For youth, some truly odd jobs at DNC

A front view of the podium and stage before the start of day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 4, 2012 in Charlotte, N.C.

Kai Ryssdal: You've heard here and elsewhere about the local economic boost that political conventions are said to bring with them. It was true in Tampa with the GOP, and it's true as the Democrats have their confab in Charlotte this week as well.

Although some of the most interesting job opportunities are somewhat un-conventional. Youth Radio's Sayre Quevedo reports.


Chris Miller: Hey! What's up? Oh my goodness, you look like you're famished! Please, come down to Rock Bottom and grab something to eat.

Sayre Quevedo: Twenty-four year-old Chris Miller and a colleague are dressed in all black and baking in the 90-degree midday heat. They're handing out coupons for a nearby restaurant where they wait tables.

Miller: We have beer-themed food and beer-themed beer.
Quevedo: How much are you guys making?
Miller: Well, right now? We're making $2.13 an hour.

For $2.13 an hour without tips, this guy genuinely seems to be loving life. Not ten steps away, Tre Randleman is hocking shiny buttons with a very familiar face on them. It's this guy a lot of the DNC folks seem to like. Okay, yeah, it's Obama. And he's looking good on these pins.

Tre Randleman: Yeah, looking kind of sexy there.

That's my favorite pin too -- besides the one where he's dressed like a Jedi warrior.

Randleman: They're one for $5 and three for $10, so we've been doing pretty good today. Wherever the crowds are you can pretty much get a sale. So that's what we're doing.

Randleman says 85 percent of the proceeds go to a food pantry, and she gets the other 15 percent. Five dollars a button adds up quickly. She can take home $150 to $200 a day.

Mikey Stuart: We're just trying to make enough money to eat off the dollar menu today.

That's 17 year-old Mikey Stuart. He plays harmonica, along with 16 year-old Thomas Watts on guitar. Together they are...

Stuart and Thomas Watts (together): The Elaborate Door Retrievers.

They're sitting against a wall with the classic starving musician's guitar case open in front of them.

Quevedo: So what do you got in there? 
Watts: Six and change.
Stuart: $6.87.
Watts: We don't even need to eat on the dollar menu now. 
Stuart: Maybe we can go somewhere fancy? Take you out somewhere nice.
Watts: Maybe we can afford Chick-fil-A.

And just when they thought their day had been made, a special guest showed up.

Stuart: Can we, can we play? Let's try and play a song for Jesse Jackson.
Watts: All right let's do that. Jesse this song's dedicated for you!

There's only one act in Charlotte this week, but opportunists like the Elaborate Door Retrievers, are hoping the spotlight shifts enough in their direction, that they make a little cash.

In Charlotte, I'm Sayre Quevedo for Marketplace.


Ryssdal:  Sayre's story came to us courtesy of Youth Radio and its New Options Desk, stories about how young adults can get work.

About the author

Sayre Quevedo is a reporter with Youth Radio.

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