Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Adventures In Advertising: My First Client Lunch Was A Disaster

My first account as a full account executive was WABC-TV (Channel 7 in New York).  My client was a wonderful man by the name of Leo Collins.  Leo was their director of advertising and promotion. He was close to 50 and I was all of twenty-four or twenty-five.  In those days their offices were on 54th Street and Sixth Avenue.  

One day I had a late morning appointment to see Leo.  We liked each other.  It was close to lunch so I asked him if he would like to grab a bite to eat.  He agreed.  I asked him what he liked in the neighborhood.  There was a French restaurant on 55th Street. I forget its name, but I will never forget the lunch.

The menu was all in handwritten French.  I spoke a little French and wanted to seem like I knew more than I did.  Leo ordered something.  I ordered rognons de veau.  I thought it was some kind of veal scaloppini, but when it was served, it looked odd, I realized it was something completely foreign to me.  I took one bite and almost retched.  It was veal kidney.  I couldn’t eat it.  

I called the captain over and told him it was not what I wanted.  He took my second order, but told me he would have to charge me for the extra meal.  I said yes. Leo never said a word, which was very gentlemanly of him. But I was mortified.

We had a delicious lunch, despite my complete and utter embarrassment.

I paid the bill with my Amex, which I had just gotten.  In those days, the three meals cost about $36.  When I got back to my office, I actually deducted the kidneys from my expense chit because I was so mortified. When the CFO saw my receipt he came to my office and asked why I would deduct part of the bill from my expenses.  I told him the truth.  He paid me for the whole check.  

So much for my sophistication.  But I learned a very valuable lesson – never to go anywhere where I (or my client) might be uncomfortable. 


  1. My very first job interview out of B-school was with Random House Publishing for a position in their advertising department. The Director of Advertising (my potentially new boss) suggested we go to lunch at a place down the street on 53rd called La Toque Blanche. I had never been to a French restaurant before, so I was excited. And like your story, the menu was in French (which I didn’t understand), so I asked my host, Barbra, what she recommended and she said, “Try the tripe”. So I did. But it looked a bit strange to me when it finally arrived so I asked her what it actually was. And she said, “Oh, it’s the lining of a cow’s stomach”. And with that totally unexpected and disastrous information, I swallowed every piece whole, without chewing. I survived that luncheon, but it took years before I ever set foot in a French restaurant again.

  2. Well, it wasn't my first client lunch or an unknown dish, but when we first won the Brown Forman account, I took our wonderful client Bill Juckett to Joe Allen's without thinking about what spirit products they served and as Bill whispered to me once sesated, they had been trying for years to get them to carry Veuve Clicquot and other brands. Being mortified, the next day I approached their management with some vague story about how many people from Ted Bates lunched there and how disappointed our Brown Forman client was and they added Veuve Clicquot to their menu board the next time we took Bill there and we picked up the Veuve Clicquot assignment.
    I never again went to a restaurant or place without first checking on whether our client was represented.

    1. Great story Scott. Right in line with m post a couple of weeks ago about buying and using clients' products. Most account people would not think to check with a bar/restaurant they were taking a client to.

  3. I had a similar experience early in my career, ordering Veal Sweatbread thinking it was just breaded veal. The clients at the table - who I had never met before - took great pleasure as I waited for my meal to arrive to make sure I knew what it was. We did have a good laugh and no, I did not eat it.


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