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Worst Work Uniforms: Hot Dog on a Stick


Your batter-dipped wiener is served with a side of humiliation.

"I sometimes have to remind myself that I actually chose this job," Taylor Hynes, a student at the College of Southern Nevada, shamefully admits in her Las Vegas City Life article, "Confessions of a Hot Dog on a Stick Girl."

Regrettably, Hot Dog on a Stick was the job she opted for to financially support her way through school. Little did she know the magnitude of social repercussions that would plague her throughout her tenure at the establishment.

"Before I knew it, I became a 'hotdogger' and was welcomed as such," Hynes explains. "The instant I slipped into that uniform, I slipped out of my identity. I was a part of the image Hot Dog on a Stick had cleverly created for itself. I lost myself to become part of 'the show.'"

And "the show" is what Hot Dog on a Stick is all about. Boasting that its uniforms, methods, and attitudes make it stand out in a food court of banality, the franchise founded in 1946 at Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, spares no humiliation when dandifying its always smiling, sprightly employees.

As highlighted on the chain's website, Hot Dog on a Stick's uniforms were inspired by a quirky 1960's trend that saw jockey caps and hot pants in fashion. What's considered "stylish" tends to change with time, however Hot Dog on a Stick must not have gotten the memo. Sporting primary colored "mod" influenced caps, shirts, and skirts, the employees resemble something you'd expect a futuristic airline stewardess to be flaunting -- not someone serving you 'dogs and lemonade.

The company was founded by entrepreneur Dave Barham, who said he understood the importance of treating clientele to an "experience" as opposed to a mere "service." The business, therefore, is built around people first, and the goal is to provide everyone with a show -- at the expense of humiliating the staff. Not only must the "hotdoggers" wear the ridiculous uniforms, they also have to mix up barrels full of lemonade by pounding lemons with a stick -- and this in full view of the customers.

Oddly, the chain hasn't run into any trouble attracting employees. In fact, after Barham passed away in 1991, the once privately owned company was transformed into an employee owned corporation led by the management team Barham had mentored years prior. Now, Hot Dog on a Stick has 102 stores in 17 states as well as international outlets in places such as the Philippines and Venezuela.

The shops are primarily located in popular regional shopping malls, chiefly on America's left coast. They can often be found nestled in food courts surrounded by larger "mall-situated" eateries such as Wendy's (WEN), McDonald's (MCD), Nathan's (NATH), Burger King (BKC), Subway, and many more. However the 63-year-old hot dog and lemonade shack has held tough against such competition, stickin' to its roots and continuously providing the world with its product throughout its veteran state.

Loyalty is a key virtue in the Hot Dog on a Stick family, and to recognize its patrons' devotion, it runs an annual "free hot dog on a stick" day. Every June 15 since 2006 (the year the company celebrated its sixtieth anniversary), the shops have awarded a free dog to new and loyal customers between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. at all store locations.

It also actively participates in charitable functions. In 2006, Hot Dog on a Stick teamed up with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and contributed 10 percent of its lemonade sales on National Lemonade Day to the aid of the foundation, which raises money for research into cancers that affect children. (Healthy eating advocates might encourage Hot Dog on a Stick to look inward: It's selling a product loaded with nitrates, a known risk factor for certain types of cancer.)

So it seems apparent that this thriving business does nearly everything right: It provides an in-demand product with remarkably chipper customer service, and even donates to charity -- save its often scrutinized sense of style.

Earlier this year, the SD Headliner (a satirical newspaper based in San Diego) awarded Hot Dog on a Stick employees the gold medal at the newspaper's third annual (and completely fictional) "Degrading Uniform Pageant." As explained in the invented article, "the pageant, which is sponsored by (MWW), honors those who sacrifice their self worth by taking jobs with degrading uniforms, so the rest of us can feel better about ourselves."

Beating out a Hooter's waitress and Jake Peavy of the army-themed uniformed San Diego Padres, Hot Dog on a Stick stood atop a mountain of mortification sporting its tiara of shame. Hot Dog on a Stick employee Rebecca Davis offered her victory speech upon receiving the faux-ward.

"None of this would be possible without my father, whose drunken insults battered my self-esteem, and made me think that I wasn't good enough to work at Cinnabon."

But for those few people who'd like to purchase their own Hot Dog on a Stick uniform for, say, Halloween, or some other role-playing venture, we're sorry to report that you'll either have to hope and wait for the company to change its rules or apply for a hotdogger position. The company website indicates that the restaurant chain doesn't sell, lend, or rent uniforms for any occasion, and emphasizes that this prized garment is reserved for its "very special" employees.

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