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Two Weird Experiences and the Lessons That Came with Them


Hiya peeps!

I’ve had an interesting (last) week. Things have happened that have made me really think about what I want to do with my life and my career. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and I think I’m formulating a great plan that will allow me to accomplish my goals while contributing to the greater good. I can’t wait to tell y’all about it.

Next week. Later this week.

Sorry guys, but I have other things to discuss today. Don’t worry, they’re just as important and interesting.

And if not, you’ll definitely be back next week later this week to hear all about my plans.

<insert evil genius laugh here>

Anyway…

I want to talk about two things I experienced in the last couple of weeks that have made me wonder about the state of the world. I’ll explain and then offer commentary at the end.

On Mother’s Day, I was coming back from a trip to the store to pick up aluminum foil. We were having a cookout and you can never never have too much aluminum foil. As I drove, I noticed a man who was surrounded by scattered grocery items and a bicycle that was sitting on its side. I surmised that he had fallen off his bike and his purchases had been tossed during the fall.

There wasn’t any place for me to pull over and he was standing in front of a driveway so I had to drive to the end of the block, turn around in the gas station parking lot, double back and park in the lot next to the one where the man was standing. As I pulled into the lot, another car pulled in in front of me. We both got out and approached the man, both of us armed with an empty plastic bag. By the time we got to him, another  person was helping him retrieve his groceries. We joined in and helped pick up his items. The whole time the man just kept saying, “I can’t believe I fell over like that.” While we were rebagging his items, a car slowed down and lowered its window. A woman offered the man a canvass shopping bag. He tried to turn it down, but she said, “so you have something sturdier for the next time.” As we all walked away in our different directions, I felt like humanity wasn’t all lost and that humans still had a fighting chance.

And then I went to Sheetz.

Now, I’m not bashing the entire company. I’m not even bashing everyone at this particular location. But I am bashing one employee from now until the next 6th Saturday in June. I ordered food online from Sheetz. As I was leaving to pick it up, the daughter’s boyfriend asked if I would grab him a beer. I said “sure,” he handed me the money, I left and headed for the store.

I get there, and it’s business as usual. Lots of teens and 20-somethings. Gas and oil workers grabbing their greasy food and cases of beer. Exhausted looking parents getting gas and snacks and doing a last potty break before getting on the road.

I get in line so I can pay for my food. There’s three or four black guys in line in front of me. Probably Diva’s age, or a little younger. Well one of them apparently didn’t have an id, so the cashier refused to serve any of them. They were annoyed and disappointed, but they weren’t making a scene.  While I was waiting in line, I remembered I actually wanted a raspberry ale, so I jumped out of line, got my ale and got back in line. At this point, the guys had left.

I get to the counter and I pay for my food and alcoholic beverage. The cashier was pleasant enough to me, but I could tell he was agitated about the previous customers. At this point the guys had left the store and were outside, standing by what I am guessing was their car. The cashier gave me my receipt and I ventured to the food side to wait for my order.

Once I had my food and was leaving, I realized that I forgot to buy J’s beer. Not only that, but I had left his money for his beer in the car. So I went to my car (which was parked directly in front of the doors), dropped off my stuff, grabbed J’s money and went back into the store. I walked directly back to the beer cooler, grabbed the beer and walked straight to the checkout. I said, “Okay, this is the last time you’re gonna see me in this line.”

And then then wheels fell off the bus.

Cashier: Sorry but I can’t sell this to you.

Me: Why not?

Cashier: Because if one person in the group doesn’t have ID, then I serve anyone in the group.

Me: What group? I came here by myself.

Cashier: I saw you talking to someone outside. I can’t sell this to you.

Me: No, you didn’t see me talking to anyone outside because I didn’t talk to anyone. I went to my car which is (pointing out the door) right there, dropped off what I had already purchased and came directly back in to buy what I forgot.

At this point, the realization of what he was implying set in.

Me: Oh, I get it. Since there’s a group of black guys and I’m black, we must all be together, right? So, I’m buying this one, lone 40 ouncer so they can pass it around among tbemselves?

Cashier: I can’t sell this to you. You can get as violent as you want, but it’s not going to happen.

Admittedly, I was mad. But violent? Seriously?

Me: There is nothing violent about me. I’ve said nothing violent, I’ve just called you out on your racist profiling. Funny…you didn’t have an issue with selling me the ale, but the beer is a problem? Why? I can’t drink a 40? You said you saw me talking to someone outside? Point them out. Where are they? You’ve got cameras? Let’s look at the footage. Show me who I was talking to. Please, I’m dying to know!

At this point, the manager comes over and asks what’s going on. The cashier tells him that he saw me talking to someone outside and because of that, he doesn’t want to sell me the beer.

Manager: Sorry ma’am, but if someone in the group doesn’t have id, no one in the group can be served.

