Volume 90, Issue 64

Friday, January 17, 1997

double talk


Odd Jobs

This series examines careers your high school guidance counsellor didn't tell you about.
By Mike Gallay
Gazette Staff

Much to the chagrin of thousands of Londonites, we have no major league baseball team and the London Majors are big league in name alone. But even though Major League Baseball will likely never expand to Middlesex County, it wouldn't be a bad idea to start bringing some of the big show's business practices to our own ballyard.

The Toronto SkyDome, our closest centre for professional hardball, has been the site for a creative entrepreneurial endeavour that has blossomed over the past eight years – outdoor peanut vending. The job has no internship program and no sign-up sheet. The veterans and rookies compete side-by-side and there are no referees – only over-zealous SkyDome police.

The height of Toronto's lucrative peanut vending operations coincided with the two Blue Jay championships that had a million people parading in the streets of Toronto. And four million lumbering in the SkyDome's gates. Lumbering and hungry and reeling from the high cost of tickets. What a combination for the sales of cheaply packaged legumes.

Peanut vending even reaches close to home, as Western's rich history of vendor enrolment documents. Almost half of all SkyDome vendors from 1991-94 went on to attend Western. Grad students, don't scoff. Vendors have included three present editors at The Gazette and a healthy dose of HBA hacks. In good weeks, some of them would take in close to $1,000.

Robbie Kumer, once leader of a team of a dozen vendors and a third-year Western student, credited peanuts with helping to hone his "people skills and sales skills." He added, "vending is an integral part of society." After all, where would Scotland's fearsome soccer teams be without the support of haggis hustlers.

Keep in mind I'm not talking about vendors who work inside the stadiums, dressed in cardboard aprons and paper hats. You may be able to find a job selling stale popcorn inside the local stadium, but you'll be pulling in minimum wage. The real money is outside in the trenches, where being obnoxious is rewarded and being aggressive is admired.

Anthony Berger, perhaps the grandfather of modern-day SkyDome vending, worked hard in the early '90s to create balance in what had been a top-heavy market. Originally, 10 or 12- man teams of vendors would work under the tutelage and salary restrictions of a godfather. But one day in 1992, Berger decided to brave the ocean of snack foods alone. Within months, dozens more would follow.

"Whether you are selling your product to Future Shop or pushing peanuts in a super-saturated market, the key is to control your area and know your customer," said Berger, a former HBA'er who is now in sales at a computer software distributor. "Most of all, you've just got to believe in yourself and your product."

Alright, you've got me. I was a vendor too. Tears of joy people, tears of joy.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca