A blog about business and economics.

Nov. 28 2014 9:43 AM

Why the Best Shopping Holiday Is One You Make Up Yourself

This article originally appeared in Inc.

With Thanksgiving just past and our biggest shopping holiday of the year just around the corner, drumming up sales between now and Christmas can often be hugely challenging for small businesses. Not only can your more-moneyed competitors afford the door-buster sales that attract shoppers, but they've got much bigger marketing budgets too. Therein lies the beauty of made-up holidays: There's no competition.

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When Angie Dudley first dreamed up the cake pop in 2007, few had heard of the cake-and-icing confection that balances atop a lollipop stick. Cupcakes were all the rage back then, says Dudley, who founded the dessert recipe website Bakerella.com around the same time. Naturally, she wanted to topple the sweet treat's dominance. So, on February 1, 2008, the Georgia-based baker posted an image of a cupcake-shape cake pop onto a popular cupcake enthusiasts’ site. Her icing-and-cake confections took off.

Later that year, she landed on the Martha Stewart Show, and since then, she has published three cake pop cookbooks, one of which has been translated into ten languages. “It was viral—but it wasn’t like what you see today. Word of mouth was really big,” says Dudley, who came to celebrate National Cake Pop Day on February 1. “I’m the one [who] created the craze,” she says. “I wanted to have some meaning behind the day.”

Still, you may think: Wait a tick, aren't there already a gazillion holidays? And isn’t it weird—possibly off-putting—to just coin a new one?

Perhaps, but there is certainly precedence. The International House of Pancakes, better known as IHOP, typically celebrates National Pancake Day on Shrove Tuesday, which this year took place on March 4—even though the breakfast staple has long been celebrated on Sept. 26. Next year, Shrove Tuesday is on Feb. 17—that is the day after Presidents Day and three days after Valentine’s Day. The company plans to celebrate the hotcake on March 3 instead. “Those are busy days for us already,” says Kevin Mortensen, a spokesman for DineEquity, the owner of the pancake chain. “Sometimes the calendar doesn't line up well.”

But that’s not stopping people from claiming a free short stack. Since 2006, IHOP has raised more than $16 million for charities and has given away an estimated 26 million pancakes. National Pancake Day also happens to be one of IHOP's biggest sales days of the year, says Mortensen. “It really has taken on a life of its own,” he adds.

It hardly stops with pancakes. Besides the 11 federal holidays, Americans observe a long list of religious holidays, feasts, and anniversaries—from Ramadan to Purim. Additionally, each state may have its own variety of local holidays, from Pascua Florida Day, which refers to spring and the Easter Season, to Statehood Day in Hawaii.

And you can’t possibly forget the “Hallmark Holidays”—so named for the greeting-card company that popularized the practice of sending cards to loved ones on certain days of the year, like Mother’s Day. There are approximately 23 of those.

All told, Nationaldaycalendar.com recognizes 1,100 annual holidays, says Marlo Anderson, the founder of the Mandan, North Dakota-based national holiday tracker. He adds that his site doesn’t even cover all of the holidays in existence. “We research [each holiday] and if just six people post [about it] on Twitter, we’ll pass,” he says. “We don’t want to dilute the days we have on there with days that aren't so recognizable.”

Still, there is room for more. If you can make a case for why your day ought to be in existence and you can fork over $1,500 to $3,500—the fee National Day Calendar charges for issuing a press release and a 13-by-19-inch framed proclamation—Anderson is all ears. Just ask talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, who recently snagged her own national day, which also happens to be her birthday, January 26.

“She had a compelling story,” says Anderson. “About one year ago, she posted something about National Cat Day saying ‘the only thing wrong with this is that I should have my own national day.’ It just went crazy,” he says. “Hundreds of thousands of people wrote us.”

John-Bryan Hopkins from foodimentary.com suggests that, actually, it’s even easier than that to lasso your own day. And he should know. “I am the guy who has created about 173 of the national food holidays we celebrate today,” says the Birmingham, Alabama-based social media consultant who operates the hobby site. While many of the food holidays he tracks—from “National Indian Pudding Day” (November 13) to “National Doughnut Day” (first Friday of June)—were already in existence, he wanted to fete at least one type of food, dish, or cuisine for each day of the year. So, he made some up—including Frog Legs on Leap Day.

To make up a holiday, Hopkins says it's a matter of just putting it out there and doing some coordinated marketing around the day. “If I’m on Twitter and I have 850,000 followers and I get 100 or 150 retweets for a national day post, in the Google database, that day exists,” says Hopkins. “Next year, that day is that day.”

