If It Seems Too Good To Be True…

amber-hype
A megaphone in a yellow icon symbolizing hype; changed due to image standardization. Source: Wikicommons library

I come across a lot of these during my job search. It’s not surprising I get these often since the algorithms for determining valid Email addresses are approaching Skynet proficiency:


SUBJECT: Job opening.

FROM: HR MANAGER (email omitted)

Hello,

Looking for a job? We have an opening for a Coordinator in your area.

Salary: up to 50$/hour

RESPONSIBILITIES

– Support customers;

– Manage payments;

– Organization of fiscal documents.

QUALIFICATIONS

– Excellent computer skills and proficient in excel, word, outlook, and access;

– Excellent communication skills both verbal and written;

– Excellent interpersonal skills and a collaborative management style;

– Ability to look at situations from several points of view.

We have a trial period, so you can decide if this job is a good fit for you or not.

APPLY NOW: (Email omitted)

Regards,

(contact details omitted)


I spotted several suspicious points in the Email:

#1: The wage is shown in the offer. Even with an out-of-the-blue job offer like this, it’s bad form to mention details about the wage or salary.

#2: The wage is $50/hour. For a coordinator position.

Assuming the following is true at the time of writing this post:

  1. The rate is  in US dollars.
  2. My last full time job was in I.T. and I earned $60,000 a year (Canadian dollars) including overtime for project work. One Canadian dollar is worth $0.76 US which means my annual salary was $45,600 US.
  3. Because that job gave me paid holidays, and using the website convertunits.com to convert from an annual salary to an hourly rate, I earned an equivalant of $21.84/hour. US. Yes, I got benefits but that does not change the formula that much since it was only 80% coverage and the most I used my benefits for was for dental work.

this would mean I would earn double the hourly rate I used to get, for less work. Either my last employer paid me poorly (which is debateable), or this hourly wage in the offer is bogus (which is extremely likely if not an exaggeration).

There’s also that “up to” part that implies it can be variable. You know, like a sales commission would be variable.

#3: Word, Excel, and Access are not capitalized. That is a big red flag for me. Most individuals I know would capitalize, and it’s a stunning lack of business professionalism if a company referred to Excel as  “excel”: the former is a product name and the latter is a verb.

#4: Job description is very vague. Support customers doing what? Answering customer service inquiries? Handling complaints? Being a strong shoulder to support them while they are putting on their shoes?

#5: The name of the company is very close to that of a very well known financial firm. Yes, I did omit the name but trust me, it’s very close.

#6: The offer states that there is a trial period to see if the job is a good fit for me. A trial period in itself is not suspicious. New hires always go through a trial period but it’s at the employer’s benefit, not the employee’s. To let the employee decide if it is a fit implies it might be a job the person will neither benefit nor enjoy doing.

#7: The opening is supposed to be in my area (which could be either Toronto or Kitchener) yet the head office is in INDIA with no mention of branch office addresses anywhere else. Just a telephone number.

This sounds like a gig where you run your own business using your own personal space and resources.

Sorry, not interested.

Thanks for reading!

David.

More For Less, Revisited.

ServiceGreeter
Sure. That sounds exactly what a service greeter does. Wash cars and moving vehicles to the service area. Got it.

It’s been over a month since I wrote, mostly because I’ve been very worried about my temporary lodgings. I was not sure if those who are supporting my rent would continue to do so after the end of September so I had to make arrangements to stay with other people, go back to couch surfing, or worse go back to sleeping on the buses and subways in Toronto.

I got a reprieve of sorts. It’s been extended to the end of December with planned discussions for extending it into the spring of 2017. That buys me a little time to get the word out about my chronic unemployment and my not-so-stable housing but that takes time, which is why I have not written much in this blog or even made a video on YouTube under my “David Needs A Job” channel.

While I’ll make a video tomorrow, I’ll update my blog status by revisiting a point I wrote about earlier. I just finished YABJS (Yet Another Boring Job Search) and came across more of the following “compressed description” jobs where the title no longer means what it says. An example of such a job I found today is in the image. Click it and read the description, then come back to this post.

When you see the title, “Service Greeter” and it’s at an auto service place, you would assume it’s like an appointment taker or reception position. It probably was a long time ago, judging from the line “welcoming and checking clients and their vehicles into the dealership”. It now has expanded to include the following, quoted:

  • “performing a quick walk-around of their vehicle,”
  • “moving vehicles in and out of our service drive,”
  • “running vehicles through our car wash.”

