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50 Below advice

Moderator’s note: One year after this post was published, and three months after bankruptcy proceedings, 50 Below Sales & Marketing was acquired by ARI Network Services and Emerald Connect. The company continues to develop websites and provide e-commerce services in Duluth. There have been no public complaints by employees since the acquisition.

I’m seeking a little help from the PDD community. I work for 50 Below Sales & Marketing and, like everyone else there, I haven’t been paid in over a week. That’s roughly 300 people who have had to get through Thanksgiving without the money they earned. Some have gone even longer due to bounced checks.

I don’t really want to get into how this came to be, maybe someone else can step up with that info if anyone is curious. What I’m here for is some advice on what (if anything) I can do. I’m sure everyone will see their money at some point but that’s not enough. Who do people recommend I talk to to try and make sure we don’t get screwed again? Lawyers? I hear they cost money. Unions? Some kind of labor group?

Any thoughts are welcome.

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195 Comment(s)

  1. 50 Below has been pulling this sh!t for a long time. What’s wrong with their business model? Why is business done on the backs of their workers? Question, how was the Thanksgiving of their executives?

    Fist Shaker | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  2. Maybe the MN Department of Labor could point you in the right direction.

    Department of Labor and Industry, Labor Standards unit dli.laborstandards @,
    (651) 284-5070 or 1-800-DIAL-DLI (1-800-342-5354).

    Deb | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  3. I’ve heard 50 Below is moving to the old Charter TV building downtown. This sounds like they’re having some cash flow problems, but it shouldn’t be the workers who pay the price for these things. I agree, the MN Department of Labor should be able to give you some guidance. I’m sorry to hear about this.

    Patty | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  4. Storm into your boss’s office, slam your fist on the desk and demand your f***in’ money now.

    Ramos | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  5. 1. US Department of Wage and Hour is your first stop.

    2. Unionizing would give you more power through collectively bargaining a contract that could dictate when you get paid and then allow for a grievance process when you don’t get paid in a timely manner, which would include taking them to arbitration. However, unionizing takes time and you need money now, so I would suggest you go to Wage and Hour.

    3. Here is the number of an awesome labor lawyer: Tim Andrew, Andrew & Bransky Law Firm, 722-1764.

    tamara | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  6. It’s really too bad that (one of?) the largest web development firm in Duluth has to have such financial difficulties.

    Forrest Vodden | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  7. Yes -- this sounds like a familiar story from when I was there in 2004.

    My best advice would be to find a different employer.

    Tomasz | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  8. Um, get the money you are due then get the F out and find a new job.

    Bryguy | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  9. Wage and Hour, and personally I wouldn’t do any more work until paid (+ interest).

    edgeways | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  10. 50 Below has been having this problem for over a decade. I remember hearing of employees rushing to the bank when they got their paychecks so they would actually have a chance of getting their money.

    I know this doesn’t help your situation right now, but you need to consider getting out of there. This isn’t a one-time problem and will keep happening.

    Bad Cat! | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  11. Interesting tidbit: I had an interview at 50 Below which was going pretty well, until I asked about their current financial stability. It got a bit chilly in the room at that point. Needless to say, they never called me back.

    Bad Cat! | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  12. Why would anyone want to work for a company that can’t even regularly pay its own employees? If the owners think this behavior is not known throughout the community, they are sorely mistaken. It is no secret that they have difficulty regularly paying their employees. I also know that banks in town have now put holds on checks from 50 Below because they bounce so regularly. Talk about a joke.

    Jack Samuelson | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  13. I worked there until last year. Leaving that company is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My last 4 paychecks bounced. I can tell you that when they try to make people feel like they need to tough it out and it’s “hard everywhere” and basically just give off a “you’re lucky to be here” vibe, that is completely false. The negative atmosphere that they insist you work in and the financial problems are NOT A NORMAL THING. This is the trademark of a corrupt, disorganized, mismanaged company. I am so happy where I am now, I got a new job (that ended up being a giant promotion with a pay raise) within a few months of leaving. My advice: staying is not worth the emotional torture. Leave and seek out a company that rewards dedication and initiative versus rewarding those who are the most quiet about not getting paid. Go for an employer that will not only give you your paycheck, but will give you regular raises. I wish you luck.

    Better-off-without-50-Below | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  14. Thanks for the info guys, I’ll be following up.

    I wish I could say more but I don’t want to post any info that could be used to identify me. I simply don’t trust the owners to see this as anything other than disloyalty or whatever. I certainly don’t trust them not to seek some kind of retribution.

    Of course, I’m looking for another job but there aren’t many opportunities in Duluth and many from 50 Below are in the same boat, applying for the same jobs so it’s not easy. I wish I could just walk out and be done with it but money is tight and obviously even tighter than usual because of all this.

    People still leave as soon as their check comes and head for the bank. I think because of this, and other things, the bank said enough is enough and ditched 50 Below. Leading to the mess we currently find ourselves in. That’s what I heard anyway.

    Anon | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  15. I applied there myself a while ago, but I declined an interview after learning of multiple reports of checks bouncing. Glad I did, I guess.

    Best of luck to you. You deserve a better working atmosphere than what you’re putting up with right now. I know it’s not ideal, but if worse comes to worse, give some of the temp agencies a try. That’s how I got my current job.

    Chad S | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  16. LOL — Here’s some more wonderful 50 Below Reviews.

    Tomasz | Nov 26, 2011 | New Comment
  17. I recently met someone who quit her job with 50 Below, and she expressed the same complaints we’re reading here. I used to work for a lawyer who had the same problem — would pay himself before paying employees. We’d often have to wait to get paid. I hit the road as soon as I could. Why deal with that kind of stress? Life is stressful enough without that kind of b.s.

    Claire | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  18. Don Bye -- The lawyer who represents the city retirees in the current health insurance law suit, is a compassionate and caring man and might be willing to help you for a minimal fee -- like write a letter to your employer, etc.

    carla | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  19. Runnning a small business in this economy is a struggle for many. Making payroll on a short work week (with Thanksgiving) also takes a lot. Could this be the case? Did they mention anything about a delayed pay check? I could not imagine expecting a check only not to have it show up, but is there more to the story?

    gr | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  20. GR: no offense, but that’s a broken record cop out that’s long worn out what little novelty it had when it was coined, and it doesn’t hold much water. I work at a business far smaller than 50 Below. My bosses have never had a problem getting my money to me when it’s payday, and the checks are always good.

    zra | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  21. It’s funny that the DNT can do a story on 50 Below expanding into a new building (which affects some people a little bit) but doesn’t do a story on 50 Below’s chronic bounced checks and late payments to employees (which affects a lot of people a lot). I know which story I’d be more interested in reading.

    Ramos | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  22. I see there is some history here. After a little googling, I found this DNT article from April 30, 2008, reprinted here.

    Duluth consulting firm, 50 Below, pleads guilty to charges

    A Duluth consulting firm with large clients nationwide pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to embezzlement and theft charges.

    50 Below Sales & Marketing Inc. pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and theft from an employee benefit plan after charges were brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota. The company specializes in online solutions for manufacturers, distributors and power-sports dealers, according to its Web site.

    According to the plea agreement, the business unlawfully and willfully separated and converted to its own use money, funds, property and other assets of about $45,098.54 from its 401(k) savings plan from December 2004 through May 2005. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the savings plan is an employee benefit plan.

    50 Below Vice President Mike Rollo referred questions Tuesday to the firm’s Minneapolis attorney Matthew Forsgren.

    “50 Below was unable to make timely deposits to its 401(k) plan between December 2004 and May 2005,” Forsgren said. “50 Below then worked with the Department of Labor to ensure that all affected accounts were current and accurate. During this process, it was undisputed — and it now remains undisputed — that no officer of 50 Below personally benefitted from the failure to make timely deposits.”

    Forsgren said the company employs more than 125 people. “The company has fully cooperated with the Department of Labor to ensure that the company is in full compliance,” he said. “The company looks forward to the resolution of this case, and the company intends to continue to do business in Duluth with this situation behind it.”

    The maximum penalty the business faces is five years probation and a $500,000 fine. U.S. District Judge David Doty will hand down the court’s sentence at a date not yet scheduled.

    The case resulted from an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Engisch prosecuted the case.

    Ramos | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  23. No newspaper or TV news outfit anywhere is going to pass on a story about employees being stiffed out of their paychecks during the holidays -- but those employees have to be willing to talk, or there needs to be some kind of legal action taken that can form the basis of a story.

    dlhmn | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  24. Well, the word’s out now. Let’s go, DNT. Start investigating.

    Ramos | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  25. [crickets chirping]

    Ramos | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  26. I’m amazed they are still in business (and still able to find employees) after all the crap they’ve pulled.

    Bad Cat! | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  27. This does not surprise me. I recently left 50Below due to these exact reasons. Not only do they not pay their employees in a timely manner, but they do not pay the insurance companies at times.

    Several times during my tenure there, my dentist had to re-submit for my dental insurance because 50 Below didn’t pay its premium on time and the policy was cancelled or suspended.

    My bank started to hold checks from 50 Below because the company used to bank with my bank and destroyed that relationship with its lack of financial responsibility. Their answer to my issue was to ask me to open an account with the bank they currently were using. That didn’t sit well with me.

    It’s very odd -- the culture there is “Hey, at least I have a job” and no one complains (until now). I’ve always joked that if another company opened its doors across the street that did the same thing, you’d see people jumping out of the windows at 50 Below heading across the street.

    I left -- and am better for it in so many ways. I can only hope others figure out that that’s not how you run a company, and definitely not how you treat your employees.

    Old 50Below'er | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  28. The real reason 50Below is this way, and always will be, is that the people working there have allowed it and the companies that deal with them are ignorant. I have seen people suffer the worst personal degradation, only to either blame themselves or suck it up for the fantasy of a promotion. Most everyone who works there will slit each others throats to make themselves look better.

    Also remember that most of the outlay of 50 Below is to wine and dine the right executives from their next corporate victim. Their products are ten years behind the current level of design and discredit their clients in performance and credibility. But where else are you going to get a job doing web anything in Duluth, for that great starting wage of $8.50 an hour?

    As long as there is willing fodder for the work force and idiot companies that encourage third party vendors to leech from their agents/distributors 50 Below will continue to be the shining success it is today.

    50Below Alum | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  29. GR:

    Yes, it’s a struggle running a business. However, checks have bounced, employees have been asked to hold off cashing checks until after the weekend (payday being Friday) and checks have often been handed out late on Friday afternoon so that some people have done their 40 hours and gone home by the time they arrive. All of these are fairly routine occurrences.

    This is a little different, by Monday we will have been nine days without pay and even longer for some. I’m sure there is more to the story but those are the facts as I understand them. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

    Anon | Nov 27, 2011 | New Comment
  30. If you do not like your job, quit. It really is that simple.

    Swan | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  31. I applied for a job there about 6-7 years ago. After I applied, I saw a news story saying that they had laid off a bunch of people, so I figured that was the end of that. To my surprise, they called me for an interview about a month later. I decided it couldn’t hurt, so I did the interview. It went well, but I had to ask about why they were hiring after laying off a bunch of people. I was told that they had preemptively hired a bunch of people in anticipation of some large project, then that project fell through. I decided at that point that the place seemed a little too shady, and ended up accepting a job elsewhere (that I have to this day). They called to ask me to do a second interview, and I declined.