The question is, how do you turn your holiday into a payday? For starters, consider teaming up, suggests Hopkins. “If I were a little corner shop, I would probably work with other people and get everyone to agree to promote it,” he says. “It would be such a shame if you go through the trouble of creating a day that was only for your square block. I would rather the mom-and-pop shops get together.”

That's the strategy behind “Green Friday,” says Ryan Fox, one of a consortium of marijuana business owners who are rallying behind rebranding the famed shopping holiday Black Friday. The idea is to promote giving the gift of newly legalized marijuana for the holidays.

“We have really high expectations,” Fox, the owner of the Grass Station, in Denver, told Bloomberg. “Now we’ve got the legal means for people to give marijuana as a gift, and that’s never really been something that was feasible in the past.”

To further confirm the power of fictional holidays, consider the success of Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving) and Small Business Saturday (the Saturday following Thanksgiving). The latter was created by American Express in 2010 to gin up sales at the nation's small businesses, and last year it attracted $5.7 billion worth of purchases at independent merchants, according to the financial services giant.

Earlier this month, the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba generated $9.3 billion in sales in one day after creating its own shopping holiday dubbed Singles Day. Hard to argue with the point of that holiday, which is for you to celebrate you by buying yourself a gift.

Of course, coming up with your own national day can be tricky. After all, a small business is hardly in the same league as American Express and Alibaba. “Anyone can attempt to start a day and if it catches on, great,” says Anderson. “But it takes a lot of years for this to catch on. Singles Day may be an exception to the rule.”

Ultimately, you need to consider what your goals are, suggests Anderson. If you’re trying to raise money for charity, for instance, it might make sense to host an event around the end of the year or during a month that holds some kind of significance for the charity or cause. The same goes for triggering sales, he adds.

For Bakerella’s Dudley, National Cake Pop Day was a product of wanting to keep her community of cake pop aficionados interested and engaged with the dessert. “It’s something to have fun with on social media,” she says. “I’ll post a photo on Facebook, Instagram and maybe my site. It’s a reminder for people to celebrate.” And if they want to buy one of her cookbooks, toys and line of cake pop baking tools, that's OK too, she adds.

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Nov. 28 2014 7:00 AM

Marijuana Dispensaries Are Celebrating Black Friday, Too

For shoppers of age in Colorado and Washington state, the most novel deal this Black Friday isn’t a gadget like the iPhone 6. If what they’re looking for is relaxation, they’re in luck: For their first Black Friday ever, recreational marijuana dispensaries in those states are offering some great deals on weed.

“This is one of the first times in the nation that we’re going to be able to do such crazy discounts and specials on marijuana products, and have people 21 years or older be able to come in and join the festivities,” says John Satterfield, a distribution worker at Denver’s Kindman Premium Cannabis.

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Kindman had its lights on for a few hours this Thanksgiving—“just in case you want[ed] to get away from the family,” says Satterfield—and will offer huge discounts all weekend to compete with other retail dispensaries. Deals will include $50 ounces for the first 16 Colorado residents per day Friday through Sunday, along with other price cuts on products like joints and edibles. Some discounts will hit 80 to 90 percent, Satterfield says.

For dispensaries, the move into Black Friday discounts represents another step into the mainstream. Sean Taggart, manager of the Green Room, said the Boulder, Colorado dispensary is also offering discounts, including pricing all of their eighths at $40—usually $50.

“People will be out and about already, so we might as well accommodate the people that are out taking on Black Friday already,” Taggart says.

Colorado and Washington state residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, and retailers in both states opened for business earlier this year. According to one study, the marijuana industry could be worth $8 billion a year by 2018

The move into Black Friday promotions raises the same issues for dispensaries as it does for any other outlet—like whether employees should have to work during a time traditionally spent with family.

Green Anne, a dispensary in Seattle, will not be open, says manager Eduardo Beaumont. “We’re a really small shop, and we don’t have that many people working here, and my boss respects the fact that people want to be with their families,” Beaumont says. He added that Green Anne will probably be one of few places that stays closed.

The products may be new, but the quandaries—and the traditions—definitely aren't. “We’re trying to do things to give back to our customers,” Satterfield says. “And just trying to spread the holiday cheer and get everybody a little bit high.”

Nov. 28 2014 5:48 AM

Black Friday Blues

This article originally appeared in Inc.

If you're reading this while camped out in a Best Buy parking lot waiting for the store to open on November 28 at 6 a.m., Black Friday is still alive and well in your heart.

