Last week I worked 12 hours as a bar staff worker for a festival in North London. I got the job through an events agency, which typically post events throughout the year (mostly in Summer) that you can sign up and work. You get paid minimum wage, work long hours on your feet, have to deal with difficult and often irate drunk people and if you’re lucky you’ll get two fifteen minute breaks. But on the plus side, you will make around £80-90, you will make friends, you will gain experience and you’ll be forced to be physically active.
If you want to make a bit of extra cash or your employment history is noticeably blank and you’re willing to try anything, here is my list of pros and cons to consider before you attempt this line of work.
It’s a hard job.
I don’t mean it’s mentally taxing (although it’s harder to remember faces in a crowd then you’d think), or that it requires any particular skills (although maths and physical fitness are definite pluses), but it is still one of the hardest jobs you will probably ever do. At some point you will reach breaking point. At that point you will know you have to keep working for four or more hours and there’s nothing you can do about it. You will be tired, your feet and legs will ache, you will be thirsty but be too busy to drink.
Drunk people will start shouting at you for not serving them even though they can see there aren’t enough servers to go around and even though they’re watching you rush around trying to see to everyone.
They get rowdy about being ID’d (I’m sorry you’re 28, but can’t you take it as a damn compliment already?!). They get rowdy about the festival in general (I’m sorry, I didn’t realise being employed by this third party company made me the automatic CEO of this damn event), and sometimes they’re just rowdy in general.
People also tend to think that just because on that particular day you are serving them, they are automatically higher up than you, they automatically know more about your job than you, and they have the right to bitch at you because ‘the customer is always right’.
These people are asshats, and anyone who has ever worked in customer service will have encountered them. I do not care if you are having a bad day or if you are just a douche in general, it is never okay to blame the minimum wage staff for a company’s bigger problems. Do you think the overworked bar staff serving you really cares if you’re under age? Do you think we set the extortionate prices? Do you think we arranged this festival just to spite you?
Or do you think we have to ID because the management has made us, that they’ve spent ages convincing us mystery shoppers are everywhere and we will be fined the exact amount of earnings for that day if we forget to ID one person who is potentially under 30? Is that realistic, no. Does it happen, yes.
Working twelve hours is bad enough, but to lose your earnings because you were too scared to ID someone is hell, and even if it’s unlikely we have to look out for ourselves. I’m sorry your youthful skin and lack of wrinkles means you have to spend five extra seconds searching for the ID you haven’t had to use in five years, but is it really that big of a deal?
The prices, by the way, are obviously set before we arrive. We have no control over them. Festival drinks are going to be very over priced, you already know this. If you have a problem take it up with the owners, not the workers.
Understandably there is no time to train the staff. Working in events can be very good for people who don’t have much work experience as it’s something they can use as their ‘customer service experience’ and gain more steady employment elsewhere. It also means you will often be working with people who have never worked on a bar before who will inevitably make some mistakes.
I’m not going to lie, the money’s not bad. It’s minimum wage (in the UK it’s about £6.60 an hour), but as you end up working so many hours (normally over 10 for an all day event, and sometimes up to 14-15) it adds up and you can make up to £100 a day.
If you sign up with an event company, you can also normally choose which events you want to work for. It doesn’t mean you will get all of them, and you normally need to call up a few times to secure it, but you won’t have to work for anything you haven’t personally signed up for.
It’s good for students and ad hoc travellers (like me) who need to pick their shifts as they are not always available and can’t commit to full time work.
You will bond with the other staff. You are all going through a stressful and intense experience, and whilst you may sometimes snap at each other, it will help you bond.
As I’ve said before, event work and one off events are a very good way for young people, especially school leavers and uni students, to gain work experience. In a world where you have to have experience to get experience, and you must have previous experience to get a job (but obviously you cannot get said experience without said job), event work – which requires no prior experience – can be a godsend. When I was a uni student I did a few event jobs before getting a full time bar staff job at our local pub/club, all because I was able to say I now had experience. You can also work your way up in an event company and become a manager, who serve less and make more money.