Noah Kohl, a 22-year-old senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is originally from Milwaukee. He works as a barista at the Badger Market.
You would think being in college would be pretty simple; go to class, do a bit of studying and hang out with your friends all the time. Things change when you’re not a freshmen anymore and your parents stop giving you money and you have to explain to them that everything costs more. Even food costs more. You can’t just swipe a card and have a prepared meal. You have to go to the grocery store, get food and come back home and make it for yourself. Time gets a lot more crunched that way. You have to, like, set aside time in the day to cook. I was used to just grabbing stuff on the run. So of course the first thing they tell you to do is to get a job.
I searched around, and, like most students, just took a Union job. Getting a Union job is easy because they’re only available for students at the University of Wisconsin. I thought about what would be easy and what would fit into my class schedule and saw that the Badger Market needed some new staff. I took a job as a Barista. It’s ok work. It’s not like a 9-5 standard job. You get different hours depending on the day. Between my classes I work, sometimes I don’t have work. It’s not that tough I guess, ’cause you get used to it, you know, ’cause the work schedule is built around your class schedule.
Usually I get off work and when I do its ’cause I have a class after, so it works out pretty well ’cause they’re pretty helpful with making it convenient for you. It’s somewhat cool because I can leave class, go to work and still have some time at night to do things like hang out with my friends. I think that’s what’s separated the Badger Market from other places that I have worked. Although everything is not ideal or the best, they do care about you as a student and they do understand that, while you do have work, you’re a young college kid at the same time. They don’t take that aspect of life away from you.
Every day is pretty much the same, I come in and there’s usually a list of things already set for me to do. I work with two to three other people generally and also have a supervisor. It’s a pretty laid back environment and as a group we always help each other out, so no one is ever really overwhelmed. The biggest rushes we have are generally around the 2:30 class ending period. Most of the time people come in for coffee and sandwiches that either have to be prepped or are already ready. Most of the time its coffee, however; black coffee at that. I’d say that’s our most popular item.
Sometimes I have to make drinks like cappuccino and lattes, but people usually get the already prepared coffee. Either of the lot isn’t that hard to make; it might have been at first, but you get the hang of it pretty fast. If I do have to make a sandwich or something small, for example, its usually the panini which is mostly the toaster doing the work after you put the cheese and whatever meat item they want inside. Besides that nothing is too, too hard to make, or not already prepared.
When it comes to making the food, like the coffee, nothing is too hard or can’t be learned. I remember when I first started working here and I was pretty shaken because I thought I was behind everyone else and thought they all knew what they were doing already, but they were learning just like I was and had some good and bad training days like I had, so that was a relief for a beginner like me.
We have other items at the market too. You can get cold drinks along with the warm drinks, and we have cookies, donuts and other small, on-the-go snacks. I don’t eat much of the food, mainly ’cause you still have to pay for it. You don’t even get a discount or anything. One good thing we have is a chicken or turkey wrap that’s already prepared. It’s filled with veggies and all types of good stuff—it’s pretty tasty. I don’t want to day anything bad about the food, but from my experiences eating it, more could be offered on the menu, or at least some innovations to the existing items could be made.
Everything about the job is pretty easy but there are some drawbacks. You have to deal with some unpleasant customers in combination with the good customers. A typical customer is usually like….over 40 I’d say. It’s mostly people that work there and students that just have class in the area, and most of them usually just get coffee and stuff. Some of the customers can be really rude, however. If you’re dealing with a bad customer usually they’re rude. They can be annoying or complain about how long you’re taking or just the quality of your service. It’s really annoying to hear that stuff when your just trying to, you know…. it’s a part time job.
Some people treat you as if, at the end of the day, you don’t take off your clothes and go to class just like they are, or go live a regular life just like they do. I don’t walk into their rooms and judge them for how they’re filing papers or judge the students for their handwriting. It just seems that petty. The one person that sticks out to me is this guy who came in one day and complained that his coffee was cold. I watched as he poured it out of the Thermos coffee holder. He didn’t take a sip or anything—he just said it was cold. I believe in customer service, but what am I supposed to do with a rush of people behind him? Put his coffee in the microwave? After he walked away angry, I poured a small amount into a cup. It was hot, but once again I know we’re here to serve people and provide good service, even when the customer is an asshole.
There are some equal good parts to the job as well as the bad parts of course. The best parts: I like the people that work there. It’s not that tough of a job. The worst part: They don’t pay you anything really. Well $8.50 isn’t that great of pay. They try to act like “Oh, it’s not minimum wage,” but you can’t even take tips or anything because you’re part of a Union job. I would say the pay is probably the worst part. At the end of the day me and my supervisors know why I’m there. I’m not going to be a Barista my whole life, nor will I quit my job before I graduate. There’s mutual interest from both parties.
I think the Union can do a much better job at making the job worthwhile for the students. There’s two different approaches. There’s one that would think like, “these kids are dedicating time that they don’t necessarily have—they could be studying but they’re here working, so maybe we can pay them more.” Then there is the approach of, “They’re not going to quit, and even if they do, it won’t be hard to replace them at all.” I think its safe to assume which approach I think they take. The school makes so much money and so does the union, so to hear that pay increases aren’t feasible is a bunch of bull in my opinion. I don’t think that the head office people take a look at what the students really need. Yes they provide a service by working with our schedule, and yes they provide prime locations for us to work, but without us, there would be no Wisconsin Union.
If I could open my own Badger Market I would help out my employees a lot more. Starting pay would be $9.00/hour for people with jobs like mine and $10.00/hour for supervisors. I would then have a “90-day period” of sorts, so after you have showed a three-month dedication, you can get another 50 cent increase. It doesn’t seem that drastic of a difference but that 75 cents an hour goes a long way when you’re living off of your part time job. Another thing I would do is find a prime location. I think the Badger Market connected to Ingraham has the best location on campus—you get a big rush of people, and they’re students, so you wont have customers complaining all the time, like old people do at my location. I think the bottom of Bascom, maybe connected to Humanities, or even a Badger Market food court cart might be kind of cool or at least an ideal location.
I would also allow more freedom. I want the Union to know that we hate the stupid uniforms. I understand we all need to look the same—the hat and the shirt, but we don’t need to wear black pants also. Sometimes my friends who work at Der Rathskeller tell me it can be 80 degrees outside and they still have to wear the black pants, just like I have to wear them. That’s nonsense, especially ’cause they’re not providing the pants and it’s just a rule. We’re students and I would treat my workers like students, as long as they’re not slacking off or anything.
Overall, I like my job at the Union. I work when its good for my schedule. I like the people that I work with and the pay, although it sucks, is more than $0.00/hr. I’d recommend it to my friends just because they hire students at a pretty good rate. You don’t need some impressive resume and a suit and tie during an interview. The Union could do a lot more to help the students, I feel like they’re still possessive of a ’70s way of thinking, as if it’s all of our first jobs or something. They don’t treat us like complete crap, I just wouldn’t go writing any 5-star reviews. I don’t want to rant on and on about the Union. I like my job.
— Tunde Awosika