *can* successfully hire people at a low rate.

            It’s happening at my job–we’re been told to follow the company’s rules for the hourly rate we pay people, which means that some of us are cutting people’s pay. The hourly rate is the same that people were earning 7 years ago for the same work.

            Well, there are enough people out of work in my specialty that we can find people who’ll pay that. I had to cut people’s rate by 14%. But I only lost 2 people.
            Why? Because they can’t get a higher rate anywhere else.

            People like Tania Jane can’t go get some other job–because those other jobs don’t exist. Businesses are following capitalism.

            And why pay more, if you can get away with paying less? We do it when we’re buying stuff from big-box stores, or Amazon instead of the local store. Why wouldn’t businesses do it?

            To change the way companies approach it, you would need to abandon, or modify or restrain, capitalism for that topic.

            1. TL -*

              Right, you lower pay and then people buy the cheapest things they can find because they can’t afford more expensive ones and then they say, well people buy it…

              That doesn’t seem like the best justification to me.

      1. Heather*

        You definitely wouldn’t choose her if you were hand-picking the face of your movement (as the civil rights movement did with Rosa Parks), that’s for sure.

        On the other hand, I doubt we’d be having the conversation if the eye-rolly parts hadn’t gotten the Internet Outrage Machine going, so maybe it’s a good thing…

      2. Jeanne*

        It’s true she’s not a perfect example. But we can use her to open the discussion without getting bogged down in her personal attitudes.

    2. BRR*

      I posted above but this sums up my thoughts. She mentioned a lot of topics that are very big problems but her situation isn’t necessarily an example of them.

      1. TootsNYC*

        or, her situation is an example, but she has muddied the waters by dragging in other arguments or rhetoric.

      2. Sunshine*

        Yes… that’s what I’ve been trying to get my hands on. I can’t disagree with aot of what she said, but I literally could not stop rolling my eyes as I read.

  14. Chickaletta*

    The author’s point about the lack of entry-level jobs and how employers have done away with training really struck a chord with me and I’m glad that this is finally getting noticed. Even when I first started out, 15 years ago, there was no training and very little professional mentorship. For example, at my very first job, the owner asked me to write a business proposal and then left me to it without providing any examples, guidance, or advice. When I obviously failed at this task, she let me go. Just about every subsequent job after that I was working “in the dark”. If I didn’t know how to do something, it was up to me to figure it out on my own. “Mentorship” came in the form of advising me on life decisions: getting married, having children, moving to other cities to experience life, but nothing in the form of career advancement or gaining new skills in the workplace. If this is how everyone who’s entered the workforce in the last two decades has been treated, why are we so surprised we’re at where we are now?

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Three decades? Because I got no training or mentorship when I entered the professional workforce nearly 30 years ago.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Me neither. They dumped a bunch of manuals on my desk and said “there you go”. That was my “training”. A week later they gave me assignments.

    2. Jeanne*

      There is no training. And almost every job asks for 3-5 yrs experience. No company wants to provide those first 3 yrs experience.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        There is at my company (and it’s paid too!), and I’m so thankful for it. None of my previous employers have offered training outside of dumping a manual on me and saying, “Get it done.” My company also has generous tuition reimbursement, non-degree work reimbursement and bonuses for attaining professional designations, and this investment in their employees has greatly improved their retention rates.

    3. Jade*

      I think a part of the problem with finding entry-levels jobs is that we are requiring 4 year degrees to do entry-level work. Plus everyone wants you to walk on the job with 5 years of experience in X, Y, and Z, but nobody wants to train you how to do it, and being *educated* in it isn’t enough. I work in mental health care. A guy at my last job belonged to an organization that was lobbying to require certification for certain entry-level positions. He argued it would raise the quality of care. I argued that it would just be another barrier for people trying to start out in this field because every employer would want it but wouldn’t want to train people for it. There’s already a million expensive hoops you have to jump through in this low-paying field; let’s stop making it harder than it has to be.

      1. Honeybee*

        Plus those certifications cost extra money and often either aren’t offered at most regular four-year colleges OR have to be obtained after you finish college. You have to pay to take the test and the certification fees, and sometimes you have to pay for additional coursework to qualify. But many employers want you to have these certifications when you walk through the door – they’re not willing to hire entry-level folks without them and then pay them to get certified. Moreover, a lot of these “certifications” were simply things businesses used to teach you in your first 3 years on the job.

  15. Laura*

    As a former Yelp employee, I found it hard to feel any sympathy for Talia. Many people otherwise unfamiliar with Yelp will now assume that Yelp employees are like Talia– and I must say that they are NOT. The company sinks an incredible amount of money into its employees, and her utter inability to recognize this rankled me. A lack of gratitude (and common sense) seems to be Talia’s issue, at its core. Entitlement, of course, is common among my generation and it seems to have been a very serious issue in this situation.

    Thanks to Allison for posting this piece!

    1. Blossom*

      “Gratitude”… That word stood out to me. An employer hires someone because they judge that doing so will help their business, and ultimately, make the business more money. Obviously it’s a two-way street; an employee needs a job, and for most graduates the power balance is not in their favour, for simple reasons of supply and demand. And yes, an employer will not be getting maximum value from a new employee on day 1. But any training they invest in is ultimately for the organisation’s benefit. Nobody needs to be “grateful” here – it should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. They chose Talia above all the other applicants because they thought she could add the most value to the organisation.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This is so off base! It assumes companies are soulless beasts that only operate for profit. Yet companies are staffed by people. People who care, people who want others to succeed, people willing to mentor to help others. Gratefulness is something that is always in order – even for jobs. Many countries don’t have jobs, so I’m happy I lived in a country that had them! Gratefulness is the key weapon against entitlement. I’ve had horrid bosses so believe me when saying that a good company with a good boss is absolutely something worth gratefulness!

        1. Laura*

          Thank you! Many people don’t know the perks of working at Yelp– there are a TON, beyond excellent insurance benefits and a relaxed workplace. Yelp doesn’t pay very much at first for entry-level sales positions (which is where I worked), but if you were good enough at your job, it was totally reasonable to move up and make more money– it’s all on you. While I realize this may not have been an option to Talia in her position, the fact that she even got in to the company is huge.

        2. Xay*

          Gratitude to people, yes. Gratitude to the company, no. I have a great job with amazing benefits for a growing company. I am grateful to the people who recruited me and brought me in and have mentored me. But at the end of the day, I was hired because I had a skill set that would allow the company to win more contracts and bring in more money. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, not charity. I wasn’t hired because the company cared about me, I was hired because I can bring in a high billable rate and it is in the company’s best interests to train me and compensate me so I can continue to generate revenue. And pretending anything less would be delusional.

          1. Lisa*

            That’s like saying, “I’m not grateful to my family, I’m only grateful to my mother, my father, and my brother.” Companies are not machines. The decision to hire you is made by people. The decision of what to pay you is made by people. The decision to start the company in the first place was made by people. Being grateful to the company and being grateful to the people in the company are not two different things.

            1. Honeybee*

              I feel like this is a false equivalency. Of course they can be two different things.

              I work at a very large technology company. The people on my team that I work with directly make up 0.05% of the workforce. Am I grateful to have my job? Yes. Do I have some gratitude towards my manager and my team for hiring me into it? Yes, although it’s a tempered gratitude – it’s balanced by the fact that I know that I was an excellent candidate, my work brings incredible value to the business, and I’m well-compensated for it. I’m certainly not falling down at my knees worshipping them in thanks; we made a mutually beneficial business decision: they pay me money and I work to help them make products that bring in billions of dollars and make their senior leadership very, very rich. Quite frankly, without me and the thousands of other people who do what I do there would be no need for a CEO or a VP of this or that, so my work is quite literally helping to pay their salary. Again…mutually beneficial.

              Am I grateful to the company for hiring me? No, not really. Our CEO doesn’t even know I exist. I like the company, we have great benefits blah blah blah…but they have great benefits and good workplace culture because they need to remain competitive. I do like the company (a lot!) and most of the people who work here that I know, but I don’t think for a second that they’d have many of the perks they do have if everyone else in tech didn’t have them too. Tech companies are starting to offer these great benefits because most other companies in the industry are, because it attracts talent, and because engineering talent is more scarce now, not out of the goodness of their hearts. Do you think Google or Facebook would have the competitive applicants they have now if they didn’t have reputations as great places to work with amazing perks?

              So while I do genuinely applaud the great culture and benefits I’m not falling all over myself to give them a medal: they’re doing what makes business sense.

              And, as I said in another comment, none of this matters unless they’re paying a living wage. I like it here a lot but if they were offering me a salary lower than the industry average, let alone something I couldn’t live on in my expensive city, I wouldn’t work here. Company culture doesn’t pay the bills.

              1. Anonymous Educator*

                Also some tech companies offer all these perks with the implicit understanding that you will then work longer hours for them.

          2. JustALurker*

            I am grateful for everything I have including my job! Why can’t I be grateful (thankful) that I found a mutually beneficial arrangement with a great company and a great supervisor? Especially if I have worked at horrible jobs or had awful managers in the past. In some instances gratitude is acknowledgment and recognizing good fortune rather than indebtedness.

            1. Honeybee*

              Being grateful for having a job isn’t the same thing as being grateful to your company for “giving” you a job.

      2. Ham Sandwich*

        Well-said. This is a business arrangement where both parties seek to gain something from each other. Gratitude should only enter into the picture when it’s mutual, yet it usually seems to fall upon the employee only to be grateful. Probably part of that power imbalance you mentioned.

    2. Marcela*

      Oh, yeah. A company that pays a salary not enough to live is giving an incredible amount of money to its employees. I bet I know which employees are those.

      1. Laura*

        I was referring to other ways of spending money on employees: insurance benefits, workplace culture, company-sponsored events, etc. Yelp is a pretty cushy place to work for people at ANY level, and it’s made clear in the hiring process.

