Friend = cab driver?
June 24, 2006 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Ethical or no: My friend gives me a ride to the airport before a business trip. I get reimbursed for a reasonable "cab fare" (less than or equal to what calling a cab would have cost) and use the reimbursement to pay my friend for giving me a ride.

I feel that it's not quite kosher. My friend thinks I'm being a stick in the mud and denying us a nice free dinner.

(The reimbursement comes from a different place for each trip, so I can't answer this once and for all by looking up the policy.)
posted by em to Work & Money (53 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think it's kosher so long as you're not keeping the money yourself, and are actually passing it along. The last place I worked actually had a clause in the expense reimbursement policy for exactly this.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:07 PM on June 24, 2006


If it's less than parking and less than cabfare, there is no way the reimburser will complain. It is a legitimate business expense as your friends time is valuable as well as yours. If there is a problem, submit a normal cab receipt. You can get a stack of them from any cab driver the next time you take a ride.
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2006


i had a friend do almost the same thing once (her own money though, not getting reimbursed). Our logic was that the money is going to get paid to somebody for the exact same service either way, it might as well go to somebody she knows who needs it (me) rather than a stranger or some big company.
posted by amethysts at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2006


It seems fine to me, although perhaps your ethical concern is tied to the fact that in fact this is a kickback scheme. You're paying your friend but then s/he's taking you out to dinner. What if you just gave him or her the money and were done with it.

Anyway, I would argue that partly the money is there to get you to the airport and partly it's there because you're working and would not be taking the trip otherwise. Having a friend drive you does not interfere with work, but should also not absolve your company of reimbursing you for the trip.
posted by OmieWise at 2:12 PM on June 24, 2006


It's not strictly ethical, because you're giving the money back to your friend. That means the gain to you of offering your friend a cab ride = $0. That means the cost to him of a cab ride = $0. That means the amount that he should be reimbursed for his cab ride = $0.

However, I doubt anyone on Earth, including the reimbursing agency, would care. They're expecting to pay for cab fare to the airport and they're expecting him to reach the airport. They wouldn't care what the cabbie did with their money, so why should they care about this?
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:16 PM on June 24, 2006


I don't think it's unethical at all.
posted by delmoi at 2:18 PM on June 24, 2006


Completely ethical. Your friend should be reimbursed by your company for his/her time, petrol and wear and tear on the car. Your company should pay for this.

A friend of mine went away on business for 3 nights last year and stayed with a friend (for free) rather than staying in a hotel (on expenses). Her company wouldn't stump up any cash for her taking her friend out for dinner / bottle of wine / bunch of flowers to say thanks. Now that's unethical!
posted by bella.bellona at 2:23 PM on June 24, 2006


Yeah, I'm not sure I agree with ikkyu2... The Friend/Driver's time is worth just as much as the cabby's time, if not more... What he does with the money after he's received it is his concern...

I'm reasonably sure that at one time or another, my cab fares have gone to pay for a cabby to take himself and someone else out to eat.

Why should this be any different?
posted by hatsix at 2:25 PM on June 24, 2006


OK, let me preface this by saying I really don't have any big problem with doing this, nor would any finance department, as long as it's not habitual.

But let's not call it "ethical". If your friend's time is "worth" as much, if not more, than a cabbie's, then why is he wasting it giving rides to the airport? EVERYONE'S spare time is worth zero. And I'm sure the anticipated reimbursement is much more than the cost of gas.

If you're going to do it, just do it and don't worry too much about it. But don't rationalize it into something that it's not.
posted by mkultra at 2:35 PM on June 24, 2006


EVERYONE'S spare time is worth zero.

Really? Want to help me move in your spare time? I'm happy to pay you nothing!
posted by underwater at 2:49 PM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


mkultra, the friend does pay an opportunity cost of whatever the most valuable alternative use of his time would have been.

The value of spare time is non-null.
posted by SemiSophos at 2:57 PM on June 24, 2006


It's clear that your friend should get something. Who's exploiting who depends on whether your friend is under or overcompensated for the cost to him of providing a ride.

One could argue that paying him only for gas / parking is undercompensating him because cabbies would have a profit margin to satisfy.

Anyway, as many others have said, this kind of stuff is immaterial. If you get fired over it, you're working at the wrong place.
posted by randomstriker at 3:00 PM on June 24, 2006


If the driver were your wife, would all the 'it's ok' responders see any difference?

If you were an elected official, and the driver were your wife, would they see any difference?