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But for most of us, Black Friday is suffering a rapid and precipitous decline. It's as if Superman accidentally put on Kryptonite underwear. First, he can't fly, then he can't leap, then he can't even lift himself off the floor.

Just a few years ago, Black Friday was the most powerful force in marketing, representing:

  • The opening bell of holiday shopping, eliciting a "ready, set, go" reaction from consumers.
  • The biggest retail sales day of the year.
  • A much-discussed cultural phenomenon. Some loved Black Friday, some hated it, but we all talked about it.

But Black Friday is showing signs of weakness. A case in point: Retail analyst ShopperTrak predicts that Black Friday will fall to No. 3 in sales, after the Saturday before Christmas (December 20) and the day after Christmas.

What's Black Friday's malady? A deadly disease called "semantic satiation." This is an actual psychological phenomenon (Don't you love social scientists?) that works like this: When a word or phrase is used to the point of oversaturation, it loses meaning and eventually is perceived as jibberish.

When Black Friday described something specific—the day after Thanksgiving when you risked being trampled to score that 50-inch TV—it had marketing superpowers. But now that it's being used to refer to every sale from Oct. 1 through New Year's Day, Black Friday is becoming noise, not a compelling call to action.

If you're in the retail business, this matters because "Black Friday" will become less and less effective as a term that lures shoppers.

If you're not in retail, you should also care. There are many terms that are effective for while, but quickly become overused to the point of meaning nothing. (Paradigm, I'm looking at you.)

While it's difficult to resist the temptation to jump on the bandwagon, the way you get attention is by sounding different than everyone else.

For example, here's Wal-Mart's U.S. chief merchant, Duncan MacNaughton: "It used to be called Black Friday, then it became Thursday, now it's a week long. Maybe we should just call it November."

Black Friday, RIP.

Nov. 26 2014 2:59 PM

Be a Decent Human Being and Don’t Go Shopping on Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, millions of Americans will slide back from their dinner tables, get in their cars, and head for a postprandial shopping trip to snap up deals at a holiday sale.

Please, please do not be one of those people—both for your own sake, and out of respect for the retail staff who get dragooned into coming to work on a day they should have off with family. 

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I know. Complaining about our mania for holiday bargain-hunting, and that Black Friday now begins on Brown Thursday, is already a bit of a cliché. Progressive-minded writers seem to spend every November lamenting the misfortune of employees forced to show up to their job on Thanksgiving. The econ bloggers at ThinkProgress have practically devoted an entire month of coverage to the subject. Meanwhile, stores like Costco, Crate and Barrel, and Marshalls now brag about the fact that they don’t open on our national day of gluttony as a way of painting themselves as family-friendly.

But it bears repeating. Thanksgiving shopping, as it currently stands, is an awful tradition that should be boycotted.

To start, Black Friday (and its Thursday lead-in) is a bit of a sham. Yes, some of those cut-rate flat-screen TVs are a real steal. But, as the Wall Street Journal explained last year, many of the supposedly great deals are a “carefully engineered illusion.” Retailers regularly mark down merchandise from heavily inflated prices to trick shoppers into believing they’re getting a bargain. Meanwhile, prices often drop further as the holiday season progresses and stores try to clear out inventory, and better deals can sometimes be found at other times of the year. Plus, in binge-shopping over Thanksgiving weekend, behavioral psychology suggests you’re pretty much dooming yourself to overspend, including on full-price items that just happen to be sitting next to those marked-down toaster ovens.

In short, those who shop on Thanksgiving are practically begging to be fleeced.

Now about all those poor Walmart, Best Buy, and JCPenney* employees who are stuck working instead of watching football. The big-picture problem here is that the United States is, of course, the only rich nation where workers aren’t guaranteed paid vacations or holidays, which is why companies like Walmart, which has stayed open on every Thanksgiving since 1988, can ask their staff to come in whether they want to or not. If we had a humane national vacation policy, none of this would be an issue.

But we don’t. And so retailers are mostly free to keep whatever hours they choose, and demand their workforce deal with it. Some companies, like Walmart and Kmart, do say they offer their staff bonus pay for working Thanksgiving (though exactly how much, in Walmart’s case, is a bit of a question). But in some cases, workers don’t have any choice but to clock in. Kmart employees, for instance, say they’ve been told they could lose their jobs or be otherwise punished if they don’t come in. Target workers are also reportedly not allowed to ask for time off work. Lots of retail workers are probably thankful for the extra holiday paycheck. But many would probably prefer not to be forced to babysit while a bunch of rampaging bargain-hunters tears through the television aisle.

