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Google's "free food" is not free (rachelbythebay.com)
291 points by andrew_k on Jan 22, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments

I'm writing a post on salary negotiation today, so I zeroed in on two supporting details here that you should remember for later: when pressed on price, savvy negotiators said:

1) Give us some time to think about it.

2) We are going to re-focus the discussion on a different compensation lever where we can present something you're already going to get as if it were a new incentive justifying your concession on a lever you're currently interested in.

You can do both of these as a job seeker.

(For example, if you have extra-curricular interests like many desirable tech employees do, the extra-curricular interests can be used to justify an increase in your compensation vis-a-vis a hypothetical employee who punches out of the Internet at 5 pm. It doesn't particularly matter that you're going to continue blogging and OSS regardless of the outcome of this negotiation, you just frame the discussion such that that becomes newly discovered value which gives the other party something to hang their hat on for getting you that last $10,000.)

Yeah, I did both of those in my salary negotiations with Google. They talked me down from my starting salary, but they also increased my stock options & GSUs.

The other important point is - you are the only one who says "Yes" when asked "Is this acceptable to you?" If the free food is not worth $15-20K (which actually seems ridiculous - I've heard numbers for both what average employees value it at and what it actually costs Google, and they're nowhere close to that), then say "I'm sorry, I don't value my food that highly. I'll take the cash or go elsewhere." This, of course, requires that you have somewhere else to go. But remember that Google wants highly-qualified employees just as much as highly-qualified employees want to work at Google.

It's simpler than this or the post describes.

Every "benefit" has an associated dollar value. That's it. Total them up.

Oddly, salary is a holy cow whereas beenefits are not.

Having worked as an "employee" for 13 years before going freelance, the trend I see is this: employers generally feel its AOK to reduce/remove/substitute lesser benefits to save them money. The same cannot be said for salary reductions.

This is a large part of what led me to go freelance. I control my benefits. I negotiate my rate. I get paid based on those and how hard I work.

At the end of the day, it's still a lot like being an employee but, for me, with far less a feeling of being victimized.

If you are being considered by Google and are negotiating financial terms I would venture that you have plenty of other options available to you (read Facebook and MS)

You might also look at it another way, and Google probably will, too.

If you're being considered by Google and you don't negotiate, perhaps they are the ones making the mistake.

Thanks for framing it that way; I felt this relationship subconsciously but never could name it clearly.

Btw., that's pretty much what happened at my current workplace: after two years of employment I negotiating salary increase -- basing on market situation and possible other employers for me -- and ever since the owners appreciate my role in the company more.

Way to put a positive spin on the article :)

Don't forget the lesson though -- if you use an extra-curricular in a negotiation it's no longer extra-curricular.

Nope, still extra-curricular, just like the food is still theirs to make available or take away as they see fit. This is a shady tactic you and the employer can both use. I wouldn't though.

let me elaborate. if someone looks me in the eye and says, "Don't forget that we never work weekends, how much is that worth?" then they are not my friend. That's a given, it's part of a 40-hour job not to work weekends. To put a price on it and have me concede part of my salary means they don't have my interests at heart.

Now, you might say that negotiators don't have to have the other guy's interests at heart. Then maybe you can read Getting to Yes ("the Harvard principle") or even the old How To Win Friends and Influence People.

the toughest negotiators usually end up having no one to talk with but mud with a stick in it. If all you want for an employee is a mud with a stick in it, by all means, harp on about how elephants do not trample around your premises, there are no monsoons in the area, and other employees don't use the outhouse or squat outside to potentially poop on them.

But if you want a quality employee, an actual human, then the negotiation that works on mud with a stick in it will not be very compelling. Or honest. Pretty soon you won't be negotiating with another human again.

Looking forward to it, as I just received an offer that was largely based on my github profile. Hiring manager told me they've never interviewed someone with one. So I suppose I can turn that around and say I deserve more than the typical offer.

Maybe this will help, it's more general:


Link? I am interested in salary negotiation techniques.

Thank you.

It won't be published until Monday (US time). Your options for finding it then include emailing me, getting the RSS feed at kalzumeus.com, following me on Twitter (@patio11), or (not a given but also not the riskiest prediction I'll make this year) checking the HN front page.

I particularly enjoyed the confidence embodied in that last one ;-)

Great. Thank you. I have subscribed to your RSS feed.

I'd suggest the books _Getting to Yes_, and Graeber's _Debt: the First 5000 Years_.

Of course the second book sounds odd, but if you're renting chunks of your life, it's vital to know about the real nature of markets, not the Disneyfied version. Many people I've spoken with are uncomfortable with the antagonistic nature of negotiation, and fail to hit the upper limit of what the employer's willing to spend. Instead of wilting, there should be a feeling of indignance.

I posted it above, but, since you're interested, I found this book helpful:


Maybe Im just a calculating, cold, emotionless engineer but when it comes to pay packages Ive stopped caring about the fancy 'perks'. I only try to gauge how much Ill get paid, how much Ill enjoy the work and learn, and how many hours Ill be putting in.

Ive seen perks too many times used against employees. (The following rant is nothing towards Google - never worked there.)

- Free food and onsite amenities usually is a sign that they want you there for extra long hours and that you'll probably need to use that stuff.

- Unrestricted vacation days can mean you don't really get any vacation because its always crunch time.

- Fancy employee outings are not so thrilling to me - I like my coworkers but I already spend the majority of my waking hours with them.

I'm not trying to completely debase the value of these things - I'm just saying that in terms of negotiating salary I weight these types of perks at 0 or negative dollars.

The most bitter pill from my previous job was hearing "we don't track vacation" right up until the day I noticed my pay was low from the last pay period and when I asked why, the answer was "you took too much vacation".

Same here - perks are stuff I expect to come on top of the salary I ask for. If they try to make the perks an excuse to offer me less, I'll turn around and ask them to rather drop the perks and pay me more, or I'll go somewhere else.

It actually turns me off a company if they offer unusually large perks, as they do need to claw the money back somewhere, and usually it will be salaries, and the reason companies use perks is because employees on average tends to be really bad at judging their actual monetary value.

This is somewhat of a tangent, but free lunch is a very important perk for me (note: I don't work at Google). For $15 a day, I could order in food every day and effectively have free lunch, wherever I worked. But I also wouldn't - in the back of my mind, I'd know that the $90 could be used to go and see the opera or a Broadway show, so I'd cook, or go and eat at Subway or whatever. So I'm not sure what I value that perk at, but I think just not having to even think about the lunch part of my day is important. I would weigh this as a positive, say a $5000 benefit.

The company that I work at has "no vacation policy". Honestly, that makes me the most hesitant, and to be honest, I don't really like that policy. However, senior management has been very good in two regards: they take vacations, and they encourage people to take vacations. So it does seem to work out. We're small right now, so it works, but I could see it being very easy to get wrong.

On the first one, Google seems at least a little less blatant about it; there are tech companies that offer free dinner, but only starting at a relatively late hour, like 7pm, which is pretty clearly a perk for people who stay late. Although someone I know works at a place with a policy like that, and just works his 8-hour day 10am-7pm (with an hour break for lunch), stopping by for dinner on the way out, so it works for some sleep schedules without actually putting in overtime.

I worked at a place like this. They served dinner at 7-8pm, and you only got it if you worked at least 10 hours that day. I remember one day, one of the managers suggested that we up it to 12. "We're spending $30,000 a year on food; it's ridiculous." Yeah, but considering all of the extra hours you're getting out of people, paying an extra portion of a salary per year doesn't seem like a bad deal.

>> Fancy employee outings

Or even more atrocious to me, are the 48 hour up all night over the weekend "code jams"... Jeez people, get a life.

