Dollar bills and coins for tip or gratuity
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Doing Expense Reports Was Never Bad for Me — Until it Took its Toll…

eading this article written by Chris McGinnis of TravelSkills pertaining to business travelers completing expense reports reminded me of an incident which I will never forget when I worked for a company years ago — at which I can laugh now but was quite ludicrous and irritating at the time.

I never minded doing expense reports to be reimbursed for expenses incurred during business trips, as the instructions to complete them were usually straightforward to me — even though there was the occasional disagreement as to what expenses were allowed and which ones were not. They were usually resolved in a matter of a few minutes. Controllers of corporations knew by experience that they could trust the expense reports which I submitted — especially as I do not drink alcoholic beverages and therefore never attempted to submit those as expenses.

The aforementioned company had a bizarre policy which to this day I still do not understand: receipts were required to be taped on sheets of paper before being stapled to — and submitted with — the expense report. Perhaps it was to keep things neater or to not lose smaller receipts. Regardless, that process added a significant amount of extra time to complete the expense report — as well as a full tape dispenser nearby. No other company for which I worked had that requirement — but I digress.

One day, the controller of the company walked over to my cubicle to discuss a discrepancy with an expense report I submitted.

“There is an expense with which I have an issue.”

“What is the problem?” I asked.

“It shows here that you drove on the Garden State Parkway to a customer located in this city.”


He whipped out a map.

“You could have exited here,” he said as he pointed to a specific location on the map, “and saved 35 cents on the toll.”

I was dumbstruck. Is my expense report being held up over a dispute of 35 cents?!?

The person to whom I reported directly joined in on the discussion a few minutes later, which would up lasting at least 45 minutes. He could not believe the reason for the dispute either. Is the controller for a division of a multinational company really arguing over saving 35 cents? Do I really have to explain why I drove a certain route, for which there were a plethora of reasons?

If you are thinking to yourself that the company spent significantly more money than 35 cents on the salaries of three people engaged in this discussion, then you have not included the salary of at least a fourth person who was seated at his cubicle and stopped working to overhear this ludicrous conversation. I spotted him sitting in his seat as he snickered uncontrollably.

After all of that, I was allowed to keep the toll receipt of 35 cents on my expense report anyway; and I was eventually reimbursed for it.

Needless to say, I left the company not long after that incident.

Now it is your turn: what are some of the most ridiculous, peculiar or strangest stories pertaining to expense reports which you would like to share with fellow readers of The Gate? Do you despise working on expense reports in general; or do you not mind completing them?

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I do not mind doing expense reports. I do a lot of travel and filling these out weekly is a part of the job. Plus, since I earn many points/miles from this ravel, filling out the reports is important if I want to cover the bills incurred.

    My employer takes the expense report and forwards it to the Accounts Payable people, and I usually have a direct deposit to my account by Friday (if I make the deadline; following Friday if I happen to miss).

  2. I am really curious to see what exit you took and to what town. They should be glad you were on the Parkway instead of the Turnpike. The Turnpike rates are absolutely insane.

    Did the Controller realize that the salary cost because of the time the three of you discuss it even for a minute wasted more than the cost of the toll he was trying to point out.

  3. I worked for a large US company which just about everyone would recognize the name.

    Anyway, it appeared that some salespeople were cheating on their expense reports (charging up big tabs for themselves and then claiming a lot of customers were there). The company decided that all meal receipts now needed to be itemized to show the items ordered.

    While this seems reasonable, it was one of those zero-tolerance policies. I had to travel a lot to support (but not entertain) clients. I typically would get a sandwich to go for dinner and go back to the room to eat after leaving the office late.

    As it turns out, my $10 dinners at a local sandwich shop were turned down because I only had the credit card receipts. I protested, but ended up eating the charges because I didn’t want to wait longer for my reimbursement. I also ended up leaving later that year.

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