I've been working at a large consulting firm for almost three years now. You probably can infer quite a few things from that but one thing is for certain, I have a passion for upgrades. In case you were unaware, that happens to be one of the fundamentals of consulting. What I failed to mention is there is one instance where the upgrade can come back to bite you - the rental car. Either that or it inconveniences you so much that you don't even want it anymore. See exhibit A.
When I landed in Boston Monday morning, my heart rejoiced when I got the email saying that I had this Mercedes GL 450 waiting for me. I thought it had to be a mistake or I accidentally reserved the wrong size car. I didn't. The upgrade gods had smiled upon me. The car was beautiful with all kinds of nice features:
- Built-in blue-tooth
- Sirius satellite radio
- Leather/Seat warmers
- Steering wheel that automatically adjusts height when you start the car
- Reverse camera
- Side mirrors that automatically retract when you park!
Everything about the car was smooth, the kind of car you enjoy driving and would love to show off to your colleague to see if they had the same good fortune. There's only one problem - I can't be seen driving this!
Consulting is a business where perception plays a HUGE role in what we do - the way you speak, the way you dress, the way you sit in meetings - nothing is exempt from scrutiny. A lot of people, whether true or note, will assume that when consultants come around people are going to lose jobs. And if people are going to lose jobs, why on earth would the company be paying for the already overpaid consultants to drive around their fancy cars. That's the mindset. Nobody knows or cares that this Mercedes SUV was the same cost to rent as a Toyota Corolla. It just doesn't look right, and you don't want to risk a client complaining over something you can so easily avoid.
What that means is when I get an overly nice upgrade (I can't believe I'm even claiming such a thing exists), I can either argue with the rental car company for who knows how long about why I don't want an upgrade, which causes me to arrive later to the client site (another perception risk), or I can park in some obscure spot where I have a bit of a hike but limited visibility to the masses (don't forget it's 33 degrees outside). When I mentioned above that the upgrade can become such a nuisance you might be better off not getting it, this is the situation that I had in mind.
Have you ever had to deal with a perception issue that didn't reflect reality? How did you handle it?
On a side note, I flew to Minneapolis, Minnesota tonight and had the good fortune of having my room upgraded to a suite*. I couldn't even find the bed when I came in the room! I figure the fashion-friendly folks are a visual bunch so I'll leave you with a few pics of my home away from home for the night.
*Bitter sweet because I'm usually home with the family by this time on Thursday night.