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Christmas humbuggery

A friend of mine happened to mention her Christmas bonus,and that happened to remind me of a few things that happened several years ago.

I used to work for a fairly big company (as opposed to my current employer being a VERY BIG company), and it was privately held. They were a pretty good company, for the most part, but their Christmas practices left a bit to be desired.

One year, we received a memo that as a Christmas bonus, there would be no health insurance deductions for December. I was quite impressed and pleased with this, until a colleague pointed out how it really wasn't that generous. They had taken our annual insurance costs and divided them into twelve, for each month, then divided it it in half again, to reflect our bi-weekly pay period -- meaning that the annual cost was divided into 24. However, there are 26 pay periods in a year, meaning we'd already paid our full dues for the year. But that didn't keep Corporate from trying to make themselves look good.

A year or two later, they tried another little stunt. I came home from work and found a big envelope in my mail from Corporate, with "OPEN IMMEDIATELY!" in big, red letters. And what was inside? In Advent calendar, with various products and services we could sell to customers -- and, especially, friends and family.

I was extremely put out by this. I immediately composed an irate letter and a list of 25 other things that might have been more appropriate -- including sending all marketing materials to us at the branch instead of individual mailings to hour homes, using the marketers as pinatas, and firing them all, then replacing them with kids from a pre-school, with a corresponding reduction in costs and increase in productivity.

I also pointed out that, under New Hampshire labor laws (and, likely, those of most other states), any employer that schedules or requires an employee to work is responsible to pay them for at least two hours' time, whether or not they actually do work. I said it was arguable that sending a letter to an employee's home, marked in big red letters that say "OPEN IMMEDIATELY," could be considered a directive to work, and they could be on the hook for two hours' pay to every single employee who received it -- at that point, I think it was about 10,000 people.

I never heard back from them after sending in that fax, but my boss later took me aside and told me he'd heard from his boss (the head of the region) about it, who'd heard from the folks at marketing, who hadn't appreciated it one bit. That was fine with me; the feeling was more than mutual. There was never any official action taken, though, and I never got any more notices at home from Marketing.

So,that's my tale of working for Scrooge. Anyone wanna try and top those examples? Bring it on.


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Comments (27)

In the very early 90s I wor... (Below threshold)

In the very early 90s I worked for almost a year for the nations largest telemarketing company.

Yes, I know it was evil, but I REALLY needed a job at the time. I was literally living in a van for the summer in the months before I got that job.

On December 19th, someone we never heard of came into the pit (the room with all the phones) and asked us to end our calls as quickly as possible and stay off the phone. When everyone was attentive, she fired us. We got no notice, no severance, no nothing. We found out that they fired 5,000 people for Christmas that year because they bought a smaller telemarketing company and wanted to fold the new people in.

Merry Christmas!

I don't have a tale of humb... (Below threshold)

I don't have a tale of humbuggery but wanted to share something that does reflect true Christmas spirit. The company I work for in Mississippi was destroyed by Katrina. We've been rebuilding slowly but surely. No one thought we'd be getting our customary Christmas bonuses this year. My boss had me draw up the 25 who are still working. Usually there's around 75 on the payroll this time of year. We are getting our bonuses this year!

Always good to see that I w... (Below threshold)

Always good to see that I wasn't the only person young enough and stupid enough to mouth off at the corporate apparatus of my employer. Hopefully others can learn from such examples of youthful idiocy.

Remember, kids...keep your mouth shut until your employer hands you a winning ticket in the lawsuit lottery. Then, and only then, should you mouth off - and it should be to a lawyer. In Jay's example, he should have sent his letter to a labor attorney and asked for a class action lawsuit. Instead, he guaranteed that he had no future at his company.

I'll just stay out of this.... (Below threshold)

I'll just stay out of this. No matter what happens, this time of year, I wish everyone could keep the spirit of these holidays within.

While working at the headqu... (Below threshold)

While working at the headquarters of the largest retailer in the world, I got to see my boss demoted for serving alcohol at the Christmas party she threw for us and paid for out of her own pocket. The company, on the other hand, did exactly nothing that could be considered a Christmas bonus (Unless you consider the ton of extra hours during December. Unpaid. Ain't management a hoot!).

I have a friend that in her... (Below threshold)
mark m:

I have a friend that in her second year of working for a company got a $6k Christmas bonus. The following year she got $350 and was PISSED. Take any nice gesture your company gives but DON'T expect it.