I get free breakfast and lunch which combined with living alone means I don't have to cook -- so I note that down as a saving of about an hour a day.

Health insurance is where I care about the fancy perks. If I'm reliant on my company for health insurance, it had better be good health insurance or I'm looking elsewhere.

Maybe I'm just a calculating, cold, emotionless engineer but when it comes to pay packages I've stopped caring about the fancy 'perks'. I only try to gauge how much I'll get paid, how much I'll enjoy the work and learn, and how many hours I'll be putting in.

Well, that's normal and smart. You go to work for the work, not the diversions. I don't think I've ever played an XBox during working hours; if there's any possibility that I'll be more interested in XBox than in doing my job at 11:30 am, there are bigger issues, either with me or with the job.

What happens as you get older is that you learn to see through the bullshit. Things that matter: career development, interesting work, co-workers you'll learn from, fairness, recognition, company vision, and a functioning management environment. Things that don't: perks you can buy on the market for a couple hundred bucks.

Free food and onsite amenities usually is a sign that they want you there for extra long hours and that you'll probably need to use that stuff.

I can look at this one both ways. If the company will do my laundry for me, it saves me 30 minutes a week. I'll gladly spend an additional 30 minutes on work (which I generally enjoy) in exchange for not having to do 30 minutes of chores. That said, even better would be to have the perk in extra cash so I can buy my own housework services (which two adults with demanding careers will have to do anyway).

Unrestricted vacation days can mean you don't really get any vacation because its always crunch time.

There's a non-evil incentive for companies to switch to untracked vacation. It saves them money on vacation cash-in, and it also removes the economic incentive for employees not to take any vacation. A $100,000-per-year job with two weeks of paid vacation is actually equivalent to a $104,000 job without paid vacation and with penalties for taking more than 10 days off. The "two weeks' paid vacation" is actually a Hawaiian Shirt Day, a negative space establishing that "career" people won't take more time off than that (since unpaid leave is frowned upon).

Truly untracked vacation (meaning that if you take 6 weeks' worth of vacation but do 15% better work in the other 46, you're in good standing) is worth a 5-10% pay cut for me.

The best way to learn the value of money (immense when you don't have enough, but very low once you have enough of it) is to work on Wall Street for a few years and learn first-hand that millionaires (and "millionaire" means $1m/year, not $1m net worth) aren't any happier than the rest of us. I actually think it can be invaluable for some people to work in the vicinity of seriously rich people just to learn that lesson.

Fancy employee outings are not so thrilling to me - I like my coworkers but I already spend the majority of my waking hours with them.

I'm with you. I'm 28, married, and will probably be having kids in 4-6 years. Office Christmas parties don't appeal to me. I'd rather spend the time with my friends or family.

It's great to hang out with your co-workers after work. I've learned an incredible amount from after-work drinks and (now that I can't tolerate alcohol, for health reasons) discussions in classes and board-game nights. But it should be organic and elective. I don't like the "forced" kind-- the socially mandatory drinking that you see in finance, the wild office Christmas parties. I can see the appeal of that stuff at 22, but not at 28 (much less 35+).

Funnily enough I fit your profile... 28, married, likely to have kids in relatively near future.

I think the perks are a lot like the thrill of buying something new. When your just entering the workforce they seem fantastic - almost unimaginable. When you've been surviving on ramen in your early twenties, free food at a tech company makes it sound like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Then when you initially get those perks, they usually are somewhat fun. Then as the 'new car smell wears off' you realize that the fundamentals of the job (like what you mentioned) are really 99% of what makes it good or bad.

Interesting thoughts on the Christmas parties. I guess the smallish company I work at (~40 people) has a different demographic because are Christmas parties definitely seem more low key, family oriented affairs. I think the average age in the office is still in the early 30s, we just don't really have any hardcore partiers or anything. I actually quite appreciate the opportunity to get together with everyone in a purely social setting and talk about stuff other than work.

And dont forget that the Taxman will want to tax you on benefits in kind - or they will be if they are doing their job right

You don't get taxed on free food at work.

Pretty much spot on of course, anyone who was at Google 'before' can trace the dots to today.

One of the benefits of a generous set of perks is that management can adjust the expense once they get close to the end of the quarter so that the 'numbers come out right.' Google is losing that ability. It makes things like their Q4 'miss' [1] more likely.

It is of course entirely Google's prerogative on how they spend their money. And if you look at their Q4 results [2] they deposited 2.97 billion dollars into the bank in cash based on the work done by their 32,467 employees. That is $91,477 in cash for the 90 days that ended December 31st. Lets say every employee ate 3 gourmet meals a day, at a cost of $15+$25+$50 or $90, and consumed another $25 in snacks so $115 per employee per day. (and those are gonna be some fat employees!) That is 32,467 x $115 x 90 days or $335 million dollars. Or about 11 cents of each dollar they dropped into the bank. The numbers of course reflect the costs that a typical restaurant would charge that was profitable, and $25 a day in snacks? That is probably way beyond what most anyone would eat so these numbers are way over if anything.

But at some point between the original prospectus where Larry and Sergei told potential investors that they were going to spend a lot on perks like this so get used to it; to today, where sometimes elaborate explanations about social consciousness and environmental justice precede the denial of those perks. Someone decided the company's interest was to build a cash pile, not invest in quality of life benefits for the rank and file. Sad really, they are the kind of company that can afford to do it, and now they choose not to. So much for being different.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/20/technology/googles-strong-...

[2] http://investor.google.com/earnings/2011/Q4_google_earnings....

Google's Q4 miss had nothing to do with perks. They could eliminate all the perks and it wouldn't have made a dent in stock performance.

The earnings miss was by about $1/share, or $323M. That's about $10K per employee over the quarter. You really think Google spends $10K/employee/quarter on perks? I've heard numbers for the food costs, and you're overestimating by more than an order of magnitude.

I actually think perks today are significantly better than they were when I joined in Jan 2009. Cafes are open on weekends. There's more than one option for Friday dinner. They booked the whole Oracle Arena and took us all to see Cirque du Soleil. Cake played at Googleween. Random speakers like Sandra Day O'Connor, Lady Gaga, Carlos Santana, George R.R. Martin, and Bear McCreary show up for talks. We get random schwag more often.

Yes but IMHO the point about the original story is that, all this does not matter, mostly. Like to go to the Cirque du Soleil? Fine, plan a great weekend with your friends or partner. At work you need to find other things, and in my case those things are:

1) Work at things that you actually like, and not just technically. You should think the final product you are building if of some use, is well designed, you would use it, otherwise I would get frustrated (a lot).

2) Be able to make a difference, instead of working to a sub project of a sub project at the point it is not clear to you if you are seriously providing something worthwhile to the big picture. Usually complex organizations tend to fail in this regard, but some big orgs are organized in a way that splits people into small sub-groups handling their own project, so that individuals still can see their scope.

3) Have free time, that is, work for a reasonable amount of hours. You need free hours to have a life, to learn new things unrelated to your work (even if they are still about Computer Science it does not matter), to rest and preserve your health.

4) A friendly environment, where everybody is focused on exploiting the best potentials of co-workers. No envy, no power games, ability to recognize coworkers good accomplishments, and so forth.

I think that meals or other accessorial stuff are not enoguh to compensate the lack of one of the above.

$115 per day per person? wtf I spend about 20 eur / day for food, I cant believe prices are sooo much higher in the valley.

I was unclear, I was trying to point out that the sort of perks rachelbythebay used in her article were inconsequential with respect to the free cash flow, even giving Google the benefit of the doubt in terms of its costs by a huge margin.

