Kickstarter’s New Motto: Kaveat Emptor

caviar dreamsAnonabox, the Washington Post reports, may not just be a silly name for a product; it might have the distinction of being a Kickstarter cautionary tale.

But the Anonabox, which has raised more than $600,000 from 9,000 people since going online four days ago, is a curious case. Most Kickstarter controversies erupt after the fact, when a project has been funded and the creator fails to deliver. (Earlier this year, in fact, Washington’s attorney general sued a Tennessee-based project that did just that.) But funders began to notice problems with the Anonabox — a tiny, affordable Internet router that anonymizes your online activity — long before that point. There were glaring discrepancies, they noted, between creator August Germar’s original description of the Anonabox and actual pictures of the device online. Germar claimed that he had designed the hardware from scratch, when, in fact, the primary components were bought almost off-the-shelf from China.

Haha oops! And backers are not happy.

Since 9 a.m. today, donors have withdrawn roughly $14,000 in pledges, or 2 percent of the project’s earnings to that point. (Under Kickstarter policy, backers can change or cancel their donations at any time before a project closes, with some exceptions if they cancel in the last 24 hours.) According to Anonabox’s Kickstarter page, more than 200 people have contributed at least $250 to the project, and a handful have donated considerably more.

Funny that Kickstarter refuses to get involved in a case of fraud and misrepresentation, whereas GoFundMe was quick on the draw when it discovered that a woman was trying to raise money for a lawful abortion. But the bigger lesson is, of course, caveat emptor, everyone.

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Friday Estimate

at every showerGood morning and TGIF! Let’s do some estimations.

I’ll be spending part of the weekend house- and cat-sitting for a friend, and grabbing lunch and dinner around the neighborhood on Saturday. On Sunday, I’ll be attending a baby shower with a group of friends in the late afternoon, and then heading back to my apartment after to get resettled and finish up some work. My estimate for the weekend is $150.

What are your estimates?

Photo: Ayca Wilson

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Dick and Jane Both Work Hard, But Jane Pays the Bills

Originally published July 9, 2013.

FROM: Jane
TO: Dick
SUBJECT: Money
So I’m suspending my Y membership even though swimming is the only thing I’ve ever loved doing because I can’t afford to pay it. I only have $300 until I’m paid in 2 1/2 weeks to buy groceries, etc. and only have $500 left in my overdraft account so you have to start on [Commission B] seriously after [Commission A].

FROM: Dick
TO: Jane
SUBJECT: Re: Money
you should keep the Y membership if it costs less to renew than start over. I have to do the [Commission C] too. I told them it would be this week, I can finish it by the weekend. pay your membership with [Commission A]’s money. how much is it?

FROM: Jane
TO: Dick
SUBJECT: Money
The membership is $63.28/ month. There’s a $45 cancellation fee, but no joiner fee to start back up. [Commission A]’s money will help of course but if you’re not paying rent on a month-to-month basis there is no way I can afford to keep my membership long-term. I can barely afford our rent and groceries right now.

FROM: Dick
TO: Jane
SUBJECT: Money
wow that’s a lot per month, it seems very high, is there anywhere cheaper to swim besides public pool?  READ MORE

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How to Ask for Money

living on the farm is the same except birds talk do you and also your blanket has patchesOur Nicole has a piece in Scratch today called How Writers (Actually) Get Paid, which is interesting and informative.

If the editor dodges your questions about payment terms, she might not know the answer herself. If she can’t or won’t find out for you, think twice about taking the job; you’re probably dealing with a publication that doesn’t have a defined process or system for dealing with freelance payment. When working for individuals rather than businesses, ask for payments in installments (including an upfront installment) to ensure the intention and capability of payment. You might also add a late fee to your contract to indicate that you’re serious about getting paid in a timely fashion. However, this isn’t possible when working with most publications, and won’t necessarily make a payment appear that wasn’t going to appear already.

She quotes a bunch of smart people, including Kima Jones and Lord High Internet Commissioner Michael P. Dang, and then oh hey, she quotes me too, being kind of blunt.