        1. Honeybee*

          None of that matters if you can’t feed yourself! I don’t care if my company has foosball in the break room and free donuts on Friday mornings if I can’t afford to pay my rent and buy groceries.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, to a job at a “cool” company in a cool city at the start of your career where you’ll get promoted after less than a year and have a receptive audience if you complain publicly when that doesn’t happen.

        That’s an un-nuanced take on a much more complicated situation, obviously — but it’s not just about a living wage.

    3. Heather*

      I truly, truly am not intending to be rude here, but I can’t think of another way to say this: Did you actually read the linked piece in its entirety? Because the whole thing is basically an argument against your last two sentences.

      Again, apologies for the phrasing.

      1. Laura*

        I did read the article, and just re-read it to be sure that I had not missed something. I saw the piece as explaining that although Talia’s mistakes were many, we should not condemn all young people in similar situations. I agree with this, though perhaps you interpreted it differently.

        1. Heather*

          OK, I see where you were going, then. I read it more as “yes, she did some stupid things too, but here are the places she has a point.”

    4. SJ McMahon*

      While I agree that Talia Jane showed a lack of common sense, I cannot agree that anyone should be grateful to a company that is not paying them enough money to make rent. While it’s reasonable to expect that people starting out will have roommates, it is not reasonable to expect them to have roommates in a studio apartment. It’s not entitlement to think, in the United States in 2016, that an adult working full time in one of the most prosperous sectors of the economy should be able to have a small bedroom for themselves.

    5. aebhel*

      Why on earth should someone feel ‘grateful’ to their employer? It’s a mutually beneficial business relationship. I don’t expect my employer to be grateful because I show up and do my job; why should employees be expected to be grateful because an employer pays them?

    6. Honeybee*

      Maybe on average, but if she’s really making $733 every two weeks the company is not “sinking an incredible amount of money” into her. I, too, would feel a lack of gratitude to a company that paid me less than $1500 a month in a city where an average one-bedroom costs upwards of $2,000.

  16. Wehaf*

    I have a more technical question about the situation. Doesn’t firing Jane for discussing her wages (in a manner directed at the CEO, another employee of the company) fall afoul of labor regulations requiring that employees are free to discuss wages and compensation without reprisal? In other words, wasn’t it illegal for Yelp to fire Jane for writing what she did?

    1. Stephanie*

      The NLRA protects “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” This was not collected bargaining, it was one employee mouthing off and discrediting her company in a public way. If multiple employees conspired to write this letter, that would be protected, as it protects our right to unionize. One employee publicly bashing the company is not protected.

        1. TootsNYC*

          She got that info about his residence from the newspapers or something; I don’t think she revealed anything that other people didn’t know.

          It’s a cheap shot that makes her argument look petty, but it’s not some big doxxing.

      1. Lisa*

        Would she have been protected against firing at all? Wouldn’t she just have been protected against the wage-complaint aspect?

        She had multiple violations of non-disclosure and code-of-conduct, both in the complaint letter and on other channels.

        Otherwise people could commit all kinds of egregious behavior but if they threw in a wage-complaint they couldn’t be fired.

        (This wage-complaint protection claim reminds of the time co-workers were shocked that one of the people hit by a 50% layoff was a woman on maternity leave. They somehow thought that her job protection was an immunity charm.)

        1. TootsNYC*

          “co-workers were shocked that one of the people hit by a 50% layoff was a woman on maternity leave. They somehow thought that her job protection was an immunity charm.”

          Happened at a job I was at. I pointed out to one of the complainers:
          “If you want pregnancy to be off the table at hiring time, it -has- to be off the table at layoff/firing time. It’s either relevant, or it isn’t.
          “And if you could never lay off a pregnant worker, then nobody would ever hire someone who could become pregnant, because they wouldn’t want to be hobbled.”

          There was a pause. And then she said, “I never thought about it like that. You’re right.”

    1. JMegan*

      Love, love, love this comic. It’s by far the clearest example I’ve ever seen of why the “bootstraps” strategy doesn’t work.

      1. Natalie*

        Fun fact, the phrase “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” originated as a comical way to indicate that something was impossible.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I agree! People really don’t get that it was sarcasm originally–because it’s physically impossible.

  17. FiveWheels*

    Lots of people make stupid choices at that age (I certainly did), and this isn’t a generational thing because this woman’s terrible choices would have had the same outcome in any era. It’s not entitlement so much as naivety. Move to an expensive new city, take a job that doesn’t pay enough because you think it will get you a different job, post an open complaint about it…

    But yeah, that’s not a millennial thing, it’s just that now the Internet makes terrible decisions world famous.

    My question is this though – is there any reason she didn’t get a roommate? Or become someone else’s roommate?

    1. Liza*

      Certainly there’s a reason why she didn’t get a roommate–but we don’t know what it was. Anything from preferring to live alone, to not even realizing it could be a possibility, to not knowing anyone she trusted enough to live with them, to looking for a roommate but being unable to find one. Some of these are things she could have changed, others aren’t.

      (I’m 38. I have housemates so that I can afford to live near my work. Others’ MMV.)

      1. FiveWheels*

        Preferring to live alone is perfectly valid. Needing to live alone for whatever reason, even more so. But only the super rich can always get what they prefer (in the financial sphere, anyway).

        Her single biggest expense seems to be accommodation which is why I wonder why she signed up for accommodation she simply can’t afford.

    2. Wendy Darling*

      I think she did a lot of dumb stuff. But I also don’t think she needs to get pilloried on the internet for any of that dumb stuff. She’s already had enough consequences laid on her. She made bad decisions about budget and relocation, and she’s broke now. That’s pretty lousy. She was wildly unprofessional in public and it got her fired. Now her money situation sucks more. Her own decisions have laid sufficient smack down on her, I don’t think the internet needs to help.

      Honestly the only part I really take exception to is her ABSOLUTE HORROR that she was expected to stay in her current position for a year before moving up. Like, yes, that is how that works? Everything else I’m just like, well, that was a questionable decision.

      1. Kat*

        Yeah,. that was where I eye-rolled here. The “I couldn’t move into another department for a whole YEAR?!?!?!” was ludicrous.

      2. Liana*

        THAT was the part that killed it for me. The way she italicized “an entire year” like it was this big horror. I couldn’t help myself, I eye-rolled too. Everything else … I think she made some bad decisions, but I do feel bad for her.

      3. Caryatis*

        Yeah, I really, really wonder what she was thinking when she was making $1466 a month and rented an apartment for $1245. Did she expect a magical fairy to pay her bills? Even if she had gotten a promotion in the first month, she probably wouldnt be able to pay them.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          It was probably the cheapest place she could find. That’s pretty much rock bottom pricing I. The Bay Area, even with roomies.

      4. Jennifer*

        I’ll be fair: she was answering phones for a living. WHICH IS HELL. Every day of that is agony. You think one whole year is short? Hell, every hour of that is long, long, long.

        1. Liana*

          I mean, I did it for two years, so I understand what it’s like. And I agree, it’s stressful and demanding and people can be really, really unappreciative. But that’s also not the CEO’s fault, and she knew it was going to be like that (or at least she should have) going in. She wrote an open letter to the CEO and implied that waiting a whole year for any promotion is unreasonable, when it’s not. That whole part came off as pretty unaware of basic norms surrounding entry level positions.

          1. Honeybee*

            Why would we say she should have? I have never done call center work and I wouldn’t have expected it to be terrible at her age – mind-numbing, yes, but emotionally draining and hell work? No. the only reason I even know that now is from spending time on work forums/blogs and having chatted with people who have done it.

      5. Honeybee*

        Honestly I rolled my eyes at that too, but I’m also trying to imagine alternate situations in which that assumption would make more sense. Maybe she had really unrealistic expectations (which wouldn’t make her the first starry-eyed twenty-something). Or maybe her recruiter implied that she would move up faster, or maybe there were hints at her interview that she’d only be doing call work for three months or something. Or maybe she thought that since call center work doesn’t really require a college degree, she’d only have to pay her dues for a couple months before she was moved to a job that did – sort of like a probationary period.

    3. Marcela*

      It’s very telling to me that instead of asking why Yelp’s salaries are not enough to cover for a living in SF, people are asking why she doesn’t have roommates or why she has a car or why she accepted that job. It is like only the rich can decide to do whatever they want, but the poor can’t. Disgusting.

      1. Tea*

        You know, I don’t disagree that wage she’s making for living in the BA is absolutely ridiculous (that bit about how CEOs making 7 figure salaries wanting baristas, uber drivers, people to take the trash out, but not paying them rings so strongly with me) but your last statement has always been true. The rich have always been able to do what they want, move where they wish, make the choices they make, and the poor can’t.

        1. Not me*

          The rich do not have to make choices pragmatically; the rest of us do. Is there an issue with talking about that that I’m missing?

          1. Heather*

            I think Tea is saying that that’s always been the case and so there’s nothing new about Jane not being able to make whatever choices she wants. I don’t disagree. The rich have always been able to make mistakes without the consequences seriously affecting their lives, and the poor have always been at risk of one mistake or crisis taking them down in a financial avalanche.

            But I think what makes now different is that the skyrocketing cost of living & static wages, combined with the eroding safety net, is putting an increased number people at risk of the avalanche. And a lot of them have the kind of jobs and lifestyles that put them pretty solidly in the working/middle class category – they’re not people we traditionally think of as being poor.

            (As an aside, I hate how something is never seen as a problem until it starts to affect what we call the middle class. “The poor” are just a vague distasteful mass that isn’t our problem.)

      2. Not me*

        This comment is pretty strange to me. Do you think that noticing some pretty bad decisions on her part excuses Yelp?

        1. FiveWheels*

          Excuses Yelp from what? They seem like a bad employer, but I don’t see anything morally wrong.

          They didn’t employ her locally then move her job to SF and ask her to move. From what I can see they didn’t offer her a job then dramatically cut hours or pay.

          If she had cheaper accommodation she probably wouldn’t have been starving. That’s not Yelp’s fault! In her specific circumstances maybe she couldn’t get cheaper accommodation – but that’s a reason not to take the job in the first place.

