Corporate sponsorships at meeting gets mixed reviews

November 1, 2011

Dr. McDonnell recalls a scenario involving hotel key cards and corporate sponsorship at a recent AAO meeting.

"You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertising."-Norman Douglas

"We are advertised by our loving friends."-William Shakespeare

Ultimately, my turn came and a smiling hotel employee beckoned to me to join him at the desk. We performed the usual ritual: I confirmed that my flight had been reasonably pleasant, handed over my credit card to be swiped through the machine and driver's license to be scrutinized, initialed a piece of paper in 25 different places, and disclosed the number of hotel room keys I would like.

Then, something unique happened. The employee no longer was wearing a smile, but instead had a wary look on his face.

"Do you mind having a room key with this [company's] name on it?" he asked me, while holding up a credit card-shaped key. The key had the name of a large manufacturer of products used by ophthalmologists, and the image of a medical device commonly used in eye surgery. I shifted my gaze to the hotel employee, who now looked as though I might try to hit him.

"Have you been getting a lot of complaints about this?" I asked him.

"Yes, sir," he replied. "Some doctors have been getting very upset and refusing to accept these keys, and I have had to try to find an alternative for them."

"Interesting," I thought.

"What are my options?" I asked the employee, with a straight face. "Do you have room keys with dirty pictures on them? You know, the kind that New York congressmen send via Twitter to their constituents."

Unsure how to respond, the employee just looked at me.

"I'm only kidding," I said. "The key is fine."

The visibly relieved employee began to smile again. "Thank you, sir."

I took my key, promised to have a nice day, and headed off to my room.

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