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Author Topic: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.  (Read 5109 times)

IainB

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IF what is written in her post is true in all respects, then I feel sorry for rachelbythebay. She's apparently been made a victim of.
Perhaps not so surprising, really: Google's "free food" is not free
- but sad to see if Google's true colours have come out ($green$), as is suggested.

"Not so surprising" because - and I feel obliged to state this - allowing an employer to make so-called "free food" an item with an agreed fixed notional $ value in your employment contract would seem to be an incredibly naive (if not stupid) thing to do, but there we are.
Spoiler
From: Google's "free food" is not free
In the summer and fall of 2006, I went through a multi-month process to interview there. After a bunch of phone calls, a flight out to Silly Valley for on-sites, and even more phone calls, they finally offered me a job. Then we had to talk about money.

At the time, I had read nothing about negotiation, and didn't know what I was doing. They offered a sum which was in fact an improvement over what I had been making, but it wasn't the kind of offset I was looking for.

What I find interesting now is that they had a ready-made comeback: they'd "go away to calculate" for a bit, and then say that the meals alone were worth some amount of money. I think they told me 15 to 20 thousand dollars at the time. I've heard other values from other people who were told similar things during their hiring process.

The point is, they deliberately inserted the food as a part of the bigger picture in lieu of more money. They set it up so that you would be placated by it somehow.

At that point, I was still buying the hype of the early days, and I now regret to say that it worked on me. I took it hook, line and sinker and accepted their offer. My effective salary was some amount of cash plus the food as it was right then and there.

For a while, this worked. I was able to get a decent meal at regular intervals without having to hunt for it. There was a certain amount of consistency if you knew where to look for it. One cafe in particular was actually an import of a local chain of taquerias called Andale. You could be sure of finding certain foods there every single day, and not surprisingly, they saw me a lot.

Then something changed. It all seems to coincide with a certain new CFO coming on board, but I can't prove that's what happened. All I know is that certain things started being cut. Entire meals were eliminated from certain cafes. Some that were open for breakfast and dinner in addition to lunch were now lunch-only. Others slid their hours back. Still more wound up being underprovisioned so that even though they might have been open, they ran out of food well before closing time.

Similar things happened to the famous micro kitchens. Over time, many of them were either closed, drained of most items, or "temporarily shut down so as to become a media center which will link to another office". Well, they were shut down, but they were never turned into anything else.

The Friday morning bagel or donut supplies also were curtailed. Sure, they still existed, but you now had to go hunt for them. They were no longer set up in a microkitchen near your office. They would now appear only in certain cafes.

At first, the powers that be claimed it was "being green" or "supporting good nutrition", but enough people finally cornered them and got them to admit it was about the cost. All of that other stuff was just a cover story.

My snarky remark at the time was "sure, they're being green... money is green".

It really says something about a company when they use their own employees as their safety net. Sure, go ahead and screw the employees while the economy is bad. They'll stay on and grumble about it, because they can't go anywhere.

But what happens when the economy improves? Those wounds will never heal. Anyone with half a brain will say "hey, these guys are evil!" and will bail for greener pastures. And, not surprisingly, many did. The brain drain has been remarkable. It's not so much that other companies (Facebook and Twitter are the two obvious candidates) are pulling so much as Google has been pushing them out the door.

I learned a powerful lesson here. If you allow them to placate you with some kind of luxury, don't be too surprised when they take it away. They will conveniently forget that it was used as a bargaining tactic.

Or, worse, they'll assign blame to "rogue contractors" and say it was never their policy to do that. Right.

Now where have we heard that before? Rogue contractors?

Quote
I learned a powerful lesson here. If you allow them to placate you with some kind of luxury, don't be too surprised when they take it away. They will conveniently forget that it was used as a bargaining tactic.