    A year and a half later, I got a call from them out of the blue asking if I was still interested in a job there. I told them that I had a nice, stable job now, and asked why they were calling me again so long after I had originally applied. Turns out that someone had found my resume in a file or on someone’s desk or something with notes from my original interview, and they didn’t realize it was a year and a half old. A few weeks later, I heard that they couldn’t pay their employees that month.

    Dodged a bullet there.

    Cynic | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  32. Lengthy, my apologies..
    Speaking frankly and from current direct experience (I am not working there but someone I am living with is)… Something has to be done. period.

    We all know there are not a lot of companies in this field in the Twin Ports area for the current employees to go. It is frightening to say the least. Individually fight and fear they will find someway of not having your specific job available to you any longer. Leaving you unemployed. While unemployment may help out, it is not the same as having a job. So suggesting “go find employment elsewhere” is not the wisest unless you wish to work at Taco bell or Holiday gas station.

    Honestly my advice would be to bring a class action suit against them. All of the employees who are not being paid need to join in on this. 50 Below can not afford to lose all of you especially when so many are already putting in their notice. A deeper investigation needs to be done legally to figure out exactly what the owners are doing with the monies.

    If they can afford to continue renting out different areas in different buildings, they obviously need to look deeper into how they are spending. I am on the understanding that they currently do not have a CEO to monitor things and keep the financials in check. They also seem to refuse the idea of getting one. This is huge. What it tells me is that the owners can not be trusted and haven’t the first clue in running a business of this magnitude. They want to spend the money their way. And clearly it doesn’t involve paying the people who actually keep the business running.

    Again, all of you collectively need to do something or this is going to continue to happen. I am quite sure you are all tired of hearing excuse after excuse as to why you are not getting paid. Being involved, this makes me livid and if I were the one working there, I would not hesitate in doing something.

    This has been ongoing since the company began, do yourself a favor and stop kidding yourselves into believing the owners reasoning they give you every payday and why you won’t be getting the money you are owed. Seek council, report them to the state, and band together because singly, you will accomplish little.

    Bsquared | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  33. I am also a current employee here and am suffering the same crap as Anon. I put up with it because with the economy the way it is, I really have nowhere else to go. I wish I had the luxury of walking out the front door, but being fresh out of college living paycheck to paycheck, I don’t. It would be fantastic to dream of building up money in savings -- but hard to do that when you’re using the money you’ve saved to pay bills, instead of the money you’ve earned because you don’t get paid. And when you do get paid – there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that it will be made good and won’t bounce.

    A few things that I know: the majority of people in this company are like me – young and fresh out of college. Another small percentage has been there so long that this is just a way of life for them, and they just suck it up. A very minute percentage – the corrupt managers sitting at the TOP right below the owners – are getting paid top dollar to do absolutely nothing. And for this reason they don’t stand up for the employees working under them. Why should they? They can afford to miss a check or two, and what a great gig! Get paid a 6 figure salary for doing n o t h i n g. Not to mention fantastic job security – shut your mouth and do nothing and you will remain a top salaried employee at 50 Below. How honorable.

    There is no easy fix for the financial problems, but a good start would be to hire an accountant. That’s right, a company of almost 300 employees doesn’t have an accountant. Get rid of the [corrupt] people making top dollar for doing nothing. Stop bouncing checks (direct deposit, hello!?) and paying outrageous fees, destroying bank relationships along with their integrity in the community. The company could most likely afford to pay employees making $35k on average if they would get their crap together.

    50B Employee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  34. Trust me, we are not unionizing. The last thing we need is to have an outside entity like the AFL-CIO, or Teamsters taking money out of my paycheck to represent what I can do for myself, thank you very much.

    Razzle Dazzle | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  35. We’re looking into this.

    Please email me if you are a current/former employee of 50 Below and have experienced problems with paychecks bouncing.

    Northland’s NewsCenter

    Kevin Jacobsen | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  36. I called the Department of Labor and this is what was suggested:

    Any employee who has not been paid for 31+ days should call them personally. They cannot do anything about you or any other employee not being paid unless it has been over a month.

    Now I know for some it has been only a few weeks and your last check bounced which didn’t get paid for another what, week and a half? But when that 31 days is up and you are still not paid, which I am sure you won’t be, knowing the exact details of what the reasoning is behind not getting paid, call them.

    Don’t roll over.

    I know you are all angry and scraping up what you can to get by, but please don’t just suck it up or complain about it and act like there is nothing that can be done. The owners will never cease in their actions if you just stand by festering. When you actually do get paid does that make it all better? Until the next month when they bounce your check again right?

    Ongoing issue is ongoing. Sorry for being obvious but I just don’t get why so many folks just deal with it. The owners need to fully understand how wrong they are and be penalized for being corrupt or maybe just flat out ignorant. Though my bet is on being greedy control freaks considering their history. Otherwise this story will just continue on and it only makes every 50 Below underpaid employee look like a whining sniveling pushover who clearly has large amounts of savings and just loves working for free or “whenever,” on empty promises.

    Hold them accountable. They are like children and will allow themselves to get away with anything as long as you let them. And how would their business run if you all weren’t there? It wouldn’t, so it depends on exactly what you folks are doing now, which is nothing.

    “Here, look at this salary. Is that OK? This is what we say we will pay you now, but uh, we will only do that when we see fit and when our bank accounts aren’t getting closed on us. Happy Holidays! Oh oh and, I know we can’t pay you again this week but that rumor of having the Friday after Thanksgiving off and paid to show you ~our trusty employees~ our love … hahahaha no. Not happenin. Because F*ck You. That’s why.”

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  37. I have never heard so many different and untrue responses from a company in my life. They steal from the future and can’t even keep up with the present. Dave Hogge should shut down his company and sell used cars. He’d make a fortune.

    50Blows Goats | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  38. While this company has had issues with paying people on time, the owners, have articulated what the issue is currently in regards to their current banking situation. All employees will be paid. Nothing really constructive will occur by running to the local media, or to the Dept. of Labor. Not that I blame those who are owed money, but you won’t see it faster by doing so. Be patient … it’s coming. You have heard several legitimate reasons why this has occurred, it’s frustrating, agreed, but the rationale behind the current state of affairs is being reconciled, and when this is resolved, I doubt the company and its workforce will face this scenario again.

    Razzle Dazzle | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  39. Walk out. Now. No money, no work. You get what you pay for.

    leave now | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  40. Funny how there is never any praise for the small business. Companies are struggling all over this country to make ends meet and all you people offer is your opinions of how bad the owners are. They have sacrificed a hell of a lot to provide work to over 300 families in a city that has very little opportunity. Funny how our local government gives opportunities to new companies that promise and never deliver, but can’t lend a helping hand to companies who have stayed here. Life is never easy and we all have struggles but if you aren’t in someone’s shoes day to day then keep your negative, pointless comments to yourselves. The reason why you all have something to say now is because you have no skills and brought no value. Keep telling yourself you left so you can feel better!

    Joe blow | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  41. They have been doing this for years upon years.

    They claim they are “cash-based” and have no debt, which is why they sometimes don’t have enough money to cover these things. Other times they say that one of their clients is late on a payment (as if a major financial institution would be late on a payment almost every month).

    I will say that they do eventually pay, but you as an employee should not have to deal with that kind of uncertainty.

    They have had plenty of opportunity to change the way they do business, yet have not done so. So the time is now to jump ship.

    Question | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  42. That is bs Razzle. Sorry but it really is. There is a lot of wrong doing to be had by the owners and the comments above are only the tip of the iceberg.

    The owners have been careless and the company has been through this “scenario” since the beginning. Granted, this is a new reason why they are not paying their employees but next week will be another new reason. It just keeps happening.

    Why would so many banks in the area refuse 50 Below checks if it was a dependable and honest company? Why are insurance premiums company side not getting paid consistently since … forever? Why is it that it seems every other week someone gets a bounced check fee or is asked not to cash their paycheck? Why haven’t they simply gone with direct deposit? Why why why why why. So many reasons to logically know this is not a one-time deal. And definitely why patience is not going to help matters but instead enable the owners to continue mistreating their employees.

    Yes, going to people who can do something about it or highlight what is happening can make a difference.

    It is more than frustrating, it is blatantly wrong to put employees through this time and again. This type of rationale is exactly why 50 Below gets away with it consistently.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  43. “While this company has had issues with paying people on time, the owners, have articulated what the issue is currently in regards to their current banking situation.”

    That’s laughable Razzle Dazzle. If we should believe your version of things then the definition of current is almost a decade. Nice try. Just because a company decides to base itself in Duluth isn’t a valid excuse for accepting year after year of bouncing payroll checks. Never in my life have I known a company to bounce checks on such a regular basis. That’s not right and it’s not fair to employees.

    Jack Samuelson | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  44. Joe Blow must be a manager. It’s ok, I understand, I would defend a company that paid me a ton {and on time} for doing nothing too.

    If you’re not, well then you should take your own advice and walk in others shoes sir. Though I have a feeling you are definitely tied in somehow considering you felt the need to insult employees based off of nothing and only because they are fed up.

    These complaints are not invalidated and while I support a small business more than corporations, this company is not considered a small business when it houses near 300 employees.

    Possibly, just possibly, if thinking you can bring in the amount of workers currently while still hiring today (yes, yes, they indeed are) you should first consider:
    *if there is enough work on a consistent basis *can you actually pay them
    *can you keep our bank accounts in good standing
    *if we can’t even pay our employees why are we renting out more business space and hiring more people
    *can we pay our bills
    etc, etc.

    Your anger response is invalidated however. No need to dismiss and attack real concerns of people who depend on this company to give them what they are owed in a timely manner. It has nothing to do with “no skill” on the employee side but everything to do with this supposed company that has “sacrificed a hell of a lot” to give folks a job they can’t deliver on. False security for over a decade is not how it’s done.

    Funny how when money does come in the owners specifically ask for the folks who have not been paid in over 31 days so they can pay them … somebody knows the laws.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  45. I think we should ask them to lay off a bunch of our fellow Duluth citizens. That way, they can solve everything that everyone on here is complaining about. That would be great wouldn’t it? I have two friends there, and while they seem to have issues, my friends seem to like the job. Well, except for the paycheck part. But that seems to be a recent thing for them. (They have only been there like 2 years).

    So, if they lay a bunch of people off will you all be happier that they pay their bills or mad because they laid off a bunch of people?

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  46. I’d like to offer my thanks to everyone who has participated in this conversation. All of your thoughts, suggestions and advice are extremely helpful.

    I am a family member of a 50 Below employee. At this time, we have gone 24 days without pay. Next Sunday will be our 31st day.

    I’d like to talk about what could be paralyzing employees, and preventing a mutinous outcry. What options the do they have in moving forward? Let’s talk reality and consequences.

