Interns From Hell: Industry Execs Share Their Worst Memories
No matter what facet of the industry you work in, you have likely crossed paths with an intern from hell. For every great intern who went on to a successful career in the music or radio business, there’s another that’s still causing flashback nightmares for their one-time employer. Whether they suffer from a sense of entitlement that results in an unwillingness to start at the bottom and work their way up, are not equipped with any basic business (or even life) skills or are simply clueless, bad interns abound. Everyone seems to have a story about one, and we have collected some of the funniest.
There has been a parade of winners at the AristoMedia Group, according to vp marketing and international relations Matt Watkins. It includes a group of three former interns who didn’t know where a stamp went — or even how to address an envelope. The trio “did an entire mailer and sent all the press packages back to us, not realizing where the to/from [labels] went,” he says.
Artist manager Kerry Hansen, president of Big Enterprises, once had an intern cost her a bundle. He took a call at work from a copier supply company and somehow managed to order three years’ worth of nonrefundable toner that put Hansen on the hook for $700.
Watkins also says Aristo has had interns who didn’t know how to answer phones or perform Google searches. “We have had interns who literally never speak, sneak into the office, check emails, then when done just disappear. Those are the craziest ones.”
One prospect passed on an offered internship with a strange note explaining, “My heart is telling me to go a different direction,” but then asked Aristo’s hiring manager to keep him in mind for future job openings.
By far the most common gripe about interns is that they don’t show up for work as scheduled and often fail to give employers the basic courtesy of letting them know. Says Watkins, “Seems like every intern says their schedule is totally clear, then miss more days than we can count for being tired because taking 12 hours at school plus an internship is too stressful.”
“I once had an intern who habitually wouldn’t show up for work and failed to call in to tell us she wasn’t coming,” recalls Rolling Stone Country senior editor Beville Dunkerley. “One week, she was working on something that had a hard due date. She didn’t show up, so I called her saying I needed the piece. She whispered that she was in class, taking a test that was running long, and that she’d get the piece to me soon. I went on her Facebook page and saw she was in Chicago on a girls’ trip. She’d checked in on Facebook, so I knew it wasn’t an old picture. After a few more days of not showing up, she then contacted me for a job reference.”
Silverfish Media, which produces radio’s The Big D & Bubba Show, stopped employing interns after Condé Nast settled a class-action suit in 2014 brought by former interns seeking back pay, but director of programming Patrick Thomas had a memorable intern before that policy change. “We are a morning show, so we get to work early,” he says. “One summer we had an intern who worked from 7-9 a.m. three days a week. Every time I went into the office where the interns work, she was asleep. Every single time for over two months.”
Essential Broadcast Media publicist Scott Stem recalls that at a previous job, he unknowingly employed “the reigning Guernsey Queen from whatever state she was from” as an intern. “She would often go home to MC a local event or make an official appearance, often calling in at the last minute to tell us she couldn’t be at work that day because of her Guernsey Queen activities.”
However, that wasn’t the intern’s most annoying quality. “When she did show up,” says Stem, “she would just burst out into song at any given point,” possibly in an attempt to get “discovered” at work. “She sat outside my door, and I contemplated bringing a muzzle to work.”
A bad attitude has gotten other interns in trouble. While Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios now has a “no intern” policy, that wasn’t always the case. Juanita Copeland, the studio’s president/GM and partner, recalls one who was always asking her for extra work. One day she had some for him, and he cheerfully agreed to take it on. But a few minutes later she got a text from the same intern that read, “I can’t believe the bitch manager just asked me to work late. I’m busting my ass and that’s not enough, so now she has the nerve to ask me to work late, too.” Explains Copeland, “He had inadvertently sent a text to me that he meant for his girlfriend. So the ‘bitch’ manager promptly walked in and told him that his services were no longer needed at the studio.” After showing the intern his mistake, she recalls, “He turned bright red and walked out the door. We never saw him again.”
When another former Sound Emporium intern was asked to rinse out some empty condiment bottles for recycling, the intern replied, “I didn’t go to audio school to wash garbage.”
One intern initially impressed Rick Murray, vp integrated marketing and promotions at Premiere Networks. The student seemed quick and competent when given paperwork to process and then file. “When the semester was over, I was looking for something in the intern’s desk and found two drawers filled with all of the paperwork that was supposed to have been filed and processed,” recalls Murray. “Good thing I had already turned in his evaluation.”
Others simply can’t keep up with real-world job demands. Dixie Owen, a publicist with Schmidt Relations, had an intern at a former company who seemed more concerned with looking cute and being around the artists than doing her job. During CMA Music Festival, which is a hot and work-intensive grind for every publicist with multiple clients, Owen lost track of the intern after the first event of the day. When she finally answered her cellphone, the intern explained that she had gone to the Hilton Hotel to rest in the lobby and cool off in the air conditioning. After she rejoined Owen’s team, “we started hoofing it down the street [to our next event], and one of her cute sandals broke. We just kept walking because we were on a schedule,” says Owen. “I turned around, and she had this desperate look on her face. She had to go look at souvenir shops to find some flip-flops to get her through the day. She didn’t come back the next day.”
Finally, there’s this gem from Black River Entertainment director of public relations Dawn Delvo. “An intern [at a previous company] completed his internship at the PR/marketing firm we worked for, and while he was having the traditional goodbye lunch with the owner of the company he asked, ‘What exactly does “PR” stand for?’ ”