Their calves ache from climbing steps; their backs are sore from carrying a 35-pound drink case. They”re lucky to be able to speak after game day, from screaming “Ice-cold drinks!” over the sound of 55,000 clanging cowbells.
For some local high schoolers, hustling drinks and food in the stands of Davis Wade Stadium can be an exhausting way to make money.
But it”s good money for someone looking for their first job.
Express Employment Professionals, an international staffing company with a franchise location in Starkville, offers local teens the chance to work as “hawkers” for Aramark, which handles game-day vending at Mississippi State University sporting events.
Express has staffed MSU football and baseball games since fall 2010 and has about 80 slots to fill for MSU”s home football games this year.
Those interested typically find out about Express” program from a friend, but Express doesn”t wait for kids to come to them. Account executive Anna Spivey and staffing consultant Craig Blaylock visit local high schools and churches to recruit workers.
“The idea is to get them started right at 16 (years old),” Blaylock said. “A lot of kids are looking for a great first job, and this teaches them salesmanship, teamwork and hard work.”
Express” recruiting efforts led to 120 tryouts last year, and more are expected this year. Thursday, Express held open tryouts at Davis Wade Stadium, where teens filled out applications, carried drink trays up and down the stands and practiced their best “salesman voice.” Express will hold two more tryouts Sept. 6 and 8.
The trial run helps Express determine if the applicants can handle the physical and mental rigors of the job. Even something as simple as making change can get complicated when trying to handle multiple orders in a loud stadium.
“This really is the make or break point,” said supervisor Daniel Malgonado. “They really need to pass all the tests. If they were just a little sluggish walking the stands but they”re quick in the math then we”ll give them a chance and keep an eye on them on the season starts. If they can”t do math at all, they aren”t going to make it.”
Spivey said hawkers need to be outgoing and able to read lips. Additionally, being personable can be the difference in leaving the stadium with $60 extra in tips, plus minimum wage and 25 cent commission per drink.
Just ask top seller in 2010, Josiah Phillips. The Starkville native and junior home-schooler sold 600 drinks in one game last year.
“A good day, you can leave with about $180 including about $50 in tips,” Phillips said. “But that”s for someone going out there and working really hard.”
Phillips” four older brothers, including current Mississippi State football player Jonathan Phillips worked as hawkers at MSU football games before Express started to work with Aramark.
Phillips knew how demanding the job could be but says the chance to watch MSU football games and earn money makes coming home with a soggy T-shirt and a hoarse voice worth it.
“It can be rough at times, but even though you”re working you get to see a play or two here and there,” Phillips said. “For someone like me, that”s a big deal. Everyone”s worried about tickets but I get in free.”
Spivey said the top 20 sellers from 2010 will return for the 2011 season without having to interview or train.
Anyone interested in becoming a hawker can call Express at 662-323-4070.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.