Real-life bottom of the employment barrel?

“Hello! Would you like some pizza?”

The woman stops her shopping cart with a lurch and studies me. Her gaze starts at my head—baseball cap with product logo, smiling face, name badge—and rests on my table, laden with coupons and steaming slices of take-and-bake Sicilian pies.

I can tell she’s a dieter. Free samples are her caloric nemeses. “I don’t want any pizza!” she declares, smiling victoriously.

“OK! Have a good day!” I chirp.

I’m scanning the supermarket aisle for more customers when she leans over and sneers, “So, how do you like your job?”

Clearly, she considers supermarket promotions the bottom of the employment barrel, and she’s not alone. I once drove 30 minutes to work a soda promotion in Roseville, listening to morning-radio comedian Adam Carolla riff about the pathetic nature of my job the entire way. “That’s one step above the guys who stand on the corner waving signs!” he said, entourage cackling in the background.

So when this customer asks how I like my job, she’s telling me she’s got the upper hand—in pizza consumption and in life. I shrug and admit the truth: “I love my job.”

She rolls her eyes and shoves her cart toward the yogurt section. She doesn’t believe me.

Maybe you don’t, either, but look at my workday: I’m paid to stand around an air-conditioned store listening to Hall & Oates and Earth, Wind & Fire on the PA system. I manage no one and nobody supervises me. I bought 12 pizzas with someone else’s money, and I surprise people with free slices. Most are happy to see me, delighted to get something for nothing.

Honestly, I’ve worked much harder for much less money. Pay varies, but I often earn more per hour for supermarket promotions than any other job I’ve had (including SN&R arts and entertainment editor). People use promotions work to support acting careers, writing projects and startup companies. The pay is good, the schedule is flexible and the leftovers stock your kitchen between paychecks.

Of course, standing in public interacting with everyone who passes has its hazards. One customer repeatedly snuck up behind me to “test my reflexes.” Creepy men offer to warm me up when I shiver in the ice-cream aisle. I hear about everybody’s dietary restrictions. Gas, diabetes, indigestion—nothing’s too personal for the coupon girl.

I’m a conversational hostage, but sometimes it’s a great conversation. Once, an African man walked by holding an unfamiliar vegetable. This exotic tuber was often the only thing his family had to eat when he was growing up. He didn’t like it then, but now he can’t get enough.

His kids won’t touch it. “They even take vegetables off their pizzas!” he said. After a decade in America, the picky-eater concept still puzzles him. It’s as strange as someone in a store overflowing with food, getting paid to give it away.