Chase Cheating III: Compensation/Giveaways for Votes

Andrea Whittemore wanted me to clarify that I don’t speak for the Whittemore Peterson Institute in this matter. So: I don’t speak for the WPI in this matter. I am just a lone crank with both a severely overdeveloped sense of justice and the inability to sit up for more than a few minutes.

I wrote this post because I believe that people – especially a group of people who have worked as hard as we all have recently, mortgaging our scant energy to get this done – deserve to know the truth about what they’re working toward. It turned out (at least to date) that we were working honestly to win a contest that could be won dishonestly.

Here are Part IPart II and Part IV. There’s a The End? post too.

The evidence continues to pour in, even though the contest is over. Yesterday, WPI said on facebook that there was supposed to be an announcement forthcoming about Chase’s investigation in the matter. As of now, there hasn’t been an announcement as far as I know, and WPI finished the contest in 12th place, after being as high as 6th. So while we’re waiting…

After my first post yesterday, people started finding all sorts of things.

First, Jane commented and pointed us toward this camcorder giveaway for the Hillel Academy in Milwaukee. Here’s a screenshot:

(The rest of the page is behind this cut.) So this camcorder offer is part of how a group that has 247 likers on facebook can net 11,285 votes. (WPI, which, you will remember, I am not speaking for, has 4084 likers today and got 9019 votes.)

Jane also turned up a contest for students at Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy to win Apple prizes for soliciting votes. I think this is less problematic. Motivating teenagers to do something like this is no mean feat.

Then, this morning, someone on the WPI page (if it was you, please comment; I can’t seem to find the thread now) pointed out this sweepstakes offer on the 1saleaday facebook app which went to woobox, but unfortunately, once I got there, the link no longer worked.

But back to yesterday. Jean Maskuli did the real heavy lifting of the day yesterday. First, she found that the Sonia & Max Silverstein Academy was offering entries in a contest for iPad2s in exchange for votes. (To find this (at least until it disappears), type Silverstein Hebrew Academy iPad2 into the facebook search box and press the magnifying glass. Then, in the left column, click “Posts by Everyone.”)

Note that Dovid Ezagui is the director of Silverstein Hebrew Academy (here’s their contact page, and here’s a screenshot of that page). The fact that Chumy and Dovid share the email address mentioned in the top post (ChumyandDovid@aol.com) makes me think that they are possibly married.

But the big news last night was that Jean Maskuli turned up an offer on the facebook app EasyCash! that offered actual money in return for votes, as I mentioned in my previous post. We knew there had to be something like this somewhere, because of all the people I noted in my first post, who posted on the charities’ pages asking where their WeeMee gold points, SwagBucks, and facebook credits were. Here’s the offer Jean found, which goes to VoteforGood.info (the redemption site) and then takes you to the Silverstein Hebrew Academy’s Chase Community Giving page:

Then Jenime found a different set of EasyCash! offers.

Here are the pages that Jenime found EasyCash! links that go to. These are the five schools you saw on VoteFive.com.

Then Jenime shared with me that she tried out one of the EasyCash! offers to be sure that it actually worked, and that it credited her with $0.21 for her vote. The Silverstein Hebrew Academy offer Jean found was for $0.28 per vote, which would mean that if SHA had paid the maximum for every single one of its 20,421 votes (which I’m sure it didn’t), it would only have paid $5717.88 in vote fees. That’s a pretty good investment to win $325,000.

Then the app prompted Jenime to write on her wall, so she did. :D

(Jennifer/Jenime is donating the $1.21 she made (and more) to the Whittemore Peterson Institute.)

Even before I saw the first EasyCash! offer, I knew there had to be a site out there somewhere handling the redemption. One of my favorite projects I worked on at the California Tree Fruit Agreement was a promotion called Tasty Tunes, in which consumers got free iTunes credits for buying both CA stone fruit and bagged salad. It was the first time anybody’d ever attempted such a project in the produce business, and solving the redemption problem was the promotion’s biggest issue. So I knew there had to be something pretty sophisticated out there – something far more sophisticated than a school could manage on its own. And once Jean and Jenime found these offers, we had our answer: VoteforGood.info.

And guess what? It’s no longer there. Neither is VoteFive.com. That was quick.

So is this cheating? It seems “unsportsmanlike” to me, but Chase has said nothing about the final rankings changing.

