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Travel & Expense

How Bizarre, How Bizarre Ooh, baby – it’s (still) making me crazy!

on January 19, 2022

I loved growing up in the 80s and 90s when music was like, so much fun! If you are a member of Gen X like me, you may be singing to yourself after reading that title. But for those who have no idea what I’m talking about, go check out #howbizarre on TikTok for some good laughs.

Speaking of bizarre, Oversight analyzes more than $2 trillion in annual corporate and federal government transactions, so you can imagine the strange things we discover in all that data. You’d be surprised by the unusual logic some employees have for their T&E spending. Here are a few of our favorite bizarre spending stories discovered by our clients.

Build your own nuclear fallout shelter. The threat of nuclear war would be pretty scary to anyone. But for one employee, this fear apparently loomed especially large in 2018. To ensure their preparedness for such an event, they ordered some self-help guides: “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). Using enhanced level 3 corporate card data, Oversight helped the company spot these questionable personal purchases. No word on if that fall-out shelter was ever built.

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 the sales rep also expensed to the company. When questioned, the sales rep saw no harm in the unusual purchases.

Other gifts we’ve seen- Michael Kors purses, Victoria’s Secret gift cards, expensive spa packages. All very cool gifts, but are they appropriate?

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

Since we’re talking about coffee, what do you think about expensing “breakfast” at Starbucks for about $75? That would be today’s coffee and croissant PLUS $50 more to refill your card.

$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.

I’ve seen an altered Walmart receipt with the word “toolbox” written beside a scratched-out item, later determined to be an Xbox 360 - a nice Christmas gift for an employee’s son.

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.

How about expensing spa days and private massages on the company dime? It happens!

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 seven major policy exceptions flagged by Oversight. Needless to say, this spendthrift got the axe.

We’ve also seen an employee remodeling his home buying materials at a home improvement store and listing them as a business expense using his corporate card.

Grilling on the Company Dime. 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.

Oversight also flagged a mismatch on MCC code when employee purchased a grill at a home improvement store and classified it as “meals with others.” If you can’t eat it, it’s not a meal!

Parking Lot in the Sky. Oversight helped a medical technology company quickly discover an employee who had a suspicious pattern of out-of-pocket parking expenses. Upon further investigation, the company discovered the employee had repeatedly submitted the same doctored receipt for a parking deck – get this – that no longer existed.

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 receipts showed that she still had wine with her dinner anyway.

Are beer and cigarettes snacks, too? Some employees seem to think so!

How many bizarre stories have your auditors identified through random-sample auditing? With Oversight, you can easily find exceptions like these and root out fraud and waste in your T&E and P-Card spending.

I’d love to hear more of your inappropriate employee purchasing stories.

How can Oversight help you today? Subscribe and follow along with our Nothing Gets by You Now Blog Series or visit our website to learn more about how our AI platform can help you automate manual processes and empower you to See It All. Spot The Patterns. Steer The Future.

Becky Clay

Senior Product Marketing Manager