In which I again punch down at some totally sympathetic character

February 23, 2016

The Washington Post tells this tragic tale of woe:

In her nearly 2,500-word letter, Ben-Ora explained the complaints she had with Yelp, including how she was required to work for a year in customer service before she could move into another position.

“A whole year answering calls and talking to customers just for the hope that someday I’d be able to make memes and twitter jokes about food,” she wrote.

She’s 25.

In case you were wondering, yes, she did major in English, why do you ask?

She’s poor*, and struggling and doesn’t like it. Because the world should pay her six figures to write internet memes and shit. I guess. And this is all the fault of her employer somehow.

Because 80 percent of my income goes to paying my rent.

Nobody with a college degree can reasonably expect to move to the Bay area and have anyone feel sorry for them about not knowing what rent costs. The internet exists. You can check on that. Beforehand.

Let’s talk about those benefits, though. They’re great. I’ve got vision, dental, the normal health insurance stuff — and as far as I can tell, I don’t have to pay for any of it! Except the copays. $20 to see a doctor or get an eye exam or see a therapist or get medication.

Benefits? A mere $20 copay? ….and this is an outrageously bad sweatshop that she works for? ok.

Naturally, after posting her screed on Medium, the inevitable.

UPDATE: As of 5:43pm PST, I have been officially let go from the company.

Wasn’t that what you wanted?

via @forensictoxguy

*from her remarks, it looks like she is making $20K takehome, fwiw.

39 Responses to “In which I again punch down at some totally sympathetic character”

  1. marie Says:

    upside: now that she has been let go, she can post touching updates about the modern day kindness of strangers who set up go fund me accounts to benefit unemployed writers/internet panhandlers.


  2. drugmonkey Says:

    now that you bring it up, this is a better use of charity than those go fund me drives for killer cops


  3. marie Says:

    i have grown weary of the entire concept of go fund me campaigns for anything other than classroom supplies in underfunded schools.

    and proving donald trump is an undocumented immigrant.


  4. SidVic Says:

    She better vote for Bernie. He will fix what ails her!


  5. aspiring riffraff Says:

    I have no idea if this applies to her case, but as a person living in the Bay area, there are a ton of GBLT “refugees” from other parts of the country here. She did mention needing to leave another part of the country for her mental health (or at least that’s how I took the “I would die” paragraph). Having lived in liberal areas in the Midwest and East Coast before moving here, the Bay Area is way more accepting of GBLT people and especially GBLT families. It’s not just the weather and restaurants.

    Or maybe I’m assuming way too much (shrugs)


  6. drugmonkey Says:

    That’s a good point.


  7. jmz4 Says:

    View at

    While I don’t think we should let companies like yelp off the hook for paying their employees a living wage based on their geography, that essay is a pretty good rebuttal of what a successful transition to Independence looks like.


  8. clueless noob Says:

    If there were a Darwin Award for career decisions, she would be a winner. Cities like Cleveland and St. Louis also have (relatively) large and welcoming GLBT communities, and you can support yourself there on $20k/year takehome.


  9. aspiring riffraff Says:

    If the numbers in the wash post article are correct, she was also making less than SF minimum wage


  10. UsuallyALurker Says:

    This website was compiled by someone using the author’s social media posts in the last two months in response to her lines in the letter about not being able to afford food:


  11. Ola Says:

    @jmz4 & @UsuallyALurker
    Fucking solid gold, both those links. Thanks!

    The only downside to this story is it makes our own field’s little millennial snowflake Perlstain look relatively good, because in addition to being a whiner he actually got off his ass and did something (even if it was only begging money off of Martin Shkreli).


  12. drugmonkey Says:

    UAL- ommfg.


  13. sel Says:

    I dunno about GLBT….one of those pics in the link Usuallyalurker provided shows her chowing down on Chick-fil-A. Otherwise known as bigotry in a bun.


  14. Jonathan Badger Says:

    @clueless noob
    The problem with saying that living in flyover country makes life affordable only works if you get the same pay for the same work there that you get in coastal regions. In my experience you don’t — salaries scale more or less to the cost of living of the area.


