Remembering their time at Gravity Payments, some employees of a Seattle-based credit card processor recall a vicious circle.
Celebrity founder and CEO Dan Price, a progressive social media star famous for setting his base salary at $70,000, has starred. Next, notice that the requests are piling up. Attend a company event where a colleague shares a personal trauma. Answer Price’s late-night phone call. Listen to one of the CEO’s “explosive” outbursts.
Watch your stress levels soar and your work-life balance crumble.
Finally, either leave in disgust or be pushed out by raising your voice.
When Price was 19 years old and launched Gravity in 2004, he had big ambitions to dramatically lower credit card processing fees for small businesses. Now 38, Price has established himself as an exemplary corporate leader who puts the interests of his employees above his own.
But in an interview with The Seattle Times, more than 20 former Gravity employees said that even if they don’t match the person behind the viral post, Price is obsessed with curating a caring persona. As CEO, Price developed a sense of dread and built a company that, as one former employee put it, “was only there to make Dan famous.”
Price grew up in Idaho and later opened an office in Boise
Price grew up in rural Canyon County between Melba and Marsing, the Idaho politician previously reported. He co-founded his Gravity Payments with his older brother Lucas when he was a student at Pacific University in Seattle. His father, Ron Price, has been a consultant, coach, speaker and author for his Boise business for many years.
Lucas Price eventually sued his brother, saying Dan Price paid him a lot of money. In 2016, a Seattle judge dismissed the lawsuit. Dan Price bought his brother and took full ownership of the business.
Dan Price also acquired ChargeItPro, a small Eagle company that develops payment processing software for small businesses, making it part of Gravity Payments. In 2019, he opened a new Gravity Payments office at his 110 N. 27th St. in Boise with his 40 employees, which later grew to about 50.
Pryce stepped down as CEO of Gravity in August following assault and rape accusations, leading to two police investigations. Price denies these accusations. It remains to be seen whether he will continue to make a name for himself at Gravity, his company of more than 200 employees based in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.
Over the past five months, The Seattle Times has reached out to 75 people close to Gravity or Price. About 40 people shared their experiences.
From these interviews, correspondence, police reports, court documents, and internal communications, a picture emerges of Gravity, a small company that has garnered a great deal of attention under the direction of Mr. Price. Gravity provided workers with raises and a chance to ride Seattle’s tech boom, but stressful days, sleepless nights, and what six ex-employees called “manipulative,” according to many ex-employees. It took a toll on the lasting memories of working for a man who represented… Boss.
Kaitlyn Parfennier, a former recruiter for Gravity, said, “When you see Dan in the news he’s very attractive and sophisticated, and you get to hear behind-the-scenes stories.” or that if you don’t adore him, you are afraid enough not to do anything about it.”
Gravity declined to comment on certain allegations made by former employees or to make current CEO Tammi Kroll available for an interview. A company spokesperson told the Seattle Times that the former employee’s statements were “false, grossly misleading or grossly out of context.”
“Gravity’s business practices have produced industry-leading satisfaction and retention rates among employees and customers,” said a spokesperson. “The leadership team remains committed to making Gravity Payments the employer of choice for people across the country.”
Price has denied the allegations of harassment, assault and abusive behavior while defending his record at Gravity.
“I have spent nearly 20 years building Gravity Payments into a thriving company that provides reliable credit card processing services to small businesses and great jobs for over 200 people in Seattle and across the country. I am very proud of my work,” he said in an email. “It has always been my goal to make Gravity Payments a successful and ethical company.”
Ex-wife said Price ‘wanted to be famous and… make a lot of money’
From the beginning, Gravity has been an extension of Dan Price.
He started the company out of a dorm room at Seattle Pacific University after noticing high credit card processing fees that averaged up to 3.5% of transactions. As the company grew, so did Price’s reputation. He was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration in his 2010 visit to the White House to meet President Barack Obama. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014 by his Entrepreneur Magazine.
