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The Vine: January 28, 2009

Submitted by on January 28, 2009 – 4:08 PM51 Comments

I hope Agent Weiss is reading today — it's her birthday. Have a good one, lady (don't deface any forts with nail polish unless you call me first).

*****

Hi, Sars,

This past summer, I got laid off from my dream job.Thanks to the shitty economy, the only thing I could find in my field was a position in a small, family-owned business for less than my previous salary.When the offer came in, it was only $.50 less an hour than my hourly rate at the job I lost, so I counted myself lucky to have found something so quickly, negotiated a 90-day review with my new boss (VP of my department and the boss's daughter) to get that $0.50 back if I can prove I'm worth it, and went to work.

Now that I've been at this job for awhile, some things are coming to light that I didn't realize going in.This company does not pay annual bonuses, which my old job did, so that's an additional $2,000 a year I've lost on top of the small hourly difference.Also, since it's a small company, they only carry "catastrophe" health insurance for their employees — meaning that, because I don't want to pay everything out-of-pocket until I spend multiple thousands of dollars, I've had to join my husband's health insurance, which costs us $160 a month more than my HMO did at my previous job.So, if you factor in everything, it's quite the pay cut I've taken.

Finally (and most disturbing), I've heard rumours that the owners have been very stingy with raises over the past couple of years, although they have no trouble spending lavishly on themselves on business trips, which they then charge to the company.

But the thing is, I kind of love the job so far.My input and work product are praised relentlessly every day, and after only a short time, I feel like I've really proven myself to be an asset to their business.My last job had great people and terrific pay and benefits, but if I'm truly honest with myself, it had been professionally unfulfilling for awhile by the time I left.

So my question is this: how do I go back to my boss and say, "Look, I'm doing a great job for you, and I know we discussed that $0.50 raise, but now that I've thought about it, you really need to give me much more than that to be competitive with my previous salary"?Do I have any right to say that, seeing as how I did not leave that previous job voluntarily (although it was not for cause, as New Employer knows)?Do I go in armed with charts and graphs and politely say, "Pay me what I'm worth or I start looking for something else"?Do I just take my promised $0.50, wait until the annual review next year and keep hoping that those rumors I keep hearing about how no one has gotten a raise in years are lies?

Or do I just forget all the aggro and start looking again now (because it may well take me a damn long time to find something better than the current situation)?

I'm currently leaning more towards the charts-and-graphs solution, but I'm just not sure.The behavior I've observed from the owners doesn't fit the general stinginess accusation I've been hearing around the office, but I have literally heard it from EVERYONE else who works there. In light of that, I want to be prepared for the worst.

Sars, I know you have no trouble being up-front about expectations and are also really good at being diplomatic, so tell me — how would you handle this?Would you start setting expectations now, or wait until more time has passed and the review is a little closer?I just want to make sure I'm doing the right thing, and I can't think of anyone better equipped than you to tell me how to politely demand what I'm worth.

Thanks in advance for your input!

Praise is great, but it don't pay the bills

Dear No, It Sure Doesn't,

Before you call a meeting, figure out what you want from it — and what you are willing to do if you don't get what you want, because in this economy, renegotiating your salary before the scheduled review when you have less than a year with the company is not what I'd call a slam dunk.Will you quit?Will you threaten to?Will that work?Because if that bluff gets called, you'll have to walk.Can you justify quitting, over salary terms that you agreed to?

This is the thing: you took the job knowing the pay and knowing the benefits situation.Your boss is not unaware, I imagine, that s/he's paying you less than you used to make, but it's not really a boss's job to talk prospective employees out of taking a pay cut; that's a decision the employee has to make.And…you made it.

Here's the other thing: it seems like your primary motivation here is stuff you've heard secondhand about the size of the raises.I'm not saying the grapevine at work has bad information, but that doesn't automatically mean you'll get screwed, and in any case, if there's a system in place, with annual reviews at set times, your boss is going to wonder why you're wasting his/her time with a salary discussion if it's not time for your review…unless you go in there all "I'm told you screw us with the salary bumps," which for obvious reasons I wouldn't recommend

I'm not unsympathetic to you, here — you want more money (as we all do), you want to avoid getting walked on (ditto), you're just now realizing you may be getting less than you bargained for, and I feel you.But you like the job, you do it really well, you don't get that gritchy feeling in your stomach on Sunday nights knowing you have to go back to That Place, and it doesn't sound like you have to sit in the dark eating beans from the can; you have enough money to get by.So, I think you should reconsider trying to change the terms, at least right now.If the raise does turn out to be some dicky little thing, you should take a hard line; chart-'n'-graph it up.But for now, this is fine print your boss correctly assumed you'd take responsibility for reading.

Unless you're really willing to quit over it, hold your water 'til the annual review.

Hi Sars,

A consignment shop recently opened up in my town. It has become my new favorite store — before this, my options were super-pricy boutiques or K-mart.

However, the last time I was there, while I was in the dressing room, some of the employees started gossiping about another employee, the owner's daughter, taking stuff from the store but getting mad at one of them for doing so. The girl behind the cash register said, "The only reason I work here is because we get first pick when the stuff comes in, and first pick when the stuff goes out" (or something very close to that).

