Today is June 21, 2012. I still have not been paid. When I turned my article in, two days ahead of deadline, on April 18, 2012, I asked you to confirm that you received it. I heard nothing back from you for many days, even though I sent a follow up note again asking you to confirm receipt as it is very important to me to know that I have met professional obligations to which I have agreed. I also sent you an invoice then, with 30 day terms, telling you I wanted to be paid no more than 30 days after the original deadline of April 20th.
FINALLY you responded at some point, something about you’d been in Ohio and had limited Internet connection or some bullshit like that. I mean really? Ohio doesn’t have the Internet? In addition to educating me about the Luddite burden Ohioans bear, you also said that Austin Woman pays on the 15th of the month of publication. Since the piece I wrote was slated for June, that meant you wouldn’t be issuing a check until June 15th. Well, allegedly. I responded telling you these terms were not acceptable, lamenting that I had been too stupid to get in writing, in advance, an agreement that would have me paid within a reasonable amount of time. I also asked you to see if you could expedite payment and you wrote back saying you would try, but I feel fully confident now that that was pure crap.
On June 16th, I went to my PO Box, which is, according to Google Maps, is exactly 1.5 miles from your office. Having had this PO Box since 1997, I know well from experience that something mailed one day in Austin arrives, 99% of the time, the very next day. As you can guess from the pissy tone of this note, the check was not there. Nor did it arrive on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.
Before I specifically berate you and your lack of professionalism, and before I detail the conversation I had with your office manager, let me step back a few paces here and confess that, yes, probably my fury at you has been fed by three decades of being given the fucking runaround by editors and accountants who lie out their ass about when a check has been mailed. I’ve also had this experience with at least two employers, one of whom I had to twist her balls within an inch of falling off to get the thousands she owed me, and the other of whom still owes me $5,000, though she filed bankruptcy to protect herself. So, yeah, cumulative effect and all that.
And also, let me add – in the interest of fairness—that my panties have been in a wad for a long time now over the whole state of the demise of journalism. Some time ago I wrote a piece about how furious I was that “editors” were now offering to “pay” me in exposure vs. cash. I hated that, and it drove me away from making my living as a writer. I went through the stages of grief—I really, really did. But then something funny happened.
Do you know this effect, where someone gets divorced and while it’s happening it feels like the end of the world and they never think life will get better but then suddenly, it does? It gets really, really, really MUCH MUCH MUCH BETTER? As the veteran of two divorces from two assholes, I have to say I’ve had the exhilarating thrill of this experience more than once. And it feels so good I’m almost tempted to marry another asshole just so I can enjoy the post-divorce bliss again (I kid, I KID!). Well once I got away from writing for a living, once I really threw myself into my new career, I noticed I was much happier on a regular basis, so glad for the divorce from paid writing that the Internet had foisted upon me. I mean, just like I’m not going to send my dumbass ex-husbands thank you notes for helping me to see, courtesy of their role as foil, how great life could be, I’m also not sending the Internet a gold-engraved epistle of gratitude. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I didn’t miss the commercial writing. In fact, the absence of deadlines, unrealistic editorial demands, and checks that never arrive on time was totally REFRESHING.
Let me tell you a little story now. A couple of months after my last divorce, I ran into that ex-husband. We showed up to help a mutual friend in need. My ex-husband inappropriately touched me that time, without my invitation or permission. It creeped me out and it confused me and it really depressed the fuck out of me. I’m telling you this story because this is how I feel about you, Deborah. Let me explain.
When you contacted me to write an article, I very much liked the topic, which happened to be a profile of a good friend of mine, someone I really admire. The pay you offered-- $500—was total crap, but I wasn’t in it for the pay, not really. And considering how so many people pay nothing anymore, well actually $500 didn’t look so bad. So I said yes, which, I suppose was me once again demonstrating that I can be the walking definition of insanity. Because I had been away from the game for so long, I had developed amnesia and had forgotten just how shittily so many publications treat so many writers. I fell for your bullshit, Deborah. It was like running into my ex-husband, expecting him to at least be respectable, and then discovering that, no, he was still the same old asshole.
Now let me go over my process in working for you. Gathering info for the story and writing it was a great experience. I also fact checked the hell out of it, guessing that maybe you wouldn’t do that (or, even if you would, I still want to be fully responsible for my work). I then sent the article along with the requested sidebar. Then came that silence I mentioned. Then the exchange about pay. Then time marched on and you sent me a note mentioning that I had not sent you the sidebars, and could I please resend. This puzzled me, since I sent the sidebars with the same email that included the article. I chalked this up to sloppiness on your part, but hell, we all lose attachments and it was no big deal for me to send it again.
Throughout this process, I let you know I was available for revisions, I let you know parts of the story I wanted you to pay close attention to, in short, I treated you like the professional editor you clearly are not. I never heard back again, not until some people started contacting me to compliment me on the piece, indicating to me that it had been published. You never let me know it was out. You never mailed me a copy. You never sent a note of thanks or even acknowledgment.
I began watching for the check. Then I had to run to Houston to see a sick friend. If the check had arrived when you promised it would, I could’ve stayed in Houston longer, because I could’ve deposited it and bought myself a few extra days. Instead, I had to drive back home to deal with my banking. When I got to the PO Box, I thought, “Surely, it must be there.” It wasn’t.
So I emailed you last night, telling you that I wanted to be paid, that it wasn’t cool to not pay me, and that I would come by for the check. This morning, rather than emailing me back directly, you sent a note to Sadie, the office manager, and cc’ed me on it, asking Sadie to track the check. Here’s a hint, Deborah: when you fail to hold up your end of the bargain, and when someone directly asks you about it, the very least you could/should do is respond directly. Instead, you passed the burden on to Sadie.
I’m sure by now Sadie has called you to tell you what a totally fucking unreasonable bitch I was on the phone this morning. I mean, I’m just guessing that was her opinion. But Sadie told me things that made me feel pretty fucking bitchy, so let’s just say I was being true to my feelings. For example, I asked her if she got paid on time and if you got paid on time. She said yes, you both were paid last week BUT that a salesperson was not paid on time. As if that would console me. Console me? I wanted to call the salesperson and say RUN LIKE HELL THEY ARE GOING TO KEEP SCREWING YOU.
Just as you passed your responsibility on to Sadie, Sadie in turn blamed the advertisers for not paying y’all on time. She also mumbled something about if you didn’t have to pay payroll taxes, I would’ve been paid on time. Deborah? I have looked at your magazine, which is jam-packed with ads for shit like plastic surgery (had I known this in advance I might’ve declined the assignment). I asked Sadie if plastic surgeons really weren’t paying their bills and she assured me this was the case. Maybe I should call some of your advertisers and ask them if it’s true what Austin Woman says about them, that they are a bunch of deadbeats.
After I called Sadie, I then called you. To my 100% total lack of surprise, you failed to pick up your phone. I’m guessing you knew it was me. You did send an email telling me that there was no need for me to go to the office to pick up a check today, since, no really, the check is in the mail.
We shall see. I will go to my PO Box shortly. If the check is not there, I will be heading over to the office, waiting to be paid. I have people who are prepared to bring me meals and take care of me for as long as I need to stay until you pay me.
I just want to say a huge Fuck You to you and every editor and accounting department and every other person at magazines who had a hand in me not getting paid on time over the years. You should be ashamed. You make your money off of writers, Deborah. My work pays your mortgage. If you were professional, my work would also be able to pay my mortgage on time. Instead, I am left here, once again, like a fucking beggar, hoping only to get what I worked for.
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