This is speculation, but there was probably once a separate junior service position that did this a long time ago.

That was the past. The position is now a jack-of-all trades where the candidate would be asked to do a lot of things that used to be handled by two if not three people. While the only positive I see is that a benefits package is included as part of the position — benefits are becoming an endangered species in this Age Of Austerity and the jobless recovery — I would be interested in learning if the “competitive hourly wage” rose in direct proportion to the number of tasks added in the description as a result of the rightsizing.

I’d apply for the sake of answering that question, but I don’t have a driver’s license.

Thanks for reading.

David.

 

 

Blocked From GoFundMe For Being Poor

Locked Out Of GoFundMe
Not in a good mood. Apparently I am too poor to be allowed to use GoFundMe

At the beginning of July, GoFundMe Ireland took over the administration of all North American GoFundMe fundraising drives. Why this was done was something I did not care about for as long as it did not interfere with my own GoFundMe initiative: to raise awareness about my homeless situation as well as funding to be raised to help me return back to financial self-reliance and sustainability.

I guess it was too much to ask for.

I logged on my GoFundMe account dashboard to post another update, but I was blocked by a prompt asking for a telephone number for two-tier verification checking. Try as I could, I couldn’t get around it. It’s a modal window designed to receive a prompt from the user before allowing access to the frames underneath.

I’m sure you are familiar with this security feature if you use FaceBook or GMail. When enabled by choice, the telephone number you entered in your account information receives a text code sent after you try to log on. Before you can continue with your log on, you must enter that code or you are kicked out. It does not matter if the user ID and password combo is correct.

The feature is supposed to protect you if your user ID is compromised by another person who figured out your password. It’s great on paper, but to me it was never something that was needed for as long as you kept your password to yourself, made it hard to guess (don’t use your birthday for example), and changed it regularly. As I stated above, some services like FaceBook and GMail make it an optional choice. They recommend they use it, but you do not have to so it’s optional.

GoFundMe decided that was not good enough and decided to make it a mandatory feature. By doing so, they effectively killed my initiative which has raised $90 Canadian and ran for nearly a year.

How did this happen?  Let me explain.

For those who follow this blog regularly or at least have watched a few of my GoFundMe updates on YouTube, I had to cancel my mobile phone service because I could not afford to pay it on the scant amount of money I was making doing odd gigs and jobs. Some members of my family hate me for doing that, a few of my friends have complained that it was damned inconvenient for them to use Email to reach me, not to mention dangerous for me to not have one in case of an emergency. I don’t dispute the latter part but it does not dismiss the fact that I did not have the money for it. The money that was freed from maintaining that service went straight to my groceries and transit costs. I don’t regret making that decision, it saved me from a lot of health problems I would have gotten down the road for not eating properly. Anyone who disagrees with that? Well, I hope we can agree to disagree at least and you respect my right to deal with my problems my way, especially if you did not offer to foot the bill for my expenses.

But now I’m stuck at this modal window and I can’t get to my GoFundMe dashboard to post an update. I contact customer support and to their credit they were not only amazingly fast in their reply, they were very friendly in their first response:

Hi there David,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write in today. No worries, I can definitely help you with this!

To verify your account and eventually make a withdrawal, you do need to add a phone number to your account. This is called 2-step authentication and ensures that in the event your email address is compromised, your account and its funds are still secure. This is why we can’t send the code to an email address directly.

Is there a close friend or family member whose number you’d like to use instead? They’ll need to give you the code each time you log in to GoFundMe on a new device. The codes expire in 10-15 minutes so make sure it’s someone you can quickly chat with.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed and I’ll be right here to help!

Maybe this was their standard stock form they used for every reply to a customer inquiry, but it gave me some hope I could ask for an alternative or at least allow me to post a final update to my donors know not to continue to donate through GoFundMe. They said no to the alternative but went with the update, which they did for me:

Thank you for getting back to us, David.

I’m afraid you’ll need to enter this verification code before proceeding, but if you’d like, I can post that update for you!

Just let me know what you’d like to say in the update and I’ll get that added to your campaign right away.

Thanks so much,

Olivia

So the update went through, and this was what I stated, my final update:

Hello all.

You may have noticed I have not been updating my GoFundMe initiative lately. This is because of a new security verification system implemented by GoFundMe that requires the mandatory use of a phone to return a verification code.

