Festivals, Summer in Chicago

Street Fest Donations: They’re suggested, not expected!

Summer time in Chicago is synonymous with street festivals. Every weekend there is at least one block party, art fair or street festival, often more. Some are free though many charge a suggested donation that can range anywhere from a few dollars to twenty bucks. Frankly, these suggested donations are getting carried away, especially as they go from suggested to expected.

I get that there are costs associated with putting on a street fest, I really do. It probably isn’t cheap and costs can only have gone up over the years. Since no one is forcing me to attend these fests, I don’t mind shelling out a few bucks to help offset those costs. And where I am at today financially speaking, I can certainly afford the entry fee at most street fests.


Which fest is this again? Doesn’t matter dude, as long as we play the same songs in a different order

At the same time, I don’t want to pay a crapload of cash for access to a public city street and the privilege of being crowded into a two-block radius smashed against people, many who haven’t showered in ages, underneath a blazing sun.

For the record, I’m not singling out a specific festival and the smaller festivals that rent out a parking lot can charge whatever they want. But those that use public streets or even a park, those are the ones who really are pushing the envelope with the Expected/Suggested Donation thing.

Over the years I’ve seen this happen at various fests. From the person working the door looking down on you because you are not contributing the full amount to the strong arm rent-a-cop who ever so slightly flexes his muscles if you even question the suggested donation”. It truly makes me wonder if the money really is going to a good cause.

I think the worst is when they don’t even bother using the words donation or suggested. I mean seriously, you’re offering me the opportunity to watch drunk people grind up on pick up each other up while swaying to a cover band that plays the same set at every fest.

Think about this: If someone spends all their money just getting into a street fest, they aren’t gonna have much left over for the overpriced beer and half cooked food, to say nothing of patronizing the non-consumable vendors. That guy with the surf board photo booth or the climbing rock are gonna go home with less money in their pockets if the door people take all of mine.


For the last time, I don’t want to enter your raffle!

And question for the people who work the door and are so adamant about getting the full “suggested” entry fee? Do you get a cut of the pie? Or is it money out of your pocket in some way?

To me it doesn’t seem worth it. In the hot summer it just takes one nutjob who feels the world owes him something and the next guy who wrongs him in any way is gonna pay. So maybe you feel invincible working that booth with the rent-a-cop next to you, or you are the musclehead who can beat up most people in a fair fight without working up a sweat.  The thing is, the nutjob probably isn’t gonna give you much opportunity for a fair fight.  Is an extra couple of dollars really worth it?

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Adventures in House Hunting, Location

DoNotRent.com: A Yelp for apartment hunters

Ever rent an apartment and wish you had known what to expect before you signed a lease? Wouldn’t it be great if you could read reviews ala Amazaon or Yelp from former tenants? Maybe a handy rating system? What about a handy phone app? Unfortunately renting an apartment is one of those things that is still a little behind the technology curve. Generally speaking most renters either stay put because they like their landlord and/or apartment and moving is a hassle, or they move on because of other life events like relocation or buying a home of their own. But what about avoiding those landlords-from-hell?

actual listing, bitter tenant review not shown

actual listing, review not shown

Mike Cerny knows the challenges renters face, from finding an apartment that actually matches the online posting to getting the real story on a management company.

“We’re trying to give renters as much access to information as possible so they can make an informed and confident decision about whether they should rent or tour an apartment,” said Cerny, who has a background in commercial real estate. The idea came to the Chicago native when he was finally fed up with his college neighbors below him.

“They were smoking weed that came into our unit and throwing parties every weekend until 3 a.m. while my wife was pregnant,” Cerny said. “We also had a really bad management company that didn’t exterminate the cockroaches in our apartment. We had things break (faucet, dishwasher, dryer, cabinet doors), which they chose to repair versus replace and they would continue to break. It was at that moment I realized there needed to be a way to avoid all this.”

In the fall of 2012, Cerny decided to do something about it–he launched DoNotRent.com. DoNotRent.com is a national apartment review and ratings website where renters can provide honest feedback, good and bad, on apartments they’ve rented or toured. DoNotrent.com encourages renters to write reviews of apartments they toured. They are also customizing their mobile site to make it easier for users to search and write reviews of apartments they rented or toured from their smartphones.

They can upload photos and rate buildings on a scale of 1-5 on parking, noise, grounds, safety, laundry, and management. These reviews help others reviewers make an informed decision about where they should rent.