    The option of quitting their job and claiming unemployment warrants a bit of discussion. Below, I’m quoting from an Unemployment Compensation document found on

    “A voluntary termination (i.e. a “quit”) will disqualify an employee from unemployment benefits, provided the quit was truly voluntary and not the result of good cause attributable to the employer.”

    A relevant example of how 50 Below’s actions could justify a “good cause” for voluntary termination would be:

    “Employer misconduct such as violation of an employee’s contract, an employer’s own policies on discipline, or an employer’s request that an employee violate a law or regulation.”

    Surely, each 50 Below employee has been issued an employee handbook wherein the pay schedule is clearly defined. Does failing to adhere to this schedule, and withholding payment count as “employer misconduct”? I hope so.

    So… what happens when an employee quits with “good cause” and files for unemployment?

    I have no experience with this scenario, but in the best circumstances, an individual claiming unemployment must wait one week from termination before they can file. Then, I believe the amount they’ve earned over the past 4 quarters is used to determine weekly benefits, and will pay (I think) no more than 55% of their previous earnings, with a maximum of $585 per week. Anyone can log on to the website and “estimate my benefits” by entering your social security number. Data is estimated by information your employer has submitted to the MN Dept of Employment and Economic Development.

    Which is the lesser of two evils? Should they wait essentially another 2+ weeks and receive much less pay while they look for work? Or wait it out and search for work while still employed? Some could argue that payment from MN Unemployment would be more reliable -- but what happens if 50 Below fights the claim? The determination of benefits could be delayed for unknown periods. If anyone has any knowledge of how this could play out, I (and many other silent onlookers) would be very interested and grateful for your insight.

    The logical move is to find a new job. That is much easier said than done. I have personally been looking for work for quite some time. Job seekers are definitely struggling in Duluth. The competition is brutal. Graduates with Bachelors in Computer Sciences are applying for Tier 1 Tech support positions and not getting the job.

    The conversation on the job market in Duluth is ongoing, and extremely relevant, but this thread may not be the place for it. My point in bringing this up is, for job seekers in Duluth at this time, the outlook is grim if you need to make more than 35k a year to maintain your household.

    I believe that the comment about struggles for the small business owner are valid, in general. But not for this lot. A basic structure for financial resilience is not in place at 50 Below. They’ve had plenty of time to develop a system that can handle an influx, or “rough patch.” I can hardly believe that a company of this size does not have access to short term cash flow, even if it means high interest advances on invoices, etc. Although I do understand that this could be difficult, considering the company’s history.

    Priorities for business budgeting and cash flow management:
    1. Pay your employees
    2. Pay your taxes
    3. Pay everything else within a budget
    Z. Pay your owners

    I’ll offer up that advice for free.

    tang! | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  47. @Joe Blow and RazzleDazzle,

    You are both managers so time to be leaders. Stop talking down to the employees you are mistreating. This is wrong and looks like you’ve had one wrist slap from the state already. Stay in Duluth and get your house in order! Take a hit where it hurts, your own compensation, looks like it’s time to pay the piper.

    My family owns a small business in a related field. As principals, you get paid after everyone else … it’s why you sign on the front of the checks. Tang!’s list is dead on, item Z: Pay the principals last. Now it’s time for you to actually work, take one (or how ever many is needed) for the team.

    Fist Shaker | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  48. I am not a Manager or Superviser at 50 Below.

    Razzle Dazzle | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  49. “…my friends seem to like the job. Well, except for the paycheck part.”

    WTF to you get out of bed and go to work for?? Warm fuzzies?

    adam | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  50. @adam, not sure you’ll have to ask them. Like I said, I don’t work there. But I don’t think their whole paycheck issue is an “everyday” thing. I just chimed in to share an opinion. I didn’t try to give a perception that I’m involved or an insider.

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  51. Well said and good question Tang.

    It is definitely a `between a rock and a hard place` situation. We all know how the job market is in Duluth and the current economy makes it even worse.

    The only thing I know for sure with unemployment is that you need to file for it the same week you are no longer working there. And yes I am sure 50 Below may fight your claim if you quit. Though I am not too sure they would overrule it considering.

    As far as quitting then looking for employment, I would assume most cannot afford to do that as the average person does not gain employment within the first six months at least. This is the average mind you.

    Looking for employment while still employed, yes it would be the wise thing to do.

    As for the situation itself, not making authorities aware of the ongoing situation I think is only hurting this city more than anything. However, that is something each of you have to decide on. I completely understand why someone wouldn’t say anything. The outcome of any action against them could vary greatly, from the company wrongfully firing you to even the company closing its doors and everything between.

    How can you get a poorly run business to step up and do the right thing? After a decade of not being so honorable? By not backing down or sucking it up. It could turn out great, it could turn out horribly by the near 300 people not able to depend on getting paid at all regardless if it is a month late. It all depends on what any of you are willing to deal with. My only question is why allow this to continue on for every new grad that walks in the door who in turn ends up dealing with the same thing you all are now and have been for some time.

    If the owners would just allow a real accountant and a CEO to come in, they would be able to handle the business smoothly and pay their employees, their taxes, the bills and themselves. So why haven’t they? Those who have said that they’ve had so many opportunities to get their sh*t together and still haven’t makes me believe that they are only using everyone as tools to supply their own desires. And so far with only a slap on the hand.

    When does it end?

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  52. @Reality

    At least I would be able to count on a check from unemployment. I don’t know what I am more worried about, the fact that I still haven’t been paid or what Friday (the next pay day) will look like.

    Sooo… why hasn’t this company hired an accountant or for that matter why not a CFO?

    50belowemployee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  53. @RazzleDazzle

    Then you’re an owner. Your royal “we” gave you away … the Emperor has no clothes.

    Fist Shaker | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  54. @50belowemployee, why don’t you go get a different job? Seriously? If you are that bent out of shape, go somewhere else. I’m not even a part of this place, but I don’t get the people saying things like this.

    I’m not sure why they don’t have a CFO or accountant. You work there, why don’t you go ask your boss?

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  55. There’s a word for making people work without pay. That practice was supposed to have ended with the Civil War.

    I almost wish I worked at 50 Below myself, just so I could sit with my feet on my desk until I got paid. A good book, a sandwich, an occasional middle finger tipped toward management…it sounds like a fun day to me.

    Quitting a job is tough, but putting up with something like this year after year would, for me, be much, much tougher.

    I am sure that not paying one’s employees for 24 days qualifies as employer misconduct. If that doesn’t qualify, what does? Public whippings?

    Walk out. All of you. Today. Come on!

    Do I have to come down there?

    Ramos | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  56. New job! Easier said than done. I will guarantee that every single employee at this company has looked at job postings in the past two weeks.

    On the question of a CFO or accountant, there never has been a clear answer. Only speculation.

    50belowemployee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  57. so @50belowemployee, I’m sure there are plenty of people who are unemployed who would love your problems. Why don’t you put your feet where your mouth is and quit.

    Say, aren’t you on the clock right now? Is there no morality to you spending time on this site while you bash the company employing you?

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  58. @Reality

    Do you work? as in have gainful employment through an employer?

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  59. I am a current employee of 50 Below. I am frustrated that I didn’t get paid on time and that checks have bounced. I have bills to pay and a family to feed like everyone else. However I can’t really complain; because I knew these issues going in. It was a risk I was prepared to take.

    Where else in Duluth can you get a job without a college degree that pays $30k starting? The reality is that the problems they are facing are not due to unethical business owners. I’ve talked to them personally and I don’t think these problems are driven by greed.

    I just think it’s pure mismanagement. They have no structure in place for accountability. There is no CFO, no CEO, no director of operations, no accountant, nothing. Just Dave and Mike running it. Themselves. They are running the company as if it’s a small company. They’ve ruined their ability to take out loans and/or have business credit. So it’s just a revolving cycle. If they get into cash flow issues they have no options but to wait for cash.

    Most people don’t realize that there are many companies that operate in the red for long periods of times. The difference is that those companies have security blankets; like shareholders, investors, liquid assets, etc. Sears, JC Penny, and Wendy’s all suffered a loss in the 3rd quarter of this year. That means they lost money and not a little either; millions upon millions of dollars.

    I read a story the other day of a company that reported a loss of seventy million dollars in Q3. Most of the loss was absorbed by its shareholders. Problem is 50 Below has no means to do that. They are in a vicious cycle.

    Because of their tarnished relationships, it’s going to be next to impossible to get any financial support from any lenders or private investors. I don’t think 50 Below is actually losing money, they just can’t manage their money. They have a lot of overhead and expenses that can be cut back on, but from my experience in the company it can be very profitable if some changes were made to the structure.

    I don’t think it’s fair to blame all of the managers in the company, while I’m not saying there some managers that do nothing and need to go, I am saying there are managers who have worked their asses off, opted to go without pay longer so their subordinates can get paid before them. There are managers who work very hard to get things done and to push the company to the next level. Regardless of the industry or employer; people will always complain about “top level executives” as if anyone who makes a lot of money is a huge greedy asshole just out to get everyone.

    50 Below has to be doing something right or else it wouldn’t exist. They have a very interesting niche solution that is certainly in demand. The company has a lot of potential but they need to make some very serious structural changes if they expect to survive with employees. The employees wouldn’t stick around if they didn’t see hope.

    employee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  60. Nope … not even close to being an owner, just work here. Like it here, like my job, like my co-workers … frustrated … a little. But what can I do? I have to wait, have no desire or inclination to quit, nor do I want to collect unemployment. I also do not make 100k, or anything close to that.

    Razzle Dazzle | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  61. @employee:

    Your comment makes me sad.

    Ramos | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  62. @ employee -- I agree with you completely except for one factor. What are the problems driven by then if they refuse to bring in the appropriate people to do what needs to be done?

    And the average employee sticks around because they have no other option. Late paycheck is better than none right? I can see the management and supers having hope but the typical employee? Not so much.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  63. @anonymous1, what does my employment situation matter? Do my words bear less weight if I was employed or unemployed? For the record, I am employed. I work in the mining industry. Need to go take a nap soon as I work night shift. Do you work? Scratch that, I don’t’ care.

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  64. @reality

    I only ask because your comments and questions seem written out of ignorance and not full understanding to the situation at hand.

    Your sarcastic remark to me shows perfectly well that you really could care less of the folks here and are just trolling. Go take your nap and enjoy your job.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  65. @anonymous1, I stated I don’t work at 50below so that implies ignorance to some degree. Thanks for stating the obvious.

    What was sarcastic? Asking you if you work?

    And a bit of a lesson for you, it’s “couldn’t care less” not “could care less.” Sorry, that’s a pet peeve.

    And I do care for the folks there. They are two of my closest friends, however, I’ve asked some questions to people on here that are tough. Like, does everyone on here think they should lay off a bunch of people? Seems like everyone on here is more interested in them paying their bills than employing our friends, family and neighbors. Why can’t anyone answer that?

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  66. @ me:

    The next time your boss, Mr. David Hogge, treats you with intimidation and aggression, ask him why he hasn’t paid his DWIs yet. Christ, they’re two years old already.

    Ramos | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  67. It’s a good question, Reality.