When I was there and digging into this issue from the inside one of the issues was that the cafe's predict and prepare a given amount of food and that needs to be just a bit more than is actually consumed so that they don't run out. The remainder is waste, so their cost per meal has to include the cost over head of the waste. Also the preparation staff has a salary and benefits, and there is the cost of the kitchen gear (things you and I don't expressly call out in our own costs because we are the cooks and its our kitchen). But it is always safe to use the retail prices of restaurants in the area because they are demonstrably getting by on that level of return for their meals.

One of the counter arguments an executive made to me was that you couldn't predict the quarter, and I suggested you run it 'behind' so that Q4's free cash determined Q1's level of perks, that way you spent the money you had previously banked. He did not believe there was an accounting system that could deal with that sort of setup. I suggested that Google had one or two smart people who could probably figure it out. But the resolution was 'that would be too much trouble.'

And I completely agree that its their choice on how to do it. But here is the rub, really really smart people in the bay area can work anywhere. Literally walk out on friday, and before they have used up half of their accrued vacation they can be working somewhere else. So screwing around with this sort of stuff when you could afford not to, pisses them off and they leave (see rachelbythebay's comment about 'brain drain'). The secondary effect is that one of the reasons people give for wanting to work at Google is "all the really smart people there." except that the 'really really smart' start leaving, followed by the 'really smart' who start dealing with only the 'moderately smart' because their ranks are leaving.

Its an interesting chain reaction. And of course eventually all that excess money stops coming in because the people who were really responsible for it being there in the first place are now gone, and that leaves you no choice but to cut perks even further. The system often re-stabilizes at a much much lower productivity point.

I got to watch the whole sequence at Sun in the 10 years I was there, a friend of mine watched it at Oracle. When I joined Google I was optimistic that given that Eric Schmidt had been at Sun too that he also understood the dynamic that made technology companies great, vs just ok. I was mistaken.

The process is probably irreversible at this point. Google will coast on its reputation for a while, but folks inside will feel the pain of the 'missing ones', and things that used to just 'get done' will become big projects which take too long and too many people and are always behind schedule. They will keep lowering their hiring standards as the need to back fill positions of people leaving overwhelms their ability to get anything done. The ranks will swell with earnest folks who really want to do well but the ratio of smart people to earnest (but not smart) people will fall and so effort will increase without an increase in output. Revenue per employee will start to drop, and the days when 20,000 employees to get you $2B in free cash flow will be replaced by 50,000 employees and less than a billion.

I wish it were different, but sadly I don't see an out for them.

Up to a point - if something has been going on for a long it can become an implied part of your contract (probably less so in the US but still a danger)

And removing these little perks to save 20$ a month can have an impact on Morale out of all proportion to the cash value.

I remember one case I dealt with where a senior manager ($200,000 pa level) was very upset over losing his business needs phone line which was worth £15 a month.

I read a previous article by her about no one being able to like Apple products after Android and decided she has a totally warped view of reality. I was there when they handed out Android phones. I still use an iPhone. Many Google employees use iPhones. No one has ever given me crap about it, and I haven't seen anyone look at anyone funny in any way.

I mean, Google gives MacBook Airs/MacBook Pros to every employee for christsakes.

And if you want to know how the recruiters talk you into accepting a lower salary, it isn't the value of the food, it's the value of Google's bonuses. Google HR talks to you about "Total Compensation" and the dollar value of the food is not (AFAIK) part of this discussion.

Personally for me, I have no complains about my salary, but the real reason I decided to work for Google was the chance to work on world class infrastructure with access to an incredible pool of talented people, plus the culture.

Google is the only large corporation I've worked at (and I've worked at others like IBM and Oracle), that didn't feel so much like a suffocating bureaucracy, and whose employees generally care about trying to do the right thing, and care about openness and honesty.

You've all no doubt seen the Steve Yegge rant. That's par for the course on Google internal mailing lists, and I like the fact that people challenge management frequently with rants like this.

This is a good point. I've also worked at huge behemoths before, and I wish there had been internal mailing lists to rant on. The bureaucratic walls around innovation and product release were so tall that a healthy release of those frustrations would have been nice. It's good to see that Google's employees have something to complain about, but more importantly that they actually complain about it.

There is a danger with internal lists and rants, they are subject to discovery on lawsuits afaik (IANAL), so things have a tendency to not stay internal over time. Google may not have been bitten by this yet, but I imagine it is only a matter of time.

We're often reminded of this. There are some subjects you have to stay away from, but you can still rant.

I find myself in a weird situation, in that I find this writer's writing intriguing exactly because of how much I vehemently disagree with almost all of it. It's like somehow it manages to push all the wrong buttons, in a very precise way. Usually when I read things that I disagree with it doesn't really prod at me, but for some reason almost this entire blog does. The controversy this blog always digs up on really minor topics makes me think I'm not the only one.

I think what always strikes me in her writing is the lack of any empathy in any of the rants/complaints. When I read credible arguments, I always feel like there's a bit of understanding involved, as in "these people think this, for certain reasons we've actually bothered to explore and will treat fairly, but it turns out this other thing is the case because.."

The problem is, if you don't bother to look into the other side of things, you can't have real understanding. I saw nothing in that article as to /why/ google might have done what they did, only some really petulant complaints and vague innuendo about "rogue contractors". I got the same impression from other posts, like where she accused ruby programmers of being "hipsters", because, you know, obviously you can just do everything in C++ so why bother to learn something new?

Everyone knows Google cut perks to save money. If they'd told people to accept a lower salary, on the basis of the perks being worth 20k, that employee is bound to be pissed when they were taken away. They were part of the salary negotiation - to the author, that's like cutting her wage because the stock numbers were down.

> Usually when I read things that I disagree with it doesn't really prod at me ... I saw nothing in that article as to /why/ google might have done what they did

And then from the article:

""" but enough people finally cornered them and got them to admit it was about the cost. """

From what I see, you really didn't read the article.

Of course it was about the cost. The article doesn't mention any reasons why they would have to cut costs, though.

No, it's not "of course it's because of the cost" because it could have been for another reason, and (thank God) the article wasn't about why Google would cut back on a perk. If it was, I wouldn't have read it.

I too find the writing style very distracting, but I can't quite place my finger on what it is exactly. It's very strange, though. That being said, I think the post makes a valuable point that anybody can learn about negotiating: what are they really giving you, did you expect to get that anyway (i.e. is it material to negotiations), can you reasonably claim it's not material even if it IS something special they're offering (I have allergies to about 25% of common foods, so I prepare my own food), can they take it away later, etc.

Interesting how that is. I thought the writing was particularly good, and I make my living writing for the web.

The article isn't about why Google cut costs like free cafeteria food. It's about an employee agreeing to work somewhere that is reputed to be "world class" because they were promised a benefit and then that benefit was taken away.

I worked at a place with free food and this exact thing happened. At first it was order any two meals off seamlessweb.com a day. Then it was order one meal, which meant people ordered enough food for two or three meals once a day. Then there were spending limits. Then there was a "town hall meeting" the CEO claimed he had been doing some investigations an came across a worker who was drinking ten cans of coke a day. Out of concern for our health, they would be eliminating all beverages except water coolers. Then meals were only free for certain people. Then free meals went away.

It is easy to eliminate these kinds of perks because many people will be in favor of cost cutting. Not so for salary, not many people will argue in favor of across the board salary cuts. I'll take salary every time.

I would have probably quit sometime between spending limits and a "town hall meeting" about food being worth everyone's time.

It was a funny meeting. The CEO was a hell of a salesman, he came in with a nalgene bottle and made a big show of taking big gulps while touting his new health initiatives that just happened to include cutting a perk. By the time he left people were saying it was a good thing he was so concerned for our health. He did the same speech 5 times in one day to get all the employees, must have been pretty hydrated at the end.

