by Loren G. Edelstein | September 01, 2017

M&C's September survey explored the ethics of meeting planning. Following are verbatim comments on offenses known to readers.

What is the most egregious ethical breach you've witnessed professionally?

• Using rewards given to an organization for personal travel

• Meeting planner requesting free tickets to attractions, meals, drinks, for a family member on site visit

• Client asking a hotel to give them free passes to Disney to entertain their customers AND free stay when they return with their families (three requests)

• Buyers who ask for discounted or complimentary rates for personal situations (vacations, parties, weddings, etc.)

• A drunken event planner yelling obscenities at the client we were both hired by. Said event planner then walked off the site, stealing silent-auction items she claimed she brought

• People who attend multiple site visits/FAM trips to the same destination. People asking for odd favors from CVBs to book their meeting (e.g., a planner wanting tickets to Emmy or Grammy Awards when booking L.A.)

• One of our contractors taking kickbacks out of services he has referred us to

• Bribery

• Meeting planners taking FAM trips to locations/venues they never have any intention of utilizing for a conference/event

• Someone bringing spouse uninvited

• Fam trip participation vacation

• Third-party planners accepting hotel points for their clients' meetings

• Someone asking for a discount on a room for a personal stay

• Contract negotiator taking the commission for herself instead of passing along to her client, who paid her a fee for contract negotiating

• Clients requesting "site visit rates" for personal vacation

• I've seen a company illegally dump sewage to avoid city/state processing fees, then use that saved capital to lower rates to their customers. The dirtiest of money, literally

• Personal vacations or cash payments to meeting planners

• Planners accepting personal perks (such as loyalty points) for business booked for their employer or customer at hotels

• Not being paid by suppliers/USTOA agencies

• Booking fake business using the auto-signature of executive director and inserting commission statement to fake outside company for three meetings. An audit found it. It was ugly and expensive.

• Promise of suites for speakers that were never delivered

• When attendees at an event all received expensive iPods (when they were new on the market and pricey). I did call the event's internal hot­line to report the violation.

• When I worked in the hotel side of the business, a client asked me to get a comp suite for his wife and daughter for a girls' getaway. And then he asked if I would send a bottle of wine and fruit and cheese basket and include a card that said it was from HIM!!!!

• An administrative assistant, who did not participate in planning corporate meetings or incentive programs, taking advantage of a fam trip as a vacation

• I used to work for a VP at a company that was having financial problems. We held a sales meeting in the Napa/Sonoma area that was very successful from a morale standpoint, but expensive. Once we got the invoice, the VP told me to short pay it by 20 percent and to tell the hotel that we weren't pleased with the service. I refused. I knew that people float around a lot in this industry, and that people would forget the name of the company I worked for, but they wouldn't forget my name.

• Admin at tech company demanding meals, not during a site visit

• A vendor putting a buyer, essentially, on salary

• I never have witnessed anything like that in more than 20 years in the industry.

• Buyer was guaranteed favors in the amount of $25,000. There was no paperwork covering the transaction, and the institution that made the "guarantee" said that they had never offered a "bribe."

• Using vendors that don't have an arm's-length status with my organization, then having that contract priced higher than the competitive market

• Bundling: You can't buy product X (which is popular) unless you also buy product Y.

• Free stay and upgrades to someone who was not directly involved in making site decisions

• Misstatement of shipment weight by drayage firms (often)

• Trying to extort money from a supplier to maintain business

• I am not aware of any of my meeting planner friends conducting themselves unethically.

• A meeting planner bringing her entire family on a fam trip and demanding a suite

• Property canceled an event to take a more profitable one.

• My boss asking me to ask the hotel for a special room at a reduced rate for personal use

• I saw a fellow professional earn all planner points from every purchase made and also take personal vacations from suppliers with no intent to host a meeting at their property.

• A CVB rep becoming very intoxicated during a site visit

• On buyer side, lying about plans to get a freebie; on supplier side, lying about suitability of property for our needs

• I worked for an agency that lied to clients about how much budget was needed to run an event. They would charge the client enormous amounts of $$ and only provide subpar service and order the bare minimum for food and beverage and pocket the rest. They also accepted commissions from the hotel and did not inform client or reduce their rate to compensate for the commission. They also negotiated suites in the contract which they did not give to the client but put their staff into instead telling the client suites are never given out at the negotiated room rate. The principle of that agency was also verbally and physically abusive to his employees. I quit within two months of working for that agency.

• Lying

• Service provider (hotel) refusing to present the wedding cake at an ongoing wedding until the customer (father of the bride) agreed to pay an additional $1,000 for "tips." The wedding cost over $175K, paid in advance.

• Using supplier assistance to pay for a child's wedding

• Fam trip abuse ordering expensive wine or liquor

• Client sent her parents in her place on a FAM trip

• I worked for a government contractor, and they wanted to order food, but wanted it hidden in the room rental charges. I said if you do a BEO and food is up there, then you should pay for it. They wanted the attendees to get food and the per diem -- I didn't last that long with them.

• Cash bribe for a meeting booking

• Bait and switch -- not providing quality promised (or better)