    Very few know exactly what the multitude of circumstances are for continued financial mismanagement. What we do know is that 50 Below could benefit from a trained professional in matters of cash flow forecasting, departmental budgeting, and employee effectiveness.

    If an intensive review was conducted, I highly doubt that anyone would need to lose their jobs, unless of course they weren’t doing much of anything at all.

    tang! | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  68. And as we were informed, that as soon as the matters with our financial institution was resolved we would be getting paid. And we are being paid right now.

    Razzle Dazzle | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  69. @Reality: “Seems like everyone on here is more interested in them paying their bills than employing our friends, family and neighbors.”

    A paycheck is a type of bill that a company is obligated to pay, so yes, I think the employees have a vested interest in the company meeting their payroll every payday.

    tamara | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  70. @reality

    Oh boy, kind of snippity aren’t we? My apologies for evoking a pet peeve.

    Perhaps you would get answers if you weren’t so strongly under-toned with sarcasm. That and actually asking a question instead of making more of an accusing statement. Or was that a real question? So difficult to read you.

    But here, I will give it a go since you have been so rudely ignored. What kind of question is that? “Just lay off everyone .. would it make you happy.” What exactly would that accomplish? Such a silly and ignorant question. Let’s try to be more constructive here shall we?

    And why have you chosen only one issue stated to be your main focus of questioning? Clearly the not getting paid is at the top of the list. So just because people have mentioned 50 Below not paying its bills, that all of a sudden dismisses wanting to get paid or having a job that actually pays them for the work they do? Or is it all of a sudden more important? Can there not be more than one concern? I am confused.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  71. “We’re being paid right now” … Great, then off to Black Water, drinks on the boss.

    Figure it out 50 Below!

    “50 Below could benefit from a trained professional in matters of cash flow forecasting, departmental budgeting, and employee effectiveness.” +1 tang!

    Fist Shaker | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  72. We have been working on this and are interested in getting in contact with anyone willing to speak to us on the record. Also if any formal charges have been, or will be filed we would like to know. Please email me at ddanielson @ Best wishes.

    ddanielson | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  73. Hmm… According to Razzle Dazzle, their “financial institution issue” is resolved and people are getting their checks. So what are they now? Just a company in Duluth that employs hundreds of employees. What do you all want to say about it now? (Disclaimer: I have not confirmed with my friends who work there).

    Should we all go pitch a tent to #OccupyLastPlaceOnEarth? What else can we get all excited about?

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  74. I have yet to see my check and even after I do this is not resolved. This is an ongoing issue that continues to happen.

    me | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  75. We were told that the issue was resolved early last week. Still … no check.

    Also, part of the issue is that no banks in Duluth want to do business with 50 Below. That isn’t a problem that is going away.

    50belowemployee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  76. @ramos


    “What are the problems driven by then if they refuse to bring in the appropriate people to do what needs to be done?” -- I don’t think that it’s a case of them refusing to bring in the appropriate people. I just think they’ve got themselves into a huge mess and it’s not easy to fix. How many accountants do you think would want to get involved and help clean up?

    employee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  77. So that makes it OK that some have not been paid for over a month and are now just getting one of their paychecks? While others are still not getting paid at all?

    Hey guys!! It is all hunky dory now, some of us got our checks finally after two, three, four weeks!! No need for any more concern with why we don’t get paid on time! Continue with business as usual!

    Sarcasm. Goes both ways.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  78. last comment was in regards to Reality’s statement.

    @employee- Good point and definitely not I. So how could they get themselves out of the gutter now before it is too late? Or is it already?

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  79. @anonymous1

    That’s the magic question. Is it too late to fix? I wish I could answer that. I’m torn. All I can do for now is be hopeful and say yes. From my perspective I think there is potential.

    employee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  80. Mr. Danielson…nothing illegal is occuring here…thus no charges will be filed against 50 Below. Find another “issue” to expose.

    Razzle Dazzle | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  81. Move along, nothing to see here ….

    Fist Shaker | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  82. @anonymous1, I’m not sure the situation. Was just stating the Razzle (who seems to work there) said they were getting paid. Not sure about if that gets him (or her) caught up.

    My friends (again, my friends since I don’t actually work there) were behind on a check for like a week or something like that. Not a month. So if they are getting paid today, they are back to normal right?

    Sounds to me like they had a bank issue. Frankly, should we not be surprised that there is an issue with a bank out there? Should we villianize every mortgage holder for fraud at their banks?

    This blog blows my mind sometimes. Let’s just find something to complain about, no matter which side of the argument we are on. Hate everyone, every business. Can we not appreciate a company that has been built here and grown to employ hundreds of employees? Can we not accept that maybe, just maybe, an issue may come up? Sounds like they have some long-term things to work out, but can we not wait a bit to put them on the stake?

    Glad to see the local news here. Will be fun to watch their reports tonight that more than likely won’t state that people got paid up today (if they did), or that the company is a good company for Duluth.

    Where have they been over the past decade as the company has grown to what they are today?

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  83. The issue for me is that I genuinely like my job and I don’t want to quit. Does that mean I should have to put up with these kind of shady shenanigans? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s appropriate for the people in charge to issue ultimatums like “if you don’t like it, quit.”. Employees should not be held hostage that way. So far, we have received nothing buy excuses and extremely evasive answers from the owners. But at least they could be respectful. Anyone questioning them has been met with intimidation and aggression.

    me | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  84. @employee

    For everyone involved I hope there is still hope. Though when we have come to assumption that an accountant really would rather not partake in this adventure; I fear if things don’t turn around soon and great accountants + CFO/CEO don’t get hired on, the little hope that remains will be lost.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  85. @ employee:

    Your comment makes me sad because I’m sure that employees could force a clean-up, or at least some kind of resolution, by taking a stand, but your comment makes it clear that you are not going to take a stand.

    Your comment makes me sad because it shows that you, and undoubtedly many others at 50 Below, operate in fear rather than confidence.

    Your comment makes me sad because even after your employers have stolen from your pension funds, they are still “Dave and Mike” to you.

    If it were me, I’d be lighting the torches and unpacking the pitchforks. I guess your comment makes me sad that you’re not me.

    Ramos | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  86. The issue at hand is that the company is not making strides to improve. Things have been this way for so long and have only continued to get worse. It’s time for something to change.

    NotHappy | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  87. @anonymous1

    Agreed. That’s why I don’t plan to work here for the last of my life.

    employee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  88. I would like to offer a few assumptions, and then pose a question:

    * The employees generally enjoy the type of work that they have elected to do at 50 Below.

    * The employees enjoy getting paid for their work.

    * The employers enjoy their line of business.

    * The employers enjoy paying their employees for their hard work.

    * Having a successful company, employing a large staff, in the technology sector, is good for our community.

    I have no affiliation with this company, although I know several folks that do work for them.

    Of course, the company should pay the employees. I am hopeful that they will do so … and soon … and that they will continue to do so, long into the future.

    So, on to my question…

    What can we do, as a community, to help the company get on track, and stay on track?

    rnarum | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment

    diddles | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  90. I appreciate your constructive comment, rnarum!

    diddles | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  91. @Ramos -- Here here! This is what I wish would happen as well. Maybe not with the pitchforks quite yet, but a stand should be made. Though, we can’t force anyone’s hand can we.

    @rnarum -- That is definitely the question that needs to be addressed here.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  92. @ramos

    I guess that makes sense. I think there can be a clean-up forced by us the employees, but at the same time, I have been looking for employment and there is very little out there that pays about the same. So before I jeopardize the well being of my family I have to be cautious how I approach. Pitch forks won’t work.

    I’m not afraid. I’m just trying to be positive. One of the few things I can control.

    Also they never stole from me. I can see how you’d make that assumption. That was years before my time.

    employee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  93. Final Word from me. What most of you are stating and the advice that has been offered has been discussed, contemplated, regurgitated for years by 50 Below employees. Many believe we should have a CFO and accountants, and better cash flow management, and better this, that and whatever. Why we stay,or “put up with it,” in reality is of no concern to those outside. You have your right to your words and thoughts, and outrage. I and others want to stay, and produce, support and see this company thrive. Even while knowing that we have issues that have needed to be addressed. We don’t want to throw a tantrum, walk out, take a chance of unemployment benefits being denied. We want to work … here, even knowing that being compensated at times is an issue.

    If you knew me you would know that the conversations I have had with friends families and co-workers have been about topics addressed here. I stay because it’s where I want to be. It’s called life, it isn’t always perfect, or easy. Do I feel frustrated for those who are frustrated here? I hear it and see it every day … all I can say is that I believe it will get better, more stable, and that it will be better managed. That’s all … more than enough said.

    Razzle Dazzle | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  94. @employee

    Only the more reason to take a stand together. All of you. Like I said before, they cannot afford to lose all of you. Changes are made by the masses not accepting the bad conditions they have been forced to swallow down. Things get done when people start speaking up and coming together.

    I understand that you (all of you) are scared into keeping quiet when they react the way they do with you on an individual basis, but what are they going to do when all of you walk up and refuse to keep quiet? Fire you all? I don’t think so.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  95. Why do people think it is OK to trash the work ethic of the employees who are not getting paid?!?

    50 Below made a business contract with its employees: “work x hours a week and we will pay you x dollars a week.” By withholding money from its employees, 50 Below is in breach of contract. How could you possibly think it’s OK to snark at someone who is effectively slave labor, hostage for the next maybe-paycheck?

    Yes, 50 Below is a local business, and yes, it is a tough economic time everyone, but any business that knows what its doing doesn’t bounce paychecks for 10+ years (while hiring new people and expanding into a new building). 50 Below’s bounced paychecks were not caused by a bad economy, or a simple math error – 50 Below is a bad business that has borderline-illegal financial issues and deserves to be recognized as such (I hope Google searches pick this thread up and holds it for any future 50 Below prospects).

    Bad Cat! | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  96. @Bad Cat, I can’t believe you would say something like that. My friends that work there both are married with kids. So, you are hoping that their employer doesn’t get future business and goes down, for what? So you can feel better. You won’t even remember them the next week, but 300 families in our community will be left with no income. Great idea.

    Reality | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  97. When you Google “50 Below Duluth” this thread comes up on the first page.

    One thing that I’m not sure has been touched on is that while employees eventually get paid, the bills they have responsibilities for rarely afford extensions. There are pay-by-dates and it helps to have money in the bank so you can pay your power bill, credit card bill, etc. etc.

    It really makes no sense at all that 50 Below can keep hiring people and move into a nice new building downtown yet not have the means to meet payroll for its current employees.

    Jack Samuelson | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  98. Reality -- get a fricking life. I thought you were gonna take a nap?!

    someone | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  99. Razzel states that nothing illegal is going on, and that the media should look elsewhere for a story. I’m sorry to inform you, especially since your lips are planted so firmly to Mike and Dave’s rear ends … but, knowingly issuing NSF checks is, in fact, illegal. Anything over $800 is a felony. You were saying?

    RealityCheck | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  100. 100!

    100! | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  101. Reality -you are exactly the reason why I lose faith in humanity.

    Bad Cat has an excellent point and never once said he wanted the business to fail. Saying that it has a borderline illegal financial system is only the truth. It may be harsh but it is reality.

