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"Avoid Awkward Coffee Shop Encounters"

By Kimberly Palmer
Posted 01/30/2008

Whether you're meeting a blind date or a client, get-togethers at the coffee shop can be awkward. If you arrive first, do you buy yourself coffee, or wait for your guest? If you arrive second, do you stand in line to get coffee while your guest waits for you? Or do you follow the example of Lucy Liu's date on last week's episode of Cashmere Mafia? He got there first, ordered three different drinks for her, and let her choose which one to have. Expensive, yes, but also efficient. It seemed to win Liu over.

I first heard about this problem from Denise Baerg, owner of a marketing consulting company in Minneapolis. As someone who meets clients at coffee shops three or four times a week, she wanted to know how best to handle the potential awkwardness. To answer her questions, I turned to my favorite protocol consultant, Judith Bowman, author of Don't Take the Last Donut.

Bowman's advice is simple: Inviting people to meet you at a coffee shop is just like inviting them to your office. You should arrive early so you can get a table and greet them when they arrive, and of course offer to pay. Don't buy coffee for yourself until they get there, but if you know what they drink, then go ahead and have it waiting for them. If you arrive second and your guest already has a coffee, then either go ahead and buy a cup for yourself or skip it altogether. Standing in line can take a long time, warns Bowman, and it may be better spent getting down to business.

That sounds right whether you're meeting a potential client or a potential mate.

This story appeared in the January 30, 2008 online edition of U.S. New & World Report.
Tel: 508-888-7800   E-mail: Judith Bowman

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