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Helping Your Ex-Employer? 878

Posted by Cliff
from the make-sure-you-still-get-paid dept.
ali_bubba asks: "A funny thing happened to me today, I have beeb unemployed for over 5 months, and all of a sudden my ex-Boss calls me and demands (well, it sounded like a demand) that I help her out, because her entire corporate LAN was down. Naturally, she knows that I'm kind person, but boy what attitude, so I did help her save the day. She did not even bother calling me back to thank me, (like if you get slapped, turn the other cheek, as Jesus once said) Has anyone else had this happen to them before? What actions did you take?" While I can understand that some people in this situation may harbor some ill will if place in this situation, it may behoove you to see this as an opportunity, and at the very least, an opportunity to make a little money off of your old company. It doesn't pay to burn bridges, especially if they need something that you can provide. For those who have been in this situation, how did you handle it? For others, if you were offered work from your old job, would you do it, and under what conditions would your perform said work?
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Helping Your Ex-Employer?

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  • by Splork (13498) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:22PM (#4686464) Homepage
    ask for consulting fees.
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Banjonardo (98327) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:23PM (#4686475) Homepage
    Why did you do it, if it sounded like a demand?

  • by Bob Bitchen (147646) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:28PM (#4686510) Homepage
    You didn't say if you billed them. YOu make it sound as if you did it gratis, free, no charge. That would be a big mistake. Otherwise of course you would do work for your old company if they're going to pay you. As with any contract work the fee charged has to make sense. It has to cover your expenses. Medical, transportation, other administrative overhead costs, the going rate for someone with your expertise. And there's no problem in charging a little more if you're familiar with their network. That's simply supply and demand. Work is work. And if you're currently not working any legal work is fair game. Right?
  • by thinmac (98095) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:28PM (#4686511) Homepage
    In any situation, no matter how well you document what you do, there are going to be a few things that are both specific to your particular setup and not something anyone else at the company knows. I suppose this would be less of a problem the larger your staff is, i.e. how many people there were doing the same job you were. In cases where this is an issue, I think it's pretty reasonable for your boss to call and ask questions, although I think it would be equally reasonable to not answer if you held a lot of enmety towards said boss. If you left on good terms (which it didn't sound like was the case in the post), then the friendly thing to do is give an answer. If they want you to come over and spend time on a problem, then by all means get paid, but if it's just a quick query, then helping them out seems reasonable.
  • Only If (Score:0, Insightful)

    by ballsmccoy (304705) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:29PM (#4686519)
    1. You get paid a kick ass amount for it.

    2. There is a chance you will get the job back.

    3. She's hot, and she's willing to give you some special time in her office afterwards with the blinds closed. - This would be the main reason.
  • by Slashdotess (605550) <`moc.liamtoh' `ta' `hcruhcg'> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:31PM (#4686532)
    but I am a good friend of my ex-boss... as for you, well, if you enjoyed doing it and you had nothing else better to do. If this boss understood your character and everything wouldn't they be great as a professional resource for another job or something? The author makes it seem like this is 100% bad but you have to look on the brighter side of things.
  • by JakeWilliams (618287) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:31PM (#4686533)
    I wasn't laid off, but had quit a job with the only beef being that I wanted more money. Over the next year I went over quite a few times to help them fix something that got screwed up, mostly because I was still friends with most of the employees, especially the one they had doing my job on top of his old one. They paid me in pizza and beer. That always works, and it's tax friendly.

    Be nice.
  • by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate@@@hotmail...com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:33PM (#4686548) Homepage Journal
    After three years of always having me to call on to take care of anything IT related, I think they have just gotten used to it.

    The first time after I left (I actually quit, was not laid off) that I got the call, I think I handled it the best way possible.

    You tell them 'I'd love to help you out. You know I am consulting on my own now, right?'

    Explain to them that you are your own business. Find a price that is fair... not unreasonably high, but something that is in a solid ballpark. I settled on twice of what I made hourly for the company. When you consider that a:) you are now going to have to pay additional social security as an independant consultant and are having to pay the costs of your own benifits (health care, etc.), and b:) You don't have a full time job, so a little extra is worth having.

    Good luck to you. Remember, you don't work for them anymore. Of course you don't want to mean or vicious to them (to burn your bridges), just be freindly and professional. If you feel that you have some personal obligation to help them out, remember that when they let you go, it was 'just business' to them. Treat them the same way.

    Good luck

  • by JordanH (75307) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:33PM (#4686552) Homepage Journal
    Absolutely. Don't take demands from EX-employers.

    Think about it for a minute. If you don't insist on this, you are doing a disservice to yourself and anybody else in the job market.

    You shouldn't give in to their ability to exploit PAST power relationships because you are a "nice guy".

    She didn't say "Thank You" because she's going to make darn sure this never happens again. You can bet they are going to cover themselves now and she won't be calling you back. You were used and you should learn from this.

  • by dasspunk (173846) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:35PM (#4686560)
    Sounds like she is still blaming you for her network problems and expected you to solve it even though you aren't there anymore. Pretty ballsy... Also, you don't mention if you were laid off, fired or just quit. That information would contribute to the "how burned you just got" question.
  • by Wavicle (181176) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:36PM (#4686566)
    Close to all the replies so far have been this, I agree... but one has to wonder... Why on earth did he agree to do this at all without an agreement up front for payment?

    Everyone, your employer is not your neurotic pot buddy from college who calls you out of the blue every now and then for help. They are a legal entity that exchanges labor for cash. If your former employer needs help with something, you have the responsibility for asking what kind of consideration they are going to give you for your labor... and get it in writing up front.

    No wonder people are getting laid off! Employers are learning they'll work for free "just to be kind".
  • Liability? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by travail_jgd (80602) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:37PM (#4686583)
    I'm just wondering what can happen to a "good samaritan" in terms of liability. If you hadn't been able to fix the network, or if some malware (virus, trojan) shows up sometime in the near future, what's to stop them from coming after you with a team of attack lawyers? While it's unlikely, if somebody was willing to make a demand of you like that, I wouldn't be surprised if they were willing to play pass-the-buck if something unfortunate happens.

    While I admire you for following your beliefs, I don't know that I would have done the same. Only if the livelihood of my friends at the company were jeopardized would I go for it -- or if the money was exceptional.
  • by aagha (130742) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:40PM (#4686600) Homepage
    Always remember: It's not personal, it's business.

    Your ex-boss was doing business to make sure that her ass didn't get toasted; it would have been nice to call back and say thanks, but it was business, not personal.

    Send a bill. Minimum of eight hours of work. Bill fairly! Take the "going hourly rate" for the work you did, plus ad a small markup for doing it on such short notice.

