Badge on my list of freelance and travel experiences!
(Background: As I travel in Colombia, I barter my design services to hostels in exchange for stay.)
Update: After talking to my police friend, a few other Colombian friends and a Colombian lawyer I just met, I’ve heard all around that Colombian police are not corrupt, and aren’t bought off. I have heard from some American and non-colombian latin-American friends that this is not true. I am going to trust the people that live here over the people who don’t. Perhaps it was different in the past, perhaps people here are unaware of how it works… But I am choosing to trust them and feel safe.
The co-owner of Tropica Hostel in Cali, Colombiaapparently, by his own assertion if I can trust it, pays off the police in San Antonio.
He agreed to 5 days of shelter and food, and laundry for 2 extra hours in exchange for 4 hours of graphic design work each day, then the next day told me
“Only if I like your work, and on only 2 kg of laundry. Stay tonight and if we like your work, stay the rest of your days.”
Of course I asserted myself, saying I want us to honor our agreement. I realized it was negotiation or nothing, so I negotiated for 4 kg of laundry and said I can’t work with someone who changes their mind so much. Please be more consistent going forward, but I’ll show you my first draft tonight…
He said okay.
He and his wife own the place. I told him I wanted to show them both together since he kept saying his wife didn’t like my stuff and she’s part of the decision.
He held the availability of shelter over my head. It was around 10pm, and I couldn’t find another place, so I had no choice. He liked it but had to check with his wife. I told him I can’t work like this. I would give him my laundry and then leave the next day. We got into an argument, and I knew I made the right decision.
This morning, after receiving my clean laudry and breakfast, when they gave me less than they did the day before, I was approached by a staff pressuring me to leave 4 hours before checkout time, which I brushed off. And then him, demanding I send him the flyers I made. I told him we broke the agreement the night before. If he wants to continue working with me, I am happy to provide him the flyers given we recognize our original agreement. I don’t want to provide him something that is unfinished, and I want us to honor our original agreement.
He proceeded to intimidate me, yelling and getting in my face, upon which I stood my ground.
Then he started pushing me. I didn’t want to fight him. It’s his hostel, I am in a different country where I don’t know the reprocussions, he has influence over the area, and is friends with the police.
So I got my stuff and left.
My computer was still out. He stole it, forcefully put the flyer on his USB drive, and gave it back to me. He told me he’s having the police arrest me… I don’t know if that’s true, and I messaged my police friend to check behind the scenes. To have some backup. He says he pays off the police and can make that happen. It’s 50/50 true/an intimidation tactic but I don’t want to take my chances.
Time to find an AirBnB, and share this experience all over Yelp, Facebook, etc.
I may have pissed off a guy in power, but I still respect myself.
Morals of the story:
- Always respect yourself first. Some people feel entitled to your work, your obedience etc and will attempt to manipulate and intimidate you to get what they feel is theirs. It only works if you let it.
- Be careful when you work with new people. Expecially in a new place where you don’t know the customs. I could probably have humbled myself a little more while still respecting myself to ease the situation. That said, this guy was clearly manipulative and abusive, and this would likely have happened either way.
- Stoicism. The world will throw shit at you when you do something that makes a difference. And sometimes it will throw gold your way. You can’t get one without the other. Learn to take the shit (dodge as much as you can!) and clean yourself off so you can pick up the gold.
“Every time the world throws a piece of shit at you, and it really hurts, it’s probably because there’s a gold coin hidden inside. Clean yourself off and collect the reward!” ~Joe Buchoff.