“If you can’t ask for the money you think you deserve, and if you can’t ask repeatedly, if necessary, you should probably be in a different line of work. Unfortunately, the way the system is set up is so essential to the endeavor that if you can’t ask for more money, or if you can’t ask ‘Where is my money?’ you should probably do something else.”

The thing is, this advice isn’t just for freelancers; it’s kind of for everyone. We should all know how to ask for money. (First tip: don’t get your info from WikiHow.) And yet. AND YET. It is so stressful for most of us. Here is how I learned to do it. READ MORE

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Hotels Are People Too

airbnblah

It’s increasingly hard to escape the sensation that the primary proprietors of the so-called sharing economy don’t so much share as take—from their users, from their contracted workers, from the localities in which they operate, by utilizing infrastructure that they do not contribute toward. It’s everybody else who shares.

The New York State Attorney General’s initial report on Airbnb in New York City, which analyzed full-apartment bookings (crucially, not room shares) with the service from 2010 until this past June, feels fairly conclusive in this regard. Even if you absolutely do not care at all that, according to the attorney general, seventy-two percent of the private bookings on Airbnb are technically illegal, or that real hotel operators are losing out hundreds of millions of dollars in bookings, or even maybe that the city has lost tens of millions of dollars in taxes the city has lost to Airbnb and its hosts, it’s frankly easy, as a renter in New York City (I mean, Jesus) to feel supremely agitated that last year, more than four-and-a-half thousand apartments listed on Airbnb were booked for short-term rentals for three months of the year or more, and of those, nearly half were booked by half the year or more—meaning apartments that could and should have been on the market were being largely used as hotels. (These apartments accounted for thirty-eight percent of the revenue to Airbnb and its hosts from units booked as private short-term rentals, according to the attorney general.) READ MORE

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Who Is the Wealthiest Woman in Each State?

beyoncesingleladiesLast week, real estate blog Movoto released a series of charts identifying the wealthiest woman in each U.S. state, as well as the wealthiest women in various U.S. regions.

Who are these women? Well, some of the names are immediately recognizable: Laurene Powell Jobs, Elizabeth Koch, and anyone with a “Walton” attached.

But I haven’t ever heard of a lot of these women, and I’m curious if that’s a lack of information on my part or whether you all aren’t familiar with them either.

Movoto answers the unspoken question about whether these ladies earned their cash by putting an asterisk next to each name to denote that funds represent “marital or familial wealth.” The asterisk is interesting because it is another way of erasing women’s contributions to families; clearly your money only counts if you earned it, not if you managed a household or took on a caretaking role. [EDIT: Commenter skstegner notes that I probably misunderstood the "estimated marital or familial wealth" asterisk. It doesn't identify family wealth; it identifies estimated wealth. Big difference.]

READ MORE

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On Keeping a Clean Home

clean

Almost two years ago, upon, once again, moving back to New York, I subleased a studio apartment on Essex Street from a friend who was leaving town. When she gave me a brief rundown of things-to-know about the apartment, she told me that every two weeks, a cleaner came to the apartment.

The cleaner has a key, my friend said. There’s no phone number for her, but there is a phone number for her nephew, Angel. She does not speak English, but Angel does. Just leave $20 on the table every other Tuesday morning.

I grew up in a very clean house. It wasn’t that my mother was cleaning constantly—she worked a lot; we always had a full-time housekeeper. I knew little of gathering dust, and the kind of dirtiness that accumulates when a room is simply left to sit. I thought bathrooms just stayed clean, as long as they were not actively made dirty. On top of that, my father was vigilant about us not leaving anything lying around. Items left, say, sitting on the kitchen table, were left at the bottom of the stairs to be taken en route to our bedroom. And sometimes, if school bags were left downstairs, they were throw out onto the lawn. We learned quickly.

