You Never Know What Someone’s Willing To Give You Til You Ask

"We ended up receiving more than 60 responses and ended up receiving free stuff from 35 companies totaling roughly $275 — not a bad return on our $39 investment"

“I’ll Have a Venti Skim Half-Cap Frappucino and a BA, Please. No Foam.”

Amazon wants you to win you back. In addition to a new Prime Music Streaming service and a deafening whisper campaign about the super secret mystery Kindle smartphone it might have up its sleeve, it is also launching Smile, a program that allows you to choose a charity the store will support. Thanks, guys! But wouldn’t it be easier to treat authors, publishers, and maybe even employees a little better?

Starbucks, another massive corporation that has gotten flak for taking over the world and putting the little guy out of business, is trying to drum up some goodwill of its own in a very unusual, but more direct, way: subsidizing undergraduate education.

Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday. The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid. …

Many employers offer tuition reimbursement. But those programs usually come with limitations like the full cost not being paid, new employees being excluded, requiring that workers stay for years afterward, or limiting reimbursement to work-related courses. Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like — knowing that many of them, degrees in hand, will leave for better-paying jobs.

Investing in your employees as a business strategy happens to be good PR. Win-win-win. Is Bezos taking notes?

Developer, Farmhand, and Other Jobs I’ve Had

Library Book Cataloger at a university library, September 2006-May 2007:

I spent about 10 hours a week my freshman year cataloging newly acquired books in a cubicled, fluorescent-lit, linoleum-tiled 70s-era wing of the otherwise breathtakingly gorgeous main library. I would grab books from a big pile, scan them in, classify them, and then place them in new piles; I have no idea what happened to the books before or after my work. The highlight of my year was the week I had to catalog an enormous collection of smutty chapbooks about transvestites. On my last day, the two full-time employees in the next cubicle admitted that they’d admired my outfits all year and wish they’d said something sooner. I felt ready for a more dynamic, involved job. Programming Intern at a small tech company, June-July 2007:

I failed to get an exciting computer science internship at Microsoft for the summer, so back I went to Oklahoma, my home state. Fortunately, the tech consulting firm of a family friend hired me as a part-time paid intern, and for two confusing months I walked to the office park about mile from my childhood home and pretended that I knew something about programming in C#, a weird, Microsoft-y variant of the C++ programming language. It was my first experience with client work, and my first experience in reading New York Times articles while I was supposed to be on the clock.

Undergraduate computer repair tech, September 2007-May 2009: