Please Note: I am not responsible for comments, commentators, who links to what here, and what they say about those links – I’m just a humble wordsmith, telling my story. ;)
Five years ago, I answered a Craigslist ad to work for a sex toy company. I had been in insurance, which blew, so this seemed like a really awesome step up. I’ve always been just a *wee* bit obsessed with sex and sex toys, so hey – might as well go to the source, right?
At first, everything seemed relatively okay. My new bosses were a little chilly and foreign, and dating each other, but hey whatever. The pay was great, it looked laid back, and dildos were strewn about festively: I could live with this. So I started in as an assistant buyer, putting in very long hours for the sake of my budding career, typically staying an hour to two hours longer than required each day for the first few months to find the latest and greatest manufacturers, get old boxes of stuff taken care of, and so on. I wasn’t asked or told to stay without pay, but I wasn’t discouraged either, and the workload steadily increased. I probably racked up hundreds of hours of theoretical overtime in those first few months, but I did so of my own free will – I mention this because I feel like it accurately portrays how dedicated I was to seeing the company succeed, not because I feel like they owed me.
After the honeymoon wore off, things started getting a little less good. I was told I needed an assistant, an underling, and I just chalked it up to how well we were doing and agreed. I came in a few days later and found that my “assistant” had been hired without so much as a word from me, even though I’d been assured I would do the interview and decide on the right candidate. She was young and cared far more about texting on her phone, babydaddy drama and getting her nails done than she did about working. I was frustrated, but I figured mine was not to question why, and all that jazz. Slowly, however, my “assistant” was getting called more and more often to my manager’s office and they were getting super-chummy, bonding over ordering tiny lingerie outfits – more than once I heard disparaging comments about how I could never pick “pretty lingerie” correctly because it didn’t fit my plus sized frame and jeans-and-tee style. Lo and behold, my “assistant” was suddenly using the same title I did and was put in charge of all the lingerie – formerly my manager’s task. This left me with my original workload as well as the product descriptions for the site, another job thrust on me when the copywriter was suddenly fired.
The corporate culture there grew steadily worse. The dating duo of the blowhard, homophobic owner and his snarky girlfriend manager, combined with the “IT” department that consisted of friends and family members from their home country that could barely speak English, left most of the American staff feeling very closed off. I’ll never forget the time I was told, in halting English, not to defrag or run virus scan on sluggish work PCs because “Microsoft was watching” and it was “exactly what they wanted us to do.” The corporate culture, despite being supposedly sex positive, was absolutely terrible to anything beyond heteronormative. I can’t count the number of meetings in which I was quizzed as to what “the gays” wanted – to hear my former boss tell it, homosexual men couldn’t be left alone in a room with anything remotely phallus shaped, because they’d obviously put it in their ass, ha ha. Lesbians were cast as angry and misguided, that same overarching concept of “if they’d just get a good dicking…” – most of the hate speech was restricted to the meetings I had, as they knew it wouldn’t fly with the lesbian community manager they’d just hired. It broke my heart to have to listen to one thing behind closed doors while they sweet talked her causes and smiled and nodded as long as she kept the page hits rolling in through her hard work – work that reflected a very different (and incorrect) corporate culture to the internet.
Meanwhile, relationship issues between the dating duo reached a very uncomfortable pinnacle, with foreign screaming, door slamming, and even object-hurling battles becoming the norm around the office almost daily. Business meetings were downright frosty as they’d glare at each other across the desk and take pot shots at one another’s ideas, forcing employees to take sides and making us all feel like kids in the middle of a divorce. I would have to meekly enter my manager’s office to ask for one of dozens of credit cards to pay off very-overdue invoices from vendors, as this never seemed to be a priority of the company, no matter how well they were or weren’t doing. Frequently, I’d have to return for another as the increasingly-irritated vendor informed me the card was declined. My relationships with my vendors and suppliers started to suffer, and when I brought it up I was waved away with an eyeroll and told to “deal with it”, or to communicate some imagined slight or out of stock item as a reason. I hated this part most of all, because I knew personally how hard smaller vendors struggled to make ends meet and keep things innovative, and I couldn’t get them the money they deserved.
