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Angels Peanut Vendor - The Halos Heaven Interview

A recent HH community member Angel Hawker agreed to be interviewed about his job selling in the stands at Angels Stadium. I learned quite a bit in interviewing him and look forward to purchasing my lemon ice chills from him this season...

REVEREND HALOFAN: How long have you been a vendor at Angel Stadium?
I started vending souvenirs in 1996 but subsequently Disney purchased the team and fired my company--it was Ogden Entertainment at the time--and I was laid off. I was called for an interview by the new company for the next season--but I had moved on. However, I really loved vending so I came back at the beginning of 2003. But we have some vendors that have been working there over 20 years!

RHF: How did you get the job (what was it like applying, interviewing, etc.)
It was bizarre more than anything. I called the stadium because I wasn't sure how to go about reapplying and they told me to show up at such-and-such a gate at such-and-such a day. So I showed up--along with dozens of others to apply for a job. Of coarse they weren't just hiring vendors, and they asked what I wanted to do. I told them I wanted to be a Hawker (this is the unofficial job title). Then I was pointed to this old lady and she asked a group of us if we were ready to work hard and climb stairs. We were like, "Yeah." Then she pointed us to a line where we got our social security cards and drivers licenses photocopied. I was wondering if this meant I had the job so I asked the people doing the photocopying and they said, "yeah, of coarse." So that was the interview process!

RHF: What is your pay rate/commission rate?

AH: We get a flat rate of 20% commission. If we happen to not make enough commission we make something close to minimum wage hourly--I'm not sure what it is because I never have made hourly. My average sales are about $700 to $800 a night game with day games often breaking $1,000.

RHF: How much of the game do you watch?
Depends on the game! When I worked the game 5 of the ALDS in 2005, I watched about every second of it. On average I'd say I watch 40% of the game. I usually watch the times when the Angels have guys on base--just find some stairs to go down and go very slow. What I really hate is when I have to reload my bags and I miss a homerun or something. I pretty much watch all of the visitors batting practice though. They make us get there early and I just load my bags and go out and watch batting practice. This is a great time to see the players interact with the Angel players, the fans, and each other. Plus its fun to watch the players hit. The most impressive batting practice I've ever seen was by Jim Thome. Remember how Bonds hit that homerun in the World Series that went through the tunnel in the right field pavilion? Thome hit a shot that went several feet OVER the tunnel. The guy can seriously mash.

RHF: Have the players ever hit you up for peanuts or ice cream during a game or batting practice?
Actually yes. Eduardo Perez--when he was with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays--hit me up for a bag of peanuts. I threw him the bag and he threw me back two baseballs. I was cool with the trade and as I was walking up the stairs a drunk guy bought one of the balls from me for $20! So after my commission for the bag, I made $16 off the a baseball. When I was selling water and soda Ozzie Guillen hit me up for a beer during the ALCS in 2005--but I think he was only kidding--I think. Maybe I should have went and bought him three or four beers. Besides that, I remember seeing Bengie Molina hitting up a hawker for a chocolate malt ice cream earlier this year when he was on the bench during a day game--I was next to the guy. Bengie threw him a ball.

RHF: What percentage of people tip?
I'd say about a third or 33%. Of coarse this depends on what item I'm selling. If I sell ice cream and someone buys one of the sandwiches, its $4.25 and people usually hand a five and say "keep it." If I sell peanuts, which are $5 a bag, I don't get many tips. My best tip ever was when I was selling pizza and a guy bought 4 of them--which totals $25. He hands me a hundred and tells me to keep the change. I asked him if he was sure and if he knew what he gave me, and he said "yeah, live it up." That guy was cool, wish he would come to more games.

RHF: Have you ever tossed someone peanuts and the fan tried to get out of paying for it?
Nope. I always say that baseball games are the only place besides church where they trust people to pass money--but not always at church. But I have had a chick try to trade a water for a kiss--but she would have to look like Eva Longoria to get a water for JUST a kiss. But then one time a girl grabbed my butt as I was about to walk down an aisle, and I turned around and she hands me a five. So I take it and ask her if she wanted a water or soda? She said, "Nothing, just walk by a couple more times!" She should see what I would do for a twenty.

RHF: Do the Anaheim police ever try to get free stuff while they sit around waiting to arrest rowdy drunks?
Interestingly no--they pretty much just ignore me. But it is always great to see a good brawl. Usually Angel/Dodger games have the most action. I remember a Dodger fan pushing a cop down some stairs once. That was crazy to watch! I thought it was a cool fight to watch until I saw some kids crying...stupid Dodger fans.

