Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I love bad accounting

Being in the industry I am in, errors in accounting departments can fall both ways: errors that hurt me and errors that help me.  Usually the mistakes don't account for much, maybe 5% in either direction.  Since they're so commonplace, I usually ignore them even if it means I'm short a little bit.  It all evens out in the end.

Today I went to pick up a check from a client for the first quarter of work for the year.  The check's been sitting there since April 1st, but I've been lazy.  I own my own place with no mortgage, own my car with no loan, and have no real debt of any kind, so getting money isn't a high priority.  What am I going to do with it?  Spend it on a non-existent girlfriend?  Buy myself something I don't need?

I know I spend too much on food and sometimes clothes, but even that's rare and isn't that big of a burden.  Whole Foods and Trader Joe's can kill me in terms of overall spending for the year, but month-to-month it isn't so bad.

So at 9am this morning, I left my humble abode and took off like a bat out of hell on a highway with absolutely zero traffic.  What should have been a 90 minute drive took less than 25 minutes.  I arrived at 9:25am exactly, surprised at my luck.

I walk in, see the gorgeous blonde at reception (who gave me her number a year ago but I never called), gave her the usual chit-chat and flirtation grin, and took off once I was cleared through security.  The woman who handles releasing checks is an old friend who I have followed from job to job with her, and she loves me like a grandson (she's going to retire next year).  She pulls up her check file and goes through about 500 checks to find mine.  I get paid in a corporate name, and she can never remember which one it is (surprisingly, neither can I).  She gives me the envelope and we chat.  She ends the discussion with "See you in 3 months.  Or maybe 6."  She jokes because I've been known to leave checks there for over a year before I find the desire to pick them up.

Their corporate office is in the burbs but I work for their branch in Texas.  All my work is in DFW, and they only pay out of Chicagoland, so it's a pain.

I decide to go to the bank where the senior teller who denied me works, since it is close to where I was.  My usual checks from this company aren't gigantic by any means, hovering around $10,000 a quarter.  Note that this may sound like a lot, but it's really not considering the work I do for them.  Also, the fat ugly bank girl isn't there, so I have no one to make sad.

I rip open the envelope and cough uncomfortably: the check is almost 3X as high as I was expecting.  Hmm, this is a problem.

I jam it back in my pocket, get back in the car, and head over to my client's.  More flirtation with the cute blonde up front, another security check and I'm wandering back to accounting.  Lovely Lisa (the older head of accounting) is out to lunch, so I grab a seat in the conference room and wait.  The conference room has a gorgeous balcony that you can smoke from, so I head out and light up while waiting.

1:30pm comes around and Madame Lisa (as I call her) calls me in over the intercom.  "ChicagoSane, come see Lisa immediately.  You have 2 minutes." She says it just like that.  I have a tendency to talk to anyone I run into, even if I don't know them.  She hates waiting.

I wander in and throw her my check.  "It's too much." She laughs, saying that no one would bother with a small overpayment, it happens.  "No, it's around $17,000 too much."  She looks at the check, and then pulls up my invoices over her computer terminal.

The way I bill clients like them is bizarre.  I send them invoices by the hour, broken down to what I think I did.  They then chop those invoices up, approving or denying work for almost no clear reason.  Most people don't tough my industry because of this: I've submitted $50,000 in work to clients only to get approved for $2,700.  I've also submitted $2,700 in invoices to clients only to get checks for $9,000 after they factor in their own overhead and per diem costs that they think I should be reimbursed for.  It makes no sense.

She says "You submitted to us a total of $18,000.  We approved half." I know.  I was expecting around $10,000.  "Let me check." She taps away at her keyboard, nodding and saying "mmHmm" often.  10 screens flash by, then 25, then maybe 50.  She's popping around in the complexity of her software that I don't comprehend at all.

"Your check is correct."  No, it's way too high.  I don't want to be overpaid this much.  It's a hassle to return.  "No, your check is fine.  Michael decided to drop you a big bonus based on the profitability of the jobs you worked on."  I'm not an employee, so I don't get bonuses or commissions or Christmas turkeys or birthday cards.  Also, Michael is a tight-fisted Jewish fellow with a cheap-skate attitude, so he never would pay me a bonus.

"He approved it, right here," she says as she shows me a screen of gibberish.  Just take the check.  She hands it back to me.

I thank her, try to see the boss (denied) and leave.  Instead of the bank, I go home and toss the check on the pile of junkmail I retrieved from my mailbox.  What to do now?

In my 15 years of doing my job, I've only had 5 or 6 checks recalled, usually for small overpayments.  It's not a big deal.  This is huge, my third biggest overpayment in my life.  I'm nervous about depositing it.  I have cash in the bank, but a check this big is waiting to be blown on a huge dinner, or maybe to buy a nice dress for a lovely lady.  Not that I have a sugar baby right now (and haven't in about 6 years, sadly).  But that's what big money is good for: purposeless spending.

So I'm not sure what I'm going to do.  On one hand I'd love to go out and blow $500 on a dinner with a friend, but none of my friends can afford a taxi to go get dinner.  If I had a sugarthing on my arm for this Friday, she'd be getting an awesome outfit from Nordstrom, but the ladies lately take sugarbaby as the wrong thing (it doesn't mean cumbucket or whore).  That's out.

I don't need anything, nor do I have a desire to buy myself something nice and wasteful.  Maybe some shoes, but even the best might set me back $500.  My bills are paid through December, and ComEd won't take anymore advanced payments without sending me the entire prepaid balance back as a check (they do this once a year anyway, idiots).

Where should I go?  I'm thinking a 4 day trip to Hawaii might be nice.  Or Seattle.  Or Atlanta.  Something for 4 days, anything.

Or I'll just go to my local pub and anonymously cover everyone's tab for the night.  At least I'll get a kick out of passing on my good fortune and "luck" to others, unbeknownst to them.

I do love bad accounting, but I hate not being able to do anything good with my gain.  Oh well, it'll sit in a random bank account, probably forgotten, until I desperately need it someday.


sienna*star said...

Sugar baby? Sounds intriguing and gross at the same time! I love me some extra moneys, the IRS gave me back a nice chunk last week.

ChicagoSane said...

HAH, disgusting and interesting, eh?

I've heard people say it either way but never both. I'll write up my support for the idea now.

Anhalt said...

Re: "the fat ugly bank girl isn't there, so I have no one to make sad."

What is that supposed to mean?

ChicagoSane said...

It was a very immature, passive-aggressive comment regarding a banker who dissed me.


I can get very childish about such stupid things :)