    Why are you so willing {when you don’t even work there} to support a company that is actually hurting this community, not helping it? Yes it has almost 300 employees, but that sure doesn’t give them the right to screw them over just because they were so kind in giving them employment. And it definitely does not make them some great entity because they really are basically using these folks as slave labor. Handing out jobs like it is candy at a parade, then making them work even if they are not getting paid and letting them know where they can go if they don’t like it. You just don’t get it do you?

    This has nothing to do with being individually selfish and everything to do with ensuring these 300 people and their families are fairly treated and have a dependable job where they can afford to put food on their tables and pay their bills. Which is their right.

    People have been laid off in 50 Below before due to situations like this only to be replaced by others a month later. So the fear of not having employment on a daily basis -right now- is more real than losing their jobs because they wish for the company to change it’s bad ways.

    Nobody wants the business to shut down. We all just want it to be repaired. But honestly, it will sink if things don’t change. And that is fact. But you wouldn’t know that because like you said, you are not directly involved and are only going off of bits of information from friends and what you wish to absorb here.

    Again, why do you think it is all solved because one of many checks have finally been paid? Nothing about that makes it alright and all it is doing to it’s employees, is forcing them to walk on broken glass hoping they don’t fall through. 50 Below employees can not depend on their employers to pay for what they are providing this company. They are always questioning whether or not they get paid. If your friends have not had an issue with this since they started working there two years ago, I call bs or they are Supers. It is a WEEKLY pattern for the owners to ask who will forgo getting their check on time. Every payday. Have I made this clear enough for you? Or do you really think they are still owed respect and gratitude for what you think they are doing for their employees? If so, just let it go.

    Please just stop. You are bringing nothing to the table that is useful or open minded to try and help the situation. And since this does not pertain to you and you only think all others who have valid concerns are trolls, just leave it alone. Go to another blog or post if you feel the need to continue doing exactly what you just called them.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  102. Shorter version of this thread:

    1- We have serious concerns about getting paid on time and with valid checks.

    2 -- Shut up! Nothings wrong, and it’s being fixed anyways! Don’t you dare let the media do a story on this! Bend over and grab your ankles we’re a small business and you should be thankful we allow you to work at all, trust us!

    edgeways | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  103. Wow “Reality”, you read that much into BadCat’s statement?

    What I read was someone stating that a company should not treat workers like they do, and since they do they should not be in business.

    NOT “I hope that 300 families go without food.”

    Just because they sometimes pay their employees does not make them a good company, nor a good place for a person who has a family to work. I am willing to bet those 300 families are struggling pretty hard to make ends meet while feeding their kids when they don’t get a paycheck for a month.

    The bottom line is, you are putting words into peoples mouths trying to get people to feel sorry for 50 Below.

    Question | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  104. I’m sorry that some people find it hard to deal with facts, but here’s another DNT article, dated March 24, 2006.

    U.S. Targets 50 Below’s Tax Record

    The United States Department of Justice has initiated a suit against 50 Below Sales and Marketing Inc. of Duluth, alleging that the company owes the Internal Revenue Service as much as $3.7 million in unpaid employment taxes.

    Mike Rollo, a partner in the e-commerce company, said late Thursday that he was unaware of the suit. He also said he and partner Dave Hogge believe the matter will be cleared up next month.

    The issue of unpaid withholding from 50 Below’s employees’ wages isn’t new, Rollo said. 50 Below has been working with the IRS for years on the matter, he said.

    The periods during which the Justice Department said the company didn’t pay the IRS its due go back to 2000.

    50 Below, founded in Duluth, has about 110 employees. It specializes in medical, tire, pool and spa, power sports and financial consultinge-commerce and has large clients nationwide. Former staff members have said 50 Below offers good wages and benefits.

    The court complaint, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, says 50 Below is required to withhold federal income tax and Social Security taxes, but since the company began in 1997, it has been “routinely failing to meet its obligations to pay over employment taxes to the United States.”

    “Employers who withhold taxes from employees but fail to pay them over to the United States, as is alleged here, undermine our federal tax system, ” Department of Justice spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson said.

    Rollo said he didn’t know whether the total balance owed cited in the complaint was correct. It includes $2.5 million in assessed taxes from various calendar quarters of 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005 as well as $800,000 to $1.2 million in anticipated liabilities from the second half of 2005 and the first quarter of this year.

    As the company has been negotiating with the IRS, the agency at times has suspended collection procedures, the complaint says. It also says that 50 Below did not pay $1 million in employment taxes in 2003 and 2004 while the IRS evaluated a compromise offer from the company. The IRS rejected the compromise.

    50 Below filed suit in July seeking to set aside an adverse collection due process hearing determination or a remand of the decision to the IRS appeals officer.

    A hearing on that suit is set for April. Rollo said he and Hogge have been working with their lawyers on a course of action that will be presented to the court then. “We do have a plan for getting it all cleaned up and moving on,” he said.

    50 Below laid off at least 18 employees last year and for a while had less money going in the door than going out, Hogge said in May.

    Rollo said he is optimistic that the employment tax can be dispensed within the next month. “We’ve had a really rough year, and we’re optimistic things are going to get better,” he said.


    And here’s some follow-up documentation.

    Ramos | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  105. @Anonymous … don’t believe everything that you read.

    In situations where cash has been tight, 50 Below always has paid staff first on up to management last.

    Any disgruntled employees who hate that place: it is not a communist state! go get a different job! Can’t get one? That should tell you something.

    Gorilla Radio | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  106. @ Gorilla Radio

    What shouldn’t I be believing?

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  107. Everything that you read.

    Gorilla Radio | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  108. Just another day at work.

    Ramos | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  109. And Jack hits the nail on the head.

    Question | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  110. @Jack Samuelson. How much does rent in a building cost? a few grand maybe? What is payroll for a company of 300 for a month? 750K? Not too hard to see how it is not impossible to imagine being able to expand into a building and have difficulty making payroll for a payroll of that size. You must be a CPA huh? Especially when they had an issue moving between banks. Man, do you guys hate a family member if they get a speeding ticket? WTF.

    If they got all their financial issues in line, would you people jump on here and talk about how great they are? I’m guessing no. Hey, mom is calling, let’s all run upstairs for dinner then meet back up for a wicked game of WOW.

    Bulls on Parade | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  111. @ Gorilla

    Which is what exactly? Please enlighten me so if I am mistaken I can correct myself and because 99% of what I have written is from experience and obviously my own opinion.

    In regards to the the owners paying the employees before themselves, if you were directing that toward me, I never said anything about that. That was someone else I believe.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  112. “99% of what I have written is from experience and obviously my own opinion”

    What is the other 1%? Ouija Board?

    Gorilla Radio | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  113. Really? That’s all you got huh?

    Answer the question or be a butt. I don’t care, whatever floats your boat.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  114. This is a stupid blog with anonymous posters who could say whatever the hell they want and all the readers, including the local media, take it as gospel.

    I’m reminding you to not believe everything that you read.

    Maybe the bung hole newspeople will do their job and get to the bottom of things. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they will take a bunch of anonymous comments and report it as gospel. Maybe they won’t.

    Gorilla Radio | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  115. Grab your tents bitches. We are heading to the Last Place, grabbing some bath salts, pitching a tent at the tech village, and protesting anything.

    We are the entitled generation. Give us everything. Ramos, Anonymous, Jack and the Cat. Let’s get together. Let’s smoke some weed. Let’s demand that Donnie’s team takes care of us.

    Bulls on Parade | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  116. Ok, I am not going to reiterate what I previously said, but yes you are correct in the fact that people can say whatever they want.

    I guess I am just not understanding what you think I read here to be “gospel.” But if you do not wish to correct me with anything I have said, there’s not much I can do by ways of apologizing if I am mistaken on that 1% Ouija board outsourcing I’ve done.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  117. The real issue is that cash flow problems are systemic and they are unlikely to change. Dave and Mike use the employees as a defacto bank. Because they are unable to work with a bank or credit union for a line if credit, they borrow from the employees at no cost -- unless they start paying interest on all those held and bounced checks. They have come to depend on the fact that local banks hold employee checks for 10 days before releasing funds. They know they can cut Payroll checks when there are insufficient funds since the check do not hit the account for 10 days. If checks are written with the knowledge there are insufficient funds -- it’s illegal. It’s called check kiting.

    If this were a one-time issue, it would be a different story. If Mike and Dave ever figure things out, do you think they will track down all the employees who held checks, had them bounce or had to wait months for expense reimbursement and pay them interest?

    A better bet would be adage will go to Black Water and let everyone know he is a Captain of Industry and Mike will sit back and say nothing. Oh wait, that’s the way it is now.

    Insider | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  118. Ok, so now people who complain about not receiving agreed wages in exchange for work, are not only selfsish whiners, but they’re also losers who live in their parent’s basement?? WTH is wrong with you??

    And of course I do not want a local business to go under! Jobs in Duluth are hard to come by, especially awesome tech jobs! What I want is 50 Below to fix their house, or another company come in and take over their shit. Duluth does not need yet another company that abuses it’s employees because they know there is no where else to go.

    Bad Cat! | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  119. Funny that wanting a paycheck on time is now considered whining.

    And someone complaining about anonymous posting while hiding behind being anonymous? Nice.

    I bet the IP logs for this post are interesting.

    edgeways | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  120. Who said those who didn’t get their agreed upon wages was whining or selfish?

    Gorilla Radio | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  121. At least I am honest about being anonymous.

    Oh and don’t forget, those of us thinking things should change within the company are all druggies and need a job now to. Did 50 Below just can everyone?

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  122. The ill feeling toward 50 Below doesn’t stem from this latest pay check disaster. If this event was a one-off, out-of-the-blue thing nobody would be posting here, the employees would understand and that would be the end of it. However, that’s not the case. Checks have been bouncing for longer than I have been there, people have routinely been asked not to cash checks until after the weekend and so on. This latest financial disaster is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. With this in mind, 50 Below employees aren’t just indulging in bitching for the sake of it, we’re not anti-local business or anything of the sort. To suggest as much is insulting.

    The way the business is being run has to change. I hope it will. I fear, based on past experience, that it won’t.

    Anon | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  123. @Razzle -- I work at 50 Below and didn’t get my paycheck today. What department do you work in?

    To Kevin Jacobson and Darren Danielson -- I sincerly hope you will find people willing to talk to you. However, I think most employees (myself included) are not willing to lose our jobs -- even if we aren’t being paid on time.

    To all of those on here who have posted that we should leave and find different jobs -- pretty sure this thought has crossed our minds and we are looking! Easier said than done.

    another employee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  124. @Insider; Nailed it. All the way back to the late ’90s. There’s no simpler truth regarding the financial mismanagement, and funding operations/debt on the backs of employees. Look hard enough, and you’ll find today’s employees echoing the experiences of employees more than a decade ago. Want further proof, ask the IRS, or just read above…which was 5 years ago!

    Former Insider | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  125. The reason we aren’t talking about other companies on here Bulls on Parade is that they meet the most basic of employer responsibilities: paying your employees.

    “… especially when they had an issue moving between banks.”

