Free Perking

National Post, August 29, 2002. Nicole Cohen

Rochelle Hutchinson tears her eyes away from the guy in the purple shades to stuff a flyer into the hands of young passersby on Richmond. She hates to interrupt her conversation, especially since this is the cutest boy she’s met all night, but the street promoter is on the job and has a stack of flyers to hand out to potential clubbers.

“It’s not a glamorous job,” Hutchinson says, “but the perks are great.”

The 20-year-old, who will be taking classes at George Brown College in the fall, earns $12-20 an hour for a few hours of work on the weekends and gets free cover and drinks at the clubs she promotes.

“It’s the best job for a student if you’re into the club scene and like talking to people. You don’t meet guys like this working at McDonald’s,” she says, turning back to Mr. Mysterious.

Glamorous is the last word you’d imagine using to describe student jobs. Financing the mind-expanding years of post-secondary education often means spending hour after mindless hour folding jeans and blending hated cups of frappuccino when you’d rather be partying, seeing concerts and indulging your material desires (or maybe reading something).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Like Hutchinson, many students have found ways to earn a living while serving their collegiate needs.

Peter , 26, has been a concert security guard since he was a third-year student. He started at $8.50 an hour, now earns $9, and gets to see shows at venues such as the Air Canada Centre, the Guvernment and Kool Haus.

Working as a security guard has given Peter the opportunity to watch The Guess Who and Kim Mitchell from the wings of the Molson Amphitheatre stage, get chased with a hose by Ozzy Osborne and learn first-hand that Dave Matthews is a close-talker.

“I also get flashed quite a lot in the pit,” Peter says. “Edgefest was basically a three-hour wet T-shirt contest.” If dealing with drunk fans and flailing limbs isn’t your ideal way to see live music, scoring a gig as a videographer could be your ticket to free shows. With minimal experience gained in a first-year broadcast class, Jordan Heath-Rawlings earned up to $12 an hour filming live webcasts for IceBerg Media.
“They hooked me up with a camera and a nice place to stand and said “shoot this concert,” he says.
Highlights of his brief stint as a cameraman included attending a secret Rage Against The Machine gig at the Phoenix, seeing Supergrass and sharing a post-show smoke with Joe Strummer.

Before he left to attend McGill University, FredSztabinski, 22, found a job on the nt as a chauffeur for Canada’s Walk of Frame. The gig was unpaid, but for Sztabinski the perks were unprecedented – a 24-case of Molson beer, lunch at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant, movie passes and a Walk of Fame jacket.
All he had to do was pick up filmmaker David Cronenberg and his wife at their Rosedale home and cart them to ceremonies and parties in a silver Mercedes-Benz S500, worth about $100,000.

“It was a novelty,” says Sztabinski. “I picked up my friends and drove the car around all day.”

While it’s highly unlikely you’ll end up with an expensive car, the best way to score free stuff (that you can actually keep) is to become a secret shopper. Thousands of students across the country are paid to go shopping and eat in restaurants, all in the name of evaluating customer service.

“It’s an ideal job for students to make a few bucks and it’s not a big time commitment,” says David Lipton, president of Sensors Quality Management Inc., a company that pays anywhere from $15-$400 a month for students’ opinions. Secret shoppers get free merchandise and movies, nights in hotel rooms, full meals, cheap airline tickets, and sometimes just get paid to go to the bank or a car dealership.

Need a haircut? When Paula Gibson, 26, was a student at Algonquin College she answered an ad in the paper for hair models and got her long, blond hair cut, dyed an highlighted for free at a hair show, saving her almost $100.

How about a winter vacation? Airlines hire students to be flight attendants over winter and summer breaks, pay them well and fly them to exotic locales.

Emile Amzallag, 21, earns $30 an hour working for Air Canada during his time off from McGill. He often has scheduled layovers in Tel Aviv, where he is put up in a nice hotel and given a few hundred dollars in cash to cover expenses.

“I’m getting paid to go to a beach,” Amzallag says. He has been all over Canada, to England and Trinidad. Some days Amsallag will wake up in Toronto and go to sleep in Tokyo. Exhausting, but worth it.
If you can afford to give your time away in exchange for experience in the real world, there are some internships that will weigh you down with free stuff.

Canada’s arm of music giant BMG hires a raft of interns for various jobs in the marketing and publicity departments. Most interns are paid a token $75 for about 15 hours of work a week but come home with piles of free CDs and the chance to hang around the office with Canadian music celebs Avril Lavigne, The Rascalz and Sloan.

So fear not, students; if you have to sell your soul to a corporation or slave away for minimum wage, remember there are some jobs out there with enough gratuities to make slogging the hours away a truly perk experience.

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