Yesterday, WPI (for which I do not speak) said that Chase was going to make an announcement “today or tomorrow” about some of this. But as I said above, no announcement has been forthcoming as yet.

This is a major black eye to Chase Community Giving, in my mind. I’m not going to be able to get anywhere near the support if WPI ever enters this contest again. And I, personally, will not want to go to the effort, unless Chase makes that promised announcement about their investigation and it changes the outcome.

Or if somebody wants to chip in $0.30 per vote for us.

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58 Responses to Chase Cheating III: Compensation/Giveaways for Votes

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  3. Jenime says:

    I’m donating the $1.22 to the WPI, btw. ^_^

  4. Kathryn Stephens says:

    As the WPI has requested, I will not start a furor over this cheating…yet.

    However, Chase will certainly have hurt their reputation for good works if this goes un-investigated/allowed.

    Watching for developments and hoping for GOOD NEWS SOON from Chase!

  5. Kathryn Stephens says:

    I also have a chase VISA I will consider cancelling if this in not investigated and corrections made.

  6. leela says:

    I am as outraged as anyone about this, but Chase does have a point on at least some of it: they cannot prove it was the org itself that set up the paid-voting, and not some over-zealous supporter. WPI would be horrified to be disqualified if some enthusiast had set up one of those schemes on their behalf.
    They seems to have acted quickly, docking votes, when the India scammers were reported to them.

    I do hope Chase takes some of this into consideration though and awards an extra big pile of cash to WPI…

  7. Bob says:

    This same group got DQs by Kohl’s for doing the same thing for the same sorts of “charities.” “Over-zealous supporter” my you-kn0w-what.

  8. Marty says:

    I’m going to add this post to every page of this blog:

    A friend of mine sent me the link to this blog and I’ve been reading this all since this morning. At first I was appalled at what I was reading. However – as my mother taught me- don’t ever pass judgment on ANYONE unless you get both sides of the story. Now, I’ll start by saying, I hate banks, particularly Chase.

    First of all, your charity just won over $60,000. For free. No strings attached. Money. In your pocket that you most likely would have never received. This you can thank Chase for.

    Secondly, after reading the rules for this contest, I didn’t see anywhere that said you can’t offer incentives. Also, on this note, I don’t see any evidence that these charities offered these anytime past May, 19, which leads me to believe the problem was nipped.

    I find it pretty sad and disturbing that people would try so hard to get a fellow CHARITY disqualified for obvious bias opinions on “who’s charity is more meaningful”. Shame on everyone participating on this blog. I can’t believe I’m actually siding with a bank here, but this I find a little ridiculous.

    It seems to me that if you spent half of the effort you have de-crediting a program that is DONATING money on rallying voters, you may have had better luck winning more FREE money.

    Also, I think you should probably think twice about messing around with someone’s logo. My guess is that it’s trademarked.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Marty, it’s fine with me if you want to have a discussion, but I don’t tolerate abuse. Posting a comment to every page is abuse. One more comment like this and I’m going to block you.

  9. Marie says:

    Votefive.com is no longer there,it has been wiped out.
    All I can say is an investigation had better be conducted, as all the knowledge of these events will not be forgotten. It will put a black mark on this next year, and well it should. It seemed very interesting that all seemed to have a connection.

  10. Kim says:

    If you could convince all 9019 of your voters to donate $60 each, you’d have $541, 140. Just sayin’

    • Jocelyn says:

      Kim, there actually is a Whittemore Peterson Institute program just like that. It’s called COUNT ME IN. I donate $20 a month.

    • Nina says:

      Kim, most of these patients do not have 60$ to give, because years of illness and having to pay for treatment out of their own pockets have left them unable to work and depleted their savings.

      Those who are lucky enough to have family or other support are donating whatever they can. It would take us many, many years or decades to raise the amount you calculated.

  11. Beth says:

    I won’t accuse anyone of cheating until I look through the information that has been posted and discussed- and when/if Chase investigates (as they should). However, to the person who made the statement this is deciding “whose charity is more meaningful,” -this isn’t the point. Free money isn’t the point. It’s for those of us who spent hours of our own time, rallying for votes, via Twitter, Facebook, other social networking sites, blogs, calling radio/television stations and handing out flyers in our own communities— with no expectations of “incentives,” other than helping a cause we truly appreciate. The contest meant not only educating about our cause (The Joyful Heart Foundation), but learning of other causes. I know some have questioned The Joyful Heart Foundation in the past, based solely on the fact a celebrity happens to be the founder and president. I can say, with certainty, at no time were we promised anything. Never crossed our minds. It was the almost non-stop hard work of the staff at JHF and those of us who support their mission. Other charities worked just as hard, fairly, because they believe in the work and want to help those in need. To classify the money as “free” -unnecessary. So many people worked hard and earned every penny without offering incentives. Read JHF’s Facebook wall, their Twitter stream, or even my Twitter stream @ZeeDivah -then perhaps you’ll understand what it meant to us.

