24 thoughts on “Some foreign workers find frustration in Wisconsin Dells

  1. Pingback: Russian student’s death highlights lack of public transit in the Dells | WisconsinWatch.org

  2. Great article. Some foreign students indeed get frustrated by not being able to get what they hoped for or what they have been promised. But some employers also may get frustrated. First, some students may not arrive to the company as promised. They may get delayed as the students are not able to complete their courses on time. Or they may cancel from their job contracts altogether. Some may sign up to work as housekeepers in rural Montana, but later change their mind and go to Ocean City, or Wisconsin Dells with their friends hoping to find jobs there. Another problem is that students often overstate their English skills and professional experience on the resumes.

    So, if an employer needs to hire 50 people, he or she may sign up for 55, and reasonably expect that 5 will not show up or will not work out well. In a rare case when all 55 students arrive and work as planned, the students may end up getting fewer hours.

  3. I have lived and worked in the Dells for over 20 years. In that time I have met and helped many student workers. What they are saying is very true–in the beginning it was even worse–living conditions were terrible and greedy business owners charged high rent to share a cot with 8 others in a small dinky hotel room. Some of this has been stopped but not all.

    Chula Vista is one of the worst offenders when it comes to not giving hours–they do it to their American workers as well. As they continue to expand and grow and eat up what once was a beautiful Wi. wooded area–there greed grows as well.

    The risk to the students is all jobs rest on what kind of season the Dells is having–if it is busy they can supplement their losses with jobs else where but if it is slow like this season–the hours are cut or not there at all. I am glad to hear the one Co. is no longer placing at Chula because good or bad times–it is the same at Chula.

    To be fair–not all Dells business mistreat the workers–many have been hiring from this program long before it became a staple here and the kids mostly had a very positive experience.
    The kids should be adviced as the economy here is in trouble so are their potential jobs–before they ever leave their homes.

  4. Wow, somehow I started searching about J1 Visas and job positions in Wisconsin as I wanted to go through my 2nd work and travel experience. On my first time i couldn’t complain about the amount of hours I received but my employer were people really rude and mean. There are positive things you learn from such an experience like this, like America is not what you tend to think but sometimes with faith, luck and will you could make of it a great experience. Wow..

  5. Yes, the biggest problem with Work/Travel USA Program is that the sponsoring organizations do not properly monitor their branches in Bulgaria, Russia, etc. The agencies there promise unrealistic earnings, plus they often overcharge students for the program and for the tickets.

  6. […]Jobs sometimes hard to find

    Other students arrive without an offer and must begin job hunting, often hampered by poor English skills and limited knowledge of the United States.[…]
    If you are the representative of some hotel, restaurant, amusement park or just a service organization you certainly have wondered about personnel selection. Jobofer.org service will speed up and simplify the staff selection process by suggesting qualified personnel from other countries. They are the students who come to America for seasonal work having a short-term J1 visa, the duration of which is up to four months. Among them there are: concierges, cooks, porters, waiters, managers, lifeguards. Their expertise and a great desire to work consolidate all of them.

  7. If you are the representative of some hotel, restaurant, amusement park or just a service organization you certainly have wondered about personnel selection. Jobofer.org service will speed up and simplify the staff selection process by suggesting qualified personnel from other countries. They are the students who come to America for seasonal work having a short-term J1 visa, the duration of which is up to four months. Among them there are: concierges, cooks, porters, waiters, managers, lifeguards. Their expertise and a great desire to work consolidate all of them.

  8. I am outraged that these Wisconsin Dells employers treat these foreign people so rudely, if it wasn’t for them there would be no dells, If they paid a decent wage, then maybe more local people would apply for work, I have been cleaning hotel rooms off and on for 30 years, Its very hard work, and to be paid a measly $8.50 is an insult, these foreign people work hard when they come here, some times 2 or 3 jobs they have to have, then the americans complain that they are taking all of our jobs, Oh well, you can’t have everything your way, more americans should take notice as of how hard these people work for next to nothing, while the owners of the attractions and hotels get richer and richer from the sweat off these people, pay them what they are worth, they work hard, and they deserve it……………..

  9. I worked in the Dells area as a student worker and I faced all kinds of trials, racism being my biggest one. My worst experience came from working at __________ where I was employed as a bus girl and I was accused of stealing tips and was even ordered to clean restrooms when that was not even apart of my duties! I was eventually fired from the job with no reasonable explanation given only that I had to be let go.The manager was a chauvinistic pig who obviously believed that anyone who wasn’t from America are living in trees like monkeys in their home countries and unable to think for themselves. He had a condescending attitude that made his approach to people quite rude. I must say that only faith and strength to know that this will not be our lives forever can keep us foreign workers going on strong because frankly if i never needed the extra cash I wouldn’t be there in the first place. This is not our lives so life goes on, it is only a stepping stone to make us stronger!

