Confessions Of A Protester

I have a confession to make.  When I was 19 and 20 years old, I was a paid protester.  I remember walking around the mall during vacation one day and getting approached by a guy who offered me lunch, a t-shirt, and a $10 gift card if I would protest outside a Macy’s store.

“What are we protesting?” I asked him.  “Oh, just the fact that we aren’t getting paid enough and don’t have enough hours,” he responded.  “We deserve to make more money!”

“Sounds like an excellent cause, sign me up!” I told him as he gave me all the goodies so I could walk around for 1.5 hours shouting a slogan in front of the store.  I was oblivious to what I was protesting since I was not one of them.  I just pretended to be a victim so long as I got a free meal and the $10 gift card to spend at Footlocker.  We didn’t have iPhones and iPads like all the protesters today.  We kinda had nothing.

DO IT AGAIN FOR THE EXPERIENCE

It was so fun to protest, I decided to do it again the next summer.  This time, it was in front of a Hilton hotel where plumbers were on strike, again for insufficient wages.  I received another lunch and $10 bucks as well as a sign that read, “Pay us fairly, or we’ll blow your shit up!”  It was a blast!

I admire the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I know some of them are paid or sponsored just like I was, while some of them really think that they are making a difference by sitting around and chanting.  You’d think it might be a better use of time working on their interview skills, resumes, and credentials.  But, sometimes, banging drums and hugging each other is just way too fun!

If I was unemployed and living at home, I’d definitely go out there and share the love of the people.  Times are tough, and if we can come together and sing, it feels great!  I do that all the time with my trusty old Martin acoustic guitar.  I know a lot of you don’t know exactly what you are protesting about, since taxpayers did make over $10 billion from TARP bailout money so far, and it was the government who provided all the goodies and not Wall St.  But, who cares?  It’s all about one love.

STAY CONSISTENT AND PERSISTENT

So to all my fellow protesters out there, carry on!  Everybody should experience one protest movement at least once in their lives.  It’s invigorating!  Not only that, it provides perspective and empathy once you’re on the other side of the fence.

Just don’t go protesting capitalism and then carry an Apple product and charge it at McDonald’s, the most profitable restaurant chain in the world.  Don’t protest animal rights while wearing leather shoes either.

Go naked to really fight rampant capitalism and income disparity!

Finally, if you’re one of the 50% of Americans who pay no Federal income taxes, then Wall Street and capitalism hasn’t taken your money one bit.  Have fun and keep up the good work!  Power to the people!

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

You can sign up to receive his articles via email or by RSS. Sam also sends out a private quarterly newsletter with information on where he's investing his money and more sensitive information.

Subscribe To Private Newsletter

Comments

  1. Kevin @ Thousandaire.com says

    Compare this to the Tea Party. People are getting paid to get out there and stand around and hold signs, while the Tea Party is a group of like minded people with a common cause who understand that the best way to make real change is to fully understand what you believe in and convene at the ballot box.

    I’ll all for protesting when you have something you believe in. But I really don’t understand what these people expect Wall Street to do about their problems.

    • Janna says

      Didn’t the Tea Party start out by holding rallies and protesting?

      I haven’t really been following the Wall Street protests very closely, but I do understand the frustration of the average person when faced with the power of a financial institution. Two or three years ago, a certain Big Bank which shall remain unnamed (hereafter referred to as BFB) decided they weren’t making enough money from certain credit card holders (myself and another approximate 500,000 others if I remember correctly.) We all (this included many small business owners) had previously obtained very low interest rates on balance transfers (2.99% for me) “for the life of the loan”. The bank, of course, hoped people would add new purchases on to their old debt, thereby mixing the low rate with a high rate, and still make a nice profit. That’s fine for them if people do that. Howerver, smart consumers like myself didn’t do that…. just continued to pay the debt off at the low rate. So BFB decided to add on a $10 PER MONTH “fee” AND raise the minimum payment from 2% to 5%. If you didn’t agree to that, they were going to raise your rate (2.99% to 7.99% for me.) I had done nothing wrong, and yet they could unilaterally just go back on the deal we had made!!

      Easy to say that I could have switches banks, but really not true! Although I could have, I would have lost the deal I had…… I ended up fighting… many phone calls (several ended up in India) and letters to BFB and also to the authorities…. not just me, but many many people like me did that. I finally ended up winning, but I don’t think everyone did.

      It’s this kind of bad behavior that makes people angry at financial institutions and feel powerless as an individual. When enough people have these types of experiences, they are going to gather together. At this point, there may be some paid protesters there, and some who may not really know why they are protesting, but there is a core there that has some valid points, I am sure. We’l see what ends up happening.

