The best laid plans
September 1, 2013 2:25 PM   Subscribe

This is not the question I wanted to ask this week, but last week, my employer forgot to submit my first time card on time, and I will (very) possibly not get paid this week. I am very poor right now.

This is a really bad time for this to happen-- essentially after a year of unemployment/poverty I got a good job offer in a different city, and moved my life on a shoestring. At the moment I'm living in an infested sweltering dump (subletting), barely have enough groceries to eat, and have called several of my credit card companies to delay payments on my loans and credit cards (I get 4-5 calls from the same credit card company every day and that's just one). I was JUST barely going to squeak by through this transition having not gotten paid from my new job in a month (normal, to me, when you start a new job), but now that my time card was forgotten, it would be another three weeks before I could get paid, and I just... can't wait that long. I had a very carefully balanced budget for the month that would just barely hit every expense in the nick of time, and now it's blown to pieces.

Further complicating things is that I was about to put down a security deposit on an apartment shortly after I expected to get paid this Friday (I got leniency for that long), and now if I don't have it, this perfect (cheap, close to work, flexible-lease in case my job goes south) apartment will vanish into thin air. Right now I'm living in a tiny room infested with centipedes (really infested, they crawl up my walls and fall on me in bed) and eating ramen every night, once a night, only eating one meal a day except for free coffee I get from my second (minimum-wage) job. I drink complimentary blended coffee drinks all morning for the calories because I know I can't afford to eat more than one meal on my own dime. My creditors are all crawling up my ass now (as previously stated) and while my credit score is not particularly good at the moment, that is because of high balances, not late payments. I do not want to rack up a history of late payments right now in the eleventh hour, when that could have been prevented by one paycheck. As of right now I have agreements with everyone that would keep me from dings on my credit score (I double-checked with them all.)

My parents don't have any money and my boyfriend is completely tapped as well. I can't take out anymore loans. What can I do? My HR representative helpfully contacted the payroll organization (it's separate from us, a third-party funding institution, if that makes sense) and explained that it was her fault, but I have no idea whether they'll be able to bump me some cash at the last moment or not. My impression is that payroll is not very flexible. Everyone was a bit lackadaisical about it, but I really can't afford to be.

The only thing that could make this worse is if I had a baby. (I may be exaggerating but my nerves are a bit frayed.) Is there any course of action I should take ASAP to possibly head things off at the pass or make sure that this doesn't snowball? I have a lot of credit card debt spread out throughout the month that I finally have a chance of paying off with this new job, but right now it's a horrible pain-- most of all I'm concerned about the security deposit. (I've been sleeping 2-3 hours a night because I have panic attacks over the bugs, and I always sleep with the light on, because I'm crazy over it. I feel so psychologically fragile about this move, and if I don't have a place in a few weeks, I'll be homeless until I find another sublet, which will set me back in terms of stability for another month... it's a spiral.) I have no close friends or family nearby and I have wracked my brain, but I really need some kind of strategy or eureka moment.

I was so hardheaded about this move, and I was just about to pull it off and get my life together-- and now I'm so afraid I'll plunge back into months of this kind of self-reinforcing poverty that has me feeling like trash. I've been crying at random times just out of fear and tension. I grew up poor, so this isn't totally foreign to me, but the sense of forever sinking down because you can't get a leg up is very familiar and depressing. I don't have any laundry money, and I'm starting to get filthy.

I'm sorry if this is a bit scattershot, after a month of stress and sleep deprivation I feel a little braindead, but I could use all the help I can get. (If anyone is in the area and wants to give me a hug, I'd appreciate it.)
posted by stoneandstar to Work & Money (39 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I just wanted to add that my priorities right now are finding a place to live where I can sleep soundly (my new job is pretty high-stress and abstract) and staying out of a bad place with my credit-- the food and everything are bad but I can deal temporarily if there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2013

Your boyfriend isn't nearby, I assume? Do you have friends that live elsewhere? A couple I know launched a campaign because they're coming up short on rent, and their communities have raised about $700 in $5-10 increments.

A few quick ideas:
Look into food stamps where you are. Your future income may disqualify you, but your current minimal income means you might be able to get them. Also check into food banks. Eating only ramen is probably making you feel more panicky. If you can get some beans or something from them, it might help your health. Also, if you haven't already, switch to decaff on those blended drinks--the extra caffeine is definitely not helping you sleep.

Wash your clothes in the sink! Hand soap will do in a pinch.

Persist with asking for a loan from your company or for your check to be rushed through.

