COPING WITH COPYCATS
I just opened my April 2001 edition of Special Events Magazine and was pleased to read your editorial on a subject close to my heart (“As Good As It Gets?”). One of the major ethical issues I am in a dilemma about is the frequent “imitation” of our catering menu package by hotels within four blocks of our property.
I spent over a year working with a graphic designer four years ago to create a new look and presentation of our catering menus. We wanted to present something unique to us, the city and the industry as a whole. The quality of the package [and] style of presentation set a new standard that has been a benchmark for other hotels, which have incorporated some aspects of the design into their packages. This was to be expected … and only a little irritating.
There is, however, one property that took the form of flattery one step further and blatantly copied the unique design of the menus complete with similar dingbats, separation lines and layout. As a result, a client would be unable to distinguish the difference between the packages of our hotel and theirs if the menus were faxed or laid out side by side. The only difference is our outside cover, coil binding and verbiage on the descriptive and joining style pages.
I showed their efforts to the designer I work with, and she was equally outraged. We discussed options of how to deal with it, and I decided it was best left alone from my end. She decided to contact the hotel and offer them her services to create something unique for their property, as they so obviously appreciated her body/style of work!
I am now very reluctant to assist this particular property when they contact us on call-arounds checking industry standards, etc., and advised them the last time that we had provided them with enough assistance at this time.
I realize the creative process often includes incorporating ideas that you have seen elsewhere, from whatever sources provide inspiration. I have seen elements in menus and magazines from New York, Europe and Australia that have provided me with such inspiration. I do not, however, think it is ethical, professional or even polite to use a source of inspiration from a competitor in your own backyard!
As professionals with integrity, we can only follow your second piece of advice in your editorial — you can't let it change who you are and how you work. You have to also have faith that your clients will recognize the difference between mutton and lamb!
A hotel catering director
I was reading your [editor's] page in the April 2001 issue in which you address a real concern and one that I am sure is rife the world over.
We really are in the thick of it in this region. As a company we have positioned ourselves at the very high end of the corporate and expatriate market, concentrating on blue-chip companies and private clients, whilst leaving the more localized clients and events to our peers. On the whole we provide two very different products; however, we have often had our events — or parts thereof — brandished as theirs.
Although this is an irritant, I think — as your consensus shows — “what goes around comes around.” This is an exceptionally realistic, if not the most satisfying, justification.
But again, as you say, the industry can be very small, and word moves like wildfire. So even if we are unaware that a comeuppance has occurred, I sleep well at night knowing that it will happen. Try not to lose too much sleep — you are better than them if they need to copy you. This is basic schoolboy advice that works.
Many thanks and keep up the great work you are doing with Special Events Magazine; we really look forward to it landing on our desks.
Harlequin Marquees and Hospitality Services
PLANNERS ARE CLIENTS, TOO
Thanks for your article “Museum Pieces: Events in Cultural Sites” (June 2000).
I have been working as a special events coordinator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Canada's No. 1 attraction) for the past 10 years, and it's interesting to hear from other venues that are taking up the challenge of doing events in a very restricted area.
Mr. Manask's comments were on the mark; however, he did leave out one important aspect. At the CMC we have a production team in place composed of technicians and coordinators [catering] to internal events and to external events. External clients often show up without a special events coordinator; we are then assigned to [the] event. The production coordinator is included in the price of the rental; all technical staff and equipment isn't.
The problem happens when the client has hired a special events coordinator. The special events coordinator often feels threatened by our presence in the museum; he or she often withholds vital information such as technical needs, deliveries and scenarios from us, causing misunderstandings, confusion and, often, extra cost to the client.
My advice to all special events coordinators who are thinking of using cultural sites as venues for special events: Check if there is a production team already in place, and please use these people as allies and resources for your event. They will not steal or take your client away from you because you have become the client. When a special events coordinator steps into the CMC, he or she becomes my client, and I am there to help and guide that person through all of the red tape.
If the trend holds, we will be working with many special events companies, which often bring new and innovative ideas to a venue. I find it refreshing and it helps me keep up with what is happening in the real world.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
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