    It's not personal, it's business. 'Nuff said.
  • by toolafial (626804) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:42PM (#4686605)
    I had about the exact same thing happen to me. I was laid off from my job, and not a week later I had a call from my old boss demanding some information. I quietly replied that my consulting fees are $20 an hour and the clock was ticking. Luckily for him it was only a 2 min question (I don't bill for anything under 30 min). However, luckily for me I did answer his question because exactly one month later another department called me back to do some contract work. Like one comment I read it doesn't help to burn any bridges. Sometimes one just needs to swallow his/her pride. Oh and one note I was able to renew my contract and I am working from home. Oh my gosh you guys working from home is so sweet!
  • by npietraniec (519210) <npietran@resis t i v e . net> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:46PM (#4686628) Homepage
    It's one thing to send out an email. It's another to have the guy come into the place and rebuild a server or something.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:46PM (#4686631)
    I was the leaded programmer and systems administrator, for a software company all our systems where Linux. I had tons of custom scripts to do backups, restores, replication and custom modified php, i added some functions directly to the php source code, so when a new person came in he found that just upgrading apache and php, didn't work :) . So they give me a call a few weeks after getting layed off. "None of our intranet software will run" we upgraded apache and php and it still doesn't work." I knew exactly what the problem was. I told them, I could have it running by the end of the day tomorrow. 'I thought I would let them sweat it alittle.' And I told them my consulting fee was $125 per hour with a 2 hour minimum. At the end of the day I walked away with a check for $500. I can't wait until they attempt to upgrade again.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:54PM (#4686672) Homepage Journal
    Yep. Suppose you called up an ex-employer and said, "I know I don't work for you any more, but I could really use some money right now, so do you think you could send me a paycheck like you used to do when I was working for you?" The answer would either be "HAHAHA -- No" or "Sure, you come back and work for us, and we'll pay you." The same thing applies here. If you haven't done so already, send them a bill, requiring that they pay you at least 1.5 times your hourly rate when you were a regular employee (which is very generous for consulting work; rule of thumb is that independent consultants get 2x the hourly rate of a regular employee doing the same work.)
  • by almound (552970) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:56PM (#4686684) Homepage
    Reading the replies here, I begin to see now why the tech bust hasn't been over long ago. If you let the company use you like a whore, you will be treated like the whore that you are and you shouldn't expect any better treatment. Unfortunately, the replies to this inquiry confirm that some people don't mind being scabs (i.e. temp workers brought in to obviate the need to hire workers full-time).

    Consulting is one thing, but I draw the line when the client is the company that layed me off in the first place ... then discover that they really do need somebody around to actually do the work (an indian, not a chief). And as for consulting, well, the fees are pretty stiff.

    We made a ton of money back during the 90's. Use the freedom that that doe gives you to resist this kind of exploitation. I do.

    Otherwise, it will just be more of the same old, same old. You can count on it. Stop being a whore and think like a responsible human being. Make the companies understand that there are consequences for their actions. That when they hire you, it is a partnership which requires some responsibility to you on their part.

    Stop acting like a co-dependent spouse (you know ... "battered spouse" syndrome). Have a little self-respect, otherwise the tech industry will never develop into a profession, on a par with other engineers and architects.
  • Simple rules... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xanthig (538198) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:56PM (#4686690)

    You broke one of the most important rules of employment. Never Work for free! Not only does it assign a zero value to your time, but it assignes a zero value to the time of anyone doing that task.


    The second rule you broke, taking a lesson from M$ here, is that if they need you, you've got them exactly where you want the. Grease it up with vaseline and give it to them good and hard, to the tune of at least $100/ hour for skilled IT consulting


    Many people have posted that, "You don't want to hurt your chance to use them as a reference." But then again, you don't want them letting your prospective employer that you're a cheap date either.


    finally, for the question of returning to any employer as an employee (and not an independant consultant). Remeber this adage... Old Jobs are like old girlfriends, Never go back

  • by gradji (188612) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:59PM (#4686705)
    I know as denizens of Western civilization (especially the U.S.), our first reaction is

    [1] Sue them!

    and then ...

    [2] How much can I get?

    But I think it pays to think about your situation first. There may be some dynamics you might otherwise overlook.

    Case A: Laid Off, Unemployed

    If you're having problems finding a job, it may pay not to incite your former boss. You never know when your old firm may get a large project and decide to bring aboard some consultants.

    While it hasn't happened to me, I have friends who were laid off, provided some occasional support at reasonable rates (this is *key* ... the golden goose lesson) ... and then were hired as outside consultants later. They ended up making a lot more money as a consultant than as an employee (for the same basic work). One is even getting frequent inquiries by the client about possibly joining them full-time.

    Case B: Laid off, Employed Now

    You have some incentive to maintain cordial ties with your old firm. But the incentives are definitely reduced by having current employment. If you hated your old firm and want to maintain loyalty with your current one, I'd just pass or agree under some pretty restrictive terms (i.e. define the total # of hours and compensation). Consulting money is nice but, clearly, your long term prospects are not tied with your old firm, better to focus on your current firm.

    Case C: Quit

    If you were the one who quit the job, I'd consider providing some support especially if you either [1] really left the firm holding the bag or [2] still have friends at the firm who would otherwise suffer. But make sure to get paid ... but don't scalp them ... fair market wage.

    You'd be surprised how this type of action can result in good karma. I had a friend who quit his job for a higher paying position at a high profile company. Unfortunately, lay-offs happened and, as a high-salary newbie, he was one of the first to go. His boss at the old firm - he couldn't rehire my friend - went out of his way to call a few of his competitors to recommend my friend - he did this primarily because he appreciated how my friend provided support (many times for gratis) for several months after he left. My friend got a job based on one of these recommendation.

    Case D: Fired

    No way in hell. Or make sure it's enough to pay for your big screen plasma TV, your sizable tab at the local watering hole, and possibly a year's rent ...
  • by FreeLinux (555387) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:09PM (#4686770)
    As Cliff stated, you don't want to burn any bridges. Even those that you desperately want to burn, should be maintained. You never know who or when you will need someone in your future.

    At the same time do not let anyone take advantage of you. You said that this was a former employer. This immediately releases you of ANY responsibility or obligation to them, you don't work for them anymore!

    This could be a slightly grey area if you had recently, within a couple of weeks, left the job on your own accord and the failed system was your responsibility. But, even here there is no REAL responsibility, simply a matter of your own moral feelings on the matter. But, you stated that this emplyer became former 5 months ago. No matter what the reason for your departure there is absolutely positively no obligation on your part after this period of time.

    The next time you are presented with this situation, stop for a moment and think. First what are your feelings? Simply, do you want to do it or not? Secondly, review your current situation. Are you working somewhere else and are really to busy to spare the time or perhaps it may be a conflict of interest if you are working for a competitor now. In your case, you stated that you are unemployed so these would not be a problem here. You have time and there are no conflicts.

    So, having decided that you can do it and that you want to do it, the next step is to specify the terms of a short term contract. Yes, contract. Even if it is only verbal you are still entering into a contract with this company. You need to come to an agreement on the type and amount of reimbursement for your time. You also need to agree to a set of milestones, if you will, that will be used to determine the successful completion of the contract.

    For example, the situation that you related should have gone like this... Yes Jane, I am confident that I can resolve your problem. As it happens I am available to do consulting work of this kind, right now. My fee is $100 per hour for this type of work and I do charge travel time at that rate.