Our chores were limited to the dinnertime sphere (cooking, tidying up, stacking and unstacking the dishwasher), and whatever happened on the weekends when our housekeeper would not be there. My parents would often host large Shabbos dinners, and I helped a lot with setting and clearing, cooking and preparing, and tidying up. I loved setting up the candles, karate-chopping the couch cushions just so, and making sure the wooden venetians were all hanging level with each other. But none of that is housework. READ MORE

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1 Things in The Stream, That is What We Are

dolly-parton-kenny-rogers-650-430

Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing.

My 1 Thing today is to go to my doctor’s appointment in three hours. I decided I need to get as much healthcare as I can this year, before I downgrade my ACA plan in 2015, otherwise known as the year I’ll house no humans. (Please everyone take a minute and knock on some wood/an IUD for me.)

Also since 1 Thing update: I never wrote back D’s mom, and she then emailed both of us asking for a link to a stroller she could buy us. We took a deep dive into stroller comparison shopping HELL for a few days and then gave up, told her we were debating colors. She said she’d mail us a check. READ MORE

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The Billfold Book Club: Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘North and South’ (Chapters 1-25)

north and south part 1

So… how do you think they’re going to resolve the strike?

A quick summary of where we stand so far:

Margaret Hale, our heroine who is whip-smart but suffers under the classic trope of being “not pretty except for the part where her subtle beauty outshines all of the other girls” (see: Anne Shirley, Elizabeth Bennet, Sara Crewe, most smart young women in classic literature), moves with her family from the south to the north (get it?) after her father gives up his position as pastor because he cannot stand the corruption in the Church of England. (Insert your own joke about King Henry VIII here.)

Mr. Hale needs a job, and takes on the role of tutor to one Mr. Thornton, a self-made man who, with the help of his budget-conscious mother, pulled his family out of poverty and now owns Marlborough Mills, one of the largest factories in town. Milton is, by its nature, a factory town, and Margaret quickly learns that people who work in factories have a hard life, befriending a young woman named Bessy Higgins who is dying of a respiratory illness from “the fluff” that mill workers breathe all day.

The question at the core of this book is whether Mr. Thornton treats his factory workers well enough and compensates them adequately. This is where the book gets interesting.

READ MORE

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How Taylor Swift Does Money

taylor swift screenshot shake it offThe lengthy profile of Taylor Swift in Rolling Stone feels like it was written by a team of kittens arguing over the pen. Some of the kittens are very average writers: Swift “plows ahead,” she “purrs,” she is “insanely excited.” Others are more skilled:

“I really like my life right now,” she says. “I have friends around me all the time. I’ve started painting more. I’ve been working out a lot. I’ve started to really take pride in being strong. I love the album I made. I love that I moved to New York. So in terms of being happy, I’ve never been closer to that.” Which is not necessarily the same as being happy. … “There’s my piano,” she says. “Here’s my pool table that always has cat hair on it. That’s my skylight.” She bumps into a doorway. “That’s a door that I walk into.”

Swift, it emerges, has moved to New York City and bought a Tribeca apartment in a premiere apartment building. Well, she bought two, but one’s merely a parenthetical:

READ MORE

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How to Tell if You’re About to Get Laid Off

Fired

Hindsight is 20-20. My nearsighted eyes are not, but there isn’t much I can do about that right now. I can’t afford to visit an optometrist for a new pair of glasses. My vision insurance, along with my sense of self-worth and steady biweekly paychecks, were ripped away from me last month when I was laid off. I hadn’t seen the axe coming and was devastated by the news. I might also have been financially ruined were it not for the existence of unemployment insurance and a committed partner I can rely on to pick up any financial slack.

It’s been about eight weeks now. The shock has passed and I’ve realized that my job doesn’t define who I am. Looking back with a clearer head, I don’t think anything could have fully prepared me for losing my job. However, I do think the blow would have been softened had I recognized the red flags. They were there; they usually are.

In the past few weeks, I have swapped pink-slip stories with my friends, former colleagues and strangers on the Internet. I’ve also cornered the people I know who work in management and picked their brains. What I’ve collected from these conversations is a depressing, paranoia-filled list of situations that you can interpret as hints to update your resume, backup your work contact list and start looking for a new employer. READ MORE

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