It wasn't Christmas, but a ... (Below threshold)

It wasn't Christmas, but a few days after. My birthday, and a Friday. I had driven back to the main office from the satellite an hour away. The girls at the front desk smiled and told me the partners were all in the boss's office waiting for me. My two years of probationary status were almost over.

Was this a surprise birthday party?

An announcement I'd be made a partner?



Just a pink slip party.

My sole consolation was the brutes didn't know it was my birthday (the office girls did and were as shocked as I). Their jaws all dropped when my first words (after seeing the lack of party favors and their serious faces) were "so this isn't a surprise birthday party?"

I used to work at an office... (Below threshold)

I used to work at an office here in rural New England. The primary source of heat in the winter was a coal stove. My employer was not exactly known as the "generous" type.

One day in mid-December, a co-worker and I happened to notice that the truck was coming in to deliver the winter's supply of coal. I commented, "Well, our Christmas bonuses have finally arrived." I guess it just struck her funny because she has retold that story many times.

It wasn't Christmas, but a ... (Below threshold)

It wasn't Christmas, but a company I worked for asked for suggestions to help in marketing and public relations for our insurance company. They made the mistake of stating that every suggestion would be read at the board meeting. I wasn't very fond of my new manager and made the comment that to improve our public relations that we could buy and donate a "jaws of life" to our local fire department. I also stated that we could then use it to remove the cranial area from the anal area of my new manager. I lasted another 60 days, I believe tops.

My last job was with a soft... (Below threshold)

My last job was with a software company. Back in 2001 I was shipped off to Chicago to languish at a client for over 2 years (mind you not downtown Chicago but in the industrial part of it).

While checking email one evening from the hotel, I see we got a memo from the president of the company, aka the Fourth Horseman. FH proceeds to notify us that 2001 was a banner year. Most revenue we've ever generated, the most profitable we've ever been, the last quarter in particular was looking to be record breaking.

Then the memo ends with the notice that we will not be getting bonuses nor will we be getting raises the next year. Apparently our clairvoyants had discerned a downturn in the economy and wanted to horde cash...

Yeah, merry freaking Christmas you limey ahole...

Actually it worked out okay for me... I got a raise cause my manger pointed out I was onsite for 50 weeks that year. Oh and did they take any hits themselves? Nope, in fact they got to cash in on some nice stock options.

I hope Corporate America ge... (Below threshold)
Steve H.:

I hope Corporate America gets exactly what it deserves. A Big lump of coal shoved clear up their arses by the Jolly Old Elf himself. Merry Christmas you Greedy Bastards!!!!!

I worked for a company of a... (Below threshold)

I worked for a company of around 250 employees. On Dec 3rd, everyone got what looked like an invite to a holiday party in their mailboxes.

Inside I found a directive to come to a conference room. I assumed it was to pick up a small gift or bonus check. I happily went down and was laid off. It was only after I was canned that I found out that about 1/3 of the "invites" had been juiced with the directive.

Merry Christmas!

Just to be contrarian and t... (Below threshold)

Just to be contrarian and take a manager's point of view...

How about those employees who think that it's perfectly fine to take off a few afternoons to do Christmas shopping on company time (and salary)?

Or those who "get sick" a day or two either side of a holiday and leave the workplace shorthanded?

It seems that personal grooming--i.e., getting hair done--is now done while on the clock.

Misery isn't allocated along with job titles. It's just that miserable bosses' behavior is seen more clearly.

Interesting how many people... (Below threshold)

Interesting how many people think they're somehow entitled to a Christmas bonus of some kind from their employer... ah, that's the spirit... give me, give me, give me...

And I wonder how many of those complaining about not getting a bonus that met their expectations gave anything more than a token gift, if indeed anything at all, to the guys who pick up their garbage, their mailmen, their kids teachers, security guards and so on. Or how many do anything more than pony up the little change in their pocket - and not any of the real money in their wallets and purses - to the Salvation Army (or any of the other charitable groups collecting at malls)?

And I wonder if those who complain about layoffs and firings that take place before Christmas would, if the layoffs took place after Christmas, complain how the false sense of security resulted in their spending money on gifts they should have instead saved.

And I wonder if those who complain about Christmas bonuses being cut in order to conserve corporate resources ever thank their employers for taking steps that allowed the employers to keep sending paychecks to their ungrateful employees.

