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“Sponsor” Is Really A Word For Being A Freeloader

My husband and I own an inflatable company. We rent out bounce houses and waterslides for private parties, church and school events, family reunions, etc. We love the industry we are in – people are always happy to see you! – and we love making people happy.

This is our 4th season in this business and there has definitely been a learning curve involved. My personality is that I’m a natural pleaser and want to leave everyone as happy as possible. However, I learned early on that a polite spine and boundaries are necessary in this business if you want to stay afloat.

The first two seasons in business we CONSTANTLY had people calling us from organizations, charities and large corporations asking for us to “sponsor” a bounce house at their event. We did this a few times, with the promise of “free advertising” as an incentive. We learned very quickly that this type of advertising is completely ineffective in our industry and we never booked a single job from doing these free events. We made a decision that we would pick our favorite charity and donate a bounce house to their annual event and that would be the end of our give- free-stuff-away-extravaganza. We’ve been happy with this arrangement for some time now. However, we still get phone calls – though not as frequent. I’ve learned how to have a polite spine, but even beyond that, I’ve learned how to expose their greediness in a fairly kind way. The conversation below is one that I had this week with a HUGE national company that was holding a health fair.

Me: How can I help you?
Freeloader: Hi, I’m with ______ and we are holding our annual event in a few months. We wanted to give you a great opportunity to sponsor our event with some bounce houses.
Me: : (pretending to feign interest) We love renting out for big events! Could you further explain what you mean by “sponsor”? What all does that entail? (I know good and well it means they want a free bounce house, but I want THEM to say it, instead of pretty it up with a word like sponsor.)
Freeloader: Oh….ummm….well, errrr…..It means that you would donate a bounce house to the event.
Me: OH. Donate a bounce house to you?? (silence)
Freeloader: But, it, ummmm, it means that you would get free advertising. It would be a great opportunity for you!
Me: We have found that this type of advertising does not work for us. (awkward silence)
Freeloader: Oh, well it would still be a nice thing for you to do.
Me: – (names company) Isn’t that a multi-million dollar company?
Freeloader: Ummm, yes.
Me: I’ve seen their commercials, gone into their stores. You guys have great products.
Freeloader: Yes we do.
Me: So, just to clarify, you are wanting me, a very small family-owned business, to donate my labor, fuel, time and bounce house to YOU, a multi-million dollar company?
Freeloader: (silence)
Me: Would you be willing to give us the equivalent of free products in return?
Freeloader: Well, ummm, no I don’t think we could do that.
Me: I see. (silence. I let the silence get reeeeeally awkward)
Me: I’ll be happy to give you some prices on what we offer. We do offer a discount for multiple rentals and multiple days. (I then go into my spiel about what products we have.)

Sometimes I end up booking them but in this case they said they would keep calling around to find a company that would “sponsor” their event.

It’s unbelievable to me the nerve and gall that people have. This has happened with corporations, charities, churches and even private parties. It takes a crew that WE pay for labor to deliver and set up, it takes fuel in OUR diesel truck and trailer to get the bounce house to the location, it take state inspections that we pay for to make sure they are safe and it takes expensive insurance that we pay for to cover any liability. Maybe people don’t realize the cost of running a small business. Often we wonder how we will pay for insurance and overhead costs. Small businesses go under every single day. The next time you think to ask your friend, family member or random small business to give you something for free – whether it’s a haircut, a music lesson, a vehicle check-up or whatever – please remember that their livelihood depends on your business. Supporting local, small businesses doesn’t mean ask them to do stuff for free and receive “free advertising”. It means write them a check for a product or service the same way that YOU want to receive a paycheck for your time and labor. 0705-18

{ 69 comments }
{ 69 comments… add one }
  • Ultrapongo July 9, 2018, 6:51 am

    At first, I wondered what an ”inflatable company” was. Then I continued reading, and understood. It is not the company that is inflatable…
    A little like ”hot dog vendor” or ”used car salesman”

    Why should a commercial company get free stuff from a small business? If you want, you could use different rates for different customers, but of course there would be problems with that too. If you want to sponsor some event, that is your decision. It could be something that you are personally involved in, or the rare case of being effective marketing. Still your own decision.
    A Classic: ”But think of the exposure you’ll get!”
    ”People die from exposure…”

    • AS July 9, 2018, 6:17 pm

      I believe it is trapezes and inflatable bouncing castles kind of stuff.