For those of you who have been following my situation, I cannot afford a phone, either smartphone or land line. Until I find someone who is local and can be trusted with my verification code of my GoFundMe initiative, I cannot access any part of this page, including posting updates, and accessing the money that has been donated to me.

This ends my GoFundMe initiative. This does not end my quest for finding full time work that will keep me off the streets, and return me to full self-reliance and self-sustainability. This is a serious setback but I will not give up. I won’t go down without a fight.

Please go to my Youtube Channel ‘David Needs A Job!’ and also my job search and homelessness blog at davidalangay.wordpress.com for continuing updates on my efforts.

I thank you for your past support

David Gay

So just like that, my GoFundMe initiative came to a screeching halt. I can’t use that service any more. I can’t even withdraw the money raised. I’m sure that will piss off the donors.

Some people may object to me using the phrase “I was blocked by GoFundMe for being poor”, arguing I was not being disciplined for having no money. The literal may be true but I cannot afford a land line or a mobile, so  I can’t use the GoFundMe services, even though I could before for the past 11 months, and had verified both my personal identity and my bank account information.  I know my user ID and password but I cannot log on due to a process GoFundMe added. I can’t afford to start up a phone service that would help me get around this and for security reasons I won’t ask for someone to access my codes.

That counts as being blocked for being poor.

The very idiocy of GoFundMe’s decision to block me defies the reason why I started the initiative on their service in the first place: I’m not financially self-reliant and self-sufficient enough to afford things without donations.

Such as rent so I don’t become homeless again.

Such as a phone that is now a requirement for using a service that was supposed to help me from not being homeless.

I’m not sure if it is some kind of example of cruel irony or hypocrisy in why GoFundMe exists in the first place, but I want to state I disagree with their decision. It’s a form of discrimination to the economically challenged, and it hurts those who only want to get out of the hole they are in through no fault of their own. Such as myself.

Thanks for reading.

David.

 

The School’s Out On This One.

BackToSchoolAlready
I received this ad in my Email on July 4th, 2016. Not August 4, bloody damn July!

Times are tough. I’ve explained this enough times to the point of being hoarse, but it’s not just me talking about this. Look at the tons of videos on YouTube from university students lamenting how post-secondary education has become a financial sham, from mature adults enraged about  ageism in hiring, and from activists sounding the alarm about the rise of corporate fascism transcending the authority of elected governments and the rights of individuals.

However, the real “meat and potatoes” clues are hidden in plain sight. Take for example the back-to-school ads.

Back in the day when I was but a lad, these ads came out around the second week of August, before the start of the Canadian National Exposition (CNE). As of this year, if Staples continues this trend, back-to-school promotions will begin before the little brats start their summer holidays!

Why now? Why so damn early?

Let’s get back to what I said before about these being a symptom of why times are tough. Again, when I was a lad, those back-to-school ads came out in August because that’s usually when parents get their kids ready for school. In those days, jobs were more plentiful and the terms “downsizing” and “austerity” were not in everyday conversation. Consumer confidence was also much higher so wallets were easier to open up for knapsacks, clothes, and supplies.

Flash forward to now, and it’s a meaner, leaner, and more worrisome time. It’s an employer’s market now, people are VERY frightened about the increased chance of losing their jobs, and that fear is translating into more conservative spending habits. More staycations. More budgeting. This new consumer market can be a real challenge for businesses selling products and services, and clearly the cuts to retail prices isn’t luring consumers in, so what-to-do?

Simple. Start the promotions earlier and run them longer. Businesses have to do this. It’s not going to be as easy to milk the back-to-school crowd these days so they have to work harder, longer, and yes, sadly, more in our faces.

This is why you are seeing back-to-school ads the moment people are heading to the cottage, the same reason why we now see Christmas ad promotions two weeks before Halloween (as opposed to the previous date of November 1st when I was a little tyke).

We may try our best to ignore these early ads, but never ignore the reason WHY they are happening in the first place.

As I said, times are tough and people need to realize this.

Thanks for reading!

David.

Brexit, Stage Left

brexit_in_flags
By Vexels GroovyGraphics (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

As stated in the article, I wrote this back in January 1999 on a web site called “Take One!”:

“We believed that once the recession was over, people who were let go would be rewarded for their sacrifices with a job market that was growing again. Well, things are better, according to the economists. Our economy expands at the time of this writing (January 1999) at an average of over 2%. Yet the downsizing continues. If you read the paper, you already know this to be true. If it’s not a mining company closing down, it’s a government department downsizing, or a factory that has gone to Mexico because of the free trade agreement.

