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Getting Educated

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Getting Educated

by Steven Keiths

I just can't believe this. A bachelor's degree in business and I?m operating a hot dog stand. A little pushcart hot dog stand. My father's counsel that 'you can't go wrong with a business degree,' certainly hasn't panned out. After graduating, I searched for weeks trying to find a job, any job. Does selling hot dogs out of a cart on a street corner qualify as a job? Yeah, I guess it does. Barely.

"Could I have two dogs, one with sauerkraut?" requests the customer, interrupting me from feeling sorry for myself.

"Sure, would you like a soda and some chips with that?"

That's what we were taught at the training class. Would you believe that they actually have a training class in how to sell hot dogs? What with my business degree, I thought I shouldn't have to attend the training with the others, but they wouldn't give me the job unless I sat through it. So I did. They stressed that to be successful, we had to provide good service, and always be thinking about increasing sales. Pushing items to go with what had already been ordered was one way to do that, they said.

"Yeah, I'll have a Coke and a bag of those barbecue chips," he says, pointing at the rack of snacks on display.

"That'll be two dogs, one with sauerkraut, one Coke and a bag of barbeque chips; coming right up, sir. Your total will be four bucks."

You always tell the customer the total of the order before you start to fill it. You don't want to hear, "Oh, sorry, I don't have that much cash on me right now." Once the dog is out of the steamer, You can't put it back. "And you don't want to do that," one of the instructors had said, "because if you have to throw it away, that's an increase to your costs. Keeping costs down as much as keeping profits up is the trick to being successful," he'd kept harping at us.

"Here you go. Two hot dogs, this one's with sauerkraut, a Coke and you can just take the chips from the rack. Thank you. All the condiments are at the side of the cart."

I take off my protective disposable gloves to take his cash and make change. The gloves are a requirement of the health department for food handlers. Can't be too careful with all manner of germs floating around. Can't have someone getting sick and suing, stressed the instructors at the hot dog training session. If a health inspector should see you do that, he'd shut you down, throw all your dogs away, and maybe you'd even lose your license. We were told we had to learn and then follow all the regulations that applied to street vendors selling food. They gave us pamphlets, then tested us on them.

"Kids, quiet down so I can order," my next customer, a young father, admonishes his two rambunctious children.

"We'll have three hot dogs, please," requests the frazzled dad.

"Would you like sodas and chips with those?" I inquire.

After a brief powwow with his kids, he says, "We'll have a Coke and two Sprites."

"Daddy, Daddy, I want a bag of chips."

"Me too," chimes in his sibling.

We were taught to repeat the order, and if someone, like a kid, requests something, you'd throw that in too. It was yet another way to increase sales. 95% of the time people went along with the order you repeated back to them--that and parents rarely refuse thier kids. I repeat the order, adding in the additional snacks request by the two hyper boys, and tell the daddy his total will be $8.

After giving them their order and taking their money, I watch the father herding his two small fry to a nearby patch of grass to eat their dogs. I wipe the counter as I was instructed to do after each customer has been served and continue to wonder what it is I could possibly learn about business from this job.

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