        2. J-nonymous*

          I think it changes the conversation. The consequences of her less-than-living wage become fodder for analyzing her decisions, we talk about the misguided naivete of writing an open letter to the CEO and getting fired for it, than talking about the extreme power difference between leadership and labor in our economy.

          That isn’t to say no one is engaging with the issues – just that talking about her choices can serve to distract.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I have a niece who is in the low-wage tier.
      She moved to a new town with a trusted roommate. That roommate moved back to their hometown. She tried 6 times to get a new roommate. Every time, she ended up with someone who didn’t pay their rent, was unstable, was lousy to live with…something.

      Once you’re in the lower wage tier, the risk of ending up with those problems is higher. Heck, they’re high enough in ANY tier.

      1. Jennifer*

        True, roommate situations get dicey, especially when you have to find a new one. I had to give up on roommates after awhile–especially since the older you get, the less likely you are to find a roommate.

  18. Stephanie*

    As an older Millennial, I’ve been told to my face by those in older generations (Boomers and up) how surprised they were that someone my age had such a good work ethic. It’s reverse discrimination, and frankly a very snide way to compliment someone. It’s happened multiple times, and it baffles me each time.

    I believe that there should be real conversations about the challenges around minimum wage and the cost of healthcare. I think these are worthy conversations. And I think the Yelp employee’s letter did more to distract from the issue than highlight it. The letter was painful to read, but the resulting bashing of Millennials in general is even more painful. And, by the way, most painful of all is the comment that we were all that stupid when we were 23. (Seriously. I’m not saying we were all Einstein, but there were a lot of us that understood fiscal responsibility and the causal relationship between spending more money than we have and then being in debt, and if we decided to go that route, the sacrifices we would have to make for it.)

    But I digress. Both sides are getting it wrong, and both sides are having the wrong conversation. And I would honestly start with some reform in school. Have we considered that one of the biggest problems is the fact that those entering the workforce are woefully uneducated on the basic concepts of how to balance a budget, manage debt, and understand health insurance? If their understanding of adulthood is having your own house/apartment, your own car, etc, but don’t understand the financial impact of these things, how can they be critical thinkers and negotiators with their employers when they do get a job offer? How can they understand what car they CAN afford, how much of their paycheck can reasonably go towards rent? I had a very supportive family who taught me a lot of these concepts, but it’s pretty clear that’s not universal.

    Additionally,career counseling in school should not be aimed deciding your major in college, but deciding your career path, and then determining the right education or training required to get there. Some paths don’t require a college education. Some need Masters degrees. Let’s show high school students what the long game looks like so they can choose the path that will get them there.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      True story: In my high school economics class, the teacher decided to teach us how to do our taxes. So he had the one kid who had a part-time job (because that’s how my school was, nobody had jobs) explain to us how to fill out the simplified tax form, and gave us a pretend W-2 and told us to do it ourselves.

      Every. Single. Student. failed the assignment, and we never spoke of it again.

    2. Tea*

      I’ve had similar experiences with people complimenting me about my “excellent work ethic” and making snide comments about how “I must be the only person in my class who’s actually working for a living.” Assuming, I suppose, that people my age pay no rent and eat no food and need no health care etc. Or that their parents pay for all of these things, because Millenials undoubtedly have wealthy upper middle class parents? I’m not sure where that sentiment comes from, but boy am I tired of it.

      But I also strongly agree with how important it is for young people– teenagers and college aged alike, to learn about all the responsibilities and corresponding rights of adult life. Some people might say that it’s a parent’s duty to teach those, and perhaps that’s true, but I think it’s very clear that many people never received those lessons growing up. How do credit cards work, and how do you avoid digging yourself a hole in debt? What are your rights as a renter, what are your rights as an employee, how are taxes calculated and when do you pay them? How do people learn these things? I learned through osmosis, to be honest, but there must be a better way.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      High school teacher here. Without some real education reform regarding college and careers, the discussion on workers is virtually meaningless. Almost every teacher I know sees the problem, but when was the last time you saw a teacher quoted in an education article? You’ll see input from a PhD who has never had a job outside of academia and from legislators who have no concept of the realities of education. STOP PUSHING COLLEGE AS THE ONLY OPTION!

      I’m an English teacher but I’d give up teaching Shakespeare in a heartbeat if I could teach a class on the realities of career paths, majors, college costs, and actual jobs.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, I think a lot of people who aren’t actually teachers or who haven’t actually worked in schools imagine that teachers can just do whatever curriculum they want. Not so. They often answer to a lot of constituents: state tests (especially at public schools), college requirements and tests, parents (especially at private schools). If people who don’t work in schools want schools to start teaching something, they have to start demanding that of their politicians (for public) or with their tuition/fundraising money (for private).

      2. Not So NewReader*

        The best profs I had in college had a side gig. Those were the profs that were reality based and gave the best advice.

        A friend who taught for decades retired and decided to do retail. Her retail job took everything she knew about life and work and absolutely turned it on its head. The culture shock was that huge. She kept ticking off her coworkers and could not figure out why.
        It’s different worlds but the students already know that.

    4. Mike C.*

      I’d love to see evidence that the inability to “balance a budget” is a real issue here. What about the fact that median household income hasn’t matched per capita GDP in 40 years? How does any sort of budget balancing beat that?

      Even then, how do you expect people to successfully decide (or simply advise on) career prospects 5+ years out?

      1. Stephanie*

        Mike, I think both conversations can happen at the same time. Just because we need to talk about minimum wage doesn’t mean we don’t also have to teach budgeting. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I thought it was the only problem. But I think that a better understanding will help many young professionals. Those who start off the least advantaged will have the least understanding of this from the get-go. In the case of the young woman who wrote the letter, based on the things that she wrote, she did not enter her circumstances understanding the financial hardships that come with having an apartment and a car and a maxed out credit card. She didn’t understand that having an entry level position can last longer than just a few weeks. While I don’t believe this ignorance is universal, I do believe it is common.

        As for career prospects, if a student is unable to decide on what their career will be, how can they afford to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt wandering off onto a path that has no goal? And then expect a lucrative job at the end of it? That doesn’t make sense to me at all.

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          How can a student pick a career when they don’t even know what careers are out there? We shove “college” as this holy grail but we aren’t teaching kids what options are available. We still leave finance, jobs, careers, and college majors to parents. What if you don’t want to do what your parents did but you don’t know what other jobs are available. Kids, and often times their parents, don’t know that they don’t all of the possible careers because you can’t know what you don’t know. We have to prepare kids better than they are and we have to help their parents, too.

          1. AthenaC*

            ‘How can a student pick a career when they don’t even know what careers are out there?”

            Agreed. I fell into my career as a CPA completely by accident – I was required to take an accounting class for my economics degree (because I <3 economics) and something clicked. Because of an offhand comment from my prof, it came to my attention that generally, an accounting degree gave one more job security than an economics degree. Well, I had two kids to feed, so job security, here I come! Changed the course of my life at the drop of a hat and never looked back.

          2. TootsNYC*

            on the subject of knowing what careers exist:

            The biggest indicator for what career you will take is what careers you saw as a kid.

            There have been studies that indicated–when a blue-collar family moves to a white-collar neighborhood, it increases the likelihood that their kids will become white-collar workers. There’s a reason it never, ever occurred to Mitt Romney to become a pipefitter.

            And one of the biggest problems for poor neighborhoods is that the jobs those kids see are all low-wage jobs. They don’t become dentists because they don’t KNOW any dentists.

        2. Mike C.*

          I guess that’s fine, so long as you make everyone else learn how marginal tax rates actually work.

    5. OriginalEmma*

      In one of my HS math classes, the teacher’s assignment was to go to a car dealership and *pretend to buy a car* so that we can calculate APR, etc. How un-freaking-realistic is that assignment?! Not to mention that no sales person would waste their time with a teenager, as evidenced by my experience pursuing this asinine task. She should have had us break out the Blue Book and do an assignment – it would have been more realistic and taught the same concept.

    6. Chinook*

      “As an older Millennial, I’ve been told to my face by those in older generations (Boomers and up)”

      As a Gen Xer, I want to say how much I appreciated not being included in the phrase “older generations.” Too often, we seem to be included as if we were part of the problem instead of anyone accepting that we have been hearing for a few decades what Millenials are now hearing. We seem to be suffering from “middle child syndrome” – forgotten until there is someone needing to be blamed.

      1. Natalie*

        This is a very frustrating part of the whole conversation, IMO – I’m among the oldest Millennials so more of my friends and age-mates are Gen Xers. Both groups are getting screwed by the same phenomenon (steadily decreasing wages and safety net, basically) but there’s such a tendency to start infighting. My old boss was a couple of years older than me and would. not. stop with the “kids these days” comments.

    7. Nicole*

      This has been one of my biggest gripes for years – lack of financial literacy. I wrote an article on my blog about it because it irks me how much focus is put on history, math, science, which while important, doesn’t help you learn how to balance a budget. Why aren’t high schoolers being taught real life lessons in school?

      1. TootsNYC*

        Hmmm. Maybe now that my kid are going to be out of the house, I should talk to my son’s high school about teaching a “life skills” class once a week, and cover stuff like this.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          I had a life skills class in high school for one semester. The only thing I remember from it is how to write a check. It should probably be required all four years so the lessons will actually stick.

      2. Beth Anne*

        I agree. You see people complaining about “adulting” all the time on the internet because the things that you have to do as an adult aren’t taught in schools – budgeting, cooking, buying groceries and then cooking them, keeping a clean house, etc.

        I remember they would teach the kids with learning disabilities life skills in school but they never taught them to the mainstream kids…who need it as well.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      @ Stephanie. This embarrasses me and angers me in the same stroke- boomers should know better. It ticked us off royally when our parents/elders came at us like this. Did we NOT learn?

      @anyone. A boomer talks to you like this, pause and say, “How did you feel when your elders spoke to YOU in this manner??” The cycle has to stop, maybe the next generations will end it.