Now, I recently consigned some stuff to the store, and I remember thinking that the clause in the consigning contract that, if the clothes don't get sold in eight weeks they go to charity and you don't have the option of getting them back, was possibly sketchy because they could just tell you stuff went to charity when it was sold. Especially since you don't get any kind of receipt from the charity (which would be nice, if only for tax purposes). I know that's not how the consignment shop in my home town works.

Also, I had wondered about the stuff that was priced really high, since there was some stuff on the sale rack that was over $100 — I felt like it wasn't selling because it was priced too high, not because people didn't want it, and that it was unfortunate that the stuff going to charity would be some of the most expensive stuff in the store. However, the way the store employees were talking, it sounded like they were taking some of the stuff that didn't sell instead of giving it to charity. I didn't sign on for that — and I feel like when the employees are initially pricing stuff, they have an incentive for pricing it too high so that it won't sell and they'll get it for free. I don't mind them getting first pick of stuff in the store; I do mind not getting paid for my clothes.

I don't know what to do — I don't want to stop shopping there. I'm leaning towards continuing to shop there but not consigning anymore, but I feel bad for the other people consigning if I'm interpreting correctly what the employees said. I was also thinking of trying to get in touch with the owner and asking her if there was any kind of employee discount, and asking her about what I overheard if what she told me didn't jive with what the employees said. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Consigned but not resigned

Dear Con,

I don't think this is an uncommon ploy on the part of retail employees.It's not terribly ethical, but if you've ever worked retail, you'll remember that, between the sucky pay and the sucky customers, certain sucky behavior on your own part starts to seem justified after a while.In other words, if the staff is pricing clothing up so that nobody buys it and they can take it, that isn't right.Nor is it surprising.Nor is it going to stop.

I don't think you have a responsibility to your fellow consigners or anything, but you might want to call the owner up and say, "Look, I overheard this conversation, I've noticed a few things that seem a little sketchy, and I'm thinking about not consigning with you guys anymore because of them," and see what, if any, explanation is forthcoming.

But I doubt much will change at the store, frankly.Again, not saying it's right, but retail owners/managers often make their peace with the staff cherry-picking the merch, kind of, because otherwise they have to police it, blah blah.The charity set-up is a little bit hinky, in my opinion, and you should have a more explicit agreement and more transparency with that, but if the owner's all, "Well, you know, wah wah thanks for your comments," just stop consigning there, and advise any friends not to consign there either.

Hi Sars,

I have an internet etiquette question that may force me to come to grips with the fact that I just might be an insufferable snob, but if that's the case I'm ready to hear it.

I work in the craft industry, which is a tiny niche industry in the world at large, but one with quite a following. Years ago I was working on a fairly public project and developed a little bit of an internet celebrity. A very little bit. And exclusively within the crafting world. I was a medium-sized fish in a small eddy within a large pond and I never had any delusions that anything was different.

And yet even being a medium-sized fish in my small corner of the world, I had to deal with, well gosh, I just don't know of a way to say it without revealing my potential snobbishness, but, starfuckers. People who wanted to associate with someone they think is popular, people who were hoping to ride my non-existent coattails, people who wanted to go to their next Stitch and Bitch and say, "So and so just emailed me the other day…" I wasn't weirded out by the nice average commenter, but the commenter that really wanted a relationship based on what they thought they knew about me when I didn't know anything about them. It wasn't reciprocal.

Time goes by, I'm no longer so visible in that world, I'm now nobody anyone has ever heard of. I've been blogging half-heartedly for years, but over the past year I've really dedicated myself to it and I have a decent-sized readership. And there are a lot of other bloggers, some of whom happen to be really popular bloggers with big readerships, within my crafting community that I'd like to reach out to and be bloggy friends with. But those early experiences kind of skeeved me out and I don't want to be a starfucker.

I figured that you'd know better than anybody. Once you've reached a certain level of success on a blog, is it possible for someone to break through and be your friend, or past a certain point do you stick pretty close to the people you've known for a while, and commenters are more like fans? Does it help if the emailer trying to be your friend has a good blog with a decent readership to vouch for them? So that a record of them exists for you to read through to put you both at the same level of vulnerability?

Maybe I'm sensitive to my own snobbishness because I work in a hobby industry which, by definition, features a lot of hobby bloggers who don't take kindly to being looked down on, but there is a difference between blogs. How do you find your colleagues online? I'd really like to make some friends in this internet community since I don't have a lot of crafters that live close by, and while I enjoy emailing with people of all skill levels, I'd really like to make some friendships with people who are professionals in the industry like me.

Any advice?

Look Who Thinks She's So Big

Dear Big,

You're talking about two different relationships, I think — friends, and colleagues — but let me answer your questions in order and then come back to that thought.

It's still possible for someone to "break through."A funny email or a good conversation at a con, whatever starts a friendship anyway, it's not like those things don't "work" on me anymore.The issue at this point is really more about the finite number of hours in a day, so if I don't make as many friends through TN, it's not about TN or that I consider myself above that now.I'm just overextended generally.

