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The Laughing Academy
A Life of Noisy Desperation
Filthy Lucre 
24th-Jun-2006 11:47 pm
SlpH - Baltus Oops
I was supposed to work as a receptionist in one of Vera Wang’s boutiques from Wednesday to Saturday. However, after a long wait in the luxurious gray and blue waiting room, my would-be supervisor, Sayeed, explained that there’d been a mix-up; rather than spend hours training a series of short-term hires, they wanted one person willing to work there indefinitely, if not permanently.

“Oh,” I replied, dismayed, “I was told that the job would last through Saturday and that I’d be getting eleven dollars an hour. I’m afraid that’s not enough for me to work here long term.”

Sayeed vanished for several more minutes before finally reappearing and telling me that one of the staff would be the receptionist for the day, and that I should check with the agency for another job. I wished him luck finding someone, he thanked me for coming in, and I left. Then I went back, because it occurred to me that I could use their phone to call Axion, and wound up speaking to Cara, the manager who’d set up the job, in a storeroom filled with garment-bagged bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses. She asked me to come to the agency for a meeting, so I retraced my steps to the 6 train, took the subway to Grand Central, and walked to Axion, which is on 40th and Broadway.

Keep in mind that (1) it was a sunny June day and (2) in keeping with the Vera Wang employee dress code, I was wearing all black.

Once I reached the agency, Cara ushered me into a conference room and in the cheeriest and friendliest manner possible chewed me out for committing a major faux pas. Remember when I told the guy at Vera Wang that eleven bucks an hour wasn’t enough? As far as he was concerned, I might as well have crapped on the rug. According to Cara, the agency was in the process of bargaining for a higher wage on my behalf when I destroyed my chances by mentioning money. Apparently Sayeed immediately called Axion back and told them that I had disqualified myself with my unprofessional behavior.

I’m not upset that I didn’t get the job; even if I had known that more money was on the table, I probably would have turned it down since I’m leaving town for a few days this week to celebrate my father’s retirement from the Coast Guard, and frankly I’m not interested in being a receptionist for more than a little while. What infuriates me is the idea that I acted in an “unprofessional” manner.

Would someone explain to me why the mere mention of the fact that I would like adequate compensation for my services renders me unfit to answer the phone?
25th-Jun-2006 06:08 am (UTC)
You weren't unprofessional. Your expected income is a major part of whether or not you can accept a position, and both Sayeed and Axion are aware of this. Provided you were courteous and apologetic, rather than petulent (and I'm sure that's the case), they have no grounds for being pissy with you.

Now, perhaps Sayeed would prefer not to have you talk to him about money, as it's the Agency that he's negotiating costs with. So perhaps he DID find what you said unprofessional.

On the other hand, you know that he's paying Axion a whole shitload MORE than 11 dollars an hour - it may be that he wasn't aware of how much of what he pays them they are taking as their cut, and that it pissed him off that, having been promised a worker by the Agency, he was then unable to retain said worker, despite paying $15, or $20, or whatever the hell they're charging him, because the Agency is taking too hefty a cut of the money.

Or it could just be that both he and the Axion rep are self-centred jackasses.

I used to be a (very bad - I *so* wasn't All About Making Money) recruitment agent myself, way back in the mists of time, and I don't think that your behaviour was unprofessional. I can see that your statement may have impacted upon any negotiations that the agency was doing for you, but, you know what? Your statement TOTALLY wasn't unreasonable or unprofessional, and if Sayeed and the agency reps were being HUMAN, then they'd take on board the fact that your wages and the terms of your employment are issues in which you have a vested interest, and upon which you may be expected to comment.
25th-Jun-2006 06:39 am (UTC)
I’m placing most of the blame on the Vera Wang people, since I got the impression that whoever called Axion did not make the length of the job clear.

On the other hand, this was the fourth time that the agency got the end date wrong; when I mentioned that to Cara, she claimed that employees had been asking me to stay longer because they were impressed with my performance, but I think that they’ve been underestimating the time required to finish projects or hire permament successors to the people I’ve temporarily replaced.

Oh, well. I have an interview on Monday afternoon, and my supervisor from last year’s job at the UN said they may rehire me in August, so hopefully I won’t be subject to the vagaries of temp agencies for much longer.
25th-Jun-2006 06:41 am (UTC)
I would surmise that pandarus's second scenario is the most accurate. Axion is taking a larger cut of the pie than Vera Wang was aware, (and probably MUCH larger) and what happened was they were found out. Sayeed called them back to complain that they were taking too big a share and probably removed the job from their books, which is why the position would no longer be available through Axion.

The agency reprimanded Shana to prevent her from doing that in future interviews. They had to do something to attempt to keep her from ever saying anything to the employer about money and claiming it was "unprofessional" to do so was about the only thing they had that *might* be considered a possible reason. In fact, the "markdown" of jobs Axion offers is probably a lot higher than some other agencies, and if employees start asking what the jobs are REALLY worth, (i.e. an end around the middle man) that agency will be out of business in a hurry.

Agencies are not the employee's friend. They are there to use you: they are out to make money and they want to make as much as they can. I wouldn't be surprised if the job was paying closer to 20 dollars an hour or maybe even 25. Think about it. Starbuck's pays in the 8 dollar range. Is Vera Wang worth 3 dollars more than that? Wouldn't she pay more anyway because her business relies on people who are savvy and expert in dealing with clients that need everything to be just so? I'm confident she was paying a minimum of 20!

I bet if we called Sayeed on the sly, we could get the true story from him. But that would be against the ethics of... oh, wait... there are no ethics in the NYC job market!
25th-Jun-2006 07:48 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I wonder if there’s someplace where a person could get some idea of the average commission and how big a slice a specific agency takes?
25th-Jun-2006 07:52 am (UTC)
Mebbe because you had the audacity to *think for yourself*? You weren't grovelling at their feet thanking them for the opportunity to answer the phone? Maybe you were supposed to pay *them*?


Plus I dn't believe Cara for one second.
25th-Jun-2006 07:20 pm (UTC)

Hee! That’s a good way of summing up my mood during the trip home that day. I was so angry, I kept digging my nails into the palms of my hands, my purse, my tote bag, my skirt... It’s a good thing I keep them trimmed short, or I would have left bleeding welts everywhere. Fortunately, I was able to distract myself with the library book I’d just borrowed: The Count of Monte Cristo, ironically enough.
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