RHF: What is the best selling stuff?
This depends on several factors. To understand this you have to understand how the whole system works. What we do every day is line up out behind the right field pavilion and they do something called "the breakdown." This is where the management determines how many guys will be selling certain items at certain levels. They break it up based on level: 1st or 3rd base side of field or view (sometimes club, but when they do, it's only a couple slots) and then they break it up based on item: peanuts, ice cream, water/soda, cotton candy, pizza, corn dogs, lemonade, and fruit cups. So the number of guys they have selling stuff varies. The way they determine how many guys are selling an item is usually based on how well an item did the night before--we hate this of coarse--so then they put more guys on that item.

The other major factors are if it's a day/night game and temperature. During a night game it can be a crapshoot, but you're pretty much guaranteed to make money on ice cream no matter what the conditions are. I once sold over $900 of ice cream on a cold rainy night. During a day game water/soda and ice cream are the best sellers. But I have seen it get so hot that people stop buying ice cream. Those are the days when water sales go crazy! My personal best day was on a super hot day game when we were playing the Red Sox in August (I think this was in 2004). I sold over $1,400 of water/soda.

RHF: What is the worst selling stuff?
No doubt about this one: Corn Dogs.

RHF: Who was your worst customer of all time?
Well, we have this rule about not throwing ice cream--even though most of us break it--and one time this kid says "hey ice cream"--so I take an ice cream sandwich and toss it to him. But then something strange happens--the ice cream hits him in the face! I walk up the aisle and ask him why he didn't catch it and he shows me that he has a broken arm! I apologized over and over, but his mom was infuriated. She went and complained and I could have been fired, but my boss said she couldn't know for sure who it was--but she knew. I was one of only two guys still out selling--and the other guy was black, so he didn't exactly fit my description very well.

RHF: Are there fans of a visiting team who spend a noticeable amount more than other fans?
Well, as much as I hate to admit it, Yankee fans spend more and tip the absolute best out of anyone. This is pretty amazing because I usually bust out my Yankee hater jokes when I'm selling. Last season I had some great laughers. My best joke was when I was selling water/soda/gatorade. I said, "Bottled water, $4.25. Soda pop, $4.25. Gatorade, $5. Watching A-Rod strike out five times...priceless." Of coarse my "Overpriced, just like A-Rod" joke went over well too.

RHF: Are there visiting fans that are total tightwads?
Yeah. Dodger fans. They never tip and hardly ever buy anything besides beer. Besides that, every year they have Mormon night where like 5,000 of those guys who go door to door show up. They don't have any money, so they never buy anything either.

RHF: Some of the usherettes and concession girls are pretty hot, is there any interstaff commingling going on?
I don't really know. I never have seen it myself, but I'm sure it goes on. We come in at different times than the ushers/concessions people. I don't really know any of the concessions people because I never see them. I see all the ushers, and most of them are NOT hot. The in-seat service chicks are pretty hot as well as the Strike Force, I'll give you that. In fact, John Lackey was engaged to one of the girls in the Strike Force but then she caught him cheating (it's funny because I actually know this from my other job--a coworker from there is friends with this girl). She had some fat expensive ring, credit cards, and all that crap, and she gave it all back to him. He said he didn't want the stuff and she said, "Neither do I."

RHF: Are souvenir sales any different than food/beverage
Yes. We sell different items. But besides that we are completely different companies. We never see each other except in the stands. The souvenir guys also get paid less commission. There is much more money in the food sales and there are also a lot more hawkers in food than souvenirs.

RHF: What are the most popular souvenirs sold in the stands?
I don't really know anymore. Back in the old days we used to sell both Angel and visiting team products and I remember the Mariners items selling well (back in 1996) and I remember hats selling well. Besides that everything else was strictly for children and since children don't have much money it was all how much money kids could suck out of their parents.

RHF: How many times a game do you get asked if you sell beer?
If I am selling water/soda/gatorade then just about every couple aisles I go up and down. I'll yell out "WATER" and someone will ask, "Where's the beer guy?" I then kindly inform them that I would gladly sell beer if I was allowed to, but it is illegal in the great state of California. What shocks me is that people STILL don't know this. Even Californians! They think it's some new law, but it's been like this for YEARS! How can you not know this yet? I wish we were allowed to sell beer though. I heard that the hawkers at Wrigley Field who sell beer make $300 on a BAD day. I usually tell the drunks that they just want to make sure you're able to walk to get your beer--like a sort of sobriety test. Of course I also inform people that water/soda/gatorade are cheaper than beer, no ID is required, and beer makes you fat.