Quite an amusing anecdote.

On one hand, it conjures up pictures of a real slimeball, the typical "snake oil salesman".

On the other, I get the impression he is a really charismatic individual. It certainly takes some skill to stand up in front of a bunch of people, take away something from them and convince them that they are better off.

Probably a great combination for a CEO.

Coke costs all of 25c/can in bulk. Even 10 cans a day is only 2.50

Coke costs all of 25c/can in bulk. Even 10 cans a day is only 2.50

Yep, and it baffles me when companies miss the forest through the trees and cut something like sodas. In the scheme of what a fully loaded engineer costs the company, even 10 cans of soda/day is minuscule (~$625/year).

As companies get bigger the same thing always seem to happen. The bean counters see the large costs of providing free X to thousands of people and/or people who work there start taking advantage of the situation (bring home a 12 pack of soda each day for all their roommates). No matter how cool the company claims to be, this seems to eventually happen to all large companies past a certain size.

It's nearly impossible for people to truly grasp that $500,000/year for 50,000 employees is the same impact as $10/year/employee. Even incredibly smart people get this wrong. It happens in business, in politics (see all the people arguing that policy X that works in country Y can't be implemented in the US because the US is Z times larger than Y), everywhere, even with people who otherwise have a very strong grasp of math and science.

It's baffling.

"Let's have a chat about how you're drinking too much Coke" has to be the most reliable indicator of company performance I've ever heard.

Yeah, I put that chat in the same category as talking about upgrading tools and other things the company should already have taken into account cost wise.

If your boss starts complaining about sodas, $50 license upgrades for team software, cheap HW upgrades like RAM, etc... then it's time to leave.

And plus, informal perks aren't part of the contract. It's like part of your salary you can lose anytime.

The author complains that she was dissatisfied with her offer six years prior but took the job anyway. Then it turns into a rant about how she was robbed of her entitlements.

"But what happens when the economy improves? Those wounds will never heal. Anyone with half a brain will say "hey, these guys are evil!" and will bail for greener pastures."

Because they don't have bagels in the microkitchen Google is evil?

As someone who works at Google, I can assure you that the microkitchens are overflowing with drinks, snacks, fruits, coffees, and candies, The cafeterias are plentiful(24 in mountain view alone) and the food is incredibly delicious, even for a foodie like myself.

Plus, the pay is very competitive. The author must not have stuck around for this:


It's unfortunate that her experience didn't end well, but this article comes across as hyperbolic and catty.

I wouldn't go so far as to call Google "evil" for reducing perks, but the microkitchens were a lot better before. They used to be overflowing with goodies, many perishable. After the bean-counter moment it was all dry cereal and prepackaged snacks.

For me it was just a "shrug, whatever" moment. I realized that as a growing public company Google wanted to control costs more.

And I might be weird, but excessive perks creep me out a little. I worry about it warping my mind too much. One day during my time at Google, I was in a grocery store and felt mild outrage at the thought that they were going to charge me for food.

Once you're used to a perk, it's another fishhook the company has embedded into your flesh.

I imagine her main gripe would be that the free food was treated as a component of her compensation, and then withdrawn for the perfectly rational (but unrelated) reason of cutting costs.If someone did that to my salary (and it's happened a few times, for various reasons), that would generate a certain amount of ill-will.

That was her fault. She acknowledges her naïveté in accepting this as part of her salary negotiation, but strangely clings to her outrage as well.

It's also their fault. They made an offer they weren't planning on keeping. And they lose the most - an irate employee is a dead loss to an organization, but still gets a paycheck (until they more on or get fired, which takes a long time).

That's true. I'd say that time is pretty much the only thing that can heal outrage about such things, though.

I've found that doing some introspection helps me to deal with situations where I'm upset.

Well that's human nature people get far more upset about losing something losing $20 a day in free food feels much worse than gaining the same amount in pay.

"After the bean-counter moment it was all dry cereal and prepackaged snacks."

You must be going to different MKs than I do. My experience is the MKs have always had (at least since Dec 2008, when I started) plenty of seasonal fresh fruit, pre-made salads and sandwiches in addition to the dried cereals and pre-packaged snacks. <shrug>

The perks are nice but are far from the top of the list of things that I would miss about working here - working with world class people, the opportunity to work on huge problems at scale, the amount that's invested in internal tools and processes, a culture that allows and even encourages you to question management - those are the types of things that I would miss.

The perks are just nice extras.

yeah, i've been working there a few months, and the perks are very nice, but the people i get to work with, and the deep belief in code quality, are what makes it such a pleasure to work there. (that said, i'd be seriously upset if the shuttles were taken away).

> The author complains that she was dissatisfied

It was an advice article. I think many young graduates (that Google seems to like to recruit) should read it.

> Then it turns into a rant about how she was robbed of her entitlements.

I think you are being too hyperbolic there. It seems pretty clear that Google didn't break any laws and that the author thinks Google didn't break any laws. She made some wrong assumptions during her hiring and she is warning others not to make the same ones.

> Because they don't have bagels in the microkitchen Google is evil?

It is appropriate to use that word because Google set itself up for it by using it in its own mission statement. It is clearly a play on that. Had any other company been involved I bet the word "evil" wouldn't have been used.

Google is located in an area where there aren't many restaurants close by. By offering on-site lunches, they keep the employees on campus. So instead of wasting, say, 1.5 hours getting to MtView, hunting for parking, waiting at a restaurant, eating, getting back into your car, etc., the employees just walk over to the cafe, still in work mode; or even better, take the lunch back to their offices.

Even if Google gets 1 hour of work per employee per day out of this arrangement, the lunch more than pays for itself.

So people shouldn't naively think that Google (or, for that matter, any other company) offers these perks out of the goodness of their heart; it's because it makes fiscal sense to keep employees on campus, working.

> So people shouldn't naively think that Google (or, for that matter, any other company) offers these perks out of the goodness of their heart.

It becomes s question of quality. It is one thing to offer free steaks at lunch (a real perk) vs offering beans and rice every day. [just using it to illustrate a point, not saying Google is serving rice and beans only]. The goal of Google is to present how they have very high quality food during interview then start scaling down the quality (and cost) until employees will still feel like driving is a hassle but now a meal is $10 vs $30.

In the end however they lose with this strategy. The people working there can read between the lines. Google might end up with better end-of-quarter bottom line, but in the long long run they will be shooting themselves in the foot.

> It is one thing to offer free steaks at lunch (a real perk) vs offering beans and rice every day. [just using it to illustrate a point, not saying Google is serving rice and beans only].

If they just offered (note: it's an offer, not mandatory) beans and rice, then the employees would just go out for lunch, defeating the purpose of the program.

The lunch has to be good enough to keep the employees there.

Right, the company I worked for was open about this, they wanted us at our desks.

The problem was they had no way of measuring how much productivity gains there really were but they still had a bill every month for the food. When push comes to shove it was harder to justify any theoretical productivity gains against that bill.

They can "want you at your desk".

In most of the US, you're entitled, by law, to a lunch break of at least 30 minutes.

You can thank unions for that.

My understanding is that Google is pretty open about that. I think I've seen Marissa Mayer explain it that way in a video about Google before.

How does this explain them offering the food for free vs. charging for it (possibly subsidizing it)? It is still a perk, in that sense.

Google claims to want to hire smart people.

Google claims to these ostensibly smart people during the hiring process that the 'free food' is worth (cough) 20 grand in salary?!

I sense a disturbance in the force.

