It's the late 1980s, and this pilot fish works for a large software and services outfit that's also a major customer of a very big IT vendor.
"One year they invited a dozen of our people to their annual technology update," says fish. "As was traditional, they treated us to dinner at a high-end steakhouse. The party totaled 20 people, including eight from the vendor.
"The restaurant was as famous for its wine list as for its steaks, so my boss asked the lead vendor rep if we could order some wine with the dinner for our four-person table."
Both fish and his boss know and appreciate fine wine, and when the vendor rep says OK, they choose a good, not-toopricey Cabernet Sauvignon. It proves to be a hit and, in the end, everyone in the party gets some -- a total of 10 bottles.
That plus the pre-dinner drinks represent a substantial liquor bill, which the vendor grudgingly pays.
Next night, fish's group is treated to another restaurant, this time with Continental fare. But its wine list is also excellent -- and when the night is over, there's another hefty liquor bill.
"This was apparently significant enough that it became a cautionary tale for our local vendor reps," fish says.
Fast-forward six years: Fish is part of another group that's invited to the vendor's headquarters for an executive briefing.
Naturally, that evening the customer group is treated to dinner at yet another fine restaurant. But this time, the leader of the vendor team reminds fish of the steakhouse incident, and how it is not going to happen again.
However, at dinner the vendor host is handed a wine list and confesses that he doesn't know much about wines. He hands the list to fish and asks him to choose.
"I noted that they had a Chateau Haut-Brion Bordeaux in a good year for a very reasonable price -- $85 -- for its quality, and asked if that was acceptable. We wound-up getting eight bottles. That plus the cocktails produced a liquor bill that exceeded the steakhouse and Continental restaurant liquor bills combined.
"I was never invited to join another trip with that vendor."
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