DATELINE: BOSTON, MA, June 22, 2000. It’s break time from the MCAA Conference and time to turn our thoughts to the Red Sox-Yankee game at Fenway Park.

The Yankees take an early 2-0 lead on a two-run homer by Bernie Williams. But the Bosox claw their way back, led by Nomar Garcia-parra. Who wins this battle of East-ern Division leaders? Stay tuned.

I’m sitting about a dozen rows behind the Red Sox dugout, thanks to my friend and contractor consultant Tom DiPietro of Climate Design Systems Inc./ServiceExperts. Tom is the proud holder of season tickets to the Red Sox games…and the Boston Celtics, the Boston Bruins, the New England Patriots, and maybe a few others.

You’re probably thinking that Tom is a big sports fan, loyal to his New England teams. You’re right. But being a sports fan isn’t his only motivation for spending a small fortune on season tickets.

Tom is also customer-focused.

Before I explain that, picture this: Your customer has just moved into a new facility and is very happy with the hvac system you designed and installed. They will need your services to maintain and service equipment in the facility, and hope to expand to other areas in the future. They also have business connections to other people who are looking to upgrade their own facilities or build new ones.

Instead of a thank-you note, you could send them to an exciting professional sporting event featuring their favorite team.

I’d like that, and so would your customers. OK, maybe they wouldn’t like Bruins’ tickets, but how about tickets to the hometown team. And throw in the flowers, too.

That’s the idea behind Tom’s stockpile of season tickets. He uses them to thank his customers for working with him and helping his hvac business prosper.

I’ll admit that many contractors probably don’t have money budgeted for season tickets and that’s OK. The point is: any kind of perk for your customer is a good perk. If you take the time to show your gratitude, chances are it will repay you several-fold.

There are so many good ways to thank customers today and so many people who are willing to offer suggestions.

One of my favorites comes from Ruth King, a regular contributor to The News. Ruth suggests that contractors give cookie jars as thank-you gifts.

The goodwill and lasting impression often cannot carry a price tag. If it leads to future projects and good referrals, the cost of a cookie jar or a pair of baseball tickets is, to quote a cliché, a “small price to pay.”

I pondered Tom’s motivations as I sat watching the game along with Mike Hart, regional vice president of operations for Lennox Retail, Inc. Mike and I weren’t Tom’s clients, but were lucky enough to be in town.

Sporting events like this are a way to bond business partners, sort of taking “schmoozing” to a higher level.

I like the idea of schmoozing customers. It’s part of the business and I believe there are many contractors out there who do special things to show their gratitude. Bosox tickets and cookie jars are but two examples of how our business takes care of their people.

As we dodged the rain and enjoyed the festive over-capacity crowd of 39,000 screaming fans, the hometown heroes came back and beat the Bronx Bombers, 4-2.