As I said, just wondering...

well, steve, since you are ... (Below threshold)

well, steve, since you are wondering...

Yep, I would have been pissed to be laid off in January. Then again, I would have been pissed to be laid off in June.

Since then, I have had to make that very decision; to do layoffs in December or January. I choose January. Of course, the layoff were no surprise and people were happier, I think, than if they were in December.

Sorry, Jay Tea. I think, i... (Below threshold)

Sorry, Jay Tea. I think, in fact I'm almost completely certain, your friend was wrong in his explanation of how bi-weekly health insurance deductions are done.

Every place I ever worked that paid bi-weekly divided the annual insurance premium paid by employees by 24. That 1/24th came out of the employees' check once every two weeks, except when a month had three paydays, which happens during any given year twice.

No insurance deductions are taken out of that third check.

The US Government canceled ... (Below threshold)

The US Government canceled a contract that my company had had for 50 years (and performed well on) and transferred it 1000 miles away just because we didn't suck up to the right guys in the government. They did that on Pearl Harbor day (appropriately enough) a while back. Out of 15 or so of us, more than 10 lost our jobs.

Doyle, that's the way my em... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Doyle, that's the way my employer handles it now. But I remember the memo, and at the time looked back on my pay stubs and my friend was right -- they had taken it out every single pay period, "saving up" the last two for the end of the year, then calling them a "Christmas bonus." Or "Holiday bonus." Or some such term. It was a cheap ploy that fooled me at first, until my colleague pointed it out -- apparently they'd been doing it for some time, and this was the end of my first year there.

And Jade: I ended outlasting my boss, his boss, and his boss with the company. The gist of the message was "your fax was not appreciated." My response was "neither was that mailer. Please don't send more marketing crap to me at home, or I'll share my displeasure again."


In the early days of the pc... (Below threshold)

In the early days of the pc revolution, I worked at a small (non-IBM-compatible) pc manufacturer.

Came December, the Comptroller convinced the President that, since sales were non-existant and thus also income, all non-executive employees should be laid-off without pay for the last two weeks in December.

Between Christmas and New Years, one of our customers called in needing software support. Quick as could be, el Prez called the head of the software department and ordered him to turn out to support the customer.

"I was laid-off without pay. Am I being recalled with pay?" asked the software manager.

"Why, no" opined el Prez. "You are on a lay-off. You don't get paid while you are laid-off."

"No pay, no work" replyed the manager.

And with that, he was fired. For refusing to work, without pay.

After the first of the year, the customer sued.

Executives who cannot see t... (Below threshold)

Executives who cannot see the connection between high employee morale and high profits are idiots.

In a slightly different vei... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

In a slightly different vein, our local school district was blamed for cutting bonuses that never existed in the first place. Because of the vagaries of government funding, teachers had to be contracted (contracts are year-to-year, but it takes an Act of Congress to fire a teacher) before the district knew how much money it would recieve for the next year. As a result, it ws very difficult to come up with a figure for raises. Instead, everyone would sign a contract based on the previous year's salary schedule, then once the revenue figures were known, the district would adjust the salary schedule and issue a one-time check for the amount of the raise. Traditionally, this had happened around the November or December pay period.

One year, the teachers' "union" demanded that the raises be known in advance so that they would know what they would be paid allowing them to shop around for new jobs before signing their contracts (once it is signed, they can be held to it.) It was explained to them that raises would be low-balled since the district had to err on the side of caution in that case, but they agreed anyway.

The next holiday season, the teacher did not recieve their "bonus" checks because that money had been rolled into their contracts from day one. Many of them were very angry at the district, feeling that they had been ripped off. Of course their reps didn't do anything to change their minds because it would have made the reps out to be the villains. The administration had to spend quite a bit of time and effort soothing hurt feelings over something that wasn't their fault to begin with.

Hmmm.1. I worked f... (Below threshold)


1. I worked for a small armored car company that gave out a *coupon* for a 50% off on a turkey at Pathmark grocery store.

I laughed and thought it was a joke. Nobody else laughed, at the time, but the expression on my boss's face was utterly priceless.

2. I worked, for a very short amount of time, early in my programming career for a small company doing hazardous materials bill of lading processing. I spent 3 months of working 120+ hour work weeks to repair a POS, not point-of-sale btw, software into working condition.

At the end of this farce I got taken out to breakfast, at a very greasy spoon style diner, by my boss and raked over the coals for not having properly pressed trousers and shaving.

