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Travel & Expense Purchase Card Company Culture

12 Most Exceptional Business Expenses of 2018

on December 20, 2018

Frankly, it’s not easy coming up with a short list of the most bizarre business expenses for all of 2018. Oversight analyzes more than $2 trillion in annual corporate and federal government transactions, so we see a lot of strange things in all that data.

It was tough, but our account management team put their heads together to come up with this list. So, without further ado, here are the most exceptional business expenses for 2018.

Build your own nuclear fallout shelter. If you stopped and thought about it, the threat of nuclear war would be pretty scary to anyone. But for one employee, this fear apparently loomed especially large this year. To be prepared, they decided to take measures into their own hands, ordering several books with scary titles like “Your Home Fallout Shelter: How to Ensure Your Family’s Health and Survival in a Nuclear Incident” ($9.95) “Nuclear War Survival Skills” ($19.95) and “The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource” ($14.95). Thankfully, Oversight helped the company spot these questionable personal purchases in reams of enhanced level 3 corporate card data.

Lost Ray-Bans. When an employee at a multinational cosmetic company lost her favorite pair of Ray-Bans on a work trip, she reasoned that it would’ve never happened if she hadn’t been traveling on business. So, she bought a new pair and submitted it on the next expense report for reimbursement.

A Most Unusual Client Gift. A sales rep expensed a sports bra from Lululemon as a “client gift.” Later, the client and the sales rep went together to a yoga class, which was also expensed to the company. When questioned, the sales rep saw no harm in the unusual purchases.  

Spilled Coffee. On the way to a client meeting, an employee of an Internet firm accidentally spills his Starbucks coffee on his dress shirt. Naturally, it was his employer’s responsibility to make sure he didn’t miss the meeting or show up wearing a stained shirt. So, he ran into Macy’s and bought a new dress shirt, expensing the $200 purchase. 

$99,000 worth of Lenovos. An employee at a big tech firm expensed $99,000 worth of Lenovo computers. It turns out he had paid the corporate card bill for them, tagging the expenses as “personal.” But who would need that many laptops for themselves? It turns out he was using the corporate discount to buy the computers at a steep discount and then turning around and selling them at a nice profit.

Eyelash Extensions. One employee decided her eyelash extensions should qualify as a business expense and charged the $69 purchase to her company. Fortunately, Oversight flagged the expense as high risk based on the merchant category code (MCC) for the cosmetic store where she got them.

Smokes. Let’s face it: Smoking is expensive. The average pack of cigarettes costs $6 and some change across the U.S. Apparently, the high cost of cigarettes was becoming so burdensome to one employee of a Fortune 500 company that he began regularly altering receipts submitted with his expense report and taping them back together to conceal his cigarette purchases as “fuel.”

Living Large. An employee at a biotech company became quite the big spender, renting a car for a week for $752 (for personal use), racking up $2,500 in office supplies from a CVS Pharmacy in 4 weeks’ time, and charging $1,000 for catering a “meeting,” which ended up being a personal expense. And these were only three of the 7 major policy exceptions flagged by Oversight. Needless to say, this spendthrift got the axe.

Grilling on the Company Dime. Recently, Oversight flagged an exception for $699 Traeger Grill. All we can say is at least this employee economized by buying the lower-priced model. Top-of-the-line Traeger grills go for $1,999.99.

Personal Fuel. An employee was expensing lots of fuel, despite not having a rental car. As it turns out, the employee was doctoring his receipts to hide a different kind of personal fuel he was buying from the gas station: beer and cigarettes.

Parking Lot in the Sky. After implementing Oversight, a medical technology company quickly discovered an employee who had a suspicious pattern of out-of-pocket parking expenses. Upon further investigation, a shared services team member discovered the employee had been submitting the same doctored receipt for a parking deck – get this – that no longer exists.

After all, a bottle of wine is a snack. Right. An employee at a pharmaceutical giant expensed a bottle of wine as a “snack.” Her excuse? She wanted to “save the company money by not having wine at dinner.” The only problem with this story was that receipts showed that she still had wine with her dinner anyway.

With Oversight Insights On Demand®, you can find exceptions like these and root out fraud and waste in your T&E and P-Card spending.

We hope you enjoyed our exceptional business expenses list for 2018. Here's wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and happy New Year!

Download our handy Best Practices Guide to Detect and Stop Employee Expense Fraud.

Beverly Kays

Beverly Kays brings extensive finance, accounting, and supply chain operational experience to her role as Client Engagement Manager at Oversight Systems.