Yelp On Defensive Again, This Time Regarding Wages

Yelp is no stranger to controversy, and this time it finds itself making headlines after now former employee Talia Jane wrote a lengthy open letter to CEO Jeremy Stoppelman complaining about not being...
Yelp On Defensive Again, This Time Regarding Wages
Written by Chris Crum
  • Yelp is no stranger to controversy, and this time it finds itself making headlines after now former employee Talia Jane wrote a lengthy open letter to CEO Jeremy Stoppelman complaining about not being compensated enough.

    Do you think Jane was right to speak out against Yelp the way she did? Let us know what you think.

    In the letter, the 25-year-old customer service worker from Yelp’s Eat24 service discussed many aspects of her personal life and how she can’t afford to keep her car maintained or keep her heat on. She claimed to not be able to buy groceries and that she only eats rice for meals. Much of the letter is about her own struggles, but she projects a similar situation upon her co-workers. Here’s an excerpt:

    Every single one of my coworkers is struggling. They’re taking side jobs, they’re living at home. One of them started a GoFundMe because she couldn’t pay her rent. She ended up leaving the company and moving east, somewhere the minimum wage could double as a living wage. Another wrote on those neat whiteboards we’ve got on every floor begging for help because he was bound to be homeless in two weeks. Fortunately, someone helped him out. At least, I think they did. I actually haven’t seen him in the past few months. Do you think he’s okay? Another guy who got hired, and ultimately let go, was undoubtedly homeless.

    None of this has been confirmed to my knowledge. She does point out some of the benefits she and her co-workers are afforded:

    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. Twenty bucks each is pretty neat, if spending twenty dollars didn’t determine whether or not you could afford to get to work the next week…

    You can read the whole thing from the tweet below:

    Since posting that, she has been let go from the company. According to Re/code, her post generated so much attention, it was even trending on Twitter in San Francisco.

    On Saturday, Stoppelman addressed the letter and defended himself and the company in a series of five tweets:

    Regarding the second side of the HR story, a spokesperson for Yelp told Re/code the company does not comment on personnel issues.

    In an update to her letter post, Jane confirmed that she was terminated from Yelp and told readers that any help until she finds new employment would be “extremely appreciated,” linking several payment services.

    The post generated hundreds of comments ranging across the entire spectrum of responses you would expect.

    Even since Yelp responded, the story has picked up a great deal of momentum, and throughout the week, Jane has been the subject of a great deal of criticism with people calling her “whiny” and “entitled” and others sticking up for her. It has turned into quite the internet debate of the week.

    Fox News highlighted a letter to her from freelance writer Stefanie Williams, who wrote:

    Work ethic is not something that develops from entitlement. Quite the opposite, in fact. It develops when you realize there are a million other people who could perform your job and you are lucky to have one. It comes from sucking up the bad aspects and focusing on the good and above all it comes from humility. It comes from modesty. And those are two things, based on your article, that you clearly do not possess.

    The letter mentions that Talia Jane had posted an “incredibly expensive bourbon” on her Instagram account:

    Do I like Yelp? Not particularly. Do I like that CEOs make pathetic amounts of money? Not particularly. But turning this girl’s inability to work for what she wants into a conversation about poverty (Poverty! She lives in the Bay Area alone and has a corporate job and can afford fancy bourbon! Not exactly the picture of a third world crisis!) and wage issues, it’s utter bullshit.

    Forbes ran a piece saying:

    People think she spent frivolously. I don’t see it. Maybe she had a few small indulgences, but also remember that people tend to put the shiniest picture of themselves online….Ultimately, she was still being paid minimum wage (or very close to it) so she absolutely could not have indulged much…People think she should have found a cheaper place to live or found a roommate. Look, San Francisco is expensive. Apparently the roommate she was supposed to have flaked. But bedrooms in San Francisco actually are about $1200/month. So she moved 30 miles from work instead. Maybe she could have held for a cheaper option, but then maybe doing that wasn’t an option.

    People think she should have not come to San Francisco, since it’s so expensive. She apparently had a very bad situation pre-move and needed to get out of her city. She came here to move closer to her dad (who she doesn’t have a great relationship with, but would like to). That’s a pretty reasonable decision. Minimum wage isn’t very livable anywhere (and it’s semi-adjusted to cost-of-living), and it makes sense to move somewhere near family.

    CNN used the debate to ask questions like “Are millennials ‘entitled’ or just underpaid?”, if the “American dream” is “achievable,” and “Is San Francisco too expensive?” Answers are only implied.

    It seems that just about everybody who has seen the story has weighed in with their own opinion. What’s yours? Share in the comments.

    Image via Jeremy Stoppelman (Twitter)

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