      1. Natalie*

        +1 generally to your comments in this thread, but this one especially. I have tried to keep that in mind with my future kids – I won’t actually have personal experience that matches theirs! Shocking, I know. I hope I can bring the wisdom and reflection that you regularly bring here, NSNR.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I try to think of people as gifts in my life. I have learned that if a younger person pays attention to a person with gray hair like me that is a special gift. I have few friends that are 20 something, 30 something. I think that is a privilege. When you look at your kids-to-be, remember the gift of their continued interest in you and you will be fine. ;)

  19. Economics of Job Searching*

    Could there be a triple tradeoff between passion for your job, freedom to choose schedule or geography, and pay rate? So that you can choose 1 or maybe 2 of those, but all 3 assets don’t come until you’re really good?

    When I worked in restaurants, I could work anywhere or move anywhere, but it didn’t pay well and I didn’t love it. When my priorities changed, I trained in something that paid better but I could no longer choose when I could go into work or moce cities on a whim. I also like it more. To me, that trade-off seems fair. It seems like anyone can make that choice.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I like the “you can pick 1 or 2 of these, but probably not 3, and definitely not at the start of your career.”

      It’s also true that expecting to find passion in your job is kind of a privileged thing. There are tons of people who expect to take blue collar jobs, do so, and aren’t looking for passion from their jobs.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I like this. It’s like the engineering triad: faster, better, cheaper – pick two. It acknowledges that you can’t have it all.

      2. Lisa*

        Or we start out taking a paycheck job to live on and build our way to the passion job over time. Or do the passion as a side job or hobby, which is how most writers, musicians and actors get by.

    2. MashaKasha*

      But a lot of the job only really exist in certain areas… or the job market is significantly better in those areas. What’s the use of the cost of living being cheap in the area, when you can’t find a job there?

      1. TootsNYC*

        yeah, there’s a reason the cost of living is cheap there–because that’s all the rent or mortgage anybody can afford to pay!

        And then there’s the “once people are earning more, landlords will charge more” problem. There are towns that hit that sweetspot–and then the pendulum keeps moving, and the moment is gone.

        1. Honeybee*

          Right, I don’t understand why people don’t get this. Houses and rents are cheaper in cheaper cities because salaries are lower and the demand is not there. Once the jobs arrive in the city, then demand comes to a city, and the prices rise to unaffordable levels. San Francisco and Seattle and New York and Boston and DC are super-expensive because they have robust economies with lots of jobs and the amenities of every day life. Smaller cities have cheaper housing…because they don’t. And to hit the sweet spot, you have to be really lucky. Sure, I would’ve loved to have bought a house in Seattle 10 years ago and doubled my investment or whatever. I was also 19.

  20. Coelura*

    I really struggle with this whole conversation. I chose my major based upon the job opportunities for that degree. One of my daughters chose to go to college to get her BSN and the other chose to go to tech school for Paramedic. One joined the Army to afford college, the other didn’t qualify, so she’s chased scholarships. Both live at home – as do almost all their friends, even the 26 yo. On the other hand, I also lived with my parents til I was 25.

    We are really giving our young people bad advice pushing them all to attend college and not consider other education options. My 22yo is already making more as an EMT (3months tech school) than most of her friends that went for a 4 yr degree. But many of her friends & her teachers questioned why she would choose tech school cause that’s for losers.

    1. Florida*

      For at least a few generations, we’ve been pushing this message that the only way to succeed is to go to college. But that’s crap. High school guidance counselors need to quit preaching this message and start preaching that there are many ways to make a good living. Some require a degree and some don’t.
      What makes it even worse is when you see job ads for something like a data entry clerk that says a bachelor’s degree is required. Why is a bachelor’s degree required for that job?! It’s the elitist attitude that people who don’t go to college are losers.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I think your second point needs to come before your first — telling high schoolers that they don’t necessarily need a degree, only to get out in the real world and find that BASICALLY EVERYTHING requires degrees is setting them up to fail even worse than Millennials have been set up. My B.A. in Uselessness still gets me places that no degree at all would bar me from.

        1. Florida*

          Maybe I wasn’t clear. It seems that every office job requires a degree, even though it shouldn’t. If you want this type of job, yes, you should get a degree.

          But a lot of jobs like EMT, construction, skilled labor, military, don’t require a degree – and those are generally very good jobs. So we shouldn’t tell kids they need a degree, when they can do one of these things.

          Does that make more sense?

          1. Terra*

            EMT jobs often pay very little or nothing (my city has a solely volunteer EMT unit), construction tanked when people stopped buying houses, as did many forms of skilled labor, the military has lowered their recruiting numbers and made the standards harder to meet due to the number of people interested. Yes, there are some times when jobs like these make sense but not always. A lot of us were told to go to college because honestly the office job that requires a college degree (even if it doesn’t really need it) is the only job you can get that gets you anywhere close to paying the bills.

          2. Lisa*

            I believe there is some bad data crunching behind this. If statistics claim that 4-year degree grads make more money on average are comparing the average of minimum-wage workers through $80k plumbers vs. $40k journalists through $1m CEOs, they can be misread to infer that college grads always earn more – it’s just not true.

            I also work in a sector of high-tech where a fair share of non-college-grads have been able to work our way up into high-paying jobs – not the majority but well-represented – at companies where you would otherwise expect everyone has a lot of formal education.

          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Skilled labor still requires education beyond high school, though, and that education still costs money.

          4. Elizabeth*

            But a lot of jobs like EMT, construction, skilled labor, military, don’t require a degree

            But they do require degrees in many cases. EMT’s require an associate’s degree in most states to get licensed. Skilled labor such as plumbing & HVAC contracting often require something similar, plus some sort of apprenticeship. You can’t be an officer in the US military without at least a bachelor’s degree, and most enlisted specialties within the service require specialized training.

            Just because it isn’t a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean it isn’t a degree. It takes time, energy & commitment to get, which equals money. I don’t know any EMT who graduated with their A.S. or A.A. that didn’t have student loans to pay off, even if they aren’t on a par with those from a B.S. or B.A. from a 4-year school.

            1. Florida*

              You are correct. I meant that it doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. Most skilled labor jobs require either an associates or a certification of some sort.

              1. doreen*

                This is the kind of thing that really varies- one union apprenticeship program I know of is 5.5 years long and consists of 35 hours per week of paid on-the-job training, 4 hours per week of evening job-related training , and for the first 4 years an additional 3 hours per week of college classwork leading to an associate’s degree. Educational requirement to get into the program – one year of high school algebra (although I’m sure they prefer a GED or high school diploma). My son currently has an unskilled job, but his union provided the course required for certification that will qualify him for a higher-paying job.

            2. Lisa*

              In my city you can get an associates degree for less than $10k and new legislation is about to bring it under $3k for most recent-highschool-grad students. We are having issues here with skyrocketing rents as well, but at least for those who can still live at home, it is possible to go to school part-time, work a part-time job, pay community college tuition, and get an associates degree in 3-4 years with no debt and lots of workplace experience.

            3. Honeybee*

              And to be frank, after certain levels in the enlisted forces of the military people are far more likely to have college degrees. My husband was enlisted Air Force for four years and at a special dinner for an award he’d gotten, I met some of his high-level superiors – E-6 and up. Most of them had college degrees! My husband told me that it’s actually pretty difficult these days to advance to senior leadership on base or in the force as a whole without at least some college.

  21. Jenm*

    Work laptop. How do people use it? My personal laptop is quickly dying and I’m not enthused about getting a new one just to do my taxes and surf the Web on the weekend. I used to draw a clear line between my work and home laptop. But is it necessary? Who cares if I use my work laptop to do my taxes on a saturday? I’m going in circles here and wondering what others do. I’m not job searching and not into anything illegal or weird that is necessarily secret. But I do all the normal online banking, budgeting, school applications for my kid, cat pics, etc that everyone else does that I wouldn’t particularly want some dude in IT or otherwise checking out. Thoughts? Philosophies?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hi Jenm, I try to keep comments on topic here because otherwise the comment section becomes unwieldy. You’re welcome to send this in as a question to me (see link at top) or to post it in today’s open thread.

  22. Macedon*

    I think what I’ve found most telling has been the compounding number of letters glorifying their own attitudes over those of the people they’re responding to. The 25-year-old Talia Ben-Ora got a scathing response from a 29-year-old. Then, the 29-year-old got an equally holier-than-thou response from a 36-year-old. I’m eagerly awaiting someone’s long-retired grandmother to emerge penning in a vitriolic response to the 36-year-old.

    I remember reading this great piece about an aging generation’s tendency to validate its own life choices by villanizing those of the ones younger to it — it never seemed more pertinent.

    1. Marcela*

      The problem is that the grandmother grew in a completely different scenario. Besides, people in her generation created the rules we are following now. They are the ones on top deciding most of the stuff, so hell, no, I won’t accept her vision, especially her vision about difficulties, opportunities and how hard you need to work to get a decent living.

      1. Macedon*

        I honestly think they all grew in fairly different economic climates and don’t ‘qualify’ to nitpick each other’s life choices. And yet here they are.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      I completely agree with you. I swear, I can hear the sound of hands rubbing together in maniacal glee at the opportunity to take someone down a notch. It’s just a gross cluster of self-righteousness.

  23. Florida*

    After reading several of the comments, I want to tell y’all about a person in my city who is changing the world. His name is Harris Rosen. He owns several hotels in Orlando. Many of his employees (housekeepers, service workers, etc.) live in a low-income neighborhood called Tangelo Park. Several years ago, Mr. Rosen said that he will pay for college for any kid in Tangelo Park who graduates from high school. That’s it. No strings. If you live in the neighborhood and get accepted to any college, he’ll pay the tuition and expenses. In-state, out-of-state, public, private, any college. Even if your parents don’t work for one of his hotels.
    These are kids who, with few exceptions, saw college as completely unattainable. They probably expect that they will grow up and work an hourly job at a hotel or theme park. Mr. Rosen personally goes to the elementary schools and tells the kids that he’ll do this. The kids start to see college as something they can do. We are just getting to the point where some of the kids are graduating from college (with no debt). It has completely changed this neighborhood.
    He continues to do it, and has expanded it to another low-income neighborhood in Orlando, as well.
    Granted, most people don’t have the financial ability to do that, but I think it is super cool that he does it. If I ever won the powerball, I think I would do something like this.