    You make it sound like this is something new. It’s not. It’s been going on for over a decade.

    I run my own business here in Duluth and am well aware of the cost of leasing retail space. The new digs they are moving into won’t be cheap. However, they should AT LEAST have the money to pay their own workforce before moving into a new building.

    Speeding ticket? WTF does that have to do with anything. It’s a shame and rather despicable that they are running this company for free off the backs of their employees. I have friends who have to put bills on credit cards because their checks are late. They’ve had to switch banks because the bank they had for 20 years won’t accept their checks anymore without putting a 10-day hold on them. Paying your employees should not be a problem. If you can’t pay all of them at once then you shouldn’t have hired that many to begin with. Again, that falls on the employer and not on the employee.

    Everyone posting here that this behavior at 50 Below is something new needs to get a grip. This issue is endemic and it represents a poorly managed company. They’ve had YEARS to fix this yet they still continue to hurt the people who make the company what it is. Whether or not they eventually get paid is irrelevant. You’ve got people in this town who can barely afford their new property taxes and everyone who works at 50 Below should just suck it up because *gasp* a tech company decided to set up shop in Duluth and all it’s a recession and we’re all hurting and blah blah blah. No. Paying your employees is not a difficult thing to comprehend. Either pay them, get organized so you can rid yourself of these ridiculous issues or stop hiring people when you can’t pay the ones you already have.

    Right now they are hiring for at least three positions…

    What a joke.

    Jack Samuelson | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  126. They’re going to be hiring for many more than three soon, Jack.

    With the economy the way it is, they might just fill them too.

    Anon | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  127. Jack- I believe Ramos was referring to the dwi+ which shows that it has been sent to collections. Though from my understanding shows it has been paid also. I am probably reading it wrong.

    And I imagine the reasoning for it being mentioned was purely for character judgement? It does help to know a little personal background on an individual to help see the larger picture.

    anonymous1 | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  128. Any other company the size of 50 Below would have board members and shareholders to back it up in case payroll can’t be made. That being said, ask anyone who owns and runs a large business, or even a small business for that matter, whether they have an accountant, or if they ever have trouble making payroll.

    50 Below frequently lives and spends beyond it’s means. I like everything about my job there, but the whole not getting paid on time and being asked to withhold my check for over a week is too much. I’d be willing to say that Duluth Pack, or any other well-known company in Duluth has never had a problem making payroll.

    When I tell people that I work for 50 Below, I get looks that suggest I’m crazy. We’ve had checks backed up now for about 2 weeks. Some people haven’t got paid from 2 weeks ago, and we’re supposed to get paid again on Friday. How would you like to try and raise a family and pay bills along with everything else in life without getting money in your hand for nearly 3-4 weeks at a time? It’s a terrible situation, and it needs to be fixed. Mike and Dave need to realize that they need to bring in someone that can straighten this out.

    Yet another employee | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  129. I will never ever complain about my employer ever again.

    Claire | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  130. I had a friend that used to work there. She was a sales rep who renewed companies contracts. She used to call me upset that she was asked by her supervisors (via owners I would guess) to renew companies up to 4 months early. She said most of these companies had “no clue” and just paid it. She finally quit -- not sure exactly but would guess part of it was the guilt she had. She said other 50 Below employees just got used to it and didn’t bother them after a while. Sad.

    Nortgal | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  131. Wow. All I can say is f*cking wow!

    1. It’s pretty sad that my generation has reduced to such a group of small-minded individuals that 300 of them would work for a company that doesn’t pay them on time! Unbelievable to me!

    2, Hey owners, I too own a small business (although mine actually is, 300 people is not a small business) and I know I have never missed a pay period once, and I would imagine my employees would have left if this type of shenanigans happened. Anyways, you guys must be hell of good motivators to keep people still not only coming into work but from coming into your office and demanding there money!

    3. It sounds like this is an ongoing issues, I like all the people on here standing up for this company by saying it is a “current” issue. That’s like calling the Iraq war the current topic of foreign policy.

    4. A former bar in town had the same issues (noticed I say former hah!) A lot of people/patrons knew about these ongoing issues. One night before the bar closed down one of the bouncers came in and went after the owner demanding his money. The owner ended up going in the register and paying this guy his “owed” money. The bar never opened again and most employees went without there last few checks! With that said, get your money and get out! Get creative and find a job! Or here is a crazy idea: make a job! Find someone who will pay you! Isn’t that why we all work? Heck, if you want to work for free call me!

    Duluthian | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  132. 300 people in the tech industry certainly is considered a small business. Perhaps not in Duluth’s realm, but its payroll and revenue would almost certainly qualify as a small business under SBA guidelines.

    Odd that the city will step up and throw millions at a dreamy semi-high-speed railroad that isn’t guaranteed to be sustainable, yet they won’t lend a helping hand to a large local employer.

    SlingFade | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  133. Delivering pizzas pays at least $12 an hour, when you figure in mileage and tips. You can earn over $200 a month donating plasma. Food shelves and food programs can feed you for practically nothing. The library provides free books for reading and research, and Netflix only costs $8 a month for movies. Our social safety net may not be the best in the world, but it exists.

    Reading the comments here, I would not be surprised if the end is near for 50 Below. Why would anybody cling to a company, and owners, that clearly do not care about them at all?

    Ramos | Nov 28, 2011 | New Comment
  134. What do you mean, what about presents for the kids? Kids don’t need presents. Tell them Christmas was cancelled this year.

    Ramos | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  135. Are you serious SlingFade? Are you asking why the city won’t help out a private business? Maybe they should have helped out Hell’s Kitchen, all the bars that used to reside where the Duluth Athletic Club once was and every other private business in dire straits. The train has the possibility to be a benefit to the entire public, local and state and it’s a project that cannot get done without public assistance. Unless you are into powersports and whatever other niche industries they provide websites for, Joe Schmo doesn’t benefit from 50 Below unless they work there.

    Jack Samuelson | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  136. It sounds like Joe Schmo wouldn’t benefit even if he worked for 50 Below.

    Glad I stuck to roasting coffee. 13 employees (including the owners), 350K lbs of roasted coffee a year … never had a problem getting paid.

    This “you should just be happy you have a job” bullshit is just that … a bullshit “don’t blame the company, it’s the employees fault” cop out, and smacks of someone who works on the management team of this trainwreck.

    Blaming employees for wanting to get paid … on time … in full … with checks that will clear … is bad business. If my bosses pulled that crap, they wouldn’t have theirs for very long.

    zra | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  137. I am an employee at 50 Below. I was told about this blog yesterday. My coworker said to read it and see how the human race is not that different than wolves. She said I can see first hand how humans deal with the smell of blood….dirty laundry. She is correct. Honestly, this blog has turned out to be an embarrassment to many of those that have posted. Bad blood, bad feelings, and vindictiveness is what I have read. I am concerned about the present payroll issue, but the company, my supervisor, and my manager have been great. I graduated from college and the best offer I had was from a box store and offered $9/Hr. I came here and recieved a livable wage and a job I enjoy. The loss of this company to Duluth would be terrible. There is not doubt I would have to move away.

    Francis V | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  138. If any of the 50 Below employees would like to contact me about rights that they have and avenues they can take, please do not hesitate to contact me at 218-391-2733, 218-728-5174, or via email at

    Disclaimer: I do work for a union, which could be one of your options, but this is not a push to organize you into a union, but rather, give you tools to help you ensure your financial security.

    tamara | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  139. It truly amazes me how some of you still boggle at the people commenting here.

    An embarrassment to the city? Really? What exactly would 50 Below have to do to get you to say enough is enough? I am sure it would have to be extreme bodily harm at this point.

    It is extremely disappointing how weak some of you are. How you can dismiss the well earned anger others have. This anger, frustration and outcry has been a long time coming but you would wish for people to keep muffled and continue pretending you are living centuries in the past. Labeling it shameful that they are upset and are finally talking about it.

    It is not selfish to want change and have this company run legally. It is selfish not doing a thing about it besides cutting down the people here and declaring that you love your job regardless whether or not they pay you or run things properly. Keep that wool pulled up over your eyes.

    This is exactly why this city is hurting and not progressing forward with the rest of the world. Keep pretending this is a small town folks … a small town with over 87,000 residents within its city limits.

    Those of you who stand up for people who have owed the country almost 4 million in employee taxes, destroy every bank relationship they look at, make the community turn away in embarrassment and continue in their careless regard of the people who keep the business afloat … you are the disgrace to this community.

    confused | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  140. Francis, nobody wants 50 Below to go under.

    What they want is for 50 Below to pay its employees on time and follow employment laws like every other business out there. Instead of using their employees like an interest-free bank, they want them to have a buffer of cash so that if they don’t have enough for payroll, they can cover it and not make their employees suffer.

    Question | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  141. To those of you who have never worked for this organization, your comments, your incredulous tone your admonishes to throw a temper tantrum, to “F-”bomb” the owners, walk out in a Wild Cat-esque manner shows that many of you probably have never been in the position we are in.

    Are we upset, frustrated, concerned? Yes. We are also thankful that we do have a job in this economy, in this market. Do I feel trapped here personally. No. I am here because I like what I do, like those I work with, and those I provide services to. I also stay, because I don’t want to look elsewhere, I want this place to succeed. I want to be a part of the solution.

    If people leave under the present circumstances, I understand. People that have commented here, current employees, have expressed the same concerns. Yet we are regarded as victims, or with derision. “You work for 50 Below … ohhh sorry.” It makes me work that much harder.

    Before you comment, and or accuse, I am neither an owner, manager, supervisor. You have of course the right to comment, and wonder why we tolerate this. In reality, it’s none of your business. The decision to stay here, to purposefully not look elsewhere, is mine. I have been in worse situations, overworked, underpaid, and I was a member of a union. The union was worthless, and yet, I had to compensate it for representing me. No thanks, the last thing I want is to have an outside entity like a union and its representatives working on “my behalf” … Uhmmm, sorry, no thanks.

    I Type For a Living... | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  142. ^What they said.

    Sjixxxy | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  143. I’m pretty sure the media won’t report on this, since house fires and kitty cats aren’t involved. The main usefulness of this whole discussion has been to get the information out there. Personally, I had no idea the situation was so bad at 50 Below. Now I do. That’s valuable.

    Keep an eye on your pension funds, everybody.

    Ramos | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  144. I am a 50 Below employee. I (for the most part) enjoy my job. I like what I do and the field I work in. I am college educated and recognize that a lot of companies in Duluth don’t pay the highest wage. I also recognize that high-tech jobs are far and few in between in this region. I am thankful for the fact that I have a job, but I am not OK with how things have been going at 50 Below.

    I could probably be OK with what is going on with this company if things were being done to change. In my almost a year of employment at 50 Below, I have not seen any changes to improve their situation. In fact, I have the exact opposite. It has gotten worse.

    I see coworkers whose checks bounce time after time. I have been asked numerous times if I could hold off being paid till the middle of next week. Just because I have a decent job in the field I am educated in, doesn’t mean I am content with the state of this company. Things need to change, things need to be done differently. That is why employees at this company are complaining and are upset. Granted this is 300 jobs in the Duluth area that wouldn’t normally be here. If things don’t start getting better at this company. That could be 300 job in Duluth lost. You can only run a business in this manner for a limited period of time before there is no hope of coming out of this financial state.

