Economic Indicators: Clowns Want To Get Paid Too!

Mandy Dalton

Mandy Dalton says times are tough out there for a clown. MandyDalton.com hide caption

itoggle caption MandyDalton.com

Might As Well Laugh

Have fun with the economy ...

Whatever numbers the marketplace and government reports have been cranking out, Mandy Dalton found one economic indicator that matters to her recently in a newspaper story about the bankruptcy of General Growth Properties.

The paper reported that General Growth, the second-largest mall owner in the country, had filed for bankruptcy. It owed billions of dollars to banks, and $200 to her. Dalton's not a bank. She's a clown, a professional clown.

"I make kids laugh, I fall on my butt for a living," she says. "It's great."

Dalton performed at a family fun day at a General Growth mall near Baltimore. Now, if she wants to get paid, she'll have to stand in line with all the other people who say General Growth owes them money.

She has to decide whether it's worth her time to travel to New York City for the creditors' meeting, "where other people are going to be there for, if not millions, certainly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, looking for payment. And I'm supposed to go to the judge and say I want my $200?"

For Dalton, that uncollected pay amounts to the cost of a single pair of clown shoes, Clown-so-port's Funky style. Then there are her other expenses, like liability insurance. What if she's juggling a ball, she says, and it ends up hitting someone in the head?

In Florida, Daniel Cross has an indicator of his own, too. His is five — as in five days. Cross designs electronic circuits, and in January his employer announced a round of unpaid time off. What exactly a furlough says about a company's financial state can be hard to interpret. Cross said he was glad he still had his job and he didn't necessarily mind the time off.

"I'm in the middle of a home renovation project," he said then. "We had a plumbing disaster, so this will give me an opportunity to finish that up."

But by April, the office had become a kind of Dilbert cartoon. "The rumor is that our site is going to be closed," Cross said. Management sent around an e-mail asking the staff to maintain good conduct despite the circumstances. Cross reads the e-mail message:

"All, there is no doubt that we are all living in an uncertain and difficult time, but we can not fall into nonprofessional behaviors, and there are things that cannot be tolerated on company property. For example, marker inscriptions in the boardroom about your career moving into smelly places, cardboard resumes in your cube saying will design circuits for food, sarcastic white board messages, etc."

Then Cross' indicator went from five furlough days to infinity. In April, the business closed up shop and he was out of a job.

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