99 to 1
by Augusta Frost | Posted October 15, 2011
I am sick of hearing about the “99%.” I am in the 99%, but you won't see me marching on Wall Street and making signs about my worthless college education. That’s because I’m working my ass off trying to get into the 1%.
My husband and I have a small business. We do software testing. We have some employees, and we use a lot of temps. We've probably created or saved as many jobs as President Obama has. Probably more.
Nevertheless, almost all the people we hire are in their early twenties, just out of college, with a useless "Game Design degree." Just the kind of people you see marching on Wall Street.
I just heard that one of our workers was complaining about some other company "being cheap" because they didn't want to pay for someone's health insurance.
Why can't companies not be "cheap"? Why can't they just pay you more?
First of all, why can't you pay more? Well, why don't you pay $300 for a videogame? Because it’s not worth it to you. But if you paid that much, then maybe videogame testers would make more money. But you won't pay $300 for a game, and neither will anyone else. So companies who make games need to control their costs.
Testers do not make a ton of money. It's true. But the companies that employ you don't make much off of you. We charge our clients your hourly rate plus $X. And X ain't a big number. Believe me, we would like to charge more per hour for your services, but we can't. If we charged a reasonable markup on your rate, then the companies that hire us might just decide to take their business elsewhere, like Bangalore or Hyderabad. We need to keep our profit margin mighty slim, or we'll be paying you zero — because you won't have a job.
So, yes. We are all "cheap.” But you have a job.
By the way, the competition has testers in foreign lands. Their daily take-home pay is a little bit more than what you make for one hour. And they aren't complaining.
But even so, you think, we must charge our clients some kind of markup on your hourly rate, don't you? Where does all of that money go?
Well, it goes all over the place. We have to pay the rent for the offices you are sitting in. We have to buy power strips, chairs, desks, lamps, cabinets, tape dispensers, paper, pens, pencils, notebooks, toner for the printer, and paper for the toner to go on. It adds up.
We also have to pay for the people who clean up after you when you spill coffee on the carpet or you use the bathroom and leave a mess.
Believe it or not, we have to pay the electric bill. We have to pay for the water, the coffee, the cream and sugar, the Red Vines, the occasional well-deserved doughnut feast.
We have to pay for the very fast internet connection that we need to do business. We have to pay for the phones. We have to buy computers and the hardware that you are testing on. Even if we only use it for three weeks, we have to buy every Microsoft test kit, every Sony test kit, every Nintendo test kit, etc., etc. They aren't cheap. And we have to buy a lot of them.
We have to buy software so you can do your work — bug tracking software, operating systems, secure instant messaging systems, general office software. We have to pay to have the network installed at the office, so that we can do our jobs.
But to return to you yourself. We have to buy workers' comp insurance, because one day, you may get a hangnail and sue us. Who cares, you think, it's the insurance company that’s going to pay for it. Yes. And we pay for the insurance. And if there’s a hangnail lawsuit, we’ll have to pay more and more for that insurance.
Lawsuits have made it more expensive to do business. If we have a client with deep pockets, and you’re trying to be crafty and so sneaky, you'll sue the client for that hangnail, too. But our clients are crafty and sneaky, too, so they require that we have certain supplementary insurance as well. Meanwhile, we need lawyers to read, write, and review our contracts so we don't get sued by you or by our clients. Lawyers are not cheap.
In addition, we have to pay for alarm systems, just in case you've told your ne'er-do-well brother-in-law who just got out of jail that you work at this cool company that has a bunch of computers.
We have to pay for those silly little taxes that cities decide to place on businesses, just for the pleasure of existing in them, and employing their citizens.
Naturally, we need to pay interest on the large amount of money we borrowed to pay for all of the above.
Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. We need to eat, too.
One day, we will finally pay off our debt — if we manage to stay in business, despite the lackadaisical, whining employees who do poor work because they are lazy, or maybe no work at all because they really couldn’t care less about their low-paying jobs.
At the end of it all, after years of stress and lack of sleep and no vacations and strained family life, we just might end up wealthy.
On that day, I will happily tell the rest of you 99%-ers to screw off.
Augusta Frost has a useless liberal arts degree from a West Coast university. She runs a software testing group somewhere in the United States.
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