  15. becca Says:

    If your copay was 8.2% of your take home pay minus your rent, you might be lacking in grunt about it as well. Essentially, her $20 copay is my $280 copay. Which would impact my decision to get most care, and I would like k’vetch about.

    Her personality in her writing is somewhere between annoying and insufferable (seriously, what was up with ranging on the guy spending $600/month of company money to keep customers happy?). But let’s be clear- Yelp is offering jobs that are literally impossible to survive on in SF, unless you are subsidized by another income earner in some way. They are requiring people to have college degrees to work these jobs. They are far from alone, but they are complicit in a pretty borked system.

    It takes $3,632/month (43,581/annually) to be able to afford to live as a single person in SF, according to the EPI. That’s assuming $1191 in rent.

    In short, yes she’s a poster child for entitlement. No, she’s not wrong about how poorly paid she is.


  16. dr24hours Says:

    According to Dr. Google, a “living wage” in SFO is $14.50ish. Poverty is $5. Minimum is $9. She took home $10, so probably made about $12.

    But “living wage” includes NO benefits. She had full benefits, generally worth about 30%.

    So she was easily making a living wage. Now, a “living wage” does not imply that living is easy, luxurious, or fun. It implies you have enough money and/or benefits to make it one day to the next. She did.

    Yes, she was obviously still poor. And being poor sucks. Staying the course for a while to build skills and experience to promote yourself is how you stop being poor.


  17. Krzysztof Sakrejda Says:

    DM: I really don’t get what’s driving this. Sure there’s some stupid stuff in the letter but plenty of it reflects a shared experience of not having enough money to live in SF bay.

    She lists depression as a reason for moving, she lists wanting to be closer to family as a reason for moving. She mentions coworkers having financial difficulties (along with her own situation) as motivation for writing the letter. When she suggests a figure for how much she would like to make it’s $48k, rather then her $24k. Maybe the amount she wants is not something she’s going to get, but she’s not asking for $100k as you suggest.

    Just writing to point out that your reaction to this letter makes no sense to me. Not having enough money for moderate (yes, moderate) wants is, at this point, a shared experience for many people in the United States, naive or not.


  18. drugmonkey Says:

    Did you review the thatsalotofrice site, KS? Is this evidence of those “moderate” wants to you?
    This link claims she didn’t even have a roommate? AYFK? I’ve had at least one roommate my entire damn life!

    a shared experience of not having enough money to live in SF bay

    maybe this will help? There is no god given right to live in the SF bay area. Just like there is no god given right for me to be able to afford to drive a Bentley instead of what I do. Just like there is no god given right to be able to afford expensive liquor and be a total foodie ALONG WITH living in the SF bay area.

    What the heck is the matter with people who do not understand that life is about making choices and tradeoffs? and that unless there is clear evidence you are being hosed (and with the evidence provided, she wasn’t), you should take some responsibility for your choices.

    I didn’t study Chemical Engineering or anything else highly vocational as an undergrad and therefore I knew I wasn’t going to be instantly employable in a high $$ career right after getting my BA. So I made the *choice* to go to graduate school and invest more time to hopefully make my eventual career more lucrative. Other people I know made the *choice* to get starter jobs and start figuring out how to work their way up. Guess what? All my peers made their various *choices* about where to live and what jobs to take. I cannot recall hearing this constant whinging that we are now bombarded with from the millennial generation.

    Politically speaking…I’m with Bernie. The idea that municipalities only just barely tiptoe into agreements to slowly increase the minimum wage to $15 over the next 5 y is ridiculous to me. I think it should be immediate to catch up to the inflation adjustment from when it was first put in place. Everywhere, not just high budget cities. I think we need to restore the basic bargain of actual progressive taxation arrangements. etc. But I think the special pleading of young, white, educated, financially advantaged background kids who evince no historical perspective nor understanding of the lower classes around them to be tactically unsound in this fight. This person’s screed is therefore the enemy of my political goals, not an ally.


