Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not naming names

Today for the first time ever, I ordered an iced Americano. A large. It was that or sleep, and I am indeed still awake, which midway through a week of teacher-training and exam-cramming is not half bad. The drink is maybe four shots of espresso in iced water. It does the trick, and is fully drinkable, perhaps even addictive. But then, while waiting for this movie-soda-sized beverage, I noticed a sign, "free coffee." It turned out to be the top of an ad for a job opening at this coffee bar. They are looking for a "student" (is that even legal?) to wash dishes and mop floors part-time at a rate of $8/hour. No tips. This is significantly worse than another NYC barista job I can think of, which pays the same but with substantial tips, and where the (extensive) cleaning-up duties are at least mixed in with making drinks, so that if you end up earning more that coffee-bar wages one day, you can make your own yuppie drinks if you so choose.

As much as I think it's a good idea to work during college, how far can eight dollars an hour get you in this city, working part-time, and spending much of the week in school? Not to get too technical, but this is less than the jobs I had at UChicago paid, and I was in no way attempting to cover my rent or support a family with the money I earned as an undergrad. And this was Hyde Park. What are NYU or New School students supposed to do with the cash from a job like this? And without tips? This would be $3/hour in Hyde Park, or so my non-economist estimate goes. Are students in the area being exploited? Are enough of them simply so well-off that they take jobs like this because it sounds glamorous to work in a (celebrity-frequented) coffee bar in the Village?

10 comments:

Miss Self-Important said...

I think that 8/hr is probably the lower end of average for student employment at the U of C. I started my campus job at only slightly more than that. I imagine that people who swipe IDs at the gym might make less. What's the point? I did it to get some money to go out, buy clothes, and fund my tea and Snickers bar habits. It was more than sufficient for that.

Phoebe said...

That's about the same as what I did with my undergrad income, except that it was coffee and Twix. And if Jimmy's and H&M count as going out and clothes, respectively. But $8/hr in the part of the city this place is in amounts to a billionth of a muffin or a trillionth of a t-shirt. I could be wrong, and candy bars never cost that much, but my sense is that the cost of living, even aside from rent, is a lot higher in lower Manhattan than it is in Hyde Park. Cheaper options exist, but the more expensive ones are convenient and tempting. "A drink" is $10, a handbag is... ask Julie Fredrickson for specifics, but suffice it to say that Hyde Park doesn't have too many handbag shops.

jean paul monazique de la mancha said...

Hey Phoebe, you are such a pinko liberal. ;)

There is plenty of demand for $8 an hour jobs among people who need the money, so if it is too little for you, don't take the job.

But, since they are looking for students to do the job, either they are looking for HS students, rather than college co-eds, or, they are looking for suckers.

And most people who would take the job need the dough, and don't live high on the hog in an NYU dorm.

jean paul monazique said...

oh, and I am sorry to be harsh. I spent quite a bit of my college age income on something I couldn't do without--college tuition.

Miss Self-Important said...

I mean, I see your point. I'm just saying that undergrads have cheaper demands than most people, and they don't have to pay rent or save. 8/hr is about $400 a month, after taxes. Even in New York, that's quite a few cups of coffee and twix bars.

Phoebe said...

"But, since they are looking for students to do the job, either they are looking for HS students, rather than college co-eds, or, they are looking for suckers.

And most people who would take the job need the dough, and don't live high on the hog in an NYU dorm."

Manhattan establishments rarely have high school age staff, so I'm guessing college, especially given that colleges are nearby, and not so many high schools. But I don't understand the comment--if they are "looking for suckers" then why assume that those who take the job "need the dough"? As Rita correctly points out, college students often take jobs to gain some degree of financial independence; it is a rare student who can pay $40k (or whatever it is at the moment at private colleges) in tuition--along with all other living expenses--with any job they have while in school.

And Miss S-I, I agree for the most part, but sense that college students in Manhattan--not just at NYU-- probably have different ideas of normal college-age purchases than do students at UChicago. They're undergrads, but they're also adults living in lower Manhattan. But then again, who knows.

Glenn said...

I think you have a miscomprehension about the $8/hr as a competitive wage.

The NYS minimum wage for employees is $7.25. However if you are getting tips, the hourly minimum wage they can pay is $4.10 or thereabout( I forget the exact amount).

There are a whole lot of people stuck in minimum wage jobs in NYC, and a lot at lower than minimum wage jobs (off the books, or all the student staff at NYU, who went "on strike" last year).

As for tips at these places, its one thing to tip a waitress, but I think it is insulting to ask customers to tip your staff at a counter. In fact, it is kind of greedy and one of the seedier things that starbux made trendy.

Phoebe said...

The issue with minimum wage is that, in theory, you can live off of it if you work full time. For students working 10 hours a week, it's another story. As much as it makes you feel better about yourself if you can pay for your own coffee or beer, there's the basic fact that work is not associated with supporting yourself when you are in college, if the school has significant tuition, and if you are not on a large scholarship.

Miss Self-Important said...

I can't say that I see a great injustice in college students not being able to afford Prada on their $8/hr wages, or how the fact that they live in NY makes it more unjust.

Phoebe said...

"I can't say that I see a great injustice in college students not being able to afford Prada on their $8/hr wages, or how the fact that they live in NY makes it more unjust."

Put in those terms, it seems straightforward: no one is owed Prada, especially not college students. But... what's generally considered normal varies from campus to campus, city to city. IPods, dinners out (and how much that costs varies city by city)... there are definitely differences, and one locale's laughably ostentatious purchase is another's basic campus checklist item. I might have overstated the difference between what's normal for Hyde Park and what's normal for Manhattan, but I still think there's a difference. Ideally a student job should (among other things) help bridge the gap between those whose parents pay for their beer/clothes and those whose do not; in NYC $8/hr a couple times a week might not do much in this regard.