Another problem with it is that food isn't as liquid as cash. I can't buy a car with their food. I can't buy a TV with their food. I can't even buy groceries with their food. Presumably, yes, I am going to have to buy some food anyway. However, perhaps I would prefer to buy something cheaper, and use the money for something else. Or, perhaps I would prefer to buy something more expensive, and not have to worry that I've already paid for Google's food on top of it. Or perhaps I just want something different. Saying, "We're going to convert $X of your salary to an equivalent value of our food" robs you of choice. I'd want a deep, deep discount in exchange. At least 50%. And no, I wouldn't accept an inflated number like $20k just so they could discount it to $10k. And yes, I'd get this perk in writing, including availability hours.

You're making it more complicated than it needs to be. When you're valuing a perk, the cost to the company should be ignored entirely. Any perk should be valued at what it's worth to you based on how often you'll use it, not what it costs the company.

You should definitely ask questions to see if there are reasons you wouldn't use it, but attempting to put that in the contract isn't going to work. There's no way a big company is going to complicate their facilities planning by making separate agreements with employees. Better to just assume it won't last forever.

Personally, not having to either cook or shop for dinner if I don't feel like it is worth quite a bit to me. To someone who goes home and eats with their family, it's not worth as much. I'm not going to put a dollar amount on it because I think that's just adding false precision to the calculation.

By the way, studies show that people often don't value the right things when they do a detailed calculation. For example, a short commute is more valuable (in terms of happiness) than an extra bedroom on the house, but many people will take the longer commute if they overthink it. [1]

[1] http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/blogs/happiness...

And if that perk then goes away - a smart person would have this in writing.

So boss wheres my pay rise to replace the free food "hr said" the free food was part of my compensation

Any person smart enough to clear all of the brain teasers in order to get to that point should be far well able to do the final one that starts "an engineer is given free food at work in lieu of $X salary, calculate the value of X at which this is a fair deal..."

My point was that X=$20k doesn't even come close to passing the sniff test. Its absurd.

Not sure that would work in the situation as Rachel described since the free food was still there, just with decreased availability and ubiquitousness.

That would depend entirely on the specifics of how the contract was written to include the food. If it just said generic food, sure. If it specified a monetary value, then I think she'd have a case.

The real lesson for employees is to ignore the cash value of the perks when evaluating offers. Perks can be taken away, but cutting salaries is much more controversial.

Which is why some sectors treat money as a perk (bonuses). But as much as companies make sure employees understand what a "bonus" is, there's a sense of entitlement and people quit when this years bonus wasn't as big as last years.

Companies try to do the same playing-both-sides there, too, though, which is what causes some of the confusion and ire. On the one hand, it's formally just a perk that isn't guaranteed. But on the other hand, they'll often make claims about what kinds of bonuses you can expect to get -- "baseline 10% is usual" or "we've never given less than a 5% average bonus in the last decade" -- because they want potential employees to consider it as quasi-salary when evaluating the offer.

I have worked at both Google and Facebook and this was an annoyance for everyone. People would come into the job and be promised the normal salary+benefits and then be told about the unlimited Odwalla and Aldale being open all day and how the food is amazing and then suddenly the most profitable companies in the world "realize" that these things are expensive, cut back, and expect something other than to have their world class employees go somewhere where they are treated a bit better. I will never understand not continuously investing in your employees, especially at the best companies on earth.

Negotiator: Our free lunch costs us about 15 to 20k per year per employee, so add at least 15k to our offer to find it's true value.

Me: If I were left to my own devices I would make myself a PB and J sandwich and have an apple every day. That comes down to about $2 a day for lunch. So there's 365 days in a year, take away about 104 for weekends, and you are left with about 261 free lunches a year. Hence to me the free lunch is only worth about $522. Just so you know, that's not a lot of money.

Fun fact: It doesn't actually matter if you really would have PB&J every day.

One thing this article doesn't point out: it wasn't Google who argued that the supposedly lower salary was offset by food - it was a person (sure, an employee or contractor of Google). Perhaps this person was reading from a recruiting script sanctioned by management. But it wasn't the big overarching company that made this argument to the author - it was a person.

Recruiters often have the wrong incentive structure. They have numbers to hit - and so they use classic high pressure tactics (exploding offers, "accept the offer now" durring the offer, misinformation, tricks) to convince people to accept. It's unfortunate that the recruiter's goals don't line up with the applicant's, but it's true. How one fixes that isn't obvious to me tonight.

I also hate the victim mentality when an employee no longer feels like they're getting what they want from their employer. If you don't like what you're getting, if the economic transaction is no longer acceptable, leave. (I respect employment laws, I think everyone should treat each other, I don't condone abusive behavior or manipulation) Employees aren't victims trapped by evil employers, they're participants in an economic transaction. If the transaction is no longer as profitable as one at another company, then that doesn't make the employer bad or wrong, it's simply time to move on.

(I worked at Google for 5 years, I left in April 2011. And when I went back for lunch one day in November with former coworkers, I had the best meal I'd had since I left.)

"One thing this article doesn't point out: it wasn't Google who argued that the supposedly lower salary was offset by food - it was a person (sure, an employee or contractor of Google)."

I'm really intrigued at how often this "excuse" is trotted out, almost word-for-word, whenever "a person who works at Google" gets caught doing something sleazy. It's almost as predictable as the first-line call center staff asking you if you've re-booted Windows. In my more suspicious moments, I wonder what the "Google aren't evil, it's just some people who _work_ for Google that do evil shit" apologists are going to say when "the script" they're all reading out of gets posted to PasteBin - complete with Page or Brin or Schimdt's signature at the bottom?

Surely if "do no evil" were and overriding company policy from the top down, "people who work for Google" would knw not do try and pull shit like this?

Well, in some way, the corollary of "Google isn't evil, it's just some people who work for Google that do evil shit" is "Google isn't good either, it's just some people who work at Google who do awesome shit."

Which actually, I think, is true. My boss once told me "everybody knows who the subset of people who get shit done is", and in some ways, my loyalty is to them rather than the company as an entity (it just so happens that most of them still work at Google). I mourn whenever we lose another coworker who does awesome stuff. If I were to join Parse, it'd be so I could work with Kevin again, and if I were to join Asana, it'd be so I could work with Jackie again, and if I were to join YCombinator, it'd be so I could learn from PB & company.

I'm guessing that this isn't how most outsiders see Google, since in general people don't claim credit for the work they've done at Google unless they're associated with really big-name projects. But I think there's definitely some truth to the view of a corporation as composed of individuals, some of whom are good and some of whom are bad.

the same people, curiously, never want to attribute the good things to single people. no-one here is saying "it's not google that provides the perks, but the contractors that work in the kitchens". yet the same logic seems to suit them just fine when it's negative.

How is it evil for a recruiter to say "Y'know, we offer a lower salary than you're looking for, but we make up for it in perks!"

And then how is it evil for the food team or corporate finance team to say "We're wasting money in food - literally having every cafe open for breakfast and dinner but only running at 1/3 capacity - so let's cut down on the waste and suggest people walk to the adjacent building for the non-lunch meals!"

What I'm saying is that it wasn't Google upper management making the arguments about food and salary to hire. It was a person. A different person in a different department from the one deciding to cut down on food service.

Sorry - I was going more for the meta-discussion about the seemingly identical responses seen whenever Google is accused of "do evil" rather than passing any judgement on this specific case.

I do note with interest though that you seem to have now changed the discussion framing from "It wasn't Google - it was a person (who did thing under discussion)" to "How is (thing under discussion) evil?"

And, FWIW, I'd consider a recruiter using "perks" as a salary lever, when said perks are out of both the recruiter's and the job applicant's control, and at the whim of "the food team" or "corporate finance", I'd call that at least "sleazy", though probably falling short of "evil".

