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I was never much of a basketball fan until I was invited to a Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics game back in the day-- The days of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and their huge rivalry. It was my first ever professional basketball game.
In the early 1990s they played at the old Forum, not the hip new Staples Center like they do today. I was "just a date" for my now Husband and a little unsure of what I was getting myself into. He said it was "compliments of his business bankers" and we'd eat at the Forum then watch the game with them. I basically expected to meet a couple of very serious old guys in dark suits and, honestly, didn't think it sounded all that fun.
This was back in my big hair and short skirts days but since it was a basketball game, I pictured it being barely a step above bleachers and hot dogs. So I dressed nice, but casually in jeans, and ate before I left since hot dogs and beer, my impressions of typical "game food", were not a favorite.
The VIP Parking Valet was my first clue that the night might be a little more than I'd anticipated. We were directed to the Forum Club for dinner where we met the banker, a 30-something guy and his young wife. Things were looking up.
The menu had only three entree choices-- Chicken, Filet Mignon or Lobster and the prices were, in my opinion, astronomical. I'd hosted my share of business dinners and always was put off when "the date" would order every expensive item on the menu eating like there was no tomorrow, so I remembered what my mother taught me and ordered the lowest priced $50 (!) chicken and tap water. Husband had the steak.
The banker and his wife both ordered the $125 Lobster dinners along with an unusually expensive bottle of white wine.
When it came time for dessert, husband and I passed but the banker ordered four desserts to-go so they could give them to their kids in the morning-- Those cost more than my nasty, dry chicken, by the way.
On to the game. When I was handed my ticket, I nearly chocked. They were center court floor seats costing $500 each! My first thought... Dang, I should have ordered the Lobster!
We sat directly across from Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. I swooned. But when the players come out-- Oh. My. Gosh! Those guys were amazing.
When they dribbled the ball, our seats vibrated. When they ran past us, it felt like a small earthquake. When they scored long shots, the Forum rocked! It was honestly one of the most exciting things I've ever seen in person-- And I'm not even a basketball fan.
Husband and I have talked about that night many times in the past 20 years. First because of the price of things, since he doesn't consider himself or his company all that big of a deal to warrant such treatment. Second because shortly thereafter, his business banker whined that they had to relinquish their floor seats because the (then) economy was tanking. And third, because within the year, the 30-something banker's boss was laid-off and not replaced for budgetary reasons.
I'm pretty sure four season ticket floor seats would have covered the boss' salary and then some.
We saw the young banker and his wife three or four more times for dinner over the next several years. I continued to order the cheapest thing on the menu and they continued to eat like kings and queens then order take-out for their growing kids, all paid for with his Bank's lavish expense account.
I know "perks" are a part of doing business and have passed on and received more than my share during my career. But I'm always surprised when the "perks" are so excessive.
And I'm even more surprised when the businesses doling out these massive "perks" don't learn their lesson and repeat the excessive spending cycle over and over again.
So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I spotted the now 50-something banker and his wife, with doggie bag under their seat, at a recent Laker's game-- Floor seats, center court, right across from Jack Nicholson.
Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © Orlando Florin Rosu - Fotolia.com
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