For many years now, Craigslist has been used for everything from dating strangers who are most likely serial killers to buying cars and appliances which have likely been owned by a serial killer. But despite its age, Craigslist also represents the future. Specifically, a future in which any everyday task can be turned into a shitty job for low pay. We talked with Bryon and Jordan, both of whom have spent years doing random odd shit they found posted on Craigslist. Things like ...
"The posting was headlined, 'Scare my child. Will pay,'" says Bryon. "I had to inquire." It turned out to be exactly as stupid as what you're expecting. A father wanted a stranger to scare his child straight.
"It turned out his nine-year-old son was doing poorly at school, and the guy didn't know how to get him studying. He took away video games, his phone, everything. I came in at 2:15, right before he got home, and with the dad's OK, hid behind his bed. Soon his son had come home, and as soon as he did, I popped up and said, 'You better study!' It was at that point that I realized maybe this wasn't the best way to do things, because he screamed and started yelling for his dad. It took a while to calm him down, and when his mom came home, she was FURIOUS ... She almost called the police until the dad told her he was paying me."
We're actually not sure the money changing hands makes this legal. "I regret doing this one so much, because in hindsight, this was such a bad idea."
"I was paid $40 to wait in a car on some residential street," says Bryon. "[The guy] said he might need a ride from there, and didn't want it to be from Uber because he would need it immediately. He stressed that it wasn't for anything illegal when I asked him and only said, 'I'll need you only if I can't drive away.' I had no idea what that meant, but I thought maybe he would get drunk and need a ride home." OK, but why would he have needed that immediately instead of waiting for an Uber or cab?
He never found out, but Bryon figured 40 bucks was 40 bucks. He sat at the appointed spot and waited. "The two hours go by, and he calls exactly at the end and said, 'I don't need you. The situation worked itself out. Thanks.' That was that. I still don't know what that was all about ..."
You're going to say, "Isn't a 'paid date' just prostitution?" but it wasn't exactly that, according to Bryon:
"I had to send in a picture and a list of likes, then a woman selected me to be her date for a night. I met her at a restaurant ... she was very overweight, short, and had a missing fingernail. She also said 'retard' to describe every person she met, which was a little uncomfortable. And she talked almost the entire time."
But no, she wasn't looking for sex at the end of the night. "From how the rest of dinner went, I think she only wanted someone to talk with and have dinner with all night. Her ad said as much: 'Looking for a man who will go to dinner with me.'"
Actually, in a society in the middle of a loneliness crisis, this is the kind of thing you'll probably be able to do as a career at some point. You can decide for yourself whether or not that can be considered dystopian.
This is one that sounds sensible on its face. You figure the customer is blind or otherwise unable to read. But no, the guy just didn't feel like reading. "Basically, some dude was studying for a big software tester test," says Jordan, "and he preferred listening to his textbooks rather than reading them. He was willing to pay something like $200 a chapter, which at the time sounded like an insane amount of money. All I had to do to apply was record myself reading a couple pages of Moby Dick aloud and send it to him."
Easy money, right? "This particular textbook was aimed at advanced software testers or something, so it very much assumed you already knew what you were doing. I couldn't comprehend almost anything that I read, and it made the job ridiculously unbearable. It was impossible to read and do literally anything else (listening to music accidentally caused me to recite lyrics instead of the words I was reading), so I had to sit in the room reciting pure nonsense into a microphone as clearly as I could."
And things deteriorated from there. "As I went along, my reading got faster and faster and I cared less and less about mistakes. This started to piss off the guy, because he needed it to be slower and clearer, but I felt like I was losing my mind ... It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my life."
Bryon actually gets this one a lot. "The people who want this service are the laziest people imaginable. Seriously. The backyards I've seen are minefields of poop. It smells like a farm sometimes. And inside, I've seen stacks of pizza boxes and, like 40 or 50 Big Gulp cups scattered all over. People live like this, and it extends outside."
He's bought a special pooper scooper and everything. "On a few jobs, I actually went back to my storage locker and got my Shop-Vac and literally vacuumed backyards of dog poop. On the last house I cleaned, the owner went outside and walked around. I had told her to water the lawn and spread seed if she wanted it restored, but she was just amazed to be walking around without looking down."
Cleaning basements is a common one, and with it can come some intimate looks into customer's lives. "I find out a lot about people," Bryon says. "I've found photo albums from the '40s with people posing nude in them, and when I showed the person who hired me, they said, 'I think this is my grandma naked.' She looked pretty shocked, so I might have inadvertently caused uncomfortable family questions ... I found an old cigar box of casts of thumbs. They were all in bronze or pewter, and the guy said, 'I was looking for those! Put them in my car.' The worst thing I found was a Japanese [war] trophy. It wasn't a skull. It was an off-white sheet that said U.S. ARMY on it, with a misshapen red circle in the middle that the guy's grandson said his grandpa always said was dried blood. He said toss it on the burn pile."
"I had put in for a driving job that day," says Bryon, "and I thought it was to drive someone or transport a dog or something else. But when I got there, there was a huge pile of snorkels waiting outside. It had to be over 100. He told me where to drive them. As he shoveled them into my trunk, I looked up where he wanted me to go, and it was this town nowhere close to the ocean. When I got there ... it was this old farmhouse. The dude comes out, takes them all out, pays me, and says, 'Thanks.'" Enjoy your snorkel party, dude!
"I was selected to be a temporary loader off a Craigslist ad at a few outbuildings at someone's house," says Bryon, "and they literally gave me the keys to a forklift and said to move a bunch of boxes from one building to another. I said I didn't know how to, but they sighed and said to please try because they had no one else."