Having said that, I'm sure the intended public understanding of the "Do no evil" catchphrase _isn't_ "Do anything and everything that's profitable - up to, but falling just short of a legal definition of 'evil' that we might be held accountable for."

The point is that the slow removal of the food perks, according to the Google logic (or the Google employee/contractor, doesn't matter) is literally decreasing employees' pay by 15-20 thousand dollars per year. But it's done in a way that is not really noticeable; or if it is, Google has selected for the type of person who won't complain too much. It's very much a boiling frog situation. Ultimately it's not "wrong" or "against the law" - as you said, if a person finds her present economic situation unviable, she can go elsewhere. But that's a really big step down from their supposed "Do No Evil" policy. Google built up a huge amount of brand equity amongst tech employees; now they appear to be spending it, so it's important that we properly debit their account.

This is such an odd argument. The individual in that salary negotiation represents Google The Company and for all intents and purposes, is Google The Company in that negotiation.

Similarly, it is the senior management of Google The Company that sets up and approves the "wrong incentive structure" for their recruiters.

This is the second post from this blog I've had the displeasure of reading on HN, and both of them make this person seem to be a congenital malcontent.

I think this post sums it up: http://rachelbythebay.com/w/2012/01/15/bofh/

You could also use this as a potential lever in discussing future compensation increases. If they claimed perk x was worth $y but now they are scaling it back to $z then $y-z should be put back into your base as you no longer receive the perk.

I was at Google's campus last month for lunch.

The food is better quality than a Las Vegas buffet with all the trimmings, except it's all free.

The author complaining about Google being "evil" for cutting back or "screwing the employee" is so incredibly ridiculous and so self-entitled it sickens me.

It's like someone complaining that the company used to drop free $100 bills on the ground, but now they're only dropping $50s. The employees were "WOUNDED" because they closed a few locations, or they had to wander an extra 30 ft for donuts? For F*CK'S sake get a grip! The food there is pretty damn good and if you don't like it, there's something wrong with you, not Google. Too bad they closed a couple of locations and you have to walk an extra 30 seconds or be in line an extra 2 mins. IT'S FREE FOOD AND IT'S GOOD.

Fair enough, but what if said company convinced you to take a lower salary because the company was always dropping $100 bills? Cutting back there would effectively be a salary cut, and you would have a right to be upset.

I think the real issue is that the author's recruiter was unscrupulous and willing to take advantage of someone who wasn't skilled at the whole negotiating thing.

> willing to take advantage of someone who wasn't skilled at the whole negotiating thing.

What? That is the ENTIRE POINT of negotiation. It's a game. The more skilled player wins, and it's true for job offers, house buying, car buying, street markets, everything.

Don't hate the player, hate the game. :)


The first part of the post is talking about a mistake the author made thinking that salary was worth $20,000. It's a mistake many young people make, and it's a mistake they only make once. I made the same mistake as well, but it was with respect to options.

However, the rest of the article was a mindless, self-entitled rant about how evil Google was for daring to change how the food was served. "Those wounds will never heal. Anyone with half a brain will say "hey, these guys are evil!" and will bail for greener pastures."

Keep in mind, Google food is still free and still high quality. All they did was consolidate the locations and maybe change the total types of food. And for this employees were "wounded" and Google was "evil"? The food is still free, it's still very much a Las Vegas buffet not slop served in a trough. You just maybe have to walk further!!! It's ridiculous!

It is amusing that Google offers "free lunches". I wonder how many compensation discussions include the quip, "there is no such thing as a free lunch".

Just out of curiosity, does Google gross up salaries for tax purposes? I really think the IRS needs to crack down on companies using excessive perks as non-taxable compensation.

If Google is using the perks to justify a "lower but equivalent salary" then they should be paying taxes on the non-cash compensation. If they are not, then Google is taking advantage of a shady tax dodge.

I am not Google's tax accountant, but the meals are not compensation based on the IRS' published guidelines.


Tax tip going way back to Learned Hand: you don't have to feel guilty about structuring your affairs to take advantage of every legitimate opportunity to decrease your tax burden.

Here's a related example: US tax law allows you to deduct 50% of meals incurred on business trips. I travel internationally for a significant portion of every year, on business trips. There are two ways to calculate how much you spend on meals: 1) Actual cost 2) An approximation method which takes a per-diem rate supplied by the US government based on your location and adds one or two wrinkles not relevant here. Either is acceptable to the IRS. I keep appropriate records of business expenses, so running both the exact cost and the approximation method was trivial. The approximation overstates my actual cost on meals by several thousand dollars -- using it as the basis for my deduction saves me about a thousand bucks. That's totally kosher.

P.S. You know those beating-the-system-is-worth-bonus-points neuroreceptors that most of us hackers have? Doing taxes gives you the opportunity for that sort of thing in spades. (Though I'd probably still suggest getting someone competent to do yours -- advice which I will be taking for myself from next year on.)

This is a good point. Personally, we often hire accountants to minimize our tax burden, yet when companies do the same thing, we like to label them as "evil" (at worst) or "shirking their duty" (at best).

My wife works at Google. We both live in San Jose, and she frequently gets the shuttle to work in the Mountain View office. For tax reasons, I'm not allowed to get the shuttle with her to or from work, so I'm pretty sure that some if not all perks are offset somehow. Various things like the holiday gift (this year it was a galaxy nexus) are also offset for tax on your payslip. Net it works out at zero to you, as Google puts extra money into your paycheque to cover the extra tax charge.

Allowing non-employees on company transportation would threaten to make furnishing the transportation to employees a taxable event. See the same link that I posted on a sibling comment about food, just search for "transportation".

Organisation must focus on paying people well and then they must just leave people on their own. We are clever enough to know how to figure out what to do with our money. We can buy our own food, snacks and ice cream if we want to.

Instead, every company that I've seen so far seems to come up with every possible reason to pay people as little as they can. Generally its like this, "Hey we are giving you x,y,z perks and you sit around in a beautiful office so the peanuts we pay is sufficient, now get back to work and slog for us until your bones hurt."

Companies know damn well, that not everyone is eating these Ice creams, drinking coffee of eating stomach full everyday. And not everyone is taking the free transport. Some will, not all. On an average they pay every body less for these reasons, and the money they save by not paying in cash but by perks is often huge.

Salary offers are the most fraudulent documents. Minus taxes, and some other 'hidden' deductions which always exist. Because most companies have a component of salary with string attached. What you get in hand is always close to 50% of what is promised on paper.

This is every where, no matter which company you will every work at.

$15k / 250 business days, that would be $60 per day AND they would get the food at much lower prices then you do when you sit in a restaurant. Really? If it was a random company that kind of BS would put me off working there big time.

"The meals are worth $15,000."

Simple response: "They're not worth that much to me, I'm afraid."

Employment isn't a transaction, it is a relationship. If one is not being paid enough nothing prevents revisiting the discussion.

Having said that, I don't see a lot of advice on the topic online. Obviously after spending some time at a company you have a better idea of what the talent level is like and where the money goes, so you should be able to negotiate better with the extra information, and the history of what you've done.

At the end: Or, worse, they'll assign blame to "rogue contractors" and say it was never their policy to do that. Right.

Now where have we heard that before? Rogue contractors?

I may be wrong, but... Is she implying that (in her personal opinion), Google knew and instructed them about OpenStreetMap sabotage? That's controversial at least.

Edit: I mean, I'm not defending anyone, but without proofs, I think that's a very harsh sentence.

Not really.

Look at google + mocality: it's easy to understand why the contractors where doing what they were: it helped them sell something or hit quota.

Compare to Google contractors + open street map: what incentive does a contractor have to go screw up their data? In the first case I see directly why unethical people would do what they did. What exactly is the motive here? Just griefing? It makes me wonder.