Whether a reader has his/her own blog really has nothing to do with whether I decide to become friends with them; again, it's largely a time issue.I think some readers do reach out hoping that we can form more of a relationship, and it doesn't always happen; I know what you mean, about how sometimes it feels like they know everything about you and then you have to sort of interview them to catch up, but that doesn't really bother me.Many many people know details about my pets that even I have forgotten, but you know, I've had a website since God was a child.

From the other side, I do admire some writers and bloggers, but I have a horror of being a pest, so if the shoe is on the other foot, I send an email that says I dig their stuff, and then it's up to them.I don't love feeling like I'm being courted for traffic or any of that, and I religiously avoid any perception that I'm doing that myself; sometimes the object and I become colleagues, or chat via Linked In, or what have you, but sometimes not, and that's okay.Everyone's different; some bloggers like to feel desirable in that way, others find it kind of cynically icky, and it's hard to read the room on the internet sometimes, but it depends on what you want from the relationship.

All of this is kind of abstract and vague, but I think you're asking how to reach out to prospective colleagues, so after all that blathering: why not email other crafters you'd like to have a relationship with?Introduce yourself, tell them you like their work, and maybe talk about some specifics you'd hoped to discuss with a like-minded artisan — something like that.

Don't overthink it; if you want to try to make a connection, try it, and if it doesn't happen, move on to the next thing.Let's put it this way: I wouldn't be overthinking it on the other end of the interaction.Either I'd feel a connection (…hee, it's like I'm on The Bachelor) and I'd write back in depth, or I wouldn't have time, or I wouldn't be into it and I'd dash off a short and cheery response, but don't worry about people sitting around thinking you're an ass for making the effort.Most people won't, and those who do, to hell with them.

One last thing: I hope you turn up in the comments and get specific about which area of hobbying you're in.Maybe a fellow reader is right on your wavelength.

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51 Comments »

  • Wehaf says:

    I have nothing to say except this: Happy birthday Agent Weiss, whoever you are!

  • Karen says:

    @Big – Since you used "S'n'B", I can guess which hobby you mean. Drop into Ravelry if you're not already signed up. I've had much better results having a conversation there than through the comments of a blog. Worth a try! And anyway, starting a conversation and name dropping are two ENTIRELY different things.

  • KPP says:

    @Big Is it knit/crochet (guessing from Stitch N Bitch)? I'll be a fan!I know, I know, you're not looking for fans. But if that's your realm, I'm sure I only qualify in the fan category and not in colleague.

  • Agent Weiss says:

    Awww, Sars, I'm touched! I cannot believe you rememered by big day! And fear not, all forts are safe from my nail polish pen!

  • Agent Weiss says:

    That would be remembered!

  • CWM says:

    Hey Praise, I just want to back up Sars' answer with some more to consider. I run motivational job-hunting workshops in addition to my day job. We have a session on New Rules for Job Seekers, and your letter is a perfect example.

    One of the new rules is that your new salary may not have anything to do with your old salary. The market simply won't bear what you may have made in the past, and from what you know, your company won't either. Considering you do have the opportunity for health care from your husband's job, you can't hold that as a requirement for your new position. You've also stated that you feel professionally fulfilled and personally invested in the contribution you've made. Now is the time to consider your quality of life as a non-monetary benefit of your new job.

    Stick with your original agreement to negotiate the 90-day raise and focus on how much happier you are when you get the the office each day. Money is tight for everyone. You can't demand better pay when it just doesn't exist. In another economy, we all might be willing to take less fulfilling jobs for more pay and take comfort in our home lives. These days we must consider our happiness across the board and make sure to keep ourselves balanced and comforted at work as well as at home.

    Please let us know how it goes.

  • Madge says:

    @Praise – from the HR perspective, you've got two issues: 1) your 90-day review and potential $0.50 raise, and 2) compensation above that potential raise.

    1) Has your 90-day review happened already? I get the sense that it hasn't. First, make sure that this review happens, since it was in your hiring contract. If your work is as highly praised as you say, there should be no issue in receiving the raise as anticipated.

    If your employers do not give you the raise, or only part of it, then you know that they will be stingy in the future, and you won't be recouping your pay shortage any time soon. Either reconcile yourself to the lower wages, or look for new employment.

    2) Really, this is determined by 1). Did you get the anticipated $0.50? If not, there is no 2). If you did, then there is more to consider. I agree with Sars on this one – you had negotiated the possibility of a $0.50 bump at 90 days, and while you certainly CAN ask for more, it might not fly very well. Your personal finances are unfortunately not your employer's concern, and at $0.50 they have given you what you negotiated for. However, if you think that your workplace tension wouldn't increase if you kindly inquired about a further increase, there's no harm in asking.

    Another thing to consider is perhaps at the 90-day review you can ask for an annual bonus plan to be put into place for you; say that you understand that this is non-standard for the company, but you feel that your work is valuable enough to merit a potential bonus. If they go for it, make sure that there are specific deliverables to determine whether or not you receive this bonus, and when.

    You can explain at that time that while you really like working for the company and think it's a great opportunity, you didn't realize at the time of hire that you would essentially be taking a paycut of $3920 per year ($1.88/hour), even after receiving the $0.50 raise.

