Monday, 9 March 2009

Nothing changes does it? - A Modern Scam in 1886

Muriel Merton writes - Dear Sylvia, I have obtained a situation as a nursery governess, and as I am quite new to the duties, etc, would be glad if you will kindly answer one or two questions. 1. How often is it usual to have a holiday? (Generally one day a month, but it is according to arrangement when the engagement is made.) 2. How would the salary be paid, monthly or quarterly? (Monthly, as a rule.) 3. I should like to know if your readers know anything of some people who are constantly advertising for ladies to undertake home needlework. I have answered several, and find that the usual mode of procedure is to send a printed circular, offering to send materials for a sample yard of bugle lace trimming in return for so many stamps, varying from thirteen to eighteen. They agree to inspect the work when completed, remit stamps to value, and if the work is up to their standard, to supply constant employment. In one instance, I sent eighteen stamps, and sent home the yard of lace, which, I may mention, occupies from two to three days, working about ten hours a day. They acknowledged that the work was very good, and actually offered me the handsome sum of eightpence. Of course I preferred keeping my work. They went on to say that for work equal to sample, they would pay 8s. per dozen yards, the worker to find her own materials -net, 1s a dozen; bugles, 1s a lb, which would bring down the price of the work to 6d. per yard, and a worker would at this rate earn from 2s to 3s per week. Now, is it possible that anyone would work for that, taking into consideration that the work is extremely trying to the eyesight, and often makes one suffer from bad headaches, so that it would be almost impossible to continue at it for any length of time. And yet these people keep on advertising, evidently they find it pay. I daresay there are hundreds like myself, who send for the sample yard, and then give it up in disgust. Of course, a yard of net, a few bugles, and pattern, is not worth more than a few pence. I wish some of your readers would state their experience, for it is quite time these things were stopped. It seems so cruel in these days when so many are seeking for employment, and perhaps some people would send their last shilling, only to be disappointed. (Your letter came too late for reply in our May Number, I sincerely wish we could stop these people who thrive on the needs and distress of friendless women.)

Taken from Sylvia's Journal, Our Drawing Room, June, 1886.

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