What’s especially galling about this is that early Thanksgiving day sales don’t necessarily benefit the retail industry as a whole. Instead, they’re the product of a massive collective action problem. Opening up on Thursday doesn’t increase sales overall. But companies are worried that if they don’t, their customers will simply do their shopping elsewhere. “Retailers are trying to get a jump on the competition,” Bill Martin of mall-traffic tracker ShopperTrak told MarketWatch last year. “Thursday is simply selling the stuff at the expense of Black Friday.” Many of the stores that do choose to stay closed on Thanksgiving, like Neiman Marcus, Sam’s Club, Costco, and Crate and Barrel cater to somewhat wealthier clientele and don’t rely on massive markdowns to court customers. They have the luxury of sitting out of the competition. But we can’t rationally expect big-box stores like Best Buy, Walmart, and Kmart that cater to the cash-strapped middle class to do the same.

We could try to solve this problem with regulation. Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island ban stores from opening on Thanksgiving. A state lawmaker in Ohio has introduced a bill that would force stores to pay employees triple wages for working on the holiday and allow them to take the day off without facing retaliation.

But until workers can freely choose whether to show up for the job on Thanksgiving, consumers who take advantage of these overhyped sales are simply voting for the gross status quo. Right now, Brown Thursday is a terrible bargain for society. Don’t fall for it.

*Correction, Nov. 26, 2014: This post originally misspelled the name of retailer JcPenney.

Nov. 26 2014 1:42 PM

How to Buy a New iPhone for Someone on an Old Phone Plan

The iPhone 6 has already carried Apple to a record-breaking quarter and on Tuesday led the company to an unprecedented $700 billion valuation. According to a report this week, that's likely only the beginning. By one analyst's estimate, Apple will sell another 71.5 million iPhones during the current quarter and holiday season. More than half of those devices will be the big-screened iPhone 6.

It's quite possible that you too want to get in on the iPhone 6 gift action—maybe for a friend, a family member, or for yourself. Which leads to the inevitable question: How do you buy a new smartphone for someone who's still locked into an old contract?

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Ideally, the gift recipient either has an available upgrade or is on a plan with someone else who has an upgrade. If not, though, the options are going to depend on the carrier. With Verizon, giving a new device to a customer who does not have an eligible upgrade requires paying full price for it. Once that's done, the gift recipient doesn't have to pay any fees, and can simply switch the device on their Verizon account. (It has to be unlocked and compatible with the Verizon network to work.)

With AT&T, customers in existing two-year contracts who are gifted new devices need to pay a $40 upgrade fee and then can continue under that same contract. They can also choose to switch to AT&T Next, which allows for upgrades every 12, 18, or 24 months, or go on a plan without an annual contract.

T-Mobile, which calls itself the "uncarrier," is unique for pushing plans with no annual service contracts. Because of that, T-Mobile users generally have to buy their devices outright. Depending on how much data you tend to use, this can actually end up saving money in the long-run. And if your friend/family member/other gift recipient is open to switching carriers, then T-Mobile is the way to go.

As part of its "contract freedom" model, T-Mobile pays off early termination fees (the charge to leave a contract prematurely) of up to $350 for people who switch from AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon and trade in their old devices. T-Mobile also says it guarantees the "best trade-in value" for devices. Verizon, by contrast, gives customers who switch from other carriers an account credit of $150, but charges a $35 fee to activate the new account and does not cover early termination fees. Like Verizon, AT&T gives customers who switch over a $150 credit but does not cover early termination fees either.

A few months ago, the folks over at Wired also compiled a helpful guide to breaking your phone contract without paying through the nose. Their recommendations include selling your plan, tracking changes in terms, finding a carrier like T-Mobile that will pay the early termination fee, and complaining your way out. Then again, these tricks are probably more helpful for personal use than for giving someone a holiday gift.

So when it comes to gifting a new phone, there really isn't an ideal solution to getting around those two-year contracts. Maybe you should give a rain check, and buy the device when the person's upgrade finally rolls around.

Nov. 26 2014 11:53 AM

If You See These Clothes for Sale on Black Friday, It’s Because They’re About to Be Uncool

Oh, printed pants: We hardly knew ye. Come Black Friday, retailers will slash prices on everything from iPads to high-end loose leaf tea. These price cuts are far from random—they’re strategic, designed to boost profits and prevent buildup of inventory that might later require even deeper price cuts. To help fashion retailers make the most of their sales, EDITD, a retail technology company with more than 10,000 subscribers, recently released a report containing, among other things, suggestions for clothes to discount because they’re about to be unfashionable. The company used its analytics software and crunched numbers from its “apparel data warehouse” of pricing, assortment, and product metrics to determine what’s on its way out in the fashion world. Read ahead at your wardrobe’s peril.