    Janes response will likely be: "Wow, I don't want to pay that much." To which you should reply: "I certainly understand that but, that is a competitive rate in the industry and it is what I charge. I suspect from what you have told me so far that it might take 6 hours to fix your problem." At that point she will either say flat out no, and move on to another consultant, or she will say that she has to get back to you. This will give her time to get approval for the expenditure and also get estimates from other consultants. If she calls back make sure that she is in agreement to pay you for fixing the problem and that she fully expects to pay at LEAST $600.

    Of course, Jane might decide to try to bully you when you advise her of your rate. She might say something like: "What?? $100 an hour?? No way. You built this system and it has never be right! It's your responsibility and I expect you to fix it immediately! I'm not paying you to fix your own mistakes. In fact, if you don't fix it, we will probably sue you!"

    Your response to this should be: "I understand that you feel it is my responsibility, Jane. However, I do not work for you anymore therefore, it is NOT my responsibility. I'm sorry that you feel that I did not build the system properly however, the fact that it has worked for several months without me suggests that it was in fact, working properly. Even so, it is still not my responsibility anymore. But, I would be glad to look at it for you, as a consultant.

    Finally, if Jane says that they are going to sue you, end the discussioin right then and there. Say: "I am afraid that, under the circumstances, I will not be able to assist you with your problem. I wish you the best of luck with it. Thank you for calling." click.... Naturally, this assumes that you do indeed not have any contractual liability to the problem. In your specific case, after 5 months, you didn't.
  • by Zapman (2662) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:13PM (#4686785)
    I was sysadmin for a small company (really small... 8 employees counting management and the receptionist) for a while. I gave notice, but since I was the only one who knew how large swaths of the computing systems worked, I let them know that I'd be amiable to helping them.

    Short version was 'I'll answer whatever questions you have. Just take me to lunch for it.' They knew if things got too bad, I'd be able to give a helping hand.

    They're only real mistake was hiring a paper sysadmin (one with lots of certs but no real experience or clue) to replace me. They did take me out to lunch once.
  • by hitchhikerjim (152744) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:16PM (#4686807)
    Even if they just "say" they're going to pay you, that's an oral contract. That's enforceable, and the courts *will* back you up on that (although you might have to find a way to prove they said it -- like testamony from someone else). An oral contract is a contract just like any other. 'course you've got to decide whether or not an oral contract is enough -- you're the one who's worked for them before, so you should know how reliable they are.

    That said -- don't ever go into doing a gig for any old employer without telling them up front what you will charge for it. If they've leaned on you to pick up the slack for years while you were their employee, they're used to doing that -- and it needs to be made clear up front that that's not the situation any more. If you don't do that, you have very little recourse when they decide not to pay you.

    I quit a job I was at for six years. The other employees out of habit called or emailed once in a while when they couldn't figure out something. In general, to be friendly (because they were all people I liked) I'd answer if the answer was going to take me a couple of minutes or less, but once they asked me to *do* something or once the answer was going to take more than a couple of minutes I told them my consultants fee, and that for that gig I'd have to charge them. It drew a clear line, but also left relations open with no bad feelings.

    When you get hard feelings it's usually because expectations were wrong... setting expectations up-front is a very important thing. It helps keep the balance between not burning bridges, and not being taken advantage of.

    jim
  • by PhysicsScholar (617526) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:18PM (#4686820) Homepage Journal
    Listen, just because the entire world of 6 billion people is motivated by money, it doesn't mean that the few thousand of us here at Slashdot have to be as well.

    When we're all dead, people will remember us for the kind deeds we did while we were walking the streets and talking the talk. The little league team you coached, volunteering at a Mormon church, and all those bake sales for the PTA will be what you were best known for. Contract #189533 for $1,730.39 will not be relevant and no one will care how much money you made.

    The only shitty part is you'll just be tossed into the Hudson River because you and your socialist family members don't have the money for a proper funeral and burial.

    This comment is sad and mean, but one of the few truths in this world is that truth hurts.
  • by Helter (593482) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:18PM (#4686822)
    Well, that's not quite true...

    It all comes down to whether they could have reasonably expected the work to be free. If you go to the garage for an oil change, but don't ask how much it costs, you don't get it for free.

    I'd agree that a court wouldn't neccesarily rule in his favor, but it couldn't hurt to just send in an invoice anyway.
  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:22PM (#4686833) Homepage Journal
    I've seen the posts saying 'invoice them.' Don't. Invoicing them at some rate you dreamt up and to which they did not agree is simply unprofessional. If you want some compensation for this, I suggest that you contact your ex-boss, for whom you did this favor, and ask her for a letter of recommendation.

    Should this happen again in the future, express your gratitude for being offered the work and then politely inform them of your rate (or a flat fee). Spell out any minimums (e.g., 4 or 8 hour minimum), whether the billing starts from the time you begin work or if it is portal-to-portal (i.e., includes travel time), and payment schedule (e.g., downpayments, terms -- like net 30, payment in advance, etc.). If they balk at reasonable terms, then be polite but firm and tell them that you cannot accept the work.

    If you do your ex-employer a favor, then you should make sure that it was you that decided to. I have, on occasion, sent ex-employers e-mails warning them of bugs and product updates for systems that I set up while under their employ. I don't expect to be paid for that in anything other than good will.

    like if you get slapped, turn the other cheek, as Jesus once said

    Jesus's situation would have been more analogous if Pontius Pilate had demanded that Jesus do unpaid work for him after the crucifixion. Besides, Jesus was not always in fear of losing his job to a cut-rate, H1-B messiah brought in from some third-world country. He'd have gotten pretty tired of being slapped around had he been in the computer industry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:24PM (#4686847)
    No. Everyone needs money to live. This guy has been out of work for 5 months. He should have asked for money in exchange for his services. Clearly these people were not his friends - the attitude taken by them is terrible. It is not wrong or immoral to ask for money to do a service. In fact, I would have considered it "nice" of him to fix their network and get payed. Not getting payed is just naive.
  • by Vess V. (310830) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:27PM (#4686858) Homepage
    Yeah, he'll be remembered for the goodness of his heart because of coaching little league, volunteering at the church, selling baked goods for the PTA, and.... fixing his ex-employer's LAN? Wait, there seems to be something out of place here...
  • by Eccles (932) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:27PM (#4686862) Journal
    Listen, just because the entire world of 6 billion people is motivated by money, it doesn't mean that the few thousand of us here at Slashdot have to be as well.

    Perhaps, but if you're going to work for free, don't do it for someone who is. Help Habitat for Humanity of something.
  • by xihr (556141) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:27PM (#4686863) Homepage

    There's no benefit in burning bridges unnecessarily, but there's also no benefit in doing work for an ex-employer gratis. Not only do you (obviously) not get paid for your trouble, but you now have a "sucker" sticker on your head. They'll call again, and you'll probably help them again. For nothing.

    It's quite frankly outrageous that an ex-employer would call you up and demand that you do work for her. At the very least this shows a serious lack of professionalism on the part of your former employer. Perhaps it's best that you're no longer working for her anymore after all.

    If an ex-employer calls you up and asks you to do some work (that is not explicitly included as part of an exit package), then you tell them you are more than happy to do it ... and your hourly rate.

  • by jrst (467762) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:36PM (#4686916)
    You can't change the past. But you can draw a line in a non-confrontational way, where you define your future relationship...

