Tokyopop’s Summer Intern Tour

Tokyopop has advertised a unique internship — they’re looking for students to spend the summer, from the end of May to Labor Day, traveling with them “to promote TOKYOPOP, our stories, and our characters.”

They’re looking for those who can plug the company using “social media tools”; setup, host, and take down events at conventions and bookstores; and “plan, shoot, edit, and upload video for a web-based “reality show”-styled grassroots marketing endeavor”. The company has already set up a promotional site where the applicants are posting.

That’s one way to staff your con booths! And reaching out directly to the audience fits right in with Tokyopop’s scrappy approach. I can only imagine how the rolling bunch of college kids looks and acts around the beginning of September, after three months on the road together. Their “reality show” should be quite amusing.

How odd that I noticed this at the same time I was reading this New York Times article about the increasing number of unpaid internships. The usual understanding is that the company gets grunt work done for free while providing the student college credit, experience, and a foot in the door … but turns out that that’s often illegal.

there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the [Labor] department’s wage and hour division.

Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers, and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities. … [W]hen the jobs are mostly drudgery, regulators say, it is clearly illegal not to pay interns.

I can’t think of any internships I’ve seen or participated in that that fulfill those rules. Why would an employer deal with the paperwork and supervision if they didn’t get benefit from it? Then there’s the problem of only well-off students being able to take advantage of many of these opportunities; those who have to work to afford school or related costs can’t take off a summer to work for free.

4 Comments

  1. James Schee

    Interesting… this dates back a while thought right? When I was a chat host for DC on AOL, they had to let me go because of some similar circumstances I believe.

  2. That wasn’t about interns — that was about treating people like employees but not actually paying them. But yes, similar in that it features a company trying to get something for nothing.

  3. Doesn’t it ever occur to anyone that all an unpaid internship on a resume says is that you’ll work for nothing. As far as “experience” goes, it only shows that someone has paid their dues in the scam. I’m surprised that Stanford is taking an aggressive stand, since academic (esppecially art) organizations pull this “free work” thing often.

    I’ve seen this sort of thing done in regular paid positions. A manager gave all his employees the title of “Applications Engineer” with pay that didn’t reflect the title. When these poor folks went out to find other jobs, they were marked as fools who were willing to accept a title instead of pay. What a message to send.

    I’m a professional and a woman – I get paid for what I do.

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