Business Diary: Office knees-ups cost half-a-billion

Phew, we were starting to worry. Without certain hardy perennials – a Daily Mail story about repeats on the telly, for example – it just isn't Christmas. And with less than two weeks to go, we hadn't seen the "cost of the Christmas party" classic. Fortunately, here's Travelodge with some dubious research about the economic cost of a knees-up. "This revelry will cost £620m," the budget hotel group reckons. "On average, workers will spend three hours and five minutes just staring into space due to a raging hangover."

We're from HP and we're here to help

Is Hewlett-Packard the scariest company in the world? If you're due to negotiate with HP any time soon, cross your fingers it doesn't send one of its "lean sigma black belts". This is – no joke – how HP describes an elite group of European staff who it puts through business school each year. They're particularly focused on identifying waste, which presumably means telling employers how many staff should get the chop.

'Rich sent me' cuts no ice at Virgin

It's no surprise to us Sir Richard Branson is a popular guy, but Virgin Atlantic, his own airline, reckons he may not have quite so many friends as it might appear. The "I'm a friend of Richard" gambit is the most common tactic of customers seeking an upgrade, Virgin says, though it has also published some more imaginative efforts. We particularly like the story of the man who suggested to the Virgin desk the stress of his wife's pregnancy merited an upgrade – for him, that is, rather than his wife, who the customer was happy to see left in economy.

The £60k lunch not on RBS watch

So the Diary owes Royal Bank of Scotland an apology. We ran a snippet on Saturday remarking on the bank's chief executive, Stephen Hester, labelling his own colleagues "stupid" following reports of a bash earlier this year in which a group of bankers noisily spent £60,000 on a boozy afternoon in a London bar. The bank points out that the employer of the boozers in question was never identified – so Hester wasn't talking about his own staff but the métier. Our humble apologies for having suggested that RBS bankers would ever behave in such a fashion.