Accounting

6 of the Strangest Legitimate Business Purchases Employees Have Made

In an episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver paid $7,000 for Russell Crowe’s jockstrap in an effort to keep one of the few remaining Blockbusters in the country open. Another segment showed him buying $15 million worth of medical debt for less than $60,000 and then immediately forgiving the debt.

Such stunts are definitely entertaining and educational for TV viewers, but it’s not just high-profile cable comedy shows making out-of-the-ordinary purchases; businesses all over the country get creative with their purchases from time to time for the sake of hitting company goals. 

In the absence of pre-approvals and upfront coding, finance teams might only become aware of unusual expenditures when they receive corporate credit card statements at the end of the month—and you can imagine the rush of a panic they feel in that moment.

Below, we run through six of the craziest items employees have bought in the name of their jobs, as well as steps you can take to remain confident that things were purchased according to policy.

1. Llama rental

Llamas

As part of a company photo shoot, one photographer asked to rent a llama to include in the pictures. This $150 expense was approved by the VP of marketing. The identity of the company is unknown, but we would be interested to see how the final photographs turned out.

2. Giant rock-climbing wall

LivingSocial's Rock Wall

LivingSocial, a daily-deals company created in 2007 and acquired by Groupon in 2016, received approval for an unusual office fixture: a giant rock-climbing wall. Installed at the company’s Washington, D.C. office, this perk gave LivingSocial employees the opportunity to exercise during breaks. Other interesting amenities offered by the company include vintage-style telephone booths and Skee-Ball machines.

3. Human skull

Human Skull

Despite its creepy connotations, an $800 human skull was approved by the finance manager for use in a medical experiment. The finance manager admitted, “Purchasing a human skull for a medical experiment, I would say classifies as an ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ expense.”

Does your corporate credit card statement have you wondering, “Who bought this—and why?!”

Download our State of Spend Management Report to discover how finance leaders are solving this challenge:

4. Ferrari

Ferrari

At ArsDigita, a former web development startup based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, founder Philip Greenspun put several Feraris on his corporate card, which he gave as a reward to any employee who recruited 10 programmers for the company. 

5. $22,000 in candles

Candles

Activewear company Outdoor Voices spared no expense when it came to making their stores aesthetically appealing. In 2018, employees spent $22K on Maison Louis Marie No. 04 candles to serve as new store decorations. They also spent $45,000 on fresh flowers and $36,000 on Topo Chico bottled water. 

6. Giant dinosaur

Chartboost's Giant Dinosaur

ChartBoost, a mobile app development platform, purchased an unusual item to add to their office break room in San Francisco. A giant dinosaur, known as “Buster,” has become the company’s mascot, holding a heart-shaped sign that reads, “#WeHeartDevs.” ChartBoost’s office space also boasts a game room with a ball pit, as well as “super-themed” conference spaces with classic games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario. 

Adopt systems that help you “expect the unexpected”

As the above examples show, legitimate purchases don’t always have to be “normal.” Indeed, empowering employees to be creative in their jobs is an excellent way for the company to grow and stay competitive.

Unfortunately, the finance team is often left trying to distinguish fraudulent transactions from legitimate business expenses. Out-of-the-box investments can spur innovation—so long as finance can remain confident that the money was spent according to policy.

To ensure that the finance team isn’t alarmed at month-end—and that they don’t waste valuable time investigating legitimate charges—companies can proactively gather information about these transactions. By enabling pre-approvals and upfront coding, finance teams can maintain accurate purchase data and save time chasing down employees for information.