This again. So, once again, I explain that I came in alone, made a purchase alone, realized I forgot to buy the beer came back in (say it with me) alone and was trying to make this last purchase…alone.

Me: And like I told the cashier, if you’ve got footage of me talking to someone during the 15 seconds it took for me to walk to my car, grab money and reenter the store, then I’d love to see it.

Manager: (looks at cashier) go ahead and sell it to her.

Cashier: (shakes head and backs away from the register): If you want to sell it to her, then you ring her out. I’m not a racist.

Me: Maybe you aren’t. And if that’s the case, then stop acting like one.

So now I’m boycotting this particular Sheetz location. I have no problem with a store adhering to an underage drinking and tobacco purchase policy. But I do have a problem with someone who uses that policy to be a douche at best, racist at worst.

So, my takeaways from these two encounters:

  1. there are still good people in this world who see the good in others and are willing to come together for a common goal.
  2. There are still jerks in this world who will look for any reason to promote a stereotype or make negative assumptions…and then lie about it to cover their own butts.
  3. The gas station down the street from Sheetz has the same beer.

Later this week I’ll be back with some announcements and to fill you in on some other things going on with me. Until then, have a good week! 🙂

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How To Make Money Writing for Content Sites


We’ve all heard the complaints — content sites (or content mills) are screwing up the industry. Content sites provide poor content. There’s no money to be made writing for content sites. Google all but killed content sites.

Blah blah blah…yadda yadda yadda.

Now, I’m not a fan of content sites, but I also don’t believe in biting the hand that fed me, and for several years, that’s exactly what they did. If it weren’t for some of the articles I wrote for content sites, (And I wrote some damn fine articles, I might add!), I would not be in the position I’m in now.

(Yes, it’s a good position, more about that in a future post.)

Even though the Google Panda has stripped much of the leaves from the content mill eucalyptus tree, you can still make money writing for content sites. Here are a couple of tips to help you out.

1. Focus on what you know. Choose topics you can write about in your sleep. Take full advantage of the search feature each site has, and find titles that are easy for you. It will take less time to write the article and since it’s a topic with which you are familiar, you’ll enjoy it more. If you run into a bunch of articles on the same topic, grab as many as you can. [There is an art to doing several articles on the same subject without tripping the plagiarism flag. I’ll come back to that.]

2. Branch away from your comfort zone. This may seem to counter what I said above, but it doesn’t. While writing what you know will bring in the bulk of your writing income, picking up one or two titles out of your comfort zone will help you in the long term. I mean, you weren’t always an expert in your main topic, were you? Of course not. So pick a title or two that you are interested in learning about more, and do the research and write about it. After a few articles, your comfort level with the topic will increase (and if you’re like me, you’ll read about it every time you get a chance). Before you know it, you’ll have TWO topics that fit the “Focus on what you know” category.

3. Share your work. Some people who write for content sites don’t like to admit they write for content sites. Sometimes it’s because of the reputation of the site, or maybe an editor screwed up an article and the writer doesn’t want to be associated with it. Well, that’s nonsense. Here’s the thing about the writing/publishing industry: Everyone knows that writers are edited, and everyone knows not every editor should be an editor. A few bad articles are not worth burying your byline and losing the exposure, especially when you’re starting out. So share your articles with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Post links to them on your blog. But if you’re that concerned about the quality of your articles, write a post explaining that the errors were introduced through an “editing oversight”. Of course, my solution would be to not write for the content site, which leads me to…

4. Choose your sites carefully. I know that when the economy is bad, you have to do things you normally wouldn’t do to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back. However, you have to think long-term here. If you plan to build a career as a writer, you want your clips to be respected, and sometimes you have to consider the source. Some sites have better reputations than others, and some sites have NO reputation. Before you agree to lend a site your byline, take a careful look at the content that is already there. Is it stuff you would read, or did you cringe during the first sentence? Does the site present itself well? Take these factors into consideration before you publish with them.

5. Take your work seriously. You might “just write for a content mill,” but you never know when an article will attract someone’s attention. I have landed several well-paying gigs because someone was surfing through eHow or BrightHub and happened across one of my articles. I’ve also had people contact me for work because a friend of a friend of a friend saw an article I wrote shared on Facebook. Don’t devalue your work by just throwing up crappy content. Take pride in it. Do your best, because you never know who’s watching.

Now, about that plag flag. Here’s how I used to write 10 different articles on the same subject, using the same sources and never NEVER got a plag flag:

1. Write article #1. Save as a draft.

2. Write articles #2 – #10, saving each as a draft.

3. Submit each article, one at a time, an hour or two apart. If you’re writing for a site with quick approvals (such as how DMS used to be and how Textbroker can be), wait for the approval before submitting the next one.

Or if you have the time to spare, submit one or two a day over several days.

So, there you have it — how to make money writing for content sites. Do you have anything to add? Questions? Comments? Let me have ’em.

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