Starving Yelp Employee Writes Asks For A Better Wage, Gets Fired

An open letter to the CEO of Yelp from a starving employee is going viral, but may have earned the employee the sack.

The customer service rep and blogger Talia Jane (not her full name) wrote an open letter to the CEO and founder of Yelp Jeremy Stoppelman titled “Dear Jeremy.”

Posted on the blog site Medium yesterday, the detailed letter illustrates all the budgeting issues the 25-year-old employee was having in her first year working for the $3 billion dollar company.

“I got paid yesterday ($733.24, bi-weekly) but I have to save as much of that as possible to pay my rent ($1245) for my apartment that’s 30 miles away from work because it was the cheapest place I could find that had access to the train, which costs me $5.65 one way to get to work. That’s $11.30 a day, by the way. I make $8.15 an hour after taxes. I also have to pay my gas and electric bill. Last month it was $120. According to the infograph on PG&E’s website, that cost was because I used my heater. I’ve since stopped using my heater. Have you ever slept fully clothed under several blankets just so you don’t get a cold and have to miss work? Have you ever drank a liter of water before going to bed so you could fall asleep without waking up a few hours later with stomach pains because the last time you ate was at work? I woke up today with stomach pains. I made myself a bowl of rice.”

The lengthy blog runs in excess of 2,400 words and discusses a range of issues, including making the financial argument for improving staff retention by raising the wage. She argues that trained staff save the company about $600 a month by de-escalating upset customers rather than giving away money in the form of cash coupons.

“Do you know how many cash coupons I used to give out before I was properly trained? In one month, I gave out over $600 to customers for a variety of issues. Now, since getting more training, I’ve given out about $15 in the past three months because I’ve been able to de-escalate messed up situations using just my customer service skills. Do you think that’s coincidence?”

A fascinating insight into the working lives of Silicon Valley, it includes details of a fellow employee who had to start a GoFundMe to pay her rent, and ended up leaving the company because she couldn’t afford to work there, and another young man who she believes must have been homeless because he brought a big bag to work each day, and the irony of not being able to afford to eat while working for a 3 billion dollar food company.

Talia went straight on Twitter for support asking if people thought she’d be fired.

It didn’t take too long to find out.

A phone call revealed that the firing came from much higher up than her customer service manager.

Jeremy Stoppelman, whose personal fortune is estimated to be between $111 and $222 million, responded by Twitter in five tweets, blaming excessive costs of living in the Bay area for Talia’s situation and committing to solving the problem by eventually moving operations to Arizona.

Stoppelman insisted he was not involved in her sacking, and that it was not because of the Medium letter addressed to him.

However, that conflicted with the advice she had been given from her manager and HR.

Talia Jane is seeking pro-bono legal advice and has since edited her Medium post to include her PayPal.

[Photo by Shutterstock]