Oh, and I am so sorry you have to deal with this. It's a rough situation no one should need to be in.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 2:34 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

First thing - breathe. Make a list and try and prioritise your needs. Getting them in some sort of order would help you to get your thoughts straight.

Keep pushing with HR, they should be able to give you an advance on your salary since it's the company's fault you missed the payroll run. This can happen within 2-3 days for most companies since it'll require some internal approvals.

Perhaps consider a food bank to help you supplement your diet. That'll give you more strength and help you think more clearly.

Financially, perhaps look at moving some of the debts to a zero rate credit card to give you some breathing room. Avoid the payday loan places as the fees they charge would dig you into a deeper hole. Other MeFites have recommended Dave Ramsey for financial advice on how to take debt and build stability. It may work for you.

Good luck!
posted by arcticseal at 2:41 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

What state are you in, because this may be illegal for them to not issue you a check for hours worked.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 2:42 PM on September 1, 2013 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Go back to HR and tell them that you cannot wait three weeks to be paid. I mean, tell them nicely - but no reputable company will let a new young hire wait three more weeks for a check. Have you told your supervisor or your mentor/training person about this? In many situations, they can lean on HR for you. The payroll company should not be unable to rush a check - that's ridiculous and if they say they can't, they're not telling the truth. This type of situation comes up all the time, unfortunately. (I've had to work with HR about this for new hires myself.)

I second the Gofundme suggestion and would kick in a little money.

Also, I am sorry about the centipedes.
posted by Frowner at 2:45 PM on September 1, 2013 [32 favorites]

You said they seem to act apathetic--is it about the fact that it's going to be late, or are they acting like it's not a big deal that your time card was late in the first place? As someone who has done payroll processing for smallish companies, anyway, in our case the lead time between time sheets and payroll was mostly BS and basically existed to cushion things for the company (week's delay could mean a lot to some of them, sadly) and to allow for some people submitting hours late. So if it's just that, you might get your money in time. I cannot possibly imagine that a legitimate employer (or payroll processor of any stripe) would actually make you wait until the next whole pay period. It really does not take that much effort to process a check.

So: Don't make this more than it has to be, before it is.

That said, food wise: Call every church you can find that's near enough for you to get to. They have lists of resources for stuff like this, usually. Either free meals or places that give out canned goods or etc.

Laundry: I agree with hand-washing. It's not perfect, but it'll do in a pinch. The major difference between dish soap and laundry soap is that laundry soap produces fewer suds, as far as I can tell--not relevant when washing by hand. (Very relevant when not wanting to overflow your washing machine.)
posted by Sequence at 2:46 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

Are you in Minnesota still? If so, please go here, read what it says, and then call (651) 284-5070. Otherwise, please give us your state. I can say to you with some confidence that it's illegal for them to just not pay you for many additional weeks.

The food thing is actually a much higher priority than you're giving it here - it's going to be making it incredibly hard to get almost anything done or to calm down and handle these stressors well. Go to a foodbank, seriously tomorrow morning if you can. Again, give us your state and city - if it's Duluth, here are some options.

Also, seriously consider couchsurfing, or even a homeless shelter. Whoever you're subletting from is almost certainly breaking the law.
posted by SMPA at 2:52 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

what area are you actually in? Because there may be area services peole can point you towards for temporary assistance.


I absolutely know you don't want to hear this but be careful that this doesn't become an ongoing problem with this company: "forgot to turn in your time card" is not uncommon for some smaller businesses to delay making payroll if they are financially shaky.

Seconding going in to HR and asking firmly yet persistently for your pay, they undoubtedly have a way to issue checks.

Hell if IT IS Duluth let me know and we can work something out (doubt it actually is), I know who to put you in contact with directly and certainly can make sure you have enough food
posted by edgeways at 2:56 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Everyone was a bit lackadaisical about it

They need to pull their thumbs out of their asses. They effed up; they need to fix it, ASAP. Go into HR and say that you need your FULL paycheck. Waiting another payroll cycle is bullshit.

For food: if you can find time to apply for emergency foodstamps, do so. Go online and see if your area offers an online filing process. Google for a list of local foodbanks. Those resources are out there; seek them out. There's no shame.
posted by nacho fries at 2:57 PM on September 1, 2013

Go to your HR person, say, "I'm sorry to be a pain but waiting three more weeks to be paid just won't be possible. I did everything I was supposed to do and have been counting on that money. I really need your help in solving this." And then don't take no for an answer. Be polite, be firm. Waiting almost 2 months for your first paycheck is completely out of line.