  19. WH Says:

    Not only does she not get paid that much, she probably also has to see the pain and suffering of the homeless riff-raff on her way to work:


  20. Newbie-Ish Says:

    @ DM “This person’s screed is therefore the enemy of my political goals, not an ally.”

    Yes. This.

    I am so freaking offended by her post. I am politically liberal and with Bernie all the way: democratic socialism, let’s go. But people like her are exactly why at least half the country feels philosophically opposed to something that would – actually, really, truly – benefit all of us. Enabling her to drink more bourbon does nothing to address true inequities and injustices.

    So, with example such as hers, they [republicans] think the wining, entitled attitude represents what we’re trying to fix. No. She does not represent poverty. She represents entitlement. She is 25 and upset that she can’t afford to live alone in the bay area while having accepted an entry level, unskilled position and choosing to enjoy all sorts of luxuries in life that she assumes are a given. Hell even this idea that she has an iphone. An iphone? With a data plan? And cable? And bourbon? Those are LUXURIES. Hell I’m a very well compensated faculty member in a lucrative field of study and I am this close to canceling cable because I’m not sure I can afford it relative to my other wants (wants, not needs) in life. And we have all been effing stranded somewhere at some point; we’ve all had to put things on credit cards for a period of time; we’ve all had to do things we don’t want to do to bring home a paycheck or advance to the next step (for a heck of a lot longer than a measly year, geeze); that’s adulthood, get over it and stop complaining about fucking $20 copays because that is actually pretty cheap and just TRY (TRY) having a child with a health issue. Depressed, need to escape something, want to be near family, now upset that you’ve picked one of the most expensive areas in the entire country to live? TRY A ROOMMATE. Try anything. Just don’t sit there pretending that you need something more than everyone else around you. It distracts from the important issue.

    Her problem is her problem, not society’s problem. Her obstacles are not about barriers to mobility or failed social justice; they’re about stupid decisions made by an individual.

    It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep fighting the good fight to fix these problems. But it does mean I will bash her, to make very clear that she does NOT represent what I’m fighting for


  21. Krzysztof Sakrejda Says:

    I answered a couple of bits below, but my main point is about this:

    “special pleading of young, white, educated, financially advantaged background kids who evince no historical perspective nor understanding of the lower classes around them to be tactically unsound in this fight.”

    This is where I disagree. They are privileged and they are still stuck in situations that are making them aware of poverty. The fact is that under the present system we are all (well, mostly) either month-to-month poor or on the brink of being poor (one sick parent/spouse/child away, a few months of unemployment away). Sure some of us build more of a buffer but… getting the poor to attack the merely decently employed is classic class warfare and I don’t like it.

    “Did you review the thatsalotofrice site, KS? Is this evidence of those “moderate” wants to you?”

    Yeah, at a cursory glance I counted thirty pictures, many (most?) of them undated, posted by some anonymous source (not a pseud, just nameless), with an add banner, followed by a bunch of comments about how she’s clueless and how people in Flint Michigan have it worse…. the supposedly damning pictures include a picture of a gym visit (oh noes, the privileged woman is exercising!) and a car ride with some guy (also awfully wasteful). So it’s an anonymous hastily slapped together website which is succeeding at getting poor people to shit on each other and collecting some add revenue… I’m not impressed and only half convinced. Also, it doesn’t take away form the fact that living on her wages in SF sucks.

    Wanting 48k per year to live in SF is evidence of moderate wants to me.

    “There is no god given right to live in the SF bay area”

    I left the land of Catholics where we send the protestant children into the hallway during religion lessons a long time ago so I wasn’t really thinking of a god-given right but I did grow up near SF (yes, in the cheaper east bay) and the place is going to get really ugly if the only people who can live there are the over-privilidged entrepreneurial types and some hated homeless underclass.

    “I didn’t study Chemical Engineering or anything else highly vocational as an undergrad and therefore I knew I wasn’t going to be instantly employable in a high $$ career right after getting my BA. So I made the *choice* to go to graduate school and invest more time to hopefully make my eventual career more lucrative.”