So why the layoffs still?

I suspect that Corporate Canada has opted to make more money by cutting expenses rather than raising sales. It is the path of least resistance. It’s much easier for a company to tell an employee to clear out his or her desk than it is to design a better product that is higher in quality and lower in cost for consumers.

But this way of getting a bigger profit has a high cost. It downsizes an individual. There’s not much value left to a man or woman who loses the ability to earn an income, and cannot afford a place to live, food to eat, and clean clothes to wear.”

I wrote this in response to the growing transcendence of corporations over the will of elected governments, and the establishment of free trade zones that take local jobs out of the economy (resulting in increased unemployment and reduced tax revenue).

For posting this online, I was called a cultural xenophobe and an isolationist.

Fast forward 16 years. How you like me now? The North American Free Trade Act may have made a lot of money for corporations and Mexican workers, but it became the first of many tools used by companies to do more with less. Then there’s the EU, of which Britain has voted to leave via the Brexit referendum.

Good for them. The EU is a horrible example of an economic union that not only restricted trade through a hideously thick layer of bureaucracy, produced by nonelected officials housed in Brussels, it also whittled away the sovereign right of each member nation to determine their political direction unfettered. This was never the intention of the EU in the first place. It was to promote free trade. Not dictate immigration policies that destroy economies and social neighbourhoods. Not add a new layer of taxation that impacts the poor. It most certainly not draft plans for a secret army that would police the entire union. Perhaps even force members to adhere to EU policy or prevent members from leaving the union down the road?

The right of a nation to decide its political course and the right of the individual to determine a future through employment are intertwined. Britain now can decide who it can trade with, has complete control over what current and future tax levels it can set and what product standards it can adhere to. A free market, and I mean a truly free market, not a economic union pretending to be the United States Of Europe, allows personal initiative through the seizing of ample opportunities.  This translates into strong economic growth, healthy job creation, increased tax revenue and improved social programs.

It’s a no brainer, and Britain made the smart move. Jolly good show!

Thanks for reading!

David.

 

The New Abnormal.

imageedit_2_5146693855
If there was a parallel negative universe, my doppelganger would be gainfully employed, getting along great with his family and absolutely rocking the Santa Claus look. Made with the Lunapic web service! Permission to use this image freely without restrictions provided credit is given to the author (David Alan Gay)

When my father passed away I said to my friends I had to get used to a new normal in my life. I lost a parent, someone who raised me, worked hard to ensure his family was provided for, taught me to always be a law-abiding citizen even during my darkest times.  I still miss my father dearly even after all the years that have passed, but the new normal I spoke of earlier became THE normal.

This transformative definition of what is normal for me appears to be more fluidic than I imagined, as demonstrated yesterday when a friend of mine and her boyfriend treated me to lunch and later a movie on my birthday, which was June 9th.

Since I treat my job search as an actual job, I didn’t do one that day: it is a rule of mine not to look for work on Sundays, holidays and my birthday. I slept in until 8:30 a.m., went to the library to use the wireless before being picked up by my friend and her boyfriend. We went to the Angel’s restaurant on Weber and then saw a matinee showing of Captain America: Civil War. While it was a great movie, forgive me for going full comic book nerd mode but the original Marvel miniseries it is based on is far better.

I enjoyed myself that day. My stress level was down for a change and I had a chance to really laugh and be free of worry. It also felt very weird. Abnormal.

I’m so used to waking up at 6:30 in the morning to go to Tim Hortons and later the library for what to me appears to be an exercise in futility that would rival even what Sisyphus had to put up with: my job search. I’m so used to arguing with friends and family members about having to watch my spending and why I haven’t find work yet, trying to explain to them how ageism and the jobless recovery are affecting my job search. I’m so used to doing all of that EVERY DAY it seems…normal…even though I had one day to live like a normal person should, free of this stress and not having to worry about a very uncertain and scary future.

How abnormal is that?

Thanks for reading!

David.

 

Home is…where?…the heart is.

COoHIt’s not often I come across information that I’m not looking for, but turns out to be something I can use later.

Case in point: a report attempting to define what homelessness is.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve talked about homelessness before, what it is, how it affects you in specific and society as a whole. Blah blah blah. Stop repeating yourself, David.

