The Expense Report - another work story (long)

---(From 2007)

Disclaimer: I actually like my job and the people I work with.

Modification to the disclaimer above: It's just that some of them are total FN anal retentive idiots.

I started my current job in January this year. The second day I was here I was off on a plane with the head of marketing Tim, (title is actually CEO of the marketing company and Executive Vice President of my division). I went to far off exotic places like Memphis, Chattanooga, Chicago and Toledo. 

Typically I assume most business travelers pay for stuff on their personal credit card and later file an expense report to get reimbursed. This is how I have known things for quite a while. The way I figure it, as long as they pay me before I get the bill, then no harm, no foul.

So I go on this trip, spend money on stuff for the trip that's work related. I get back to work and gather up all my receipts. The administrative assistant Valerie does the expense reports for all the executives and volunteered to do it for me because I was new, and honestly I didn't know how to fill it out. Not that I couldn't have figured it out, but she did volunteer.

For those of you losing interest in the story, Valerie is 27 years old, Long blonde hair, 34Bx24x32 and around five foot three. She fills out a pair of jeans and a tight shirt that would make a grown man cry.

Back to our story.

So my expense report comes in at around $3600. The whole thing had been floated on my American express card, so I kind of needed to get the reimbursement before the bill or I had to pay it. I have the money to cover it, but prefer that it stays in my bank.

The policy on expense reports has a few sections that will become relevant later

1) Expense reports turned in from the 16th through the end of the month will be available the 15th of the following month. Reports turned in from the 1st through the 15th will be available on the last day of the month.
a) I don't really like this because I don't think it takes this long, but whatever. Mine was turned in prior to the 15th, so I should only have to wait two weeks. That would play out fine with American express.

2) Alcoholic beverages are not a covered expense
a) Makes sense, but if you take a client to dinner, it's not like you tell them "Sorry, I can't allow you to order a beer, it isn't covered."

3) First class travel isn't covered
a) So far this is bad, but I have an out later

4) All computer hardware purchased must be approved by the CIO prior to purchase
a) I'm going on a business trip, so this is fine with me.

5) Office supplies will be ordered by the designated clerical person in each department
a) Uh, ok, I wasn't thinking I would need hanging folders or 1000 paper clips

6) If approved by senior management, exceptions to the reimbursement policy can be made based on business necessity
a) You always need an out !

Valerie filled it out and I basically forget about the expense report and go on my merry way. Around the 1st of the month my American express bill arrives and has around $3600 of work charges on it. I send an email to the guy in accounting asking him if my check is ready

Dear {accounting guy} is my expense check available?

He replies, just like this

Your expense report has been Declined.

There was nothing else on his reply. I seriously said WTF is going on here.

I don't know this guy personally. I have heard he is a very By The Book kind of person that is in the locked, secure, Finance Employees ONLY section of the office up north. Hence I don't have the ability to walk over and ask him what is going on.

I look up his name on the employee intranet phone directory so I can call him. I dial the number and it goes immediately to voice mail. That means he has his phone on "Make Busy" or "Forward to Voice Mail". This is not a good sign. I figure worst case scenario is he must be at lunch or at a meeting (its 9:00 am), so the meeting is a plausible option. I listen to his voice mail as he drones on. After the usual salutations the autobot from finance says

"…if you are calling about accounts receivable, accounts payable, expense reports or check requests all communication needs to be in email format"…"

Ok, so I get the idea to make sure things are covered to ensure there are no problems. I don't like this, and think I could have been told earlier, but I will roll with it.

I go back to my office and hit the email.

Dear {accounting guy} please explain why my expense report has been, as you stated "Declined"

He replies a while later

Your report and the explanation for reimbursement denial along with the applicable polices and procedures has been sent to you via interoffice mail.

Well this just sucks, I'm not in that office. Interoffice mail goes like this, anything not received by noon isn't sent until the next day. The receptionist is better at then she is at getting the office mail out to us. So it usually takes two days.

I get a package from him two days later. It has my expense report, all the receipts associated with it, a copy of the entire policy and procedure for expense reports and an excel page with sections checked off telling me why I won't be paid on this.

I am starting to not like him.

Whatever, so I sit down with the excel sheet and see what I need to work on. Not bad only seven items on my crimes against humanity list. That puts me below Pol Pot but slightly above Pinochet

1) No signature. Expense reports must be signed by the requestor
a) Valerie signed this for me. She does this for all the executives and they get paid. But I'm not at that level, so ill sign it. One down.

2) First class travel is a non covered expense
a) I know this. My flight was booked sitting next to the marketing guy. He requested it, they pay for his, I didn't book the flights. I send off an email to him asking for his approval on the exception to this rule. I don't see this as a problem

3) Alcoholic beverages are a non covered expense.
a) If you read the other thread then you understand this one. In short Tim said buy me a drink, or I paid for dinner, and alcoholic beverages were on the bill. I add a section to my email to Tim asking him to have this waived also.

