The classy way that Bauer handled the shuttering of Cocktail—hiring four people to start the day it closed, for one thing!—made us wonder just what else goes on in the offices in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. You probably already knew that our German friends who run the home of Life & Style and In Touch are as cheap as anything. But what you might not have known was just how cheap. Let's bring on the disgruntled Bauer staffers!
"They don't do corporate credit cards," a former staffer tells us. "So when a breaking story happens, a reporter is expected to pony up for all expenses, which sometimes can run into the thousands of dollars, like 'Celeb X may be getting married in Italy. Get on a plane today and knock on some doors.' That's not to even mention the natural PR wining and dining that goes with the job. And really, all of that would sometimes even be okay except for the fact that they take MONTHS (literally) to pay expenses and invoices. So you're constantly stuck with fat bills."
Wow, that sounds fun! But surely there must be perks. After all, the Germans are known for their generous employee benefits. Oh, wait, that was back home in Deutschland! Now that they've crossed the Atlantic, all that social welfare business goes out the window.
"I'm pretty healthy, just need my birth-control pills, but would have loved to go to the dentist on them," says this ex-staffer. "It had some insanely high deductible, but I have my own teeth so no need to get anywhere near thousands of dollars. And the vision plan was all me, too. If an eyeball had fallen out, they probably would have ponied up, though."
Oh, and let's not forget about the commute. It involves taking the A train all the way up to Washington Heights, then getting on a special Bauer bus that hurtles employees over the George Washington Bridge. (Though another former staffer insists, "The Port Authority at the Bridge is a hidden gem! It has health care offices and an OTB!") So you're looking at, minimum, an hour and a half commute if you live in Brooklyn, slightly less if you're anywhere in Manhattan besides the Upper West Side or north.
Of course, no matter how long you've been working there, when you get canned, it could get ugly. (If Cocktail is any indication!) One former Cocktail staffer tells us that another magazine staffer, who is eight months pregnant, was supposed to be going on maternity leave in two weeks—and like everyone else, was given no information about severance or health benefits. Oh, and she's a single mom. "[Cocktail editor-in-chief] Maria [Lissandrello] was completely unprofessional," this staffer says. "It was essentially, clear out your desks and leave, bye!"
Exacerbating the problem was that "the HR woman hid for the next two hours. There were promises there would be 'appointments' with her, but for the most part she was just missing."
Another ex-staffer also expressed frustration with the machinations of the human resources department: "No one has actually been able to get through to the lone HR person, who is this obnoxious Eastern European woman," this source tells us. "She has not picked up her phone since this 3pm announcement Monday. I've left her several messages, and also called the CFO—there is absolutely no word at this point if I'm getting so much as a week or two of severance."
Wow, a week or two. Neat. Ah, well, we wouldn't count on it.
Another staffer tells us that most of the mag's staff won't even qualify for unemployment, because they hadn't worked the required minimum of 20 weeks.
So what do you get once you've been kicked to the curb? As one of the staffers we talked to points out, "Have you ever noticed that there are never bylines? That is because [Bauer CEO] Hubert Boehle (who is a total odd-ball) is convinced that other editors will read the articles and steal the talent."
And as one of our commenters pointed out earlier, the company is constantly advertising for new staff. Which we'd regard as a warning sign.