  10. I worked in the dells in 1999 as a busboy in a local diner on the strip. There was about 50 Irish people there that year staying in a local motel that had been converted to house us. It was the best summer ever. I made a lot of great friends who I still keep in touch with.
    I could see sometimes it was harder for the other foreign students who didn’t have English as a first language. Sometimes the cultural and language gap could isolate them slightly. As an Irish guy I had no issues with that and even spent some time with my employers outside of work hours. Really great people in the Dells.

  11. Having lived in the student housing and worked in the Dells for a summer, I can attest that life is not easy for international student workers. They need more local advocates who will be willing to help them through their limited English to find the answers to their questions, to provide safe transportation to purchase groceries and to get to government offices to complete necessary paperwork, to help them negotiate any problems with their employers and their housing landlords, and even to provide a telephone. Most of the problems for the international students arise because they simply don’t know who to turn to when they have questions. So many of these issues can be solved when community members step up to show the foreign students respect and help them adjust to life in a foreign country.

    I knew several students who got connected with caring local citizens, and their experiences were significantly more positive than those who had to try to navigate their summers without help. The students who formed relationships with locals were able to get answers to simple questions such as where to mail letters, where to cash paychecks, how to get to the grocery store, how to make local phone calls, and where to purchase a used bicycle for the summer. They had someone who welcomed them to the United States and made them feel comfortable.

  12. This article changed my initial opinion of what I thought was going on with foreign workers specifically in the dells area as I vacation there often. hats off to the few who agreed to be interviewed and treat their employeesa as human beings and not tools. Greed is a akin to a disease and its exactly what is killing our United States.
    I for one will treat the help in the dells with much more respect after reading and learning about what they go through. I understand this is big business but it doesn’t mean that the business can’t at least appoint someone specifically to make sure theses kids are pointed in the right directions.If they can’t see to it from a humanitarion stand point that stop and resalize Mr. Big business that word of mouth is much of what brings people to your business and thses workers spread the word as well and they take it all over the world. Money is required to survive but Greed tells the afflicted that they need to own it all no matter what. if you’ve ever helped anyone who truely needed it you’ve opened a window that should show you that we were made for so much more than we may realize. Great eye opening article and work here! Thank you.

  13. Twenty-five years ago, when I was a teenager and would go up to the Dells from Madison, all of the lifeguards and waterpark employees were other teenagers from all over WI and northern IL. Having just visited the Dells again, I didn’t experience a single American teenager or young twenty-something working at any of the attractions we visited. What this tells me is that these Dells tourist attractions either treat their empoyees poorly or pay them very little (or both!). If that was not the case, then American teenagers would still be flocking to the Dells for work every summer. I hope the foreign students who are thinking about coming here for summer work ask themselves why Americans are not taking these jobs before they apply. Of course, with a 50% unemployment rate in some European countries right now for young people under age 25, maybe they have no choice.

  14. I was just recently in the Dells for a quick vacation with my husband. I noticed (like many others) that every single worker either had an accent, or could not speak English very well. I do feel badly for many of the foreign workers that are mistreated by their “boss’s” but I do want to note, that I had the worst customer service by almost 95% of the foreign workers. I am kind to anybody I come accross no matter their language, ethnicity, etc. Nobody deserved to be treated poorly, so I am not stating this just because I am “unfriendly” toward any non-americans.
    One problem I had, was when I would ask a question, they would not answer it correctly since they really did not know what I was saying. I also found that many of them were more interested in chatting amongst one another, and rolling their eyes at Americans than actually being there to work hard and do their jobs. One shop downtown that I had visited, my husband and I had to try 3 different times to get the attention of a foreign worker, just to ask for a list of flavors. Finally we got her attention, and all she did was point her finger towards a sign on the other side of the counter. Then she turned her back to us, and continued to talk to her co-worker.
    I experienced this multiple time throughout Noah’s Ark as well. My husband is from another country, and he was disgusted by the attitude of the young workers towards those vacationing Americans. Even though they consider the pay to be very little, and they live in very small rooms, they should still show respect to those who live in this country. We are still offereing the jobs.
    Again, I AM against all those business owners who treat them like they are nothing, and low because they are not from this country. Ever single person should be treated fairly, same as they should treat us fairly as well. And perhaps I just happened to encounter many rude foreigners and lucked out in meeting those who are truly polite.

  15. I just returned from a 3 day weekend at Wis Dells.
    The hotel we stayed at had two foreign workers that housekept.
    The two men were terribly rude. My wife was showering at about 10am(post swim) when they knocked on our door. I told them just a minute, but they unlocked the door and came in to my room! I told them to leave since my wife was showering, but they just chuckled and asked for any soiled towels I had. I gave them to them and told them to come back later. they chuckled again and said: “want us to make your bed?” These men spoke english just fine, they simply were two college boys who really didnt care about the job they had, they simply were there to have fun. I was livid. I know that most of the seasonal workers work hard (especially at Paul Bunyan’s) but the men at my hotel really make me wish that these places to suck it up and get american workers to work for the season again. Or even make these positions flex-part time jobs. I would gladly take on part time time work at the Dells 10-15 hours a week in the summer.