Fashion crime No. 1, it turns out, are printed pants. Discounts on legwear with flair have been climbing since August. At the end of October, the average discount for printed pants was 25.5 percent. Unfortunately, neither throwback bohemianism nor lovers of geometric pant patterns could keep this movement alive. If you see some of these guys hanging out on the rack come Friday, think long and hard about whether you want to make that kind of commitment, even at a discount.

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According to EDITD, statement outerwear (read: intentionally weird coats) are second to go. They’ve also seen a discount spike since August, averaging price slashes of 22.4 percent. The Panda Oversized Moto Jacket by Tibi at Bloomingdale’s, which indeed is oversized but is baby blue and thus looks nothing like an actual panda, is one of the report’s recent examples, although it's mercifully now unavailable.

Fur items are also a no-no—and not just coats, but accessories, too. Sleepwear is next (hopefully because it sells well and makes for attention-grabbing Christmas gifts, not because more people are sleeping in the buff). Next, stores are advised to unload their onesies—to the delight of homebody college students everywhere.

Rounding out the list are Christmas sweaters. We all know Christmas sweaters are timeless—in fact, arrivals this October are up 126 percent from last October—but they also don’t do much good after December. This being the beginning of the Christmas shopping season only makes it more logical for stores to start dumping green, red, and gold coziness on everyone that moves. (From EDITD's discounted examples, I’d recommend for particular ridicule the puff ball–adorned Christmas Pudding Sweater by New Look at ASOS.)

Then again, ugly Christmas sweaters seem to come back every year. Will the printed pants, furs, and weird coats join them as seasonal standbys, or quietly fade to mega-clearance obscurity?

Nov. 25 2014 3:42 PM

Where Have All the Canadian Cowboys Gone?

Bloomberg has an interesting take today on Canada's oil boom. In addition to fueling cheap gas prices, the boost in crude output is also creating a shortage of cowboys.

Here's the logic behind that. As oil production and energy investments have taken off, jobs in that industry have started to pay two-thirds more than those in livestock. According to Bloomberg, specialized livestock workers in Alberta were making about $39,700 last year, while petroleum workers were earning $65,000. Nearly three-quarters of farm employers said they had trouble hiring:

"It’s impossible to find workers," said Tim Stewart, 57, who has four unfilled jobs and is considering selling the 4,000-head ranch in Rockglen, Saskatchewan, that his family has owned since 1910. "If someone came along with a big fat checkbook, we’d probably walk away."
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The Canadian cattle herd is at its smallest since 1993 with 13.3 million livestock as of this July. One analyst told Bloomberg that meat packers are expected to slaughter just 2.4 million cattle in 2015—the smallest number since 1963. Meat packing plants are operating at their lowest capacity since 2008.

In the U.S., the cattle situation isn't any better. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has described the current cattle herd of 87.7 million as the smallest since 1951. Beef prices have been on a tear, boosting everything from the steak costs in your local grocery store to the sticker price on the beef burrito options at Chipotle. A recent report in Reuters noted that beef prices, predicted to rise 11.5 percent this year, could add another 5 percent in 2015 on drought and disease.

A bit of Thanksgiving cheer though: Despite the lift in beef prices, all poultry costs fell 0.9 percent in October and the subcategory that includes turkey dropped even more. Give thanks that you're not supposed to buy roast beef for Thursday.

Nov. 25 2014 1:31 PM

Amazon Wants to Sell, Deliver, and Now Install Your Air Conditioner

Amazon already sells and deliver things. Now it wants to add installations to its roster of tricks. Starting this week, Amazon is rolling out Amazon Local Services, a sort of handyman platform, in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The goal is to help customers connect with local service providers who advertise and contract out through Amazon's marketplace. According to the Wall Street Journal, it's another way for Amazon to edge onto the turf of brick-and-mortar retailers.

In an effort to differentiate itself from other home-service providers, Amazon plans to offer a money-back guarantee to customers. That makes sense for a company that built itself on the promise of exceptional customer service but that some feared had strayed from that mission lately. Installations and repairs also seem like an obvious target for Amazon to take on—there's plenty of room to improve those hours-long installation windows and no-show deliveries that frustrate customers routinely. The Journal also notes that Amazon will show customer reviews of the service providers on its website.