    • Jocelyn says:

      This is it precisely, Beth. All that genuine hard work by so many, and we feel like the rug was pulled out from under us.

  12. Kate says:

    First off there is some major misinformation. Several schools were disqualifed from the Kohl’s contest but not for the same thing. Three schools (including a Darby a public elementary in Los Angeles) were disqualified because they probably purchased votes from China. Kohls said they had irregular voting. No one is going to like this but some schools won that contest the same way. Many people may strongly dislike the reward for voting but it was considered an “incentive” in the Kohl’s contest. I’m not trying to debate if it is a bribe or not, I’m simply saying Kohls did not consider it one. Chase may come to the same conclusion. In the contest, many schools were having contests from many different religions including a public school in Nevada. The later didn’t win. Those schools were not disqualifed. Again, not saying I agree with this action, simply pointing out it was not limited to Chabad schools and despite complaints by some critics to many different agencies, nothing (with the exception of a couple of internet blurb articles) ever came of it. People thought they could report it. The only action came from irregular voting ie the public school had photos of the same person with different FB pictures and names. In the end, it is up to Chase as it is their funds.

    • Kate says:

      Just posted same message on FB. ( I am Robyn Kathi on FB -I go by Kate). Full disclosure – don’t want you to think I’m posting under two names.

  13. Kate says:

    Adding…….there was a large outcry on FB on the Kohls’ comment page after the Kohls’ contest ended from supporters of the schools that didn’t win as well as from supporters from Darby (the public school that was disqualifed). I won’t begin to tell anyone what to post on their own blog, but just wanted to point one more fact out. After the outcry, Kohl’s canceled their next contest. There was another one scheduled and it was pulled down and there has not been one since. Just saying……..

  14. Bob says:

    In other words, Kate, we should be quiet so cheaters can win not only this contest but future ones.

    • Sharon says:

      Silence is consent — I agree, Bob, we shouldn’t be quiet. And on a side note, I don’t believe religious organizations should have been in the contest, most of them at least how I read Chase rules, should not been allowed.

      Perhaps future contests too to be fair Chase should run separate contests for separate categories and spread the money around: health/medical/orphan diseseases, music/arts, wildlife/pets, etc., so all have even footing.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Bob, if you come back by here, would you please email me at imnopostergirl@gmail.com?

  15. Jigish says:

    Even though the original websites are gone, you can still look them up in Google Cache
    cache:http://voteforgood.info/
    cache:http://votefive.com

  16. Sharon says:

    Incentives or otherwise ARE unsportsmanlike, especially in a program for charities, no matter what “cause” the charity is for. Chase needs to investigate. Here’s cached paged for VoteFive.com

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:JNCmy2DYGpUJ:votefive.com/+Votefive.com&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.com

  17. Sharon says:

    Chabad and win ipad: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ZTnHMOGhPY8J:www.chabadgn.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/1525880/jewish/Win-An-IPAD2.htm+http://www.chabadgn.com+AND+Vote&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.com

    Just very wrong of religious or educational groups to do this…morally, ethically and plain disgusting and we wonder why kids are turning out the way they are.

  18. Sharon says:

    Going to check out the drum corps too.

  19. Sharon says:

    Check out this post, great: http://punktorah.org/news/cheating-chase-community-giving-a-jewish-response.htm#axzz1NYbgBmBc

    EXCERPT:
    “In summary, members of the Jewish community decided that the easiest way to guarantee their votes and a successful win was to pay people to vote. For 14-28 credits a piece at EasyCash! on Facebook – five Jewish schools received nearly a million dollars in tax-free grants.

