Workers charged for chairs, pencils

I landed my first job out of college at a financial institution. What I did not realize is that I was about to receive an education of a different kind. Each employee on the floor was paid partially on commission, and under the pretense of accounting reasons, each employee was set up as a one-man department. The insidious side of this transaction was that everyone on the floor got billed for department level expenses.

I got billed $200 for my chair. I paid $10 a month for the coffee I couldn’t drink because it was only served in the main office. The guy who emptied my nonexistent trash can got $7. I ordered pencils at $5 a box. When they came, they had the logo of a long-defunct hotel chain on them. When the building was renamed with our company’s new sign, I helped pay for it every month of the year. I even got billed for the paper used to print our end-of-the-month billing sheets!

The final straw came shortly after my father died unexpectedly. The owner didn’t believe in bereavement, and we were not allowed to use sick time without a doctor’s note. I used what little vacation time we were given (five days a year) to bury my father and put his affairs in order. The company was nice enough to send flowers. Of course, they included a generic, unsigned card. The next month, my commission check was suspiciously light. $200 light, to be exact. When the billing sheets arrived the next day, my suspicions were confirmed. They billed me for the flowers they sent.

The only small bit of sweetness in this story came just before I left. We were required to pay for our own parking space below the building, at $150 a month. Every time we complained, the owner would remind us that we should be happy we HAD jobs, and to look into public transportation. By accident, we discovered that to avoid paying for his own space, the owner was parking in the handicapped spaces in the mall next door, and walking over. We had his car towed five days in a row.

Reprinted with permission from Working America’s “My Bad Boss” contest. Read other entries at