    1. madge*

      I’ve read about him. What an outstanding human being! Hopefully his story will inspire (or even shame. Shame is fine.) others to do the same, or at least think a little harder about how they can use their resources to help their workers’ communities.

    2. Crissy from HR*

      They named the hospitality school at UCF after him! He’s a great guy (and his hotels are awesome!).

      1. J.B.*

        I did think his resort where I attended a conference was overpriced, had cheap toilet paper, and nickeled and died more than anywhere else I have stayed.

        1. Isabel*

          Next time I go to Florida, I will make it a point to spend at least one night in a hotel he owns. The fact that the housekeeper leaving the cheap toilet paper and shampoo in my room knows her children have this opportunity feels like a far more luxurious amenity than silken tissue.

  24. F.*

    First of all, I would like to point out that every generation has those who feel entitled, especially when they are young. Some people never do grow out of it. It is part of growing up for many people, especially if they were not held accountable and educated by their families that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I’m not going to regale you with the I-had-it-worse-and-turned-out-okay type stories that cause eyes to roll. I also realize that I am a rare conservative voice here in a forum that overwhelmingly attracts progressive, liberal commenters.

    Talia Jane made a number of crucial mistakes, some of which have already been pointed out, such as moving to one of the most expensive cities in the US to take an entry-level job and not having roommates and expecting an immediate promotion. The thing that disturbed me the most about her diatribe to the Yelp CEO was her complete misunderstanding of the nature of employment. Simply put, to your employer, you are worth only the value you bring to the company. A related concept is that the easier it is to replace you (the more people there are with your skills and level of experience), the less you will earn. That is why CEOs make more than entry level employees and computer programmers make more than baristas. It is simple economics. By the way, a very good book on economics, written in simple, easy to understand language, is “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell. I highly recommend it.

    Her next mistake was in the manner in which she spoke out about the perceived injustice. According to the NLRA, employees absolutely have the right to speak out about working conditions (including pay) in a concerted effort to coworkers and others similarly situated, as long as the comments are truthful and not slanderous of the company or others. This is, of course, to help aid unionization efforts in workplaces. I actually support this, when properly applied. As I told my sons many times, just because you *can*, doesn’t mean you *should*. It is the manner in which she personally attacked the CEO that disturbed me. I don’t think she thought this through at all. A well thought out letter, citing facts and explaining the value to the company of raising wages would have been much less likely to offend the very person (the CEO) she was trying to influence. Not very smart, especially for someone who wants to work in media/public relations. If she really wants to make a difference, I imagine there are plenty of non-profits dedicated to raising wages who could use someone with her degree, assuming she hasn’t tainted her personal brand.

    Another thing that bothered me was that she lied. A quick look at her Instagram posts shows that she eats and drinks far better than white rice. She apparently also has the money for a gym membership and eating out. There is nothing wrong with eating well, enjoying nice liquor and going out. But don’t lie about it. This was very telling about her character, and she could have made her point without lying.

    Lastly, I am just cynical enough to think that this was just a way to get her proverbial fifteen minutes of fame and get her name out there, perhaps in the hope that she would be magically offered a better paying job. I understand that someone else has piggy-backed on her moment of fame by saying he was going to offer her a job at his start-up that allows people to send anonymous “you suck” type emails. I don’t see much of a future in anonymous feedback, as every company I know pretty much ignores it. But it did get his company’s name in the news. She was played and probably doesn’t even realize it.

    1. Marcela*

      Oh, yes. That is the American experience, wide open for me to see. Instead of questioning why a company is not willing or can’t pay its lower employees a salary decent enough to live in the city they are, especially when CEOs make a lot more money than they generate and deserve (because the argument that people’s pay is directly related to their value is, being generous, very naive), we question the one telling that in public. Being poor, she should do as the rest of us consider appropriate, not whatever she wants. Because that is a privilege of the rich ones.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Well, it’s really not an either/or scenario. We can question both the company and the employee.

      2. insert witty name here*

        No one is saying she shouldn’t do what the rest of us consider appropriate. Those are her choices. Rather, what I hear is, “I can’t live in XYZ way” so I respond, “have you considered ABC?”

        If she wants to focus on income disparity or CEO pay than she should focus her comments on that. Don’t clutter it with things not relevant to the issue.

    2. Kat*

      I agree-this is where I struggled. Her social media accounts are full of luxuries–expensive liquor, meals at the fanciest Bay Area restaurants, $500 mixers for culinary experiments. It’s not that poor people should never have nice things, but it’s disingenuous to ask for money and say you’re starving and eating rice when you’re sipping a $100 bourbon.

      And her language in talking to CEO and about her managers wasn’t a very good reflection. Her suggestions about how customers should donate to employees at Yelp instead of charities was beyond absurd. And that they should stop stocking the fridge because she could do more with that money.

      1. HarryV*

        Also, she’s updated her blog to include her paypal, square, and venmo accounts after she was fired. She didn’t ask for a job interview, she asked people to pay her – CA$H!

        1. Kat*

          Absolutely. She had some really strong comments in there, but it got lost for me in the eye-rolley “I have to wait a YEAR?!” comments and the plea for donations.

      2. ThatGirl*

        You don’t know that she actually paid for any of that stuff.

        And a $25 bottle of bourbon might arguably be a luxury, but it’s not “expensive” as bourbon goes.

        1. Kat*

          That was just 1. She had other posts with extremely expensive bourbon in the 100+ range, Lush beauty products, etc.

          And I get it. Maybe she exaggerated. Maybe they were gifts. But to say you’re living on rice and drinking water to feel full when you’re eating literal steak dinners and getting takeout for lunch is not a good way to make your case.

          1. Lisa*

            That is about where she completely lost my sympathy as well. This wasn’t harmless exaggeration, people have chosen to boycott her employer based on belief she was being paid “starvation” wages.

            1. Honeybee*

              Unless she is lying about the fact that she makes $733 biweekly, the fact that she apparently made poor decisions with her money doesn’t negate the fact that that’s not a living wage in SF. Just because someone who makes $7.25 an hour is buying expensive bourbon and lobster and maxing out credit cards or couch-surfing to get by doesn’t mean that $7.25 is a living wage! It just means they’re using their money in a way that’s probably not very smart.

              And it’s still interesting to me how many people would rather talk about her life decisions than the fact that a college graduate at a large tech company is making less than $1500 a month.

        2. KH*

          Actually we do know because she posted about it on Instagram (an account that has been made private, btw). She talked about how she had booze delivered to her workplace because she lived so far out in the suburbs they didn’t deliver there. She blogged and Instagrammed about all the expensive food she was buying and cooking – brie rounds and legs of lamb and so forth. I looked at her Twitter and Instagram when this first made a big splash.

          She lied about a lot of things. Which has the unfortunate effect of derailing what could be a valid and useful discussion.

      3. Crissy from HR*

        I had a roommate in college who went on first dates (just dates! No funny business) with guys 4-5 nights a week in college just to feed herself. Was it morally right? Maybe not. Did she have pictures at Fogo De Chao on Sunday and have to sneak in the emergency exit of our cafeteria on Tuesday just to not starve? Yep.

        No one is posting pictures of their 30lb bag of rice on Instagram. That doesn’t get likes or generate interest/content, especially not for someone looking for a career in social media. I didn’t agree with everything in her article (a whole YEAR to get promoted?!?), but questioning the appropriateness of her social media posts is a bit much for me.

        1. Liana*

          Except she also brought her argument into social media for the world to see. She didn’t request a meeting with her manager to ask for a raise, she wrote an open letter for everyone to comment on. She specifically used social media to advance her cause. I think in that case, it’s fair game to notice the discrepancy between what she described in the letter and what she posts on Instagram.

          1. Lisa*

            Exactly. And what particularly irked me about this is she wants to work in media for a living, yet she shows shockingly little comprehension of how online media actually works. That media team at Yelp she wanted to transfer to? She made their life a living hell this week.

          2. Honeybee*

            Yes, but anyone with a little experience with Instagram should know not to rely on pictures with filters to make accurate judgments about the way someone lives their life. I don’t post about my depression, my anxiety, my near-eviction, my tax issues and my debt problems on Facebook.

      4. Jennifer*

        Those were gifts, apparently, or so I read in some other interview with her. She also said that she was trying to make it look publicly like she was okay and not dead broke.

      5. Honeybee*

        Do you use Instagram, or do you know anyone who does? Instagram, and most social media accounts, are carefully curated outward expressions of people’s lives. They’re not meant to reflect reality in all its grittiness. For all you know, Yelp pays her gym membership as part of her job, or she used a free one-month pass or she goes with a friend who has buddy passes. And she’s already explained the expensive bourbon (Yelp! paid for it as part of an event that she had to do in her support role). Maybe she saved up for the meals at the expensive restaurants for months to get a little enjoyment out of her poor life.

        Seriously, it is one of the most irritating things in the world when poor people legitimately complain about being poor and then someone says “Yeah, but you have an iPhone.” Are poor people supposed to live in the dirt and do nothing but stare at the white walls all day?

    3. BRR*

      @entitlement. I think most people are entitled to some degree. It’s normal to want things to come easy. But you have to balance it out with realism including the work you’re willing to do.

      @15 min of fame. I agree with you. The person who wants to write wrote an article that was meant to attract attention and be edgy. Her writing style is that of having a philosophical tone and with the goal of making a huge impact. But I feel it’s a publicity stunt since she wants a different job.

    4. Dot Warner*

      If Yelp thinks that $8/hr is all they’re willing to pay for a call center employee’s labor, or if Yelp genuinely doesn’t have the budget to pay all their call center employees more than $8/hr, those are reasonable business decisions and they’re completely within their rights to do that.

