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Archive for August 30th, 2009

Somehow, within the span of my career, the business lunch has gone from being an indispensable part of the commercial transaction to being deader than disco.

Nostalgic? Not so much. Even at the peak of its power (think Don Draper, martinis, call girls, regret) the Client Lunch was a pain in the ass. Neither the client nor the vendor wanted to be there—it was ritual, through and through. And even if the vendor picked up the check, the client knew he would ultimately be paying for it.

As Lunch passed into memory, nobody really missed it. What replaced it was Value (for once.) Instead of packing up the entire project, driving an hour round-trip and laying out the portfolio amid the highball glasses and ashtrays, you could talk it out over the phone and actually get some work done.

So, when my client invited me to lunch to review the project, I was surprised. It had literally been years, but my curiosity got the best of me…sort of like opening a time capsule, or attending 70’s Night to Benefit AIDS Awareness or your softball team.

As I waited in the lobby and “20 Minutes Late” rolled around, the nostalgic charm began to wear off. I predicted the next milestone—the client would eventually roll in without a hint of apology.

And so he did. We were seated, and the waitress handed out the menus. Immediately he sputtered, “Damn! Look at these PRICES! THIS is why I gave up going out to lunch!”

So I ordered the side salad and water. The mindless chitchat began, and I immediately remembered the next business lunch truth: outside the project and the ensuing payment, I just don’t care about your life, dude.

An hour later, the waitress brought the check. Dude made a big gesture out of snapping up the ticket and, before the waitress could leave he said, “I’VE got this!” Then when she was safely out of earshot he said, “Yeah, so…give me seven bucks and we’re even.”

So, to recap: This business lunch Blast from the Past contained no Don Draper, martinis or call girls. However it was loaded with regret—mostly for the 90 minutes of my life I would never get back.


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