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Business lunches I have known and loved – and still laugh about

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If there is one lesson that I have learned over my 40 years in sales it is that you should never take a customer for granted. That means that a sincere demonstration of appreciation is something that is both appropriate and necessary. As a commission salesman, I came to realize early on that my customers fed my family, paid my bills and provided me with the opportunity to be successful. I have always found that treating a customer to a relaxing lunch was a great way to show my appreciation and help build a strong relationship of trust and caring. And I would venture to say that those many meals, shared with my customers, accomplished these goals while providing lots of memorable and humorous moments … 

My customer Joe, the head of maintenance at a school in Marlton, N.J., and I would usually have lunch at a restaurant near his school. On one particular trip about 20 years ago, we both ordered the same “special” … a bowl of beef barley soup and a cheese steak. This place really made good soups and I was looking forward to enjoying it on this cold wintry day. As we started on the thick-bodied, great- smelling bonanza, our conversation was stopped in its tracks when I felt something in my mouth that was obviously neither beef nor barley. Joe’s eyes became as large as golf balls as I reached into my mouth and pulled out a brand new, blue 1-inch bolt. Of course, the appropriate nut was attached to the bolt so I had the complete set. We had a good laugh as I called the waitress over and asked her to bring me another bowl and to “hold the bolt.” No teeth were damaged and the meal was free. I told her I’d be sure to bring my metal detector next time. The bolt apparently fell into the soup pot during the installation of a new exhaust fan above the stove. 

About 25 years ago, my customer Pat, the head of maintenance at a private school in Norristown, Pa., and I went to enjoy lunch at a local Italian restaurant. Pat ordered spaghetti and meatballs with extra gravy and I opted for the lasagna. Since it was my practice to always wear a shirt and tie, I would have to take particular care not to splash any red gravy on my dark blue shirt and light blue tie. Of course, Pat wore his gray maintenance uniform with the school’s insignia displayed on the front, just below his left shoulder. With my jacket hanging over the back of my chair, I carefully ate my meal, checking every once in a while to make sure none of the gravy was on my shirt. 

About halfway through our meal, Pat stuck his fork into half of one of his meatballs. Apparently, he hadn’t secured his meatball properly for as he raised it to his mouth the force of gravity took over. The meatball fell, crashing into the gravy-laden dish like a meteor hitting the ocean. Did the gravy splash onto Pat, whose careless meatball jabbing caused the problem? Of course not. It headed directly away from him and landed on my dark blue shirt and light blue tie. We had a good laugh and after a hasty cleanup, finished eating. Pat’s maintenance uniform, designed to deal with all kinds of spills and messes, remained unscathed. 

And then there was the lunch date that rendered me speechless for the briefest of moments.

About 30 years ago, I arranged to have lunch with a new customer, Bill, who was a maintenance supervisor at PECO, the Philadelphia Electric Co. Bill and I had been doing business at one of the suburban offices and this would be our first opportunity to enjoy a meal together. Bill was a “good ol’ boy,” standing about 6-foot-2 and weighing about 250 pounds. He had never had clams and spaghetti at an Italian restaurant and indicated he’d like to try it, so off we went. We drove to Broomall, Pa., to one of my favorite spots. I recommended the clams with the red sauce with capellini. I had enjoyed that dish many times at this restaurant and I felt sure he’d be happy. After we placed the order, he asked the waitress if he could have a side order of meatballs too, in red sauce. Bill was a big guy so I wasn’t surprised that he had a big appetite. I was surprised, however by what happened next. After the waitress brought out the food, Bill picked up the dish of meatballs and dumped it into the dish of clams and capellini. He then mixed it all up together creating his version of “surf and turf.” After watching in disbelief, I realized that if he wanted to eat the food that way, who was I to say anything? Bill gobbled down the meal and said he really liked the clams. The fact that he could discern the different flavors put me in awe of his taste buds.

Greatness takes many forms.

Charlie Sacchetti

Charlie Sacchetti is the author of three books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change;” “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch,” and his newest, “Savoring the Moments: True Stories of Happiness, Sadness and Everything in Between.” Contact him at worthwhilewords21@gmail.com.

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