Citibank’s Free Hot Dogs and Premium Millwork

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Last Friday, the Citibank branch nearest the White House (14th and G) bought out a street corner hot dog stand for a few hours, and gave anyone who passed by free hot dogs. As a regular purchaser of hot dogs at this particular hot dog stand–cost $1.50, condiments included–I considered writing a funny blog post about the irony. After all, Citibank is being propped up by the U.S. taxpayer. Didn’t that make these TARP dogs? What more comical way to illustrate the degree to which taxpayer money is going to waste? Or were the free franks an early indicator that the crisis had passed, leaving Citibank back in the black?

I never wrote the post, since it seemed a bit petty. The same Citibank branch has given away hot coffee before in its lobby (yes, I am a Citibank account holder), and maybe all the free giveaways actually bring in more business, making it a win-win for the taxpayer: Free dogs with a quicker return on the bailout funds. I have no hesitation, however, in writing about Bloomberg News’s report that Citibank CEO Vikram Pandit may soon be the beneficiary of a $10 million redesign of his executive suite in New York. Citigroup told Bloomberg that the redesign is part of a “global space saving initiatve” that “will help save money over time.” (Executives are moving from two floors of offices to one, neccesitating the upfront cost.) The new offices will include “premium grade” millwork and “soft seating” open areas. That ain’t the same as a hot dog.

I would bet that Congress will have some further questions about the redesign. Just a few weeks back, Pandit came to Congress and told lawmakers, when asked about the recent plans to buy a new Citibank corporate jet, “We did not adjust quickly enough to this new world, and I take responsibility for that mistake. We need to do a better job of acknowledging and embracing the new realities. Let me be clear with the committee — I get the new reality and will make sure Citi gets it.”