Our dance with the devil and our race to the bottom…

BODY POLITIC LOGO THUMB - SmallWant to help save our nation?  Perhaps its time to just say “NO” to the rampant worker exploitation that is going on in our society.   Sorry to say that this is something that is going to be easier said than done.  Its something that snuck up on us by stealth of night.  Then one day we woke up in a new world where a “sharing economy” was creating a giant race to the bottom.  The vast majority of us found ourselves  struggling to survive on less and less while fixed costs like health care and housing rose exponentially.   

Killing our own futures – one bargain at a time….

The irony of the situation was that there was but one bright spot in this morass, and that was the sudden availability of dirt cheap goods and services.  Suddenly the internet was providing us with access to freebies and bargains galore.  The trouble is that it took a very long time for most of us to connect the dots between our own crumbling financial fortunes and the sudden availability goodies and freebies. These bargains are a deadly mix of arsenic and crack cocaine and with them we have sowed the seeds of our own destruction.  Many still don’t see it today.

It was our lack of curiosity (and concern) for why some things are so ridiculously cheap combined with  our pastime of relentless bargain hunting, that has brought our middle class to its knees.   We just accepted these goody bags as the one bright spot in an ever bleaker future.

But the trouble is that these bargains have been borne on the backs of the middle and working classes.  If you see a deal that is “just too good to be true” it probably is.  Someone is almost certainly getting hurt so you can have that sweet deal.We sealed the fate of the 99% with every freebie we bought into.  These freebies depended on dirt cheap labor – both here and abroad.  And now, ridiculously low wages are threatening the very fabric of our entire system of government.   Democracy  as we know it can not survive in an oligarchy where 90% of the money and power are in the hands of a very few.  Indeed, there is ample evidence that the process of our relentless self-destruction is well under way.

You can dance with the devil until he comes for you…

Yesterday it was me who got the short end.  This was the 6th job I had lost this year as a real estate photographer because agents in our area have suddenly been smitten with a company that is offering “good enough” products at irresistible prices.   And I admit it.  I finally blew my stack.   

I got a call from an agent who had a substantial photography job for later in the week. When I mentioned my pricing, the  agent’s attitude was “WOW! You sure are overpriced.”   No, I’m not.  $280 for photographing almost 4000 sf of living space and then the property the house sits on AND producing a video is NOT overpriced. It IS consistent with being able to make a living…barely.  The agent went on to inform me that my competition would do the house with a video and throw in floor plans for $100 less.

The cost of doing business…

I finally said what I have been wanting to say to agents for several months:  “You do realize that this company gets away with these prices because their photographers are being shamelessly exploited? “  I told an agent the truth that he must have guessed at.  He was getting his amazing “deal” because the photographer was getting $40-$50 to shoot and photoshop a 3000 sf home!  The company then glombs onto 3/4 of the entire bill of the entire payout.

In general, I might excuse a salaried worker or professional for their ignorance on an issue like this.  But a real estate agent is an independent contractor.  They know better.  Brokerages offer ENTIRE COURSES on protecting commissions from greedy sellers and buyers who are looking to wheel and deal.  (I know because I’m a licensed agent).  Brokers and agents are trained to calculate the “costs of doing business”   They are trained to calculate their cost of living and how to jettison clients that appear to be time wasters.  A person like that should be indoctrinated enough in running their own business to realize that a price like that makes no sense and the no one could make ends meet on that.

Agents certainly can’t be blind to the amount of money that has to be sunk into cameras, lights, tripods, computers and software. Can anyone reasonably think that  a job that involves 30-40 professionally finished photos complete with professional lighting and photoshop can be done in less than 4-5 hours?  An agent should certainly be able to do the arithmetic and realize that $50 will barely cover the photographer’s cost.

When did depending on exploitation become a respectable “business model”?

In the end, it  wasn’t what a company that is known for exploitative practices was paying their photographers that outraged me.  I’ve had plenty of time to be outraged about that in the past.   It was that the agent (and many other agents) are FINE WITH THAT.  He said “I’ll stick with “company X” – you know as an agent I have to watch my bottom line!”

Since when was it OK in our society to watch your bottom line by STARVING someone else?   Because the day this happened, we sold our souls and our livelihoods.  The problem is now so serious, that I think that we should make buying into wage inflation a matter of patriotism.

The message we need to send to the nation is simple: If you seek  the lowest bidder each and every time, you are not a patriot.  You are hurting your nation in order to line your pockets. Let’s go ahead and call a spade a spade.  Shaming people into reality might not be such a bad thing.  If your “business model” is contingent on walking all over other people’s ability to make a living, you SHOULD be publicly called out and shamed for it.

And if that doesn’t work – perhaps we should remind those who continue to dance their dance, that the devil will eventually come for them….

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