Me - personally - I think there's no problem at all. But then, I'm a cad.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:01 PM on June 24, 2006


Do something nice with the money. Stuff it in a charity jar that and when it's full, donate something somewhere nice in your friend's name.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:02 PM on June 24, 2006


By nice, I mean, you know, a fund for hungry children or Katrina victims or water management issues in desertified areas, not a steak-dinner nice.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:03 PM on June 24, 2006


If your friend was in fact a cabby, and you deliberately called his cab company and asked for him to pick you up, there would be no ethical dilemma. So, my opinion is that there is no ethical dilemma.
posted by evariste at 3:20 PM on June 24, 2006


In this case, if you pay your friend, you are turning them into an independent contractor. Technically, it's both legal and ethical, provided that your friend reports the income and Social Security payments are made, yadda yadda yadda. Although your company might not be happy because your friend is neither a licensed cabbie nor a bonded contractor. If you are killed on the way to the airport, your company has nobody with money to sue to compensate for your loss. At the same time, if you are injured in your friend's car, you could sue him on the grounds that he was acting as an unlicensed cabbie.

If you want to get even wilder, you could even make an argument that in making this arrangement clear to your friend (i.e. you are acting as an agent of your company when contracting his service), your company is then liable for your actions...

Let's say you make this arrangement and then you damage your friend's car (e.g. you spill your coffee). Your friend can them demand compensation (cleaning). Let's say you refuse to do so (fucker shouldn't have taken that turn so fast). Your friend can turn around and sue your company for compensation ("your employee contracted my services and damaged my car in the process").

Isn't the law fun?
posted by frogan at 3:30 PM on June 24, 2006


Oh, and don't forget the conflict-of-interest issue ... your company might think that you and your friend are colluding to bilk the company with fake receipts and documentation...
posted by frogan at 3:31 PM on June 24, 2006


A friend of mine went away on business for 3 nights last year and stayed with a friend (for free) rather than staying in a hotel (on expenses).

OK, how about this exampl? Would it be ethical to bill the company for the hotel's max rate, and pass it on to your friend?
posted by smackfu at 3:44 PM on June 24, 2006


frogan raises the issue of agency, which is a legal issue and a valid concern, but the question posed is one of ethics.

At the core of the issue, your company offers fair compensation for travel expenses to the airport. The maximum they are willing to pay is for single occupancy cab fare, thus to me, they are at a point of indifference vis a vis the short term outflow of money for a non-exceptional ride. Under those restrictions, it seems ethical enough. If you calculate an expected value (probability of a wreck times the potential cost) of a non-exceptional ride, then you have an additional economic cost to them (which they are unaware they have assumed.) I think that slants it towards unethical.

Employment is a two way street. Employers care for you in a certain way and have reasonable expectations that you will safeguard their interests, too. Unless the friend and cabbie have comparable insurance / collectible assets, then you are erring slightly on the side of unethical, IMO.

As an ethical lapse, it seems rather minor and not worth worrying over too much, though it makes an interesting academic question.

I often feel strongly both ways! Good question, though.
posted by FauxScot at 3:46 PM on June 24, 2006


But there's no conflict-of-interest. Nothing unethical. The person used his car, his gas and his time to transport the employee. The relation is of no consequence. Besides we must be talking about less than $75, right? Company's should reimburse for such things, I fill out expense reports for business related travel and get gas + extra. It's not much, but it does supposedly cover wear and tear on the vehicle. In your case you have to get to the airport somehow, they can't expect you to walk. What does it matter whether the moneys go to a cab driver or your friend? The only person complaining should be cab companies.
posted by geoff. at 3:47 PM on June 24, 2006


Okay, I'll join you as the stick-in-the-mud. I think dash_slot- starts out on the right track. What if it were your spouse? This is exactly what Tom Delay and other politicians were doing when they placed their spouses on the payroll. So is it somehow different if it is a spouse vs. friend?

What if instead of a hotel, you stayed at a friend's home and billed $200? Would that be okay? Or is there a dollar limit to acceptable duplicity?

And the fact that your friend wants to spend it on a dinner for you is an obvious kickback in which you are benefiting from the arrangement, which is even worse.

There is a simple way to handle this -- you could try to clear it with the accounting department. Otherwise, you are lying by submitting a fake receipt for cab fare -- maybe a small lie but lying all the same.

I don't like it when politicians do this stuff so do my best to avoid these situations. I commend you on your integrity. Ethical lapses can become a slippery slope.
posted by JackFlash at 3:58 PM on June 24, 2006


Well I'm actually an ethicist and as long as you're not lying to whomever is doing the reimbursing about who is driving you and how much it costs, I can't imagine how it's unethical.

evariste is on the right track about how to solve it. Say you took a regular cab and were reimbursed for it. Nothing wrong with that -- that's how it's supposed to happen. Change the cab driver to your friend, working for the cab company or as an independent cabbie. Still nothing suspicious -- as long as you're being charged market or below market prices and not ripping off your company. Now, finally, change the friend to a non-employee or cabbie to get the situation you're in now. Is it ethically relevant that the driver doesn't work as a cabbie normally? No. You basically took a non-standard cab to the airport.