Note: Do not attempt this.
"It took some getting used to, because I was not expecting how a forklift moved around, but I still did it. When I loaded, I didn't know the forks were a little off the ground, so I started to move them into this box. They went pretty far in and broke the box, but I corrected it and immediately flipped it off the pallet. They didn't mind ..."
It sounds like property destruction, reckless endangerment, and a violation of OSHA requirements, but this is the Wild West of Craiglist work, baby! Anything goes!
"Many jobs I do are often put in by companies who need a worker for a day or two under the table ... I was helping a contractor for a few days, and they didn't have a hard hat for me. He dug out one of his son's little league helmets and said it was 'good enough.' There was also some brief welding, and since he didn't want his welder to come out, I helped do it. I had no idea what I was doing, but he told me the basics and I think I got it right ..."
People like nurses and caregivers are trusted because they have degrees, have studied for years, and get background checks that confirm they're not known to the FBI as "the St. Paul Strangler." But you can save so much money by getting some rando off of Craigslist! Just ask Bryon.
"All I had to do was keep someone's elderly father company all day and help around when he needed it. He had promised never to send his dad to a nursing home, so he stayed at home with him. He also couldn't afford a full-time caregiver, and the VA only sent a nurse out three times a week." Oh. So that's actually really sad, and sounds like it might quietly be a national crisis?
"The guy who hired me still checked with a few of my references I gave to reassure him, but otherwise, that was it. And I liked it. He wasn't the friendliest guy on Earth, but I watched Fox News with him, made him lunch, followed the instructions on his pill schedule, and that was it. If something like a stroke happened, then a nurse would have been a good idea, but for that day, it was fine. His son told me he knew of others, just in the city, who were caring for their parents this way."
We're not experts on healthcare (or really anything else), but we don't think a care provider of choice should be the same website where people go to find half-burnt couches and semi-anonymous sex.
"It was Palm Sunday," says Bryon. "A really big church had a bunch of palm fronds, and we were instructed to wave the fronds and give one to everyone we saw. Me and this woman were assigned an intersection, and since it was warm, all the windows were down, so we could talk with them. But they rolled up the windows. So when a church supervisor came around to see how we were doing and saw how few we were giving, he said, 'Just throw them in. Don't say anything. Just toss them in. And say 'Hosanna!' when you do.' We did that for about an hour before so many people complained to the church that they told us to stop."
"I was hired on this one job to make some sort of moth-killing fluid," says Bryon. "I showed up in this nearly empty strip mall store. This really friendly guy came out, shook my hand, and led me in. Inside were just all these bags of mothballs. My job was to crush them into a fine powder with him and his son."
Well, nothing weird about that. We're sure there's no reason at all this stuff doesn't normally come in powder form.
"He actually didn't even offer me a mask until I asked, and I had to ask for half an hour until I got goggles, which he had bought from some swimming store. We got a lot of powder out of them, and we mixed that with water and filled some Super Soakers after the mothball-powdered water went through a strainer for the big chunks. They thanked me, gave me my money, and the last I saw of them was them getting into a van and driving away ... Those moths they were going after never knew what was coming."
Wait, are we sure that's what this was for? Why do we feel like this was somehow related to the snorkel guy?
"A mom paid me to escort her and her daughter around some neighborhoods as they sold cookies," says Bryon. "It was a rough neighborhood they were in, but they still thought selling door-to-door was best. So, after meeting with her husband, I followed them around while the mother pulled the wagon and the little girl did some selling."
Question: Are a mother and her child statistically more likely to be assaulted by cookie customers, or a strange man hired off Craigslist?
"For my part, I would tell them, 'Look out ahead' when I saw some people there, or I would tell them to skip a house if it didn't look right. One homeowner thought I was muscle waiting nearby if they didn't buy cookies, which I found hilarious ... someone actually thought the Girl Scouts regularly bought muscle. In the end I was paid in half with cookies, which I thought was the best way to get paid."
Jordan is a musician, and is able to grab some fly-by-night work this way. That doesn't mean the jobs are any less weird.
"I saw an ad that said they needed a guitar player for a film score. Within 15 minutes, the dude called my phone and said he wanted to work with me. He was the composer for this film (didn't say what kind of film), and that the producers really wanted that Explosions in the Sky sound that was so in vogue in the early 2010s. [That band has turned up in many, many soundtracks.] He couldn't tell me what the movie was, and he couldn't show me any scenes from it, but he wanted to pay me $250 to add some guitar over a few tracks he'd already written."
Jordan then slowly realized his job was all about subtle copyright circumvention. "And so he would email these very standard, happy movie film score tracks and just tell me to throw some guitar on there. After a couple of these, he decided it'd be easier if he just sent me literal Explosions in the Sky tracks. I was supposed to directly rip them off by playing the exact same types of parts with the exact same crescendos and lulls and stuff without technically ripping it off ... apparently, the tracks had already been plugged into the movie and were perfect, so they just needed a copyright-free version of that. It's actually surprisingly difficult to write something exactly like something that already exists, but to change it enough so that you can't be sued."
And then comes the twist: "At one point, I wasn't quite getting the sound right for a scene. It needed to be way more 'hopeful,' apparently, but I just wasn't getting it. That's when the composer finally said, 'OK, so this is going to be a Christian film, right? This is the scene where the students all decide to believe in God, so we really need it to be way, way more hopeful and happy.' The whole process took months, and in the end, I probably made something like $2 an hour. They hired me back for God's Not Dead 2, but I still only made like $600."
Evan V. Symon is an interviewer, journalist and interview finder guy at Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience for a Personal Experience? Hit us up here today!
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