6 family-friendly tax credits
Comparing federal, state and global tax burdens

Baseball, beers, and taxable tip income

Vendor at Great American Park_Chris Metcalf_FlickrCC_4750755819_a7a96b6ba7_k-1
Great American Park vendor selling frozen treats and beer at a Cincinnati Reds game. (Photo by Chris Metcalf via Flickr CC)

Happy MLB Opening Day!

No, it's not an official holiday, but it should be. I've been to several Major League Baseball opening days in person over the years. It's great fun. It's also expensive.

A ticket to a major league ballpark these days can blow a full grocery budget to bits. And speaking of food, the cost of concessions is outrageous.

But since you no longer can bring in food — yes, I'm old enough to remember when we packed meals for games at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium and later at Camden Yards — you've got to buy at least a snack.

Rather than stand in a concourse line and miss plays, the hubby and I tend to get our ballpark treats from the vendors who roam the aisles. We also like to support these folks by adding a tip to our purchases.

Why tip, and how much: There are many reasons for the gratuities.

First, despite being at the ballpark, it's not a fun job. They are on their feet for hours, lugging around often heavy food and beverage trays, going up and down hard concrete stairs.

For many vendors, it's a side job to supplement a regular paycheck. It could be for added discretionary income, or it could be to help make ends meet. Some are students looking for cash to cover school costs. Others are retirees who could use an addition to their Social Security or other pension benefits.

If they work in outdoor parks, they must deal with the vagaries of weather. Too hot. Too cold. Rain. All these meteorological conditions also can dampen attendance, which means the vendors' income on those days will be less.

As for that income, most hot dog and beer and popcorn vendors at games work on commission and, yes, for tips.

At some stadiums, vendors must buy the food they hawk from the official food-service company. To make money and be able to buy the next batch, they must sell the product. So have a little mercy on the guy or gal trying to unload that last soda or hot dog or package of cotton candy.

As for the tipping, we don't go overboard. If our purchase is $8.50 (one beer in some parks), then we give the vendor a $10 bill along with "keep the change." Same with anything near $20.

Such tip-included transactions also make the process easier for everyone. We don't waste time having our change handed down the row by other fans. That way all of us can pay more attention to the game, and the vendor can get on more quickly to the next sale.

Of course, your mileage may vary. With the aforementioned exorbitant professional sports prices, shown in the WebstaurantStore's infographic below, you might not want to give anyone involved any more of your hard-earned cash. That's fine. 


But since we only go to a few games a year, it's a special occasion or mini-vacation. We factor the added expenditures like tipping into our sports travel budget.

Tipping and taxes: Even though today is a holiday for me, since I'm blogging about ballpark vendor tipping you know there's a tax component.

I hope all the beer and more vendors at my Baltimore Orioles' Camden Yards and Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park get lots of tips. So does the Internal Revenue Service, since tip income is taxable.

That's noted in the latest IRS tax tip about how all income is taxable, including gig economy and tip income. I've also blogged many times about taxable tip income, most recently in my 2022 end-of-year post on reporting holiday and year-round taxable tip income.

If you can afford to tip your ballpark vendors, please do. And if you get some gratuities, be sure to count the cash when your file your taxes.

Now, hoist your plastic cup of cold beer high and Play Ball!

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