Thursday, April 19, 2007


In the fall of 1996 I took my first business trip with the CEO of my company. I had just recently been promoted to VP and he and I headed to NYC to meet with a new record label Sony Music had launched called Harmony Records.

I had started to report to the CEO just weeks before, and we didn’t know each other all that well. Despite a cash crunch our company was undergoing, he decided this trip was important and we needed to go- we just needed to make it a quick overnight trip and keep expenses down.

The trip went extremely well until checkout time. As we stood together at the front desk of our hotel and I received the news of the total bill for my overnight stay, my life flashed before my eyes. I was doomed.

I have always been a gadget guy. I dig all the latest and greatest technology tools to add music, video, and efficiency to my life. I struck up good relationships with our corporate IT folks so I had no trouble getting hold of the coolest new gear and getting them to look the other way when gadgets ran afoul of official IT policies. I had recently got a killer new laptop that I brought on the trip, and I planned on getting some email done after our day of meetings as well as put the finishing touches on a presentation I was working on for a future meeting.

That year a new internet company launched named PointCast. It was supposed to change the world. They touted a new concept called “Push Technology” where the software that resided on your machine would be set to automatically connect to the internet and pull down the latest news, stock prices, weather and more. It worked great at the office and at home. Not so much in a pricey hotel in NYC.

We arrived at LaGuardia at 9:30AM, and were at our hotel by 10AM. Fortunately our rooms were ready so we had about 30 minutes to freshen up before our 11AM meeting. I got to my room, unpacked a few things, and decided to check email. In those days before wireless broadband in hotels I needed to configure my auto-dialer on the external modem to navigate the various required key strokes to dial out of a hotel- 9, then a series of commas for pauses, and the area code and number to connect to our company server to fetch email. All went well, and I had my email downloaded in a few minutes. I headed out the door.

The meeting went well- we wrapped up by 2PM, then headed across town for another meeting, then a third meeting, and then a dinner together at one of his favorite restaurants. The meal was wonderful, and we got back to our hotel rooms by about 10PM. I was asleep by 10:10PM. Too much good food and wine to do the work I wanted to get done that night.

I awoke at 6AM when the wake-up call came in, jumped in the shower and was changed and ready to head out the door for our ride to the airport. I went to pack up my laptop and noticed that it was connected to the server at the office pulling down emails. I also noticed that PointCast was connected and letting me know it was cold and rainy outside. I turned off the laptop, packed it up, and headed out the door.

Bill walked up as I was checking out and said good morning. Right then the front desk clerk handed me my receipt and noted the total- $1,300. Yes- one.thousand.three.hundred.dollars.

I laughed nervously as Bill exclaimed “what?” and I told the clerk there must be some kind of mistake. The clerk checked the printed receipt and said that it looked like I had a rather large number of long distance phone calls- $1.50 for the first minute, $1 for each additional minute. It turns out my laptop that I had left connected to the phone line in my room had constantly been dialing in by itself to check email and get ‘pushed’ all the latest and greatest news from It was basically connected every minute it was set up in my room- from 10AM the day before to about 5 minutes before I walked up to the counter. I laughed nervously again.

Bill was not amused.

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