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[icon] About the "bank error" - Patti
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Subject:About the "bank error"
Time:10:14 am
So here's what happened with the "bank error" situation...

I recently got a $5K hiring bonus at work when a friend of mine joined the company. They double-paid me. I notified payroll, who acknowledged the problem and said that they'd take care of it. It's been over a month, though, and it hasn't been handled.

Just before posting that poll I remembered it. "Oh yeah, I should nag them about that." That sent me down the path of pondering such errors, and where the ethical boundaries were for letting it slide.

For me, the impact that the mistake will have on the erring party make a huge difference in how I handle it. If a large entity makes a small error in my favor, I'm unlikely to care much. Like most of the respondents, I'll try harder if it's a large error, a small entity, or someone that I regularly do business with. I might not try at all if my bank made a one dollar error in my favor. I'd definitely point it out if Chop Bar (the restaurant in my building) forgot to charge me for a cocktail and I noticed, but I might not do so for a glass of iced tea.

JP pointed out a case of a large business entity making large mistakes in his favor. I similarly will not correct them in that particular case.

If it's my mistake, the equation changes somewhat. I try harder for those.


The question I don't know the answer to... would there be a point at which I just give up trying to return $5K to my company? Obviously, one attempt was not enough for me. If I try three times and fail, have I done enough? I don't know.
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gunga_galunga
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-31 05:53 pm (UTC)
I would also handle it differently if it's the company I work for.

Also, I've heard of "bank errors" getting corrected at a later date with no notice, which can cause a lot of problems if the money's been spent.
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songmonk
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-31 06:39 pm (UTC)
Is that really true? I know the *bank* can withdraw money without notice, but I don't think that Patti's employer can withdraw money without notice, or at all. But I'm not positive.
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(Deleted comment)
songmonk
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-31 07:57 pm (UTC)
To clarify, I meant that her employer couldn't make the money magically disappear from the account, not that they couldn't come after her to get the money back.

I understand that you're saying that even with that understanding, you would leave the money there.
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jd_trouble
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-31 07:17 pm (UTC)
You've notified them, I would say a follow-up call to payroll would be appropriate, and perhaps an email with a cc to the manager of the payroll dept. They will eventually either ask you for the money or debit your account. Maybe ask the payroll person if it would be better if you wrote a check?

Large or small company, it doesn't matter. You didn't earn the money, you have no right to keep it, regardless of how long it takes for them to ask for it back. Set it aside, let it earn interest, but be prepared to return it any time.
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Mark Rafn [dagon.net]
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-31 10:01 pm (UTC)
Agree with your main points, though I'll sometimes correct errors in my favor even in JP's example.

For my employer, it definitely triggers my "they may come after me for it a long time from now" worry, and $5k is more than a writeoff amount for most errors.

I'd stop trying after a few attempts, but I'd definitely keep some written evidence that I'd made multiple attempts. And then wait a year or two before I really considered it mine.
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thorfinn
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-31 10:17 pm (UTC)
Yah - my employer I would treat slightly differently in that case, mainly because it's ugly if they suddenly realise the error later down the track. Dunno how it works in .us, but down here there would be weird complicated taxation implications with such payments too, and getting it wrong is a recipe for being annoyed by the Australian Tax Office as well.
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bellaballanda
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-10-31 11:59 pm (UTC)
As someone who dabbles in payroll/AP, I would say go talk to them in person and as jd_trouble said offer to write them the check.
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loser_variable
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-11-01 03:10 am (UTC)
Any size company, for any amount, if you keep it that's stealing. Don't get me wrong, I would probably do it in most cases (I also have a heart for the little guy), I just wouldn't delude myself about what I was doing. It's not that we're good people, not hardly, we just efficiently apply risk/reward very well. And that's why poor people will rob you at gun point while we "upstanding" folks wouldn't - they have almost nothing to lose. We're not any different. If we can take something that isn't ours under an excusable or minimal risk situation, booyah! People are people. I'm pretty loathsome. I know it, at least, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I'm pretty full of self-loathing.

See Julian Baggini for some excellent active vs. passive ethical quizzes.
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whitebird
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-11-01 05:04 am (UTC)
Okay, now that you've said what the situation is and I've had a while to think about it, what I'd do is this:

1. Go to Payroll twice, and give them the opportunity to properly do their jobs.

2. Go to the company president, explain the situation, and say that seeing as Payroll doesn't appear to want the money back, due to their inaction, that you'd like a letter from the company president stating that the company is officially disinterested in getting the money back from you and waives all future claim on it. And don't leave the office until you either get that letter, or sign a check for the money.
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adb_foldem
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-11-09 07:30 pm (UTC)
You have a legal and ethical obligation to return the overpayment. Any use of the funds by you is conversion. Despite the stalling by payroll, you should go to payroll or your senior officer and present them with your check for $5k. In the old days I would suggest putting the money in an interest bearing account and wait for a request, but rates being what they are, I would just finish it.
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2011-11-09 07:34 pm (UTC)
Writing a check for $5K isn't the right answer, because in practice the money winds up going a lot of places-- payroll tax, 401k, etc. Nagging payroll until they get it fixed is the right answer, though.

BTW, you have to buy a new car now so that we match.
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[icon] About the "bank error" - Patti
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