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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

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Selling concessions

Uploaded: Jan 11, 2016
I helped chaperone the music boosters concession stand at the Palo Alto High School flea market this weekend. The band students sell pastries, coffee, chips and burgers to raise money for the music program. As I watched the students learning the basics of waiting on customers, keeping track of orders, and hygienically wrapping sandwiches, I thought back to my first jobs: working at a gift shop, selling coats at a department store and busing tables at an Italian restaurant at a ski resort.

I thought about all the skills I acquired and honed with those jobs, and how, like our kids, many teenagers don’t do these jobs anymore because between academic loads, sports commitments, SAT prep classes, internships, and community service work, there isn’t time, and now we provide the spending money (which would have eliminated my major motivation for employment!).

By working the music boosters concession stand, in addition to earning the community service hours she covets, our daughter is learning to work on a team, follow established procedures, and serve customers. Flea market vendors need to stay put at their stands to sell their wares, so the kids go booth to booth taking orders for morning coffee and then later lunch, grilled and delivered at the vendors’ requested time. The older kids run the grill and instruct and organize the younger students, assigning them tasks and keeping them on schedule. Food delivery is not only a nice convenience for the flea market vendors, but the vendors, many who are seniors, clearly appreciate chatting with the teenagers as they make their rounds.

All in all, a very productive way for teens to spend a Saturday: raising money for a great high school program, gaining useful work experience, and providing a much appreciated service!
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Karen, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 9:44 am

Great post! There is so much to be learned serving customers that can't be taught in a classroom. This sounds like a great opportunity for students and a valuable way to get community service hours done.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 9:49 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Karen, for reading and commenting. I've often thought that working retail and in a restaurant should be a prerequisite for many careers!

Posted by Debbie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 12:19 pm

What a great experience for everyone. You are right that we tend to undervalue such experiences and shy away from those activities. Somehow our lives become so busy that these simple yet valuable tasks lose out to other priorities.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 1:43 pm

It is such a shame that kids don't have the opportunity to get after school or Saturday jobs anymore. Here's a link to a recent Town Square thread on the subject. Web Link

I am reminded of my own first job one summer in retail. It taught me so much more about life and responsibility than anything I learned in school. I learned to be responsible to my job and my employer, as well as my fellow workers. I learned loyalty, the importance of being polite and professional, to dress for success and the rewards of a hard day's work with a nice fat paycheck to spend how I chose. Such a shame that today's youth don't have the same opportunities today. It seems that this volunteer session is a nice compromise.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Debbie, for reading and commenting. We do lose sight sometimes of taking the time to acquire some of these basic skills.

Thanks, Resident, for reading and commenting, and for the link. My daughter also babysits for neighbors which is a learning experience, too, but jobs serving customers (and a boss) do teach all the important skills you've noted.

Posted by Maria, a resident of University South,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Concession stand at Stanford games is also a good opportunity for students to learn to deal with money, work in a team and be respectful. Thank you Sally for writing about work experience for students that is necessary in life.

Posted by Julie, a resident of Midtown,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for posting Sally. We always say that making money for the band is the 3rd goal of the concession stand. The first is to take care of our venders who come every month and really support our program. The second is to offer our students work experience that few have time (or motivation) to explore. It is a win-win situation, and I always am proud of the kindness and diligence our students demonstrate.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Maria,
Thank you for reading and commenting! Good to know about the concession stand at Stanford.

Thanks, Julie, for all you do to give the kids this opportunity. You are without a doubt succeeding in all 3 goals!

Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Great experience for a good cause! One thing the kids still have to look forward to is their first pay stub listing all the deductions. Unless they own their own businesses, right?! Thanks for the post, Sally.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 11, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi LJ,
Thanks for reading and commenting. Our oldest two have had that shock. My daughter called us for advice because she was absolutely certain there was some kind of mistake on her first paycheck!

Posted by PR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 13, 2016 at 8:32 am

Well said, Sally--Thank you! What a great experience for both the students and the vendors!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 13, 2016 at 9:24 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, PR, for reading and commenting!

Posted by Robert Smith, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jan 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Great post!

When I was a kid, everyone had to work. Even my (few) "rich" friends had to have jobs in order to have spending money.

Many people find that the general skills they learn in jobs come in very handy. There are elements of management, marketing, sales, project management, problem solving, accounting in even the most mundane positions.

I used to notice a lot of local kids working in our retail stores. I don't see that much anymore.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 13, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Dear Robert Smith,
Thanks for reading and commenting! Once during my medical training a supervising physician complimented me on my ability to quickly develop a rapport with patients. I told her that was honed working in retail where often one only has a few minutes to assess what the customer is most interested in!

Posted by Bp, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jan 13, 2016 at 10:58 pm

Stating on your college application that you held a part time job on weekends on after school to learn responsibilities and how to deal with strangers unfortunately is not as impressive as spending those after school hours doing sports, volunteering at the hospital, running a charity for disadvantaged children, presiding over a club activity, taking calculus at Stanford as a high school sophomore, etc. etc.

Also, all those kids driven by their parents to take a chemistry class at the local tutoring store, before they take the chemistry class at the high school so they can guarantee their A+, also prevents students from doing the "old fashion" activities that was once common place a generation ago.

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