      • Financial Samurai says

        Why are people protesting corporations though? Should people protest people and corporations protest other corporations? Doesn’t seem to make sense.

        I wrote about my frustrations on why Bank of America treated me so bad. Guess what? I did something about it and closed all my accounts and refinance my mortgage away from them. You can complain, or do something. Move your money!

        Read: http://www.financialsamurai.com/2011/08/10/why-do-you-treat-me-so-badly-bank-of-america/

        • Janna says

          Huh? You don’t understand why people might protest the practices of a corporation (as in my specific example) ? I’m just trying to help you understand why some people may be frustrated .

      • Kevin @ Thousandaire.com says

        What makes you think you have a legal right to a certain credit card deal any more than you have a legal right to a McChicken for $1? If a company decides to make their product more expensive, you have the choice to either pay the increased price or take your business elsewhere.

        Good for that bank for increasing their profits, and good for you for keeping the card at the terms you want. Sounds like a win-win. It’s great to hear that capitalism still works.

        • Janna says

          Totally wrong, Kevin. I had a guaranteed 2.99% rate “for the life of the loan”. PERIOD! It was a contract. I paid a transfer fee up front to guarantee this rate (consideration). Their changing the terms unilaterally was a breach of contract. Is this really the way corporations should behave….as bullies? Trying to get away with what they can because they assume the little guy will have no recourse?

          Good for me for keeping it at the terms I had been guaranteed! But not without a lot of PROTEST. I did end up winning, but I will tell you one thing. Had you asked me my opinion of this bank 5 minutes before I opened that bill to discover what they were trying to do….. I would have told you… this is a great company! NOW – almost 3 years later, anyone who knows me has heard the tales of the evil BFB. So they do get a lot of free publicity from me, like it or not.

        • JT says

          She’s talking about Chase, and she has every right to be pissed. They gave a lot of people 2.99% APR balance transfers back in the day, then, on a whim, decided that everyone who had an open BT and made only minimum payments should have to pay 5% minimum payments vs. 2%.

          It was legal as the terms say they’re subject to change, but it was very dirty business on Chase’s part.

  2. Srinivas says

    HAHA. This is probably one of my favorite posts I’ve read of yours. I do think it’s funny that you could get paid to protest. After 4 years at Berkeley I became desensitized to protests since there seemed to be one everyday. But yeah, anybody who protests for animal rights wearing leather shoes is kind of asking for a slap in the face.

  3. Janna says

    Didn’t the Tea Party start out by holding rallies and protesting?

    I haven’t really been following the Wall Street protests very closely, but I do understand the frustration of the average person when faced with the power of a financial institution. Two or three years ago, Chase Bank decided they weren’t making enough money from certain credit card holders (myself and another approximate 500,000 others if I remember correctly.) We all (this included many small business owners) had previously obtained very low interest rates on balance transfers (2.99% for me) “for the life of the loan”. The bank, of course, hoped people would add new purchases on to their old debt, thereby mixing the low rate with a high rate, and still make a nice profit. That’s fine for them if people do that. Howerver, smart consumers like myself didn’t do that…. just continued to pay the debt off at the low rate. So Chase decided to add on a $10 PER MONTH “fee” AND raise the minimum payment from 2% to 5%. If you didn’t agree to that, they were going to raise your rate (2.99% to 7.99% for me.) I had done nothing wrong, and yet they could unilaterally just go back on the deal we had made!!

    Easy to say that I could have switches banks, but really not true! Although I could have, I would have lost the deal I had…… I ended up fighting… many phone calls and letters to Chase and also to the authorities…. not just me, but many many people like me did that. I finally ended up winning, but I don’t think everyone did.

    It’s this kind of behavior that makes people angry at financial institutions and feel powerless as an individual. When enough people have these types of experiences, they are going to gather together. At this point, there may be some paid protesters there, and some who may not really know why they are protesting, but there is a core there that has some valid points, I am sure. We’l see what ends up happening.

  4. Untemplater says

    Haha being paid to protest, that’s awesome. There are protests all the time in SF. I think I see about 3-5 large ones a month at least and sometimes a lot more, esp for BART issues. That’s why Frank Chu has stuck around so long here. ;) SF protests wouldn’t be the same without him.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Ahhh, Frank Chu, the guy with the sign who is always there! That guy be making bank from all the protests!

      I do believe people need to protest and fight for their rights. I really, really, REALLY do. Just make it make sense and be consistent!