  • Jelly_Rose July 9, 2018, 7:21 am

    Free advertisement, I’ve heard that a lot as an artist trying to get into commissions. People would ask me to draw them something and when I brought up a price they would look aghast like I just kicked their puppy in front of them. They would offer me ‘free exposure’ for the piece and I would turn them down…. Sadly I never did much of anywhere with commissions, too many freeloaders and not enough actually interested.

    • staceyizme July 9, 2018, 4:32 pm

      One of the hardest things about that kind of work is the marketing piece; it can be really frustrating and take a while to determine not only your target market but how to reach them effectively…

    • Kitty July 10, 2018, 9:01 am

      I’ve heard the lovely phrase of “People die of exposure” upon being given the exposure and advertisement line.

    • mark132 July 10, 2018, 4:39 pm

      The challenge with art is the huge difference in what people are willing to pay vs what the artist needs to make it worthwhile. While I don’t ask for free art, I also don’t commission art either because it isn’t worth it to me.

    • EchoGirl July 15, 2018, 1:24 am

      Ditto. I do custom-designed costumes, and I do currently tend to run a bit low in price in an attempt to get my name out there. But some of the commission requests I come across on the social media pages I follow are just absurdly low. I still need to buy materials, not to mention some basic compensation for my time!

  • DGS July 9, 2018, 7:44 am

    The nerve of some people! And organizations.

  • cleosia July 9, 2018, 7:47 am

    Of course, the major problem I have with asking people to “sponsor” like that is that a LOT of charities raise a LOT of money, with only a small portion of the money they raise actually going to do the work they supposed to be doing. As much as 80-90% can go strictly to feed the organization itself and keep it going. That’s why you have to be careful which organization you give to as well.

    • NostalgicGal July 9, 2018, 8:57 pm

      Or, they have to pay the fundraising company and most of what is raised has to go to pay the fundraising company…..

    • Rinme July 10, 2018, 3:36 am

      At least the charities might be doing it for a good cause. When a huge corporation asks you to donate to their company retreat, that’s just laughable.

    • crella July 10, 2018, 3:57 am

      I have looked into this claim, that I see often, that 80-90% of a lot of charities’ donations go to administration and salaries and only 10% go to the cause, and for the most part it is not true for legitimate charities. A charity that only spends 10% on their cause is likely a fraud. If you’d like to see how your charity stacks up-

      https://www.charitynavigator.org/

  • jokergirl129 July 9, 2018, 7:49 am

    You handled that very well and good on you for not giving in and making it clear in a polite way that you would not be sponsoring them.

  • Justme July 9, 2018, 7:55 am

    I would have said no also! It always amazes me how people wants things for free.

  • Marie July 9, 2018, 8:12 am

    This is a very common occurency in the art industry. Whether it’s paintings, music, photography, crafts… you get requests all the time, usually from “friends of friends” to do stuff for free. I’m a hobby photographer myself, and I’ve had to explain to people that – even for a hobbyist – 50 bucks to come to your party, bring expensive equipment, work a couple of hours, then work a couple of more hours with paid for software for retouching… is not going to work for me.
    “But this is your hobby, you like doing this!” they say. “You don’t need the income, you have a day job.” “But you have the equipment anyway, so it’s not like you have to spend anything!”
    I very rarely take jobs and prefer to keep it a hobby, but these kind of requests annoy me to no end.

    • Kitty July 10, 2018, 9:02 am

      And then they claim that it isn’t that hard of a job to do, but immediately pull back when being told to just do it themselves, if it’s so simple.

      • NostalgicGal July 10, 2018, 3:22 pm

        Exactly. And I’m not about to admit how much all that gear really cost, plus the hours I’ve put into learning the editing software I lease. (you have pictures pasted up all over the online media, so you can take a picture. Go on, dear, just do that, it’ll work… right?)

    • Redblues July 11, 2018, 10:54 pm

      “But you don’t need free services. You have a day job.

  • Lerah99 July 9, 2018, 8:19 am

    In my early twenties I worked for a small company that coordinated transportation for people on worker’s comp.

    While I worked there I watched us put several taxi and sedan companies out of business by never paying them, or by making tiny token payments to ensure they’d keep taking our clients places with promises to pay our entire tab in a week or two.