Just because it's ethical, though, doesn't mean you couldn't have done better. You have a right to reimbursement for the ride, but that doesn't mean you have to take it. If you work for Amnesty International, for instance, and the money could have gone to better get political prisoners out of prisons, then it would have been much better to get a ride from your friend and either a) pay the friend out of your own pocket or b) send the friend a thank you note with no money. As long as you're working for a standard for-profit company, this issue arises less.

So, it's certainly ethical to pay your friend as opposed to a cab company, but in certain situations that wouldn't be the best possible thing you could do.
posted by ontic at 4:01 PM on June 24, 2006


Completely ethical. Time is money. And as other's have said, your friend is giving of his time and as long as it's less than what a cabbie would cost, then there's little chance they'd complain.
posted by JPigford at 4:02 PM on June 24, 2006


At very least, it is a conflict of interest.

Have your friend buy a pad of receipts, filled out with real name and real contact information. Set a rate that is significantly lower than a cab fair, like 20% off.

There might be some problems with that plan which I haven't considered. For example, obviously your friend doesn't have a cab license, who knows if that really matters..
posted by Chuckles at 4:08 PM on June 24, 2006


As JackFlash notes, spending government funds would make this a whole lot more interesting. But what is the objection to Delay paying his wife and such? Only that for the money, the people could probably have had someone much more qualified and better working for them. For a cab ride, only in very few markets does the element of specialization come into play. The taxpayers are getting you a quality ride to the airport either way. (Ideally you go to a low-bid process, but in such micro-situations it's just not economical.)

I'm still convinced that for a private company, reimbursing your friend for the ride OR the hotel would be ethical.
posted by ontic at 4:08 PM on June 24, 2006


mkultra writes "EVERYONE'S spare time is worth zero."

Bull. My spare time is worth double my wage time for the first four hours and triple for the four hours after that. Plus I get a meal allowance after the first and fifth overtime hours. And I get paid travel time to come in if you need me on my day off (and a four hour minimum).

frogan writes "If you are killed on the way to the airport, your company has nobody with money to sue to compensate for your loss. At the same time, if you are injured in your friend's car, you could sue him on the grounds that he was acting as an unlicensed cabbie."

Considering you wouldn't be claim the expense until after you get from the trip your friend is safe. If you are in an accident just don't mention you were planning to pay your friend and regular insurnace will cover you. Unless of course your company requires you to take a cab and won't let you be dropped off.

I think this is totally ethical, the only people who are going to be pissed are the cabbies in town, the airport authority and the cab licensing authority IE: everyone who won't be making their squeeze off the transaction.
posted by Mitheral at 4:15 PM on June 24, 2006


I haven't done the cab driver one, but I've done the take-hotel-money, stay-with-a-friend one and it's considered perfectly ethical by my workplace.

The rule is, somone travelling for work gets X amount of money because of the inconvenience of travelling for work -- an estimate for transport, accommodation, meals etc. What exactly they spend it on is up to them.

If they want to get a limo to the airport and stay in a flophouse hotel, or catch the bus and stay in a fancier hotel, it all comes out to the same thing.

The funny thing is, I only did it once -- I would rather stay in a hotel than stay with a friend, because it actually turns out inconvenient for both of you.

I do think frogan has a point though. You're employing a non-professional to perform a professional service and there could be all kinds of unpleasant consequences if something goes wrong.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:26 PM on June 24, 2006


Thanks very much for all the answers so far!

Since there are some suggestions that whether this is ethical could depend on whether the money comes from a private for-profit company or from some other source, I should mention that in most cases the "business trip" in question is a trip to a scientific conference; so most of the funding is actually coming from the NSF or similar grant-giving bodies (via the organizers who have applied for grants to fund the conference.)
posted by em at 4:33 PM on June 24, 2006


So what happened is your friend gave you a ride and you told your employer you took a cab ride instead? Or did the employer pay you a small sum automatically as reimbursement for your travel expenses?

