Things We Can’t Charge to Clients

David’s mother, my dear mother-in-law, is such a nice, kind, compassionate person that the worst thing I have ever heard her say about someone or a situation is that he/she/it, it is “interesting.” When I say something or someone is “interesting,” I am using the word as it is typically used, to imply someone or something that holds my attention, is not boring, etc. But, when Carole uses “interesting” to describe someone or something, she is telling the astute listener the situation was not fun, the person is not nice, and, in general, the person and/or situation should be avoided. In this post, I will use Carole’s word, “interesting,” to describe some of my former co-workers and employees and their habit of charging to our client just about everything under the sun, believing they are entitled to spend our clients’ money in any way they like, “just because.” When our research team is traveling and working on behalf of a client, there are numerous items for which they are responsible for compensating us, for example, air fare, rental car expenses, hotel rooms, and meals. When David and I founded Magnus, I included in our policy manual a lengthy description of all of the items for which we are reimbursed by our clients. In addition, I included monetary guidelines for meals, in an attempt to avoid one of my employees ordering the $250 “seafood tower” for dinner on a research day. Alas, despite all of David’s and my efforts on behalf of our clients, there are some people who just don’t get it. Here is a partial list of things I have refused to authorize to be charged to a client: (1) dry cleaning expenses that were due to an employee’s sloppy eating habits; (2) pet sitting expenses for precious Fido, due to an employee having to travel out of town; (3) shoe shine expenses, because everyone needs shiny shoes when spending time with a client; (4) last minute purchases of essential items such as underwear, shoes, socks, ties, toothbrushes, nail clippers, makeup, etc. because the employee forgot to pack them; (5) beer, wine, and liquor, because my employee wanted to have a drink to relax after a long work day; (6) mini bar supplies, because “it was just there and I had to eat the $10 candy bar”; and (7) my personal, and very, favorite, X-rated movies on the pay for view channel in a hotel room because the employee likes to unwind while watching pornography. As with the other topics in these posts, I am not making any of this up! It’s all true! And, just when I think I have seen it all, another “interesting” employee makes another serious error in judgment regarding what our clients will and won’t pay for, leading me to have more to write about in future posts. Stay tuned!

Lest any client read this and think they have been charged for items #1 to 7, rest assured that, when compiling a bill, the charges are reviewed by me. I am pretty sure I’ve caught it when employees have attempted to slide something by in this regard. But, it has amazed me that these employees felt entitled to the item in question, despite this being discussed in our employee manual. The employees’ surprise at being docked for charging something to their hotel room which was not client billable is awkward to me, but it is necessary to ensure that they learn what is or is not permissible. I usually ask them to consider how they think the client would react if he/she saw the itemized bill with these items on it – that usually ends the discussion. It just goes to show one must look at the details and not assume compliance. Trust but verify.

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