      However, if they’re only going to pay $8/hr, it isn’t exactly fair to locate these jobs in the most expensive city in America. There are a number of other locations that would be happy to have a call center of this sort, and many of them are places where the employees could actually afford food and rent on $8/hr and Yelp would probably have lower taxes. (In my home state of Kansas, a number of counties are offering land for free to industries that will bring in jobs, and $8 goes a lot farther there than in SF.)

      Yes, Talia made an unwise decision in taking a job that pays $8/hr in SF; but Yelp made an unethical decision in putting so many low-paying jobs in a metro area with such a high cost of living.

  25. teresajs*

    Thanks for sharing.

    While I agree that there are problems with the pay of employees in positions that require lower skills and education; affordable housing; health care costs; and college expenses, I don’t think Talia’s original blog post adequately ascribe those problems as contributing factors to her predicament.

    Talia moved to an area with one of the highest costs of living in the nation, taking on debt to pay for the move; accepted a job for low wages doing work that she wasn’t interested in doing; chose to live on her own instead of getting a roommate; and then publicly blamed the company for her situation due to her low pay.

    While I feel empathy for Talia, she seems unable to understand that her current job and financial situation could be a result of poor decision making.

    Although I don’t think $8.15 an hour is a livable wage in the Bay Area, since they offer full-time hours, health insurance, and at-work meals, my guess is Yelp has a line of people waiting to take Talia’s old job.

  26. Cucumberzucchini*

    I have zero sympathy for Talia. I graduated college in 2006. Talk about a shitty economy, the house-market had just collapsed. I couldn’t find a job in my field so instead I took on some freelance work in my field and a part-time job that required a 45 minute drive each way at a printshop.

    That first year after graduation I made $17,000 after taxes (since that’s how she referred to her salary to make it look lower, even though most people discuss salaries pretax). I had two roommates to get my housing expense as low as possible ($300/month). I had thrift store furniture, a 10 year old tv, an 8 year old pick-up truck to drive, an old desktop computer that I replaced components on as they broke. I didn’t eat out very often. I was fortunate not to have student loans, but even if I had, a $300/month student loan would still have been manageable because I was frugal. I had no expectation that right out of college I would be able to do much more than pay basic bills. I would have LOVED to live alone, but I couldn’t afford it. I had friends that graduated at the same time I did that I watched go right out and get new car loans, buy new furniture on credit cards, take vacations and I couldn’t wrap my head around the amount of debt they were getting themselves into – they certainly weren’t making enough to justify those purchases.

    I don’t live in a high-price of living area but I know people who did right out of college and nobody making good financial choices spent 80% of their take home pay on an apartment. I knew people who had bunked up 4 people to a two-bedroom apartment to get by the first few years out of school. I see no mention in her diatribe about finding a solution to that biggest chunk of her expenses. Living alone is a luxury. I still to this day haven’t lived alone. I went from roommates to being married and sharing living expenses with my husband.

    1. Marcela*

      That is the problem. Because you have zero sympathy for somebody like her, nothing ever happens. Companies can do whatever they want because when their methods are discussed in the open, the lucky ones say “we survived because we worked so hard” (therefore, the complaining ones didn’t), so it’s not like the companies and/or societies that need to do better: it’s the complainers that need to work and sacrifice more.

      1. HarryV*

        What exactly are companies doing that they are getting away with? This is not an under the table job. Was there a bait-switch when bringing her on board? Did SF suddenly change their cost of living including transportation?

        The wages are set as long as there are people willing to take them. That’s how the market works. If it doesn’t meet your living standards of living single, premium restuarants and booze, then either make more or make sacrifices. Blaming the world is exactly why they get criticized.

        I started working 2 months after 9/11. Never have I ever in my life lived alone except the 5 days after moving out with roommates till I got married when my wife moved in.

        1. BRR*

          I think a lot of this is on her but companies are getting away with paying non executive employees as little as possible. Not in this situation but a lot of people have no choice but to take a job, they can’t reject the offer because the salary is too low.

      2. Cucumberzucchini*

        What needs to happen? She needs to make smarter choices. Maybe don’t move to San Francisco if you can’t afford to live there. Live in a less expensive market.

        When people put there entire story out like she did and there’s plenty that she could of done to be in a better financial state – why should she get sympathy when didn’t even try to do something as basic as get a roommate. She detailed so many things so I doubt this was an omission from her story, she simply wanted the luxury of living alone.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I had two roommates to get my housing expense as low as possible ($300/month).

      While I fully agree with you that she should get roommates, which would considerably lower her rent expense, having two roommates in San Francisco isn’t going to get you down to $300/month. It’ll be more like $800-900. You may be able to get as low as maybe $650.

      1. Lisa*

        $1200-900 = $300. If you know how to cook (which she does), a family of four can eat on $300/month. That doesn’t factor in the transportation costs.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yes, that was my point exactly. You can gain $300 by getting a roommate, but you can’t lower it to $300 anywhere in the Bay Area.

      2. Cucumberzucchini*

        I didn’t say it would get her to $300/month. I live in a lower cost area, but the salaries are also lower. There is a lot higher earning ceiling in San Fran then where I live.

        Starting out in your career you make sacrifices. If you want to live in one of the most expensive cities in the country maybe you get 4 girls to share a 2 bedroom with bunk beds.

        But even if she got her rent down to $650 that’s still a lot more wiggle room in her budget.

    3. Kristine*

      I think your absence of student loans colors your story a bit differently than most. You say “but even if I had, a $300/month student loan would still have been manageable because I was frugal”, but do you realize that $300 per month is a low amount for student loans? When I first graduated college my loans were $800 per month. That’s a $6k per year difference than what you used as an example. And when you’re making $25k per year, spending $9,600 a year on your loans is crippling. Even with multiple roommates and frugal living.

      1. Cucumberzucchini*

        The average student loan debt is about $30,000. At 7% interest at $25k a year in earnings your monthly payment would be about $348/month on the normal payment schedule. There are also options to decrease your monthly payment to $50/month for hardship reasons.

        So that’s where I was basing the $300/month off of.

        If you have more than twice the student loan debt I hope you would have done a cost benefit analysis of taking on that much debt in relation to what you could reasonably expect to earn as an entry-level job seeker fresh out of college.

        1. Natalie*

          Those hardship reasons only apply to government loans. Most of the student debt crisis relates to private bank loans.

      1. Cucumberzucchini*

        The truck was gifted to me. I was responsible for insurance, gas, repairs etc… Had it not been gifted to me, I would have purchased an inexpensive car which I ended up doing my second year out of college since the truck was on it’s last legs when I received it. It was more expensive to keep repairing it then getting a more reliable vehicle. My car payment was $250 at that point, but I had increased my earnings second year out of college enough to make that work.

        1. Honeybee*

          I think this is the point, though: your truck was gifted to you. Yes, you have to pay insurance and gas and such, but the initial cost of the car is an enormous outlay for someone making minimum wage and being given one makes a big difference. Even $3,000 to buy a beater outright can be an insurmountable task if you can barely afford to eat, and in the mean time, you still have to get to work. Maybe a person in this situation would’ve purchased an inexpensive car, but if all they could afford to put aside for the car was $100-150 a month it would’ve been nearly two years before they could afford something that actually ran.

    4. Honeybee*

      The basic premise of your post is “I suffered, so I have no sympathy for her.” Why isn’t it “I suffered…and no one should have to suffer and struggle like I did”?

      No, nobody should be spending 80% of take home pay, but there also are not any realistic living options in SF that will result in someone paying $300 a month in rent. People keep insisting that she should get roommates but on less than $1500 a month in San Francisco, roommates wouldn’t make her situation a whole lot better – she’d have maybe an extra $200-300 to live on per month. She still wouldn’t really have enough to live on.

      Besides, why aren’t we asking why it’s necessary for young people to live 5 to a cabin just to scrape by these days? It’s not like we’re living 5 deep to save extra for retirement or invest. We’re living 5 deep just to barely make ends meet. Doesn’t anyone see anything wrong with that?

      1. NaoNao*

        So many people commented in: “why didn’t she have a roommate?”
        First, she has to find, screen, and get-approved a roommate. My current apartment only allows roommates who have applied (with a fee) and passed a background check. Not insurmountable, but it’s not like roommates are everywhere and she’s turning up her nose at them–there may be a clause that only 1 person can occupy the space (my complex has limits on how many people can live in each type of apartment). I was advertising a room in a 3-bedroom for 200$ a month in a college town, in a very desirable location and neighborhood, and must have shown the place 10+ times, no takers. Maybe she *wants* a roomie and can’t find one!
        Next, since she’s in a 1-bedroom, she would have to first find someone who’s willing to share a bedroom (certainly possible, but kind of dicey for someone you don’t know), or live in the living room, making both their lives significantly less enjoyable and the living space much less functional. The place may be subdivided or constructed in such a way that perhaps the bedroom is very small and the living space too small to house another person as well. I have certainly seen such “1 bedroom” apartments that are really a studio with drywall in one part, that are like 400 sq ft at most.
        Now she needs to take a risk on this person. Roommates can create situations that can get the “innocent party” evicted. In my apartment complex, if the renter is involved in a criminal case, they get evicted. So if the roommate comes home and starts throwing things around the room and getting crazy, and Jane calls the cops, she could go to court and lose her residence. Super risky. Then there’s the much less risky idea that a roommate can just simply destroy your space through direct actions (pets) or indirect (never cleaning, or creating messes to the point where you lose your deposit).
        Then, she would have to split the rent either equally (in the case of a shared room) or unequally (I would dare you to find someone who’s willing to go halvsies on a “living room bedroom” with someone who is taking the bedroom). This would give her breathing room, for sure. About an extra $300-600 a month, let’s say. That’s about $75-150$ a week or less–or one internet service payment, one large electricity payment, one semi-decent work outfit from a mall retailer, or half of one month’s travel/commuting expenses. Honestly, it’s not that much of a savings, and it doesn’t add up to a real living wage.
        Perhaps she did the cost/benefit analysis on having a roommate (something that “get a roommate!” commenters seem to have overlooked) and decided “It’s too risky, both financially and in general”.