    Meanwhile the owner was spending money like crazy:
    – creating a motorcycle enthusiast magazine, website, and local cable access show. (Mostly this seemed like an excuse to “audition models” to be draped over various motorcycles for the magazine.)
    – Bought himself, his business partner, his wife, his girlfriend, and the head of our accounting department matching SUVs.
    – Took several of his college frat buddies to the Superbowl in New Orleans.
    – Bought a new condo on the beach for his mom, but it was owned by the company. So when ever his mom asked him to help her with something he’d threaten to throw her out on the street. (His mom also worked as his personal assistant.)

    On alternate Fridays, we were all rushing out the door as soon as he handed us our paychecks because only the first dozen or so would cash. Then anyone who had their paycheck bounce would have to corner him to give us a “cash advance” to cover our bills until more money was in the account to get the remainder of our pay. And that could take any where from a couple days to a week.

    At the beginning of November the last year I worked there he told all of us that there was no money for a Christmas party. So if we wanted one, we all needed to start calling around to find places to donate food, drinks, door prizes, entertainment, etc…

    Then he said that he was going to get one of those charity trees where low income seniors add requests for things they need. (Often requests are things like socks, a new bath robe, cat food, dog food, hair trimmers, cookware, shoes, etc…) So we could tell potential contributors that it was a charity party instead of just our office Christmas Party.

    After a week of listening to my coworkers call grocery stores, D.J.’s, caterers, bars, electronic stores, etc… begging for free stuff under the guise of a “charity party / fundraiser” – I couldn’t work there anymore. I found a corporate job and never looked back.

    That experience has also made me immediately suspicious of people asking for donated goods and services for events.

    And every year I feel guilty thinking of all the seniors who submitted requests and didn’t get anything because our skeezeball boss co-opted their tree in order to get donations to his office Christmas Party. Not to mention the lingering guilt over all the businesses we put under all over the country.

    OP, I’m proud of you for not only telling people “no” but for also asking the leading questions that make it clear to the requester why their request is unacceptable.

    • Queen of the Weezils July 10, 2018, 1:31 pm

      Please tell me he went out of business!

      • Lerah99 July 10, 2018, 4:33 pm

        Multiple times.
        But he always finds someone with some money and opens up a new business.

        Then he secures some insurance contracts and it’s back to the same shenanigans under a new company name.

        Luckily I work in a completely different industry now so I don’t run into him anymore.

  • Anthony Kent July 9, 2018, 8:22 am

    Pretty much standard practice with a lot of companies is (1) ask for it for free, (2) ask for an unreasonable discount and (3) demand silly payment terms. I also know of one or two that sponsor or run art /photography competitions as a cheap way to “buy” art /designs. It’s a pain.
    Happy story: I once worked for a company in a niche field that was subcontracted by a large multinational (amongst other contracts). After a few years their terms and demeanour was frankly rotten towards us. Thankful my manager saw what was going on and started to delay signing contracts with them. When we were fully paid up we decided to demand our own terms. Needless to say big company was not happy. Said it was unfair, it is their standard practice, no one else complains etc. eventually after several weeks of nos their purchase manager said the project manager must look elsewhere. Except we were in a very niche field, elsewhere is somewhat limited (otherwise I doubt my manager at the time would have given them ultimatum). They did try a new foreign firm that does similar (lower quality) work then came back to us a few months later asking how they could “work with us”.

  • Just Call Me J July 9, 2018, 9:02 am

    Not exactly the same situation, but I have friends who are artists, and they get requests for free art all the time…

    The freeloaders always say they can’t pay for my friends’ work but point out that “it will be great exposure!” (for a professional artist, with established commission rates and fanbase)

    The best response I’ve heard to that request for free labor is a flatly-said “People die from exposure.” Usually, the freeloaders give in at that point and pay the proper art commission rate, or they simply go looking for another artist to rip off.

    • Queen of the Weezils July 10, 2018, 1:30 pm

      The Oatmeal had a great comic on exposure that summed up the problem: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/exposure

      I understand that for someone just starting out, certain venues could provide actual exposure leading to additional sales, and that adding to a portfolio is valuable in and of itself. But after a point, there isn’t enough return to justify the work. “Exposure” just isn’t worth it. Sounds like your artist friends have the right idea.

  • retropink July 9, 2018, 9:17 am

    Amen, OP. Amen.