    What is the point of teaching Torah if we do not practice it and model it ourselves? To be clear, there are so many Jewish laws on business ethics and fair dealings with ourselves and our neighbors. There is the concept of geneyvat da’at – or “stealing a persons mind” and relates to false packaging and false labeling. There is the commandment regarding accurate weights and measures, in Leviticus 19:35-36. And, there is the commandment not to deceive your neighbor in Leviticus 25:14 which states, “When you sell anything to your neighbor, or buy anything from your neighbor, you shall not deceive one another.”

    Whatever Chase Community Giving will ultimately decide regarding VoteFive.Com is irrelevant, because what really counts to me in this situation, is that a fellow Jew has left an indelible and ugly mark on my Jewish experience. A fellow Jew has stained my relationship with my community and my non-Jewish neighbor. A fellow Jew has hurt me… and countless others… for a gym.”

    • Jocelyn says:

      Yep, Sharon, that was written by Jean Maskuli, with whom and Jenime/Jennifer Slattery I’m collaborating on all of this stuff. Jean’s perspective is invaluable.

  20. Kate says:

    @ Bob and Sharon:
    I wouldn’t begin to presume to tell you what you should post or think. I am just adding some background to the Kohl’s contest. The complaint did come up that most of the schools that won were religious schools. Most of the the top schools (from different religions) used the incentives. The argument was also brought up with the same quote about non-profits/religion. I’m simply saying the schools (with the exception of the three for irregular voting) still received their money. It doesn’t matter if I think it is a bribe or a good marketing ploy. We can speculate as to why Kohl’s canceled the next contest. I would assume they didn’t want the hassle of another contest. No one made them cancel it. No agency stepped in to protest the winners. In my humble opinion, I think it would be a shame if Chase didn’t offer another contest next year. In my own humble opinion, some money for most non profits is better then none. Feel free to disagree.

  21. Kate says:

    *** Clarifying……..by hassle I mean the complaints that followed the contest.

  22. Sharon says:

    If voting for a nonprofit charity in and of itself isn’t incentive enough, then there is something really wrong with companies like Chase offering contests. It’s plain wrong. Most of those people probably never paid a dime in donation or volunteered time and only voted because they might win something. I don’t care if it’s the Purple Polk Dot school or religious group, it hurt other charities that played morally and up straight and FAIR.

  23. Hmmmm. says:

    I will be interested to see how this plays out, especially to read about it and hear about it more from people who were not trying to win. It is hard not to assume a small measure of bitterness at losing in the cries of “cheater, cheater” from those are feeling cheated because they did not win.

    Also, it seems some of this is anti-semitic. Would the outcry have been as loud were it not “Hebrew” schools? Somehow, I doubt it.

    I wonder if this fuss will kill this giving contest in the future or if it will simply accomplish clearer rules in 2012.

    Accusing Chase of cheating in the absence of evidence could be considered libel. *shrug*

    Accuse the other charities of cheating and provide Chase evidence to make a clear decision.

    Whatever.

    • Jocelyn says:

      I know it could potentially look like anti-Semitism, just because the schools in question are Chabad. One of the three people doing the research for these blog posts is Jewish. You might have seen her blog post on PunkTorah.

      And there’s no way for me to prove this, but in a possible world in which these were all Christian schools or a county’s worth of public schools, or, hell, even a group of animal charities – I know I would be just as irritated. As I said at the top of the page: I just have a severely overdeveloped sense of fairness.

      This truly isn’t about Judaism. It’s about paying for votes, and how that caused the standings to change so dramatically at the end. I’ve now sent even more evidence to Chase than I’ve posted here. I’m hoping to be able to make another post about that, but I can’t yet.

  24. Kate says:

    I believe you (Jocelyn) when you say that you would feel the same way no matter who was behind the charities. In other articles/FB posts/blogs on the Kohls contest the focus was and continues to be directed only on the Jewish schools. Little to no negative comments were directed at the other schools from different Christian faiths who offered incentives or the public elementary that was DQ’d. Of course, you are not responsible for comments made well before this contest or for other people. Just saying.. when posts (again not yours) on FB threads start talking about a particular religious sect and their supposed political and religious beliefs, it crosses the line.

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  26. Kate says:

    Adding….I honestly can’t remember if the Catholic school used incentives. There was only one religious school that did not, but Lucas Christian and Mt. Ellis (A 7th day Advent) school did. They had advertisements running on the Web. Other 7th Day Advent schools ran contests as as well, but they still did not get enough votes to win nor did a public school in Nevada.

