EXPENSE accountism shows no signs of receding. On the contrary, it begins to raise the question of where expense ends and simple-mindedness sets in. Does every man in a high executive position enjoy being cheated and playing the chump with the company’s money? Just how exquisite must the victuals be when the Majestic Tack and Pushpin Company of America wishes to butter up its distributor from Nirvana (Ohio)? What is a reasonable overcharge for a three-dollar bottle of wine? If the dinner tor two costs fifty dollars, how much does one give the hat-check attendant, who doesn’t get the money anyhow?
The questions call to mind the textile magnate, on a transatlantic passage a few years ago, who asked me what I proposed to tip the room steward. It was an eight-day boat, and the textile man was sharing a double cabin with his general manager. He seemed appalled when I said my tip would be about fifteen dollars. “You’re supposed to tip at the rate of live dollars a day per person for everyone you tip,”the textile man declared.
“That is, you will give him forty dollars?” I asked. “And your associate will give him another forty?” Correct, eighty dollars from the two, and I said I thought this was much too high.
“What do you care?” said the textile man. “You’re on an expense account, aren’t you?”
Executive life has become, in recent years, extremely wall-to-wall. A stranger, sizing up the executive amid his French impressionists and blond woods, treading the springy pile of the executive carpet, quaffing the executive coffee as it is presented by the beautiful secretariat — the stranger has no way of telling what this elegant environment contains. It could be a dairy, the Doakes Foundation, a junk yard, or a publishing house, but whatever the activity, only the best will suffice for the executive needs.
The refinements ol expense account living are multiplied when the executive goes out to dine. His guest, let us assume, is the Nirvana distributor. There has to be a guest: no guest, no expense account, and the executive would be in the preposterous position of having to pay for his own meal. So, even the Nirvana distributor will suffice — a small account, to be sure, but pushpin sales in the Nirvana area are growing rapidly, and it simply won’t do to take the man just anywhere. Let it never be said that Majestic is a niggardly host or that it can’t meet its competition, truffle for truffle.
Dinner, therefore, will be at a little French place the Majestic man has found recently. A man not on an expense account would never dream of going there. Actually, he “found” it in a restaurant column of the New York Times, but the Nirvana man reads the Nirvana Gazette, and the place has just opened anyhow, so novelty is assured.
The principal novelty in this particular restaurant, to judge from the Times column, is its prices: soup, $2.25; first course, $4.00; main course, $8.25; vegetables, $1.50; and so on. Two wines mentioned in the column, one at $8.50 and the other at $14.00, can be had in single-bottle lots at a good Boston retailer at the same price for each, $3.50.
Note: Mustn’t forget to tip the sommelier (not that he won’t remind you somehow).
Dinner over, and signed for to prove that it really did cost the fanciful figure on the bill, the diners make their way to the hard-ticket Broadway musical for which Majestic Tack and Pushpin has thoughtfully provided seats. They both fall asleep, expensively, shortly after the curtain rises.
CHARLES W. MORTON