It is 100% possible for them to just write you a check out of their normal checking account, tell the payroll company, and have that amount factored into the next payroll. There is no reason (other than just not wanting to) that they can't have a check in your hand by the end of the day.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:57 PM on September 1, 2013 [24 favorites]

Also I can't tell if you are in Chicago now rather than Minnesota, but if you are, there are various people here who can make some suggestions about food and stuff in Chicago too. I know for a fact that there are some food distribution projects there, I just don't know where - but I have a couple people I can ask.
posted by Frowner at 3:03 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You may just have to (politely) park yourself in front of your HR rep and (politely) refuse to leave until they've fixed this.

"I need to be paid on Friday, as promised. How can we make that happen?"

If whatever they do doesn't immediately result in a "Yes, we will have that money to you on Friday," (e.g., they say, "Well, I've tried contacting the payroll company") then you say, "OK, what's the next solution?"
posted by jaguar at 3:03 PM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: My boyfriend is nearby, but he lives with his parents, who are not lovely people, and it's a bad situation. He stays with me at times to alleviate my apartment (pest) anxiety and to get out of the house. We will move in together when I do find a place, but he is actually worse off in terms of bank account than me, he just doesn't have any debt. He will help with rent once he starts getting paid from his new job as well.

To clarify, I don't have insomnia at all-- more like narcolepsy. I want to sleep constantly, I'm just terrified of pests. Caffeine makes me a bit more wacko, I'll admit. The major issue I have right now is my entomophobia, which makes me afraid to cook, sleep, shower, or go to the bathroom. That is why I'm a bit devastated about potentially not having an apartment. I know, a whole separate issue.

I'm no longer in Minnesota, but thank you so much everyone offering help. I'm in Chicago. I'm also disinterested in investigating the legality of this, since it all becomes sort of moot if there's no short-game (needing $$ now) or long-game (having a job).

About food and stress and health, I know, I really really do, but I literally can't afford the bus fare to get to the food bank if I want to make it to work for the rest of the week. I'm counting pennies.

Thank you so much, everyone. My instinct was to lean heavily on whomever I have to to make sure I get my paycheck on time (I'm good at doing that sort of thing), but I've never had a job this professional before, so I was intimidated by the way they seemed to think it was both unfixable and not a big deal. I'll get in contact with HR tomorrow and see if there's anyone up the food chain I should talk to ASAP.

Sorry for my life story here, I'm rambling.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:04 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: These people are bullshitting you. It is both fixable and a big deal, and they know it.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 3:08 PM on September 1, 2013 [27 favorites]

It may also be that HR lady does not want to admit to people up the ladder that she didn't submit your card - there's probably a small fee to the company (like $20) associated with a rushed check. This isn't an incredibly uncommon situation - I've encountered people who need the money right away (and we went to HR for a rush check) and people who were irritated but in a financial position to wait. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are dodgy, just slack - at least, it doesn't mean they're dodgy if they will fix it for you.
posted by Frowner at 3:11 PM on September 1, 2013 [10 favorites]

If you suddenly decided that you weren't going to work until a month from now but you still wanted them to pay you until then, and you'll just work twice as hard next month, they wouldn't go for it, right?
posted by XMLicious at 3:16 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

No matter how arcane the payroll processing, EVERY company is able to cut a check at short notice. Somebody in this company has a checkbook and a pen; you just have to find them and quietly make them feel extremely guilty that one of their employees is in this situation.

If it was my company I would find the matter so embarrassing that I'd write you a personal check if I needed to in order to make things good.

If you push and push and push and still nothing happens, I'd add "need another job" to your list of problems; in that case your employer is either insolvent or utterly obnoxious.
posted by emilyw at 3:16 PM on September 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

OK, so for Chicago,

Chicago Food Bank (lots of locations,)

Print this out and highlight question #6 (hand it to your HR rep,) and

Mental Health Chicago's Referral Library (has all kinds of other services and agencies that you can get a huge variety of help from, including ones that can possibly help with that security deposit or a different kind of housing.)
posted by SMPA at 3:20 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, I have personally processed four "emergency" checks for employees whose pay got screwed up, for all kinds of reasons (well, four different reasons) - that's over 5 years and for about 70 employees on my payroll at any one time. It's rare-ish, and it's annoying as all get out, but it happens, and anyone who does a lot of payroll (such as, for instance, a third-party payroll company!) has a process to handle it.

