Some companies now boast a Calvinistic abstemiousness: we accept no freebies of any sort, their pious guidelines state. OK, but in our business there is still plenty of entertaining; plenty of fun things to attend and civilised events that help make the business world go round. Sensible people know how to ration themselves and not overstep the mark.
What's changed is people's willingness to actually turn up. Years ago, if you were invited to the opera or Royal Ascot and you accepted, you dolled up and turned up - right time, right place.
Now, it seems, an accepted invitation is no longer a binding contract, an obligation rooted in warm business relationships and common courtesy. I was appalled to hear that one media owner's golf day recently had 25 signed-up "yeses" from client marketers. How many turned up on the day? One.
Only one client (and it is clients, I'm afraid, that are the worst offenders) out of 25 had the decency, the common courtesy, the ordinary, old-fashioned manners to honour their invitations and show up. Twenty-four made excuses, changed their minds, invented "subsequent engagements" of allegedly more pressing importance. Some even failed to let their hosts know their change of plan on the very day and simply did not appear.
Now I know we are busy, 24/7 people and that the office rules all, but what is going on here? This, in my book, is plain rudeness. Lazy, modern, slobby lack of manners. It is appalling and it makes me - and many, many other people - very hacked off. If you can't go, don't accept.
Just imagine how those "clients" (if one can grace them with that name) will be viewed by that media owner. Will it do them any favours when they need them? Will it think well of them when the crumbs of discount are being divvied up? I don't think so. Not only is it discourteous, it's bad business to disrespect your suppliers. The thing that most upsets me about this sort of shabby, chavvy behaviour is the attitude behind it: "I'm further up the food chain than you, so who cares if I can't make it to Sunningdale?"
What goes around, comes around, of course, and those crass, short-sighted oiks that accept invitations but don't know how to play the decent guest will sooner or later - I am happy to guarantee - get their well-deserved comeuppance.