  27. Sunshine*

    So many things to say about this. I like that it’s opened up dialogue about the bigger picture of wages, affordable housing, college loans, etc. I have kids in high school right now and I find myself very tempted to tell them to NOT go to college right away because they will come out with more debt than they’ll be able to pay off. It’s terrifying.

    As far as the Yelp employee… she did something dumb. And her attitude is terrible. But I want to give the benefit of the doubt and assume ignorance before malice. Is anyone teaching these kids that a year is minimal when it comes to paying dues (or getting promoted)? Is anyone telling them that their degree won’t start paying for itself for many years (if ever)? No, we’re telling them that they have to go to college in order to have a good life, and then telling them they don’t deserve that life YET because they just graduated. No one is teaching them about the realities of the world. They’re supposed to figure it out for themselves, then we chastise them when they get it wrong. Don’t get me wrong… this is true of every generation. But this generation tells the WORLD about their problems and feelings, hoping for validation. Why is that, do we think?

    1. Not me*

      We publish things because it’s free/cheap and easy with the Internet. Friend some Boomers on Facebook and see if it’s just “this generation.”

      1. De Minimis*

        Exactly right…this would have happened to GenX [my cohort] if social media had been a thing back in the early Nineties.

      2. Sunshine*

        That’s fair. And I guess those of us raising this generation don’t have that relatable experience in order to teach them any better.

    2. TootsNYC*

      And they read stories about “this successful grad!” And not that many about unsuccessful grads.

      My oldest kid is about to graduate college, and she has friends who graduated 2 years ahead of her. Their reality has really jolted her.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Just as an aside: I went to work in one arena, not realizing much about it. Within seven months I was promoted five times. I went from very entry level to low management. There were lots of rungs on the ladder. Additionally, the nature of that arena is you grow or die. There is no in between. Had I not received that first promotion, I would have been considered washed up. Yeah, within the first few months at that job my “career” would have been over.
      So I had the opposite problem of not realizing that you snooze, you lose. After that seeing that first hand I really didn’t see anything wrong with what she said. I have to rely on others to tell me that is or is not the norm for that arena.

  28. Elizabeth S.*

    We’ve seen a shift towards students having to base their degree path solely on how likely it is to land them a job lucrative enough to pay off their tuition loans. This reduces college, basically, to vocational school, and it means that most young people can no longer afford to spend their college years exploring their options, becoming well-rounded, and figuring out where they’re meant to fit in the world. I think that’s a terrible loss to higher education and to society as a whole.

    Liberal Arts major here, in case you couldn’t tell.

    1. sunny-dee*

      Yeah, but that is a LUXURY. People could idle around thinking deep thoughts and discuvering themselves because it was a luxury for rich people (or the extremely intelligent and motivated). It’s not like a farm kid in 1900 was spending four years at college discussing Athenian philosophy and then doing a grand tour of Europe.

      These problems exist because, as a whole, we are richer and better off than previous generations. (Not necessarily individually — I mean as a society.) About 150 years ago, my ancestors weren’t wincing at the price of a couch from Crate and Barrel and griping about how the artisan cheeses are getting expensive at Whole Foods and how little Miffy is going to have $100,000 in college debt because they were living in a soddie on furniture they made themselves and eating food that they grew themselves. My grandparents struggled to graduate high school (2 of 4 did not), only my dad went to college (mom dropped out), and then I am the slacker of my cousins who decided not to get an advanced degree (5 of 8 have doctorates, another has a masters). Things got BETTER.

      1. Elizabeth S.*

        True; but partly it’s also because I don’t think employers were so specific about which degree they required. That is, an English degree would get you a lot of the same jobs that a business administration degree would. I think that made for a better-rounded workforce, and it makes sense – so much of what you need to know at work, you won’t learn in college.

        Then again, my paternal grandmother had a bachelor’s from Cornell in Home Ec, so obviously times have changed quite a bit! :)

      2. Honeybee*

        Things got better for some people. Things have gotten worse or stayed the same for others.

        Besides, I kind of think this is a bit of a disingenuous argument. 150 years ago, my ancestors were newly-freed former slaves, probably sharecroppers who weren’t actually doing that much better than slaves (and sometimes worse economically speaking), and could be lynched because someone felt like it. I’m glad that I’m not a sharecropper. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t complain about skyrocketing debt and the lack of affordable housing and the difficulty of getting a foothold in the economy in your early years.

        Things got better because people complained. They didn’t get better because people in the 1860s sat around saying “Well, at least I’m not in Europe getting religiously persecuted!” They wrote letters, they posted public notices, they circulated pamphlets, they marched, they fought and died for labor reform and minimum wage and unions to make things better for themselves so that I could complain about my rent and the rising costs of tuition instead. And people of our generation are going to complain, too, so that maybe our kids are complaining about something less worse than us.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Very true. Or, rather, their generation is being split into two groups: kids who can afford to get a degree(s) in what they like, take the time, and find themselves; and kids who can’t afford to study what they like, unless they happen to like STEM.

      I have a feeling that a few decades down the road, a portion of the first group, will end up managing the second. Then the first group will turn around and say: well guys that is all your fault for going for a practical degree, easy payoff, instant gratification etc. Look at us. We took time. We explored! We followed our passion, and then, when it wore off, we followed another passion, and then another, until we found ourselves, without anything to support us but our grit and work ethics and our parents’ and grandparents’ money. Why couldn’t you be more like us? Then you’d be upper management today too, instead of worker bees.

      Of course there will still be kids like Talia Jane, who’ll try to “spend their college years exploring their options, becoming well-rounded, and figuring out where they’re meant to fit in the world” without the luxury of their families’ financial support. Those kids will be really and truly screwed. My god, I think I just wrote a futuristic flash-fiction piece on your comment, sorry!

      1. fposte*

        I agree with both sunny-dee and MashaKasha, I think. There was a brief, mostly GI-Bill-and-later period where college was something that should be accessible to most Americans. But it has a longer history of being for some but not for all.

        The problem is that the job market has changed. It used to be that the non-college path could get you someplace pretty decent too (allowing that “you” has always had limitations of race, gender, etc.), but now it really can’t. So making college a luxury again adds further on the have-not side to America’s already appalling gap between the haves and have nots.

  29. FiveWheels*

    A blog post you might enjoy is Hipsters on Food Stamps by The Last Psychiatrist. He has some interesting thoughts on this kind of situation.

    He has another very good post, This Is Baywatch, discussing how media depictions of young people in entry level jobs having great lifestyles have warped expectations.

    Worth a read!

  30. Grace Love-s*

    Thanks so much for weighing in on this one! I am really enjoying reading the comments, as I knew I would :)

  31. jhhj*

    If you’re curious about her reference to a difficult time growing up, the tl;dr is that her mother’s close friends were arrested for the murders of 5 people and they went into witness protection, where her mother then went into psychiatric care and has not recovered. (Link to come in reply.)

    I agree that her article was ill-conceived, but I would believe that whoever hired her said that they might give her a better job etc with no intention of following through. She’s not going to get a job as a barista on weekends — everyone wants to work on weekends. She’s not perfect, but you shouldn’t need to be perfect to deserve sympathy, and it’s hardly her fault that the minimum wage hasn’t kept track with inflation.

    She responds to the entire thing, which is more or less the same unconsidered but sort of reasonable stuff. She’s weird about unions, though. (Link also to follow.)

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Thanks for that second link. I guess that answers the “Does she have a roommate? question (she doesn’t):

        The employee who recommended the job to me—we actually looked at apartments together before I had to move up. He backed out, so I had to find something else. Being brand new to an area with no safety net of close friends or family on top of being a young woman, I didn’t feel safe just blindly rooming with someone off Craigslist. So my new plan was to take the cheapest place I could find that would accept my application, befriend someone at work, and have a roommate/move somewhere affordable within three months. But none of my coworkers were going anywhere, so I had to find a new plan.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, while I confess not to have read the details, whether you like her or not is a different question from whether she has a point or not.

      1. Cat*

        From the details she gave and the clips of headlines included in the Buzzfeed article, it should be pretty easy to verify or disprove. (Not that I’m intending to spend the time doing it.) A lot can change in 15 years.

        1. Fifi Ocrburg*

          Her mother testified that she was in Wintess Protection for a year before the trial. That’s in one of the linked stories.

  32. Decimus*

    Another problem I’ve noted with all the claims people should be pushed into vocational school is it ignores how much of the vocational trades are still nearly guild-based, which makes it easier for a gold-ol-boy network to stay around and much harder for people who don’t have a connection to a trade to get into the trade.

    For example, in my state to be a certified electrician requires 2000 hours on the job with an experienced certified electrician. So it’s entirely possible to get that vocational degree as an electrician and still not find anyone willing to hire you because they’d rather hire their neighbor’s kid, or no-one at all to keep the number of competitors down. And without the on the job training new graduates can’t open up competition.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      And another thing that’s rarely noted is that in many places, trades are being overwhelmed with applicants. My local college had an 18-month waiting list for the welding program. It’s become competitive and it’s hardly the golden ticket a lot of people are starting to call it.

    2. OriginalEmma*

      And that’s if your local guild or union is even accepting apprentices in the first place. I understand it can be very difficult or even impossible to gain an apprenticeship in many thriving areas because the competition is so tough (and there may well be a strong good-old-boy element there).

      1. TootsNYC*

        I talked w/ an electrician at my office once, bcs sometimes I think my son would do better in a more concrete, tangible-type job.

        He said, “there are very few internship sorts of things, and they mostly go to union members.”

    3. Natalie*

      And in quite a few states, you’re not going to make much at all. My fiance tried an apprenticeship in Wisconsin and couldn’t live on the wage offered (with 3 roommates). In the neighboring state where we don’t crush unions it’s actually a decent job, even as a fresh apprentice.

    4. Anxa*

      “Another problem I’ve noted with all the claims people should be pushed into vocational school is it ignores how much of the vocational trades are still nearly guild-based, which makes it easier for a gold-ol-boy network to stay around and much harder for people who don’t have a connection to a trade to get into the trade.”

