February 25, 2019
Moving to Mexico: USAdios.com
Chapter 34: Why I decided not to work online for VipKids
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A fellow Facebooker posted something about having a job that paid $22/hour teaching kids to speak English online. I have seen these jobs pitched many times. Make your own hours, work from anywhere. It sounds good. I could do this from Mexico, or anywhere. I decided to finally check it out.
It turned out the opportunity was working for a Chinese company called VipKid. This is a very popular site that I have seen many times. I was not too keen on teaching Chinese kids English online, but this time I decided to look further into the opportunity, if not for myself, for my readers. Here is what I found:
VipKid uses an online classroom portal similar to Skype to hire and employ about 60,000 native English speakers from North America. You can live anywhere, but must have the rights to work in the USA or Canada. They also require that you have a degree. They did not specify if it had to be an English degree, or if it needed to be a bachelor’s degree, which I have.
See, Mom! My worthless English degree scores again! Sigh.
And you had to have at least one year working with kids. Again, they did not specify the capacity you had worked with said kids, but I have successfully raised our son almost to adulthood, so that should be worth something, right?
- Speak English
- Must be legal to work in the USA or Canada.
- Have a degree.
- Have one year’s experience working with kids.
Having never really worked with children, I checked three of the four boxes and applied. I filled out a brief info page and signed up for an online interview the next day at 11:30 AM. The interviewer was prompt and the interaction we had was decent for an American talking to a Chinese man online. My Chinese is limited to certain food dishes. His English was so-so. He spoke very quickly and staccato-tongue-rolled over syllables he apparently did not know well, so I struggled to follow his speech pattern.
He asked me questions about my work history, education and teaching experience for about ten minutes. Then we got to what he called “the fun part” where he would pretend he was a five-year-old Chinese child and I was the teacher.
I had read that “rewards” for the kids are useful, so to prepare for the interview, I had a disco light, some applause sound effects and Betty made me a little orange star with “VIP” on one side and “#1” on the other, orange being their company color.
Man, I felt pathetic.
Was all of this really worth it?
Below is an example YouTube video of what he expected. Take a look at this video. Fast forward to about the two-minute mark and please tell me if you were able to watch it through to the end without hanging yourself from a sugar-plum tree with a licorice rope. I am just not that sweet.
This online classroom charade took about ten minutes. The entire time, I was just thinking, “…work from anywhere, make your own schedule…you can do this.” But that little voice was screaming “…waste of time, this is stupid, you’ll never do this.”
I struggled through the interview. I think I actually threw up a little into my mouth a few times, forcing it back down, but I completed the task. When we were done, he hired me. He offered me $14 -22 per hour and asked me what I expected.
What kind of parlor trick was this? I have never been given a range of compensation, so I decided to choose door number four, just below the top of the range. I have no idea why as this was uncharted territory for me.
I said $21/hour and he said he could give me $20/hour. I wonder what he would have said if I started at $60/hour. What’s Chinese for “good-bye”?
To me, the Chinese character for “goodbye” looks like a box of TNT with legs next to a guy with an odd hat leaning against the back of a small chair. No wonder those people are so intelligent. You gotta be really smart to read and write Chinese.
I begrudgingly accepted the lower fee when he said there were bonuses for completing your classes within the allotted time period.
“How much?” I asked.
“One dollar per hour.” He replied.
He then explained to me that I would need to work on Beijing time which is sixteen hours ahead of San Francisco time. I am an early riser, but did I really want to wake up at 2:30 AM to teach anyone anything? I was sure I would not. However, ignoring that impossible duty, I agreed because Tulum, Mexico is on Eastern Standard Time. If I did this in Mexico, I would already be up, so I could teach for a few hours, go work out and have a late breakfast with Betty around 9:00 AM.
He reached out to video-conference shake electronic hands with me. I paused for a second to realize what he was doing and then reached out my hand and video-conference shook hands with him.
We actually did that.
Then he went into a twenty-minute review of my work.
- When speaking, you must animate your face as much as possible. Think Jim Carrey.
- Props, toys and electronic rewards are a big help. Think Santa Clause having lunch with the Easter Bunny on Sesame Street.
- You will need a colorful background. Think Toys R Us and a trip to Michael’s Craft Store.
- Try to wear something colorful and bright. Orange is nice. Think drunk in Amsterdam with vomit on your shirt after eating a chef’s salad.