    But if your employers really don't give market-level pay or increases, you can't change that. Think about what you really want/need, and act on that.

  • ferretrick says:

    @Praise-I also work at a very small company. I would not mention what you used to get at the old job. Its not relevant, except in the sense of what one specific employer paid you gives you a VERY general idea of your market worth. But, strictly speaking, if an employee approaches me for a raise with the tactic, "My old employer paid me X with better benefits," my response would be that's what they did, that's not what we do here. Also, small companies often can't afford good health insurance and pay less. Fact of life. They can often compensate for these things by being a more casual environment and less policy driven (i.e. my bosses don't give anybody trouble about time off for doctor visits, bad weather, let us wear casual clothes, etc., etc.) If your office is like that, weigh those factors in and the fact that you are more satisfied with the job generally when considering your compensation package.

    That said, don't sell yourself short either. So, raises are really given for three reasons:

    1) Your accomplishments and their value to the business.
    2) A significant change in your status, such as acquiring another degree.
    3) Your pay is not reflective of your market value.

    You don't have #2, but it sounds like you have #1 in spades, so that's what you pitch. You've accomplished X, Y, Z which benefitted the business in A,B, and C ways. You can also lean a little on #3, but do some research on your market value, rather than just saying, my old company that let me go paid me X. I don't mean this harshly, but its possible that's why you aren't employed there anymore; they realized you were overpaid, or they were overpaying people generally and couldn't Do NOT use salary.com which is notoriously overinflated. But really, 90% of your pitch should be focusing on your accomplishments and the praise you've received. Its your strongest selling point.

  • Melissa says:

    Praise,

    I think right now would be an awful time to ask for a raise, unless somehow the company you are now working for is thriving in this economy. If you stick it out till the economy turns around again and you've truly proven yourself as a valuable employee, I think that would be the time to ask for a raise. My job usually gives out bonuses, but I'll be lucky to get $50 this year. Enjoy your job and clip some coupons for the time being. Good luck.

  • Diane says:

    @Praise – Sars always helpful response has NEVER been better than every single word she had for you. You made an agreement, one the employer expected to be in good faith. Given the situation (both big-picture and small), I can't imagine why you wouldn't hew to it.

    Just remember – a year goes by faster and faster every time we have one. Don't wish your life away pushing 'em to go faster.

  • BDanger says:

    I have to agree to with CDM. I'm in the staffing industry and I have seen an overhaul in salary discussions. Right now you have insurance, you have a set timeframe to get an increase on your hourly rate and you're performing like a gangbuster. Grab on to this job and hold on tight. Get your raise at your 90 day review and ask for another review at the year mark to discuss salary again.

    I don't want to scare anyone, but when companies need to trim the fat, the spotlight usually ends up on people who are making more money than the the company budgeted for their position for the year. You are in a great situation, don't throw it away over $3,000.

  • Laura says:

    Praise, are you even sure that your old job would be giving out bonuses this year? That's one of the first things to get cut in a thriving economy such as this.

    Not to be all "you take what they give you and like it!" but my company? Across the board pay CUT, starting tomorrow. I now make less than when I started 3 years ago, plus there are no more 401k match, tuition reimbursement, charity matching or snacks at company meetings (and we did well enough to have a 15% bonus last year).

  • Erin says:

    I have to say, as a boss, I don't want to hear that you need a raise because you have expenses, etc. I am not your financial planner. (If anything, telling me that you didn't work out those details ahead of time will make me think you are not that bright.) If you want a raise, you have to show me that you deserve one because of the value you bring to the business — which it sounds like Praise has done in spades.

    I would echo the advice to work hard at getting the .50 at the 90-day review, ask for a followup 1-year review, and prove that you are worth the extra $$ — especially if you were so recently hired, your employer doesn't have all that much invested in you right now. Become the office expert, who knows how to do everything and where everything is, and your value goes WAY up since you would be a PITA to replace.

  • bossyboots says:

    Praise – one thing to add to the fray here. I think you should be clear about the fact that your current job *isn't* going to match the total pay/benefits package you had at your old job. It just isn't. There is no form of "but now that I've thought about it, you really need to give me much more than that to be competitive with my previous salary" you can say and not come off like a complete asshat, especially since you negotiated the $0.50 raise after your evaluation period when you started. That's…not how it works, at least not when you've been there for such a short period of time. It's one thing to stick around for a while (read: more than a year) and go to your boss with a request to realign your compensation so that it's more competitive; it's quite another to come back to the negotiating table while it's still slightly warm and say you didn't think things through the first time. The bonus and health insurance stuff is all on you – if you didn't inquire about benefits and full salary info when you started, that's not something to hold against the company.

    But moreover, you struck a deal and are having second thoughts about it. Surely there was something that made it seem palatable at the time, or you shouldn't have agreed in the first place. Look at the intangibles you are getting from this position, revisit why you thought the pay was acceptable when you accepted, and continue loving it. Pushing, at this point, is not a hot idea.