    I want to see the business I work for succeed, this will not happen unless the owners of this company change their ways. You will constantly have high turnover if you continue to screw up payroll. There is pride in how much 50 Below has grown, but is this growth unsustainable?

    EmployedbutNOTContent | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  145. I’ve worked at companies that didn’t pay me on time. I’ve worked at companies that took taxes and 401k out of my paycheck, but kept the money. I’ve worked at companies where an owner followed me around the length of my shift goading me into a fight so he could fire me. I’ve worked at companies that had full management turnover as a result of a management coup on a semi-regular basis. I’ve worked at companies that required going to the bar for shots at 10am in order to tolerate a 10:30 meeting. I’ve worked at companies that were so stressful it increased the number of migraines I had by 400% and gave coworkers PTSD.

    All of this was in Duluth, in a poor economy, in a job that I was lucky to have and couldn’t afford to lose. Even so, I managed to get out of those situations. Bad jobs can be like bad relationships. You tell yourself it’s bad everywhere, you’re lucky to even be in this shitty position, you don’t want to leave your coworkers in a lurch, it could be worse, you don’t have any chance of finding somewhere else to go, you don’t deserve anything better.

    Jobs are more than just jobs. You spend 1/3 of your day at work. It is your source of financial, professional, and social connections. It provides financial stability for your basic needs. They are a necessary part of life, but you don’t need to give up your soul for it.

    My advice: do what I did -- get the hell out. If you have some savings built up and can walk out the door, do it now! If not, start working on plan B right now! Get your resume updated, start surfing job postings, take classes. Even if you’re not able to jump out and find a comparable job right now, consider stepping into a job that pays less but lets you sleep at night while searching for something different.

    No job is worth the amount of stress and angst that you have to go through on a daily basis! You need to take care of yourself, this includes financially as well as emotionally. You will not be able to provide for yourself or for your family if your job turns you into a shriveled wreck, full of stress-induced emotional and medical issues.

    Best of luck – I wish you all the best!

    Bad Cat! | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  146. Well said Bad Cat! Well said indeed.

    Old 50Below'er | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  147. +1 Bad Cat!

    adam | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  148. I worked for 50 Below for two years while I was finishing my degree at UWS. On multiple occassions my paycheck was late, or bounced all together. Although there are a ton of awesome employees that work for 50 Below (some of which will remain lifelong friends) upper management is severely lacking integrity. I for one would have no problem speaking with Kevin Jacobsen or whoever would care to write a story on this subject matter.

    Michael Joyce | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  149. “Bad jobs can be like bad relationships.” Thank you Bad Cat -- that analogy is well worth posting. Being in a bad relationship sucks. Staying in a bad relationship is our own mistake.

    I do have concern for the employees of this company. You are worth much better than you are receiving! I can’t imagine the instability and potential personal financial crisis the employees endure each pay period cycle.

    I hear many of you say that you enjoy and value your job. How many times will it take for you to not be paid on time before you’ve had it? Expecting/hoping for different results each pay cycle is not the answer.
    Sounds like the owners have clearly shown that they are not capable of changing in the long run.

    If it continues and employees are denied or asked to postpone a payday will the sound-bite in the newscast be “Going 50 Below”?

    heysme | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  150. I work at 50 Below. There have been hiccups here and there. But I have always been taken care of.

    50 Below is a team. My co-workers and I see this as our company. Are there issues? Sure. Are they things that can be fixed? Most definately. Is it anyone’s business outside our walls? No. Has it sucked for a week or two here and there? Yep.

    This blog does nothing but hurt current employees and jeopardizes our future. Just stop. Stop rubbing the hardship in. Stop giving your two cents when you don’t work here. Just stop.

    Media, you will only hurt the people that work here and threaten our chance at future profit.

    No, I’m not a manager, an owner or a supervisor. Just a person in front of a monitor working hard for my team, my company, myself, my customers and my 50 Below.

    Shame on you all who don’t see our courage and drive to be the best, as anything other than that. So just stop.

    JustStop | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  151. Thank you JustStop. Even with this plea, sadly, there are those who have the time to insert themselves into a matter they have no stake in. Easy to chide, mock those who want to stay here, want to see it succeed.

    JustStops Friend | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  152. Thanks JustStop, you said it well. There are a lot of good people that work at 50 Below that bust their ass every day and will make a difference with this company.

    Get A Life | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  153. I think a lot of stuff on here has been exaggerated. I work there. They’ve had some issues, yes. We can’t deny the past, but overall people on this blog are making it seem like the work conditions are so horrible and managers are just yelling at everyone and have no respect and treat us like slaves. That is not the case. Maybe in different departments, but where I work it’s pretty good. Remember no one has ever not gotten paid. If there are any issues because of it they always get taken care of too.

    serious | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  154. You are welcome “JustStopsfriend” and “GetALife” and thank you. “Serious,” you are exactly right. Last I checked I wasn’t chained to my desk.

    JustStop | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  155. @ juststop if you want people who don’t work at 50 Below to stop posting their thoughts I would gently suggest that the World Wide Web is not the place to start a conversation. The last line of the original post says “Any thoughts are welcome”!

    Bill | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  156. Boy, there is sure some fuckwit appologencia going on here. This is illegal labor practice according to MN statute 181.101

    “If wages earned are not paid, the commissioner of labor and industry or the commissioner’s representative may demand payment on behalf of an employee. If payment is not made within ten days of demand, the commissioner may charge and collect the wages earned and a penalty in the amount of the employee’s average daily earnings at the rate agreed upon in the contract of employment, not exceeding 15 days in all, for each day beyond the ten-day limit following the demand. Money collected by the commissioner must be paid to the employee concerned. This section does not prevent an employee from prosecuting a claim for wages.”

    Lojasmo | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  157. There’s no merit in disparaging those who want to stay and have pride in their workplace.

    I believe that the importance in this discussion is that current 50 Below employees, their families, and the people in the local community start expecting better from the company and its leadership.

    It’s fair to say that conversations on online forums can sometimes get a bit frantic. Separate the wheat from the chaff. It seems that most current employees and community members alike want the best for 50 Below and it’s workforce.

    The strength and passion behind posts from people who work at 50 Below is incredibly encouraging. I do hope that their fierce loyalty doesn’t diminish their expectation for fair employee treatment and accounting practices.

    I think this conversation is healthy, and it should continue long after this thread goes stale.

    tang! | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  158. I am a previous 50 Below employee. I had worked for this company for many years and these “issues” have been around for as long as I had been there and if you ask people who were there before me, long before that too.

    I firmly believe that any hope of things “getting better” died the second Dave and Mike decided they were justified in telling people they weren’t going to get paid, issuing bad checks, stealing, embezzling, even from employee retirement, taking 10% of everyone’s pay making over $30,000 per year, lying to their employees, making empty promises, telling their employees they are disloyal if they look for other jobs, and if they find your resume online any hope you had of a raise in your 50 Below future is gone, all the while making sure they themselves are taken care of; when they decided that paying their bills, and their employees was second to them having a penthouse apartment at the Sheraton, hope for improvement, and an accountant was lost.

    To those who may not understand the current employees who are defending this company, all while not getting paid, what you need to know is the culture of fear and brainwashing that takes place there. To go to work every day, being expected to perform above and beyond your job requirements on a daily basis, to constantly be in a crisis mode trying to make the websites faster, or the failing equipment work so the company doesn’t lose money, and then worry if you are going to get paid, or if your check is going to bounce, or if you are going to get yet another letter in the mail from your insurance company saying that you are no longer insured because your employer didn’t pay the premium required would be stressful enough, but on top of that when you question your employer about this you are met with hostility, smugness, and an attitude of “well if you don’t like it, there are 500 other people waiting to take your job,” and then also guilting you, telling you that if you and your co-workers don’t help out “the team” by holding checks, you could be partially responsible for layoffs or the company going under, yes, trying to make the employees take responsibility for their failure and selfishness, that environment every day makes you feel like you are in this, you are part of this problem and you better stick with it, or you will be replaced by someone who will, or worse yet, you could be a catalyst for something bad happening to your fellow co-workers, the people you care for, who are in the trenches with you, and how would you be able to live with yourself then? That is what you are faced with there.

    Physically chained to your desk? No. Mentally sabotaged until you go crawling back to your desk feeling like you better produce more or you and your friends could be homeless and it would be your fault? Yes.
    Honestly Dave and Mike would make great cult leaders, and at least then they wouldn’t have to worry about legally having to pay their followers, and taxes? “Churches” are tax exempt. Too bad there’s no Black Water on cultist communes, huh, Dave?

    L | Nov 29, 2011 | New Comment
  159. I currently work at 50 Below, and I also have a little side thing going. I’ve been here for several years, but some of us have trouble finding this kind of work because of lack of experience and no college degree. I worked at a billion dollar company for five years … sure they paid you on time, but the work was hard, hours sucked, you felt like crap at the end of the day, and you were always hounded on that you weren’t good enough. Eventually I was shown the door. Most of my co-workers would just not show up one day and never come back. I spent 3 months trying to find a job … 4-5 applications a week, only got 1 interview besides 50 Below, several temp agencies, and all I had was a temp job that lasted a week, and then they told me not to come back because “I had too many ideas.”

    Sure the paychecks come late sometimes, but working on my own, I find sometimes that you can put a lot of effort … and then not get paid at all … or even lose money.

    I could get by on the side thing I got, but I’m not ready to take the risk. Since I’m not hard up on money, I’ll let the paycheck slide … and let those that need the pay more get paid. I respect my co-workers. I’m not management … just another person behind a screen.

    bobman | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  160. There are some defendable the undefendable things here. I worked in middle management nearly 10 years ago and they did the same things they are doing here. They would give me my employees paychecks, I would have to determine who could hold them, then they would add it up to see if they could make payroll. When I left, I was owed 5 weeks back pay and I worked nearly 80 hours a week due to the expectations.

    Hogge and Rollo are incompetent at leading a business. They would get 10-fold back if they hired a COO or CEO but they have dug themselves in so deep they couldn’t possibly open their books to anyone or their demons and skeletons would tumble out.

    I like the comment about Hogge selling cars — he would be awesome at it.

    Nightmare Relived | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  161. To those who have suggested that individuals not employed at the company in question should not participate in the discussion (“Stop giving your two cents when you don’t work here,”) please ask yourselves why so many who do not work at this company are concerned. This is a clear case of systemic abuses of labor, and has implications for all workers in our community.

    Chickonen | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  162. Chickonen…BS…People are inserting themselves into this matter, because those who blog, love to speculate, advise, criticize, chest thump, and spout all sorts of drivel regarding matters they have no clue about. They are safe behind their monitor and feel important they someone reads and replies to them. I say this..because I have been guilty of it myself. As a friend of mine likes to say….”Mind your own bobber!”