  5. krantcents says

    Paid protesters certainly changes the whole idea of protesting! What’s next unionization of the protesters? I see very little value in protesting (picketing)! I rather hit them in the pocket book.

  6. Maggie@SquarePennies says

    Back in the day, protests on college campuses were a new thing. One of my professors assigned our class to report on the student sit-in at our student union. They were protesting the student union building closing at 10 pm every night (I don’t think they could think of anything else to protest.) I know, sounds like the stone age. I went, sat in, and went back to my dorm after 1 am when it was really boring & I was tired. I do remember rumors went through the cafeteria there that the governor was sending the National Guard to break up the protest & the Guard was on the way. This was considered a serious threat because of the college students who’d been shot dead by the National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio. (Google it.) There was real fear. I decided I didn’t need to make a stand for later closing hours.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Glad you experienced some protesting! I remember the Kent State protesting well.

      Ya gotta admit, protesting a 10pm closing time seems pretty unimportant and a world full of issues.

      But anyway, did they bend and stay open later?

      • Maggie@SquarePennies says

        Yes, it was totally unimportant. I think they extended the closing time to midnight
        and added some movie nights. It was a fairly conservative campus with few
        politically active students. Orders of magnitude from schools like Columbia or
        Berkeley. Also after Kent State I think they were afraid to protest something
        controversial. There was a lot of hate in the country towards protesters among the parents’ generation, as I’m sure you remember. My dad had a fit when I came home from college with “granny glasses” and bell-bottom pants. He didn’t want me to be seen like that in our hometown. I would disgrace him. Not much in the way of tolerance for differences back then. Personally I think a lot of the counter culture then was just to break out of the strict 1950s/1960s expectations of how to act. It was a very narrow box they tried to put you in.

  7. Jackson says

    I think we all know the protesters on wall street are just a bunch of people too lazy to get a job and want people with jobs to pay for them.

    But after I saw a certain segment of news, I realise that these people are also idiots.

    A journalist asked one of the protesters, “If a CEO approached you and offered you a job for $150,000, would you take it?”
    Protester says, “No.”

    Everyone in general needs to get an education or learn a trade, or make a damn good plan to pay bills while flipping burgers.

    The wealthy people should not be punished for success, the same way the poor should not be rewarded for incompetence.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Isn’t it the American way to get people hooked on government subsidies so they can re-elect politicians and keep them in power? It’s like a nice drug that prevents people from launching.

  8. 20's Finances says

    Wow, this post has inspired quite the political debate. I think I will sidestep the debate and just comment how amazing it is that you got paid to protest. That is a new one for me. :) I don’t know if I will join a cause for $10 and a meal, but maybe if I get desperate.

  9. Janna says

    I doubt if that guy was typical. If you go to a Tea Party rally, you’ll be able to find people making racist remarks, but that doesn’t mean all Tea Partiers are racist. And I can think of one very high profile Tea Partier who iS an idiot. Idiocy doesn’t follow party lines.

    Many, many unemployed now are people with high education, skills, or trade who can’t get a job. And not because they are lazy or incompetent.

    People are frustrated because of the way the distribution of wealth has become so lopsided. This is NOT the way America used to be. In 1980, CEO made 42 times the pay of the average worker. In 2010, CEO made 343 times the average worker.

    In 1980, the top marginal tax rate for a single person was 70% for income over $108,300 (that is 294,907 in 2011 dollars). In 2011, the top rate is 35% for income over 379,150.

    So the rich get richer AND pay less taxes on it! That has the effect of concentrating the wealth in a small percentage of people. Then, on top of that, companies are cutting jobs to save money (ummm..what about cutting CEO salary??) and then all we have is people like you saying the unemployed are lazy bums! It’s people like you that are causing people to revolt! Bad enough not to have a job, but to have to listen to all this rhetoric about being lazy is just too much….

    And who decides what CEO’s get paid? The Board! Could be an “inside” director that actually reports to the CEO! HUH??? Or an “outside” director of a board which could be packed with cronies!

    So, the idea that we are becoming a Socialist country, and that the wealthy are being punished for success is really preposterous .

    I’m employed, and I’m not a protester, but I think these are some of the frustrations they are feeling.

    • Financial Samurai says

      The CEO salary rise is amazing, and so are their exit packages when they get fired. The Board should tie at least 90% of their compensation to their share price performance and other profitability measures + good corporate citizenship.

      Hopefully protesters can get more focused in their protests and not rage against the majority of working class citizens who work on Wall St who make very average wages.

