Rules, Rules, Rules

Dec. 1, 2007
Another successful annual conference has passed, and I wonder if a few people think the HARDI staff is either crazy as loons or just plain inflexible

Another successful annual conference has passed, and I wonder if a few people think the HARDI staff is either “crazy as loons” or just plain inflexible when it comes to rules. Not that it make much difference how you perceive us, but I think it is important to talk about some of the “dumb rules” we keep enforcing.

But first, let's talk about rules. (I trust I can do this without sounding like a parent, since I've already raised four children and don't need to raise any more.)

“Rules” have many definitions, but in HARDI's case, it is a set of regulations to guide the conduct of its members. We have membership rules, registration rules, conference booth rules, cut-off date rules, refund rules, conflicting meeting rules and on and on. In a prior article, I explained the rules for hotel room cut-off dates and the need for rules governing the timing of refunds. Today, class, we are going to talk about why we have rules prohibiting individual companies from holding meetings that conflict with the conference, while in session. As with the majority of other rules, HARDI members created these laws to prevent the recurrence of unacceptable situations.

The rule simply stated is:

“As a matter of association policy, the Board of Directors requests that any supplier-sponsored meetings held in public function rooms (meeting rooms, as distinct from suites) be only held on the Saturday prior to the start of the conference or on Monday evening. This policy has been established in order to help preserve proper perspective on the HARDI conferences as primary working sessions, and also insure adequate opportunity for maximum dialogue between the Supplier members and their wholesaler customers.”

So you may say, “That's pretty simple, so what's the big deal?” Thanks for asking!

Each year, we receive a number of requests from Supplier member companies who have contacted the hotel to reserve rooms to hold “very important meetings” on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday during the conference. (To date, there have been no requests for meeting space when the Conference Booth Program or the golf outing are underway.) When the hotel subsequently denies their requests, they contact the Columbus office for relief. At this point, we explain the “rule” and the logic behind not holding private engagements that would potentially interfere with ongoing HARDI meetings or draw members away from the working sessions. In addition, we explain that we restrict the hotel, by our contract, from providing such accommodations in public meeting spaces during those time periods. It is at this point again that staff hears a reminder of the company name, the critical need of the meeting at this particular time and who will be coming from the home office specifically to attend this meeting. When we again deny their request, on up the ladder it goes until I have the task of yet again turning down their appeal. It is unfortunate that some people cannot comprehend the need for fairness to all and the fact that this is “The Rule.” Sheer wisdom allowed me to determine that there are actually 362 other days in a year when anyone can hold “very important meetings.”

It goes without saying that we, as with you, prefer not to deny customer requests or enforce rules. But without rules to follow that are fair to everyone, we face chaos and “messy situations.”

Don Frendberg,
Executive vice president / COO