The Worst Jobs We've Ever Had

15 editors share their past employment horror stories

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He was just not cut out to process dinnerware

“I needed a summer job during college and grabbed the first ‘opportunity’ I could find—dishwasher at a busy Jersey Shore restaurant. ‘How bad could it be?’ I thought, quite incorrectly, at the time. Well, I lasted three weekend nights. I was just not cut out to process the dinnerware for hundreds of meals into the early hours of the morning for minimum wage. I needed a ride home my last night, so my sister’s boyfriend, a Marine home from Quantico, came to pick me up. He said he’d never forget the look of relief on my face when he popped into the kitchen towards the end of my shift to let me know he was there.”

Paul Rodina

Production Editor

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She lasted three weeks, four days

“My worst job? Working the deep fat fryers at Roy Rogers at age 16. Zits galore and a basket weave scar on my arm. Total: three weeks and four days.”

Beatrice Hogan
Research Editor

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The only perk—free dinner

 “When I was in my 20s and making very little money at my first job, I moonlighted as a hat check girl at a tony East Side restaurant. Crowds would come in and toss their coats at you all at once, and basically, they all looked alike, raincoats for men, furs for women, so I lived in terror that I would mix them up. After awhile, I sort of hoped I would. The tips were crummy—people would tip you a quarter for six coats—the hours were awful and the only perk was a free dinner.”

Susan Toepfer

Consulting Entertainment/Features Editor

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She threw in the towel

“In college, I taught group swimming lessons to children. One toddler got in the habit of wandering away and pretending to drown if I didn’t pay her enough attention while her parents were watching. Another would scream for the entire hour that he was in the pool. I lasted for 6 months.”

Deanna Pai

Beauty/Fashion Assistant

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She lived to tell the story

“My very first job was as an editorial assistant at a small literary magazine. The office was in a Greenwich Village townhouse, and on my first day I was told that it was my job to walk the Doberman. This was nearly 40 years ago, and I still remember that the dog’s name was Candy. Such a sweetie, they said. But Candy did not like having to go home when the walk was over. Nor did I. The job lasted about a week.”

Cathleen Medwick

Literary Editor

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On day three, she resigned

“In college, I got a job at my local public library. My daily task was to reshelve the books, which was the height of boredom. What made it exquisitely worse was the fact that I couldn’t talk to anyone. (You know that ‘shhhh’ rule in the library? Doesn’t work for me.) They wouldn’t even let me listen to my Walkman. On Day three, I walked in and resigned. Lesson learned.”

Susan Avery

Digital Director

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The table left a penny tip

“I worked at a fish shack for four weeks one summer. I quit the day after I dropped an entire tray of platters and splattered red clam sauce all over myself and the table I was standing next to. That table left me a penny tip (probably one cent more than I deserved). I’ve come to realize that I do better preparing and eating food than I do serving it.”

Genevieve Monsma  

Beauty Director

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She was ready to leave the country

“The summer before my junior year of college I knew I had to make a lot of money fast in order to travel abroad that year – and what better way than serving tables? I started working at an Asian-American fusion restaurant where I would serve platters of 50 sushi rolls to customers and have to stand at the table identifying each roll, which is a huge challenge when the only variation is the tint of the color PINK, and the restaurant’s mood lighting wasn’t too helpful either. I was so ready to go abroad to Spain once the time came. Sushi is a rare find there!”

Jamie Miles

Editorial Assistant

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She’s still waiting for that check

“The summer after my sophomore year of college I worked at a NYS Thruway gift shop selling Playboys and No-Doz to potty-mouthed truckers. Favorite memory? The day one of these fine gentleman stood by the register for THREE hours regaling me with information about the screenplay he was about to sell to Turner Classic Movies. He promised to give me a cut of the millions he was bound to make. I’m still waiting for that check to come in.”

Danielle Kosecki

Health Writer

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She’d never have to think about waiting tables again

“During a college summer break, I worked at the Ruby Tuesday’s at a luxury outlet mall near my hometown. People would come in for the salad bar and slider combo in between stops at Off Saks and the Ralph Lauren outlet. Most people were tourists, so it alternated between brief periods of mass chaos and long, dragging hours of painful boredom. One summer was enough. I never wanted to wait tables again.”

Samantha Lear

Editorial Assistant

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“Temp” job with benefits

“I was once at a small newspaper – almost more like a vanity publication – that was tanking so badly that everybody would race to the bank to cash their checks each week. I kept hoping to be laid off. Although I was on staff, I started thinking of the position as a ‘temp’ job with benefits that didn’t have to last forever. That shift in thinking made all the difference.”

Nanette Varian

Features Editor

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At least she ate well!

“I was banquet manager at a private club, and there was nothing funny about it. I worked when everyone else was on holiday, and had to deal with groping, diva chefs, frazzled waiters and a particularly obnoxious clientele.  The best I can say about that job is that it was character building. And I ate well.”

Stephanie Von Hirschberg

Features Editor

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She reeked of beer

“Working as a waitress at a college bar was the WORST. It’s back-breaking work, college guys are gross and grabby and really bad tippers, and at the end of the night I reeked of beer. Hated it.”

Susan Swimmer

Fashion Features Editor

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She had never been so bored

“I was on a break from college a month or so before Christmas, and living in Hartford (“Insurance Capital of the World!”). An agency sent me to a major insurance company that had created a new department made up completely of temps. Its goal: Burn up money that needed to be spent before the end of the year. For six weeks, a very diverse group of 20 or so women Xeroxed every paper policy that huge company had in its possession. In the last few weeks, we started running out of policies, and to pass the time, we raced each other through the aisles on our rolling swivel chairs. I don’t think I have ever been so bored.”

Nancy Stedman

Deputy Editor, Health

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She never saw them again

“I once babysat for three kids who insisted they weren’t hungry all night long. Then when I finally put them down for bed, the oldest boy (about 8 years old) told me that I didn’t even feed them dinner! I was never called back to babysit.”

Nicole Papantoniou

Web assistant


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First Published August 16, 2011

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