Ethics Observations On Talia Jane’s “Open Letter” To Yelp

Talia Jane. Get used to seeing this face over the next 15 minutes or so...

Talia Jane. Get used to seeing this face over the next 15 minutes or so…

The story: A 25-year-old entry level Yelp (at Eat24, which is owned by Yelp) customer service agent named Talia Jane posted an article to the social media site Medium titled, An Open Letter To My CEO.  Addressed to “Jeremy,” Yelp Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Stoppleman, Jane’s epistle was a long. angry, often sad, more often snarky lament about her low compensation, current poverty, and lack of satisfaction with her job;  her personal hardship as she struggled with Bay Area living expenses like rent, food, electricity, internet, transportation; and her criticism of company policies and Stoppleman’s millions (Yelp was his creation.) The letter quickly went viral, especially among Bernie-files and on left-leaning websites, as the post was a rant against the lack of a living wage and greedy corporations generally. A couple hours later, Talia posted an update that she had been fired, and Stoppleman responded to some of her concerns on Twitter, protesting that he and his company were not as callous as she claimed. Stoppleman also tweeted that he was uninvolved in her firing and it was unrelated to the Medium post.

Observations:

1. Of course, Yelp had to fire her. Any company, large or small, would and should fire a low level employee who intentionally attacks her employer and the company’s CEO in a public forum. That the letter was read far and wide just sped up the process. The Bernie Brats, being so ignorant of the way of the world that they actually believe Sanders’ Socialist fantasies, naturally faulted Yelp for her fate. In Bernie World, you see, everyone is guaranteed a job, even after they go out of their way to embarrass the people who write their paychecks, or so they appear to believe.

2. Jane wrote that her firing was “unplanned” but not unexpected. I don’t believe that for a second; in fact, the statement is contradictory. She wrote a 2500 word attack on her employer and posted it online, and says she “expected’ to be fired. When you take deliberate action that you know will have a specific result, that’s a plan. The plan is to get out of a job she hates and that doesn’t advance her desired career—apparently to be a highly paid web commentator and wit—by making herself into a sympathetic celebrity long enough to exploit her fame and re-boot her ambitions. Isn’t that obvious? I’m sure that Talia is being booked on radio and TV shows as I write this. For her plan to work, however, she has to lie about her intentions in writing the letter. To some extent, I admire her audacity, and the plan may work. But this is The Saint’s Excuse: she made a deal with Yelp; they held up their end of it; she miscalculated, she was dissatisfied, so she made Yelp a public target for her own benefit.  Unethical. It is also the rationalization called Ethical Vigilantism: she thinks this is right because she deserves better, and is justified betraying her benefactor.

3. I wouldn’t trust Talia Jane to run my lemonade stand.

4. I’m not going to dissect the whole letter, but the sense of entitlement is striking. So is Jane’s obvious refusal to take responsibility for her own choices. She accepted a minimum wage job in an expensive city because it was a necessary step to being considered for the Yelp job she wanted. She was told that she would have to spend a year answering phone calls, took the job, and is now protesting that she has to spend a year answering phone calls. She chose San Francisco because it was close to her father (and she wanted to finally develop the relationship with him she never had—not Yelp’s problem), and blames Yelp because her rent is too high, though she’s apparently unwilling to have a roommate.

Most astoundingly, she doesn’t consider Yelp’s excellent health care benefits part of her compensation, and is indignant about the $25 co-pay.  This is Bernie-Bern again: free health care is a right. Nope. We are all ultimately responsible for taking care of ourselves. I don’t want to pay for the bad choices made by others, and I really don’t want to pay for the huge, bloated, authoritarian government that it will take to make people like Talia Jane smug and happy—and I shouldn’t have to.

5. Another writer on Medium, Kris Gellci, wrote a completely fair and constructive response to Jane’s letter, and found himself the object of vicious attacks on the site, accusing him of being “inhuman.” He began by writing,

“Probably not a good idea to publicly slam the company that pays your bills and the CEO that signs the checks, as proven by your update. If you wonder why 18 year olds that live with their parents are doing the same job as you, it is because it is an entry level position with minimum wage pay that does not require a college degree….”

and ended…

“Some advice for you, take it or leave it but it is to your benefit: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Don’t complain about a situation you put yourself in. Yes, moving to one of the most expensive areas for a minimum wage job was your decision.And last but not least, make yourself worth something, don’t just ask for a handout.”