No, that's not the lesson. The lesson is a set of rules/guidelines: (off the top of my head)
Quote
  • Take the trouble to learn about and understand useful negotiating skills/techniques.
  • Take the trouble to learn about and understand contract law - especially employment contract law.
  • There is THEM (i.e., the employer) and there is YOU, and they are obliged (as good corporate psychopaths) to regard any contract negotiation as a confrontation where they know what conditions they want to meet in order to WIN. THEY (being psychopaths) lack empathy and don't care about YOU.
  • THEY are usually going to be much bigger and stronger than you in any employment negotiation, unless you can catch them in a contractual error. (It's been known to happen - been there, done that.)
  • RULE: Never allow yourself to enter into an employment contract where your cash benefit is reduced/substituted by an estimated fixed or variable notional dollar amount for a fixed or variable non-cash item or "perk", as a term of the contract.
  • By all means get an estimate of the cash-equivalent of the item, and then say "No thanks, I'll take the cash" - whether a perk like food or a car. Cash is liquidity and readily convertible into something you can eat. You can't eat a car.
  • The only exceptions to this would be where there was a significant dollar tax-benefit or cashflow benefit that you could gain by taking the cash-substitute. There are not many of these nowadays though, as the IR have been closing the loopholes on the tax-benefits, and usually only financial companies are in a position to be able to offer you perks that could give you a cashflow benefit (e.g., a loan or mortgage at a rate well below prevailing market rates).

In the above blog post, rachelbythebay has already been made a victim, and the victimiser is the employer.
But in the case of rachelbythebay, she unwittingly made herself a victim when she entered into that employment contract under those terms. She did that because she had the "wrong" paradigm to start with.

Protesting about it afterwards, or feeling hurt or feeling that you have been short-changed and then arriving at a wrong conclusion ("my lesson learned") is classic after-the-event victim mentality.
After being ripped-off in minor ways a couple of times, I learned years ago from a book entitled "How to be a non-victim" (or something like that), that you needed to maintain a non-victim state of mind before dealing with anyone - so you avoid being made a victim of in the first place.
From my experience, this isn't necessarily an easy thing to do, as it requires you to modify your behaviours and habits and to change your paradigms, and to fight back. But the important thing was that I did do it, and so could anyone else.
Perhaps even more importantly, as well as learning to be a non-victim, I learned to be a non-victimiser.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2012, 08:30:05 AM by IainB, Reason: Corrections. »

wraith808

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Re: Ripped off as a Google employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2012, 06:33:25 AM »
You have to also be willing to walk away.  If you aren't, then no amount of tactics will help.  I've taken perks and gone for the money.  And in going for the money, in most cases, I've had to walk away.  Not just fake it and hope they get to me before the door, but walk away and say "no thanks" and mean it.  Because once you've gone that far, and then they come back and give you more (done this before too) then you've basically shown your colors and sold out for money.  And nothing's the same afterwards.  If they aren't willing to offer you want you want at the table, then they don't think you're worth it.  And anything afterwards is just lies to get around it.

The one other thing I will say about perks- they don't keep up with the cost of living like cold hard cash.  If you get 10% of what you would have gotten in perks or bonuses, you will be short when time comes for salary increases, because those are based on your salary in most cases, not the bonuses you have made in the past.

Salary negotiation is a fine art, and even going in knowing all of the games they play and the lies that they spin and your own rights, you can still come out behind, because it *is* an art.  And you *can* lose the skills (been there done that) through lack of use and/or your relative need for a position.

IainB

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Re: Ripped off as a Google employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2012, 08:14:05 AM »
You have to also be willing to walk away.
+1 for what you said.    :Thmbsup:

"Be willing to walk away" is an absolute rule for negotiation though, but, from what she writes, negotiation skills would not seem to be amongst rachelbythebay's armoury - and the first of the guidelines I list is:
Quote
Take the trouble to learn about and understand useful negotiating skills/techniques.