      This is such a overlooked issue with trades and blue collar work. It seems so attractive because you can get a vocational education with seemingly applicable skills, but it still doesn’t solve the whole breaking into a field.

      Kind of related: I had a license in a non-trade, non-office field that ended up lapsing because I couldn’t get a full-time job in the the field within 3 years.

  33. Jeanne*

    The best line is “You’re lucky you didn’t die, dumbass.” I hate when people romanticize the past. We lived through no helmets or seat belts. That does not make helmets and seatbelts bad. Our ancestors lived without toilets, showers, refrigerators. Do you want to go back? We need to deal with reality not some ideal that never existed.

    1. FiveWheels*

      Without modern medical technology, my parents would have died before they met. I would have died before I was born.

      Some aspects of The Good Old Days were great, but certainly not all.

    2. OriginalEmma*

      Right? You (editorial you) know why you wax nostalgic about the time before helmets, seatbelts, child safety seats or vaccines? And how great it was? Because you’re still alive to tell your (positive) tale. You know who’s NOT here to refute you? All those men, women and children who died or were seriously sickened or maimed by car accidents, measles, rubella and polio. They’re not waxing nostalgic about the good ol’ days. It’s a classic example of confirmation bias.

    3. TootsNYC*


      Sure, I didn’t ride in an infant car seat, and I’m here to talk about it. That doesn’t mean I was safe; it means I was damned lucky. Because kids DIED. And they’re not here to talk about it.

  34. FiveWheels*

    I’m in the mood for fixing the world… Had I the power, here’s what I’d do, although it would probably never work.

    1 – free universal healthcare for all, paid for through taxes. Nobody should ever go broke paying for medical treatment.

    2 – free university education, but places limited on merit. If everyone has a degree, degrees are meaningless. So make degrees selective, but make them free – in theory people with a degree will have higher lifetime earnings and more than pay back the cost in taxes.

    3 – increase social security benefits for people in genuine need, but restrict the ability of people to get credit they can’t afford. Nobody should be too poor to afford clothes, food and accommodation – whether they have a job or not. But likewise, it shouldn’t be so easy to take out a credit card, fill it up on luxuries assuming you can pay it back later, and end up drowning in debt.

    4 – restore manufacturing economies. Encourage trades, and subsidised trade schools. This may prevent 18 year olds who don’t know what they want to do going to university just because.

    5 – proper career counselling. Want to be a lawyer? What are your chances of success? When do you need to make decisions? What happens if it doesn’t work out? Is there a lower risk, lower reward option instead?

    That will do for now.

    1. fposte*

      I might quibble on some, but if you were running on that platform, I’d definitely be interested in your candidacy.

        1. FiveWheels*

          I hate public speaking and I have misanthropic tendencies so I don’t feel suited for public office :-D

    2. TootsNYC*

      one problem w/ merit–kids from poorer neighborhoods will be less prepared. But they would benefit tremendously. Not letting them get the boost of going to college will perpetuate a permanent underclass.

      I’d say, places limited, and “merit” defined by “willing to work damned hard” instead of current academic status.

          1. Honeybee*

            1) What would make you say that?
            2) I’m a taxpayer and I support pretty much everything she said.
            3) There are, in fact, many millions of taxpayers who embrace these ideas. They are not new things.

            1. F.*

              Then would you mind paying my portion of the large tax increases that would be required to implement and sustain the type of economy necessary for Items 1 and 2 on that list? I would like to keep what little money the government lets me retain so I can support myself without having to ask other taxpayers for a handout.

    3. Treena*

      Ohh fun! I’d say it’s actually much more simple.
      (1) Universal healthcare, tax funded.
      (2) Fix education. Universal Pre-K starting at age 3. Equitable and proper funding for public schools. Life Skills (finance, home ec, taxes, basic civics) core requirements that you can test out of if you want to leave room in your class schedule for APs and other university-focused subjects. Free and unrestricted community college. THEN competitive, public university. Free, but those who attend pay a small additional tax for the rest of their lives (this is how France funds their uni system)
      (3) Minimum wage raised to $15 and it automatically rises with inflation, no new legislation needed.

  35. JMegan*

    The things that bugs me is the people saying “But I did This Thing, and it worked out for me, so why shouldn’t it work for everyone else?”

    Not everyone has the ability to make the same choices as everyone else, and even if they did, they would still end up with different outcomes. Life isn’t like a science lab, where X input plus Y input always equals Z outcome. X plus Y can often equal A instead of Z; or maybe X isn’t available to you; or maybe you’re required to consider B and C as well as X and Y.

    To me, this is the biggest problem – people assuming that because THEY added X and Y and got Z, that everyone should be able to do the same. People’s inability to imagine that other people’s circumstances could be different from their own is at the root of a lot of problems in this world, IMO.

    1. YogiJosephina*


      That is the VERY DEFINITION of privilege. Not being able to see anyone else’s experience or circumstances but your own.

      Because there couldn’t POSSIBLY be ANY extenuating factors, positive or negative, that would result in a different outcome for someone else. Good Grief. Plus, okay, fine. Say you DID “make all those sacrifices” and “pull yourself up.” (Spoiler alert: it’s highly likely you didn’t NEARLY as much as you think you did.) You shouldn’t have HAD to. The onus always, ALWAYS seems to be on the individual rather than the system. “If you can’t lift yourself out of this crappy situation that is more likely than not steeped in oppressive structures, you’re to blame for being weak/incompetent/lazy/entitled. Not the system, for being, you know, CRAPPY AND OPPRESSIVE.” Always. It’s just another form of victim-blamey crap, and I’m so damn sick of it. Stop demanding that people be able to overcome tremendous adversity, and START creating a world with less tremendous adversity.

      In general, using your own experiences as a barometer of what’s possible/acceptable is a very, very, VERY bad idea.

      1. Jeanne*

        Agree!! to JMegan and YogiJosephina. It’s hard to see the priveleges you have when you’re among them. It can also be hard to see how those same privileges don’t apply to others. We should all try to keep our eyes and minds open.

      2. Terra*

        I always like imagining the same comments applied to issues that people are more sensitive about and the horror that would unlikely result. “Well why didn’t the Jews just refuse to go to the concentration camps?” “The gays could have demanded to be let out after the war and not just finished their sentences!” Yeah, because those are reasonable expectations that could realistically happen. Sure.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        I think part of the reason privilege-deniers deny is they think privilege==not working hard. By their logic, “I had to work hard, so I don’t have privilege.” But that’s not what privilege is. Privilege is having unearned advantages others don’t. It doesn’t mean you don’t also have some earned advantages. It doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard. But someone else in different circumstances can work just as hard as you did and not get as far, because they lack the privileges you have.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Yes, absolutely. It also really irritates me that implicit in a lot of these arguments is “I had to struggle, so YOU should have to struggle too!” rather than “That was really tough for me and I wish it hadn’t been, so let’s make it easier on all of us.”

      It’s such a bummer to see people talking about working three jobs to put themselves through school, and then taking a really crappy job that didn’t treat its workers well, etc., and touting that as some kind of aspiration. We can really imagine a better future than that, y’all!

  36. Xarcady*

    You know, right now, I’m not all that much better off than Talia. I got laid off two years ago and haven’t found full-time employment. The difference is, I’m over 50.

    I have a part-time retail job, at a “major American retailer.” And I temp.

    The pay at the retail job has gone up from $8 t0 $10 an hour–not merit raises, but because minimum wage has gone up in one state in the region. Part-timers are supposed to get 15-20 hours a week of work. I can get 15, or 9, or 28, depending on how my individual store is doing. So no sense of a “guaranteed” amount of money every week.

    And the full-time people are only “guaranteed” 30 hours a week. At $10/hr., that’s $1200/month. Take out taxes and medical insurance (and hope you aren’t paying for dependents’ insurance) and you have about $800 to spend monthly, if you are full-time.

    For a while, I thought that if I couldn’t get a full-time job, I’d get two part-time jobs. Ha. Any retail or food-service job has such irregular hours that fitting in a second part-time job is difficult. The office jobs that I

    1. Xarcady*

      The part-time office jobs are all 30-35 hours a week. Most want “flexibility”, meaning evenings and weekends, just when a retail job will require you to be able to work. I suspect they’ve dealt with employees with second jobs with constantly changing schedules before, and they are trying to prevent that from happening again.

      So I temp. The retail job is fine with me working just evenings and weekends. This allows me to work temp jobs, as long as they end by 5:30 on the days I have to work a closing shift. Normally, I work 16 hours over the weekend at the store, and 6-9 hours in the evenings, plus a 40 hour temp week.

      I think I sound like I’m whining. And I probably am. I would really, really, like an actual weekend off. Two entire days of not working. Hasn’t happened since before October. I am tired of 60 hour weeks that bring home less than $400 net. Tired of two separate commutes. Tired of standing in the store and being nice to people who give me crap. Tired of having to think three times before spending any money, because I never know when the current temp job will end. Tired of trying to avoid having to explain why I don’t have cable TV. Why I can’t go out for drinks with the work gang (I can’t afford to drink). Why I almost burst into tears one day when I realized I’d forgotten to bring my lunch and supper, which meant either I spent money I didn’t have on fast food, or went without eating until 10 pm. I’d like to buy new shoes so my feet won’t hurt when I do a 9 hour shift at the store. I’d like to buy a pizza once in a while.

      No one chooses to live like this, trust me.

      I have an interview next week for a job I think I’m very qualified for. This is the first interview this year. I’ve sent out 40 resumes so far since January 1.

      1. JMegan*

        Aw. I know you’re not asking for sympathy, so I hope you don’t mind if I send you some anyway – you sound more than tired, you must be flipping *exhausted.* Good luck on your interview.

      2. TootsNYC*

        And think how hard it was to fit in that interview, and the job hunting, in your packed-yet-fractured schedule. It was hard for you, I’m sure–but think how much harder it would be for someone who didn’t already have the years of experience (work & life) that you have.

    2. Anxa