Thursday, August 12, 2010

BEN-evolent dogs in Guelph

It's not a new concept but it's an audacious one, nevertheless.  Pay-what-you-can hot dogs and sausages! Ben Baena of Guelph, Ontario is rolling out his shiny, gleaming, heavy-gauge, stainless-steel cart with the concept of leaving it up to his customers to pay whatever they can afford for his hot dogs and sausages. The price for his soft drinks and water will be set at $0.50 (cheaper than the standard $1.00); after all, he has to make sure he operates his cart without a loss.

After obtaining the required permits from  City Hall and investing hard-earned dollars on a top-of-the-line cart from Willy's Carts (the Subaru of the cart world), the original plan was to charge traditional prices ($2.75 for a dog, $3.75 for a sausage, $1.00 for drinks/chips). But after a day of watching people go by his cart, checking their pockets for change, and not having enough to pay for a dog, Ben decided to try this concept of having people pay what they can. The hope is that some people who can afford it will pay a little bit more in order to subsidize the others who can't. 

Although this is in keeping with Ben's socially-engaged sensibilities, this is not an entirely altruistic plan; Ben hopes that at the end of the day, he will be able to pay for his expenses and have money left over to go towards his college tuition. There is, after all, some value in watching your fellow man/woman walk away happy and fed (albeit with nitrite-loaded wieners), as hackneyed as that may sound.

Far from being a starry-eyed socialist, Ben is a realist so he is giving this plan a chance to work out. For now, it is a limited time offer, while quantities (for each day) last.  If it does work out that people get fed while Ben goes home with some  net proceeds, then you might still see  Guelph's version of Ed Mirvish (without the wealth)!

If there's a town where this concept has a chance of  being feasible, it would be in Guelph. Ben is at the Loonie-Wash property on Essex, near the southwest corner of Wellington and Gordon, most days this summer, when he's not working at his other salaried part-time job. When he goes back to U of G, you may see him at the same place only on weekends, maybe.


  1. What a creative and engaging idea Ben! Although I don't eat meat, I will forward you some money toward this original venture. After all originality is worth lots!

  2. If a delicious and reasonably-priced veggie dog is found, I'm sure Ben will have it in stock!

  3. That would work in Toronto.
    The homeless might actually buy more food, and less cigarettes and booze.

    I know, I know, I'm stereotyping.

    Good luck with this venture Ben, I hope it catches on.

    Hey U of G students need to eat too, so maybe some of them will be customers on the weekends.


  4. Being at street level, on the same level, literally and figuratively, with "homeless-type" people (for want of a category level name), allows a person the privilege of meeting and knowing these folks. People should step out of their cocoons and their comfort zones more often! It is an exhilirating experience.
    In any case, vending with this concept is still a capitalist's idea. It just so happens that the vendor makes less money at the same time the vendee uses less money.

  5. Hi guys, thanks aunt elizabeth for your support, although i actually broke even on my second day despite wasting a ton of food and giving away free stuff galore. Those can afford to pay subsidize those who cant, and the average people pay is around 1.50 or 2. hot dogs are so fricken cheap its scary, like 40, 50 cents.