    I have a handcraft business and my email, FB, IG, and Etsy inboxes are full of messages from people asking for donations. I have 1 or 2 that I donate an item to each year for auction. I picked the causes that mean the most to me, just as I would if I was donating money (which, essentially, I am.)

    I always tell people you can support me two ways: by buying something or by commenting on or sharing my posts (sadly, in FB world, liking is not enough.) I get more business that way than by “free” advertising.

  • Andrea C. July 9, 2018, 9:31 am

    I love how the company states that they are giving YOU a “great opportunity”, as if they are doing you some big favor.

    Kudos to you for saying no!

  • choose another name July 9, 2018, 9:50 am

    OP–good for you. The nerve of some people is ridiculous. I have a friend that has done my hair for almost 25 years and she was telling me that people come in trying to negotiate a price for her services because “Oprah said you can always negotiate a lower price”. She tells them, this is what my prices are, if you want a lower price, go to Great Clips or Fantastic Sams.

    @Lerah99–your former boss is a huge jerk. I hope Karma pays him a big visit.

    • LizaJane July 9, 2018, 6:58 pm

      Or they can get Oprah to do their hair.

    • BeachMum July 10, 2018, 10:22 am

      I’m about to start collecting donations for a silent auction for my synagogue. I was speaking with my hairdresser, and she told me that she used to give out free haircut cards all the time. However, much of the time, her client would buy the card at the auction and use it herself. In other words, she was giving free hairdressing to her own clients.

      Fortunately, she knows I wouldn’t do that to her and she will be giving me a gift certificate.

  • viviennebzb July 9, 2018, 9:58 am

    Now, why would I want to do that?
    No, that’s why you want me to do it.
    Why would *I* want to do that?

    Thanks, EH 🙂

  • ladyv21454 July 9, 2018, 10:21 am

    I am in awe of the way that OP, in the politest way possible, made the freeloader aware of just how ludicrous their request was!

  • JD July 9, 2018, 10:58 am

    Good for you, OP! I knew charities and other similar groups asked for donated goods and services, but big corporations? I had no idea they did that. Corporations are supposed to budget funds for events, I always thought.
    I realize too, that small businesses can’t constantly hand out goods or funds and still make any profit, so I always cringe when I hear a group say, “We’ll just ask for donations from the merchants, that way we can put all our money to our project/dollar goal/school/church/etc.” No, offer to pay for a service or good, or don’t ask. If a donation is voluntarily offered to a group, that’s fine, but if not, at least be prepared to pay. I wish people would remember, some of these small businesses get asked to donate to every scout troop, cheerleading squad, uniform drive, band trip, church fair, school trip, mission trip, cancer walk, year book ads….. so that they can’t possible give to all the requests, even if they wanted to.

  • LizW July 9, 2018, 11:32 am

    From one SB owner to another, “Yay you!”

  • Dyan July 9, 2018, 11:41 am

    wow good for you…

  • Bea July 9, 2018, 1:31 pm

    I’ve been dealing with scammers like this for over a decade now. I don’t even try to shame them, they’re scoundrels and I’ll just waste my breath. “Do not call here again.” and drop the receiver. They are trained to try to get your sympathy and then your freebies, nope.

    If they want to sell ad space, please just ask for that. Shelling out some cash instead of being out product is easier to account for. Then I tell them we budget for advertisement and there’s none left.

  • Take2 July 9, 2018, 4:07 pm

    I have helped coordinate events for charities over the years. Particularly when done for the local school, I KNOW many parents feel loyal to the businesses who donate. My kids discovered a restaurant they adore at a school carnival and now my family of 6 eats there at least once a month on our dime. There is only one bounce place I would call or recommend, and it’s the place that always provides the discounted bounce stuff for the school fairs and events.

    I guess I don’t see the problem. You are free to say no, and saying no nicely isn’t going to hurt your business because that’s what most businesses say. You can counter offer with a discount or a coupon to include in a raffle basket if you see any value to the exposure at all, or not. But it isn’t horribly rude for a charity to call asking for donations, as long as they graciously respect whatever answer you give.

    • Boudicca July 10, 2018, 4:07 am

      I’m not even sure this was a charity. OP mentioned it being a multi-million dollar company, whose retail stores and products they were familiar with.