      Why protest Capitalism with your iPhone?

  10. Patrick says

    After watching protests in the Middle East and the reaction of the Syrian Government, shooting the people and killing them, I believe the people protesting on Wall Street are getting off pretty easy.

    I say we bring out the fire department and hose them down. Ok, maybe that has been tried before and didn’t work out so well. Protesters are like little kids throwing fits in a store, if you just ignore them they eventually stop when they realize no one cares.

  11. Darwin's Money says

    Doesn’t it strike you as a bit disingenuous to be a paid protester? It’s laughable to me that any movement that claims to have any legitimacy would actually pay people to feign interest in their cause. I’m guessing that only a small portion of those “occupiers” of late are actually paid but I have seen reports that they’re rounding up people to protest for money, so it’s along the same lines of the ones you were involved in; I’m sure there are plenty of pissed off Americans out there that just want to vent and blame someone – and Obama’s constant class warfare has made Wall Street THE target to beat on. But they should really be taking out their anger on the politicians that are completely dysfunctional and inept. The Wall Street crash is now 3 years old and we’re going back to the well in 2011? Come on people, get real!

    • Financial Samurai says

      It’s definitely a little disingenuous to be a paid protester, but that’s what capitalism creates, some mismatches and odd-ball occurrences.

      I’m waiting for the movement to go to the White House.

  12. youngandthrifty says

    I had no idea there was such thing as a paid protestor…!

    I was a paid canvasser when I was 14, for something like “Feed the Children” or something.

    I love this song- Pumped up Kicks… I wanted to see the video so thanks for posting it!

  13. Financial Independence says

    Honestly, I think it is a bit pathetic. Yes, right of free expression, but if someone want social justice and communism – they are welcome to go to China.

    If rich do not want to pay more – it is their right to do so, if there is no medical benefits – it is their right.

    If somebody lends you money- either mortgage or student loan – it is your decision to take it. This is freedom. No revolutions here, thank you very much.

  14. Mom Equity says

    I’m not sure how much good this is going to do – but I’m pretty sure the majority of these protestors are employed. I think the sad thing about the extremist capitalist view is that it takes any sense of trust out of business. We trust certain companies to do the right thing with our investments (and their companies) and when they mismanage they get a pass with our tax dollars. I am self-employed and in the top 5% of income earners, but if I ever had a company I wouldn’t pay myself more than 20 times the average salary of my employees. Corporate big wigs make hundreds of times what their average employee makes, and then those same employees tax dollars were used to pay their multi million dollar bonuses. Just because it’s legal and falls under the broad heading of capitalism doesn’t make it right.

  15. Jim Juber says

    Food for thought.

    I am the CEO of my household. I am responsible for increasing profits as much as possible. I do so by cutting cost and increasing my revenue. At the moment, I am sitting on a bundle of cash because I have super-sized savings in the last three years. I have “layed off” the phone landline. I have “layed off” digital cable/HDTV because they wanted a “raise”. I refused to give a “COL” raise to my home and car insurance, so I’m paying the same amount again this year. I have “out-sourced” my high speed internet, thus saving even more money. I have avoided “hiring” by not taking on any new bills. I refused to make any major purchases (house, car and furniture). Instead of buying American, I now consume products from China and Mexico because it is cheaper.

    Yet, if i was a big corporation, some americans would want me to spend my cash reserves to fuel the economy. My cost cutting moves could be compared to laying off workers. It also could be compared to making the remaining employees work harder and long. Buying goods from China and Mexico is similiar to shipping some jobs offshore. They would insult me because of these cut cutting expenses. They would demand that I pay a “living wage”. They would demand that I bring “jobs” back to the USA. They would demand “profit sharing” because I have increase the overall revenues. For the coup de grace, they would demand I pay a more taxes!!!!

    Protesting CEO’s pay, corporation revenues, corporations choice of offshoring…..is really a great idea.
    But if someone DEMANDED me to spend my savings, to take on debt or to increase my overhead……i would punch them in the face for simple living!!!
    Ok….maybe not that violent, but will continue to look out for “My Company” first and foremost.

  16. TheBigOne says

    No wonder our country is sucked dry by groups such as you who causes the government to waste tons of money cleaning up damaged parks and people like you should pay money for the police presence and for each pepper spray that gets used by you’re rock throwers and fuel used by police cars/vans.etc used to transport prisoners.

    I bet if you silly protesters had to pay for all that suddenly you’re priorities would change and the country would be a whole lot cleaner too!

    . We might as well allprotest about the right to protest!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *