I got screwed over by one of the companies I interviewed with this summer.
I’m not going to say what company it is. When I went to the interview I signed a non-disclosure agreement (Fucking NDA’s). I don’t have a copy of the NDA anymore, and it’s possible that I’m not allowed to disclose things such as business practices of the company – leaving myself open to litigation if I name the company here. Let’s just say that it’s a pre-IPO internet startup based in San Diego, California, that sometimes spams people and harvests personal information.
After beginning the interview process with this company and going through the phone interview and programming tests, I was asked to take a trip out to interview in person.
And pay for it with my own money.
At the time I was living in New Jersey. They wanted me to fly out to San Diego, in less than a week, and pay for the plane ticket and hotel room myself for a couple nights. A cross country flight like that by itself is not cheap, not to mention that prices rise drastically within a week of the flight. The ticket would have cost me $700, and the hotel room would have been about $120 a night. That’s not something I could afford at the time. Not only that, but I’ve never seen any company lowball its interviewees like that. You’re essentially gambling – you drop $940, and you have the chance to be rewarded with a job, and you have the chance to just lose the money by not getting hired. So I declined, saying I didn’t have that kind of money.
Later, I got correspondence back saying that they would reimburse the ticket and hotel for me, up to $500 for the plane ticket and $100 a night for the hotel. Supposedly they talked to the VP of Engineering and got special permission for me (which I later found out was a lie). I explained that plane tickets less than a week in advance are never going to be that low. Eventually, we managed to delay the trip a week and bring the tickets down to $500. I was told that I would get reimbursed in Q3 2008 (July-Sept), when their recruiting budget cycled (which is also probably bullshit, as companies don’t really have “recruiting budgets,” they have a pool of money).
So I flew out for a two day interview. The interview wasn’t an interview at all – they just put you in front of their codebase that you had never seen before, gave you a list of bugs to fix, and told you to fix as many as you could. They told us the record up to this point was 14 bugs fixed.
It was a Windows shop that ran IIS and used .NET/C#. I have never used C#/.NET, nor have I ever operated IIS, or used Windows in many years. And I fixed 15 bugs. So of course I got offered the job, because apparently I’m really awesome.
In the end, I declined. I didn’t foresee their product being useful or taking off the way they wanted it to. I didn’t like the company culture, the workplace was crappy, and the salary I was offered was really lowball, especially considering that it was in San Diego, one of the most expensive cities in the country. Of course they kept trying, even going so far as to say that if I took that job I was absolutely guaranteed to become a millionaire. Are you fucking serious? What kind of idiot do you take me for? There’s no way that is guaranteed – if it was, then why wasn’t I offered a salary of a million dollars?
September rolls around, and I get a letter from this company. ’Oh good,‘ I think, ‘my check is here.‘
I was wrong, and I got screwed. What I got in the mail was an IOU – saying that they owe me $700 and that they’ll pay it back in a year.
FUCK YOU GUYS
This is not what we agreed upon. I have it in writing that I would be paid back in Q3 2008. You’re supposed to get the consent of both parties before just issuing an IOU like that. Not only that, but I have no idea if these fuckers are going to, in a year, just give me another IOU.
Suing them would cost way more than the $700 I’d get back, so it’s not worth it, and I don’t really have any other options. They’re hoping that I forget about it in a year. I, however, absolutely despise being treated like an idiot and fucking tricked like that, so they are going to be hearing from me if I don’t get my money.
I’m sorry I can’t give a more solid warning, but I don’t want to get sued. If you are planning to interview with a startup in San Diego and you’re worried, you can contact me privately by email or other means and I can help you figure out if we’re talking about the same company. I just don’t want to leave names on this website – internet startups have to scour the internet for mentions of their company name to determine their company’s reputation, and it could be traced back to me.
P.S. – any bored lawyers out there willing to help me out by reading the legalese on this IOU and telling me what I can do to enforce repayment of this within 1 year (as opposed to indefinitely being owed money by this company), contact me.
Update 9/30/2009: No, I never got my money. Trying to decide if this is worth pursuing.