  16. Latino workers experience the same difficulties that these workers experience too and I have yet to see them behave in such manner. I travel across the country quiet often and the hotel rooms are always clean and even if the Mexican worker does not speak English very well they at least try to speak the language or give me a smile. Nothing justifies a job poorly done or rudeness especially when it comes to public relations. My family and I also had some bad experiences with the foreign workers at Wisconsin Dells. The Inn we stayed at was employed by all Russians and Romanians. Upon our arrival the desk clerk barely greeted us, just handed our keys to us, we had to find our room and everything else by ourselves. The room had not been vacuum, the floor was full of crumbs that remained there during our entire stay, the sheets were not changed everyday and the room had an old wet smell to it. So basically housekeeping only went to our room to replace towels and throw the covers on the beds. We also got locked out of our room on our third day even though we had extended our stay an extra day prior to our arrival, we confirmed the extra day upon our arrival but yet received a called the day our our original check out day asking why we had not checked out. Then after thinking they had corrected their error we get to our room only to find out that we had been locked out of our room! Very frustrating situation. One that could have been avoided if they had done their job job done correctly before our arrival.

    We went to the go carts and when my daughter asked for help with her seatbelt the Russian employee girl roll her eyes at us! We did laser tag at another place and the Romanian woman at the gate was unable to really explain anything about the game to us, she acted like we were such a drag. I noticed that these foreign workers do not greet or smile at the tourists. They act like robots who only want to receive their pay. I am surprised that these workers are allowed to work in public if they have no customer service experience and are English limited. A nice hello and smile is not that hard to do. The only smiles and friendliness my family and I received were by the non Europe workers. We had a really nice Asian girl at the photo check out at Noah’s Ark, a very polite talkative African waitress at Dennys and a smiling Latina lady at Kalahari.
    Perhaps that is just how Europeans are.

  17. “Most had positive experiences” – this is key. The rest of the experiences, i.e. transportation and housing, is to be expected in a tourist town like the WI Dells. And might i add, none of the foreign students have ever been rude to me, but the U.S. citizen workers have.

  18. With the economy the way it is, American businesses should be employing Americans first. Why bring in more resources when the unemployment rate is so high? There are plenty of people here that need jobs. Give America a chance and hire Americans.

    • Think twice. I’ve been there in 2008 and it was nothing like promised. I got there and had no job as planned. Had to pay rent tough, and deposit and food, but with no job and no earnings for 3 weeks, I was running very low on cash. I ended up surviving with one coke and 2 donuts per day. Lost almost 8kg in those 3 weeks. Then, I found a job on my own and managed somehow and now i can laugh at all the bad moments. I would recommend any other place for summer jobs tough.

  19. The problem is on both ends and I believe it is a what came first, the chicken or the egg question. All people have the right to be treated well and live in good conditions, but the truth is that these workers have a serious reputation for being horrible with customer service. Whether they are rude and inattentive because they hate their jobs or there is a cultural gap, I just don’t know. I have been going to the dells for 25 years and the service by international workers is consistently aweful. Let me be very clear, we are the kind of people who tip 50% for good service. You can just ask the 2 foreign workers at the tiki bar in the Mount Olympus water park. Last year they were magnificent, and when we left our $40.00 tip on our $60.00 bill they stopped us and said that we made a mistake to which we happily replied nope that’s right. It obviously made their day, so it isn’t everyone, but honestly we know that most of these kids just don’t care.

    I feel as though the work program brings in far too many foreigners when there are Americans that need jobs, the issue is that only SELECT people should be allowed. People who will be commited, and service oriented deserve this experience AND to be treated well while doing so, but taking 2000 people just to fill the schedule is a joke, I don’t believe that there aren’t 2000 Americans who would love to live in th waterpark capital of the world for the summer. It just isn’t true, so while I feel for these employees, I can see why people get fired. It isn’t a work problem it is a service problem… If you don’t have good customer service… you don’t need to work at the Dells!

  20. Wow, reading all these negative things about the WAT program really makes me feel that I got really lucky working for Wilderness Resort last 2013. My job offer was a resort worker – but I was the only one in my batch assigned to be a coffee shop trainee. Most were assigned as lifeguards, kitchen staff, etc. I got pretty good hours (sometimes I got two days off a week, but almost never more than that), tips, and saved enough to travel to Chicago, San Francisco and LA, and buy a new unlocked iPhone. My housing was okay, but I think it was a pretty steep price to pay considering you share a flat with about five other people – we paid $80 a week each. Never starved to save either, because the resort would give me free food during my shift (doughnuts mostly, and sometimes I’d get to eat at the buffet when I was assigned at a certain outlet).

  21. As a former manager of a waterpark resort there are problems. It all begins with the agencies who promise these students over 40 hours. There is no business that will guarantee overtime but that is what they are told. Also there is a huge problem with students acting as liasons and selling contracts. What you end up with are people who cannot speak English and have no basic understanding of their job. However the biggest problem now days lies in entitlement. I saw this from my highest American supervisor all the way to the student who didn’t even know how to swim. That by just showing up you are doing your job or by simply being here a previous summer who deserve a promotion. By my final summer I was done especially as the hard working students have been replaced with students only here to get a tan and drink.