For example, I like to shake the hand of people I do business with.
Additionally, I think it's generally better to refrain from commenting on how people spend their time and money, because you certainly don't want them to reciprocate.
The same is true of face-to-face meetings. In addition, I suspect that Shankman wasn't just going for the meeting—he was going to communicate how important the meeting was. You don't just spend hours on a plane for something frivolous; he was sending a signal and reaping face-to-face rewards.
A brief story, although it's not on the same scale as Shankman's: I'm a grad student in English Lit at the University of Arizona, which means I teach freshman composition. Students e-mail me all the time. Constantly. Unless there's some compelling reason, I usually answer them in class, and, if what they want or need requires a longish explanation, I tell them to come to office hours (note that if they can't make office hours, I also do office hours by appointment).
This has a three-fold benefit: it cuts down on the amount of e-mail I receive over the course of the semester because students realize I won't answer frivolous e-mails twelve hours after they're sent. If I have follow-up questions, or the student does, those questions are easier to ask face-to-face. Misunderstandings caused by not not being face-to-face are evaded; it's hard to see context from e-mail. I think everyone has had misunderstandings caused by not having enough information. Finally, if they want me to read their papers or other work and show up to office hours, I know they really want me to read their work, and their desire to get feedback isn't just a passing fancy. The back-and-forth that can come from reading work and immediately responding to it can't be easily duplicated, especially among non-professionals, over e-mail or other asynchronous communications.
I meant to list three things, I really did. But the reasons kept popping into my head, and I think they're all valid.
Speak for yourself, I'm fine with it. Not only that, but I am tremendously wasteful and unnecessarily luxury-minded at times, so if this guy wants to critique my spending then it might be more likely to be the opening of a fruitful conversation.
Further, what if those who pay for the lunch meetings feel that it was worth any price? How are you going to convince them they are wasting their money if a webcam chat wouldn't actually be a replacement in their eyes, and if they don't care about the dollar amount spent on lunch?
PS: Ever wonder why Berkshire Hathaway is not located in NY City even though it's managing so many subsidiaries? Could it be even with a crappy website they better understand how technology has changed the business landscape?
(Edit: I forgot - he named it "The Indefensible".)
I can easily imagine the traditionalist "A Gentleman's Word is His Bond, Seal the Deal With a Handshake" sort of C-level executives. From a purely economic cost/benefit standpoint, if the 100k in opportunity cost/travel/etc is going to turn more than 100k in profit, it would make economic sense to do it. You could probably get some marketing mileage out of it as a nice symbolic gesture with some glossy photos in $finance_mag as well.
At the same time, you need some way of managing/restraining that sort of thing lest you end up with $200,000 "working lunches" which are nothing more than a brief holiday on the company dime.
I've no idea how Berkshire Hathaway operates. Certainly I can see the opportunities for tech to reduce the need for physical meetings in the general case, but this whole argument is about the special cases.
Having a fancy Cisco full-room telepresence/videoconference rates higher than a skype call with a webcam, which (imo) still rates higher than a regular conference call. For higher latency interactions, email (or enterprise groupware and whatnot) is the hands-down winner. Those things might be where the real work gets done (and "my people get together with your people and make it happen"), but they don't have the same symbolic significance.
Our new world mentality where such cost is considered obscene just doesn't map to the genteel, where spending that much money in order to secure a handshake is a matter of showing appropriate respect.
I'm not saying such a culture is _right_, but I am saying it has its reasons for its wastefulness.
uh, no. there's no problem with the internet critiquing spending habits. certainly not because we should fear our own excesses coming up.