Web Design is a tough business. It is so tough that these days I don’t do it at all except as a favor or to make some very quick money doing a routine upgrade or something I find on Craigslist. But about seven years ago I had a few jobs, which is funny in a way because though I am technically skilled I have no sense of style or taste in web design. In fact this site only looks like it does because my fiancée told me earlier versions of it were so ugly that someone in some country I was visiting might have a reason to arrest me for creating a public abomination with my face on it.
It looked as if North Korea had designed a promotional poster for a Three Stooges Movie.
In the salad days of 2005 I was in demand as a cheaper alternative to Web Designers who had a sense of style. This way they could hire a separate graphic designer once I got all the critical things working like the MySQL database and the shopping cart. The problem was that on Craigslist people wanted to pay nothing for everything. They wanted me to do work for free so I could “put it on my resume” but I did not want to put most websites on my resume. Plus most people who actually paid were hired to do the work themselves so I couldn’t put them on my resume, but I did many of them. I always wanted $500 to $2000 for what would be one week to four weeks part time work. A bargain really.
One day I got a call from this Russian fellow and he saw I had responded to his ad to design a website for his school and he promised he could pay me well for my work but he wanted to meet me. So I agreed.
I met him in a bar near Canal St. He wore cheap clothes and expensive jewelry and he told me about the job:
The State of New Jersey funded the education of released prisoners and also had given low interest loans to people starting technical schools. I was to design a website to promote this technical school that offered everything from car repair, computer associates degrees and welding classes.
I thought it sounded good. I asked about the pay and the man in the track suit said “Five Car”.
“What do you mean by ‘five car’?” I asked and he said “Five Car…One Two Three Four Five Car. You get paid in car.”
I had never had anyone offer to pay me in cars before and I had to say I did not like the idea. Where was I going to put five cars in New York City? How would I sell them all?
I then asked him if I could have money instead and he said “Car better than money. With car you can drive taxi, make own taxi company. Taxi make good money. Make $600 a day driving taxi. Lease other car for $100 a day for four car. Make $1000 a day with car..No tax.”
I still was not interested in getting cars as payment. I asked him why he could not pay me in regular money and he went on a long winded spiel about how easy America was and how he had started a school “for free” and how he also ran a Car Donation Charity that he used to make money for auctions where he was the only bidder and his used car lot would sell the cars for a profit while his “school” would get the cash earned in the auction “donated” and the people who donated the cars would get a tax deduction based on the auction price.
Apparently the first law of his business was that you never pay anyone in cash, so he decided that he had to pay me in cars.
I turned him down.
Every so often I see car donation charities advertising and I then wonder what sort of scheme this charity is funding. Like he said, America is “easy” but only if you are willing to exploit it for your own gain.