As you know, I went on a conference to Ohio at the beginning of the month. My university said they would pay for my trip – fabulous. Now, of course, I paid for Superman’s plane ticket, but, as I am representing the university by presenting my research, they (are supposed to) pay for my things – airfare, hotel, gas, etc.
I tried to save the university money. I really did. I booked a cheap flight two hours away instead of the airport 30 minutes away. I stayed with some friends instead of booked a hotel room. We rode in their car instead of rented a car. I just really cared about getting the money from that plane ticket back.
Now, imagine my surprise when I come back, have all my paperwork filled out, and then get an e-mail from a lady in personnel who informs me that – oh, wait, the university cannot pay for my airfare.
The first go-round we had with this was when I turned in my receipt for my airfare. Personnel Lady, who had a bird-like voice and one of those “I’m-going-to-act-like-I’m-helping-you-but-I'm-really-not-going-to-help” attitudes, looked at it and said, “Oh, I’ve never seen a receipt look like this before.”
My brow creased with concern. “But the information’s there, right?” I asked worriedly. “I mean, it shows that I went through the correct travel agency.”
“Oh, I see the name, but…this receipt doesn’t look like ANYTHING I’ve EVER seen before,” PL replied, looking at me suspiciously – as if I were smart enough to forge such a document (which, let’s admit – I’m soooo not).
“But…it says ABC Travel Agency on it,” I repeated, TOTALLY confused and a little apprehensive. I really needed to get reimbursed for that airplane ticket.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’ll see what I can do. Do you have a credit card statement showing that you paid for it?”
I gave her everything I had – credit card statements, receipts, airline tickets – the whole nine yards. And what do I get?
“I’ll see if this will work,” PL replied dubiously. “When is the credit card bill due?”
I glanced warily at her. I had started on my paperwork THEVERYMOMENT I had returned.
“It was due on the 10th,” I replied, a little agitated. It was now the 21st.
The next day, PL came to my office and said, while batting her eyes in mock shyness, “Oh, um, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Here, you read it.” And she handed me an e-mail with the “bad news.”
Oh, yes. Because that’s TOTALLY professional.
Turns out – and this is why I hate red tape and paperwork – that on my first conference, I booked with the NATIONAL university travel agency instead of the STATE agency. The state agency is with the national agency. In my opinion, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal – except that the university didn’t want to pay me.
I’m sure most of you are like me and Superman: we try to save money, we don’t live extravagantly, and, basically, we try to live within our means. Paying for a plane ticket is a big deal to us. We just don’t have a couple hundred dollars lying around for funsies.
I looked back up at PL. “Yes?” I asked, TRYING to stay polite, though already having gone through several rounds with her on this deal. “So?”
She frowned. “Well, I can’t pay you.”
My temper rose. “Why?” I asked, keeping my voice even but trying to let her know that I was not going to back down easy.
“You didn’t go through the right agency.”
“I DID go through the right agency. It was just a different branch,” I replied. “I can’t afford this ticket. This was my first conference, and I tried to do everything perfect. If I had realized that University wasn’t going to pay for my airfare or that it was going to be this hassle, I wouldn’t have gone.”
(Which is TOTALLY true, by the way.)
She jerked the printed e-mail out of my hand. “I’ll talk with Other Personnel Lady and see what I can do,” she snapped and rushed out of my office.
I got an e-mail two hours later telling me I needed to write a memo to some state personnel guy. Oh, and I was required to put the EXACT amounts of what I was requesting. (Since I booked my ticket and Superman’s together, the booking fees and whatnot were combined.)
I sent a page e-mail to State Personnel Guy, explaining my situation and how I had not realized I apparently did not go through the right channels (again, does it really MATTER?). I wrote how this was my first conference and how I had tried to save the university some money. And then, at the end, I wrote that I did not care about the $10 booking fee or the $20 insurance fee. I just wanted the basic airfare cost reimbursed.
Personnel Lady e-mailed me that afternoon:
“Just letting you know that the State Travel Office approved your airfare. They said they won't do it again so next time call State Office. I'll do your reimbursement for your trip now.”
Time for celebrations, right? Right! However, I did not realize how AMAZING the celebrations would be…
I got the check Friday. I did not account for the gas, food, and conference fees. My reimbursement check was for almost three times what I asked for in airfare.
Yes, say it with me:
WOO HOO!!!! =D