Hopefully murderer will not be a common searched term

Hopefully murderer will not be a common searched term

The new social networking website is built on a user-friendly platform. People are able to login through Facebook and post and share reviews on several social media networks, ask a previous reviewer questions, search for apartment buildings in their area and check their availability. All reviews are posted anonymously to protect renters.

“I started DoNotRent.com with a focus on having the best user-friendly experience with social sharing,” Cerny said. “Although I had a bad experience renting, DoNotRent.com is a neutral site where users can write good and bad reviews. In order for renters to have the most current information about a rental, we want landlords to respond to reviews. If an issue was fixed, repaired or if they made an improvement to the property, renters need to know.”

The site is targeted towards 18 to 35-year-old renters or prospective renters, and the site has been tailored for them. The site is developing a plan to provide an incentive platform, which will allow users to earn points for writing reviews, adding photos, referring friends and sharing reviews on their social sites. The points will be redeemable for gift cards
to national retail stores.

Property managers and landlords can add their listings for a small fee in order to add a link to their website, update the property description section, receive inquiries from renters and respond to reviews. They will pay $40 per year for each listing (with discounts for multiple listings) for perks like the ability to respond to reviews, write custom descriptions, and add a link on the listing to their website. Each listing shows how many unique visitors have viewed it. During the next year, the company plans on compiling and publishing rental data along with user review trends.

“We are excited about our future and we are open to talks with investors and potential partnership opportunities,” Cerny said.

By the way, this Chicago start-up is looking for investors in order to compete in the niche apartment review market and take the business to the next level. For more
information, visit http://www.donotrent.com.

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Corporate America

Four dumb things Recruiters do

If you are part of today’s WorkForce in Corporate America, sooner or later you are going to hear from a Recruiter. Like the rest of the Rat Race, they are just trying to do their job. Some recruiters, however, are doing it worse than others. Here’s how:

1. Contacting you at your place of employment

Often times they will call you at the office.  Sometimes its because you were foolish enough to put your current work number down on your LinkedIn profile.  But usually it’s because they are looking for a Widget Washer so they start cold-calling the ACME Widget Company in hopes of finding someone who is ready to make a move. The thing is, you really don’t want to have this conversation at your cubicle. That co-worker who cannot hear you every time you ask him if you can borrow his stapler will hear the softest “can you call me back on my cell phone” whisper. It’s better to call after hours, leave a voice message and have the potential prospect call back on their lunch hour. Better still, provide only personal email or a cell phone on your LinkedIn Profile.

Your boss is right there?  Don't worry, I'm calling him next

Your boss is right there? Don’t worry, I’m calling him next

2. Be coy about the job details

I love it when they call and say “we have a position in downtown Chicago at a large financial firm.” Downtown Chicago, as opposed to exciting and exotic Oswego! Chances are good that in your specific industry, there are only 5-10 large representatives of that industry firms in downtown Chicago so why not just come clean with the company. After all, if you are looking for an audit specialist, said audit specialist might have already worked at one of those places you’re trying to fill.

3. Not read your resume

Which brings us to not reading the details of the resume. I get that you have a lot of resumes to have your software program sift through. But once you narrow it down to a few select potential recruits, maybe you want to spot check to make sure you are hiring someone appropriate for the position. Not only would you weed out the people who already worked at ACME Widget but you avoid the following scenario:

I often get calls because I worked for a company that got bought by another company, and that Parent company is big in a certain vertical market. Thus I get tons of calls from recruiters telling me that I’m the perfect ideal candidate for a position I have zero qualifications for in the first place. And no, it’s not politics! It’s like calling Whirlpool looking for dishwasher repairman and soliciting the washing machine builders. Not even close!

4. Burn their bridges

This happens all the time and is so unnecessary. The recruiter is trying to fill that Widget Implementer position at ABC Widget Incorporated. So they are talking to Joe Smolinski at ACME Widget Company and Jeannie Stein at Better Widgets Partnership. ABC Widget picks one of them and the recruiter stops all communication with the other candidate. The thing is, next month that recruiter is going to be trying to fill the position that first candidate left. Hmmm, who might be qualified and looking for a change? It seems like it would be a slam dunk to get the person who didn’t get the job at ABC Widget, but you’ve pissed them off by not returning calls or emails to let hem know the position was filled. Now some other recruiter will place that position and what could have been easy commission is gone.

We just want to watch this kid fall down

We just want to watch this kid fall down

If you are trying to fill a position at someplace and you have a couple of potential recruits, you are really only going to get one of them to fill it. But that means that guy is leaving a position in the industry and you’ll likely have to fill that position. You have two birds in your hand, why break off the connection with the guy who didn’t get the job?

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