I still find it incredible that anyone - let alone apparently a whole group of people as is suggested in the post - would be gullible enough to choose to enter into such a contract of employment with any employer - let alone Google - as rachelbythebay suggests would be the case. I have therefore made the subject generic to "employer" and amended my opening post on the first line:
Quote
IF what is written in her post is true in all respects, then I feel sorry for rachelbythebay. She's apparently been made a victim of.

cranioscopical

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2012, 08:59:00 AM »
as well as learning to be a non-victim, I learned to be a non-victimiser
What a valuable point!  :Thmbsup:

TaoPhoenix

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2012, 09:27:06 AM »
Another perspective for you gang.

The food perk was the right move for her to accept after all. Why? She said "decent meals". I did some fast calculator stuff. $8*3*270 as one set of figures is about $6500 in value, and $8 is barely your McDonald's meal with extra nuggets. So if she's saying "decent meal", I can see that slide into $15/meal range.

Meanwhile, Employers *can do whatever they want at any time*, so *all* businesses (save for your favorite 5 exceptions) did stuff during this junk economy to save costs. Techies have more of a certain style of honor than the Business types, who schmooze their way out of trouble. So going with the cynical view that Employers are going to weasel in between their promises, nothing short of flagrant abuse from some hothead rogue cowboy will mean anything.

app103

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2012, 12:57:28 PM »
When you accept a perk over the cash equivalent, you are in reality making a deal to let someone else manage your money, with no say or control over how it is spent.

They may very well claim that the breakfast they supply you is worth $8/day, but that's only if you are letting them spend your money for you. You can supply the same bagel and cream cheese for $3.50/week if you manage your money yourself, leaving you with an extra $36.50/week in your pocket.

Don't be afraid of supermarkets. They offer a better deal than your employer. And in less than 6 weeks, you'll have enough extra to buy yourself a microwave for your office, and another 6 weeks after that to afford your own mini-fridge, both of which you get to keep (or sell to another employee) when you terminate your employment.

Don't let other people manage your money for you unless you know you can trust them, will be in full control, and can revoke their access at any time...and get that in writing.

wraith808

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2012, 01:16:47 PM »
And in less than 6 weeks, you'll have enough extra to buy yourself a microwave for your office, and another 6 weeks after that to afford your own mini-fridge, both of which you get to keep (or sell to another employee) when you terminate your employment.

(If you are allowed to do so...)

"Be willing to walk away" is an absolute rule for negotiation though

Yes, but many people get it in negotiations as a 'tactic', not a rule.  When I say walk away, it means walk away and don't look back.  I've learned the hard way, that once an employer and you cannot come to an agreement without the walk-away, that relationship is poisoned.  In reality, they didn't think you were worth the amount.  Hard bargaining is a lie, especially when it comes to skills.  And people that bargain that way don't value what they've bargained for.

app103

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2012, 01:31:08 PM »
And in less than 6 weeks, you'll have enough extra to buy yourself a microwave for your office, and another 6 weeks after that to afford your own mini-fridge, both of which you get to keep (or sell to another employee) when you terminate your employment.

(If you are allowed to do so...)

True, but the point is that you can afford it whether or not you can actually do it, and that wouldn't be the case if you let them manage your money for you.

40hz

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2012, 03:05:38 PM »
Hardly surprising considering some emoloyment studies have shown that access to social sites (i.e. Facebook) during work hours is more important than total financial compensation to many 20-somethings entering the labor pool. Supposedly, many have taken lower paying jobs just to get it. And savvy employers are taking advantage of that.

I wouldnt have believed it except one of my clients received a (characteristically) unsigned letter demanding that the blocking of Twitter and Facebook by the company's firewall be removed. It went on to elaborate "how crucially important full-time access" to these sites was to its "younger and more technically aware employees" than it apparently was to "people of a different generation." It also claimed to be speaking on behalf of over thirty employees - some of whom were "seriously thinking" of quitting because of the company's Internet policies.

