Does everybody do it, really? Yes, they do: Everybody lifts supplies from the office. Anyway, stunningly, most of us do. A stapler here, an inkjet cartridge there — who'll notice? In our second quarterly survey, we grilled 374 visitors to Fast Company's Web site on the little white lies that keep the corporate accountants guessing.
Have you inflated numbers in a forecast?
Have you taken office supplies home?
Have you ever inflated your company's sales to win a client?
Have you ever put a personal cost on your expense report or company credit card?
Have you booked an order that wasn't yet contracted?
Essay: If you answered yes to any of the questions above, what was your rationale at the time?
"If I impress a client, they are more likely to buy from me, thus making my assertion true."
"Dinner sometimes includes family while on the road, so yes, sometimes they are added to the fare if reasonable. Numbers are sometimes inflated to customers to ease their buying decision. While heaven won't be easily obtainable, purgatory will, so I'll have lots of company."
"Pressure from senior executives to perform, or gray areas of company policy."
"To buy some time and keep my job."
"I needed a loan."
"I do so much for the company [that] they never notice. They owe me these little things. I'll never be even or ahead in this game. Gotta take the little stuff just for the satisfaction."
The blotter: An album of ethical snapshots from around the nation
Gary Harpole, a Daytona Beach, Fla., businessman pleaded guilty to charges that he gave false information about his personal finances and those of his businesses, Harpole Accounting and Harpole Rentals, and overvalued property to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in business loans from two banks in Quincy, Ill.
— The State Journal-Register (Springfield, Ill.)
Chicago businessman James Duff was sentenced to 118 months in prison after he admitted lying in order to secure $114 million in city contracts designated for firms operated by women and minorities. Duff allegedly claimed his 76-year-old mother was running a custodial company and a black friend was running an environmental labor firm that he controlled.
— Associated Press
A Philadelphia accountant said he made up numbers for operating costs, receivables, payroll taxes, and other expenses before filling out returns for a client's company and personal income taxes. The accountant, John Salter, testified in court that his client, Muslim cleric Shamsud-din Ali, told him he "needed the financial documents and tax returns in order to maintain" a $100,000 bank line of credit for his business, Keystone Information and Financial Services. Salter pleaded guilty to bank fraud.
— Philadelphia Daily News
A version of this article appeared in the August 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.