Unfair Competition

Unfair competition is getting me depressed.

Lately people want me to lower my prices to about 6€ an hour. I don’t know about you but I’m sure in the States you wouldn’t pay ANYONE 6€ an hour for ANYTHING. Not your cleaning lady, not your babysitter. Not anyone. 6€ an hour is not even minimum wage, not even here in Spain.

However those of us who work in the black market – and I do admit that I work in the black market, but I do so because no one is offering jobs in this depressed and poverty-stricken city where local unemployment is at over 36%, and if we don’t work on the black market, then we don’t work, and if we don’t work we don’t pay our bills, our rent or feed our families – as I was saying those of us who work in the black market can’t really complain, protest or report anyone anywhere. We just have to take it or leave it.

Or move out to a more prosperous region. If we can afford it, that is.

If I don’t agree to charge 6€ an hour, there are 10 more people in line waiting for my work. And some of them are even willing to work for free.

As I said, unfair competition.

Blank Wall in blue

A blank wall, because this is what you get when you hire someone for free. Because in life you DO get what you pay for. Well, blank walls are good on your home, perhaps............

They are willing to work for free because they are loafing around in their parents’ homes where they are more than adequately fed, clothed and warmed by the heater (well air conditioner, more precisely, especially in the hot summers that we enjoy here). So all they want is to earn a little pocket money so that they can go out for a drink on Friday evenings, or spend the whole night in a disco. Let’s face it, a drink and a night of dancing on the town cost a lot of money!

However their drinking and dancing all night is depriving my children of their daily bread.

We just spent a whole weekend where I couldn’t even buy a loaf of bread for my kids to eat the whole weekend long. No bread, no potatoes, not even a brik of milk. I was cleaning the bathroom with toilet paper because we couldn’t afford a roll of kitchen paper towels. (All right I admit I’m not the pickiest house-cleaner around, I’m sure others have a whole stash of every brand name of everything. Me, just bleach and some paper towels – when I can afford them, that is.)

And the reason for this is because of negotiations the whole week long with potential new clients. Clients who want me to lower my prices because there are 10 other eager workers waiting in line willing to work for free.

Yes, for free.

So, it doesn’t matter that these free-wage workers are teenagers with no experience, who haven’t even completed their high school studies and therefore their knowledge would be more or less at a par with that of their students, who are also high school kids.

It doesn’t matter that it’s even possible that these “teachers” know even less than their students.

It doesn’t matter, because they’re free!

So what is the point, you might ask, of people working for free anyways?

Well, you get work experience, so essential in a city where unemployment is at 36% and the rate for people who have never worked before shoots up to a whopping 50%!!

(Although I believe that the rate for us foreigners and ex-pats would probably be somewhere closer to 100%, but who cares about foreigners anyways? I mean, if you don’t like it, just pack your bags and go home!)

You get references. And references are very important in a culture where who-you-know counts more than your curriculum vitae.

And if you work for free, you can always harbour the hopes that your clients will like you so much that next year, when you decide to begin charging for your services – you will, of course, still charge a very low, modicum price, however, say 3€ an hour maybe? – your clients will be willing to pay you in order to retain your services, because they were very pleased with you.

All right, so why should I charge for my services when others are doing my job for free? (Other than, of course, that I need the money to live on and to feed my kids.)

Well, I’m a native English speaker. So no matter how you look at it, I will inevitably speak English better than any Spanish high school student who has only studied English for 2 years, like their own pupils. The only difference being that these free-wage teachers have probably gotten an “A” at school in English class whereas their pupils probably failed English.

I have many years of experience teaching English, so I can identify people’s difficulties and weak points and give them solutions, to help them solve their problems. I can also teach any kind of student, from children to elderly people.

However, who cares about that? People don’t want English classes for their preschool kids or for their elderly parents. They don’t need the services of a native speaker. They just want the bare minimum so that their lazy teenager, who wasn’t paying any attention in his classes at school and hates English and will never, ever use it in his lifetime, can pass his exams.

Besides which, what have they got to lose? After all, it’s free, right?

And at the very worst, the only thing that could happen is that their free English teacher is very, very bad, the lazy teenager flunks again and they would only have lost one school year.

So then they can start all over again next year. After all, there are more free English teachers out there. Maybe the next one in line will turn out to be better than his predecessor.

Or maybe they might just start considering the possibility of hiring a paid teacher next time round.

But that won’t happen till next year.

Or until the economy gets better and the crisis goes away.

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