A GIFT GUIDE FOR US BY US
By Joe Brancatelli
December 19, 2013 --After plowing through dozens of "travel" gift guides, I've come to an inescapable conclusion: Nobody understands business travelers except those of us who do it.
To be charitable, business travelers are creatures of habit. We're not comfortable with optional changes and we're very protective of the rhythms of our daily schedules and the products and services we use. To be blunt, we're selfish. We want what we want and we're not interested in adjusting our movements and travel schedules to accommodate a well-meaning, but off-the-mark, gift.
Bottom line: If you're looking for presents for business travelers, play to their habits. Don't try to change them. Don't try to be too cute. Skip the whimsy. And if you really want your gift to have impact, buy a business traveler something he or she would buy themselves.
My suggestions for a last-minute gift are below. Some can still be delivered in time for Christmas. All should be in your hands before the end of the year. Which is fine since most business travelers I know hope to be basking in some holiday downtime over the next few weeks.
Buy where they sleep
Hotel chains recognize that we proactively choose them and they've built on-line stores that sell everything from the toiletries they put in the bathrooms to the specially branded beds on which we put our heads. If you know the chain a business traveler frequents, head to the hotel's online store because you can buy with a fairly high degree of confidence.
Westin, which started the branded-bed craze, sells its so-called Heavenly Bed for prices that start around $1,100. Hilton sells its easy-to-program alarm clock for about $40. Hyatt sells Herman Miller's line of desk chairs and Eames classic loungers, stools and ottomans. Marriott sells the minimalist vanity mirrors it places in bathrooms for as little as $65. Ritz-Carlton sells its Asprey bath amenities for around $17. In other words, you'll find something for every business traveler from a supplier he or she trusts.
Feed the lounge lizard
In recent years, business travelers have used credit cards to secure club access. But airlines (and the credit card companies that wag the aeronautic dog) have become more balkanized about club-lounge privileges. The most recent example: The newly merged American Airlines and US Airways announced last week that they are pulling their clubs from the American Express Lounge network next March. That means each of the remaining legacy airlines have given exclusive club-access privileges to their respective card-issuing bank: Delta Air Lines to American Express, United Airlines to Chase and American/US Airways to Citi.
That means smart travelers may look to traditional access methods--direct annual memberships--to secure club access and that opens a gift window. One-year memberships in the clubs run by Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines can be purchased for $350 to $500 a year. Several carriers also sell three-year memberships.
Keeping them dry
A clear and present danger
There's a gift card for that
This way madness lies...
If you must replace a business traveler's carry-on, the present to give is cash or a gift card. Tell them it's for a new bag, then get out of the process. The Christmas you save may be your own.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT This column is Copyright © 2013 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.