On the Job: Eight-Hour Shift at Trader Joe’s

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Shiva Darshan

Junior Naomi Markman balances her Gallatin studies with shifts at the Trader Joe’s by Palladium, which happens to be the busiest in the country.

Lily Li, Staff Writer

Most NYU students are familiar with the Trader Joe’s on 14th Street, which sits right next to Palladium Hall and constantly stays crowded, serving hundreds of customers every day. But how does it feel to be on the other side, working in one of busiest grocery stories in the country?

“It sometimes feels like a lot,” Naomi Markman, a Gallatin junior who works there, said.

Markman, who studies Political, Social and Cultural Analysis for Television in Gallatin, works in the Trader Joe’s store on 14th Street every Thursday through Sunday. Her shift starts at 5 p.m. and doesn’t finish until 1 a.m. When she returns to her dorm, she is exhausted and jumps directly into bed. This is just how she likes it.

“I am the kind of person who prefers when I have too much to do than to have not enough to do,” Markman said. “If I don’t have anything to do, I will just stay in my room all day, possibly all year.”

Each shift, Markman spends a few hours working at the cash register — her favorite assignment because she gets to meet all kinds of people. Of the many NYU students who shop at Trader Joe’s, Markman sometimes sees old floor mates or classmates. But these shoppers are not nearly as exciting as the celebrities who sometimes show up to the store. On her birthday this past year, Markman crossed paths with former SNL cast member Rachel Dratch.

Markman has regulars, too. One elderly woman who doesn’t speak English always finds Markman to help her find products in the store. Markman said that they gesture and yell in their respective languages until she figures out what the woman is seeking. In return, the woman gives Markman Korean cigarettes, which she passes along to her coworkers because she doesn’t smoke.

In addition to Korean cigarettes, customers have also shared recipes with Markman.

“One time I was struggling to cook Brussels sprouts,” Markman said. “My mom cooks them very well, but she won’t give me her recipe. Whenever there were customers with Brussels sprouts checking out, I would ask them, ‘Do you have a tip on how to make these?’ Now I’m an expert.”

When asked whether there are bad customers, Markman laughed and said that she sometimes gets hit on by men. Occasionally, customers express frustration when the store is too crowded or runs out of things they need.

“I try not let that ruin my day if I get a bad customer,” Markman said. “Everyone has a bad day now and then.”

Despite her busy school and work schedules, Markman still makes time to connect with her friends and has an especially strong relationship with her roommates.

“I come home during lunch hour and use that time to socialize with my roommates,” she said. “If I’m not at work and have big chunks of time, I will do schoolwork. Before going to work, I use as much time as I can, like time between classes and lunch.”

Markman says that the work at Trader Joe’s gets her used to the experience of working long hours and allows her to interact with a diverse range of people in terms of race, gender, sexual identity and personality. Her job at Trader Joe’s is one of the ways she’s preparing herself for life after college, which is especially important since she will be graduating a year early.

“I don’t want to wait for four years to start the rest of my life,” Markman said. “I like to have a job because it’s not part of the university. It lets me to exist in a real-life way outside of school.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 24 print edition. Email Lily Li at [email protected]