Companies & Industries

Business Travel Blunders


All it takes is one thing, whether it's a wardrobe malfunction, a spate of bad weather, or calling someone by the wrong name, to turn a business trip into a business blunder

Ah, a business trip: You imagine a relaxing flight, maybe even being bumped up to first class (hey, it happens), an exotic locale, a luxurious hotel, exquisite food, a break from your routine, an escape from colleagues, and a brilliantly finessed meeting that means great things for your company and your career.

That’s the fantasy, at least. Then there's the reality, which all too often is about miserable, crowded flights with screaming children and drunken seat mates, lost luggage, wardrobe malfunctions, unfortunate escapades with co-workers, and client meetings that carom from disaster to disaster.

The harsh reality of business travel inspired Embassy Suites to run its first "My Business Travel Blunder" essay contest. The company invited people to share their biggest business trip blunders—what they did wrong, what went wrong, what they thought they’d never have the guts to reveal—for the chance to win airfare for four and five nights at the Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk.

"Embassy Suites recognizes that business travel is hard work and that one slight miscalculation can ruin your trip. We developed this contest to show our appreciation for all the ups and downs business travelers endure—their hectic lives deserve recognition and reward." says John Lee, vice-president of Brand Marketing for Embassy Suites Hotels.

How It All Went Wrong

The hundreds of submissions for the contest ran the gamut from sad to silly to career-threatening to cringe-inducing: the woman who called her husband's boss by the wrong name (a none-too-flattering nickname); the man who saw a bug on the hotel room floor and ended up shrieking like an ingenue in a horror film, much to the amusement of the bellhop—and several female colleagues alarmed by his screams; the man who ended up wearing a stranger's suit to the interview because the airline delivered the wrong bag to his room; the woman who thought a well-known CEO was leering at her only to discover that her blouse had come undone.

How did they pick the winner? "An Embassy Suites panel evaluated the contest entries on three criteria: humor, uniqueness, and relevance to business travel. The winning entry, an embarrassing wardrobe misfortune which we have affectionately titled "Pantless from New Jersey," is the epitome of a "blunderful" business travel mishap—hilarious, truly unique and, best of all, memorable."

Tell us your story about your worst business trip ever. Was it spilling red wine on the client's white jacket? Ordering red meat for the vegetarian boss? Getting duped into thinking the big dinner at a corporate retreat was a costume party instead of a black-tie event? Click here for a slide show of some of the biggest business travel blunders submitted to Embassy Suites (some entries have been edited for length).

Patricia O'Connell is Management Editor for BusinessWeek.com.

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