One afternoon last year when I was on co-op at Cisco Systems, I went out to lunch with a few other co-ops to a Vietnamese restaurant. I had never tried Vietnamese food before, and the restaurant was a favorite of one of the interns going with us, who happened to be originally from Vietnam.
The lunch was excellent and we all had a great time. At the end of the meal, I was surprised that the intern who suggested the restaurant graciously insisted on paying for everyone’s lunch. While it might be pretty standard for your boss to pick up the tab after lunch, it was different with a peer since the check is generally split.
So what happened? Well, to this day, I have not forgotten this gesture. It was so simple, and the total capital investment required was about $8. Yet it made such a deep impression. While he may not have thought of this at the time, he could end up getting a substantial ROI on that investment. Because of the impression he made on me, I would go out of my way to help this person – get him an interview, make a recommendation, etc.
Bottom line: it is surprising how powerful simple gestures of generosity can be. So next time the lunch bill comes, consider being generous and making that investment.