If you’ve ever filed an expense report, you probably have a funny story about it. Here’s one from Steve Otto, a sportswriter for the Tampa Tribune:
“They want my long johns?” I repeated, in disbelief.
“They aren’t yours,” she said. “They belong to the Tribune.”
The most famous expense account story I know has several versions, all identical but for the name of the publication. People Who Should Know have sworn to me that it really happened at Time Magazine, so here it is.
A reporter based in Los Angeles was sent to Alaska to cover a story in February. The reporter, living in LA, did not own an adequate winter coat, and so bought one and put it on his expense report. The report was bounced back by New York, with an attached note: “Time Inc. does not buy personal goods for reporters on assignment. Parka expense denied. Please resubmit.” The reporter did so, with a report that had the same bottom line and an attached note: “Expense report resubmitted. Go ahead — find the parka.”
Oh, OK, one more. In her excellent memoir And So It Goes, Linda Ellerbee tells the story of NBC reporter Jack Perkins, being reassigned to New York after many years in the Orient. He cabled something like “Presume NBC will pay to move personal effects and junk to new assignment.” Of course, the accounting office consented, which is how NBC got stuck moving a full-sized Chinese junk halfway around the world.