In Response to Talia Jane

I’ll start this off by saying that there are probably salient, necessary points to be made about entry-level pay and employee satisfaction and turnover rates at tech startups.

Talia, you are not the right person to be making those points.

For starters, you don’t write very well. Maybe my standards are too high, but for an English major, you actually don’t write well at all. Slogging through this article was a chore. But hey, maybe you had reason to believe your writing style is just the voice Yelp is looking for in its “funny tweets” and other social media representation.

If so, that’s cool; it sounds like Yelp did you a solid when they clearly laid out their path to interdepartmental promotion: employees must complete one year of service in their hired role before being promoted to a different role.

Just out of curiosity, what exactly was so unbelievably unfair about this? It is a commonly accepted principle that one year is the ideal minimum tenure for professional jobs. A lot of people find themselves in jobs they don’t enjoy, but practical wisdom says to stick it out for a year, and then look for something else. Being told that you would be considered for a (fairly significant, it seems) promotion one year after being hired into an entry level job is more than fair; it’s downright generous.

Speaking of generous, you said your employer sponsored health insurance included $0 premiums and $20 copays. Your entire article drips, oozes, and gushes entitlement, naïveté and ignorance, so I’ll go out on a limb here and assume you don’t fully understand how valuable that is — it’s extremely valuable, and pretty (no, very) unusual for an entry-level hourly job. That “free” insurance is not free for your employer; they are shelling out between $400 and $800 every month for it.

To give you some perspective, I work a mid-level professional job (that I have held for over a year, because you know, it’s what you do) and my paychecks are actually not very much bigger than yours, partly because my health insurance premiums are $200 a month. And $20 copays? Try copays ranging up to $200, with a significant deductible. You had a very, very good thing going insurance-wise at Yelp. Had. Too bad you took the websocial nuclear option before bothering to research your own complaints.

You wrote a lot in your article about the cost of your rent, the cost of transportation, the cost of food, and the inadequacy of your paychecks to cover those costs. It’s pretty obvious that a lot of your claims are exaggerated, but I don’t have a problem believing that you’re finding it hard to subsist on entry-level pay in the Bay Area. (Exaggerated why? Well, there are about 1,600 calories in a pound of rice. If ten pounds of rice has sustained you, even marginally, for the last 6 months, your money problems are over, because I’m sure the Berkeley U. physics department will pay to put you up while they study your wholly unprecedented energy requirements, but I digress.)

Here’s the thing (and sorry not sorry to sound like your grandmother; you and I are actually very close in age): You chose to accept Yelp’s job offer in full knowledge of what your hourly compensation would be. The fact that you maxed out a “shiny” new credit card to move cross-country for a job with inadequate wages is more an indictment of your own understanding of money management than Yelp’s pay structure.

Did Yelp provide you with extremely generous benefits? Yes. Did you benefit from the generous work-life perks that Yelp offers, including free on-site snacks and meals? Yes, and it sounds like you and your co-workers pretty effectively exploited those perks. Did your supervisor at Yelp treat you with an unusual degree of leniency, by not disciplining you for being late to work due to your own irresponsibility? It sure sounds like it. Did Yelp underpay you? Maybe. We can’t actually know that.

A few more questions:

Were you forced to accept Yelp’s offer of employment? No. Were you forced to move to the Bay Area? No. Were you forced to take on a single-tenant lease of an apartment in one of the most expensive cities in one of the most expensive states in the country? No. Were you forced to write this rancorous, unresearched, ill-informed screed, and post it in a public forum, where your boss was not only able but encouraged to read it? No.

Is Yelp responsible for your current situation? Most emphatically no.

My best advice to you is to grow up a bit. You had a good thing going, and you lost it through negligent mismanagement. That sucks.

My practical advice to you is to minimize your debt and expenses, learn how to economize, and expose yourself to some reliable professional development resources, to prevent yourself from making the same mistake again.

Move in with family if you cannot find a new job, and get a roommate (or two) if you can, since getting fired from your first entry-level job probably won’t win you a better-paid position. Sign up for ACA health insurance on Covered California (to replace your “free” private insurance with “free” public insurance.) Until you find paid employment, take your own advice and volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry when you aren’t busy applying for jobs; like Yelp, they often feed their workers on the job, and the experience might lend you some much-needed perspective. Most of all, for your own sake, use your newly-unoccupied hours to start figuring out how to better yourself.