      I was a small business owner for a few years, and the number of calls and visits like this that I got every day was staggering. Some were charity events, some were for schools, and plenty of them were just businesses and individuals asking for free stuff. I’d have gone out of business if I’d given to everyone who asked. OP handled it beautifully.

  • staceyizme July 9, 2018, 4:29 pm

    The issue isn’t that a donation is requested. Many entities request support from other businesses and there are occasionally benefits to the sponsor. It’s up to each business to have a plan for such donations in order to guide the process. It can be anything from “non-profit only” to “serving underprivileged only”, to ” fill out this form and we’ll think about it” to ” we don’t do donations at all”. It’s up to you to protect your livelihood and mission driven people will often cast a very wide net in search of resources that include donations because donation stretch an event’s budget and may form a critical part of raising the quality of the event in question or in significantly extending its overall reach. No business is required to give,, but it’s equally unnecessary to vilify those who ask. (Except that it is perfectly proper to state your objection when you feel that you’re being solicited by an entity out of raw greed instead of for some mission-driven mandate…)

    • THE OP July 9, 2018, 4:53 pm

      Of course I’m not required to give. That isn’t even up for debate. What is being discussed is the gall that people – or in this case. A MULTI MILLION DOLLAR COMPANY – possess to ask for a donation when they are putting on an event. It’s annoying but beyond that it takes up my valuable time. It’s a bit insulting as well, not to mention greedy. More than anything I don’t appreciate being put in this position over and over when grown people should know to pay for things they want or need. It really is that simple.

    • Rinme July 10, 2018, 4:08 am

      OP is right. A hige corporation has no business harassing small businesses for donations.

      • at work July 11, 2018, 6:00 am

        Agreed. The $$$ that OP would be donating could, in a pie chart of their gross earnings or profits or whatever, be sizable. It could represent a significant sacrifice. For the multi-million dollar company, however, the $$$ for hiring a bounce house would be so infinitesimal that I doubt it would even be visible on a pie chart. What I’m saying is equal giving rarely means equal sacrifice.

    • LizaJane July 10, 2018, 7:00 am

      The OP already seems to have their business model in place and fine-tuned, so all the explaining is a moot point. There IS a problem when a for-profit company is looking for free goods/services to further their business. They’re not offering the OP’s business the same benefit, so yes, there really is a reason to vilify them in this instance.

  • Elisabeth July 9, 2018, 4:34 pm

    There’s a particular section of Reddit that I like to read which collects screenshots and examples of people just like this.

    People who, for some reason, believe themselves to be entitled to free or drastically reduced products and services. People who will demand artists and businesspeople put in hours of their time to provide a free product, in the name of “exposure”. “Oh, I have hundreds of friends, and when they all see this item I got from you, they will all definitely pay for it! But I won’t pay for it.” I think artists/tattoo artists get the lion’s share of this kind of thing, since there will always be a cheaper alternative to any kind of art or tattoo (albeit an alternative that is far worse quality) and people think that that fact entitles them to a low or nonexistent price.

    Most of the time, the examples on Reddit are individuals begging off of other individuals, but sometimes a company shows up, doing just what this company did – asking for a free service (or worse, offering an unpaid “opportunity” instead of a paying job) in the name of advertising or exposure, when really they have the funds to purchase the service properly.

    Give an inch and they’ll take a mile…

    • Ergala July 10, 2018, 11:54 am

      Reminds me of unpaid internships. Here work 40 hours a week unpaid but you will get so much experience! Um no….that means I can’t work an actual job that will pay my bills so I don’t end up homeless. Experience isn’t going to pay my rent but thanks.

      And let me say…when I used to be a photographer I used to get people all the time wanting me to shoot weddings or engagement photos and NOT pay because “well we just want it all on a disc” or “This would be great exposure for you!” or better yet “Well we don’t want you to edit them, our friend will do that for us and we want them on a disc so you don’t have to pay for prints…so why would we pay you?”. I once put watermarks right across the middle of the images. Embedded. There was no getting rid of it.

    • Queen of the Weezils July 10, 2018, 1:36 pm

      Why would people do this kind of “negotiating” for tattoos? That is definitely something where you get what you pay for! I want the person putting a design permanently on my skin to be fully committed, not trying to get it done as soon as possible so he can move on to better paying clients! Tattoos are expensive (good ones are, anyway), so save up, don’t try to get something for nothing.

