Craigslist: Abdicating Responsibility

July 16, 2010

I’m back. I’m back to writing down to random thoughts and opinions via my blog. And I realize what was holding me back so much: not being in the States for seven months’ with little-to-no interaction with foreign cultures, but rather Twitter. That devil of an invention, the latest attempt to reduce the English language to 1984′s Newspeak. Whenever some news item came up that I felt was worthy of mention, I tweeted about it, and that is all. No commentary. No thoughts. Just tweets. No more.

Let me bring you up to speed with the timeline, shall I?

Dec 2009: Leave New Zealand for holiday cheer in the US
Jan to Apr 2010: Employed to promote conventions across the country. My supervisor was a bitter, evil shell of an old lady.
May to Jun 2010: Bounce around Philly, DC, NYC in the hopes of securing a job for the summer. Had one, it got cancelled at the last minute. Met a girl, caught up with friends. Good times.
Jun to Jul 2010: Waylaying in Dallas. Not much going on…

Which brings me to the issue for all of you considering freelance work: Craigslist gigs.

Photo by the author
Craigslist Dallas/Ft. Worth

Everyone is struggling for work right now. You know it. I know it. Even my travel friends, who are accustomed to long periods without steady pay, are feeling down, useless. I’m right along there with them. With an unemployment at – what, 12%? – it’s no wonder gigs are being scooped up by people willing to work for next to nothing.

Which brings me to Craigslist. For those of you who have followed me since the beginning, you are aware I survived on nothing but Craigslist Gigs from 2005 to 2006, my first year out of college. Moving, modeling, promoting, tutoring, selling, etc. It was an adventure, and I made a decent living. The site was still in it infancy then, and although you had to be on the ball to grab gigs when they were posted, it wasn’t impossible to get work. In most cases, individuals posted looking for other individuals.

Not so anymore, with spam ads for gigs, even steady jobs cropping up on Craigslist sites around the world. Even for those ads that are legitimate, the posters are… well… ignorant is a kind way to put it. Let me give you a few examples:

This is not a paying gig, but should be lots of fun for anyone thats shows up!!!

I am searching for a quick paying job in the Dallas/Fort worth area. I’m in shape and 5’5. I have long brown hair and need a job to make me some quick cash! I would love to do any event gig, and I also wouldn’t mind doing a photo shoot! Please email me if you have anything, or know of anything I can do!

I am willing to babysit, clean your house, do office work. I am educated and can be useful. I am in excruciating pain. I have three teeth in a row that are bad and need to be pulled. One is broken off at the gum. Another is cracked in half and I believe the nerve is exposed. I have an anxiety disorder that caused me to vomit for years and this is what caused the damage to my teeth. It is under control now but the damage is irreprable. I have gone to the ER and they gave me Darvocet but it is not working. I have applied to ttwo low income dental clinics and the wait is over 6 months. Is there a dentist anywhere out there willing to help me?!?

Compensation: Will discuss based on experience and other factors. There will be some pay, but may be minimal for this shoot.

I am looking for help moving some items onsite. I also have some material that needs to go to the dump, so if you have a truck, that’s even better. I can promise a minimum of 2 hours of work at $15 per hour. I will pay an extra amount for gas if the truck is used.

The last ad may sound the most reasonable to you, but it’s these in particular that I have a problem with. “Employers” listing jobs in remote areas (25+ miles from the CL city), offering 1-2 hours of work. Those photographers, event coordinators, calling for men and women to work “for the experience”. People just randomly posting in the gigs sections, stating how qualified they are to do absolutely anything… why do I suspect that many of them are women desperate enough to sell themselves for rent?

There’s just no respect for the people answering these ads; a few years ago, it used to be that if you posted something on Craigslist extremely last minute, you were grateful for the workers who paid attention to the site and responded in an intelligent email (i.e. correct grammar, listing your qualifications, contact info). Now, with Craigslist completely mainstream, employers expect to get someone, and they expect to get that someone as cheaply as possible.

You have to drive 30+ miles to get to me? Who cares? I’ll just respond to the next guy; he’ll drive!

I know I promised you 10 hours of work, but we finished in 6; here’s your $40. Now beat it.

How many people do you think respond to someone who needs nothing more than an extra set of hands? 50 in five minutes? 200 inside of an hour? And that’s probably a conservative estimate. With so many scrambling for any jobs that come their way, CL listers must feel like gods, able to decide who to take on nothing more than a whim: I’ve had some telling me they thought my name was sketchy, others who didn’t want to call my Austin-area code cell phone… wow.

I don’t know how to turn back the clock and get these employers to understand they should treat workers who reply on CL the same as those they hire with an I9 and W2. If labor was cheap before, it’s almost free now. In fact, that’s probably the next step in the evolution of Craigslist Gigs: “Work today for free and we’ll see what you got; if it works out, we’ll take you on full time.” But if it doesn’t work out??? Hey, they’ve got 300 guys’ emails… might as well just hire free labor for the rest of the year. I’ve actually seen this done with a Photoshop gig: “I’ve got 50 pictures that need to be digitally altered. Show me you can do it with 2 and I’ll assess your ability.” 25 replies, that’s all he needs. Sick.

I’ll try to blog more regularly from now on, but with my deadly sin barometer creeping from gluttony to sloth, I can’t promise anything. One thing is certain: South Korea, August 7th.

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