    Razzle Dazzle | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  163. I think that the reason a lot of people who do not work at 50 are down on Mike and Dave is also because they owe so many local businesses money. In order to get their money back, these local business as a result of nothing more that selling their products and services, are forced to show up at Mike and Dave’s office begging and threatening in order to get paid. I know that most never get paid. So these two yahoo’s are causing harm not only to employees, but fellow local businesses.

    Insider | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  164. lol Razzle. Mind your own bobber? Are you sure you work at 50 Below? No one there minds their own “bobbers.” Hypocritical man (I’m assuming) is hypocritical.

    L | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  165. I have been with this company for more than a decade. I have seen a lot of good and have lived through some lean times. Now is one of those lean times. I too have questioned some of management’s decisions, but it is not my company to run. I have been owed money by 50 Below. Never has that debt gone unpaid. You would be hard pressed to find a vendor that 50 Below hasn’t paid. One cannot give money that does not exist….which simply goes back to a management issue….not blatant ill-will.

    For everyone blasting the owners of 50 Below for personal issues, you are cowards hiding under an screen name. If you have something to say about someone personally, say it to their face, you cowards.

    For those employees slinging s*!t, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. If you cannot handle the way things are….simply quit….we don’t want you here anyway. It does not make sense that you would poison the well from which you are drinking. Don’t suck money from a company and then bash it publicly. Just quit the company. We would be better off without you on the payroll.

    I would be happy to give you my feedback. Call anytime, Charlie Van Derven, 218-464-2610.

    Charlie Van Derven | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  166. @Razzle Dazzle: I suppose the best I can do is ask you to take another look at Tang’s post, which addresses this question better than I could hope to.

    @Charlie Van Derven: It is concerning that you characterize people giving their labor, a piece of themselves, as “sucking money from a company.”

    Chickonen | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  167. @Charlie:

    When was the last time you worked at the office in Duluth and had to be subjected to 3 levels of management jacking with you? I don’t think you have ever been in that situation, you are one of the “golden boys” who will always get a paycheck and a large one at that. You are like a lord in his manor trying to tell the peasants that the king isn’t actually treating them that badly, because you, yourself don’t have to suffer.

    The phone number was a nice touch.

    L | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  168. @chickonen: and then bad mouthing the company that pays them? Their comments and attitude do nothing to solve the problem.

    Charlie Van Derven | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  169. That’s the issue Charlie, the company isn’t paying them.

    L | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  170. @Charlie Van Derven Didn’t you start in 2009?

    Bobman | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  171. @L: A lord at this manor, please. I am sure I don’t make what you believe I do. And, I am in communication with two levels of management every day. I’ve worked hard to help build the company that supports your livelihood. When was the last time you spent a week on the road away from your family to make sales for this company.

    Believe what you want.

    BTW, the phone number is for anyone who wants to speak their mind without hiding behind a monitor.

    Charlie Van Derven | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  172. @bobman: after a 3 month hiatus. I began my career with 50B in 1999.

    Charlie Van Derven | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  173. Clearly there are issues. I would much prefer to do what I can to solve those issues than bash the company that employs me….anonymously.

    Charlie Van Derven | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  174. I’d like the phone numbers for David Hogge and Mike Rollo, please, Charlie. I need to ask them something.

    Ramos | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  175. They don’t employ me anymore.

    L | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  176. As a former Duluthian and ex to someone who still works for the company I am aware of the problems my ex faced regularly with this company. I’m not commenting on their behalf but my own. This is for those who are just out of college with the mindset that you’ll make a difference in your community. This is for those who want to work because it is in your gene pool. This is for those who want to live a positive life because it breeds positivity, makes people smile, laugh not cry, and breath deep rather than stress.

    This company is obviously not going to change because the owners aren’t willing to change. It starts at the top and ends with intention.

    I recently moved from Duluth this year in search of better opportunities because I am like the people straight out of college looking to get into a career after spending 4+ years deciding where to go in life only to find jobs not there for the time and experience poured into a particular field. I am not in my field right now but am at a company that does what companies should be doing, making money and sharing the wealth. My company not only pays me $11/hour to help run a grocery store but offers me full health, dental, and eye insurance, pays into a 401k without a match, hands out vacation days because it knows getting away is important, and (I just found out) pays 5% of annual wages in bonuses to all part-time (yes not full-time, they get more) employees for Christmas. A grocery store.

    I’m not telling anyone to flee this company or discredit the things it has intentions to do well on (trust me, they have good intentions just like the rest of you). But I am saying for those of you who are looking for something you’re not finding, it’s out there. Just keep looking. You’re never “stuck” in life unless you tell yourself you are. And if you have good intentions you’ll attract people with good intentions into your life and the suffering will turn into prosperity whether or not you have money in your pocket. Or you can reject my advice and I’ll leave you to your fate. It’s your decision.

    MinnesotaNative | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment

    Charlie updates his Facebook page about as regularly as 50 Below employees get paid.

    Fran Cintone | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  178. Charlie Van Derven | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  179. Seems like 50Below owes more to the State of Minnesota and Wisconsin for unpaid payroll taxes.

    Duluth Tech Employer receives cold reception

    OverSee | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  180. The fact that this company is based around web development using Microsoft products indicated to me a high likelihood of incompetence years back, when I looked into the vague possibility of employment there. Glad to hear I saved myself not just from that slice of hell, but worse yet.

    Good luck getting paid everyone!

    magic trout | Nov 30, 2011 | New Comment
  181. The moderators have decided that comments to this post have become unproductive and repetitive. The story has been told, and the same opinions about it have been expressed back and forth ad nauseum. So we’re closing the comments indefinitely.

    brian | Dec 1, 2011 | New Comment
  182. To further clarify the closing of comments on this post, I’ll note that the comments were becoming increasingly petty and in some cases contained anonymous accusations that cannot be proven and could be considered libelous, which moderators removed.

    In the interest of disclosure I will note that I am a former 50 Below employee myself. During my time there in 2004 I never had a problem getting my payroll checks on time and was not aware of any financial malfeasance, but I understood going in that payroll had been late on occasions prior to my employment, and it is not a matter of dispute that payroll was late at 50 Below this past November. I have no axes to grind on the subject or ongoing professional relationships to protect, but feel it’s appropriate to let everyone know there is a comment moderator at Perfect Duluth Day who is a 50 Below alum, for whatever that’s worth or however folks want to interpret it.

    Comments are now restored on this post. We hope that since some time has passed that cooler heads will prevail on future comments. Moderators will continue to enforce PDD Policies and, of course, if we feel the need to pull this car over again and make everyone walk, we’ll do it. It’s part of our pledge to be almost responsible gatekeepers of the wild, wild web.

    Paul Lundgren | Dec 2, 2011 | New Comment
  183. I was just thinking of applying there for a new change of pace and a location change. From what I am reading this would be a bad move without a back up plan. Thanks for the heads up everyone. I like getting paid when I do work.

    MadDog | Dec 10, 2011 | New Comment
  184. Woot! We make a difference!

    Bad Cat! | Dec 10, 2011 | New Comment
  185. I worked at 50 Below for about a year and half. I experienced delayed paychecks after moving my family to the area, purchasing a home, etc. This is not a place for someone who plans to settle down. It’s a position for an unmarried, young person looking to gain some experience. Plan to leave if you want a “real” job. IMHO, don’t even work at 50 Below in general. The management is only looking out for themselves and don’t appreciate genuine, talented people enough to give them respect for the work they do.

    When I was there, there were several talented people that were treated like low-paid laborers because the owners knew full well that they couldn’t just leave and find a job easily in the Duluth area. The owners take full advantage of that. One of them even told me that was part of the business model.

    We all eventually found better jobs, mostly outside of the area. When I gave my notice, suddenly, I was offered better wages and status in the company. Do not even consider this company unless you are willing to deal with disrespect and delayed paychecks. Plan to leave in order to have a job that is stable. It’s too bad. The company had a great idea to start and should have focused on that and got good people behind it and treated them well. They wouldn’t have the issues they do today. It’s a simple fix, yet the selfish ownership has caused them problems year after year.

    Finally, the writing is on the wall for 50 Below. There was a time when companies hiring them needed help creating websites, but now days, those companies can host their own and won’t need to outsource that stuff. 50 Below is going to find it harder to get clients year after year, because their business model relies on their clients lack of experience with web development. More and more companies are becoming web savvy and won’t need the services of 50 Below. I expect the company to fold at some point as time goes on.

    ronsloan | Jan 3, 2012 | New Comment
  186. As a former 50 Below employee I wanted to add my two cents. The atmosphere at 50 Below is a far cry from the typical large corporate atmosphere, where people are considered and treated like a throw away resource. The owners are regular guys who treat their employees with respect.

    Like many employers, they don’t necessarily get the same respect in return. The company allows employees a lot of leeway, and many of them hang themselves as everything that happens at the computer is monitored and phone calls are recorded. During lean times it is natural to lay off employees who are not productive and use company time and resources for personal use.

    There are payroll problems every year, at the end of the year, due to their client billing cycles; that is my understanding. They provide a lot of decent paying jobs in the community. No one would be better served for them to close their doors due to these problems. They do not just pay employees late and expect them to deal, there is a lot of dialogue with employees during these times and those that absolutely cannot get by without a check are paid first.

    During my year + working there, I received one paycheck late, my last paycheck. I communicated with them the fact that I needed it prior to Christmas, and received it in time. I never had a paycheck bounce. I did receive a letter from the insurance company stating my benefits were suspended due to non-payment from 50 Below, but by the time I received the letter, it had been paid and I suffered no effects, despite undergoing treatment for a chronic medical condition.

    I personally know many employees who have been promoted, and given pay raises, so I can only surmise that those claiming they don’t are not great candidates for promotion, supervision and management positions. These types of roles are limited, and not for everyone.

    The point I want to make is that this company and the owners are not “the bad guys” some try to make them out to be. I feel the community, in general, should be more supportive of this company, if only cutting them a little slack during their rocky time of the year. I realize the effect of late payroll is harder on some than others, but planning ahead for the holidays is just a good idea when it comes to 50 Below.

    middleagedwoman | Jan 12, 2012 | New Comment
  187. “…and those that absolutely cannot get by without a check are paid first.”

    Versus those that are doing it for the pure thrill.

    adam | Jan 17, 2012 | New Comment
  188. Duluth News Tribune: “Duluth tech company owes state $1.6 million

    Article on more back taxes owed.

    emmadogs | May 4, 2012 | New Comment
  189. Gosh, what a surprise.

    How is the paycheck situation? Are people still getting them?

    Ramos | May 4, 2012 | New Comment
  190. secretseasons | Aug 31, 2012 | New Comment
  191. I bet there will be many interesting things turned up in the 50 Below financials.

    BadCat! | Sep 1, 2012 | New Comment
  192. secretseasons | Sep 1, 2012 | New Comment
  193. No, paying your employees is apparently the last step…

    BadCat! | Sep 1, 2012 | New Comment
  194. Paul Lundgren | Sep 28, 2012 | New Comment
  195. Hey, just curious, has 50 Below’s record improved with the new ownership? I see the added disclaimer above, but was wondering if any current employees can speak to the office environment, ability to be paid in actual real-people money.

    BadCat! | Jan 7, 2014 | New Comment

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