  • sunnydi84 July 9, 2018, 8:23 pm

    Good for you, OP for protecting your business! You have to because no one else will!
    My DH used to play in a band at various venues in our area every Fri & Sat night. They always got compensated by the establishments, but certainly not enough to live on. Just enough to cover their time and set up and a little extra (and sometimes free food/drinks). They just did it for fun because they all liked music. Over the years when they were playing, I’ve had people ask why they couldn’t just take one weekend a MONTH and play this or that charity event! It took my husband time to load his trailer, drive to the venue, then a few hours to set up and run sound check. Then playing a 3-4 hour show and another 1-2 hours of tear down. So, they essentially wanted them to donate 14-16 hours a month to play their charity event. And, people would get mad when they would tell them no! The response from the people was essentially, ‘But you ENJOY doing this! It’s a labor of love! Can’t you just support XYZ Charity? You’re so good and we really need the help! Think of the exposure! It’s just one night! etc. etc.’ (they were somewhat well known in our area and didn’t need any more ‘exposure’) Is there anyone out there who is willing to give up 14-16 hours EVERY MONTH away from their family, UNPAID to support someone else’s charity of choice? I don’t think so.

    • mark132 July 10, 2018, 4:49 pm

      I probably wouldn’t do that to support a charity I like.

  • NostalgicGal July 9, 2018, 8:51 pm

    I’ve been ducking through this for decades in one form or another. Free art, free crafts, free labor. Some of my last rounds were for quinceaneras (turning 15, some of these are as elaborate and cost as much as wedding) for doing up a set of pew bows, ME putting up the live flowers for them, approximately $4000 ‘for exposure’. This was to be a LOAN and I was supposed to buy the flowers too. I can’t snap my fingers and drop 80 hours worth of work tonight so you can pick them up in the morning and I’m supposed to have enough of everything on hand to make them that fast. Oh, well, would I SPONSOR? Um, if I was the kid’s godparent maybe, but I didn’t know she existed until fifteen minutes ago.
    Related is someone that thinks art is so EASY and wants to be my PARTNER. It’s WORK to be in business for yourself, and all the tools and supplies you’re drooling over, I paid for and they’re not free. You’re not getting your hands on any of it until you fill out the inch of paperwork, put up the $50k security deposit and bond and do all the other things there and put up the Operating Capital deposit (to pay for your share of EVERYTHING). No you can’t ‘pay later’ or pay as you go. I’ve had attorneys come out of the woodwork over former ‘partners’ and their debt.
    No I won’t give it to you for free, it cost me $35 just to buy the raw materials. Plus my time.

    IF you are in business for yourself you really have to adopt a thick skin, too.

  • Ashley M July 9, 2018, 8:51 pm

    Just tell them that exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

  • Lou July 9, 2018, 10:19 pm

    I get this all the time.

    I do freelance graphic design, and 3D animation. I have a business partner that is a Dev Ops programmer. We constantly have people asking us to do work for “exposure” or “free advertising”.

    The thing is most of those people have found us through our advertising channels that we have now, so why would we need more exposure, considering what we have now seems adequate.

    The other comment we get a lot is “I have this great idea for a video game/ app/ piece of software. We could work together and make it.” except in reality that means “If you do all the work I’ll give you credit on the project because you used my idea.” It’s absolutely ridiculous.

    • mark132 July 10, 2018, 4:53 pm

      I don’t think some people truly understand how truly worthless ideas are. Anyone who paid a dime for a dozen ideas likely got ripped off.

  • AJ July 9, 2018, 11:43 pm

    “We’d love to sponsor your event. You’ll just have to cover the basics, which wouldn’t be included. It’s $X,XXX for delivery and set up, $X,XXX for incidentals, and $XXX for the state inspections.” And have the three figures add up to the normal rental cost!

    I have noticed that, while people have always wanted something for nothing, this has significantly increased in the past years. Now every one wants something free for every occasion. And I don’t like it.

    • Mildred Orton July 10, 2018, 2:38 pm

      I blame GoFundMe. Why pay for something yourself if you can “crowdfund” it?

      • Ryo's girl July 10, 2018, 5:29 pm

        An acquaintance’s son set up a GoFundMe for his university tuition because “going to school is a lot of work and he can’t work part time to help defray costs”. I think he closed it after he got a total of $75 donated. I was so tempted to donate $1 and comment that the rest of us paid for post secondary education by student loans and working (full time in my case (and many others too I’m sure!))