  27. Kate says:

    Read the latest FB link. That website is against any religious/traditional/Orthodox Jewish organization. Bashes against the very religious Jews are ok now? It is too bad that blame is now placed on entire sect now. Some people will think they deserve it, but it is too bad for the many organizations they also sponsor that help people. My friend lost a child to a rare disease. She said of every organization the Chai Life sponsored by Chabad was the one program that kept in touch with her on a weekly basis to look after her and her other children. Yes, she was very grateful for the “Make a Wish” foundation and their great gift to their family. But, the day to day smaller stuff (ie meals, camp for her other children) was all done by Chai Life. It is a real shame the entire organization is now being blamed.

    • Jocelyn says:

      (I left this on the fb page too, b/c I think it’s important.)

      I think you’re attributing more to us posting that link than we mean by it. I’m guessing by your response that you have prior experience with this blog and feel negatively about it.

      Jen suggested it, and simply noted that he had a unique perspective as a former member of Chabad. Since he’s a former member, I think readers will understand that he’s going to be critical of it. It is a blog, so it doesn’t mean he’s correct, or even that we think he’s correct – it’s just his opinion.

      We haven’t seen any pro-Chabad blogs in our limited wanderings, but we’d be happy to share those as well on the fb page if you know of any. It would help people get a more rounded view.

  28. Ella says:

    This site is heading exactly where i thought it would, a jewish/chabad/religious bashing site. ( this actually only diminishes what i think you guys would like to accomplish) – and Jen being jewish and suggesting it only confirms that there is an alternative agenda.

    FYI Chabad is the largest Jewish Organization out there, doing so much good, drug centers, homeless shelters and kids and risk ti mention just a little.

    Some sites as you request that will show you just the tip of the iceberg what they do is

    http://www.friendshipcircle.com/ for special needs kids across the country
    http://www.chabadrehab.com/ drug centers,

    and so much more… whoever is doing the research here clearly isnt looking for the good of these ppl.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Welcome, Ella. Your comment ended up in the moderation queue. Most things go right through. I’ve approved it, but it’s obvious that emotions run particularly high around Shymarya’s site.

      On this occasion, you’re mistaken about one point – the site was suggested by Jen. She is not Jewish. She is a Catholic, though how Catholic I don’t know and I am an agnostic who grew up Episcopalian. Jean, who has been providing some perspective for us, and is a Rabbinical student, is, obviously, Jewish.

      Given that, what would you suggest I do with Shymarya’s link that’s posted to the facebook page? (And I know you might not want to “like” that group on facebook, but more people would see this discussion if you would like to have it there.)

      I’ve copied your email on this message because I think it’s important that it reach you.

      • Jocelyn says:

        Ella, I attempted to email you by copying and pasting the addy you entered, but Gmail tells me your addy does not exist. Perhaps it was not entered correctly?

  29. Ella says:

    Thanks for the welcome ;)

    I think you should post the 2 positive sites that i sent on your facebook wall, as you mentioned that no positive sites were found.

    I just think to stay course and focused, you shouldn’t get distracted to another whole agenda, unfortunately, there is alot of hatred out there independent of this contest etc.

    Once you start posting other hatred sites, it start looking like there is more to what you guys are trying to accomplish, the world need so much more love and kindness and I am sure you aren’t one of those ppl that hate certain sects etc.

    (Chabad does a lot of great stuff, i know personally as they helped me out a few years ago on a personal matter, even though i wasnt a member they didn’t ask for renumeration at all)

    On a personal level, I wish you the strength you need to live with the condition that you have.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Thanks for your suggestions, Ella. I decided to start with FC, because I had already read about that some.

      I was surprised to find that Chabad was known for having an early internet presence. I guess it would not have been something I would have guessed would go along with a rather conservative group. But I am learning a lot.

      It’s certainly not my intention to be offensive – it just happened that Shymarya had written about Kohl’s Cares. Maybe I underestimated how offensive his blog is perceived to be?

      And thanks for your kind words. I am grateful just to still be here, even as constrained as my life is. The internet makes it so much less lonely.

  30. Ella says:

    the email is @ yahoo.com not sure y it had gmail there.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Hi again, Ella. Our discussion in the comments section here and over on the fb group really was centered around the Chase contest.

      We mentioned Kohl’s Cares on the page only because Silverstein Hebrew Academy won in that contest and won in the most recent one, and we were surprised to find that a single school had won $850,000 in one school year. We didn’t undertake a comprehensive discussion of it there, and we are aware that there were many giveaways in that contest. If you look in the comments for entry IV, you’ll find more discussion of that there.