  • Snarkmeister says:

    @Big, I've got to second Karen's recommendation of Ravelry. If you're not on there yet, you really should sign up. Speaking as both a web developer & a knitter, it's truly an AMAZING website. When you get on, look for groups that share your interests; I've got several different ones I belong to — for various TV shows I watch, yarn I love (Malabrigo Junkies!), local S'n'B groups, wedding planning (got engaged in October), etc, etc. There are groups for just about anything you can think of, and each one has its own bulletin board/discussion forum.

    Oh, and the online pattern search is phenomenal.

  • Snarkmeister says:

    P.S., I'm Snarkmeister on Ravelry, if you want to drop me a line. :)

  • Maggirat says:

    @Praise

    I work for a big company that's actually not losing ground in this economy, for a finance manager, so I'm pretty clear on what even successful companies have to do to survive right now. Raises are skimpy, it's one annoying cost-savings measure after another, and every one of us knows we're very lucky to be employed right now in a business that's not in receivership. You're spending an awful lot of time hanging around the water cooler, for someone who's rocking the position, and you've come to a lot of conclusions in less than 3 months. At 90 days, if you're indeed doing as well as you say, a $.50 raise is what you should expect and what you should get. Another bump at a year is reasonable, assuming the company isn't tanking. You'd be presumptious to ask for more.

    If you don't hate your job, and you're not living on cat food under a bridge, climb down from your self-erected pedestal and prove your value over more than a 3-month span before you start in on the diva thing.

  • Ashley says:

    @Big, the thing I've learned about the craft-blogging world is that it's pretty much just like real life: you find people you have stuff in common with (an aesthetic, taste in TV, similar job, whatevs) and if friendship is in the cards, it'll just happen naturally. You find your peeps; they find you. Takes time, though, and if the people you do want to befriend are big fish, it might take longer, esp if they have a ton of comment volume. One thing you might think about is a Flickr acct if you don't have one; lots of the crafters I know are moving more personal stuff over to Flickr, and it feels sort of more intimate over there. Might be easier to get to know someone that way if they have a Flickr stream too.

  • Grace says:

    @Praise

    Listen to Sars, as well as the other incredibly helpful commenters, and wait before you ask for any kind of increase. Stick to the agreement you made, and revisit it if you last a year with this employer.

    I also have to say that Praise's entire message made me want to shake her. Given the state of the economy, what kind of idiot would think that a business would be amenable to increasing pay this way? Praise is lucky they agreed to the 90 day review/increase. Praise is also incredibly fortunate that she has the option to be a dependent on her husband's health insurance. Lots of other individuals don't have that option. Praise has nothing to complain about.

    I work at a small employment law firm. Easily half of our employer clients have had layoffs, some have cut employee salaries across the board, and all of them are looking for ways to reduce expenses. Not surprisingly, our volume of work has dropped at least 30% (probably more) from last year. Our firm gave no bonuses or raises last year, increased the amount that employees must pay for health insurance, and just suspended the 401k matching contribution for employees. We have not let anyone go, but we are not planning to replace any employees who leave. I wouldn't be surprised if layoffs become necessary later this year. While I'm hoping that things get better this year, odds are we are in for a long, hard slog through recession, and salaries will likely be stagnant.

    Praise, be glad you have a job – don't take any actions that might cause you to lose it.

  • Karen says:

    While I commend Praise for wanting to ask her employer for what she feels she's worth, it's just not a smart move in this economy. Big businesses and Fortune 500 companies are struggling, and it's even worse for small businesses. Believe me, I know. I'm self employed and my sales are down over 50% from last year alone, and last year wasn't that great of a year.

    I had an employee but had to let her go because her hourly pay, workers comp insurance, payroll taxes, payroll processing fees and other miscellaneous costs were adding up, and it was too great of a burden for the business to handle. Hell, just paying myself has become a luxury lately, and I can't afford to not take a salary.

    Just rememberthat for every wage an employer pays, it costs them roughly double that in real costs. So if they paid you $15/hr, it's really costing the business close to $30.

    We small business owners know our employees are worth their weight in gold, we just can't afford to show it monetarily.

  • Jacq says:

    One additional thing I would say to Praise is that it's probably wise to shelve all the 'they spend lavishly on themselves' thinking/talking when considering your current employers. It's none of your business (and none of anybody else's, assuming that they're not violating tax laws or defrauding shareholders). And it's got nothing to do with how much you get paid or what benefits you are given.

    Long story short: you took the job knowing the situation, so you're not entitled to anything else – although, of course, you can make a case or it at an appropriate time (and I'd think you would need to be there for considerably more time than 90 days in order to really demonstrate your worth). In the current climate we're hearing a lot of talk of people being asked to work four-day weeks, or accept pay cuts or total salary freezes (in the UK, anyway). In that context, you might want to think a bit more about how much your current job satisfaction is worth to you!

  • maggie l. says:

    @Con:
    I dunno…I think I'd talk to the owner. As both a shopper and an employee of the consignment industry, the owner probably runs a VERY small business that may make or break based on an infinitessimal amount of profit, and she/he has a reputation to uphold within the community that can quickly be shattered. It's actually pretty different from normal retail. Any consignment owner worth her salt regularly reviews retail pricing, goes to shows, sees what's out there, and should KNOW that those jeans on the sale rack aren't worth $150. Every item like that is a shot at her credibility, and I for one would want to know.