(The only reason I'm giving you these other resources is that I think you need more help than just this one check on time, and I agree with those above who suggested this employer may not be your long-term solution.)
posted by SMPA at 3:22 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I work for companies who use third party payroll, and have had a situation where in-house accounting screwed up and I really, really needed the check. I ended up having to spend some time on the phone raising hell with the third party company and driving to an inconvenient part of the city to pick up the check, but I got it. I know you've got a lot in your way right now, but I think if you are persistent with the people responsible for issuing the check you will eventually get it out of them in a timely manner. Good luck.
posted by justjess at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

First off, you can apply for SNAP (formerly called Food Stamps) online. Based on what you said, you'd qualify for expedited processing of those benefits- they would be required to get them to you within 5 days. This is because you have no money right now, regardless of what income/ compensation you may get later. If and when you finally get paid, if you're over income, at least you'd still have gotten help during this crisis. Please, please pursue this.

Secondly, I'm concerned that your company hasn't taken more responsibility and action on their mistake. It makes me worry that they're not too reputable.
posted by Neeuq Nus at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Go back to HR, definitely, and stress that not getting your check is simply not an option. If it were me I'd let them know that I wouldn't be able to pay rent or buy groceries without it - there may be a downside to that level of openness that I'm not aware of, but it's hard to imagine how they could possibly tell you to go ahead and wait if they knew your situation.

If HR still won't help, go to your manager. Your manager ought to fight for you.

Good luck! I have my fingers crossed for you.
posted by bunderful at 3:34 PM on September 1, 2013

Best answer: My instinct was to lean heavily on whomever I have to to make sure I get my paycheck on time (I'm good at doing that sort of thing), but I've never had a job this professional before, so I was intimidated by the way they seemed to think it was both unfixable and not a big deal.

If you weren't a new employee, and the check was going to be a week late, at maximum -- that is to say, you'd been getting paid regularly, you'd just gotten paid two weeks ago, and now you're going to have to wait one more week for your paycheck -- I could maaaaybeeeee squint my eyes and see how it could be "not a big deal." Moving, starting a new job, dealing with the normal new-job-so-pay's-delayed delays, PLUS an HR screw-up is a BIG DEAL. No reasonable person should expect you to be ok with that. (Of course, they may want you to be ok with it, since it makes their jobs easier, but they should not expect it, and you don't have to accept it.)

I think someone above also suggested this, but you may want to let your direct boss know that this happened, too; they may be able to apply a bit more pressure to HR than you can.
posted by jaguar at 3:44 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nope, this isn't okay. Go to HR and raise Holy Hell until they pay you. Then tell your boss that s/he needs to lean on someone until a check is in your hands.

Explain that your living situation is at risk, that you are broke and that it is NOT okay to Not pay you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:47 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Absolutely lean on your employer to fix this. A similar thing happened to me early on at a new job and my employer wrote me a check (the payroll company wasn't involved, IIRC), I got a double paycheck the next pay cycle, and then I wrote them a check that refunded the amount they'd already paid me. If this is due to their error, they need to fix this; especially if you just moved and haven't been paid at all yet. People need money to live- you shouldn't feel bad or guilty or scared to expose yourself as needing money. You're working for them, it's their job to make sure you get paid for it.
posted by MadamM at 3:49 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's the thing.

For some people, it is genuinely not a big deal to wait for a paycheck. When my husband's HR screwed his paycheck up once, they kind of shrugged their shoulders and told him to wait until next payperiod and he'd have both. Higher paying jobs in particular seem to be prone to this stuff.

So they're not necessarily being malicious, but you need to explain that you do actually need this money rightthefucknow.
posted by corb at 4:13 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

In addition to what everyone else recommends about the food stamps and leaning on HR, TELL YOUR BOSS.

I was once in a situation where I had to pay a credit card bill that had work expenses on it, and I hadn't gotten reimbursed by the time I had to pay. They said it would get done in the next cycle (2 weeks later).
I gently asked my boss if there was anything he could do because I really couldn't cover it and didn't want to rack up credit card debt for this, and he rushed into action on my behalf. He spoke sternly to HR and to payroll, and separately offered to cover what I needed in the meantime if they couldn't cut the check right away.
I had the check the next day.
posted by rmless at 4:22 PM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

Although it's scary to make a fuss at a new job, you need to make a little bit of a fuss. Push back. Somebody at that office has authority to cut you a check.
posted by radioamy at 4:24 PM on September 1, 2013

Best answer: I'm 90 minutes away, but I'm a pretty damn good cook. Memail me if there's anything at all I can do until you get this sorted. Seriously. I will dodge traffic and bring you quiche or whatever.
posted by Betafae at 4:26 PM on September 1, 2013 [36 favorites]

Best answer: If you are worried about revealing too much of your situation to HR (that is, not wanting to come off seeming desperate in a new job where you want to project calm professionalism), use the apartment.