The most important rule of salary negotiation: Always let them make an offer first. If you're lucky it's higher than what you would have proposed, so you'll just accept it. If it's lower you just continue to negotiate.

I think psychologically, it is better to be the one to blurt out the first number in order to take advantage of Anchoring Bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchoring). BUT, I think that this only applies when you have good knowledge about their salary range, or at least the market range, because you can start the conversation at the top of the range instead of the bottom. Discreetly trading salary data with a few friends can be quite beneficial I think.

I've heard that tactic before, and it's a good one.

However, how do you force them to give you a number first? The only tactic I can think of is to say 'give me market rates'. One time, they just kept pressing for more and more of a number until I blurted out something. In this case it was $80k, in a Rocky Mountain state, in 2004, fresh out of college. I don't think it worked in my favor.

This is the exact opposite of how to successfully negotiate. Maybe if your not confident in your worth, some company might offer you more than you would have suggested. However, the art to successful negotiation is to make a first offer on the high end of what is realistic so you can set an anchor point which limits how far the company can reasonably negotiate you down.

Also, if you're somehow pressured into making the first offer, aim high and let them negotiate down from there.

There's a possibility that a lot of un-eaten food was being wasted, so Google cut back to reduce food waste.

ie. being green.

Lot of conjecture in this article.

I'm having a hard time sympathizing. At the end of her negotiation, this was the state of the world: the company didn't want to go any higher, and some handwaving about how much food was worth was enough to convince her to fold.

Why bother calculating "effective salary"? Personally, anything that isn't cold, hard cash I view as tangential to my compensation. Even options are questionable - sometimes the salary hit over 4+ years is comparable to the additional options' value. Sure, perks can make the work environment nicer. I'll take that into consideration given competing offers. But it seems silly to attempt to fix a monetary value on these things that the company has no contractual requirement to fulfill.

> Why bother calculating "effective salary"? Personally, anything that isn't cold, hard cash I view as tangential to my compensation

During the work week, I typically grab breakfast on the way to work ($5.10 at McDonalds, plus $1.25 for a drink out of the vending machine at work). If I have lunch, it might be Subway (around $7). Maybe dinner from Wendy's ($7). Toss in a snack somewhere in there and I'm at over $20/day.

If work provided acceptable free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that would save me $5000/year. That seems big enough to me to not ignore when comparing jobs.

And if the company isn't doing so hot? It's a lot more trouble to lower salaries than it is to cut food. Hence I'd rather not sit down and assume I'm making $5000 more. Plus it puts you in the position of feeling like you need to make 100% use of your perks, or you're getting shortchanged. After all, you're not really gaining $5000 in value, if you don't eat all your meals at the office. Or take advantage of every company-sponsored event. Unnecessarily fixing values to things is a stressful way to live.

Slightly off-topic, I rather like the opportunity to get out of the office to eat lunch. That's a perk in and of itself (for me, at least). How would you value that? I could argue that it's worth the hour we spent eating out, which is surely more than the value of some catered food (unless it's some seriously fancy stuff). And you could argue back that since I'm salaried, it doesn't count... In any case, it's just not a worthwhile endeavor for me to try and conjure up numbers, when I can just reap the emotional value instead.

Yes, it can be slightly naive not to take into account benefits, especially if said benefits are written into your contract. And that's the key - if it's not written into your contract, discard it.

She wanted to take the deal; she just needed them to give her a reason.

It seems disingenuous for her to complain about it later.

If you are naive and you accept a crappy offer from someone, it's not disingenuous for you years later to point out that it was a crappy offer and you were naive, as a lesson to others. The author flat-out states that she did not know much about negotiating at the time.

Has rachelbythebay ever written a post that is not about bashing Google as evil or all engineers as sexist?

Notice what she does not mention: Google massively increased salaries during the same time period, including the 10% across the board bump.

> Has rachelbythebay ever written a post that is not about bashing Google as evil or all engineers as sexist?

Suppose Hitler said exercising is good for health. Now Hitler was one sick son of a bitch, but that has nothing to do with whether exercising is good.

May be rachelbythebay holds a grudge against Google, but here she is specifically pointing out negotiators taking free food into account while negotiating, cafes closing down and shortage of food.

I don't know about you, but her article sounds pretty genuine to me.

That might be because I dislike the "green initiatives." Most of the "green initiatives" are done as a PR move or cost cutting measure, totally disregarding the employees.

At an earlier workplace, man, was I pissed when they replaced the urinal flushes with bio cubes. Thankfully, it didn't last long(1 week).

Another workplace switched off escalators after 5 in the evening, even though the escalators were the auto on/off model, and didn't consume much power when they weren't actively used. What pissed me off more was when there was some HR conference going on in the same building, the power saving mode wasn't engaged.

I remember the conversation with a senior folk:

Me: Hey, escalators are working today?

Oh, there is a HR conference going up on the 2nd floor, and people need to use it.

Me: Has it ever fucking occurred to you that there are engineers working on the 3rd floor, who regularly stay well after 5, and need to use the escalators?

Oh, you can use the stairs or the elevator in the other section? Come on, it's not a big deal - we are being green.

I don't think I've ever read a post by her previously but I'm looking at her index of posts and at least by title there sure seems to be a lot of variety.

Regardless of her previous comments on Google (I don't think sexism is relevant here) I don't think the authorship in this case warrants dismissal. I think your point about 10% salary increase is relevant, but perk-baiting itself is a very important issue that more new hires should be aware of.

I've seen this many times in many different industries. Without good advice early on I would have fallen for it myself more than once, I'm sure.

So let's not shoot the messenger in this case.

Has rachelbythebay ever written a post that is not about bashing Google as evil or all engineers as sexist?

This is a pointless ad-hominem attack. Suppose, hypothetically, that rachelbythebay believes engineers are all sexist and google is evil. So what?

You could make your post clearer and more useful by removing the first sentence.

This is mostly ad hominem. The 10% bump happened in January 2011. From her post, it sounds like she started in the fall of 2006. It's not clear when the food started disappearing, or when she left, but it's entirely believable that she did experience the food perk loss and not the salary bump. And this happened at the same time Google was colluding with other major Silicon Valley employers to depress the wages of top talent.

You could just look at her post history to find out. For example, the post immediately before this one.

I found it interesting that their claimed value of 15-20k a year went unquestioned. At ~300 days a year, that's $60 a day. I'd value free food at a quarter of that at most.

I dunno; with inflation, it seems that I can easily spend $10 per meal. Maybe $15, and if I eat generous portions, $20. Seriously-- in San Francisco, it's not unreasonable to expect someone to spend $20 for a meal. Now consider all the extra convenience fees... $60/day (or $50/day) is not unreasonable. Of course, since it's a corporate perk, it should get a discount rate applied... but all the same, it's still valuable: more than $15/day (come on, dude: $5 a meal? Get real, or move away from North Dakota).

I always think it's interesting when companies try to negotiate compensation by perks... They're basically giving away more cash.

"Well our health benefits are worth $15,000 a year, you know. It's a very good plan."

My answer is always "Wow, I didn't know you guys thought I was worth X+$15,000, I'll take that in cash, thanks." My health plan is comparable and costs me $200 a month + $1500 a year in deductibles, tax free.

My only comment after reading this story. Is he seriously complaining about having to walk around and hunt for food, (donuts) rather then finding it in a kitchen next to his desk? If that's the case I would be complaining about the lack of a good gym at Google instead.

I wish the company I work would offer me free meals. Not only free meals but an infrastructure and environment where I could spend more time in my intellectual growth and personal achieviements. Of course all this requires an huge investment not only in buildings but in human resources (someone has to do the dirty work).

