1. Kiley

    My job entails often inviting clients to lunch or drinks. While I pay for these get togethers out of my own pocket, I do get reimbursed for such outtings by my company.

    My business etiquette issue is this. I have experienced a client/prospective client or two who will bring along a few employees without my knowledge, and even sometimes friends. One of them even said to me “Well your company pays for this, so you have no problems paying for Bill’s (client’s friend) drinks right?” While yes, my company will reimburse me for other guests, I know it is not expected that this happen often. I also don’t want my clients to feel like they can take advantage of me/my company.

    My question is, does proper business etiquette dictate that I cater to all the client’s friends/employees/guests? Or is this out of line on their part and if so, what is the proper response to this?

    • Jerry

      This is a business issue, not an etiquette issue. Make sure your boss knows what’s going on with the entertainment budget, but otherwise entertain away.

      There is nothing wrong with your client/perspective bring along a few of his employees. These are good contacts for you to be making because, chances are, those other employees will not be with client/perspective client forever (i.e. — they are potential sources of business down the line). You should also be soliciting to your clients’/prospective clients’ friends too as they are also potential clients.

  2. Vanna Keiler

    What a predicament. I am sorry to read that you are getting this behavior from clients. I would venture to guess that, like personal invitations to lunch/dinner, especially if the meal is “free”, bringing extra people along without advance notice to what is essentially a business lunch is considered in extremely poor taste. It puts you in a “catch 22″ position, where you run the risk of offending the client, should you object.

    Unfortunately, if you value the client and need the business or repeat business, you don’t have too many options left except to say nothing, pay for the meal(s) and hope you receive enough business to make this experience worth it. If you are regularly taking this client out to lunch, you could suggest they limit their invitees to only one additional person if possible, and suggest it with a most respectful tone, whether it is by email or by phone. If it is a new client, confirming by email the number of attendees and mentioning you have reserved that many seats at a restaurant will also reinforce some structure to your lunch meeting.

    • Sara Z

      Very well put, Vanna; I absolutely agree with your response. Honestly, she shouldn’t have to pay for anyone she didn’t invite, but if she wants to keep the client, she probably should. Unfortunately, the client/s that does this is the one without manners.

  3. Jen

    What a difficult situation! It’s unbelievable that clients would be bringing along guests. I would let my supervisor know of the situation, so your company does not assume they are your friends or you’re taking advantage of the company card. You don’t want it to seem like you are abusing the system. Maybe during these lunches, really make all about talking shop and the business. I’m not sure what field you are in, but pull out the markups and talk about the website. Perhaps this will give the clear message that it is company networking and really about business. You don’t want to offend them, but it’s quite rude to bring along friends.

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