    It also shows really bad lack of oversight on the owner's part not to have caught the pricing gaffe herself. When I worked in the industry, the owner/manager priced everything herself according to very specific guidelines based on measurable criteria: designer/label; year produced; condition; season. If something is grossly overpriced, it's worth a conversation. Even if the owner just pays lip service to your comments, you've done due diligence. I don't think you'd have to mention overhearing the conversation in the dressing room – just say you noticed some price discrepencies, point out what you feel is priced unjustifiably high, and leave it at that.

    Most consignment stores give their consignors a call when they're about to donate a batch, giving them the option to pick up within a certain timeframe. If your consignment store DOESN'T do that, they should, from an ethical if not a legal standpoint. I don't think the tax receipt is standard, but a general receipt (maybe with a standard amount, like, $20 per 5 items donated) is a good idea and would encourage more people to let their clothes go at the end of the 90 days. Of course, having the clothes sitting around in the back of the shop waiting for a consignor to pick their crappy stuff that didn't sell up IS a pain in the butt, but it's one of those things that really adds intrinsic value to the industry. That's why a set timeframe is nice: if you don't pick your clothes up within 3 days, it's goin' to the Goodwill.

    I also love love LOVE consignment. I love the philosophy behind it – reduce reuse recycle at its finest – and the fact that you can often find really unique clothes and accessories at a fraction of the cost. The thrill of the chase is awesome, too – wading through miles of crap to uncover the hidden gem just makes my day. If I were to start my own business, it would probably be a consignment store. Or a Southern fusion restaurant or bed & breakfast, but that's a different post. :-)

  • Madrone says:

    @Praise –

    Though she doesn't need my support, Sars is spot-on here.

    Definitely don't rock the boat trying to match your previous salary and benefits. Raises and bonuses are but distant memories for everyone this year – unless you happen to be the CEO of a bank receiving TARP funds. I am a teacher who is facing possible layoff or, if I am lucky enough to keep my job, will get no raise, a possible pay cut, more expensive insurance and will face class sizes of 40 instead of 27. That's 4-0 9th graders in an English class, held in a room meant to comfortably house 25. My summer vacation will be spent working a temp job, if I can find one, to make up for the higher cost of everything. Things will get worse before they get better and many employers are looking for reasons to make it easier to place someone on the Pink Slip List.

    Bottom line is that, right now, most employees are making themselves look indespensible to keep from joining the ranks of the unemployed. Don't give your new bosses a reason to reconsider your employment before your standard probationary period is up.

    Keep tracking your data – the economy will turn and you'll be able to wow your employer with the details of your performance. Better yet, find a way to save the company money and you'll be golden.

    Good luck and enjoy being happy at your job. That's such a huge benefit on its own.

    ~Madrone

  • Ann says:

    @Praise – everyone has excellent words of advice. I'll still add mine.

    In 2003 I quit a job I hated. I was soul-sucking awfulness every day, and I suffered through years of it. Why? Because the pay was ridic. Eventually I chose my life over my job. When I quit, happily, with only plans to temp, my co-workers were envious. The place sucked that bad.

    Here it is 2009, and I still make about 4K less in base than I did. I do not regret a thing. Having a job that does not make you want to die is a good thing. Having a job you LIKE is a great thing. And in these times blah blah blah you are very very lucky to have a great job for good pay. Be happy with that. It's a more than many people have.

  • Pajamas says:

    Hey all. Praise here. Thanks, Sars and all, for weighing in on my situation. When I first wrote to Sars, the 90-day review had indeed not taken place, but just to clarify a few things — the benefits situation was most certainly *not* clear before I accepted the position. I was told in my interviews that the company paid 90% of health care plan costs. It was only at my orientation meeting with HR after I had accepted the position that it was revealed that the plan wasn't a traditional HMO or PPO plan, but rather a high-deductible plan. Still, I suppose the onus was on me to ask what kind of coverage they offered, although I had been coached that asking about that sort of thing in an interview is gauche as hell.

    Still, everything did work out. I had my 90-day review, and received not only the promised $0.50, but a full $1.00 an hour raise, so I'm pretty fortunate. I'm still not where I was, but it seems everyone is in agreement that that's not the stick I should be measuring by. Also, when I originally wrote in, the economy wasn't quite as dire as it is now, so I do indeed just count myself lucky to have a job at all, nevermind one that is going as well as this one is. Thanks again, everyone.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    "My input and work product are praised relentlessly every day, and after only a short time, I feel like I've really proven myself to be an asset to their business."
    Trade jobs with me. I would KILL for that sort of work environment!
    I have never gotten a bonus, my bosses have no clue how I do my job, and I am responsible for a workload 12x the industry standard for my position. The job is now all about following a process, the results don't seem to matter, there's no budget AT ALL, no training. My expectations for 2008 were not given to me until my November 15th "mid-year review" and made retroactive to January 1st. (WTF?) I have been told for eleven years now that my job will be outsourced. I work for a huge corporation – I could go on & on & on-(too late, Margaret, you already have)-but your job sounds heavenly to me. As has been pointed out, you may look silly for not figuring out the differences BEFORE you accepted the position. Live & learn, right? Stick it out and put in some time…it sounds as though they love your work, so you may get the big bonus you're dreaming of after all.