      I’m not going to ask you to read all the comments to all the entries, because I know there’s a lot there. Bu I am going to ask you to presume positive intent, as I am doing for you. Thanks.

  31. Kate says:

    Thanks for posting that more recent Chabad link on FB. I sincerely appreciate it. I have been reading your blog. It is shocking. I had no idea until a few days ago, that so many people were suffering like this. While I can’t begin to understand this pain personally, I can certainly understand the frustration of wanting those research dollars. I’m repeating myself, but I really hope Chase picks your organization for a very large additional donation.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Thanks, Kate. It is shocking. I sort of forget how shocking it is, because it’s been my life for seven years now. I can’t take a walk, or go shopping, or putter around in the garden, or wash my hair.

      It’s cost me my livelihood and my childbearing years, but thankfully not my marriage or my family and friends, as happens to some people. Many people – including a great many doctors – still think we’re faking illness to get attention, or that this is psychological, and if we’d just try to exercise, we’d feel better. (One of the hallmarks of ME/CFS is feeling *worse* after exercise, not better. It’s called post-exertional malaise.)

      If you want to know what it feels like, imagine having the flu, a bad hangover, having not slept in a couple of days, and having just worked all your muscles to failure in the gym, all at the same time. That’s about it.

      There are about a million people with it in the U.S. and 17 million worldwide. There’s only $4 million in research dollars devoted to it per year, and none of that money is going to WPI’s retrovirus research. AIDS, which also affects about a million people and is also a retrovirus, gets $4 BILLION. MS affects half as many people and gets $135 million.

      It’s no wonder we’re angry at having to fight for crumbs. Our government has been failing us for 25 years.

  32. Kate says:

    1 million people and only 4 million dollars spent on research? That is shameful. I’m speechless.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Yep. That’s why we were fighting so hard in the Chase contest. The difference between 9th place, where we were, and 12th place, where we ended up, is this: A ninth place finish would have allowed WPI to open a free clinic to treat patients unable to pay. And there are a great many of those, because it’s estimated that two-thirds of those with ME/CFS are unable to work.

  33. Kate says:

    I can certainly understand why people would no longer be able to work. Really hope something comes WPI’s way. That has to be a wonderful big idea.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Thanks once more, Kate. I struggled for years. I graduated from high school in 1993, and went to NYU to study acting. After two years of spending my free time wandering the city checking out greenmarkets, Little India/Italy/Chinatown, and cheese shops, I realized that while I loved acting, I didn’t love the life my degree was likely to give me. Having thoroughly fallen in love with food, I went back home to Northern Virginia and got a job as a cheesemonger/demo queen at Whole Foods.

      That turned into five years, and during that time, I met Chimp, my husband. When he finished his grad studies in philosophy at Georgetown, he took a three-year job at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. This was great, because Western Michigan University had a food marketing program. I enrolled and finished the degree in three years, just as his job was up. I won many scholarships and several awards. I graduated summa cum laude. One of Chimp’s fellow professors said to him around the time I finished, “Are you prepared for her to make way more money than you?”

      Then we moved to Fresno, CA, where he took a job at Cal State Fresno, and I found the marketing job I’d long dreamed of: A data analysis, category management, writing, and general jill-of-all-trades job at the California Tree Fruit Agreement. Marketing peaches, plums, and nectarines for family farmers. What could be better? That was October 2003.The flu shot that kicked it all off happened in December 2003. The following May I fell into ME/CFS.

      I managed to hold onto my job for a long time after that – I had a mild to moderate case at first. But by July 2006, I was no longer well enough to go to the office regularly. They really valued me, so they let me go to working at home (though they made me go to independent contractor status – bye bye disability insurance). I figured I’d rest up and get back to going to the office. Didn’t happen.

      By fall 2007, I was working flat on my back on the couch. because sitting up was too tiring. Anytime I had to go to a meeting, Chimp had to drive me. At Christmas, I had a terrible crash, and that ended my ability to sit up, walk, care for myself. And that is where I remain.

      So because it took me ten years to get back to finishing that degree, I only got one year of healthy work. Many of my friends have MBAs now. They’re leading teams at Kellogg’s, Hormel, Hershey’s. I am holding down the couch.

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