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Dog Bites’s Super Happy Fun Slander Corner

Wednesday, Mar 7 2001
Okay, So the Choices are "No Pay" or "No Job"

It's hideously embarrassing, but we recently realized we're flat-out addicted to, the dot-com deadpool. And before anyone accuses us of Schadenfreude -- it isn't that. It's the messages posted on the Super Happy Fun Slander Corner, where almost everyone is mean, most people are surpassingly immature, and the occasional crybaby misguided enough to point out the meanness and immaturity gets blasted with a post like this: "You come to a site called FuckedCompany and read postings on the Happy Fun Slander Corner and are surprised to read the abuse that is being handed out to the featured companies, who generally have pissed away more money than some Third World countries spend on health. What did you expect, a group hug and the posters here offering their commiserations to this bunch of losers?"

God, it's funny. Of course, you couldn't pay us to post to FC -- we're sensitive -- but the site is becoming one of our principal sources of information on the new new economy; bitter techies, we find, can be remarkably eloquent.

This week bitterness reached a new high when a disgruntled employee of Mission-based, a Web design firm, posted an internal company survey to the site -- a survey in which 415's 80-odd employees were asked a series of questions including:

"5. Would you stay at 415 if your salary was indefinitely reduced? This assumes no change in hours/week.

  • No
  • Yes, up to a 10% reduction
  • Yes, up to a 20% reduction
  • Yes, up to a 30% reduction

9. Would you be willing to defer salary payment?

  • No
  • Yes, I would defer 1 month payment (to be paid no later than the end of the year).
  • Yes, I would defer 2 months payment (to be paid no later than the end of the year).

20. Are you in favor of enacting the layoffs as soon as possible? Note that this assumes a severance package.

  • Yes
  • No

Well, it certainly wasn't the kind of thing one hopes to find in one's email inbox, but the storm of responses on the FC message boards -- accusing the company's executives of management by committee -- started an interesting debate: If you were about to be laid off, would having a say in your layoff make you feel better?

Given the economy, this question could become significant, so Dog Bites called Barbara Pagano, managing director of 415 -- which Friday laid off 16 people. Pagano, who's voluntarily taken a 10% pay cut herself, explained the company had also conducted a series of meetings in which management laid out 415's financial position to employees. "I think the survey was taken out of context," she said. "During layoffs, most people feel completely out of control. Doing it this way, even if they ultimately get laid off, they feel like they were treated with respect."

Of course, we're not sure how many other local dot-coms will be inspired to be as up-front with their own employees; often, it seems, the carpetbagging young executives vanish in their TTs just before the Kool-Aid party for everyone else.

Still, it's the thought that counts.

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Waking every morning to the sound of rain spattering on the window, Dog Bites is beginning to wonder why Seattle doesn't actually have a higher suicide rate. Why even get up? Why not just lie there, consumed by thoughts like, "But we did say it was a cane. Does Rob Morse need new reading glasses, or what?" and "Hey, didn't we used to have a mayor? Whatever happened to him?"

Oh, and we'd just like to acknowledge those of our readers who called and wrote to point out that while we might have saved money on our electricity bill, we probably spent money going out to dance. Wow, thanks! We hadn't thought of that.

Then again, as our colleague Mark Athitakis commented, "I'd give money to PG&E if they had a big dance party."

Say, we can't be the only ones thinking benefit.

Anyway, Saturday night our friends tried to cheer us up by dragging us to the Hush Hush for -- "What is this music, anyway?" complained a member of our party.

"Samba!" we answered, and just the thing to make you forget you've apparently been unwittingly relocated to the Pacific Northwest, but oddly enough it was held to be hard to dance to, so that didn't last long, and we ended up at Loöq Hard, which for once wasn't packed to the rafters, probably because the driving rain was enough to persuade all but the most dedicated techno-phile to stay home with a nice mug of hot chocolate.

Scrubbing stamps off our wrist the next morning -- the ritual Sunday ablution -- we contemplated the options: Stay home, shivering in the heatless living room, or go in to work, where we can run the space heater on the company dime.

Then it dawned on us: Friday, the Fangxaminer had congratulated itself on its 100th day of existence. Actually, when we'd made our own count on the little calendar on the back of our checkbook register, we got 101 days, but what really interested us was the paper's front-page note claiming "impressive gains" in circulation. Back when the F-Ex first began publishing, we'd staked out a couple of local newsstands, asking patrons whether they'd been picking up the new paper. The answer, uniformly, was no. Had things changed?

"No way. If you never bothered to read the Independent, why would you pay 25 cents for the Examiner?" answered the first person we asked, a ponytailed man browsing magazines at Juicy News who wouldn't give his name but said we could describe him as the Anonymous Red-Haired Guy.

Mo Salimi, Juicy News' Fillmore Street manager, said the store had stopped carrying the Ex. "As far as I know, it's just been cancelled," he said. "I have to call the distributor to see what's going on."

Maybe people were just suffering from cabin fever, but everyone we asked seemed happy to discuss his or her newspaper reading habits and the reasons for them. An older man pushing one of those all-terrain strollers said he occasionally bought the Chronicle, but never picked up the Ex. "I really like the Mercury News," he said. "I consider it to be the best local newspaper."

"The [Ex's] headlines..." an elegantly-dressed woman answered, then trailed off. "It's kind of -- tabloid-y. It's like there's no real news in it."

In order to recreate the original survey conditions as exactly as possible, we followed up by heading over to our favorite newsstand, Polk Street's Smoke Signals, where a trenchcoated Zelig Prudowsky said he hadn't looked at the Ex in months. "I picked up one or two copies at the beginning, and I said forget it," he said. "You could look in the newsboxes and see it was three days old. It just turned me off."

One customer browsing the magazines told us he -- gasp! -- doesn't buy newspapers at all: "I read what I need to on the internet," he explained. A minute later, a blond woman carrying a New York Times told Dog Bites she isn't interested in local news.

Smoke Signals owner Fadi Berbery -- yeah, the guy who got that big lottery bonus a few months ago -- shook his head and said the Ex isn't doing at all well. "[We sell] between two and five copies a day," he said; his busy store used to sell about 40 copies of the Hearst-owned Examiner a day.

Well, we guess everything depends on how you define "impressive gains"; Dog Bites, for one, was tired of caroming around the city getting unpleasantly damp cuffs, so we went home with the new British Vogue, got the blankie out of the closet, and made that deferred mug of hot chocolate.

This is definitely not the dot-com spring.

About The Author

Laurel Wellman


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