    Sure, we all make choices. I made the choice to not work on vaccines despite a post-B.S./M.S. stint in a vaccine development lab that I loved (well, in retrospect I loved it) because I didn’t like the career risk involved. The pay was lovely. If somebody else tried it and then ended up bitter because they were left with nothing to show (financially or career-wise) for years of work, I don’t think I would worry about how naive they were, or about how privileged their behavior was.

    I think what’s driving my disagreement is that I see people make bad choices because of poor advice more than because of privilege. High school was full of kids who thought they could go to college with their crap-grades and nobody was telling them they were screwed (already). College (hey Vassar!) was full of rich kids who were going to be fine no matter what, some amount of merely wealthy who at least knew how the system worked, along with (relatively, more or less, lots of variation) poor kids who had no clue about how to make it w.r.t. their career. Getting into college was step one, getting decent career advice (especially for people from difficult backgrounds/poverty) was step two. I’m sure plenty of them made shitty choices and were angry about it. I still wouldn’t go after them for it.


  22. drugmonkey Says:

    Since when has not *every*one who majors in English not been told it wasn’t going to result in a high paying cushy job ?


  23. PaleoGould Says:

    “There is no god given right to live in the SF bay area.” perhaps not. But there is a valid socio-political argument to be made that making one of the engines of the American economy affordable only to the well healed is something we should seek to avoid.
    I agree that navel gazing and lack perspective in that post are problems. To which my answer would be she’s in her early 20s. She has time to grow.
    White middle class millenials going to college in American were all given advice that was horribly out of date for the economy they emerged into. The calculus has now become stupidly complicated and the data needed to solve it impossibly fragmented. The previous generation bears some responsibility for that (they were, after all, our parents and teachers).
    And choices are constrained things.


  24. drugmonkey Says:

    These participation medal trained flowers have been told their choices are not constrained. Which is why they are outraged to find out this true fact of life in their 20s.


  25. PaleoGould Says:

    “have been told their choices are not constrained” == ” have been given terrible advice”


  26. PaleoGould Says:

    Also, you should have heard the rants my brother (smack bang Gen-xer) used to have about the employment conditions at his first employer, which sounds similar (though not as bad) as these yelp dudes.
    So cool it on the “god damned millenials”. I’m still unconvinced we’re any different to previous generations. We just have a platform.


  27. becca Says:

    @jmz4- just because one person managed to finagle a living wage (for a single person) by working in food service, via the route of having a family friend offer them a job for which they had no experience, and living a life where they *expect* other people’s families to take care of them well into their 20s, does not mean we can expect everyone to follow that path to “Independence”. That Stefanie Williams can pretend her stint as a waitress was an ennobling form of suffering that allowed her to demonstrate work ethic all she wants, the economy is still borked. All the more so *because* “young, white, English-speaking women with degrees” can’t make enough to pay rent and also eat.

    DM- you don’t have a god given right to live in the US, eat meat, reproduce, live without illness, or go to college either. That doesn’t necessarily mean those things are unreasonable luxuries.


  28. Jonathan Badger Says:

    “didn’t study Chemical Engineering or anything else highly vocational as an undergrad”

    You do realize that from an English major perspective studying any sort of science looks like a “highly vocational” choice, don’t you? Just as scientists see engineers as “selling out”, so do liberal arts majors see scientists. Of course you can argue that you chose biology out of pure interest, but so can engineers.


  29. drugmonkey Says:

    You are assuming much, my friend.


  30. drugmonkey Says:

    becca- the difference is that I understand I am fortunate and I am accordingly grateful and don’t whine.


  31. becca Says:

    DM- you also don’t have a god given right to clean water. Does that make the people of Flint whiners? (If so, god bless whiners who dont take the offical word for dogma).
    The nature of the hedonistic treadmill is that we all resent a non-increasing standard of living. While I’m not defending *the lack of perspective* in the original whiny piece, I do think whining is fine (somewhat inevitable) and mocking people wanting “crazy luxuries” like a living wage is not only not fine nor inevitable, but rationalizing the overall structure of the oppressive morally bankrupt economic system. *You* are carrying water for the Ayn Rand fanbois (just read some comment sections from the links others poseted if you are confused about which side you are on).