“He always wanted to be the CEO of a company. I was. The prestige that comes with being able to own something. And he always wanted to make a lot of money. “
As a privately held company, Gravity is not required to disclose financial information, so its true size is unknown. Price owns 100% of his company, nine former employees said. Gravity and Price declined to answer questions about the company’s finances.
According to four former employees, in the world of credit card processing, Gravity is a middleman, acting as a sales and customer service apparatus in a complex trading network. Gravity connects the retailer to the bank, handling customer service, transactions, and communications between the two. Machines sold by Gravity come from a variety of companies, including Clover Network, a subsidiary of First Data. Kroll, a Gravity executive, said he worked at First Data for 12 years.
Attempts to design new products and services for Gravity have been unsuccessful, said former engineering director Jen Peck. Many Gravity engineers were new to the space and lacked clear goals, making it difficult to compete with much larger payment processors such as Stripe, Square, and Toast.
Executive direction was rare, said one former project manager. “They just ran a lot of side jobs trying to make something stick.”
Gravity hosted a staff retreat at a luxury resort. It was billed as an opportunity to set goals and strategize, especially at Cle Elum’s Suncadia, Las Vegas, and Hawaii. According to five of his employees who have actually experienced the trip, the trip was like a vacation. Former recruiter Parfenier recalled taking part in snowmobiling and cooking classes. Grant MacLeod, a former product manager, said Price was too hungover to attend the meeting.
As CEO, Price rarely visited the office, according to two former employees who worked closely with him. However, his influence grew.
Workers say gravity took a toll on them mentally or emotionally
Twenty-six former employees who spoke with The Times said their time at Gravity took a mental or emotional toll, but helped the company build friendships among colleagues and gain a foothold in new industries. Most said they believed in the vision of helping small businesses, but said it was clouded by Price’s actions.
A 27th employee said she was not bothered by the workplace culture or company head. Most of the other former Gravity employees who spoke with The Times described Price as an unpredictable manager prone to outlandish demands, grand entrances, and outbursts.
Price once arrived at a company party wakeboarding shirtless in the back of a boat.
During a job interview, Parfenier recalls, Pryce lay down on the couch, took off his shoes and started playing with his phone.
One afternoon, Peck said, Price walked into the middle of the open floor plan office and announced he was going to shoot himself.
A veteran employee warned new hires not to answer his calls to avoid lengthy criticism.Some employees work directly with Price, according to five former Gravity employees. refused to
Stephanie Brooks, who worked in Gravity’s human resources department, said that in her first year at the company, her boss asked her to pick up the garbage bags left over after Price attended a yacht party, unrelated to Gravity’s business. The dock was locked when Brooks arrived. Feeling unable to return empty-handed, she climbed the gates of South Her Lake Her Union Her Marina.
Brooks, who was still in her early 20s at the time, said Price offered to host a pool party for her at his home.
After five years at Gravity, she retired in 2020 due to a lack of work. She said, “I got into what I call the ‘Gold Rush. I came with starry eyes,” Brooks said. “Before we started looking at facades, it was the golden age of gravity.”
Brooks joined Gravity in 2015, just before Price announced that he would cut his salary and raise the company’s minimum wage to $70,000 annually. Buying ChargeIt Pro costs him $40,000.
With its 2015 launch, Price has become a symbol of fair pay and workers’ rights.
He has appeared on Kelly Clarkson’s TV show, Fox News and MSNBC. In April 2015, Bernie Sanders congratulated Price, writing on his Twitter that his CEO of Gravity “set an example for other companies to learn from.”
When recruiters reviewed the job application, many read it like a love letter to Price.
“Gravity’s reputation is what earned Gravity business,” said Christoph Foulger, who worked on Gravity’s marketing team. The team focused on Price “because of the results,” said Folger.
This is a shortened version of the original Seattle Times article with Idaho information from the Idaho Statesman. The Times original Read his story Seattle Times.comA copy of the story without a photo, Idaho Statesman.com Until March 28th.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article270607232.html ID CEO Dan Price, who set a $70,000 minimum wage, rises, falls