Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dante's Quadruple circle of hell - The Expense System

I have a fervent dislike of expense systems. It's not that I have particular dislike of an expense process but it's the systems themselves that always get me.

First, a good example (as in one I like) of an expense process.

The company gives me a company credit card which the company owns. There's a limit on the card. I spend as is required on a principle of trust. The company accountants receive the bill. If anything looks odd they come and ask me.

This is my favourite expense process, it's blissfully happy. It works on trust as in the company trusts me and gives me this right. It's hassle free and occasionally the accounts team might ask what this or that item was for. It works on an exceptions basis.

The few times I have experienced this process, I've been delighted.

Second, a bad example (as in one I hate) of an expense process.

The company gives me a company credit which I own (i.e. it's my money). I spend as is required, in other words I dip into my own pocket and spend on company stuff.  Ok, it's called a company credit card but it's actually my money.

Then after spending my money, I have to fill in forms to claim my money back. There are rules, usually lots of them and often discussions about whether this item is valid or not and of course I have to have receipts.

I usually have to fill in a horrendously detailed system, upload scanned images of receipts, comply with the rules, deal with any discussion - which all takes up my time. Along with this, there is often any number of other authorisation systems which have to be complied with in order to get back my money which I've in effect lent the company. Of course any late charges are my responsibility and there's no question of interest being paid.

The many times I have experienced this process, I've hated it.

In fact, I normally start to respond at a subconscious level by avoiding any expense. I start to realise that things I would normally do, I avoid. It's the equivalent of being invited to a pub by a friend, them asking you to pay for the drinks but they'll pay back later and when it comes to later they ask for itemised receipts and start questioning. The chances of me being available next time I'm invited drops quickly to zero.

I do find however some people love it because of some other benefit like they gain air miles on the card or some other point scheme. As someone who has taken a thousand flights in their life - the last thing I ever want is air miles.

So why am I mentioning this?

Well expenses for me can often be a time of increasing expletives, frustration and the thumping of a keyboard. But, it turns out my uncle enjoys the experience and even has an expense afternoon. A part of his week he sets aside for doing expenses routinely.

However, he does feel a bit guilty about this because he feels it's not proper work.  Well I agreed with him. In my experience filling out expense systems is not proper work, it's in fact hell and as such should count for quadruple time.

But I'm curious, do other people feel guilty about using work time to fill out expense systems? Why?