When You Get Something for Nothing, Someone Else is Usually Paying the Price
Though it sometimes feels good to “stick it to the big guy” and make a steal, somewhere along the line, there is always a smaller guy who is paying the price for your good fortune…
Everyone loves a bargain, don’t they? There’s a certain glee in the knowledge that you’ve managed to dupe the system in some way; you’ve saved yourself some coin through your savvy haggling skills, your canny ability to buy at just the right time, or just your sheer dumb luck.
The example that immediately springs to mind is the “going-out-of-business” sale, where shoppers descend like vultures to scoop up the last dregs of bargain-priced “must-go” merchandise as though it were road-kill rotting upon sun-baked asphalt. Though their resultant meal has been legally and legitimately won, and they have accrued their prizes without breaking any laws, the unfortunate reality is that their advantage has been born of another’s misfortune.
Sometimes those who are out to save some money, or to make a quick buck, will resort to more dubious, perhaps even illegal methods. Still others will attempt to bend the rules- not so much that they snap completely in half, perhaps, but just enough to win a little bit of good fortune for themselves. After all, it’s human nature to seek the advantage, and it’s not as though they’re really hurting anyone, right?
As some of you already know, one of my various trades involves audiobook production. I’ve been doing this for a year now; in fact, this month is my first anniversary as a Narrator/ Producer, having been introduced to the concept of audiobook production and ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) by my guardian angel and gracious supporter, Lola Down.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had pretty regular work coming in for eleven of those twelve months. However, this last month or so, the audiowork has slowed down- just what a gal who’s recently had to quit her job needs, huh?
I put the slump down to two things;
(1) the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 meaning fewer people can afford to spend on non-essentials (I so get that!), and
(2) a recent crackdown by Amazon to deal with dodgy practices by some disingenuous armchair “entrepreneurs” who were hiring producers to create audiobooks and then selling off promotional copies in exchange for cash and to earn illegitimate royalty payments.
Being the naive newbie that I was, it was months before I learned that this was actually “a thing”, by which time Amazon had changed their policies and most of these less-than-genuine players had been chased off, muttering “no fair” and looking for somewhere else for some new rules to bend to their advantage.
On the one hand, I applaud Amazon for cracking down on fraudulent practices. I’m a stickler for obeying rules, and though some might think me a “Goody-Two-Shoes” for that, at least I know I can sleep with a clear conscience.
On the other hand, as a freelancer languishing at the bottom of the supply chain, I find it a right royal pain in the arse. And, more importantly, the pocket.
I used to get frequent offers of work. Did I start to suspect that a couple of the people I was being approached by maybe had some shady ulterior motive at heart? Eventually, yes. Did I necessarily care? Hmm, I’m a little ashamed to say, not so much. As long as I was getting paid for my entirely legitimate work, and I knew I was doing everything right and by the book, I figured that once I’d delivered on my deliverables, my part was done, and whatever the other person did after that was not my concern.
To a large extent, I still feel like that. I want to believe that as long as I’m playing pair and not trying to rig the system, I’m okay. But, at the same time, I’m pissed off at those who didn’t play fair, because it’s not just them that have been affected. It’s as a result of their dishonesty that freelancers like me are getting less work. In the end, our hard work, good behaviour, and adherence to the rules has all been for naught. We’re still getting hurt, regardless.
A lot of those folks will have, I’m sure, placated themselves with the thought that, “Fuck it, it’s Amazon/ Starbucks/ Facebook/ Netflix/ General Motors, isn’t it? They’re the big guys. It’s not as if they can’t afford it, and y’know, they’re not paying corporation tax and all that”, etc.
But I wish I could ask those same people whether they’d ever stopped to consider the knock on effects for the “little guys” who are doing the work in these companies; the multitudes of staff clinging desperately onto the lower-rungs of the corporate ladder, the company’s suppliers, the packers, the delivery people, the IT bods and, yes, the freelancers, sellers and sole-traders like me? I suspect it never even occured to them to contemplate how their actions would end up hurting all of us.
Look, I get it. We all want to feel like we’re getting a bargain. Maybe even getting something for free. But spare a thought next time you try to bend, break or haggle your way around the rules, for although it may feel good to “stick it to the big guy” and make a (sometimes literal) steal, you can pretty much guarantee that, somewhere along the supply chain, there are “little guys” like me who could end up paying a heavy price for your “good” fortune.
Enquiries and comments are always welcome. You can also find me on Twitter @GrantJupiter