Friday, May 17, 2013

Man, I want to go to China someday to give a talk

From international political economy professor Daniel Drezner, a comment on being paid honoraria for speaking in China:
1) From a personal perspective, as the occasional visitor to China, I can confirm the wads of cash thing -- but it's a bit more complicated than Barboza suggests. First of all, for U.S. academics at least, the payment isn't in renminbi, but in U.S. dollars. Renminbi is sometimes dispensed for things like per diem reimbursements, but not for honoraria. After all, officially, the RMB is still not convertible to dollars outside of the country, so it wouldn't be very nice to get paid in a currency that is technically useless outside the People's Republic. 
There are two other qualifiers here. First, at least with respect to academic honoraria, it's not just China that pays in cash -- so does Japan, for example. Second, speaking as an academic who's received the occasional honorarium, it's friggin' awesome. At some point, someone takes you aside and gives you an envelope stuffed with bills. I know it's impolite to say, but every time it happens, I feel like I'm an earner in Tony Soprano's crew. It's soooooo much more satisfying than getting a check (as is the norm in the U.S.) or receiving a bank transfer three months later than it should be and only after haranguing someone a few times (as is the norm in Europe). 
Having just worked in the United States, I haven't had the pleasure of being paid in cash. (I've been paid in work experience and donuts -- why do you ask?) Whenever I go to the ATM to pull out a couple hundred bucks when we go on vacation, I always feel a little weird.

Readers, what's the best way you've been paid?

10 comments:

  1. Unstable IsotopeMay 17, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    The best way is direct bank deposit. You don't have to go to the bank at all. It's been this way since I was a grad student.

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  2. At one summer job through my Uni, I had worked more overtime hours than their policies would allow to be directly paid for, so they offered me an equivalent amount of beer. And being a 21 year old male at the time, I gladly accepted.

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  3. CoulombicExplosionMay 17, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    While in the process of moving to my first job out of grad school, I had a little over $1000 in this credit union savings account that I need to consolidate into my checking account at another bank in order to be liquid enough to get started in my new city. When I closed out the account, I kinda expected to be given a cashier's check for the amount, but instead I got a wad of cash. Though technically not payment (as it was my money to begin with) I certainly felt awkward walking around with such a large amount of cash money in my pocket.

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  4. I supplement my non-competitive stipend with rolls of paper towels; having dependents (and pets) through grad school, that form of (self)payment is worth its weight in gold!

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  5. When I was in grad school, I had a regular (awesome!) babysitting gig for a family that ended up becoming good friends of mine. The dad was in charge of his office's holiday party one year, and when they came home, they asked if they could just pay me in beer "since we know that's what it's going for anyways...let's just cut out the middle man!" They didn't, but it was funny. They also often came home with hot Krispy Kreme, which they always shared.

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  6. Tutoring Organic as a side gig while in grad school I would often receive a wad of cash for a few hours work... always felt awesome getting a stack of 20's for reading over powerpoint slides and doing mundane homework with the students

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  7. A few years ago I organized and assisted with a project for one of our sister companies at our facility, as they lacked any local facilities of their own. It wasn't easy to conjure a safety-compliant workspace in an already-packed lab for work we wouldn't normally do involving hazards and materials we wouldn't normally use. I also gave up 3 weeks for work that would yield absolutely no return for our own organization. (CUE THE VIOLINS, AMIRITE?)

    As a token of appreciation, the sales rep offered to take me and a few guests to an event of my choosing at The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth; nothing like a nice dinner with friends, some chuckwagons, a few shamelessly overpriced brews and one hell of a fireworks display.

    That it came from a sales rep, whose ilk tend to treat us like our job description includes "indentured servitude to the sales unit," was certainly symbolic enough to sweeten the experience.

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  8. This didn't happen to me personally, but ~30 some years ago, the country music artist (actually Western music, and yes, there is a difference between country and Western music) Michael Martin Murphey gave a concert for the staff working at the national Boy Scout camp in New Mexico. He was living in Taos at the time, a short drive away (by New Mexico standards, that is). He really wasn't interested in getting any money, so they best the camp could offer him was one of the numerous burros that the camp kept.

    Having worked with burros, I think the camp got the better deal. Way better. But I had the best deal of all, front and center seats for only $2

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  9. At my university there exists a foundation which rewards chemistry students who get excellent grades during their bachelor/master studies. I was awarded two of these prizes which would amount to around 13'000 US dollars in total. This being europe I expected to get that by bank transfer (I have never seen a check in my life). But when I went to the responsible office the guy just opened a drawer, took out a pile of 100 bills and counted the respective sum. He then put them in an envelope because "you will be more comfortable like this". Still it was quite awkward to walk to the bank with a large wad of cash in my pocket.

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  10. Daniel: which university are you at and how the hell do I do a degree there? $13000 between two prizes? Seriously?

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