RHF: Any drastic changes (for the better or the worse) since Moreno Family Baseball took over for the Walt Disney Corporation?
Well it's funny because I have personally worked through two ownership transitions. I remember when Disney took over the team and started having cheerleader type people come out and do stunts between innings. That was completely retarded (no offense meant to actually retarded people--just retarded Disney people). I also remember a rendition of the seventh inning stretch to a-sort-of jazzercise beat. The singer and her dancing partners got booed mercilessly. That was a moment to remember for sure. Disney didn't seem to know anything about running a baseball team. The two things I'll remember about Disney owning the Angels is the cartoon like uniforms and the stupid cheerleaders.

Since Arte took over, the best change is that the stadium sells out all the time, but I think that's because he puts up the money for the good players. Before Vlad came, the crowds were not as big. So in bringing in good players, more fans came out to games, and I would make more money as a result. If we do in fact have another "major splash" this off-season, I think we'd see a large turnout of fans coming to games again (which is very different then just SELLING the tickets). I guess one thing I do notice is the commercials between innings now, which kind of sucks, but if it brings more dollars to the team and they spend it on improving the team, then I can live with the stupid commercials.

RHF: Has any vendor ever been fired for something truly bizarre or notable?
Besides the usual reasons--calling supervisors names, stealing, etc, not really. I remember a guy that got suspended--but not fired--for charging a kid $5 for an extra spoon. The only reason he wasn't fired was because he makes them a lot of money for the company (he's a good seller) and has been there a long time. Almost anyone else would have been fired. We've also had guys suspended for throwing peanuts too far (another stupid rule--I think were only suppose to throw them up like 3 aisles and over like 10 seats--pretty much everyone breaks this rule though). But if they ever make drug tests mandatory for hawkers, then plenty would be fired I'm sure. The reason for this is because there are basically two types of hawkers. One type is the lazy, "I don't wanna work hard" group. The majority of these guys are still in high school and don't want to hustle even if it means making an extra $80-$120 a night, instead of the $30 they usually make. The second class of guys hawk as a second job because they either like the extra cash, love baseball, or a mixture of both. We have some hawkers who have some amazing careers outside of Angel Stadium. One of the guys has a Masters degree in Mathematics, another works as a biochemist, some are high school teachers, etc. These guys come to make a good $100-$200 a night and generally work hard and just enjoy their job at the stadium.

RHF: Are there any requested food items that people request all of the time that you are not selling?
You mean besides beer? Nope. Every once in a while I get a "where is the hot dog guy," but I tell them that hot dogs just don't sell well in the stands--they tried it for a long time, but the sales were pathetic. I think people just would rather get their hot dogs at the concession stands with the mustard, ketchup, relish, etc., instead of messing around with packets. That's my theory at least.

RHF: Do you anticipate better crowds with management's new policy of discouraging Season Ticket Hoarders?
Yes! The more people at the games, the more money I make (obviously). I do think that there will be more people in the stands because there is a waiting list for season tickets now and I'm sure some people REALLY want to come but couldn't because of the "Hoarders." Getting the tickets into the hands of fans who want to come and out of the hands of corporations, etc should boost actual attendance.

RHF: Do you ever get any of the giveaway games swag if there are leftovers?
Officially, no. That could get me fired--even if a fan gave it to me. But unofficially, yes. I usually take a schedule magnet (what can I say, it's my schedule!) and sometimes one of the DVD's. I get these items by walking in the stands after the games and looking for them. Usually there are some available, so I pick them up and stash it under my shirt.

RHF: Any celebrity sightings?
I remember two celebrity figures that I was very close to, but never interacted with: Kobe Bryant and Ben Affleck. The Kobe sighting was during a Yankee game and he sat in the first aisle behind the Angels dugout. I was hoping he'd buy something from me so I could tell him, `Sorry I can't sell to you, but hey I'd sell to Shaq any day." Luckily that didn't happen because I may have lost my job--but it probably would have been worth it too. Kobe also was wearing a Yankee hat--even more reason to not sell to him--but his wife was sporting an Angel hat. Ben Affleck was there during a Boston game of course. He had a full beard and was wearing a green Red Sox hat. This was after the whole J-Lo breakup, but he didn't buy anything from me during his depressed state. The one celebrity I did sell to was David Hasselhoff. He bought a chocolate malt off me.

RHF: Do people not watching their kids ever negatively affect you?
Not really. What gets me though is when kids will constantly ask me the price of items. Often times they don't have any money, they just want to know the price. Sometimes the same kid will ask me during the same game--I guess their hoping the price will change or something. But in general kids are awesome for us hawkers. They really don't care what we're selling and just basically give us all their money. I've even had some want my autograph...weird, but I gave it to them anyways.

RHF: How come the ice cream is rock hard and then melts too fast?
Because dry ice is really cold and California is really warm.