Tiff commented on the hot dog drama and WaPo’s article on the matter today, and since I’d spent some of my lunchtime clenching my teeth over this article – rather than my meal – I thought I’d follow up.
The article is a mess, and fails to accurately indicate what the controversy is over, beyond changes in regulations. Brittany comments in Tiff’s posting that she got some second hand information about zones and reserved spots for existing vendors, but if that’s part of what’s in the regulation change – and it well could be – there’s no indication of it in the WaPo article.
You would reasonably expect it to be there, though. After all, the article is titled “D.C. Food Vendors Fear War Of Hot Dogs vs. Hummus.” The article talks more about wholesaler WG Food Distributors, however, and covers the real issue while completely failing to spell it out or make it the focus of the article.
But the past two years have been especially intense, as WG and others face a city aspiring to boost its vending image and competitors eager to fight to become new kids on the block.
The crux of WG’s complaint has nothing to do with image and new entrants, however, since WG as a wholesaler could give less of a crap who they sell to. At the end of the article it’s revealed there’s only three depots left to choose from in D.C., so there’s little competition. As a provider of product for vendors to resell, they don’t care who those vendors are. They’ve got some interest in that material being standard manufactured food product rather than fresh made things like hummus, given what they provide, but that isn’t really the issue.
The issue is buried in paragraph ten, and has nothing to do with the content of the carts. What WG and the other depots are fighting to maintain is a government mandated process for the vendors to follow from which they reap a lot of money. Namely, the provision of the Department of Health rules that requires a vendor to identify a food depot where preparation, storage, and cleanup happen. A food depot that is often WG Food Distributors.
A food depot that, if you make it all the way to the last third of the article, you discover often demands that anyone using their storage facility make sizable purchases from them or face a rise in their storage rents. WG admits that there’s an “unwritten rule” that people buy from them, and defends it by saying that anyone who has to go it on their own could spend up to $900 a month on “a small storage facility with hot water and enclosures necessary to meet health standards.”
Little surprise, then, that WG and the other two depot are so interested in preventing any alteration in the health standards, and doing their best to spin this – to us and their customers – as a big guy vs little guy fight. Fair enough: it’s their livelihood and they can be expected to protect it. The real question is this: Why is WaPo helping them by so poorly examining the issue?
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs