Reporter’s fake job irks real dot-com

New York’s Silicon Alley was in a tizzy last week after the New Yorker ran a hilarious piece called “My Fake Job,” in which former Letterman writer Rodney Rothman recounted his days of masquerading as an employee at an unnamed Manhattan dot-com consultancy.

After walking into the company’s offices, claiming a desk and securing a phone extension under a phoney name, Rothman spent three weeks noshing on free snacks, enjoying company-provided massages and carrying on imaginary business calls from his cubicle.

The identity of the company was not revealed. But it didn’t take long for employees of Luminant Worldwide Corp., an Internet consultant and Web design company that recently laid off about 25 per cent of its workforce, to recognize the reporter’s descriptions of their workplace. (The most telling clue was a T-shirt mentioned by Rothman that read “May the e-force be with you.” Luminant distributed the shirts to employees this year.)

Repercussions quickly ensued. CEO Jim Corey sent out a company-wide e-mail (later posted on a message board on the job site in which he said “There are descriptions in the story that strongly suggest he was writing about Luminant” and that the company has “reason to believe it could have happened.” Corey went on to list a series of beefed-up security procedures, including, “Introduce yourself to unfamiliar people” (“Hey, it is also a great way to make some friends”) and “Don’t allow unfamiliar people to follow you through doors with secure access.”

Corey’s message also hinted at possible lawsuits: “The author of the story was clearly deceptive in posing as an employee, and worked to gain access to the building by following persons with key cards and providing vague and false information to employees. We will be seeking the advice of our legal counsel on how, if at all, we should respond to this incident. If it turns out that the company was Luminant, I’d like to know if he took anything from our offices, interfered with our work in any way or harassed any of our employees.”

Luminant had no official comment. The New Yorker was immediately unavailable for comment.