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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And now let's get an update on another casualty of the economic meltdown, the holiday office party.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Bad times have forced lots of companies to downsize their parties, and that includes us here at NPR. Our party this year was smaller and more somber, which seemed fitting given the layoffs our bosses announced a few days later.

INSKEEP: Last week we asked you, our listeners, to tell us how your workplace is marking the holidays, and it turns out lots of you were in the same boat. We heard from one listener who asked us not to use his name. He works at a Silicon Valley dot com that in years past hosted a fancy-dress dinner with an open bar and a live band. This year's version - drinks and appetizers at a local pool hall. No spouses allowed.

MONTAGNE: Casey Heinrich(ph) in Littleton, Colorado, wrote that his company canceled its party outright, but - and here's the good news for Heinrich and his colleagues - the cash will instead be given straight to the employees.

INSKEEP: Meanwhile, if our mailbag is any indicator, companies across the country are sending the money they would have spent on a party to charity. We got one letter from the extended education department at Adams State College in Colorado.

MONTAGNE: Cheryl Ruybal says this year the department decided to skip the usual catered dinner. Instead, they adopted a needy family in the community. The department still got together for a potluck.

Ms. CHERYL RUYBAL (Program Manager, Adams State College): People brought in comfort food. We had soup and chili and cornbread and things like that. So once everyone had eaten, we cleared off all of the tables, and we had already organized the gifts for the individual members of the family. So every table just went and got a box of gifts and started wrapping. And it was just a jovial spirit.

INSKEEP: Jovial may not be the word that Ed Fasani would use to describe this holiday season. Fasani is the owner of a company called In a New York Minute.

MONTAGNE: That's a catering company based in New Jersey. And normally at this time of year, Fasani is rushing from office party to office party. This holiday, business is down, as you might imagine - way down. And he joined us to talk about it. Good morning.

Mr. ED FASANI (Caterer, In a New York Minute): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: How many parties are on your books for this particular holiday season?

Mr. FASANI: Well, we had, the 13th was a heavy day. We have a bunch of parties coming up on the 19th. It's only four, though. And I guess this season, holiday parties, we have about nine booked total. This time last year was somewhere in the 30s.

MONTAGNE: That's way down.

Mr. FASANI: Yeah, it's way down. And what we had to do was we came up with a new menu. We lowered our prices. We're feeling the effects. We had 14 employees three months ago, and little by little, because I had a feeling this was going to be a lean year, and I didn't want to have to, around Christmas time, tell - you know, I gave everybody enough time to go out and find some work right now. And I didn't realize it was going to be as, you know, as tough as it is because my customers, I've carried them with me for years and years. And I have people that call me now that still have called me 20 years. This year they're not calling.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, people might not be familiar with Jersey City, where you are. You're right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. And a lot of financial services firms are located right there in Jersey City.

Mr. FASANI: Wall Street West is what they call it. There's companies like DLJ, Merrill Lynch is there, American Express is there. We have our share of companies.

MONTAGNE: And those companies and also maybe other companies that they might support, those are some of your customers?

Mr. FASANI: Yes, they are.

MONTAGNE: What are your clients asking for this year that maybe is different that last year?

Mr. FASANI: Well, we usually have some grandiose parties where we bring in four or five servers and we bring in bartenders. We arrange for liquor for the company. No one has asked about liquor all year long. No one has wanted servers. No one has wanted top-shelf parties. What we're doing this year is mainly lunches. No real hot food, no table decorations. It's just non-frill, is basically what people are doing, which is fine also, you know. Business is business. But it's just all the way around, it's just not there. It's just a sign of the time, and you know the way business is. But we'll weather it. We'll weather it. We'll get through it.

MONTAGNE: Well, good luck to you, and thank you for talking with us.

Mr. FASANI: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Ed Fasani is owner of the catering company In a New York Minute, and he joined us from our bureau in New York.

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