Thanks For Coming – And Staying

Incentives are a good thing. They’re like prizes for completing something, and prizes, of course, are nearly the same as presents. Who doesn’t like presents? Some incentives, however, are disguised as raffles or 50/50s so you don’t notice that you are being enticed to do something. This is fine, too.

Take, for example, the Key West Business Guild’s monthly luncheon last week. It was a typical sort of thing at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort, only the chicken Florentine was way better than the rubber- chicken fare at most other luncheons. But the food’s not the incentive. It’s the raffle tickets board members sell at the entrance that really make everyone stick around until the end and it works. Don’t get me wrong, the topic last week, the mayor’s State of the City address, was a popular one that people would have stuck around for anyway. But those pink raffle tickets sitting next to your coffee cup throughout the meal and presentation kept you in your seat until the guild’s executive director thanked the mayor and held up a fish bowl of pink tickets.

I won – twice. It was excellent, the best five bucks I ever spent. Winning something, anything, feels great. I won a sunset sail for two aboard the Schooner Liberty and a Caribbean Dinner Sail for two aboard the Liberty Clipper, which should be an excellent trip. Someone else won a one-carat sapphire necklace and my friend, who was seated next to me, scored huge by winning $132 in the 50/50. And God bless the business guild for not being one of those organizations that guilts you into donating your share back to the group when you win. Sometimes we need to remember where charity begins, and I, myself, am a nonprofit entity. Ask Wachovia.

The raffle incentive worked last week and no one left until the very end, no one with pink tickets, that is. It got me thinking about other things that could benefit from such prizes, I mean, incentives – like bad movies. I feel I should be rewarded and somehow compensated for sitting through an entire terrible movie. I have no problem walking out of a theater mid-show if I am not enjoying myself, but if I do suffer through the entire cinematic disaster, a free popcorn in appreciation of my time and tenacity would be nice.

Many churches could benefit from an incentive program and, indeed, some do. I remember some Sundays growing up there was coffee and doughnuts in the vestibule following Mass. It wasn’t every Sunday, and you never knew when it would actually occur, but the possibility of a glazed doughnut and a Dixie cup of milk will keep a 6-year-old in the pew for an hour. (As will the glaring looks from parents, and the threats to separate the siblings. But doughnuts were more fun.) Government meetings could increase attendance, and keep the crowd there until adjournment if they sold raffle tickets or provided some other treat, I mean, incentive. How about a parking pass for anyone who stays through 10 meetings? It could be like the frequent diner programs at restaurants and Dairy Queen, which reminds me, I never got my free lunch from In Kahoots after dining with them seven times. They’re not serving lunch anymore.

The cops have a cash incentive in their Crime Stoppers program, which seems to work for some miserably bitter tattletales. But do they not think that having someone thrown in jail will have repercussions for their own karma? I’m not risking it, besides, I wasn’t raised to rat on people. I’m on board with helping the police find a killer, rapist or other violent offender, but I don’t need a cash incentive for it. Cash, however, would help people get through their relatives’ piano recitals, so would booze, or even some of that chicken Florentine from the Grand Key. In the meantime, I’ll be scheduling my dinner cruise and sailing away.

Mandy Bolen’s columns appear in The Key West Citizen

Mandy Bolen's award winning "Tan Lines" column appears bi-weekly in the Key West Citizen. Offering unique insights on life in the southernmost island and life in general, her wit and wisdom has been likened to that of a "female Dave Barry."