Oh the times...they are a-changing'!  :huh:
« Last Edit: January 22, 2012, 03:13:20 PM by 40hz »

app103

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2012, 06:00:06 PM »
Hardly surprising considering some emoloyment studies have shown that access to social sites (i.e. Facebook) during work hours is more important than total financial compensation to many 20-somethings entering the labor pool. Supposedly, many have taken lower paying jobs just to get it. And savvy employers are taking advantage of that.

No, no, no! You take the higher paying job...the one that will allow you to afford an internet capable mobile phone, and then use the mobile version of Facebook and Twitter till you get home. Screw the company's internet policies! Carry your own in your pocket if you need it that bad. What is wrong with people?  :tellme:

wraith808

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2012, 06:37:36 PM »
What is wrong with people?  :tellme:

One word.  Farmville.  (and other games like it)

That's what's wrong with people LOL

IainB

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2012, 07:47:58 PM »
One word.  Farmville.  (and other games like it)
I didn't know what this game was, so I asked Lily if she had ever played it. She did not know about it and said she had played the Free Farm game.
So, I googled and took a look at Farmville and their "About" page. The game is produced by Zynga.
I see that from a post here dated 2012-01-24:
Quote
But in the meantime, their [Zynga's] stock is skyrocketing nearly back up to the IPO price of $10 on rumors that they may be getting into the online gambling game.
That, of course, is the real game - no, not poker, but corporate financial growth aimed at annual stock appreciation. This is the Holy Grail that seems to drive everything in the "civilized" Western Capitalist economies. And the religio-political ideologies that allow for Capitalism to flourish actually work -  to a greater extent. So that we are arguably all the better off for it. It allows for wealth creation.

So, let's look at Google from that perspective. There is an illustration here that gives a nicely dumbed-down picture (they're called this BS term "infographics" nowadays) of where Google's $37.9 billion dollars of revenue in 2011 came from (up from $32.2 billion in 2010).

If you knew what the accumulated direct and indirect expenses were that were incurred and recorded in the accounts of the company, then you could calculate the net profit. That net profit figure could be expressed as a percentage of the total income (revenue) of the company. Without looking at Google's published accounts, you won't be likely to find that number, but any such percentage of $38 billion is likely to represent a significant number in its own right.

A significant part of Google's expenses will be wages and salaries paid to employees. It thus could make very good financial sense for Google if they were to minimise the cost of salaries through the use of cost-cutting salary deals - e.g., such as a "food-for-pay" deal that rachelbythebay refers to.

And arguably nobody would care about the ilk of rachelbythebay when their pay is lost in the numbers for the costs incurred to make that revenue of $38 billion.

So how many of that ilk might feel as though they have been ripped off (and it would be a matter of perception) by the company, as regards salaries and benefits?
Well, not a large proportion, it would seem, if we look at Proletar.
For example, here is Proletar on Google:
Spoiler
Proletar Google Jan. 2012.png


- and for comparison, here is Proletar on IBM:
Spoiler
Proletar IBM Jan. 2012.png


- and for comparison, here is Proletar on HP:
Spoiler
Proletar HP Jan. 2012.png


Generally speaking, we could argue that the greater the employee population and the more that those people have been screwed about or pissed off by an employer, then the greater the number of employees that would be likely to make their thoughts known on Proletar - which could probably explain why HP have a relatively large number of employees making comments on Proletar. (Makes for interesting reading too.)
Interestingly, whereas HP seems to be perceived as a relatively abysmal employer, by comparison Google seems to be perceived as being middle-of-the-road (not too bad) as an employer, and IBM seems to be perceived as being quite a good employer - not too much discontent there, anyway. There are not enough respondents for Google or IBM to give useful statistical meaning though.

The above Proletar scores make sense in that:
IBM historically has always seemed to have been relatively well-managed and to have led the pack with innovative and fair terms of employment. Therefore you would probably be hard-pressed to find large numbers of genuinely pissed-off or disgruntled IBM employeee or ex-employees.