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According to Amazon's site, businesses and service providers will have to undergo background checks and pay monthly subscription fees to list on "Selling Services" beginning in July 2015. Amazon will take a 20 percent cut of services up to $1,000 and 15 percent of services over $1,000. The fees will be "segmented by service profession," but so far the ones listed apply to handymen, plumbers, electricians, computer technicians, auto mechanics, car electronics specialists, home media specialists, and appliance technicians.

The local services rollout comes about a month and a half after Amazon took another big step to compete with traditional retailers: deciding to open a physical store. The space is planned for 7 West 34th St. in Manhattan and, according to reports at the time, was set to open for the holidays. While there hasn't been much word on the effort since then, Vornado Realty Trust did say last week that Amazon had signed a lease for the 470,000-square-foot spot. It's good for 17 years.

Nov. 24 2014 6:07 PM

Barnes & Noble Has a Plan to Make Physical Books Popular This Black Friday

Instead of competing head on with Amazon this Black Friday, Barnes & Noble is looking to offer something that the online retailer can't. The bookstore announced today that come this weekend, it will sell 500,000 signed copies of the latest works from 100 prominent authors. On the nonfiction side, authors include George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Malcolm Gladwell, Neil Patrick Harris, and Amy Poehler. In fiction, Dan Brown, Jodi Picoult, and Donna Tartt are among those taking part.

Barnes & Noble says the effort has been in the works for more than half a year, with each author signing thousands of copies of their books for readers. "Some went beyond their signature to personalize the books," the chain notes in its release. Mo Willems, a children's book author and illustrator, sketched the head of one of his characters in signed editions. Mary Amicucci, Barnes & Noble's vice president of adult trade and children's books, told MarketWatch that authors weren't paid for their efforts but were "hugely enthusiastic" about the plan.

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The key to this particular Black Friday deal is that it's available in stores only. In that way, it's a pretty obvious ploy to get book lovers off of Amazon and into Barnes & Noble's physical locations, but it also seems like a savvy one. After all, if you come in to snag an autographed copy of The Goldfinch or The Polar Express—the kind of thing you can't just download onto your Kindle—you might also decide to pick up that copy of Pride and Prejudice you'd been meaning to get instead of ordering it online.

Barnes & Noble is under significant pressure to perform well this holiday season; its same-store sales have sunk for seven straight quarters, though its stock is up 60 percent year to date. Signed copies alone might not be enough to reverse that decline. But if nothing else, the amount of foot traffic and sales they generate should be a good test of whether big-name authors still have enough fan power to make a physical book worth its often hefty price.

Nov. 24 2014 4:06 PM

A List of Tech Internship Salaries That Will Kill Your Sense of Self-Worth

In case you were feeling a bit too content with your life and career choices today, here's a list of the pay packages that tech firms are apparently offering software engineering interns these days, which has been making the rounds this afternoon thanks to Twitter. Between salary and housing stipends, $9,000 to $10,000 a month isn't abnormal, apparently. The lowest number on the list: $7,000 a month, which annualizes to $84,000 per year.

About the source: This list was originally compiled by a 19-year-old intern-to-be who solicited numbers from Reddit, colleagues, and other contacts.* So the data might not quite be up to Woodward and Bernstein's standards. But the salaries aren't much more outrageously high than what's previously been published. Given the never-ending competition for top talent in the tech world, it's not surprising to see market rates escalating.

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And aside from the slight sting of knowing a Fitbit intern is probably earning more than you, that's not such a terrible thing. There are lots of people in the world whose pay should be a matter of public concern. Corporate CEOs. Wall Street types who will risk blowing up the financial system in pursuit of a bonus. Unpaid interns who do real work for free while real entry-level jobs disappear. It's fine to fret about all of them. But if anything, we should celebrate the fact that tech companies are paying their interns in line with normal employees. And, as I've written before, it's not uncommon for summer recruits in other high-pay, high-competition industries like law and finance to make significant amounts of money. In fact, the highest paid internship on that list isn't at a traditional tech company at all; it's at Jane Street Capital, a proprietary trading firm. (Think of a hedge fund without clients. Instead, they just trade their own money.)

Anyway, not every intern is getting paid pennies to fetch coffee. And that's a good thing.

*Correction, Nov. 26, 2014: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the author of the list was anonymous. The list was compiled by a 19-year-old intern-to-be who first shared it publicly on Facebook.

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