    Con, I'd ask to talk to the owner – like Maggie says, this could make or break that store. At the very least, s/he should know the employees are stupid enough to discuss this fishy self-serving arrangement where they can be overheard by a customer!!! I'd can thier dumb asses so fast!

    Big, I'm so glad the TomatoNation crafters are reaching out to you…these are the most excellent folks! (And gee – may I have your autograph? Heehee.)

  • La BellaDonna says:

    @Margaret in CO: Well, damn, woman, that isn't right – not that you need me to tell you that. I'm worried about my own job, but I still have room to be pissed off at the way you're being treated. You are not alone in handling a workload 12x industry standard; my best friend is in a similar position (that's the "misery loves company" contribution). I know that if it were possible to have found something else, you would have by now. However, in an effort to at least improve your work environment, I wanted to tell you that you are doing a wonderful job under extremely adverse and dilbertian conditions, you deserve better than you are getting, and no one has ever prepared better TPS reports; your cover sheets are now an industry standard.

    Well done, Margaret in CO; very well done indeed, and I wish I could offer you more.

  • slythwolf says:

    @Snarkmeister–Congratulations on your engagement! Hope all the planning goes smoothly (it will if you elope) and that the family drama is minimal (seriously, elope, I wish I had) and you have a relatively stress-free time of it (get married in Jamaica, hell, get married in Vegas).

    @Big–Ravelry is made of win, as everyone has already said. I don't know how I lived without it.

  • ferretrick says:

    " Still, I suppose the onus was on me to ask what kind of coverage they offered, although I had been coached that asking about that sort of thing in an interview is gauche as hell."

    Whoever told you that is a moron. You don't start right off asking that question, but if you are on the 2nd or 3rd interview, or once they've made an offer, you ask. You absolutely have the right to know what your healthcare will be before accepting a position.

  • rocketbride says:

    @Big – looks like everyone has beaten me to the ravelry punch. i find i'm much less guarded on ravelry than i am anywhere else on the web – i tend to be very guarded with facebook, for example, but crafting just seems so much more benign that the guard is down. i'm rocketbride there, too, if you want to find me. :)

    the other thing about crafting that i've noticed is that the starfuckers don't tend to hang around. i go to the same sn'b as stephanie pearl-macphee, and we've watched people come in on a night she wasn't in, talk normally, eat my fries (!), and then go on ravelry and bitch about how unfriendly we all were. she never came back to find her star, is my point, and the rest of us carried on happily in her absence.

    online friendships are always weird to negotiate in any case. i try to focus on my real friends whenever possible, even if they don't get the knitting thing.

  • Charity says:

    I'd just like to add my support for Ravelry being a great place to hook up with like-minded knitters, for all the reasons listed above. I've had people reach out the hand of friendship to me there based on just a little post commenting on how I enjoyed something. It's a great environment, a fun site, and I only wish I'd discovered it sooner. (And I'm Roane there if you are looking for friends who also like TomatoNation. We could start a group. Hee.) I'm afraid I'm a newbie knitter, so the colleague level you're searching for would probably need to be found elsewhere. I'm sure Ravelry can provide, though!

  • KPP says:

    @Big Other TN peeps are much more clever than I. Ravelry is full of neat stuff. I've barely scratched the surface myself (I'm sockNubbins), but I always mean to add more stuff. You could also lurk on handmade selling websites like etsy.com, artfire.com, 1000markets, etc (there's a variety of them that have popped up recently) and look for other artists that you might want to get to know. Most of those sites have forums and often the artists post their blogs, etc, in their profiles.

  • Diane says:

    @ferretrick – thank you for stealing the words from my mouth and the thougths from my head. That had me agape. How can anyone make a decision this fundamental to life without full disclosure? How can it possibly be gauche to *require* full disclosure?

    An interview isn't a social chat, it's a professional discussion with marked consequences for both sides. To be shy about one's livelihood isn't something even Miss Manners would recommend.

  • Crackster says:

    May I also suggest http://www.craftster.org ? I spend my waking hours there, when I'm not here, of course. It's a great place to connect with like-minded crafters of all walks of life. Some are just getting started in their hobby/craft and need support. Others are pros making a living from their work with successful etsy shops and notoriety that precedes them. And most are somewhere in the middle. I give support, I ask advice, I showcase my work, I thrive on comments, and craftster even has a community section where you can network with people in your geographical area, in person, or share local events/happenings. I'm telling you, once you start, you'll be hooked.

  • Jen S says:

    Praise, thanks for writing an update and congrats on the raise! Especially in this lice-ridden brokendown boardinghouse of an economy.

    It strikes me that your letter and the consignment store letter are very similar in that they underline the elephant in the room in a free market economy–your time, talent, and/or old designer jeans are worth what someone is willing to pay for them. You can have a gown worn by Angelina Jolie at the Oscars and price it for a zillion bucks, but if the most your potential pool of buyers can spare is a hundred, than it's worth a hundred, in all practical terms. Margaret in CO sounds like she's a price above rubies, but her employers can treat her like shit because nobody's hiring and they know it. Jeez, at least your employers dish out the cheap praise.

