the noise complaint, the romantic violin, and other business trips gone awry — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

Last week we talked about business trip mishaps and here are 12 of my favorite stories you shared about business trips that went very badly awry.

1. The stomach bug

I got a stomach bug while attending a trade show. Realized I felt bad, so went outside the conference hall to get some fresh air. Then further realized I was about to puke — had no time to make it to the bathrooms, so vomited into a potted plant right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows in the main lobby of the hall.

2. The boobs

I had a conference last year in Washington state. We stayed at this very posh art hotel. Hotel itself was lovely. Everything regarding travel was perfect. Conference was so great.

But the entire floor I was on was dedicated to boob art. They had them in the hall, my room had drawn photos of boobs, etc. I was not expecting it.

3. The violin

I was in my mid-twenties traveling to a conference with my fifty something boss. He could be odd and a bit awkward but never creepy or inappropriate. We were having dinner at the hotel restaurant when approached by a violin player obviously offering romantic musical accompaniment. I politely declined but my boss excitedly requested a specific piece. I then had to sit there awkwardly for several minutes while the violin player played his piece circling around us as if he was enhancing our romantic dinner. My boss smiled the whole time and afterward spoke about how lovely the music was as if he had no clue everyone was thinking I was his much younger mistress meeting up at with him at a hotel. We were both married to other people and after this we went back to discussing business.

4. The noise complaint

One time our VP was at a major industry conference and called security to file a noise complaint against a room down the hall, and it turned out to be her boss, the company president. (It was nearly midnight, and there were like 25 employees hanging out in his hospitality suite.)

The funny thing is that she didn’t back down. She gave him a dirty look and he sheepishly closed the door and told everyone to quiet down. This has now become a story we tell new hires to inspire the appropriate awe in our VP.

5. The cancellation

A colleague registered for a conference in another state. He flew to the location, stayed overnight at the hotel and in the morning arrived at the venue. Turns out it was cancelled – sometime after registration he’d marked their emails as spam.

6. The immodesty

I used to work for a nonprofit that assigned shared rooms for staff at its annual conference. One year, I was assigned to room with a woman I’d previously met a couple times at other conferences. We were in a brand new hotel – I think we may have been its first guests – and they clearly hadn’t perfected their design yet because our bathroom door had an almost full-length sheet of CLEAR GLASS built into it. When you sat on the toilet you could look right out into the room, and your roommate could look right back at you from their seat on the bed. (I checked with others and they all had frosted glass doors. Lucky!) We couldn’t be moved to a different room, so we rigged up towels to cover part of the door (not the most important part!!) and made an agreement that whenever one of us had to use the bathroom, the other would sit facing in the opposite direction.

(Thank god I no longer work for a company that requires shared hotel rooms.)

7. The grudge

My old department had an admin, “Jenny,” who was, even by her own admission, a little gruff. But she got the job done and her institutional knowledge was unparalleled. Jenny was easy to work with if you did basically professional things like say please, thank you, and respect her time. Jenny and one of our consultants, “Elizabeth,” did not get along and it was like the Hunger Games when they got going. From my perspective, Elizabeth could be really entitled and Jenny could hold a grudge but there were times it felt like Elizabeth’s personal life goal to get Jenny in trouble for every little thing.

Our field one huge annual conference that changes cities each year. One year it was held about 45 minutes away from our city, which was great and cut down on stressful travel time and costs for all of us. The one issue was that the city names were common like Columbus, Ohio and Columbus, Georgia. Jenny booked everyone for the conference like she did every year and Elizabeth was livid that Jenny didn’t book her flight or hotel. Me and several others did tell Elizabeth that there was no reason for flights or hotels this year as it was being held one city over but she was so angry and focused on getting Jenny in trouble that she booked her own flights and hotels. To the wrong city. Where the conference wasn’t being held.

I don’t know all the details but I do know Elizabeth missed the first three days of the conference because she flew to the wrong city. She got back mid-week and didn’t speak to any of us for the rest of the conference and we got a department-wide email reminding us that the company doesn’t pay personal expenses made in error. I do know that Jenny was in a very good mood for a few weeks after that and Elizabeth quit later that month.

8. The breakfast

Event: Law firm retreat for all the attorneys of a 40-50 attorney regional firm in the US.

Setting: Relatively fancy resort in the mountains.

Law firm partner (but not one of the senior partners) directs a managing attorney of an office (but not a partner) to buy a cooler, waters, orange juice, etc. He is buying breakfast foods. That way the firm can save money on food on the trip.

We get there the first day, partner announces that breakfast the next morning will be hosted in his room. Ok odd.

He proceeds to show examples of this breakfast: mini cups of orange juice (the kind with the foil tops you could stab with a straw), and an assortment of plain granola bars and little debbie snack cakes.

Those of us in management (also not partners) told our subordinates to just join us in the breakfast room and we will have a proper breakfast. We planned to pay the cost even though we were making well below market salaries and well below 6-figures – no rich attorneys here!

Half way through breakfast, partner (making high 6-figures) comes in visibly angry and demands to know why no one is at his room when he went to the effort to “make breakfast” for everyone and did we not understand how expenses worked.

Just as he is about to tell everyone to leave, senior partners arrive to eat breakfast. We all brace, preparing for them to join in. Partner then rounds on them about the same issue. They calmly sit down, look at him, and say “we’re not eating that ****, and no one else should either. Everyone should have a *good* breakfast before the meetings, not some cheap snacks. But bring those to the meeting room for breaks.”

Senior partners picked up the cost for everyone and the granola bars were never mentioned again, although partner pouted for the rest of the day.

9. The lightweight

Quick business trip from D.C. to Boston.

On the first night I went to the hotel bar with my client (we in were in town doing some tech stuff for their client). Turns out I can hold my liquor and he can’t. I found out at the morning meeting (which he arrived to late and disheveled) that he stayed for an extra drink after I left, and was so drunk that he couldn’t find his room. A hotel employee found him at 5 am, asleep in a chair in the hallway two doors down from his room!

10. The naked man

I traveled with my boss and grandboss a lot in a former job. One trip I arrived midmorning, got my hotel key, and then headed straight for the meeting in the hotel meeting space. It was a hectic day and I stayed a little late, gathered my belongings including grabbing my key which had fallen under another chair, looked at the key envelope for my room number, and went to my room. I walked into the room and there was my grandboss….naked. I screamed “what are you doing in my room?” While he screamed “you’re in my room!”…and then TRIPPED OVER THE BED trying to run away and was sprawled out buck naked on the floor.

The key and envelope I picked up were his! The room had two keys he’d had one in his wallet and didn’t know he’d lost the other. My key for my room was in my purse all along. He insisted on formally documenting in a letter to HR that he had not attempted to “lure me” to his room and was not “propositioning me professionally or personally.” I wanted to die.

PSA that’s why you should NEVER keep your key in that hotel envelope with the # written on it. You don’t know who is coming to rob or humiliate you.

11. The braid attack

While in the Minneapolis airport at the tail end of a business trip, I accidentally flipped my thick, braided hair into former senator Al Franken’s face, then eavesdropped on how he was almost Hilary’s VP running mate.

I submitted an apology to the contact form on his website, under the subheading “transportation–air.”

12. The illness

At a conference, the last speaker before lunch droned on and on and on and on for over an hour past his allotted time. Meanwhile, the tuna salad, egg salad, and potato salad, all with a copious amount of mayo, were sitting out being uneaten and unrefrigerated. Half the attendees got sick that night. Starting the following year, they had a rule that when lunch arrives, they cut the speaker off and eat right away.

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