As some IT staffers walk through a trade show in Las Vegas this week, they're likely to pick up tchotchkes from the vendor booths to take home to their kids. Maybe some will attend a nice dinner or show hosted by a vendor. Others might be invited to a user group conference at a beautiful resort or perhaps to play a round of golf. Still others may be invited to socialize in private boxes at sporting events. All that seems pretty harmless. It's what vendors do to woo potential or existing customers.
Let's face it. Sales folks in all businesses have always used perks to attract new customers or keep existing customers happy. It's part of building relationships. And while expense accounts have become much skimpier across the board, there's usually room to do something for your best customers and prospects. Some take full advantage of the perks, but there are those who steer clear of anything other than meetings.
With so much extra scrutiny placed on the ways companies conduct business today, the question is: Where do you draw the line? Last week, business-technology executives at Nassau Health Care Corp. were accused by the New York State Ethics Commission of accepting hospitality from technology vendors beyond what's allowed by state laws. Some of it may sound harmless to you, but there were also charges that the perks could have unduly influenced a technology decision and gotten in the way of a competitive bidding process.
What kind of perks do you think are ethical, and where do you draw the line? In the coming weeks, we'll explore a series of ethical questions relating to everything from illegal perks and other activities to recycling technology to facilitating spam to handling data responsibly. Stay tuned.
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