In the customer service office, a small room surrounded by windows, my coworker had made herself a small cubicle to answer customer service calls after more than a few of the screaming fights had become loud enough for curious callers to overhear. Her assistant was suddenly fired one day, leaving her with every customer service issue for the entire site – to the tune of 200-300 emails a day, in addition to calls. I would have to take to the phones if she was sick or had car trouble, and I could barely manage – I had a lot of respect for her and everything she did. A new gent was brought in to replace the assistant, but was additionally given the not-so-enviable job of sorting through returns, as well. I’d come in every day, and god love him he’d greet me cheerfully, one black-latex-gloved hand holding aloft a string of used anal beads. The idea was that these (blegh) used items would be shipped back to the distributor as defects, and would theoretically result in a credit to our account – I always thought the process was dangerous and disgusting, but, as I found out, money ruled all here. The used items were only a handful of feet from the customer service cubicle, which meant that there were occasional issues when the customer service woman brought a toy back to her cubicle to answer a customer question. Both she and her assistant followed common sense precautions, but new and used items were still kept only a yard from each other on a daily basis – thank god they both cared about customer safety, because I shudder to think what less careful employees could have accidentally done. While I was there, I did wash dildos – a certain manufacturer shipped their (new) silicone pieces without bags and in styrofoam peanuts, so I needed to rinse off the bits of foam that static-ed to the shafts. I used unscented antibacterial soap and gloves while doing so, a precaution my manager scoffed and laughed at me over. I bought gift boxes to keep the dildos from getting dirty in the warehouse, and was later told to lie to customers and claim that these boxes were the manufacturer’s packaging because it “sounded better.”
One day, about 6 or 7 months in, we were all called into the office individually. The company wasn’t doing well at all, said my manager, so everyone would have to take a pay cut to keep us afloat – some of us took more of a cut than others, including the overworked customer service woman and a tireless machine of a semi-crazy superhero that ran the entire warehouse. A week later, the warehouse manager was sent out to procure an entire case of champagne for girlfriend manager’s birthday, only a scant few days after the entirely unheralded birthday of the customer service woman. A week after that, the dating duo went for a cozy little weeklong jaunt to the Bahamas, courtesy of the company’s supposedly nonexistent profits. We were paid bi-weekly, and the announcement of the pay cut was given midway through the second week in the cycle. We got our checks that cycle and discovered that the pay cut had been made retroactive to the week before, which is illegal. When I left the company eventually, this fact was brought up to unemployment – the owner fabricated an email, dated the first day of that particular cycle, supposedly telling the entire office about the pay cut. This was a lie, of course, but at the time I did not have the resources to fight over less than a hundred dollars.
I was called stupid often, I was called an idiot, fat, a moron and a handful of other things in the course of my working there, some face-to-face, others in emails and the like. Abuse was “no big deal” because I was young and needed the job, but in retrospect it turns my stomach what I put up with. Conflicting orders from my boss and manager, goals and projects that changed with the wind, and volatile tempers were only the tip of the iceberg. It was a bipolar experience – one day the boss would be a foreign Santa Claus, clapping everyone on the back, handing out toys and being merry – but the next, it was hate-filled mocking and spitting anger that yanked the rug out from under us. No one every knew what to expect when they came into work, and at least half the staff was on anti-anxiety medication. It wasn’t uncommon for us to share a xanax after a particularly bad “temper” day. I was screamed at, at various points, for making coffee and cleaning snow off of everyone’s cars as a kind gesture on my lunch break. I received a particularly sharp lecture about whistling once – apparently it’s a taboo in their foreign country, and I was told that I was single-handedly going to destroy the company’s finances because I was whistling. I can’t make this up.
