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Tales from the Trenches

Budget Buster

By: Karen Farfsing | Mar 1, 2019

Two years ago, we contracted an annual conference for an association in the healthcare industry.  This event was being shifted from a competitor property that would be considered a tier below our resort regarding product and price but met their budget needs. Being it was a winter event that arrived on a Monday, it was a valuable piece of business for our property, and one we were willing to negotiate on. The contract process took several months as we went back and forth on the terms and financial obligations. It was reviewed line by line by three different people from their association, and their legal team, and eventually signed.

As we moved closer to the event dates, the food and beverage selections were made by the group contact and their planning committee. We then proceeded to complete and send the BEO’s, with their price estimates, which were double the contracted minimum. The client went radio silent for weeks. When we eventually got back in touch, it was expressed that they were under the impression that they could order anything they wanted from the catering menu, and we would just charge the contracted minimum. They were also unaware that we would charge a tax or service fee. When we pointed out these fees were in the contract in multiple locations, they proceeded to tell us that they did not read these portions and should not be held to them. We thus explained how the catering menu works, as well as the fees, and left it to the contact to make the decisions on what to do.

On the Sunday afternoon following that week, I received an email from the contact. It contained multiple expletives, CAPITAL letters and panic thinly veiled as anger. Upon picking up the phone to discuss in person, and requesting that the tone and language be re-thought, the group contact explained it was their first ever meeting and that their job was now being threatened due to the budget overage. They were expecting a second child soon and did not know what to do.

At this point, we as a sales team decided we would salvage the meeting, both for the contact and also for their attendees arriving in less than two weeks. By utilizing every favor and trick in the book, we feed 250 people for 2 ½ days, and met their budgeted amount to the penny. The group contact raved about the food and property, and by the final evening was ready to celebrate. They went out with their colleagues and had a GREAT time! The final morning of the event, one of the breakout presenters contacted our convention planner asking for a significant amount of AV to be added. Knowing the budget limitations, we called the group contact, who agreed to the AV. Hours later, they emerged around lunch time, looking a bit worse for the wear. The night before had certainly been one for the books! They were reviewing the final charges and noticed the significant increase in AV- what happened? As we explained that they had approved the additional charges that morning, they realized that they had no recollection of the call, but could certainly see it happened on their cell phone log!

We have no idea how that was explained, but they did keep their job! And returned the following year.

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