The comments divided sharply between those adults who saluted Kris for rational and wise advice, and more of the millennial entitles class, who said he was kicking someone who was down, and hence a cruel monster. No, he was properly and responsibly reinforcing important cultural and societal values—which Jane, thanks to some ethics corrupters like Bernie Sanders, seems completely misunderstand— in response to a public post that warped and rejected them., while intentionally blaming others for her problems and trying to hurt them in the process.

6. An aside: several of the commenters deride Kris’s comment as “mansplaining.” The suddenly popular term is sexist and biased in intent and meaning, a cheap and unfair gender wars weapon, and I’ll announce here and now: use that one on me, and your comment will be rejected and you will be banned here.

7. Yelp’s CEO claiming that Jane’s letter was unrelated to her firing—it was all a coincidence!—insulted the intelligence of the human race.

41 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On Talia Jane’s “Open Letter” To Yelp

  1. “I really don’t want to pay for the huge, bloated, authoritarian government that it will take to make people like Talia Jane smug and happy…”

    Nothing would actually achieve this anyway. People like her are unhappy for internal reasons and don’t realize it. That’s the scariest thing about Sanders and his brat pack. Any failures that arise from his presidency would be blamed on right-wing opposition (see Obama, Barak.) Then more scarily-progressive candidates will emerge as solutions to said failures. Then any subsequent damage will be blamed on whatever non-socialist individuals are even left. It’s a downward spiral of greed and bigger government, until we have a one-party state like Detroit, and there’s nobody left to blame for your own personal and cultural failures, at which point your country is a smoking husk anyway.

    (I realize while typing this that Detroitans still blame conservatives in state and national politics for the collapse of their city.)

  2. Talia is a whiner and a good reason why the draft should be reinstated. She’ll probably join the Sanders campaign very soon. I have a strong suspicion that many of us that follow this blog have to take low paying jobs doing work we didn’t really like doing.

    • I’m glad my Dad isn’t alive when I read stuff like this. He was raised in abject poverty, worked menial and demeaning jobs far beneath his ability and intellect, dealt with horrible bosses, and when he decided that a job was not worth his time and passion, he quit and found another one, or, like me, started his own business. Drove Mom nuts.

  3. I have had to fire people before, and because of the way unemployment benefits worked and just general fear of litigation (in Texas which is much more employer friendly than California), you want to dot every “i” and cross every “t,” which means the employee often has advance notice that their days are numbered. It would not surprise me at all if she was already on her way to being fired before she wrote the letter. A couple of the ones I fired would have pulled that stunt in an instant if they had thought about it and my company had the public profile to make it work. If she was two strikes down on a three strike policy, for example, it might have been easier to fire her for the third strike than fire her for violation of a policy they hopefully have against publicly criticizing the company. So, I have to say I don’t feel quite as strongly as you do about your point No. 7, but other than that, you nailed it.

    • Good point: that is true, and in fact I’ve been in that position with a bad employee before myself. Then my point 7 would be that it’s stupid and incompetent to mention that the post wasn’t the reason for the firing, since absolutely no one will believe it…or you wait a lot longer than two hours after the post hits the web before the termination.

      • More interestingly, Texas is a right-to-work state…which means it is also a right-not-to-work state. You can be fired for any reason or no reason, if your employer is willing to pay unemployment. By Texas law, I can fire an employee (if I had any) simply because I don’t like their looks.

  4. It’s sad that someone with a degree in English literature can’t write any better than she does, but those commenting (as usual) are much worse. What was noticeably absent from the comments was any questioning as to why the cost of living in the Bay Area is so high – there’s an implied assumption that it’s normal and natural. It isn’t. The Bay Area is well known for its liberal politics and policies. Residents are proud to have higher than average taxes on just about everything, and greater regulation of just about everything. Any business person in the area has to charge more and pay less if she is to make a profit. These things always trickle down to the little guy, but the Bernie Sanders type cannot seem to comprehend the connection. Why do so many people believe that businesses must somehow compensate employees for their poor choices at the ballot box? (p.s., I really wanted to do some mansplaining, but I was fearful of being banned.)

    • Completely agree. I’ve been dividing my time up between California and Tennessee the last few years. We’re not sure where we’re going to settle down. One thing we know for sure: the option of starting a business (which we are considering) will NOT be on the table in California. Starting most types of business is simply not within the means of the average individual there.

