What it’s like being a beach badge checker at the Jersey Shore

Don’t hate me for doing my job


For a few summers, I worked as a beach badge checker at my local beach in New Jersey. If you haven’t been to New Jersey and aren’t too familiar with its beach policies, here’s a quick rundown.

In New Jersey, beach goers must pay a fee to get past the gate and onto the sand. They can either pay for a season long badge that is good for the whole summer or just pay daily when they’re in the area. These fees usually go to the municipality and pay for lifeguards and the cleaning of the beach. And people always feel strongly about us badge checkers, but this is what it’s like from our side.

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We’re not bad people, we’re just doing our jobs.

The badge checker is an unpopular figure to locals and tourists. We’re the ones that stand between them and their beach day. However, I think we are misunderstood and don’t deserve the bad rep. I can’t count the number of times the words, “I don’t make the rules. This is just my job,” came out my mouth on a daily basis.

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My hours ranged from 9am to 4pm. This was great because I wasn’t waking up at the crack of dawn and I had the entire evening to hang out at home or go out. One other plus – I was at the beach all day. I got so much reading done in my downtime. I read and reread the first three Game of Thrones books in a really short amount of time and my summer reading for school was always completed well before a month before the school year started. During my lunch break, I could take a stroll down the beachfront, grab a slice of pizza or take a dip in the ocean.

However, even with the majority of relaxation badge checkers do have on the job, we do deal with a lot of people – and I mean a lot of people. There were days where individual badge checkers would sell 200 daily badges, not counting seeing the people that already bought season passes. That means the one worker produced cash transactions and personally placed wristbands on 200 people. It’s an extremely social job. You meet so many people from all over. One of the fun parts of the job was teaching people about the area and suggesting the best restaurants and hidden secrets in the town.

Some people are just the worst

One of the worst parts was dealing with people – mean, rude, intoxicated, or all of the above. The beach did have rules for no alcohol and disorderly conduct, but did that stop people? Not a chance. I’d see people coming from a few 100 feet away and just know they were going to be a problem. I’m not a super confrontational person, so these situations felt like they lasted for hours when in reality, they’d be resolved in minutes.

One rule was kids aged 12 and over had to pay. This resulted in rebellious preteens trying to sneak on the beach on a weekly basis. People – adults – also decided that rules didn’t apply to them and the gates wouldn’t stop them, so some would literally break the wire fence in front of the badge checkers and just walk on the beach. Luckily, we had a great beach patrol who would take care of these situations. People would try and sneak their dogs in by putting them in their beach bags. I love dogs, but if I heard barking coming out of a straw beach bag, I was saying something.

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But most people are great

Whenever I wore a baseball cap repping my college or was reading a book, countless people would offer encouraging comments or ask about my life. In many instances, people would remember my name throughout the summer. The people who lived in the beach houses would constantly ask me if I wanted some food or a water bottle. Those are the people I miss the most.

Overall, I gained a ton of people skills. Small talk is so important and mastering it takes a lot of practice for an introvert like me. I’m not a fully confrontational person, but I’ve gained a lot of assertiveness. I loved my job not just because I was at the beach all day. I was able to show new people my beautiful home everyday. I was able to share helpful information and make complete strangers’ trips a little easier or fun.

So, if you ever go to New Jersey and decide to go to the beach, just let the badge checkers do their jobs. I can assume being called a jerk or getting told you singlehandedly ruined someone’s trip feels like being left no tip as a server or having a difficult customer in any other job. We’re just people trying to make some cash in the summer and if you really have an issue with the idea, we’re not the ones in charge. And feel free to ask questions, we wouldn’t be working at the beach if we didn’t love our town.