Cheer for The Ballpark Food Vendor, Baseball's Real All-Star
Going to a Major League Baseball game is the most quintessentially American experience there is, short of bathing a bald eagle in melted cheese. Not only do you get to watch the best players in baseball take the field, you get to do it in historic ballparks that might include anything from a water slide to a zoo. And best of all, you get to spend an afternoon having fun with your kids in the warm summer sun. 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 all your baseball food favorites, from hot dogs to 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. Some, of course, were rude, but many were incredibly polite, and I did everything I could to ensure they had a great experience. And really, it doesn't take much to stay on a vendor's good side. Here are some tips that will turn the beer guy or your favorite ballpark-food slinger into your best friend:
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
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:
- They've got one tough job: Try lugging heavy loads of beer up and down stairs for four hours on a hot summer day, all while solving math problems in your head as people shout at you. That's all in a day's work for vendors, so anything you can do to make their lives easier goes a long way.
- They don't set the prices: If you feel they're too high, that's your right. Just don't hold it against your vendor.
- They work on commission: As such, the energy and skill they put into each day is what determines their pay at the end.
- A lot of them are teachers: Because baseball games primarily take place in the summer, you'll find plenty of teachers working as vendors. If you feel that teachers aren't paid enough for their work, consider giving them an extra buck or so.
It's OK to Get Their Attention—Just Be Respectful
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.
- Do: raise your hand as they approach or shout politely.
- Don't: stand up and yell, grab a vendor's arm, or set your foam finger on fire to create smoke signals.
Have Your Cash in Hand... and Avoid Large Bills
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.
Pro Tip: Think in singles. Most stadium vendors carry plenty of $1 bills, so any combination of bills that break easily into singles will earn you a big gold star in their minds.
Leave the Throwing to the Outfielders
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.
Help Others Out, Pass It Along
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.
Always Factor in a Tip
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 your order costs $7.50, let the vendor keep that extra 50 cents.
- If your order is $18, just hand over a $20 bill and call it even.
Buy them a Post-Game Beer
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.
Be Nice to the Ones Selling Dippin' Dots on a Cold Day
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.
Eddie Carroll is one of three Eddie Carrolls in his family. When he's not writing, Eddie enjoys baseball, hiking, and building blanket forts.