  5. Back around 2007, I was an HR manager for a company in a booming resource based economy. I was part of a three man team that hired 1500 people, and oversaw the exit of about the same number, I had to fire very few. And I remember even fewer… One of them was a walking liability suit still on probation, another was a guy called me a racist for not immediately hiring his entire family, and I remember this one guy who marched into my office and said that for all the great work he’d done in the two weeks he’d been employed, he immediately required a significant bump in pay, or he’d “Work-to-rule”. Sometimes you gotta wonder what they’re thinking.

    I don’t have to wonder that here.

    I bet you a bajillion dollars that she knew that her foreseeable firing was coming down the pipes, even without this article, and that she thought she’d either get 15 minutes of fame, or amass enough “victim cred” to cash in. I tried searching for a GoFundMe campaign… But I can’t seem to find one. Which is weird, because some of the articles specifically mention one. Ohwell.

    • The degree to which the SJWs, bleeding hearts and working class heroes immediately grant her martyr status, and the guy who simply asserts the rules of the workplace is shat upon repeatedly by them. I especially like the commenters her position being compared to slavery and 19th Century labor victims. It’s GOOD to bite the hand that feeds you!

      • And how dare they stop putting their hand out for you to bite it! You gotta wonder though: Who are these people egging her on? If you’re employed, you should know, viscerally and subliminally at least, that pissing where you sleep is a bad idea… So are these people all unemployed and unemployable, or are they employed and giving bad advice?

    • I mostly like it. I recognize that he is trying to be easy on her while trying to get through her thick and entitled skull, but the assumption that she is being mistreated just because she says so still enables her more than she deserves. I think it’s unfair to assume her boss is an asshole because of her warped and biased viewpoint alone.

  6. (Self promotion alert! Feel free to delete, Jack, cause I am waaay off topic here.)
    Hey, I’m on Medium. Here’s a poem to lighten everyone up. https://medium.com/poets-unlimited/truth-lies-here-now-6236ca8aa8c8#.eo5su0qos I mean, you all are so serious most of the time. I realize that ethics is a serious business, but, let me tell you serious. My wife is at the Mayo Clinic fighting for her life. I’m trying to pull off the magic. Is this fate? Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. https://medium.com/bigger-picture/it-is-what-it-is-fuck-that-5f360c9a570b#.l0cvtb4jr

      • I had the app on my iPad for half a year but never opened it until last December. Oh look! It’s something where I can publish old and new material. Been hooked ever since. Lots of good writing to explore. I think what initially hooked me is that at the beginning of each piece it gives an estimate in minutes how long it will take to read it. Most of them are fairly short, say 1-3 minutes.

  7. Okay, I just fully read An Open Letter To My CEO. I believe she makes some good points. (ALERT! At heart I am a bleeding heart shmo.) And, I admit, it somewhat pains me to see the CEO’s digs. http://virtualglobetrotting.com/map/jeremy-stoppelmans-house/view/google/
    I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve these digs. But, what the fuck? Did this woman, no matter how out-of-touch she may be, deserve to be thrown out of her job?

    Sorry, folks, I’m for the underdog. Always have been.

  8. I read through her letter and was not surprised that a change in tone, the removal of sarcasm, and a change in attitude from pessimism to optimism (and making it a private letter) would turn this into a constructive letter that might have gotten her favorably noticed by the CEO.
    (Or maybe I watch too much undercover boss)
    -Jut

  9. There’s a lot more going on here than is in the display narrative, I think. A few glances at her sumptuous meal photos, and some basic math indicate a source of support beyond what she was earning. Which makes her story of self-supporting yet starving young person unlikely to say the least; she also didn’t whine about her crushing/hope destroying student loan debt, which is de riqeur in these moaning millennial missives, raising further credibility issues. It is not possible, in any market, to rent an apartment costing $1200+ per month against a post-tax income of $350 a week. No landlord would do it, bound to fail. So who leases and pays? Parents? Unmentioned roommate? Trust fund? Boyfriend?
    In any case, it doesn’t ring true, which makes her entire story suspect.
    I call shenanigans on this. Balderdash, as well. Flummery and malarkey, say I!

  10. Talia Jane was an idiot for writing such a letter expecting there to be no consequences; there are consequences to our words.

    Personally I think the company should have kept her on staff and sued her for libel.

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