This definition is unique, though, and is worth writing about because the definition is both something I agree and disagree with.

This report was written a few years ago by an organization called “The Canadian Observatory On Homeless”, and is titled “Canadian Definition Of Homelessness”. The first thing that jumped out at me was the phrase “Canadian Definition Of Homelessness”. I don’t know about you but as far as I’m concerned, what country you live in shouldn’t alter the meaning of something. I mean, homelessness should mean the same thing whether you are in Canada, the USA, New Zealand, whatever, just as what happens when you combine oil and water together. Perhaps the language used changes the word: les sans-abri, beskućništvo, obdachlosigkeit, bezdomność, whatever, but it’s still the same definition. You don’t have a roof over your head so you are homeless. Simple.

Well, not to the authors who wrote this report. They did not stick to a specific definition, they instead used a spectrum, and what I mean by that is just as you have many forms of light — infrared, visible, ultraviolet — the authors decided to define homelessness as a state of degrees. This is where we to the “I agree and disagree with” part, but let’s first walk through what the authors wrote. This report is five pages long, and while I’ve made a link for you to read on your own free time, I’m not going to go through the entire report verbatim.

The report identifies the following tiers of homelessness, each of which I will comment on since having had experience being homeless: Unsheltered, Emergency Sheltered, Provisionally Accommodated, and At Risk Of Homelessness.

Unsheltered – This includes people who lack housing and are not accessing emergency shelters or accommodation, except during extreme weather conditions. In most cases, people are staying in places that are not designed for or fit for human habitation.

Agreed. This is the definition of homelessness most people are familiar with and see both in everyday life and in various forms of media and entertainment. I’ve slept on subway cars, buses, and in parks. This to me is what homelessness is.

Emergency Sheltered, including those staying in overnight shelters for people who are homeless, as well as shelters for those impacted by family violence.

Agreed. I’ve been in a men’s shelter for up to 10 days. While I have not been impacted by family violence, this definition is also a correct description of homelessness.

Provisionally Accommodated – referring to those whose accommodation is temporary or lacks security of tenure.

Well…what they are describing here is couchsurfing. Is this homelessness? I would disagree.

If this was homelessness, this means I’ve been homeless since November 2013 for about 2-and-a-half-years. This would include the time I stayed with my sister and brother-in-law after moving out of my own apartment, then after moving out, with my aunt, my mother, and my friends.

When you are couchsurfing, you are in a home. You have access to the services found in a home…a bathroom to relieve yourself and shower, a kitchen to prepare food to eat, a bedroom or a least a bed or couch to sleep on, and if possible Internet or a phone service to contact people, perhaps for a job search. You are using the place you are at correctly. It’s fit for human habitation.

There’s also the question about people who “live out of a suitcase” because their job dictates it. I’ve worked with contract computer programmers and system administrators from IBM Canada, IBM India and TCS/TATA who live contract to contract…literally. They rent a motel or stay with family because the nature of their job has them travelling often and over wide distances. Owning a home in their case would not only be a waste of money, it would limit the ability to be mobile that is demanded by their job.

To me, provisional accommodation is really not homelessness. Unstable, fluid, temporary housing perhaps…but not homelessness.

At Risk of Homelessness, referring to people who are not homeless, but whose current economic and/or housing situation is precarious or does not meet public health and safety standards.

This point is really stretching it. We all live in an Age of Austerity and the jobless recovery. This puts a great strain on those who are living paycheque to paycheque to pay the mortgage, the car, Jimmy or Janey’s new braces, whatever. How many times have you had, or have heard, a conversation like, “Honey, if we don’t pay our mortgage on time, the bank will foreclose” or “Geez, gotta get my rent cheque to my landlord or I’m out on my butt”? OFTEN! Everyone has these conversations! Even when I was gainfully employed, there were times that my budget needed  to be adjusted because paying my apartment rent on time was getting tough to do. We all go through this.

I agree with a lot of the points in this report. It’s easy to understand, using common everyday language most people can follow, and avoids the use of charts and graphs that sometimes overwhelm the reader. It is, however, painting a very broad brush on what homelessness and that muddies the water. It’s pulling in a lot of things hither and fro and I’ve written in the past that in order to solve a problem, you have to understand the problem by defining what it is. This report, though well-meaning, could make that definition very fuzzy.

Thanks for reading!

David.