Spending money on clients that spend money with me has never been a problem for me, especially on loyal clients that I genuinely like. In my early years of trying to build relationships, I actually had the bad judgement of going on a vacation with a client and to another client's Christmas party. Really no matter how bad you need to schmooze, vacations and major holidays should be off limits for business ass-kissing.
As of late, I've been cold calling like crazy and trying my best to pretend that consumer confidence is not really in the shitter. After calling a prospect numerous times, I finally got the client on the phone and she was very friendly and didn't even treat me like I do with the Kidney Foundation People when they call me during dinner or when Habib calls me on a Sunday to tell me the warranty on my car has expired, yet again.
She suggested we go to lunch with one of her peers and mentioned a restaurant I had been to before, which was somewhat pricey . I said, "Sounds great" and immediately went online to check their menu prices. Lunch looked reasonable. This particular client had not done business with me or my company for at least six years, so I wasn't up for lavishing them with a five-star experience.
The day of the lunch, the client emailed me, suggesting a different restaurant, one that I knew was very expensive. I thought about saying I ate there once and got the runs, but kept my mouth shut, knowing I was stuck. (Did I mention, that in this crappy economy, my company has taken away my once cushy "expense account," meaning that any time I entertain clients, I foot the bill. Thanks economy.)
Traffic was hell (as my office makes geographical sense to nothing) and I was 8 minutes late. Across the restaurant I met eyes with two non-smiling and I'm guessing hungry business women. (In retrospect I wouldn't be surprised if they'd already downed a few shots of Patron and told the waiter to put it on my bill). I apologized profusely, but no-personality One and Two just stared at me blankly. The waitress asked if we wanted an appetizer, which I quickly responded "No! And we are ready to order." I took the lead and ordered a Caesar salad with shrimp, literally the cheapest thing on the menu, hoping that they would follow suit with a salad, sandwich or at least something from the actual "lunch" menu. Both women ordered the Miso Black Cod - and one even ordered a salad to start. Being a foodie, I knew Miso Black Cod didn't come cheap anywhere (especially Dallas, where there isn't a freshly caught cod for miles). They warmed up a bit and seemed at least tepid on my ideas and pitch. All I could think was "oh no u did-nt just each order a $30 entree." Seriously, why don't we order table service and P Diddy can join us and bring a some Ciroc Vodka and strippers. Hell, lets just order a bottle of Cristal and some caviar while we're at it.
I signed the tab ($91 with tip). Unfortunately for them they have now opened my Pandora's box - no one gets a $91 lunch without some payback. I will relentlessly hound those freeloaders until they throw some business my way.