  • Misty July 10, 2018, 12:02 am

    Recently, someone made a publically available template for a fully legal contract, wherein you provide a service for exposure. It defines how many referrals you will get, what counts as a referral from the party you serviced, the total financial gain each referral and requires the party who hired you to pay the difference if adequate paying referrals are not received in an agreed time period. All on a pretty, legally binding contract.

    While the contract was intended for artists, I advise anyone who works in a first like this, where there is the concept of being paid in exposure, to look it up and draft something similar for themselves. There is so much power in being able to not just refuse these things, but to define precisely what you would expect exposure and advertising-on-your-behalf to look like!

    (Plus, seeing people backtrack to the next continent when yousay “Oh, advertising as in through exposure? Let me send through our standard contract on terms and how many paying referrals we will require from you as a result” is both satisfying and so much faster. These slugs run real quick when they realise they might be on the hook to do something.)

  • Angela July 10, 2018, 6:54 am

    My husband is part of a band that plays for hire very occasionally, and they will sometimes play for a fundraiser for a local person or group. He has a number of more serious musician friends and I have learned that this is a constant pitch to musicians and it is often described as this fantastic opportunity for “exposure” (which is great for demonstrating to people that you will indeed play for exposure only). One friend was asked to play at a frat house party and told “We can’t pay you but you can drink as much beer as you want and we’ll guarantee you’ll get laid”. He took a pass on that golden opportunity.

  • Abcde July 10, 2018, 9:51 am

    I’m an attorney. A family member often needs legal services for work-related issues (not because he’s a criminal or something!). He joked about hiring me. I told him I’d give him my “friends and family rate” and quoted an hourly rate double the market rate, even for someone with more expertise than me. We had a good laugh, but I made my point that my work isn’t free.

  • Sharon Johnson July 10, 2018, 2:33 pm

    I used to work for a well-known publisher as a photo editor/buyer. The books I worked on were expensive to produce, so publisher would want me to try to get free photos by pretty much saying it would be photographer’s privilege to have their work appear in our publication. It was embarrassing and stressful to give that spiel time after time and I finally quit doing that kind of work.

  • NostalgicGal July 10, 2018, 2:42 pm

    Remembering a related one from the late 1970’s. Anyone remember Lovepat bra’s? They were a ‘family’ or regional type company that got into Walmart. Walmart is notorious for dictating the terms the way THEY want it. And have brought even big maufacturers to near ruin with this practice. Well, Lovepat went to Walmart and asked for a 10% increase to cover rising costs of everything. Walmart retaliated with demanding a 5% cut. Lovepat really put the pencil to it and said we can survive on 3%. Walmart wouldn’t budge. Lovepat went out of business. In the 90’s they had Levi Strauss teetering over jean prices too. So it just isn’t big places thinking they can get stuff for nothing.

    I just had a meeting with a local pageant official. Oh they didn’t know I did (award ribbons, badge buttons, trophies, plaques, medals and tiaras) And I’ve run events and know all the particulars on the legal stuff. ‘Run the event for them for free-surely we can get the school gym for free-YOU can find the sponsors-and you’ll donate all the frippery and swag “for exposure”… I left them with the name of the place that will underwrite event liability insurance and my price list. I have my phone turned off this afternoon.

  • Lou July 10, 2018, 3:22 pm

    There was a fantastic story in this vein that happened in Liverpool last year. A fantastic independent bakery, Laura’s Little Bakery, got an email from a researcher on The X Factor (ie the multi-milllion-pound, advertising-generating, globally-syndicated Simon Cowell televisual extravaganza). More or less, they were holding the first round of auditions in Liverpool Arena, and were throwing a welcome-back party for the judges (all very well-paid celebrities), and wondered if Laura might like to supply them with a free cake for the occasion. She could do whatever style she liked! And the exposure for her small business would be amazing! Her reply was perfect, I’ll try and find a link…

    • Really? July 12, 2018, 12:42 pm

      I disagree in her case. We aren’t talking about a local, limited (if any) exposure. In the case of the bakery lady we are talking about possible national television exposure and advertising. I would have done it.