If some company offered me free food, nice, clean and complete bathrooms, restrooms, libraries, lockers, an office arranged in manner where I could work without any disturb in trade of less but still acceptable salary I would accept it.

If they cut me on sallary I would not mind but if they took me the free food completely I would be pissed off.

This reminds me a lot of one company I worked for. While I can understand cutting costs when the economy is bad, his last question hits the spot: "But what happens when the economy improves?"

When the economy improves and they have trouble finding employees they pay junior employees more than senior employees.

The whole idea of free food is not good. I'd prefer to have a wide variety of the highest quality food and pay something reasonable for it.

I really don't want an incentive to maximize my consumption of food. What matters is how much you enjoy what you do it and being as healthy as you can be.

Caffe Macs at Apple does it well. The healthiest options are clearly subsidized, and desserts are not.

This is SOP for negotiation. Candidates do this shit too, trying to claim some sort of inflated salary boost for every thing they give up from their previous employer. It's a game and the lesser negotiator loses out.

Kind of a first-world problem.

A lot is made of a company 'culture', and frequently perks are pointed out. Well, sorry, culture is what is left when the chips are down, the perks are gone, and its time to work your way out of the hole.

At Google, as the article said, when perks dried up folks left. Those folks were never part of their culture, they were what's known as freeloaders.

So why not be a freeloader? I don't know, I just feel kind of sticky when I find myself in that position. I would much rather be part of a small company, doing whatever it takes to be successful because its MY company.

better perks can mean less money. this is not news.

Maybe you should read the article - the argument was that while yes, perks were offered as a reason to accept a smaller wage, they were then gradually eliminated without changing the wage.

Since when were they eliminated? Have you been to the Google campus? The free food is still there and it's still better than most cafeterias that you have to pay for.

Again - please read the article. This lady is writing about how free food was offered to her in exchange for a lower wage and was then gradually eliminated (which is different from completely eliminated). So yes, from what that lady writes, free food is still there, but less so than when she accepted it in exchange for a lower wage.

I never claimed to add any original research - just that the person I replied to hadn't read the article.

What about that 10% raise the whole company got?

Amazing how often this one-time across-the-board salary raise is being trotted out in defense of other cuts elsewhere. What a great PR move that was.

Besides, I would imagine that in a company doing as well as Google, annual raises of this amount were usual for the performers anyway.

Sounded like it was a raise on top of whatever else they got. I'd take that kind of raise for fewer perks. They could have just as easily not given it.

Everybody forgot about it.

Yea, I guess they won't be doing that again, for all it got 'em.

the 10% raise was 5 years after the perks started dissapearing....

My mistake, I misread it. Thank you for pointing that out, for myself and others.

Exactly - bashing a former employer because they took the cookies away is not that much of a breaking news story.

If this is really about the money: Didn't we have some time ago a story about women earning less than men just because they don't ask for more?

I had read nothing about negotiation, and didn't know what I was doing. They offered a sum which was in fact an improvement over what I had been making seems to me even kind, considering her not mentioning once that she asked for a raise etc.

Sure, go ahead and screw the employees while the economy is bad. They'll stay on and grumble about it, because they can't go anywhere.

People got laid off and were unable to find work, possibly ending their careers, and you're complaining about bagels being cut? Seriously?

I've worked at Google for almost four years and found this hilarious. "The Friday morning bagel or donut supplies also were curtailed. Sure, they still existed, but you now had to go hunt for them. They were no longer set up in a microkitchen near your office. They would now appear only in certain cafes." – The same donuts and bagels are still at Google. You have to walk an extra 30 feet to the cafe to get them. Oh, and I'd take the 10% raise – which was more like a 15-20% raise after all was said and done, based on total compensation + bonus factored in – over 30 feet of additional bagel proximity any day.

Sometimes I feel like the vast majority of annoyances I face at work should have a #firstworldproblems hashtag on them.

I remember, I joined in Jan 2009 at the bottom of the recession, which was basically around the same time that all these perks were being cut. And people at work would gripe all about how the microkitchens weren't as good and they discontinued tea time and the cafes were closed on weekends. And then I'd go home to my two roommates, one of whom worked at EMC, and she would be like "We laid off 15% of the company today. I still have a job. I have to do the work of two additional people, but I still have a job."

I absolutely despise this kind of thinking. The whole "firstworldproblems" meme pisses me off. You can extend this to anything. "People in Country X are starving so it's lame of me to complain about my 2-hour commute." "Children are being beaten in Country Y so I feel bad complaining about working on the weekend once a month." Ok, I'll even pull away from the hyperbole: "my friend Bob got laid off, so I shouldn't complain about working 14-hour days because at least I have a job".

Yes, you absolutely should complain.

I just don't buy any of this. If I'm unhappy about something, then I'm unhappy about something. The tsunami that destroyed the lives of thousands of people in Country Z, while tragic, doesn't make my grievances any less valid.

It's like a new form of Godwin's Law. Any complaint can be dismissed as trivial by claiming it's a "first world problem".

If you want to feel institutional guilt because many people in the world have it worse than you, fine. I'm not going to play that game.

(General "you", here. Nostrademons, I'm not pointing specifically at you, just at the general pain this sort of thinking gives me.)

I never viewed as trying to silence people's complaints, but more as a stark way to introduce perspective - that many complaints in the first world really aren't so bad.

Things can always get worse, but only a fool would let them go without a fight.

Especially delicious bagels.

I agree with you, somewhat (you seem to be extrapolating out the concept into a ludicrous example). However, we're talking about a recession. National, then global. Google apparently has to start cutting corners somewhere. To whine about having to walk thirty feet to some bagels, while people around you are losing their livelihood is, at best, distasteful.

There's a huge difference between being obsequious to an evil corporate master versus simply sucking it up in recognition of tighter times.

"you're lucky you even have a job!"

No. Not seriously. You missed the point of her article. The point is she got screwed over by Google. What she was promised she didn't receive.

The point of her article was, as near as I can tell, that she mistakenly factored free food into her compensation.

My complaint is with her outlandish rhetoric around Google cutting back on some extravagances during a global recession.

It's an advertised perk so sure. Just like they might convince you to work somewhere because it's more geographically convenient for you or it has a day care. It offers better quality of life in lieu of cash money. I know cash is what most americans want. They want it over better health care or fairer lifestyle. But some people just want to live more comfortably instead of being able to tell people how many "figures" they make.

As for the cuts, maybe they decided to be more "honest" and cut that program and just give new hires more money?

Wow, no thanks. I'd prefer they skip the bi-weekly trip to Whole Foods and I'll keep the $20k.

So I multiplied the $30/day by the 9,600 employees in Mountain View and New York by the 251 days Google is open every year. Remember that Google probably spends a lot more than this, because there are employees outside those offices, and because visitors are there all the time eating.

The grand total: By our guesstimate, Larry and Sergey are spending at least $72,288,000 per year to fill their workers' pie-holes. How can they afford to do that? Easy, of course: Last year Google (GOOG) earned $4.2 billion.

You seem to have just lifted your comment directly from this 2008 Business Insider article and changed "we" to "I." But you missed the "our" in the second paragraph.



ITT an ex-google employee complains about google cutting some on-campus cafe hours and morning bagels/donuts being more difficult to find. Complains that during the job offer they mentioned food as a perk. Yawn.

Came here to say this... as a former google intern... if this was your reasoning for hating google, you weren't right google in the first place.

No true scotsman rears its ugly head. So because she actually cares to be fairly compensated, she's not right for Google? I think that says more about Google than her.

I meant that she wasnt in it to make cool shit, I am at my current job because I like what my company is doing, the money dosen't mattter.

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