Curland, like other concessionaires, has had to be as alert with his own employees as with the customers. His men used to pack their own peanut bags and then roll the ends, until Curland discovered they were getting up extra packages by stealing a few peanuts out of each bag. "Instead of accounting for 100 bags," he says, "they might have 110 and make a clear profit on the 10." Harry started printing and filling his own bags and sealing both ends.
In the early days at the Coliseum, orangeade was sold out of large cans equipped with spigots, each vendor receiving enough for 50 cups. The sharpies among them would add water and get 60 diluted drinks, until Curland sealed the lids with padlocks. Lemon soda was a tougher problem. "It looks almost like water," he says. "The hawkers would fill up the empties with water, ram the caps back on, check the bottles in as returns and get a refund. We wouldn't know anything until the next show when the customer would complain."
Myron O'Brisky of Forbes Field borrowed a New York concessionaire's trick to ease a missing-peanut crisis many years ago. He discovered that his young hawkers were eating peanuts as they filled the bags, so he plugged the leak by issuing each boy a stick of gum. "Ever try eating peanuts and chewing gum?" he asked his impressed associates.
The late Harry Stevens once noticed that sales of consomm� were decreasing and sales of tea were unaccountably rising at one of his racetrack restaurants. He finally found the answer when a waiter tripped and spilled some pills out of his pocket. They turned out to be consomm�-concentrate tablets. Waiters were taking the 15� tea ingredients out of the kitchen, throwing away the tea bags and plopping pills into the hot water to make 30� soup. They pocketed the 15� difference, and the checkers in the kitchen were none the wiser.
Employee error and cheating are so common in the business that concessionaires over the years have developed intricate systems and gadgets to protect themselves and the customers, but mostly themselves. Head Chef Max Egloff of Arlington Park and Washington Park racetracks was unhappy because his carvers put widely varying amounts of meat in the hot sandwiches, so he designed an electronic corned-beef and roast-beef carver. Push a button and the machine cuts three ounces of meat and keeps count of the sandwiches made. The attendant, who needs no special skills, cannot take any meat out until exactly three ounces fall into a locked compartment. Another device, the AutoBAR, locks onto an upside-down liquor bottle and gives forth precisely one ounce of booze each time the bartender pulls the trigger. It costs about $70 but instantly eliminates the barman's jolly fun of earning tips by overpouring.
A favorite concessionaire system is to use cups as a control on sales of beverages. If five beer cups are used, there should be the money for five beers in the cash register. This can lead to difficulties, however, as it did when Lou Mohs, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers pro basketball team, found that he had run out of paper cups for the team benches. He hurried over to a Sports Arena concessions counter and asked for two dozen cups. When the attendant demanded $6, Mohs jumped higher than Elgin Baylor.
The concessions manager at one racetrack keeps tabs on his bartenders with the aid of several well-placed peepholes. He is a fastidious man who looks and dresses like a distinguished diplomat. Tiptoeing behind a row of unused mutuel windows, he gets down on his hands and knees and chuckles diabolically as he uncovers a hole looking straight down on a cash register one floor below. One day he watched a bartender reusing beer cups in order to keep the 50� from the second sale. Pocketing the money right away would have been much too obvious, however, so the bartender kept track of each theft by putting a penny in an unused compartment of the cash register. At the end of the day he counted the pennies and settled with himself.
One peephole used by the concessionaire was so far above a counter that he had to employ binoculars, but the bartenders soon got wise and behaved themselves when they spotted the gleam of the glasses overhead. Our hero's next move was simple. He left the binoculars on the hole all afternoon.
Oldest of the mass-feeding firms is Harry M. Stevens, Inc., a closed corporation in which only 15 blood descendants of the founder hold stock. The family runs the concessions at 36 horse tracks, four dog tracks, three baseball stadiums and the New York Coliseum. The Stevens grandstand specialty since the turn of the century has been the hot dog, a wiener laid to rest in a warm bun (well, it is supposed to be warm) and covered with mustard, relish, chopped onion, chili sauce or whatever else will look good on a customer's tie. It is the dog, as the saying goes, that "feeds the hand that bites it."
Legend says old Harry Stevens himself was the genius who first combined an elongated roll and a frankfurter sausage (also known as a weenie, wiener, red-hot, frank or tube steak), but legend is most likely wrong. Some sources claim the originator was a Bavarian sausage peddler at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Anyway, Stevens did popularize the hot dog as a grandstand delicacy by introducing it one cold day about 1900 at New York's Polo Grounds. And everybody agrees the name "hot dog" was coined by cartoonist T. A. (TAD) Dorgan, a close friend of Harry's. A Dorgan cartoon of that period shows a dachshund, wrapped in a bun, barking, "Balogna."