Why I Canceled ?
By Denny Hatch
This column is written for the 50 or more people whom I stood up at a private corporate conference near San Francisco on six days notice, as well as thousands of meeting planners everywhere. My e-mail to the host is reproduced below. I have not named the company, but anyone with a knowledge of the corporate culture of Bay Area high-tech companies and an ounce of intuition should be able to figure it out.
Bill: I got back from New York City late yesterday and was too wiped to return your call.
So you understand what went on, when your [person's name] called to confirm that I was invited to speak at the [Company Name] conference, she dropped a not-so-subtle hint that it would be nice if I didn't charge anything beyond expenses. It was to be three days out of my life—a full day in transit out, performance day and a full day in transit back. I've done these in-and-out-of-the-West-Coast-for-one-day jaunts, and the following day I am a zombie from jet lag. So it is really four days in which I could not do any real work. I said I'd do it for $1,000 plus expenses—which over four days is $250 a day or, after taxes, around $125 net. You agreed to the $1,000. I made a plane reservation—Philly to SFO and back at $1,900.
I received an e-mail asking what flight I was on so I could be met at the airport. I e-mailed back the flight information—Flight #65 getting in around 5 p.m. A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail from her saying she needed my presentation immediately as she was going to press with the workbook. I do not like to give out my presentation in advance. Along with a lot of hard information, there is a bunch of funny stuff, and I do not want the audience reading my punch lines before I deliver them.
So I excised some of the punch lines out of my presentation and e-mailed them to [person's name]. She e-mailed me to say she would prefer me to use PowerPoint for my presentation, and asked if I wanted her to help me create a PowerPoint presentation? I e-mailed her that the presentation is on the Mac version of PowerPoint, and no thank you.
Monday night at 9 p.m. (EST) [one week prior to my departure] she asked if I didn't want her to help me create a PowerPoint presentation. Bill, I've been in front of audiences for 40 years and have given talks all over the country and elsewhere. I did not appreciate a condescending little functionary suggesting I don't know how to give a talk. Then she asked me if I had booked a business class seat because [Company Name] rules say no business class. I said, No, I booked an economy seat on US Airways. How much was it? she asked. Around $1,900, I said. That is too much money, she said. Her travel person found a United flight from Philadelphia to Orlando with a more than three-hour layover in Orlando and then a flight to San Francisco—return the same way—for $350. I listened in stunned silence as she read this itinerary to me. What's more, she said, [Company Name] would be glad to pay the rebooking fee. I started mentally calculating the hours.
Being compulsive since 9/11, I get to the airport three hours early whenever I fly. Plus two hours to Orlando. Plus a three-hour layover. Plus six hours to San Francisco. Plus a half hour to and from airports. That is 15 hours one way, and 15 hours back. [Company] expected me to spend 30 hours on airplanes and in airports over three days, plus a recovery day—for $125 a day. She was not particularly nice about it, either. She harangued me and humiliated me, making me feel like some kind of pariah for ripping off the company.
It seems to me that when a speaker comes cross country, he should be made to feel welcome—not humiliated. I got mad. I'm still mad. Please do not respond to this. I am in the process of emotional and psychological dialysis to get a third-rate company and some truly nasty people out of my mind and out of my life.
Denny Hatch, consulting editor, is a freelance copywriter and consultant, founder of Who's Mailing What! (now Inside Direct Mail) and former editor in chief of Target Marketing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.methodmarketing.com.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.