  • Lou July 10, 2018, 3:24 pm
  • Marozia July 10, 2018, 6:26 pm

    Crikey….freeloader is about right!!
    That corporation has the hide of a rhino and you handled it well.

  • Catherine St. Clair July 11, 2018, 9:13 am

    There are always going to be people who want to volunteer you to do things they think you should do. Some years ago, I received a phone call from a woman who said she went to my church. A lady who suffered from MS needed someone to come to her home three or four times a day, seven days a week, to help her to the bathroom. I explained that I am a retired teacher with no medical training or insurance if I should take on this kind of work. I can’t lift fifty pounds anymore, am pushing seventy, have arthritis in both knees and have had knee surgery. In short, I would not want me looking after me if I needed this kind of help and it would mean I could never have a life of my own. She was highly offended and declared, “Some people are generous enough to volunteer!” I suggested she call one of them and she hung up on me. Sometimes no is the only possible answer.

    • Raintree July 12, 2018, 12:02 am

      Oh yeah, why didn’t she volunteer herself then? I sympathize with the lady with MS but she needed someone trained to do this kind of work and who was being paid to do it.

  • Ultrapongo July 12, 2018, 3:24 am

    It is bad enough to donate your own time, but when you also have to pay for other’s time, fuel, insurance and so on, it would not be good for your business.
    If you would charge 1000 dollars for the job, and your direct cost is 500 dollars, then you don’t just work for free, but you pay 500 for doing it.
    If you had a business with no direct costs, and would charge 500, then of course you could do it for free, and only lose your time. If it is for something you don’t mind volunteering for. Otherwise you could take a paying job, or do something you really want.
    Off topic: What is this ”write them a check”? I haven’t seen a check since the eighties… 🙂

    • EchoGirl July 15, 2018, 1:55 am

      I feel like this is the point that gets “missed” (sometimes intentionally, other times not) a lot. There are very few jobs that people do that don’t come with some sort of cost. If the recipient doesn’t pay for it, the provider will. When it’s a small cost and a good cause, some people will be willing to make that contribution. But a multimillion dollar company? They’d be seriously pushing it to ask for the service at cost, let alone asking someone to pay to do it for them.

  • MPW1971 July 12, 2018, 2:20 pm

    I work as a consulting engineer – we typically bill clients by the hour, or by the project – generally it’s by the hour if it’s small job. To that end we are like lawyers and have to account for all of the time we spend on each job. Usually when we do projects, we provide a proposal with an estimated or fixed or not-to-exceed cost, and the client then agrees on how we do the work. On occasion, the client will negotiate for a lower cost – this is on contracts for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
    I was in an art gallery once and seeing a piece I liked, I mentioned to them that I would like to contact the artist to negotiate the purchase. I was just about flayed alive for mentioning the word “negotiate” and the prices were, indeed, fixed. I felt insulted by that – and here’s why. In North America we pretty much assume that new items which are “commodities” are fixed in price – you don’t negotiate the cost of your burger any more than a new lawn mower. But at a certain price point, new items are negotiable in price – cars, some jewelry, boats, houses – as is bespoke or custom work (i.e. home renovations, large repairs, a dress made to order, cosmetic medical procedures, extensive dental work, and so on). Used items – almost always negotiable. And while a bathroom upgrade may be a negotiable contract, emergency plumbing work is not.
    So here I was basically shamed into suggesting that I could possible negotiate the price on a charcoal drawing listed at $460 – as I would have paid no more than $400 for it. So the artist had no opportunity to sell their art, and maybe, just maybe, they were willing to sell it for that amount. It was just like I had asked them for it to be free, and that’s not what I was doing.
    A laborer is worthy of their hire, but there should be room for negotiation for some custom work.
    But that negotiation doesn’t start at “nothing”. Had the company been an actual charity *and* they were asking for having the service done *at cost*, that would be a different story.

  • Heather Trick July 22, 2018, 1:07 pm

    I think this problem exists in almost every industry. I get this all the time as an attorney as well. I can’t donate an item, but people are always asking me for pro bono services or to “just answer a few questions” because they are a friend, or to sponsor events. We are a small, family owned firm with small profit margins, and people get very offended when I won’t sponsor an event or answer questions for free. We will happily sponsor events that will likely result in increased revenue (which is almost never the case), but I can’t continuously give away free services when I have employees to pay and overhead.

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