    Dear ,
    Glad I could help out with . As I have demonstrated in the past, I enjoy the opportunity to solve problems and assist in any way possible.
    In the event you require additional assistance, I have attached my standard price schedule. I'd be happy to discuss discounts for extended work, or on-call or after hours rates.
    I look forward to working with you again in the future.

    Sincerely,
  • This is why... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macdaddy (38372) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:39PM (#4686924) Homepage Journal
    ...I think all IT people should do SOME consulting and make it known to your co-workers that you have done some. I don't mind answering a question from a past employer if I left on good terms. I will not do work for free though. Currently I do consulting on the side and I've made it clearly known to everyone that I do it. That way if a former employer (left on good terms) calls me for help, they should not be surprised if I tell them that I'm doing consulting in my spare time and that if I work for them my standard consulting rate will be applied to the task. In fact they really should expect it. If they say no then simply say that you're doing this as a business now and can't afford to do pro bono work.

    ALso, a minimum number of hours is also worth it. Min 3 is fair for most tasks like KIA server. Min 2 or even 1 if the task is pidly and you want to make the point. Also make it know that your charging system works like the telephone company's long distance system, only you count by hours and not minutes. Ie, you round up to the next hour regardless if you work 5 or 45 minutes into an next hour.

    You should have all this stuff typed up in a contract and have it signed by the boss (no one else!) as soon as you get onsite. Without it, don't do any work. Also don't negotiate. That's the contract, take it or leave it. You need to have legalease wording that absolves you of all responsibility if the system breaks again after you leave. You need to make it clear that you can't be sued after the fact. I travel is required, include a blurb about mileage and the rate. Include text that says what will happen if they fail to pay by 30 days after service is rendered. Also say that failing to pay also includes a bad check.

    Carry a carbon copy ticket book with you. As you work on different systems, write out what the system is and why you're doing it on the carbon form. Write down every system you have to touch and the major points of what you do to each. "Had to reboot border router." "Had to kick the DNS box in the nads". Before you leave have the boss (no one else!) sign the each carbon page (if you had to use multiple pages) and give them one set of the carbons and file away the others. This way you can show exactly what systems you touched. If their NT box breaks later and you didn't touch it, they can't blame you for it. It's also very wise to record all tty output (commands, stdout, etc). If you have a laptop with a CDR in it, burn two copies to disk. Both you and the boss should sign both. Give them one. Don't let them leave you alone at any point and time during the onsite visit. If you aren't alone, they can't claim you stole backup tapes from the locker or pissed under the raised floor.

    Write every password they gave you on the carbon mentioned above. Include in your contract that they are responsible for changing every password they gave you after you leave. Also include that you are absolved from any future damages coming from said systems where the passwords weren't changed. Writing it on the carbon emphasizes this.

    It's important to make sure the signatures are from a person at the company authorized to pay you. Odds are you old super isn't authorized to make such payment. The director of the dept is usually the person that can do such things. They could potentially claim that the person that signed the contract wasn't authorized to make such agreements. Don't give them a way out like that.

    It wouldn't hurt to use a tape recorder for all verbal conversations and make that something else they agree to in the contract.

    Have the contract say something about parking (if parking garage fees are incurred or if a certain parking permit is required for parking (tickets or towing are the penalty).

    All these are just some of the ways you could potentially get screwed. It's better to take precautions beforehand than post mortem.

  • by Lewis Mettler, Esq. (553022) <lmettler_personal&lamlaw,com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:59PM (#4687025) Homepage
    Send a bill.

    If the bill is reasonable, the gal you bailed out will see that it gets paid.
  • by furry_marmot (515771) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:00PM (#4687027) Homepage
    He's just young and inexperienced, is all. When I was young, I was quite *nice*, which is to say I got taken advantage of frequently. I finally wised up. It's just a matter of clarifying the arrangement. "We don't have a business relationship at the moment, though I'd be happy to help you. Shall we say $75/hour? If you want a longer-term arrangement, I'm sure we could negotiate the rate."
  • by kernelistic (160323) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:03PM (#4687049)
    Though I must commend the thought of performing work for free in good faith, I must admit that I have a serious problem with it. Being a consultant myself, I can relate to this issue rather nicely... It's one thing to offer one's services free of charge, but when someone _asks you_ for help, they shouldn't expect you to do the work for free.

    This is where the line should be drawn.
  • by captainktainer (588167) <captainktainer AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:08PM (#4687076)
    Respectfully, what you did was a very bad idea. You have no way of knowing whether you'll encounter him later in life. If you do encounter him, and he's in a position where you need something from him, expect him to return the favor. In the real world as well as the tech world, every action produces a consequence. Your rude gesture could cost you later in life. Now, perhaps you'll never work in the grocery sector again- although with the greater integration of technology into everyday life, you never know. Perhaps nothing will come of this... but the general perversity of the universe would suggest that you'll end up paying for it.
  • by kootch (81702) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:15PM (#4687103) Homepage
    when you've been laid off and are unemployed living in/near NYC, that "Contract #189533 for $1,730.39" means 1 month of rent and utilities instead of the weekly $380 of unemployement insurance.

    Idealism be damned, reality is that money puts food on the table and a roof over your head.
  • by Tjp($)pjT (266360) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:20PM (#4687133)
    If you did it as a favor to a friend, that's almost OK. BUT, companies don't have friends. Don't help a company for free ever. If you are a professional, act like one. Your time is valuable, and you bill for it. You don't have to have agreed on a rate up front to bill for your time. Just use a reasonable and customary figure for your field. If you are still interested in mor gigs with the company, quad your salary figure (80K per year x 4 = $160/hr roughly). If you really don't care, check out the consulting rates to get an HP or IBM company contractor. These used to range around $500-$750 per hour (and the guy doing the work doesn't come close to that). Care about the future gigs, under $250/hour or so. Don't care, $500-750/hour. And if you feel generous, make the initial consultation free as is customary in this industry (this is the chit-chat/interview/phone call that brings the job and you together).

    You hurt the profession otherwise, and you keep yourself or someone else from getting paid for the required work. And, you give something for free to the owners of the company. Work for free. Just say no!
  • by NevermindPhreak (568683) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:29PM (#4687168)

    very simple: charge whatever the company used to pay you, on average, per day, plus about 15% extra for being "on-call" or whatever. send them an invoice for this. if they dont pay it, threaten legal action.

    "the court won't back him up."

    who cares. almost any company would rather pay you for one days work, then to hire a lawyer for at least a week. you, on the other hand, can simply defend yourself. it costs nothing, and you have the free time, since you are unemployed.

    best case scenario: youre up a few hundred bucks. worst case scenario: youre out 10 bucks for gas going to the courthouse.

    this kind of stuff happens all the time for big companies: one big company threatens to sue a small company for some bullshit reason, the small company knows it would win such a lawsuit, but they still comply just so they dont have to pay legal bills. it would be nice to use this tactic to get some money out of a big company for once, instead of being screwed by those with more money than you. :)

  • by Black Copter Control (464012) <samuel-local@nOSpAm.bcgreen.com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:47PM (#4687251) Homepage Journal
    I would agree. Send an invoice. Charge at consulting rates (I was told that the 'standard rate' for consulting fees are 3 times what you'd normaly expect to get in a non-consulting situation -- to cover the time and money that you spend looking for work, etc.).

