Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio November
Back to Basics
By Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM
WHEN GOOD COMPS TURN BAD
Weighing the ultimate worth of those ubiquitous free trips
and other perks
Planning a meeting is a difficult job, but it does have its
perks. Depending on your organization’s rules, however, the ethics
of accepting free rooms and familiarization trips can be a gray
area. Yet many firms, particularly nonprofit organizations, cannot
function without integrating “comps” (complimentary goods and
services) and fam trips into the bottom line.
When do you gracefully accept a comp, and when do you politely
decline? First, it is important to understand what is being
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
One free room for every 50 booked. This generally
is recognized as noncontroversial and a standard (yet always
negotiable) comp ratio, and it is frequently written into
contracts. The only time these comps cross the gray threshold is if
the planner uses them for personal gain and/or ancillary benefits.
For example, an unethical planner might attempt to bank all the
free rooms, enabling him to spend extra time at the resort.
Luckily, most hotels won’t allow the rooms to be used this way.
Site inspection comps. It is not unusual yet
never a given for a hotel to comp or discount the planner’s
sleeping room for a site visit. However, most planners and
suppliers agree the gray area is crossed if the planner is acting
alone (and thus misrepresenting her firm) and has no intention of
using the property in the near future. Some firms have strict
guidelines and require that an active proposal and/or confirmed
dates and specs exist before the planner can accept the room.
F&B comps. It is not uncommon for a vendor
to take clients to lunch or have them experience the hotels’
restaurant and other benefits (such as massages, salon services or
Gifts and more. Most firms have stringent
conflict- of-interest rules on gifts valued at more than a certain
dollar amount, and many forbid the acceptance of any gifts. Know
your firm’s policies.
Fam trips. Often encompassing all the perks
listed above, familiarization trips usually are organized by one or
more vendors and are an excellent way to assess properties and
local suppliers. In accepting such comps, you should be evaluating
the destination for a particular meeting. If you have no use for
the spot, it is unethical to visit on the supplier’s dime.
If you answer yes to all of the following five questions, you might
accept the comp with a clear conscience.
1. Does my company have (or has it had in the
past) a contract or an otherwise important relationship with this
property or vendor?
2. Is it likely I will be using this property or
vendor in the next three years (five for association planners)?
3. Has my boss or client asked me to site inspect
this property or consider this vendor or site for a future
4. Am I accepting the offer for networking,
educational and comparative purposes?
5. By accepting, do my credibility and ability to
make decisions remain intact?
If you answer yes to any of these five questions, just say no to
1. Would accepting conflict with corporate
2. Am I taking this comp strictly for personal
3. Is it likely that I will never use this
property or vendor?
4. Will taking this comp jeopardize another
program or colleague?
5. Will accepting this comp influence my
decision-making ability and/or damage my credibility? If you are
not the decision maker in the department, be sure to turn over all
offers to the boss to avoid unpleasant confrontations later.
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