  32. Newbie-Ish Says:

    @becca the equivalent comparison would be is not that the people of flint are whining but that someone who lives a few towns down doesn’t like the fact that their water smells like chlorine. That’s the scale of privilege versus need this blogger is ranting about


  33. drugmonkey Says:

    Another thought on this. Part of my problem with these screeds is that they base the outrage about the systemic problem entirely around their own personal outcome within the system. So the minute their situation improves, they are going to forget all about their concerns with the system and start talking about how unfair it is that they can only afford a brand new Honda instead of that Porsche they deserve.

    This attitude, you will note, is hauntingly familiar from the discussion about the “real problems” with NIH funding.


  34. David Says:

    @Paleo – “I’m still unconvinced we’re any different to previous generations. We just have a platform.”
    I agree and think this is the biggest change in the generations. Just like all generations did dumb things as teenagers, but only millennials have the video evidence.

    @ Jonathan Badger – the funny thing (to me) is that we engineers think the rest of you are dumb because you are missing out on really cool jobs that also pay well. Heck, I got paid by the university to go to grad school. If that’s selling out, sign me up. Granted, I didn’t pick engineering because of the job market, that was just fortuitous.


  35. jmz4 Says:

    “That Stefanie Williams can pretend her stint as a waitress was an ennobling form of suffering that allowed her to demonstrate work ethic all she wants, the economy is still borked. ”
    -True, and everyone has different advantages and disadvantages to their own situations, but the point remains that sometimes you have to suck it up and do a job you don’t like in order to provide yourself a lifestyle you can be happy with.

    Is she right to complain that Yelp doesn’t pay its employees enough to live in the area in which they are based? Yes, and I understand that was the original point.

    I think what makes the OP such a poor spokeswoman for suffering millenials is that she is following, essentially, a passion project. She wants to work in an industry a large amount of people would consider frivolous. And in a ludicrously expensive environment to boot. This is compounded by the seeming lack of any sort of budget conservation attempts (like 2-3 roomates) or moving far enough away for rent to drop down (it seems like she gets parking). It seems to suggest that she feels entitled to a certain type of lifestyle, even when her budget and facts refuse to cooperate.

    I’m part of this generation, and I’ve often been nonplussed and worried about our (seemingly heightened) perception of guilt as a weapon and suffering as ammunition. It creates a kind of race to the bottom where the person who can claim to have it worse has, in some bizarre way, won. Like a way less funny version of the Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen skit.

    It’s also counterproductive, because, if bitching about low regional PD pay has taught me anything, the only way to get anyone to care is to point out the ways it is hurting the system at large, and not individuals.


  36. drugmonkey Says:

    Well put


  37. Zuska Says:

    Well, and so now it’s not just the Rethuglicans encouraging us to turn on each other like crabs in a barrel – it’s my liberal progressive vanguard!
    Take heed, people, and make sure your suffering is authentic and morally worthy before you speak up. Christian evangelicals have done a lot of work on the theory of morally worthy suffering – as did Ayn Rand – the Randians and evangelicals would be delighted with this post & comment thread. I’m not sure Bernie is the candidate you want – Trump is more about moral outrage, rewarding worthy hard workers, and winning!
    Now excuse me while I go grieve for society.


  38. Pleb Says:

    So, China should pay her a livable bay area salary???


  39. Bagger Vance Says:

    By all means, adopt this person as your flagbearer. I thought scientists would be more supportive about encouraging people to meet the world on its own terms but i guess name-calling is even better, eh, Zuska?

    @Krzysztof, i can’t believe there’s another Vassar alumna/us reading this blog, but i can believe that you think $50K/yr is a living wage when that’s less than the cost of one year’s tuition now.


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