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Things are chill (and chilled): what it’s like to work at Emporium

Employees at Emporium have come up with several ways to stay awake and alert during their late shifts.
Employees at Emporium have come up with several ways to stay awake and alert during their late shifts.

Emporium is a great place for students to walk in, get the snacks and drinks that they need, and walk out — all in the span of five to ten minutes. 

It’s convenient, but nothing really changes. The selection of products typically stays the same from day to day, and it takes a matter of seconds to walk around the whole store.

Now imagine being in Emporium for four hours multiple days a week.

Sunmbo Olorunfemi is a graduate student who works the night shift at the convenience store  six days a week. He appreciates the benefits of working a job where the only employee duties are to man the cash register, restock items and clean the store. 

“I really like [the job]— it takes away the stress of studying,” he said. “I see it as a break time to get to engage and meet new people on the job.”

The opportunity for Olorunfemi to meet new people frequently often comes up in the few minutes before Emporium closes.

“A few minutes before closing time [midnight], a ton of people always rush in,” Olorunfemi said. “It’s probably because at 11:45 the announcement for Armstrong is blaring, so we expect the rush around that time.”

In order to stay awake throughout the downtime during his shift, Olorunfemi employs a productive strategy.

“I’ve printed out some GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) vocab words,” he said. “And it can get very boring, so after checking the store I look at the flashcards and see if I’ve memorized all the words.”

While Emporium can be boring at times, for some it’s  been the exact opposite. 

Elizabeth Short is a junior psychology major who has been working at Emporium for around a year and a half. Since Miami transitioned to a “cashless” campus where students pay using IDs and credit cards only, she has had to awkwardly inform them of the change. 

“A dude comes in, grabs a thing of sushi, and he goes to tap his card, but he doesn’t have enough money on it,” Short said. “He sighs and puts the sushi back and he’s like, ‘I’ll be back in a second.’ He comes back with cash and I tell him we don’t accept cash. He sighs, puts the sushi back and doesn’t come back.”

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While she usually gets off at 7 p.m., Short also has to find ways to pass the time after doing her normal duties and having a low customer flow.

“One strategy I have to combat boredom is if the radio is on, I’ll take tally of how many times I’ve heard a certain song in an hour,” Short said. “If we have enough pens around, we’ll also try to balance them [on the counter].”

General employees aren’t the only Emporium workers who come up with creative ways to keep themselves occupied after the real work of the job is over. 

Bryan Afadzi is a junior majoring in engineering who serves as a student manager at Emporium. When there’s no food to stock or paperwork to do, he makes beats.

“When I’m alone, I tap on the surfaces and sort of make stories for myself,” Afadzi said. “One time a customer tried to use three payment methods that all didn’t work, and I made a song about the incident afterward as well as a beat for it.”

Afadzi said that at the end of the day, the experience working at Emporium was determined by the person themselves.

“This kind of job is really what you make of it,” he said. “You run out of things to do quickly, and what you do next is really up to you and your attitude about it.”