HP used to be pretty highly regarded too, and I recall that they used to pay in the upper quartile and have a stated HR policy objective of being perceived as:
Quote
"a preferred employer of choice" (or words to that effect)
- but that seems to have all changed by around 2003/2004, when they had apparently become progressively focused on maximising shareholder returns and engaging in acquisition (e.g., Digital, and later EDS) and asset-stripping and outsourcing (labour arbitrage) of jobs to third-world economies - e.g., places like the Philippines, Malaysia and India. At the same time they were apparently reducing benefits and laying off employees by the tens of thousands. In the resultant climate of fear and job insecurity HP then (more recently) even adopted a strategy of systematically coercing employees to accept reduced paypackets, with the implication (but not a promise) that this could bode well for their continued employment in these uncertain times.

So, by comparison, the ilk of rachelbythebay might not be too badly off, though that doesn't necessarily mean that they haven't been ripped off.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 08:03:47 PM by IainB »

AndyM

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2012, 08:51:01 PM »
When you accept a perk over the cash equivalent, you are in reality making a deal to let someone else manage your money, with no say or control over how it is spent.
Can you say "Employer-provided Health Insurance"?

Hard bargaining is a lie, especially when it comes to skills.  And people that bargain that way don't value what they've bargained for.
Very very true!

erikts

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2012, 04:39:10 AM »
Take the trouble to learn about and understand useful negotiating skills/techniques.

Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued

Quote
Your salary negotiation — which routinely takes less than 5 minutes to conclude — has an outsized influence on what your compensation is.  Compensation can include money or things which are more-or-less fungible replacements for money, but it can also include interesting things which you value from “more time with your family” to “opportunities to do tasks which you find fulfilling” to “perks which make a meaningful difference in your day-to-day quality of life.”  That makes your negotiation five very important minutes.  You generally can’t do a totally bang up job on any five minutes of work this year and have your boss give you an extra $5,000.  You can trivially pick up $5,000 in salary negotiations just by sucking less.

IainB

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2012, 05:57:24 AM »
Quote
Compensation can include money or things which are more-or-less fungible replacements for money, but it can also include ...
...That makes your negotiation five very important minutes.
+1 Hear, hear.     :Thmbsup:

Having been through many such negotiations on both sides of the table, I'd suggest that, if you've only got 5 or so minutes, then don't waste time negotiating on non-monetary so-called "compensation" unless it has been established that you have already arrived at the max $ that can or will be paid. Anything on top of that could be regarded as a genuine perk or fringe benefit. For managerial positions, I have sometimes heard them described as "status requirements".

JavaJones

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2012, 01:48:43 AM »
The numbers vary by whom/how you ask I guess, but bigger statistical samples tend to result in more accurate results. Let's consult GlassDoor.com:
http://www.glassdoor...-Work-LST_KQ0,19.htm
Google is the #5 best place to work, with 735 reviews. Believe it or not IBM doesn't even make the top 30. But Monsanto does. ;) My point is not that Google is great, just that those numbers don't mean a lot. Oh and Proletar doesn't appear to have Facebook. Er..?

- Oshyan

IainB

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Re: Ripped off as an employee? "Free food" + the employment contract.
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2012, 03:09:55 AM »
+1 for what JavaJones said.
I wonder which statistically invalid set of data is more likely to be closer to the truth?     ;)
I am curious about this free food scam thing though. Maybe it's not true?
Or, if it is true, then maybe the majority of Google employees don't perceive that they have been ripped off by it?

That Facebook point is a real logical hammer-blow though. I like that point.
Someone should suggest to the UN IPCC that they get a Facebook page for people to "Like" (agree with) the myth theory of AGW.
The more people that "Like" it, that means it proves the theory - right?

Or they could set up a "100,000,000 people hate AGW skeptics" Facebook page for people to "Like" - similar to the example here.

"Facebook - where democracy, freedom and reason join hands"
« Last Edit: January 27, 2012, 01:41:56 AM by IainB »