Towards the end, I began working at home once a week, as the commute was over an hour for me and others had been given the green light to do so. One fateful day, the warehouse manager informed me that several boxes had come in damaged from the carrier – two had been bad enough that UPS had retained them, and the warehouse manager had refused two more, as it was clear at a glance the contents were damaged and unsalable. The vendor that sold these items used a different carrier by default, we had to opt out in order to use our cheaper carrier, which in turn meant that we were responsible for the goods, not the vendor. I called the vendor at the owner’s behest, and was politely re-informed of this fact and told there was nothing they could do, and to contact our carrier. I did so, and was told by our carrier that we could submit a claim and get reimbursed in a few weeks. I told this to the owner, and he acknowledged it and told me to put in the claim.
That day, I was working on descriptions when an IM popped up. It was the owner, and he was spitting mad that we hadn’t gotten the money from the vendor for the damaged items, which had only been discovered maybe 5 or 6 days prior. I reminded him of our conversation and told him I’d put in the claim, and he howled that it wasn’t good enough, that I was in trouble. The owner had gotten it in his head that I had related a different version of the story to our warehouse manager (for what reason, I can only guess) and that I was lying to him – he’d completely forgotten the conversation I’d had with him about the issue only a day or two prior. My time at the company ended with a single fateful statement – that, as payment for my lies, the entire cost of the damaged goods would be deducted from my paycheck – a sum that amounted to slightly over a week’s pay. Something in my brain snapped, my heart found its backbone again, and my loyalty to that wretched company punctured and drained like a spent water balloon. I signed off, citing taking a personal day. I drove to the office that weekend, packed up everything of mine I’d left, and wrote “I QUIT” in large, sharpied letters on a piece of printer paper, laying it on the owner’s keyboard to find on Monday morning. I don’t have an ounce of regret about it, either.
A week later, I was driving to an interview and a distracted garbage truck driver turned my sedan into a compact by way of the trunk, injuring my back in the process. While I was recovering in the hospital, my then-fiance and his father went to the tow yard to empty my belongings, during which his father had a massive heart attack. Hobbling around in a neck brace and crying myself sick with worry over a father figure slowly dying, I was wholly unprepared for the unemployment interview. While I still struggled through it, parked in a garage at the heart hospital, both the boss and manager had managed to weasel their way into the phone hearing, effectively double-teaming my sleep-deprived and pain-filled protests with lie after endless baldfaced lie. I was later ruled against, with the ruling citing that I wasn’t eligible because I had left prior to the actions threatened by my boss, not after – even though he followed through on them. As I waited for a final paycheck that never came, my fiance and I were left abruptly in a strange city with no money for a hotel room near his father. We slept in the car that night, and his father thankfully took a turn for the better the next day.
Upon investigating the issue with my paycheck, calls and emails to my former employers went unanswered, and a whispered conversation with the customer service woman told me they’d all been threatened with firing if anyone talked to me or the government, that I was to be hung up on if I called in. Finally, I involved the Wage and Labor department, who assigned a young woman to be my caseworker. A gruff-sounding gentleman called me from Wage and Labor a few days later, asking me for the address and exact office location of my boss. Apparently, he had been so dismissive and misogynistic to the woman, she’d returned to her boss with the story. He immediately recused her from the case and took it himself, storming into the offices after getting a location from me and securing my pay, in the process firmly informing my former employer that in America, we don’t talk to government officials like that. My boss tried to spew some line about my check having been waiting there for me the whole time – a curious feat, considering that the check I finally received was date-printed after the W&L visit and I was on direct deposit for a year prior.
The rest, as they say, is history. I became the ToyChick and started exploring the sex toy world on my own, and I heard more and more tales of people that had been through experiences similar to mine. I forged wonderful friendships with other escapees, and our network continues to grow and prosper even years later. I relate this tale for the consumption of my readers, carefully stripped of names and identifying information, and leave them to take from it what they will. Any ties I had to the company and their network are long dissolved, and I no longer live quietly for fear of burning bridges. It’s a lovely feeling, that. Consider this my fiddle solo, ala Nero.
I am not responsible for comments, who links to what here, and what they say about those links – I’m just a humble wordsmith, telling my story. ;)