    They may balk at the number (any good businessman would, on general principle), but you need to start somewhere. Remember, as well, that this is probably cheap for what you saved them. One place I worked had a productivity analyst going through the company when we had a major failure. My boss mentioned to me that he estimated that the outage was costing us something like $25/minute to have the system down. When faced with those sorts of costs, $90/hour isn't a big deal.

    Given that they're a company and they came to you and asked you to do the work, they have a legal responsibility to pay you. The only question is how much. Given that they were so desparate that they didn't ask you how much, a consulting rate is pretty reasonable. You could even add an emergency response fee.

    If they gave you a really nice golden handshake when they let you go, you might want to be nice to them in return, but there is absolutely no reason why you should accept less than what they were paying you when you were there full time.
    _____

    If you've never heard it before, there's the story of the company who called in a specialist to fix their equipment one say. The consultant comes in... looks at the equipment for half an hour and pounds a little brass tack into a hole, hands them a bill for $500 and starts packing to leave.

    The CTO freaks when he sees the bill. "$500 for one brass tack? Why in the world should I pay you $500 for pounding in a brass tack??!".

    "You're right," says the specialist. He takes the bill back and modifies it. When he hands it back to the CTO, it reads as follows:

    Hammering in brass tack: ...... $10.00
    Knowing where to hammer it in: $490.00
    . . . . . . . . Total: $500.00
    ____

    Remember: this is a company you're dealing with, not your best friend. They run off of money -- more specifically their balance sheet. They let you go because they figured it was cheaper to work without you. They called you back because they found out that they couldn't function without you. If you make sure that it remains cheap to treat you that way, It looks like they will probably continue to do so. (YMMV)

    There are two likely reasons why they haven't bothered to talk to you.
    1: they don't give a shit about you and/or don't really understand the value that you provid(ed) to the company and
    2: they don't want to know what you're going to charge them for this emergency surgery.
    It may be a combination of the two.
    I have no idea about the conditions under which you left the company.

  • by Hank Reardon (534417) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:55PM (#4687292) Homepage Journal

    I had a situation where I was working on some horrible QuickBasic code for a POS( Piece of Shit/Point of Sale both!) system. At the time I started the job I was young, stupid and politically inept. As a result, I lost my job later due to some moves that were a result of my lack of politicking. I was correct, technically, but people don't respond well to "You're an idiot and here's how I can make you not an idiot."

    Flash forward about 3 years. The main developer on the project has become extremely burned out, the company has been sold and is moving to Phoenix (where I moved to shortly after this disaster) and they're asking him to continue working on the code. This is 2000 or 2001 if memory serves...

    He refuses and states that there are two people in the US - himself and me - that can maintain the code.

    A little background on the "system" is probably in order before I go on. It's QuickBasic (still!) running on DOS and coded so that nothing but old Lantastic NE2000-coax cards will work. The company did not want to pay a $15 per seat license for a DOS WinSock to communicate with the NT server on site, so he had to write a TCP stack. Oh, the workstations are all diskless, too, so BOOTP had to be written in.

    Add to this the fact that the original software was still in use and was written by RPG programmers who wanted to learn to program on PC's. The typical methodology in the program was to call a subroutine, use a

    GOSUB
    statement to jump to some other portion of the program and then use a
    GOTO
    to jump back to the line following the original subroutine call. Needless to say, the stack was totally hosed after a few minutes of running this type of code.

    We couldn't rewrite the code because "it would be a waste of money" so we had to do neat things like write assembly code to give us a clean stack frame and put the old one back when we're done, shove it into a string and call it from within the subroutine. The really nice thing about this is that when you change the code or order of subroutines, you need to rewrite the assembly.

    So, about 6 months to a year ago, the company calls me to ask if I'd be interested in working on their POS system. They're willing to offer me a whopping $15 an hour to work on it, too! I politely explain that, while I'd be interested in doing the work, an unsupported language on an operating system that you can't buy any more does nothing to further my skills. Furthermore, since I knew the state of the code and that they'd had other people working on it, there was no garuntee that I'd be able to do what they wanted. I wrapped up by explaining that, in order to guard against the potential damage of working on something that is useless in the industry, I'd have to charge $500 an hour with a minimum of 4 weeks (160 hours) billing. Payable in advance, of course.

    We negotiated for a while and I did the work, getting my check up front.

    When somebody wants something and you appear to be the only one who can deliver, explain that it's simply "a business decision" and take them for everything you possibly can.

  • by Bakaneko (11498) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:56PM (#4687301)
    There's a difference between writing a 40 page, 12 step, can-be-done-by-the-janitor manual that basically is a self-help guide that makes you at least mostly unecessary, and a "here's how I set up the RAID array, the major software packages, and the list of patches applied to this system" type documentation. As a consultant, I've done both.

    The former, if being done by an FTE, is usually a very bad sign and probably requires at least a "boss, why exactly do you want this kind of detail, since a competant employee in my position doesn't need it?", the latter is simply a part of the job. If I was a manager and an employee refused the latter task, I'd consider it failure to perform.
  • by certron (57841) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:01PM (#4687332)
    "Respectfully, what you did was a very bad idea. You have no way of knowing whether you'll encounter him later in life. ... expect him to return the favor. In the real world as well as the tech world, every action produces a consequence. Now, perhaps you'll never work in the grocery sector again- ... you never know. Perhaps nothing will come of this... but the general perversity of the universe would suggest that you'll end up paying for it."

    We don't get to hear about what happened before-afterwards, but it could be said exactly the other way around: don't chew out your employees all the time (assuming SexyKellyOsborne is free of sins against the manager) and you won't have people saying "Fuck you" to your face later in life. Sure, it was vengeful, sure it wasn't a required response, but not unexplainable in the context. Karma is a little like water, sometimes it evaporates, sometimes it collects in one place. We can only hope the incident made him think a little.

    As for paying for it later on, well, one can always apologize. The message was delivered, as it were, it can be discussed later on. (Hopefully the manager doesn't turn into a malevolent super-villian (or hero, depending on which camp you are in) intent on wiping all uncooperative store clerks from the face of the planet.)

  • by matguy (7927) <.matguy. .at. .oblivion.net.> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:04PM (#4687347) Homepage
    Actually, I would take the going hourly On-Site Tech Support rate, meaning what a regular business would charge to have a tech come out and work on it. And charge for the actual hours you were there, and being you already knew the systems they're still making out better than if they did just call in a random tech (that would have to take the time to learn the system first, and of course charging for that time.)

    I own an On Site Computer/Network Tech Support business that caters to Businesses, and I charge $60 an hour, and that's actually on the low end of the standard.

    My Advice, get a business license, and charge them $50-60 an hour. If it's less than $300, generally even if they don't agree with it, it's not worth the lawyer fees to fight it, and you really have nothing to loose by billing them, all they can do is not pay it.
  • by elizalovesmike (626844) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:31PM (#4687488)

    don't blink next time, buddy


    don't blink.
  • by Venotar (233363) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:39PM (#4687517) Homepage
    > Never work for a corporate entity free of
    > consideration.

