Going to a Major League Baseball game is the most quintessentially American experience there is, short of bathing a bald eagle in melted Kraft singles. Between watching the best players in baseball, hanging out in historic ballparks, and spending an afternoon having fun with your kids, it's one of the best summertime activities, too. You wouldn't want to miss a moment of it—and thanks to the ballpark food vendors, you don't have to.
These tenacious men and women bust their calves to keep your hands stocked with hot dogs and Cracker Jack and your cup holders stocked with full beers. I should know. I spent four (very sweaty) summers as a stadium vendor.
During that time, I interacted with countless customers and learned that it really doesn't take much to stay on a vendor's good side. Here are some tips that will turn the beer or hot dog guy into your best friend.
Before you wave down the first person you see with a fridge strapped to their back, here's what you need to know about them:
You notice them—and they notice you, too. How you grab your vendor's attention, though, sets the tone for the entire exchange, so make that moment count.
Vendors have to provide their own bank rolls, so they're pretty limited when it comes to change. Using $5, $10, and $20 bills is perfectly fine, but paying for a $5 ballpark food staple with a $100 bill will leave the vendor handcuffed until they have a chance to return to the commissary to break it.
Some stadiums allow vendors to toss ballpark food, but most don't. Either way, you shouldn't pressure your vendor to throw stuff, especially since it's hard to gauge when the wind will pick up or when a hungry shortstop will dive into the stands to snatch your peanuts out of midair.
If a fan in the middle of a row buys something, happily join the makeshift bucket brigade that passes the money to the vendor and the concessions to the customer. Believe it or not, this makes a big difference. Even if you aren't buying anything, the vendor will appreciate your cooperation. So will your seatmates.
Because vendors work on commission, tips make the difference between a good day at the office and a bad one. Even small tips are appreciated. Rounding up to the next bill is generally a good rule of thumb:
If you're a season-ticket holder, you probably have the same beer vendor each game. Be friendly and try to get to know them. Some regulars even like to buy their vendors a beer after the game at a local bar, a gesture that goes a long way in a season that lasts from April to at least the end of September.
Vendors get to pick which food or beverage they want to sell, but the order they pick in is based on seniority. The vendors who have been working there the longest typically choose beer and when that runs out, hot dogs. The newest vendors are stuck with things like hot chocolate, coffee, and Dippin' Dots, which can be a tough sell if the weather doesn't cooperate.