I told him to go f%*& himself and quit.

A week or two later I got a phone call from some Chinese guy my former boss had hired who called and asked if I had any of the source code from the projects I had done there. I told him that I didn't because I don't keep company property after I leave. Whatever I had I either wiped from my own computers or I deposited on top of my desk when I left.

Evidently this very bright fellow had run a virus checker on some compiled programs, discovered that one of the compiled EXE files shows up as being infected with "stoned" virus, which it wasn't. This was a false-positive since the computer itself wasn't infected, the only file to show as being infected was the compiled exe and only when compiled with certain flags. I.e. the virus checker was looking for specific patterns of binary code in the EXE and finding a match, even though it was wrong.

Well I had documented this but this guy figures he'll wipe ALL of the computers, disks, tapes and backups where this virus checker got a false-positive. So in effect this wipes out ALL of the source code and ALL of the compiled programs and ALL of the tools I had developed.

And he's asking ME if I had anything!!

The nice part is that my former company had gotten a sweet contract with an airline prior to my leaving and I went onto a much better job with a 30K raise.

I wonder how that contract went.

Back when I started working... (Below threshold)

Back when I started working for a Large Aerospace Company headquartered in Long Beach, CA, our Christmas bonus for several years was ham and/or cheese. From Yugoslavia.

Seems we had sold some planes to them, and we were taking it out in trade. Ham and cheese. I guess we'd send 'em a plane, and they'd fly it back full of the stuff. There was actually a "Ham and Cheese Sales Office" outside the maingate on Wardlow, where you could go buy some any time.

I can't help wondering what the accounting on that looked like.

Misawa Air Base, Japan, 198... (Below threshold)

Misawa Air Base, Japan, 1985. While we were at work the Enlisted Wives Club came to the dorm and decorated the doors to all of our rooms with holiday wrapping and left bags of cookies for the occupants. A most unexpected yet welcome gift.

January 6th the Dorm Manager leaves word that the decorations all have to come down. January 9th the Dorm Manager specifically reminds me and my roommate that the decorations must come down. Bolstered by a shot or three of Suntory Old Whiskey we send word back to the Dorm Manager that it's always Christmas in our room and that he should visit sometime.

January 13th we come back from working a daywatch to discover a note attached to our suddenly bare door: "Hi, I visited, you weren't here. -Dorm Manager"


Sorry - I'm an anti-Scrooge... (Below threshold)

Sorry - I'm an anti-Scrooge right now. :)

I work for a non-profit testing organization. Typically, such places do not have the layoffs or cutthroat attitudes of for-profit organizations - but neither do they have the high salaries or quick status increases.

I have a new boss who was determined this year to change that and reward those who, like me, worked 45-50 hours a week when the "official" workweek was 35 hours. I figured that Boss would have a hard time convincing the higher-ups about this.

I was wrong. Yesterday I found out that I got a great promotion and a double-digit raise. And a recognition award, AND a tote-bag with our company name on it (hey, it's one of the LL Bean bags, so it's a good one). Almost everyone on my project, in fact, got promoted. I've never heard of this happening in my organization before.

That's what you want from a boss - someone who not only notices when you do a good job, but is willing to take on the top brass about it.

In the early nineties, I wo... (Below threshold)

In the early nineties, I worked for the largest bank in the state of Oregon. It was Christmas Eve and, as usual, most people head out early in order to spend a lovely meal and evening with their family, awaiting for Santa to arrive.

As the hours passed, it became clear that our weather on this Christmas eve was going to be different. First the snow started falling...and then by late afternoon, it began to switch to freezing rain. The streets were getting icier and more clogged with slow traffic (working in the high rise had its advantages for traffic watch).

My boss at the time wouldn't allow us out early, instead, we broke into shifts and left at varying times. Because, we manned important machinery that if customers needed to get out some $$$ before the end of the day, we had to be there. Uhhh...right. Everyone else had left their jobs by noon!

As the traffic and weather worsened, I was finally allowed to leave my post at 4:30pm. How friggin generous. I had to walk about a mile to where my car was parked and then brave the roads on the way home.

Instead of arriving home for a late afternoon meal and church services at 8pm. I arrived home at 8:30pm to leftovers and no one around (because they were all at church).

Needless to say...I make sure my employees today are out the door by 2pm on the last day before Christmas.

I hate Christmas, it blows.... (Below threshold)

I hate Christmas, it blows.






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