    >

    >I reccomend that consideration be cold hard cash.

    This is particularly true since you are taking on legal liability for your actions, whether you are paid or not. While you probably wouldn't be called in to do a task if the person calling didn't have some confidence in you, I wouldn't put it past a manager who behaves in the manner described to lay the blame for some later mishap on your shoulders. Always charge for your time (unless you are getting some other benefit that overwhelms financial compensation) and always have signed documentation providing permission to do the work and defining the nature of the work to be done.

    Mismanaged companies LOVE to sue.
  • by kernelistic (160323) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:47PM (#4687546)
    I get the idea from the tone of the post that the person feels a bit cheated. I find it's usually good practice to give the standard disclaimer before helping anyone out with their IT problems. Good agreements (and accounting) make good friends!

    Yet another case of "Live and let learn"...
  • by parliboy (233658) <parliboy.gmail@com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:04PM (#4687611) Homepage
    Because if he had been on payroll all this time, the LAN would never have gone down this way in the first place. When you shitcan someone, you're saying that you can get by without their services (and availability thereof). If you discover you were wrong, you'd better be ready to pay for it.
  • by haystor (102186) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:09PM (#4687632)
    A major difference here is who asked for what. In this guy's case, he was asked to do the work. He should have done it and submitted a bill. The company wouldn't have much choice but to pay it or end up in court where they would have to say (or perjure otherwise) that they never asked for a price, they only requested the work.
  • by unixbob (523657) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:11PM (#4687640)
    And make sure you send it to the accounting department, and not to your ex - boss. That way she can't hide the fact that the team she runs was unable to fix a business critical problem.

    Send the bill to her and you are likely to see nothing. Send the bill to accounts and you may still see nothing but at least she will get an ass kicking.
  • by Archfeld (6757) <treboreel@live.com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:49PM (#4687787) Journal
    It is obvious HE HAD some expectation of return, maybe not monetary but somthing or else he would not be here BIATCHIN'
    Chalk it up to a lesson learned the hard way and remember one thing, FRIENDS DON'T have INC. after their names. As to hurting for money or not I am SURE there are better charities than a former employer, if that is the issue take a decent wage and donate it to a charity that might actually help someone.
  • by wdr1 (31310) <wdr1@pobo[ ]om ['x.c' in gap]> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:52PM (#4687799) Homepage Journal
    Everyone is screaming "SEND THEM A BILL!!". While that's appropiate in some cases, it's not always. If it's a small matter (e.g., like 15 minutes) every once in a blue moon, what's the big deal. Just help them out.

    Remember building a network (the people kind, not the OSI 7 layer kind ;-) is important part of building a career. Former employeers and coworkers are key in that. Getting a recommendation from a former employeer, one who'd say they'd hire you again, is a strong testmentant to your abilities and attitude; one that will mean a lot to future employeers. So building good will with people, etc. is not only nice, but smart as well.

    At the same time, there's a balance. If it's bigger than that, something requiring you to go in for a couple hours, then sure, ask for compenstation [1]. Almost anyone in the buisness world will realize you're doing more than a trival amount of work & be willing to pay you for your time.

    -Bill

    [1] IMPORTANT: work out the arrangement (which you will charge, roughly how long, etc.) *beforehand*. That will make it a lot easier on you both.
  • by MrResistor (120588) <peterahoff.gmail@com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:04PM (#4687837) Homepage
    What the hell are you talking about? Your comment makes very little sense at all.

    This isn't a charity, or a church, or an after school thing. This is a BUSINESS and a former EMPLOYER, who laid him off 5 months ago. So now, suddenly, they're entitled to his services for free? Bullshit. There is no charitable obligation here! It's a professional relationship, and this guys ex-boss is abusing his good will by not offering payment for his services before he even asked for the favor.

    Sorry, but any moral obligation lies squarely on the ex-boss here.

  • by Wolfrider (856) <[kingneutron] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:11PM (#4687858) Homepage Journal
    If you're a religious person (and I am), yes.

    To the rest of the world, he was a fool and got played.

    I still think he could make a case for being paid for his time and expertise, but he should learn a lesson from this and NOT do that again without some money or at least telling the b---h off for her attitude and slamming down the phone.
    .
  • by Random Addict (625160) <cprasky@exis.net> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:17PM (#4687884) Journal
    PhysicsScholar wrote:
    When we're all dead, people will remember us for the kind deeds we did while we were walking the streets and talking the talk.

    "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones..."

    So is quoting Shakespeare in a computer-oriented forum off-topic? I dunno, but in this instance the Bard seems relevant to me.

  • by Lewis Mettler, Esq. (553022) <lmettler_personal&lamlaw,com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:26PM (#4687920) Homepage
    Well. That is sort of the problem.

    If you send it directly to "accounting", your ex-boss may not like being culled out by your effort. Hey. He or she would deserve it. But still.

    A better idea would be to send it first to the x-boss along with a question of whether or not a copy should not also be sent to accounting. That way the x is in a bind. But, self made. It could be approved and paid without embarrassing the boss or if rejected the crap will be sure to fly. Bills sent "out of the blue" to accounting can cause some departments real trouble. Or at least individuals get into that trouble by running the store in such a fashion. And, if they have more acceptable procedures in place a manager can "earn" a dressing down.

    Either way, the bill should go out. I can not imagine the x-boss claiming that the emergency service should have been gratis. And, I can hardly imagine the boss not putting some grease on the payment if their ass remains covered.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@ge e k a zon.com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:28PM (#4687933) Homepage
    Like you did. It often pays to keep connections alive, plus I'm a nice guy too. But if it went like it did for you, she wouldn't get a next time from me.

    If she does call you again when she's in trouble, remind her that you already helped her once just to be nice, even though you didn't have to, and remind her that you didn't get so much as a thank-you out of it. So if she wants you to jump in and solve her problems again, she can cut a check for 8 hours consulting time at $80/hr and have it ready to hand to you when you walk in the door, otherwise you will turn around walk back out. If that's acceptable then head on over there and make some money. Otherwise tell her politely that she can call back if she changes her mind, and hang the hell up. Don't be smug, wordy or arrogant about it, just be direct.

    That will settle the matter without burning any bridges, unless her ego is bigger than her business problems. Either you will be rid of her or you will make some money doing her a valuable service. Nothing wrong with that either way.
  • by HeavensTrash (175514) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:28PM (#4687937)
    You got yourself in a bad spot now... Your ex-employer is soon going to start exploiting you, calling you for everything, and won't expect to pay you, however they for some reason will try to make you feel like you "owe" it to them... Basically, you're going to start being treated like an employee that doesn't get paid. Sound fun to you?

    However, if you do demand money, I can guarantee they'll *not* pay you for as long as possible, or they'll try and give you "installments", where they make the first installment, and then never give you the rest. Knowing that you're unemployed and don't really have money for a lawyer, what do they care? Want to go to the labor board? Yeah, you'll get your check for $200 in a year or two (after they don't show up to any of the hearings). I've been burned far too many times by my ex-employer, and due to it I really don't trust anybody anymore, ESPECIALLY employers. Is this a bad thing though? No, I consider it me protecting myself.
  • Never be a pansy. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supabeast! (84658) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:37PM (#4687971)
    When an ex-employer calls you for something and does not use the words "please," "thank," and "you" in every third sentence, blow him off. If an ex-employer wants work out of you, demand payment at a flat rate of at least $100/hour, and get an agreement in writing first. You are nobody's bitch unless you let yourself be.

