Found out

Sep 22 2010 Published by under Etc

Dear Finance Office,

I never thought you would catch me, but your diligence has paid off. To truly understand my crime, we need to go back a few years to when I was an undergrad. You see, at that time all I wanted was $46.72 worth of random supplies from Home Depot. But in my lowly life as an undergrad, this was out of my reach... so I plotted.

First, I got myself involved in research between my second and third years of college. I worked many hours of two years to produce a thesis, a couple of papers and admission to graduate school. I left my home country, family and girlfriend and went to get a PhD with a well respected member of the scientific field I wanted to pursue. It was a hard decision, but I had my eye on the prize: $46.72 in Home Depot goods.

I spent two years doing the long-distance relationship thing in different countries and time zones before I married my girlfriend, who moved to a new country with me. She knew how important my dream of Home Depot supplies was to me and I owe her a lot for being willing to move her life. After 5 years of graduate school, I had my PhD, but still no university purchasing card to abuse to my own selfish ends.... so I plotted.

I started a postdoc at a new university and started a family. I wrote grants. I wrote papers. I did research and supervised others doing research. I went to meetings and gave talks. When the time was right, I sent out job applications. LOTS of job applications. I got some interviews and some went better than others. I chose Employment University in no small part because they offered university purchasing cards.

I toiled at building up my lab for two years and even sat through your three hour 'training' session that was like a long winded parental speech about responsibility and how closely we would be watched. I endured much, but I was so close.

I used the Pcard for all sorts of things, diligently keeping receipts and lulling you into feeling like I was up to the task. I was never late, never lost a thing. Always crossing my t's and dotting those i's.... and I plotted.

Finally, I thought I had covered myself well enough to get away with a crime over a decade in the making! I went to Home Depot and carefully chose my precious items, ensuring they added to my envisioned total. I purchased them with my university card and when it went through a nearly wept in joy. I rushed out of the store, clutching my hard sought items to my chest, laughing manically. I thought I had won.

But no.

Your sharp eyes caught my missing receipt and the accusations started. You sent me emails in blue enlarged text! I knew I was doomed, and no amount of explanation was going to make up for the fact that there is no receipt. Letters were written, promises were made, and my Pcard was nearly revoked. I would estimate that ~$400 in employee time was used to rectify my egregious flaunting of the Pcard rules and regulations and I am now under double secret probation.

But for a few brief moments, as I held that $46.72 in Home Depot supplies in my hands after so much work, it all seemed worth it.

And I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids.

15 responses so far

  • Joseph says:

    It is amazing how much importance is attached to an easily lost piece of paper. The worst part is having the reciept would not prove that the use of the funds was appropriate, merely that you had kept the paper trail.

    Was it not at least an option to *ask* what the expense was for and adjuticate it that way?

  • James Sweet says:

    heh. Reminds me of the time Blockbuster was on the verge of referring me to a collection agency because of an outstanding bill I didn't even know I owed them... for six dollars.

  • a says:

    my supervisor recently had to attend a course about the ethics and use of a p-card after lending it one of her students, and who lost a receipt for a <$10 purchase of highly sought after items of flagging tape, a sharpie and nails (not from Home Depot but Home Hardware).
    Hope you don't need to do a course about the importance of your receipts...

  • jc says:

    I got hauled into the principal's office for a $15 wallyworld receipt that had meow mix, fishnets, bungee cord, and controltop pantyhose for jerryrigging equipment in the field. I heard the call to my advisor about it was equally hilarious.

    Try turning in receipts from gas stations in South America. Oh, receipts? Good luck GETTING receipts from gas stations in South America.

  • FSP says:

    You probably bought some special Home Depot product that contains alcohol, or maybe you got some glue to sniff (with your students, most likely), and then 'lost' the receipt so your morally corrupt purchases could not be detected easily. Thank heavens your university, which sounds like my university, has vigilant accountants who will stop at nothing, not even incompetence, to get their job done.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    FSP, do we work at the same place?

  • chemicalbilology says:

    I'm surprised they didn't give you the option of paying for expensive, online receipt-keeping school, to keep this little peccadillo off your record. There obviously isn't enough political corruption in your state.

  • tideliar says:

    I am disgusted. I thought you were a Moral Man PlS. Thank GOD for sharp eyed accountants with too much time on their hands.

  • KBHC says:

    Wow. This might be my most favoritest post EVAR. You so completely captured how I feel about university bureaucracy.

    For my part, I dreamed for years and years of taking one form I had been approved to use for a particular purpose, and then splitting the information into two pieces of paper to continue to use for the same purpose but in a context where two pieces of paper made more sense. I dreamt of staying under the radar, clutching my two pieces of paper to my chest that were just like the one piece of paper, and viciously wielding my power over others, sowing seeds of high risk and deception and non-compliance everywhere I went. But no, my two pieces of paper were discovered and I was FOILED.

  • AK says:

    You need to find a sympathetic person in accounting, bribes often work.

    Reminds me of the time when I was working on a federal crew where our food expenses were covered by Uncle Sam. I slipped a box of KY jelly (a non-food item) into the cart of a particularly difficult coworker. When accounting discovered jelly that wasn't really jelly, they freaked out a caused a flap that lasted months.

  • CNA Training says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • "You sent me emails in blue enlarged text! " I laughed so hard when I read this. There must be a textbook somewhere that teaches people to use large colored text for these kinds of circumstances.

  • You too? They came after me for $5 and change I think it was. I haven't been back since. And then they wonder why they're bankrupt?

  • theshortearedowl says:


    You can ask for a reprint receipt from many big chain stores if you bought on a credit card or gave them a phone number.

    My life is held together by work-arounds for problems that should not exist.

  • theshortearedowl says:

    Btw, I got charged fees that should have been waived for graduate students, and didn't figure out that my waiver hadn't been processed until after the due date. They were, at one point, threatening to give me a $100 late fine even after accepting that they were fees I didn't have to pay in the first place.

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