There is a saying that goes, “Money isn’t everything, but not having money is.” It means that when you are financially well-off, money isn’t that important in your life. But when you are living in poverty, money is a constant source of worry and stress. If you have ever lived in a household where this was the case, you know just how true this is. Money can’t buy happiness, but the lack of money can cause depression and heartache.
This is something that Talia Jane knows all too well. For years, she has struggled financially and when she went to tell her story to the world, she was unfairly punished. Luckily, her story has gone viral and has inspired many to rally to her cause.
She may only be 25 years old, but she has raised an issue that has been largely ignored. It is her hope that people can learn from her experience so that it doesn’t have to happen to anyone else.
This is Talia, a former employee of Eat24, a food app owned by Yelp.
She moved to San Francisco to work for the company after graduating college a few months earlier. Talia was ecstatic to find a job, but she was soon faced with a difficult problem.
Finding a place to live in San Francisco wasn’t cheap, and when she got to the job, she discovered that the position she wanted wasn’t available. She would need to work as a customer service agent, which paid only $8.25 an hour after tax.
She explained, “I thought to myself … I’m just going to try really hard on improving at this job so I can transfer and get a pay increase, but then I was told that wouldn’t happen for at least a year.”
Between trying to pay for a steep rent, expensive transportation costs, and student debt, Talia faced a major problem. She knew she couldn’t support herself for very long on the wages she was getting paid. She worked 40 hours of night shifts a week and cut back on grocery expenses.
Talia would go to bed hungry every night and learned to live off of just rice and water. After months of surviving like this, she got an idea.
Talia publically reached out to Yelp’s CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, on Twitter and tried to explain her situation.
She didn’t receive a response, so she decided to write an open letter to her CEO and publish it on Medium.
Her letter instantly became a viral sensation, as people from all walks of life empathized with Talia’s struggle. In total, her letter was read by over 85,000 people.
So here I am, 25-years old, balancing all sorts of debt and trying to pave a life for myself that doesn’t involve crying in the bathtub every week. 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. He brought a big bag with him and stocked up on all those snacks you make sure are on every floor… By and large, our floor pummels through those snacks the fastest and has to roam other floors to find something to eat. Is it because we’re gluttons? Maybe. If you starve a pack of wolves and toss them a single steak, will they rip each other to shreds fighting over it? Definitely.
I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job. Not because I’m lazy, but because I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can’t afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me, even though you’ve got a whole fridge full of it on the 8th floor. But we’re not allowed to take any of that home because it’s for at-work eating. Of which I do a lot. Because 80 percent of my income goes to paying my rent. Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right?
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.Advertisement
One day after her letter went viral, Talia got an email from HR saying she had been let go for violating her employee contract. Her termination caused such an uproar that the CEO of Yelp finally responded.
Yelp continues to maintain that the open letter is not the reason why Talia was let go, but Talia insists the company wasn’t being honest.
“Yelp is trying to make this die down by lying about it,” she says. “Firing someone while their post about pay issues is on the cusp of going viral, that’s like a lightning strike in the middle of a super-dry forest. Things have just exploded.”
You can read Talia’s full open letter here.