    And I feel you on the health insurance. I work at the last smaller business with any kind of decent insurance and both my husband and I are on it because his company's sucks. But it takes half of both my bi-weekly paychecks, and is only available for people working 30+ hours a week. With hours being cut to the bone, who knows how much longer I can keep it? (Not that they'd refund any of that money, mind!)

  • @Big — now I'm all curious to see whether I know your blog… Hope you will reveal yourself! In any case, let me add to the chorus in praise of the wonder that is Ravelry.com (which is for spinners and crocheters as well as knitters, in case we have guessed your craft wrong).

    Another recommendation if you are looking to make knitting friends (assuming you are a knitter rather than a crocheter…): Knitty.com's chat board, "The Coffeeshop," at knittyboard.com. I have gotten involved in swaps that have led to IRL friendships with fellow crafters, some with blogs, some without, at all skill levels. We have a load of fun over there. And I bet you can get some advice too.

  • Catherine says:

    Okay, for some reason I read "a great place to hook up with like-minded knitters" as "….like-minded kittens" and it struck me as sweet and cool and hilarious all at the same time. Sigh: if only *I* could find some like-minded kittens…

  • Madge says:

    @Praise: Awesome news! It looks like your employers really recognize the effort you put into your work, and the value you add to the company. Congratulations on the raise, and I hope things continue well for you there.

  • CWM says:

    Praise: That's great to hear! Thanks for giving us the update. Proof, y'all, that hard work IS recognized and rewarded, even if maybe not as much as we'd like. Congrats to you and good luck to everyone else struggling job-wise.

  • Maura says:

    I also read "like-minded knitters" as "like-minded kittens". And kittens are like-minded. Food and sleep, food and sleep. Play, play, play. Food and sleep.

  • Jacq says:

    Good work Praise – very glad to hear it all worked out well!

  • La BellaDonna says:

    @Catherine: I don't know how "like-minded" she is, but I know a purebred young Himalayan (under a year) in desperate need of a new home. Her owner paid good cash money for her – over a thousand – but now has a boyfriend, and wants to place the cat – the owner tries to make it back to her place/the cat's home every day to feed the cat, but …

    Yeah. "Tries" to get there to feed a totally dependent animal, left there by herself. So, would that be like-minded enough for you?

  • Sarah the Elder says:

    La BellaDonna,

    I can't help at all — I have two cats, whose noses would get way out of joint if I brought home a third — but I'll send good vibes your way that that sweet Himalayan finds a home. Poor thing … her owner sounds like a right twit.

    There seems to be an attitude that cats can fend for themselves. Just because cats are more independent does not mean they don't need someone to care for them …

  • Abigail says:

    Praise-pajamas: congratulations on the raise! Well done. We should all be so lucky. That said, is there any reason why you can't be scoping out other posts? While you might not want to mount a full-on job search, posting your c.v. about the place, replying to ads that catch your eye and so on, probably wouldn't do any harm. In this economy (I'm in the UK, and it's no better here) it's going to take a while to land anything and you might as well make a start.

    Abigail

  • Maragret in CO says:

    Thanks for the sympathy, everyone. The job has its upside too – I'm thisclose to retirement & I'll get a pension & benefits. Most folks don't have that light at the end of the tunnel.

    I too, did a double-take on the "like-minded kittens" and I'm so glad it's not just my own brain that plays these amusing little tricks.

    LaBella, she can't leave the poor Himalayan a big bowl of dry food, just in case? OMG, that's tragic! Poor kittybaby. (I'd offer, but the city won't let me have more than the three who live with me now.) Please come back & let us know what happens.

  • Shirley says:

    @Big:

    I haven't seen this mentioned yet, and I don't know how easy this is to do in the craft-world, but I would suggest something that has helped me out a ton in getting to know fellow bloggers and micro-celebrities in my own "hobby" area – meeting people IN PERSON. Believe me, I often prefer the intarwebs to face to face, but I was surprised how friendly people are when they're enthusiastic about the same things. I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of the "big" people, talk to them, even work with them, and once they've had a drink with you or an actual physical interaction, they're much more likely to 1) remember you, and 2) like you (usually).

    So I don't know if there are knitting events, meetings, or conferences that some of these big names go to that you could also attend (location being a big factor), but if there are, definitely check them out. And meeting someone who knows and is respected by Big Name helps too – if Big Name sees that person interacting with you online later, maybe they'll pay more attention when you post on places like Ravelry.

    Anyway, just an idea for jump-starting a friendly relationship with a potential colleague, and hope it may be feasible.

  • Jen says:

    @Big. I'll be your friend if you'd like. I'm Codepurl on Ravelry.

  • Tanya says:

    Has anyone started the TN group of Ravelry yet? I'm petuniarain. @maragret I'm glad you can appreciate your job for the perks it does have. There's a lot to be said for that.

  • @snarkmeister — Thanks for starting the TN fan group on Rav! I have joined…

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