I haven’t worn orange in many years. I had an orange Hawaiian shirt from Tommy Bahama. Once I saw a photo of me wearing it, I burned it, buried the ashes and tore up the photo. OK, I deleted it. Who prints photos anymore?
Once we got through the interview, had negotiated my wage, and completed my review, he officially hired me. He said he would send me an email that had all the information I needed, and I would have six days to complete some practice modules online. They would need my tax info, my passport and would do a background check before I could teach my first class.
I looked at the email and there was a laundry list of classes I would need to review, practice and be tested on before I could actually be paid. Six days. The first item I was to click on was the “teacher’s portal” where I could review my contract. I did so and was brought to a sign-in page that looked familiar. It was the first page I had filled out the day before. That was odd. I repeated this a few times and figured there was a technical issue. I would have to bring this up to IT, if IT was awake on the other side of the world. It was about 1:00 PM in California, so…it would be about 5:00 AM in Beijing. I might have to wait for IT. At 5:00 AM, most IT guys were probably just winding up their marathon, all-night game of Fortnight. I don’t think those guys sleep. That is why they are so cranky all the time.
I figured the contract could wait. I mean, a total stranger on the other side of the planet did video-conference hand shake with me. That’s good enough, right? I then clicked on the next area where I was to be directed to the first training module, but it sent me back to that same introduction page. Repeat, same thing again and again. After about fifteen minutes of this, I began to feel my BS meter rising up. I am not very patient, so broken systems really irk me, especially when the system stops me at step one.
I Direct Messaged the guy who had originally sent me this opportunity on Facebook. He was very nice and quite helpful. Apparently, this system operated very well for him, and he helped me as much as he could. Still nothing worked. Not his fault, but I was sure he was now realizing that the $80 referral fee he would get for my hire was in jeopardy. Yes, VipKid offers a bounty for each referral who signs up so when you see these jobs listed by someone, they are not doing it out of altruism.
I finally found a tech support chat area on the VipKid site, so I clicked on and after a while someone who called himself Ernie said, “Hello.”
Ernie and I went back and forth for about fifteen minutes before he discovered that the email I was sent was an old one that did not have the correct links.
“How was I supposed to know that, Ernie?” I asked, typing as sarcastically as I could, knowing he would never get my meaning and feeling that I was already done with this. Ernie did not reply.
No matter how many ways I asked him how to proceed with the process, he kept referring me back to the links on the email that he had already told me did not work.
“Didn’t we already determine that those links don’t work, Ernie?” I asked. He then sent me screenshots of where I was to be clicking.
“Ernie, I don’t have that screen, so I can’t click anywhere.”
More screenshots and a new link.
“Ernie, that link brings me right back to the sign-up page. I was hired this morning. Can I see my contract?”
“We don’t show contract anymore. Not until after training. Then background check.” He explained.
IT guys are usually pretty rude, and Ernie was no exception. His lack of English skills made me want to ask him if he needed online lessons. After all, I was now an English teacher so for $60/hour…but I held my tongue. I mean, I held my typing. Who really talks anymore?
I thought about this job seriously. I have to train for six days, wait for a background check, decorate my background with kindergarten stuff, figure out some electronic rewards, buy some orange shirts and then I can teach five-year-old Chinese kids English at 3 AM for $20/hour? Even if I could stand this job and did it four hours a day, five days a week, I would only make about $1,600.00/month before taxes. I was pretty sure I could do better and find something to do with my time that would not make me need an insulin shot after work every day.
I began to thank God for their awful tech support and that the guy who interviewed me sent me dated information that made me stumble over the start line. This job would NEVER work for someone like me. If you do this work and it satisfies you, I am happy for you. We are different people. And while the world needs all of us, we probably won’t play well together. Then again, 60,000 people doing this right now and I turned it down the first day. I am neither right nor wrong. This system obviously works. It just didn’t work for me.
“I am going to pass, Ernie.” I said. I clicked off and gave him a 1-star review for his help. The site required detailed notes in order for my review to be logged. That was their mistake, but they were smart enough to limit the characters I could enter, or I would probably still be typing.
In other news….
The Escape Artist conference is coming up soon. March 16th and 17th in Phoenix, Arizona. Check the details at escapeartist.com. My readers save $100.00 by using the promo code COLLINS100.
