Freebies and Misers

Recently the wife and I were having a bitching session about some of our relatives and friends, about how despite being rather wealthy they’re rather miserly, both in terms of spending on themselves and spending on others.

While we were wondering why people with so much money are so stingy, the wife noticed a pattern – they are all people who are used to getting freebies in their professional lives.

There are consultants on expense accounts whose every expense on tour is paid for by their clients. There are doctors who are routinely provided “expense accounts” by medical representatives. There are people who work for the government who get a lot of “perks” in addition to the (rather meagre) salaries they make. There are journalists, who when on PR jaunts, are again used to living on an expense account.

The point with all of them is that they are so used to getting others to pay for their expenses that they are simply not used to spending themselves. And so when it is time for them to spend, they spend like they used to in the time before any of these expense account taps opened up for them.

This, for most of the above referred to people, refers to time when they were either students or they were entry level employees – times when they didn’t have much money in life at all. And they end up living the rest of their non-professional (non-expense account) lives spending like they used to as students or entry level employees.

Back when I was a banker making lots of money, I remember having this conversation with a then medical student who was excited that once she became a “big doctor” she would have medical representatives at her beck and call, who would fund her life. I had replied that I would rather make all my money in cash and have the discretion on what I wanted to spend on, rather than have someone else make the decisions on what I should be splurging on.

I guess there are other benefits as well to spending your own money, rather than living on an expense account.

PS: I just remembered that I haven’t “filed expenses” to my client for a business trip I took a couple of weeks ago.

Hosting arrangements and expense accounts

So the convention when you meet someone who has traveled to your city for whatever reason is that the host pays. It seems to be a result of the commenting that you offer food and drink to someone who visits you. So meeting someone even in a restaurant in your city is like you hosting them at a meet and so you pay for it.

And this is a convention that I’ve followed for a while now. If someone’s visiting Bangalore and I meet them here I pay for the meeting. If I’m travelling and I meet someone and they insist on paying, I let them. It’s all part of the convention.

What turns this around, however, is corporate expense accounts. I just met an old friend for drinks and dinner, along with a few other old friends all of who stay in Bangalore. Now we had met because this guy from Gurgaon was visiting, and convention demanded that rather than him paying, all of us together would pick up the tab.

But then it turned out that this guy was in town on work, and hence on a corporate expense account, and so the dinner expenses would be taken by his employer! So when he pot in his corporate card and insisted on paying, and we protested, he said “next time any of you is in Gurgaon you can return the favour”.

It’s all quite bizarre! The conventions have been completely overturned! All Thanks to corporate expense accounts!


I just spoke to the sponsor of tonight’s drinks and he has confirmed that he sponsored them out of his own goodwill and that our drinks were not sponsored by his employer. The error is regretted

Expense Troubles

Sometimes corporate expense accounts work in strange ways. For example, there is a clause in our policy that for a trip of over a week, you are permitted to get your clothes laundered at the hotel “within reasonable limits”.

Given that this is a long trip and that I ran out of jocks, I got some laundered here, paying six dollars to launder each jock (on company expense, of course).

Noble policy; this is all good. There is only one issue here. The jocks that I spent six dollars for getting laundered cost me about three dollars each. Actually for six dollars, I can get pretty good quality jocks at the Century 21 store nearby.

And if it were my six dollars (rather than the firm’s) I would rather spend it on buying new jocks than getting old depreciated jocks laundered. But alas, company policy doesn’t let me expense the purchase of new jocks.

Sometimes corporate expense accounts work in strange ways.

Return to corporate whoredom

Waking up early in the morning
Formal shirt and trousers, neatly pressed
An hour’s commute each way

Conversations by the water cooler
Team lunches; Expense accounts
Hourly coffee breaks

Meetings. Conference calls. Presentations
Studs. Fighters. Free-riders.
Reviews. Deadlines. Status reports.

Salary credit!