In other words, "I've lined up an apartment, but if I'm not paid for three weeks I'll lose it and have to start from square one." That may allow you to give them a sense of urgency without talking about ramen, etc.

Not that they really need to be given a reason to pay you on time, they should be doing that anyway.
posted by Chanther at 5:17 PM on September 1, 2013 [10 favorites]

Best answer: 1. go back to HR and tell them your situation is serious and you need your check by the end of the day
2. go to the food bank once you get your paycheck. go to the grocery store as well but if you are that broke you would be wise to make use of the local food bank some bug spray and spray it into your vacuum when said vacuum is on and suck up the bugs
4. if you haven't already cut up all credit cards
5. get thee to debtors anonymous asap. i knew someone who went and he said it helped him tremendously.
6. open a savings account if you don't have one already and put money in it every month no matter how small e.g. $5-10

good luck!
posted by wildflower at 6:34 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just memailed you re food.

Laundry in the sink:
Shampoo works well, I haven't tried dish soap.
You probably need about 2 teaspoons per garment. Fill the sink or a big ziplock bag with the garment and some water. Apply the shampoo directly to where it's dirty--like the underarms--and get it all lathery with some water. Let that sit for just a minute or two, then squish the soap around all through the garment. Let it sit for a few minutes again. Now rinse, and wring, and rinse, and wring. Maybe one more rinse and wring. Hopefully you have some spare towels or sheets. Roll the garment up in the towel, set on the floor, and step all over it to get out as much water as possible. Now hang to dry.
posted by Anwan at 7:06 PM on September 1, 2013

You have plenty of good answers but I wanted to chime in that I've had payroll fuck ups like this happen to me twice with large, reputable companies and both times accounting acted like it was no big deal to make me wait, and HR and my bosses took care of it and treated it like a very big deal. The first time, i was embarassed to make noise about it (luckily my boss did for me). The second time I was too experienced to put up with that shit - when accounting told me to wait, i talked to HR and had letters to my directors drafted while I waited to see if HR was going to take it seriously. Lean on them. This is your money, they don't get your time for free.
posted by annathea at 8:07 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Do not even feel bad about pressuring them to figure this out, via HR or your supervisor. I know how when you're broke, being broke can feel like this shameful secret you try your best to keep hidden. But waiting 7 weeks for a first paycheck would be a big deal to about 80% of the people I work with at my office job. I don't know what your workplace is like, but I'd be very surprised if that wasn't true there, too. In my opinion, almost anyone in your shoes would be seeking to gently assert their rights here.
posted by salvia at 8:38 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Re: the centipedes, since it sounds like you'll be in the same sleeping situation for a couple more nights at least, maybe hang a sheet over your bed like a tent? I'm guessing this isn't the kind of place where it would be a big deal to drive a couple of nails into the walls to support a cord over which you could drape the sheet. maybe move the bed away from walls too, and I don't know whether putting the bed's legs in dishes of soapy water would help with centipedes, but I'd try it if you can.
posted by lakeroon at 6:17 AM on September 2, 2013

Mrs. Zooropa and I live in he western suburbs of Chicago and want to help. I just MeMailed you.
posted by zooropa at 8:39 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I (longtime lurker) registered just to respond to this question. Sent you a MeMail yesterday and have been anxiously watching my inbox since. No pressure or anything, but I (too!) am in the western suburbs and will be able to help you out with hugs, food, and bugs, if you want it. It would be a favor to me, really.

Everyone else: hi!
posted by spelunkingplato at 10:11 AM on September 2, 2013 [19 favorites]

Update? Are you OK now?
posted by Jacqueline at 2:35 AM on September 9, 2013

Response by poster: Hi, update:
After a bit of discussion, it was determined that a check would be sent to me (directly) which would reach me today at the latest. It is today, and I have no check. At least the promise of one relatively soon remains. It's still going a bit rough until that arrives.

Thank you everyone for your great advice and encouragement and all the support-- I've been trying to write back to people who MeMailed me for the last week and still haven't contacted everyone. Thank you thank you thank you!
posted by stoneandstar at 7:41 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

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