Some would say I have been blessed in that I worked in an era where corporate entertaining in the travel business was frequent and lavish. Because of the positions I held I was either entertaining our clients or being entertained by suppliers. Great you may think, Wimbledon, Twickenham, Ascot, and Wentworth here we come. But things did not always run that smoothly especially when times became tougher.
You see, once you give someone something one year and don’t the next things get sticky. Even worse when a spouse is involved An example would be a very major car hire company that had a huge facility at Wimbledon every year for the tennis with vast numbers of corporate seats at the main courts right up to finals day. You might imagine that anybody would be thrilled to be invited but think for a minute. OK, the invites are great but for what day have you been invited? Was it earlier or later in the tournament than last year? Is it for the main courts? Is your spouse invited like last year?
I have known people get quite vengeful if they have been downgraded in the pecking order, offered tickets to secondary matches or even ignored entirely. The worst happening at Wimbledon was the fateful day when VIPs spouses were not invited for the first time. Senior industry figures were apoplectic to the extreme that many cancelled or, even worse, failed to turn up. Then the next year they had more invitations for hospitality than Centre Court seats. Imagine the scene as mine hosts walked around the tables dishing out envelopes on finals day and the varying expressions ranging from smugness to outrage as the tickets were pulled out. Not pretty. In fact slightly reminiscent of a TV talent show.
So there you are. Sometimes offering somebody something fantastic is only OK if you are going to do it again, and again and again otherwise your generosity backfires to a point where your money has bought an ‘insulted enemy’ not a loyal friend.
But should corporate hospitality be offered or accepted anyway? Many corporations ban their people from attending now and I wonder if they are right? Why is it being offered? Are suppliers working on the basis that if one accepts they are going to get your business? Are they trying to bribe you? Maybe some may be attempting just that but I think most are not that naïve.
You need to ask yourself what happens at these events apart from everyone hopefully having a good time. I think it means that people end up in close proximity with suppliers and fellow buyers in an environment where you can take their measure. Very often you can get to their bosses as well. So unless one is so weak and without scruples that you are prepared to take the wrong product at the wrong price in order to watch some tennis then I can only see value in it from both sides. Many I know will disagree.