    I see people in IT caving in to employers all the time, and it disgusts me. Remember, you are there because THEY NEED YOU. Never take shit that you did not earn (But learn to take it well when you have it coming). Never, EVER, let an employer act like you owe him anything. The best way to get ahead in IT is to be an arrogant prick, because if you just do your job well and act like a drone, people will have no reason to notice you and will walk all over you. You are there because you are better than anyone else they could have doing that job, never forget it.

    Malcom X once said "It takes a nation of millions to hold us back." IT people need to think about that philosophy more often, because people take advantage of us, ignore us, and dump shit on us left and right, and too many geeks just sit there and put up with it.
  • by MKalus (72765) <mkalus@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @09:23PM (#4688182) Homepage
    I agree with your sentinment and I think it is very true.

    BUT (you knew that was coming) when it comes to companies this DOES NOT apply anymore. Companies (by their own definition) exist to make money, as such they have to PAY money for services as well.

    If you feel bad about this money take it and donate it (e.g. EFF) but I wouldn't give them my services for free anymore (I was in that situation in the past and I DID charge).

    Still not convinced? Ask yourself this, if the situation would have been reversed, if HE needed something from the company (let's say health coverage because he got injured) would THEY have given it to him?

    M.
  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @10:20PM (#4688374)
    It's a simple rule, but it'll save you a lot of heartache. Simple answer is, if somebody asks you to do them a favor, and you choose to do it, expect NOTHING in return. Not gratitude, not recognition, not a job, not money. If those things turn up, great! And there's something to be said for good will. But if you don't get those things, you gave because you chose to. Maybe to remember that you're a generous person? Whatever your reasons are, they're your reasons. Corollary to this is if you're not prepared to give something in this manner (an unemployed person plying their trade for free sounds like an extemely "generous" act), then DON'T. You have a right to be compensated for your work. If this is something these people want, then, dammit, they must be willing to compensate you for it. Don't think you're "burning bridges" by asking for compensation. If you're dealing with the sort of people that expect you to work for free, you're not going to impress them by doing that. They will see you as their patsy (to use a nicer term). "Oooh I just want them to LIKE me." Does not garner respect.
  • Re:How much? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @11:18PM (#4688569)
    A few days later the original developer called her up asking what changes she had made because he couldn't find any and swore that she didn't even touch the code

    original developer should've used diff.
  • Evaluation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by willpost (449227) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @11:28PM (#4688604)
    Perhaps I can help. I was a contractor for the last 5 years, and I saw so many tricks people used to get free work.

    - her entire corporate LAN was down
    Meaning: It's costing her company 1 day of their capital. Unemployment is costing you 5 months of your capital

    - helped her save the day
    Meaning: You helped her save her job, even though she mismanaged by removing a necessary support position.

    - my ex-Boss calls me and demands that I help her out. Boy what attitude. She did not even bother calling me back to thank me
    Meaning: She's unpleasant and not a friend. She's blaming you for the problem and you believe it's your fault.

    - an opportunity to make a little money off of your old company
    Meaning: It's wrong to get paid by a company?? What is the purpose of any business (including yours)? It doesn't sound like you hang out there for fun. There's nothing wrong about receiving some sort of pay for your work.

    - It doesn't pay to burn bridges, especially if they need something that you can provide
    Not so: Getting paid is not burning bridges. You want to be known for the quality of your work, not your charity. How about your bridges that she burned?

    I could understand if the item that broke was covered under warranty by you. If they were a poor charity or she was friendly I might even do them a favor.

    - she knows that I'm a kind person
    Kind people don't complain about what they have decided to give away.
    Successful people make a quick decision and stick with it. It would be wise to work on your bargaining.
  • by klparrot (549422) <klparrot@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @11:30PM (#4688612)
    it will be a significant black mark against them for a long time

    And you'll have completely burnt your bridges with the company. This sounds like a pretty severe course of action, more like seeking revenge.

    <simpsons>
    Lenny: Nothing beats revenge for getting back at people.
    Carl: I dunno; vengeance is pretty good too.
    </simpsons>

    It really depends on your relationship with the company, and whether you perhaps have an interest in doing any work for them in the future.

    Considering that the poster is out of work, he may be better off to learn from this experience, and hope that his inadvertent generosity leads them to call him again when they have trouble, at which point he can negotiate a good fee, or maybe get his job back, if they need him so often.

    Alternatively, if he needs the money, IANAL, but I think small claims court is a better way to go, rather than seeking the services of a collection agency. A small claims court will affirm (or deny) his legal right to payment for the services, and might get the company to pay any costs associated with bringing them to court. A collection agency would charge him, and it's hard to tack that cost onto your bill to the company, if it hasn't been agreed to beforehand.

  • Yeah.. right! .. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by steppin_razor_LA (236684) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @12:09AM (#4688760) Homepage Journal
    So helping out the poor = kharmically the same as helping out your old employer.. (you know -- the guys who used to pay you... then probably dropped you on your ass in order to save costs) for free?

    There are a lot of good deeds to be done in this wicked wicked world... that's not one of them.

    Unless there are deep bonds of friendship in place, if a former employer needs my help, I'm going to charge them for it. And.. I'm going to charge them a *lot* more for it then I would have made if I was still working there. That isn't mean, cruel, or greedy. It just makes sense.

  • by The Tyro (247333) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @12:37AM (#4688853)
    Now wait just a damn minute.

    If the guy wants to give his services away for free, for *whatever* reason, he's entitled to do it.

    Did anyone ask what the company does/produces? Maybe they make wheelchairs, or distribute vaccines to third-world nations... we have no idea, though it's still irrelevant to the question of whether or not the man is entitled to give his services away... he is... period.

    I understand mercenary sensibilities, I often find myself at odds with them in my line of work (health care field). Bottom line: the world would be better off with a whole lot more volunteerism. The president is right on the mark when he asks people to volunteer in their community; it's simply the right thing to do. Given, this is a business transaction, but perhaps he's being compensated with something less tangible, like goodwill, or a recommendation (or the chance to work around that attractive former coworker he never had the guts to ask out).

    Personally, I end up giving away almost half of the medical care I provide for free (uninsured, self-pay, etc). I even volunteer in my community, over and above that. I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, or to be a sanctimonious jerk, I'm simply making the point that past a certain threshold, money isn't everything, and it's a DAMN poor substitute for happiness and personal/professional fulfillment (how's that for a run-on sentence?)

    Mod me down to your heart's content, but I can't believe the assault on this guy for suggesting somebody do something for reasons other than money.... Unbelievable.
  • I just recently had something very similar happen to me. I had created a simple web site for somebody last spring, and included instructions to modify the files (he didn't want to pay me to update the site, but wanted me to teach him how to do it). I provided him with some basic ftp instructions, and told him to not modify parts between the <? and ?> symbols (php pages). Using proper HTML was up to him.

