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What Maude Flanders’ Ghost Can Teach Us About Salary Negotiation

Topics: Negotiation
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In the spring of 1999, beloved Springfield resident Maude Flanders died when she was knocked off the highest seat of a set of bleachers at a car race after being hit by a balled-up souvenir t-shirt shot out of a compressed-air-powered cannon aimed at Homer Simpson. Yowza. That’s a long sentence, and a heck of a way to go.

Of course, Maude wasn’t a real person. She was a character on a television show. An animated television show, in fact: The Simpsons. Her voice was supplied by actress Maggie Roswell, who had given voice to numerous Simpsons’ characters since the famously long-running show’s first season in 1989. Roswell became a fixture on The Simpsons, and was even nominated for an Emmy in 1994 for her work on the show.

But in 1994, Roswell moved from Los Angeles — where The Simpsons was recorded — to Denver, a move that required her to fly back to Los Angeles twice a week between March and November for rehearsals and recording sessions. Flying between Denver and L.A. started to become cost prohibitive, so Roswell asked for a raise, from the $1,500 to $2,000 she was making per episode to $6,000 per episode. In response, the Fox Broadcasting Company — which airs The Simpsons — offered her raise of $150 per episode.

“I was part of the backbone of The Simpsons and I don’t think the money I asked for was exorbitant,” Roswell said at the time. “I wasn’t asking for what other cast members make. I was just trying to recoup all the costs I had in travel.”

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For the sake of comparison, in 1999, the six main voice actors on the show were paid $125,000 per episode.

Roswell turned down the offer, and Maude Flanders died.

The Return of Maude Flanders’ … Ghost

In 2002, Roswell struck a deal with Fox that brought her back to the show and allowed her to record her lines from her Denver home, eliminating the need for bi-weekly travel and allowing her to live where she wanted to.

“Now we do a phone patch to L.A. I do it from home, and I could not be more grateful,” she explained in a 2011 interview.

Roswell’s return to the show was memorable for the return of Maude Flanders … in ghost form on The Simpsons Halloween Special XIII. And though Roswell continues to voice other notable Simpsons’ characters — including Helen Lovejoy, Miss Hoover and Luann Van Houten — Maude Flanders has remained dead… though she occasionally appears in flashbacks.

What Can Workers “Learnd” From Maude Flanders?

The Maggie Roswell/Maude Flanders story is a classic example of how compensation is about more than money, and if money isn’t negotiable there may be other ways to exchange value with your employer. Asking for a 200 percent raise might not have been the best option for Roswell when she started to feel the pinch her commute was putting on her pocketbook, as evidenced by her leaving The Simpsons and her character being written out of the show.

Though Fox and Roswell eventually agreed to a remote employee arrangement, it may have been something she could have negotiated from the beginning. Instead of asking for more money for plane tickets, perhaps Roswell could have negotiated working from home in Denver instead, thereby eliminating the need for travel. (Full disclosure, it’s possible this was the case, and Fox refused at the time.)

If salary turns out to be non-negotiable with your employer, don’t forget you may still be able to negotiate perks and benefits like vacation time, gym memberships, tuition reimbursement for furthering your education, and — as proven by the appearance of the ghost of Maude Flanders — the ability to work from home. (Learn more about how you can negotiate outside-the-box benefits in our Salary Negotiation Guide.)

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Have you negotiated perks and benefits when a raise wasn’t an option? Talk to us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

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