4) Duplicate flights are a non covered expense
a) What happened was one flight was cancelled and we had to book another flight to get there. I am waiting for a refund. I am not totally sure what to do about this, so I write an email to {accounting guy} explaining that I am waiting for a refund, but that I shouldn't have to float the money when I traveled for business. In essence, why do I have to be sadled with the charge.

5) Computer hardware purchases must be approved by the CIO and are not eligible for expense reports unless a purchase order is not accepted by the vendor.
a) What the hell is he talking about? I didn't order any computer hardware. I add a section to my email to him letting him know I didn't order any computer hardware

6) Air travel expenses are not covered if they do not match the itinerary
a) Now he is being a dick I figure. My original flight was cancelled, it won't match the itinerary. I add more stuff to the email explaining how one flight was cancelled and we got on a different airline at the last minute to get to Atlanta.

7) Office supplies are a non covered expense.
a) OK, guilty, I bought a set of pens and a notebook in Toledo to write things down for a meeting. It was like $12.00 and I bought one sitting in the discount bin.

I sign the expense report. One item down six to go.

I send off the email to Tim and copy Valerie on the first class travel and the cancelled flights. Tim responds and says I was booked first class to go over the next day's agenda and this was a business necessity. Tim adds something about a client meeting and that drinks were authorized. He doesn't outright lie, but he bent the truth about as far as he could. Note to self, Tim kicks ass ! Valerie responds that the second flight to Atlanta was made because the first flight was cancelled. She forwards and updated itinerary to me. Cool, four items knocked out quickly. Two to go.

I don't like it, but ill punt on the office supplies. I don't really want to argue about $12.00 so I'll sacrifice this one and move on. One item left.

I send him an email saying I didn't buy any computer hardware. He responds an hour or so later with a line number on my expense report. I look at the entry and it says "Printing Supplies – Office Depot ,Toledo OH."

I spent $250.00 on getting 40 or so brochures copied and bound for Tim to present to the clients. This isn't hardware. This guy is either being a dick or he didn't read the receipt to verify.

I respond to him this was a request by Tim to get brochures printed for clients.

Ten minutes later he replies, "Copying services are considered office supplies and must be ordered by the department clerical person. If you would like to remove this item from your report and submit it for a purchase order to be completed by the clerical person please do so."

Seriously, this guy is really being a dick now.

I respond in email and copy Tim. I indicate this was a request from Tim to get client brochures made. We were in Toledo there was no clerical person available, it was a last minute request.

Tim replies in typical Tim fashion "Please pay this without further question"

I have to assume that shut him up.

Well all my items have been taken care of. Cool.

I send him back an email, asking if the check will be ready today?

He responds

Expense reports turned in from the 16th through the end of the month will be available the 15th of the following month. Reports turned in from the 1st through the 15th will be available on the last day of the month.

This is getting ridiculous. I forward the email to my boss, give him a brief explanation of things and ask him what he can do.

He sends an email to the CFO and copies {accounting guy} asking if they can put a rush on my check as I have addressed all of the listed concerns.

By the time all this had transpired it was time to go home.

I get a response the next day from {accounting guy} he says he will rush this, but it wont be ready until the 15th due to other pressing issues.

My boss asks, if I can wait or if this is a financial emergency. Well it isn't a financial emergency, I don't want to be a whiner, so I say, I can wait.

This of course means I have to pay the $3600 out of my money and get paid in a few weeks. Whatever"…

The 15th rolls around, I don't get a check. I email {accounting guy} asking him if the check was processed. He says yes [color=red]a check for $2800 was sent interoffice mail to me today.[/color]

Wait, what ?

I respond that the amount of the expense report was $3600, which is more than $2800 by around $800.

He gets back to me later in the day and says that [color=red]duplicate expenses that a refund is pending are not expenseable[/color]

The duplicate expense was from the cancelled flight to Atlanta that I had to pay while I wait for the refund to be processed from the airlines.

I reply and tell him this. He replies and copies my boss and the CFO and re-explains how the company does not pay for expenses where a refund is pending and expected.

Which means I have to float the money for a business expense until I get the refund from the airline. No deep pockets here it seems.

Valerie had previously called the airline and they said they were investigating this, but it could take 30 ~ 45 days. Yea, like they don't know that they cancelled a flight.

At this point I was done with the process, it just wasn't worth it. I have a platinum American express card. I called them and explained the duplicate flights. They saw I booked two flights from LAX to Atlanta in one day and put a hold on the charge until it was resolved.

I got my expense check of $2800 three days later.

40 days later Northwest airlines issued their refund to me.

Accounting guy is still there, waiting for my return with a rubber "Decline" stamp in hand.