What is Escape Artist? Probably the best expat website I have ever seen. They have experts in every nation on Earth where you may want to visit, live, work, invest or retire. I have personally been following their site since 1994 and they have helped me immensely with the free information on their site. But it was when I began attending their conferences that I met the people in the know, got the real scoop and made contacts that I retain to this day. It was at the conferences that I met likeminded people who were really doing what I wanted to do. They were already living the dream. I kept studying and learning and soon, I get to realize my dream.
I started writing for them several years ago. They don’t pay me, but I do get discounts and they were kind enough to offer a discount to my readers. Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know. You have to talk to people who do to get the truth. That’s how I did it and I am moving in about 120 days. Can you imagine how excited I am? Get all the info here:
The response to my audible/video version of my first chapter was surprisingly very good. I was not sure how that would be received, but so far, the reviews have been excellent.
I loved producing that video, but it was a lot of time, work and even cost a little money. To support doing this in the future, I have opened a Patreon account. Patreon supporters of my work may donate as little as $1/month to have access to the following:
- Access to the future audible and video chapters of our story
- Private chapters not published online at USAdios.com
- Personalized email
support for questions
- A reader asked me today if I could supply details about our Mexico budget.
- Discounts on the
usage of our properties in Mexico.
- 5% to 15% off and even some free stays
- Invitations to be
shown our little piece of Mexico by us, Tom and Betty Collins!
- We will be your host, tour guide and driver!
- And much more to be added soon.
Please visit patreon.com/usadios and “find a creator” using my name, Tom Collins, for more information. Here is a link:
We are traveling to our home in Tulum on February 27th for ten days and I just can’t wait. I am convinced that this will be most likely be our last trip there until we move so I really want to make the best of this time. I have some interviews set up, so we’ll see how they go, more on that later. I also am working with some local vendors to get discounts for USAdios.com readers. Again, more on that as it develops.
My ultimate goal is to share this story with you and to help you on your journey, wherever that may be. Our journey is to jump from California to Tulum. Yours might be from Wisconsin to Baja, or you may just want to be able to connect with people in Mexico for when you travel there. Whatever your goal is, I sincerely hope our journey influences yours in a positive way.
We are trying to find a good solar energy contractor for our home in Tulum, Mexico. If you know one, please send their contact information. The sun shines there so much, it would be silly not to try to harness that power. Then, I can stop griping at Betty for leaving lights on and I can let the AC run without guilt.
Here in California, our home has too many trees nearby. Three different solar companies have come by and told us that we would be missing out on about 80% of the total energy we could catch if we didn’t have all these trees. I am a HUGE fan of free things so solar energy really excites me.
Years ago, I wanted to light up our backyard with motion-sensitive lighting, but it was way too expensive. Then I found a very simple solution:
These lights are amazing. If you want more info, here is a link:
I have them everywhere in our yard here in California and I am bringing more to Mexico. I love these lights because you can take them anywhere and move them as much as you like. You just install them with a nail, screw or something sticky like double-sided tape or even glue. They work incredibly well, really light up the area and apparently last a long time. I’ve had mine outside in the weather for years and not one has pooped out.
Here is a photo of a box I just bought from Amazon that I will bring to Mexico and install in our yard there.
We are also installing some motion-sensitive security cameras. Bahia Principe is gated and patrolled, but you can never be too careful, especially at this price.
Here is a link for more information:
We have had ADT security for over twenty years here in California and it costs us approximately $432.00 each year. ADT gives us window and door security devices that set off an alarm in case they are opened which is useful, but cameras that do both are much better. We have been using the Blink camera system for years and we love it.
In Mexico we will use Blink cameras as well. Here is why:
- There is no extra monitoring fee as they work with your WIFI.
- They are portable so you can move them anywhere you like.
- They are battery-operated so there is no mounting hardware or wiring.
- It uses a long-lasting a lithium battery which lasts two years.
- When the battery runs low, you get a warning on your smartphone.
- One small screw holds the camera in place.
- They are motion-sensitive and you can adjust the sensitivity.
- They have an automatic light for night time usage.
- You control the entire system from your smartphone.
- The cameras record sound and video.
- Recorded videos are automatically stored for you to view and use as needed.
Here is a link for more information:
I love these things because they are 100% portable,
work everywhere, highly durable and they are still affordable.
I only recommend products I use and love.