Whenever people find out I’m a beer vendor, they invariably have a lot of questions about the art, science and metaphysics of the job. So here, I present an imaginary Q&A with a real-life beer vendor.
Q: How did you get the job?
A: I applied.
Q: So does that mean I could sign up to be a vendor?
A: Probably not. Vending is sort of a microcosm of the American economy: The aging, middle-management types cling to their jobs like tree branches in a flood, leaving the next generation to fight for their scraps and wait their turn. Since vending is a relatively plush gig, retirements are rare. Levi Restaurants, which holds the concessions contract at Wrigley, stopped making new hires two or three years ago.
Q: That’s a bummer. So how does it work? Do you get paid by the hour?
A: No. We get paid a commission on every sale, plus tips.
Q: Wait - you’re supposed to tip the beer guy?
A: Duh. You tip the guy at your local bar $1 for twisting the cap off your Bud Light and handing it to you. Is that really worth more than a guy hauling a case of beer right to your seat and pouring it into a cup for you?
Q: I guess you’re right. So how much do you make a game?
A: Now you’re getting personal. How much do you make?
Q: OK, relax. Do you have to work every game?
A: No. We’re free to work whenever we choose.
Q: So how do you decide what you sell and where?
A: Assignments are doled out based on union seniority — or, in some cases, nepotism. If you walk north from Wrigley on Clark Street an hour and a half before a Cubs home game, you’ll see 100-odd vendors milling about waiting to get their assignment cards.
Q: What are the best and worst items to sell?
A: Best? Budweiser/Bud Light in the bleachers, hands down. Worst? That depends on the weather. Cotton candy, cracker jacks and ice cream are usually in the running.
Q: Do you get to watch the games?
A: Not really. I mean, I could if I wanted to. Not to sound cynical, but I’m not there to enjoy myself. I’m there to make money.
Q: So how much do you make a game? $100? $200?
A: You already asked me that, pal.
Q: OK, OK. Have you ever sold a beer to Bill Murray?
A: Come on, son. Bill doesn’t sit in the seats with the commoners. When he’s at the game, he’s in a luxury box.
Q: What about other celebrities?
A: That depends on your definition of celebrity. Does the roadie for the Melvins count?
Q: Uh, no. So what’s the deal with that vendor who looks like Scottie Pippen?
A: What don’t you understand? He’s a dude who happens to look like Scottie Pippen. His real name is Claude.
Q: What’s the most memorable Cubs game you’ve ever worked?
A: Well, since it’s the Cubs, there aren’t that many to choose from. In my memory, it’s a rare Saturday night game in 1998, where Sammy Sosa hit three home runs, Glenallen Hill hit one that landed on the porch of the old Pink House across Waveland Avenue, and Kerry Wood homered just for good measure. But after obsessively scouring the box scores from 1998 on baseball-reference.com , I’ve concluded that the game I’m imagining is actually a montage of several games from that season.
Q: Were you at the “Bartman” game?
Q: So, uh, can you get me tickets?
A: Only by walking up to the box office during normal business hours, same as you.