    A few months later his host upgraded the server his site was on. I modified the templates for him at no charge - no need to burn bridges, and it was fairly easy for me to fix.

    A few months after that, he tried updating the site and botched it - he did not download the files first, but instead used copies on his local machine already (downloaded before the server was upgraded). Once he started getting php error messages, he contacted me, accusing me of giving him bad instructions (actually, he said I "wrote the site incorrectly") and I need to fix it right away. Very demanding, very accusative, and unwilling to answer any questions. After a few messages full of him sidestepping my questions (presumably because he did not want to admit he didn't follow the instructions), I was able to figure out what happened, and told him that since he did not follow the instructions it was not my fault.

    I told him I'd only charge for a half hour of work to fix it. I made the price low because I wasn't in need of the money - it was meant to get the point across that this work is above and beyond the original deal. The total cost to him would have been twenty-three dollars and fifty cents. He kept fighting me and insisting that he is not a moron. (his justification? "I'm the head of a marketing department." Oh, I'm sorry, you couldn't be a moron, then!)

    After a week, I told him I would fix it on the condition that he never contact me again. I told him there was clearly nothing I could do to make him a satisfied customer short of doing everything for free. I told him I'd gladly lose twenty-three dollars just to never have to deal with him again. I told him I hoped the time he spent fighting me was worth no more than twenty-three dollars.

    I don't regret burning that bridge. If the other party has no interest in reimbursing you for your work, then you're not really even buring a bridge - you're getting rid of excess baggage.
  • by Codifex Maximus (639) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @11:40AM (#4690516) Homepage
    Indeed! This is a gimmee. I hope he got consulting fees. He says he wants to be a nice guy and not burn bridges... well heck, they slammed a door in his face and left him unemployed for 5 months.

    Business is business... charge em a fee.
  • by lanner (107308) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @03:51PM (#4691883)

    Dang, this is exactly what happened to me last March when my former employer CEO called me up and asked that I do a little work for him in regards to the project that I had worked on formerly.

    I was working for Maximum Charisma Studios in Denver Colorado. They released a product in 2001 that was poop and the company went chapter 7, fired all employees on the last week of January of 2001. Everyone was fired with dignity and the company went down with minimal looting and not a lot of hostility.

    The company was trying to sell it's online multiplayer game product design and code to another company and so the product was still online and in collocation. Well, there was a bug that had been plaguing us that had not been fixed before everyone was fired.

    Hey, this is going to turn into a Microsoft bashing story too! Cool.

    The problem was that the software clients that ran on a bunch of Windows 2000 Servers would have problems forwarding or processing UDP packets after about 30 days. This was consistent on all of the servers. 30 days and the UDP would stop, the ports would get held hostage, and absolutely nothing would fix the problem beyond the typical Windows fix of rebooting.

    30 days rolled around and the systems stopped working. They tried to reboot them, but there was a special procedure to getting it all to work, plus a very key system had died with a failed RAID controller, which made things worse. So, they called me and ask me to do the work.

    There is a quote that I remember right here from Slashdot. It had to do with work/employee related stuff.

    "Never consult for free."

    I heard about the problem that they had, negotiated what exactly needed to be done, and said that I would do the work for $1,000.00 flat, and could have everything online within 48 hours. We did it respectfully and nobody lost their composure over the phone while I worked this deal out.

    It went pretty good, I got my $1K cheque and it got cashed. I did the work and everything was online again. If they sold the product off or not, I don't recall.

    The point is that I made my former employer understand that it did not pay my bills to work for free, and that if it was in our mutual interest to do business then we could, for a price which we agreed upon. Everyone was happy when we were done.

    Now, if the former employer had been hostile from the start, I question if I would have taken the project on at all. And if I had, I would have made a written contract be signed prior to any work being done. And in the case of financial instability and the possibility of bankruptcy on their part and me not being able to collect on the work done, I would have required a deal that put the funds into special holding by a third party or something similar.

    The problem is that the unhappy employer is probably going to do something bad to you. More is broken than they tell you and they are going to blame the broken on you and ask that you fix it for free or they will sue. They are going to try to make you feel guilty into helping them, they are going to do whatever it takes to get some work done by you for free.

    Don't deal with bitter former employers or employees unless you absolutely have to, you are going to profit from it, and you make sure that it is going to turn out exactly how you think it will.

  • Go to her boss (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @06:17PM (#4692655) Homepage Journal
    and tell him/her the person that called you can't do the job and is calling you for help.
    Tell him/her you want her job, and can do it better(which is obvious since she called you).

    It sounds like your being an ass, but lets look at it:
    She is hurting the company by not knowing what she is doing, and by having an attitude. So if you are kind, shouldn't you imform the people who need the help that they are in trouble?

    2)You need work,(I presume). She is calling you, demanding you take your time, and fix a screw up she is in. She is not the kind of employee that does a company any good.

    3) she is hostile towards you. As a human being, you do not need to tolerate that, and since your kind, shouldn't you do your best to see that she doesn't treat other emplyees(or ex) that way?

    Run your carrer like a business, because know one else out there has your interest, if they did, would you be un-employed?

    If you don't want to do that, next time charge 250 dollars an hour. with a minimum hours of twice what you think it will take. I'm serious, if she needs you, you'll get it. espcially if you are saving her ass. It's not like it will come out of her money, just her budget.
    As a human being, you do not need to take that kind of crap.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 17, 2002 @06:58PM (#4692855)
    ali_bubba asks: "A funny thing happened to me today, I have beeb unemployed for over 5 months, and all of a sudden my ex-Boss calls me and demands (well, it sounded like a demand) that I help her out, because her entire corporate LAN was down.
    What rate did she offer to pay? For an independent, the billing rate should be twice the salary. If it were me I would charge extra for her attitude: she has no right to demand anything unless "ali_bubba" signed a contract agreeing to perform odd jobs after termination. Some people would refuse regardless of the price once it was presented as a demand.
    Naturally, she knows that I'm kind person,
    Being kind is one thing, being a doormat is another.
    but boy what attitude, so I did help her save the day.
    Why?
    She did not even bother calling me back to thank me
    Why am I not surprised?
    Has anyone else had this happen to them before?
    Probably not many; I think that most people would have hung up the telephone once she made a demand.
    What actions did you take?" While I can understand that some people in this situation may harbor some ill will if place in this situation, it may behoove you to see this as an opportunity, and at the very least, an opportunity to make a little money off of your old company.
    I would expect that the first step, for those that didn't tell her to FOAD, would be to discuss rates. It sounds more like an opportunity to develope a peptic ulcer than an opportunity to make money.
    It doesn't pay to burn bridges, especially if they need something that you can provide.
    Some bridges need to be burnt.
    For those who have been in this situation, how did you handle it? For others, if you were offered work from your old job, would you do it, and under what conditions would your perform said work?
    I've done freelance work for previous employers. I've even done free work for them, where it was a case of answering a brief question on the telephone. But I'm talking about previous employers who were polite and respectful, and who. requested a favor rather than making demands.

What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying. -- Nikita Khruschev

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