THE ELEPHANT ON THE BEACH
First and foremost, we have some big news in that we have made the decision as a magazine that moving forward we will no longer be asking for fees from the islands premier venues to use us as a media outlet, because we feel that it is much more important we speak with a free tongue, liberated to report on things on the island as we see them, through on the ground journalism rather than through the eyes of a 3rd party promotional tool for upcoming events. In all honesty the island and music scene in general has been going in a direction for months now, that we were not fully behind, but had to support it as we were paid to do so.
We have also seen how some venues have dealt with their staff and suppliers in recent weeks, and for us to say “oh great, thanks for the money, we will sweep everything under the carpet and focus on the great stuff in your press release”… is wrong and against what we stand for.
So sit back and we hope you agree with what we have to say, but more than ever please help us share and spread this new no holds barred editorial style, so we can feel this gamble was worth it, from a moral standpoint at least, with no clients fees to pay the staff, your support really does mean more than ever… well everything actually.
This articles title is because the subject matter of the piece is something that is becoming more and more common in conversations across the island and is becoming the elephant in the room because nobody is really willing to go public about it…
These are strange days and unchartered territory for those of us on the island right now. It’s been a real struggle to find a topic of conversation other than the obvious both with friends as much as in the office as the editor of Secret Bali Life when deciding on what to write about next. We could have, and maybe should have, posted all the superb efforts being made to supply the local community with food and supplies in these trying times but there are already many community based media with a wider spread than our music-centric audience doing exactly that. Equally we could have reposted the numerous Bali based DJ live streams out there right now but we felt that was best left to the direct fans of each DJ to share and both of the above could have been seen, and rightfully so, as copy and paste efforts to remain relevant. But now we do have something to say having sat back, surveyed the scene and looked at what’s happening in Bali, and the rest of the world, so please sit back and take 5 minutes out your day to read, digest and give us your opinions.
The first thing I would like to say, is that the accusations in this article are not aimed at any one particular brand or venue, but several of the big businesses and hotels who are being talked about, for leaving their suppliers and staff in financial strife at a time when they needed it the most… Whilst the health implications of Covid 19 in Bali are thankfully extremely low, the economic repercussions for the island are HUGE due to the nature of our economy being so tourist dependent.
Our own company has only been effected to the tune of around 50m IDR. Do you have any idea how many months rent that pays for my staff, or how many meals that could buy… what is even harder to swallow is the fact the companies who owe this money have spent AND earned literally millions out of Bali.. and I’m talking dollars here not rupiah. But compared to other peoples stories we are hearing, we got away lightly and one thing that is coming up repeatedly is that it’s many of the bigger companies and brands who are largely responsible, and there is no excuse for it. For local staff, small local businesses or freelancers such as Djs and designers, it only takes one or two non-payments to wipe out any money they could have had accrued in the bank to see them through this period for at least a month or two or possibly even longer.
This is also a time when the big beach clubs and hotels could be investing in their staff, training them, improving them, teaching them different skillsets and keeping them employed at least for a month or two so they could have time to plan, but many were left high and dry on unpaid leave at very short notice. Why is it left to the small to medium business owners to put everything we have on the line. If all a small business has in reserve is a few hundred dollars but they are prepared to risk it all to try to keep things going and bills paid, and mainly to keep at least some staff employed and engaged, how can a business that is worth a few million not try to do the same with a skeleton staff at least, or part pay for a limited period, or keep a kitchen open and offer staff food packages throughout the crisis…. Or anything at all!
To be crystal clear and balanced here, some of the bigger venues on the island have been exemplary, paid everything on time, fed their staff, continued to pay their staff what they can and fair play to them and they will rightfully continue to get our support. We understand the economics and costs of keeping hundreds of staff paid when you are not open but there is a lot businesses could be doing in between that scenario and absolutely fuck all.
There are hundreds of unemployed locals who are all out of work and struggling to feed their families through no fault of their own. If you can’t afford to keep them on and pay them because of cash flow issues then fair enough but why are we not seeing a huge relief effort from some of these powerhouses on the island to at least feed people. Some who even base their business model on being concerned about the local community, preserving Balinese traditions, helping the island and in the good times post about all of their efforts and how their company is one big happy family. Would these same people let their brothers and sisters starve then, or was that just a load of marketing shit to look good on 5 star coffee tables in New York and Jakarta? Personal and business linked Instagram accounts are often the missing link about true priorities, Instagram accounts that are there for all your employees to see whilst they struggle at home in a tiny kosan worrying about feeding themselves and the families they left behind to get a job with you, in order to be able to send their family much needed money… if you can not offer food or money then at least show some decorum online!
Those of us who have been here long enough have a good idea of what’s coming soon and it will be outstretched hands held out to the expat community when some of these places open up and realise they are totally reliant on the expat rupiah to get through stage one of the business recovery plan. But hold up a minute people, before you take up their generous offers of massive expat discounts on cocktails and daybeds, bear in mind that a lot of these brands have been quoted in the past as saying they don’t want the expats in their venues as they take up space that tourists could be in, as they spend a lot more money per head. Well from our standpoint there is an old saying which goes ‘If you make your bed… then lie in it!’ basically if you decided to go down that route that’s fine, but when the day comes that you need the expats in again you may regret this course of action. I guess they thought that day would never come… well here it is!
So what we ask you do instead, is that before you rush out and spend your money over a bar or on a nice meal, support the businesses who despite being in times of trouble, stuck it out, support the businesses who gave up their resources to support starving families. Support the businesses who were ready willing but most likely not really able to support those who needed it the most in their time of need, because thankfully…if this is truly the island of Karma, then it is their time to shine in the Balinese sun.
Times change and things move on, and in Bali’s case it went very commercial very fast and we could not stop that, however, if these commercial interests stood up, gave back, threw the Profit & Loss out the window in order to do the right thing, they would at least have our respect, and the respect of the islanders, and be an example of how you can do your commercial thing and still be part of the island. Such as The Lawn is currently doing with free food for locals every Friday afternoon or Ling Lings with their hands on involvement with Project Nasi, Ulu Cliffhouse who are still feeding their staff every day, The Orchard Live Music Venue who are feeding 100 families a week and many more besides.
Literally as I am writing this I have seen a post from a local girl in a well-known Facebook community group that reads
‘Hi I cooking for people who lose the job… Please pm me if you know who need it
This is what Bali is to me, this is the Bali that I fell in love with, community minded not commercially minded.
This local girl deserves your support more than any of the aforementioned big businesses both now and in the future. This girl is a symbol of the people who do genuinely care on the island. The new trend is people speaking about the new world post corona, well let’s do our bit to make it a better one, at least on our island. lets make our thoughts and opinions known, but not through ranting on social media, but through silence when you are invited to support these massive companies and brands who left us in our hour of need, and through kindness and financial support to those who did their bit during the struggle.
When this is over we would rather pay full price for a meal or a drink with a business that deserves it than take up the 50% discount from people who can afford to do that because they saved up their money during this crisis through holding back payments and doing nothing for the community that would have cost them money.
Hopefully the elephants on the beaches will take their heads out the sand, and this is the Bali we want to be a part of and see survive through this difficult period… what about you?