March 14, 2009

Bribing your priest and tipping your altar boy

When you get hitched everyone wants a bite of the cake. Literally even father George helping you with your vows expects a bit more than what you agreed upon. Tips are expected. Even the altar-boys are used to getting a piece of the action. Yes, they're doing God's work, but they also like to shop online, so slip 'em something.

i had a girl friend who isn't Catholic but her husband is and it was important to him they get married in a Catholic church. After they two spent months discussing their beliefs and comments like "There's no way my kids are going to be raised to hate themselves," and "my mom was right i should have married a Catholic girl," were tossed around, she reluctantly agreed to do it his way -- while he agreed their children would be left out of the whole church thing until they were old enough to make up their own minds. They thought the hardest part was behind them. but no, they now had to find a church that would marry them. she felt she was compromising enough and wasn't willing to be baptized. initially, they were told this would never happen. "No Catholic church will marry someone who hasn't been baptized. no way." But then a parish secretary -- the really power players in the house of prayer -- tipped them off.

if you make a substantial donation to the parish they'll marry anyone. it sounds horrible, but i've now seen it with a few couples. you may have to pick your church based on the size of the donation you can make -- the big, more famous churches require bigger donations. they won't want you advertising that you were never baptized, but they're willing to look the other way if the other way involves money.

likewise, you may have to work with the priest -- who will also be expecting you to sweeten the deal if he's going to leave his religious compass at home that day.

the truth is whether you are both Catholics or just you are the people performing your ceremony expect to be tipped.

another good suggestion i've heard is to directly ask the parish secretary what's customary. she (generally a woman) will know what others before you have done and what works. so the priest may not feel comfortable accepting cash, but he loves getting gift certificates to the movies. whereas, the altar-boys may be saving up for school and would appreciate the cash. Normally, anywhere from $20 -$100 per altar boy is expected -- but again the parish secretary will have all the answers. And while you may think this is an unholy conversation to have, chances are she's expecting the question.

is this a strange custom? yes and no. yes, it feels a little icky that these people "serving god" are expecting your hard earned deniro. no, come on, grow-up, they're spending their saturday with you rather than catch up on the Real Housewives of Vatican City, so they expect some gratitude. They're working for you and the big man that day. He pays them with eternal love, so in comparison your meager tip is nothing.

February 26, 2009

Power Lunches in a Poor Economy: Part 1: To Personally Pony-up or Not?

Remember Tim, the trader who signified he was paying for a round of happy hour shots for the entire bar by open the front door and walking inside? Well, Timmy lost his job. Yes, a whole host of folks who used to do others the services of proudly picking up the bill are now picking up the scarps you left on your plate. It’s time we talked about it.

There is literally no such thing as a free lunch anymore. If someone is treating you to anything – just like the nuns warned you in school – they’re expecting something!

In these rude economic times the dynamic of the power lunch can be awkward. You want to make a good impression, geeze you’re fighting for your job, but your boss has specifically forbidden lavish lunches on the old corporate card. So here’s your dilemma: Do you personally suck up the cost of the lunch with Constance-the-potential-client in hopes of showing her your business isn’t hurting, your still treating clients in that old-school, pre-11 months ago, pampered style they’re so accustomed to? Or do you take the let’s face it we’re all feeling it approach?

I call this a dilemma because you have to know your audience and make a difficult choice.

If your job is on the line and this client could be the breaking point that differentiates you from Sally in the next cube than you should probably pay. It’s a cutthroat market out there. If your job is to bring in new clients, you better get working on getting new clients. You can think of it as a personal investment in your financial future. It will make an impression if you pay. Since not many folks are offering, those that do certainly stand out. Now, that said I would NOT tell them you are personally paying. That would drastically change the gesture and the client would undoubtedly feel really uncomfortable. Your intension is so make them feel comfortable and secure doing business with you. Not to feel personally indebted to you. VERY DIFFERENT AND IMPORTANT TO DISTIGUISH. You’re going for smooth and confident, not tacky and awkward.

That said if you’re out there dining at Aujoir’dui everyday you’re an idiot. You shouldn’t be personally spending more than you can afford on a meal for a perspective client. Imagine you find your fate to be that of Tim the trader next week; you’re forced to seriously look at your savings account and realize you were spending $100s of dollars a week on meals for clients that aren’t even yours anymore.

Your job is on the line and all these cutbacks have you feeling financially freaked, your ok paying for yourself -- hell you barely have an appetite anymore anyway – but there’s no way midday martini Mike is going to creep into your wallet. So the bill comes, he’s two drinks into his lobster salad with a side of filet mignon and you have no idea how to tell him that this one’s on him. My first comment is Mike kind of deserves a slap in the face. It’s straight up obnoxious to order such opulent items during a business lunch you’re assuming you won’t be paying for. That said, Mike is a caricature and hopefully he doesn’t actually exist. But, for the sake of emphasis let’s say there’s a Mike-like man in your world. I would recommend prevent this awkward moment by explaining before the meet-up that you are no longer allowed to charge lunches on your Ms. Manners credit card. Offer to meet for coffee or something more creative like cupcakes – cheap, but fun – instead. This sets the stage and will prevent any awkwardness later. Later when you meet up you can make a joke or point out the obvious– see a theme with this blog? I think joking and being straightforward in most situations are the best ways to get out of sticky situations.

You know how you learned as a teenager that if your parents did something embarrassing you could prevent the cruel arrow of shame being shot by friends by shooting it at yourself first.

Your mom wrote: “I love you” on your brown lunch bag. Before any of your guys friends had time to comment, you announce “Ughhh, my mom is so embarrassing look what she did. What’s her problem?” to which your buddies will laugh and say “yeah, dude my mom used to do that.” Or “dude your mom is weird, sorry.” Whatever their reaction, it will be better than if they all start teasing and you’re left on the outside.

Same rules apply – my how things have change from high school ☺ -- so if during lunch or in the middle of you cupcake you simply say. “Man do I miss the old days when we would drink martinis and eat our Wagyu with that special sauce, ummm…” let the client chime in. Then continue: “But honestly, in this economy I have to say any business that’s still entertaining at that level is hiding something. It’s almost like they’re trying so hard to show they’re not affected that you have to think they’d spend their last dollar to create a false image. That kind of behavior doesn’t sit well with me. Your clients should be confident in the service you’re providing them, not the meals you pay for. While we both would agree having both the service and the meals is ideal, what you’re paying for is the service.” This kind of dialogue can become a bonding moment that shows you’re honest, forthright and have your priorities straight, three of the most important qualities a perspective client looks for.

Pay if you please, but it might not make a difference in terms of nailing the client if you have the right attitude about this rude economy.