I had jury duty earlier this month and took the downtown expressway to get to the court building. The court clerk asked us all if we had paid any tolls on the way there, and I told her I paid $0.50 on the expressway, because that's indeed what I did. She put me down for a dollar, effectively paying my way home. I chose not to take the expressway home, though. Do I feel bad for making a small profit on my trip? Not really. The way I see it, unless your friend had asked you to pay him for the ride he gave you, he was not performing the duties of a hired driver, he was doing you a favor. People have asked questions on here about far worse offenses, though. Fudging an entry on your expense report isn't that heinous a crime.
posted by emelenjr at 4:34 PM on June 24, 2006


Don't worry about it - it's fine. What would not be fine would be something like this:

Mike's company sends him to Japan on a service call, and buys him a first-class roundtrip ticket. Mike exchanges the ticket for two coach tickets and takes his Japanese wife with him. While in Japan, they stay with her family. The company effectively pays for his wife's transport.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:38 PM on June 24, 2006


Typically the reimbursement form for these trips asks me to indicate what I spent to get to the airport; sometimes a receipt is required, sometimes not. So far I have just put "$0" when my friend dropped me off; the question is whether it would be ethical to put something else there. I suppose that in the cases where a receipt is required, I would have to draw one up.
posted by em at 4:40 PM on June 24, 2006


It depends on the policy in place at your firm. In my company, the correct way to calculate the cost is to calculate the number of miles used by your friend on the round trip and multiply that times the milage reimbursement rate for privately-owned vehicles.

To be perfectly correct, you should also determine the cost of a taxi and driving your car and paying for parking. If the cost of your friend driving you is less (which it usually is) then you are good. If it is more, you are only entitled to the cost of the cheaper option.
posted by Lame_username at 4:43 PM on June 24, 2006


This wouldn't be kosher to my company. We're reimbursed for business expenses. Since a friend is not in the business of charging to give rides, it's not a legit business expense. (Which is why they require reciepts for everything.)

You could concievably put in for reimbursement the way lame_username describes, but usually the car has to be owned by you to qualify.

If it's a "free" dinner your friend is after, it rather negates that any expense is involved, eh? Besides, if you're not comfortable with it, your friend shouldn't press the issue.
posted by desuetude at 5:24 PM on June 24, 2006


Most companies have a per mile compensation allowance if you drive your own car. If you submit under this allowance I see no ethical problem nomatter who is driving or whose car it is. If you pretend a private car is a taxi, I would think that isn't right, unless your company said it's ok. Thing is though, the per mile rate is usually maybe 30 or 40 cents a mile, so unless you're driving hours, the compensation won't be too lucrative. But it's the right way to do this, IMHO.
posted by dness2 at 5:25 PM on June 24, 2006


What lame_username said. Wherever you are now probably has a set mileage reimbursement. If not, the feds surely have one somewhere. Use that.

What if it were your spouse?

Then you'd claim mileage on your car.

This is exactly what Tom Delay and other politicians were doing when they placed their spouses on the payroll.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

When $SkeezyPolitician puts his wife on the payroll, that is a way to convert campaign contributions into direct personal gain. Likewise when firms/nonprofits are essentially forced to hire wives of politicians.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:27 PM on June 24, 2006


You could concievably put in for reimbursement the way lame_username describes, but usually the car has to be owned by you to qualify.

That can be easily remedied by having your friend use your car to drop you at the airport. Then you can claim mileage quite legitimately.

But the odds of your institution having a squad of ninja observers around the airport taking down license plates just to make sure that some nefarious bastard doesn't get driven to the airport in someone else's car seem pretty small.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:32 PM on June 24, 2006


Keep in mind that your friend's insurance policy almost certainly forbids using their car "for hire." By paying your friend, you are causing them to violate their insurance policy. I can't think of how this would actually come back to bite either of you, but if it is the principle that matters then don't do it.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:43 PM on June 24, 2006


the one time I travelled with company expenses, they gave me a car and gas card. I also got a set amount of money per diem and they didn't care where I ate or slept, I found the amount fairly generous and came out well ahead when I skipped meals or ate cheaply.

I think this is the best way to reimburse people for their expenses
posted by Deep Dish at 6:02 PM on June 24, 2006


Really? Want to help me move in your spare time? I'm happy to pay you nothing!

No, because I don't want to. Whatever I want to do instead is inconsequential. Maybe I want to sit and watch TV. Maybe I want to jack off. Unless you're WORKING during that time, its financial worth is zero.

mkultra, the friend does pay an opportunity cost of whatever the most valuable alternative use of his time would have been.

Again, that doesn't make sense. If the friend happened upon a legitimate business opportunity at the same time, are you going to tell me he's not going to take it because he's taking his friend to the airport?

Bull. My spare time is worth double my wage time for the first four hours and triple for the four hours after that. Plus I get a meal allowance after the first and fifth overtime hours. And I get paid travel time to come in if you need me on my day off (and a four hour minimum).

Again, that's your charge for DOING YOUR JOB. This guy's friend is not a professional chauffeur.

Do you guys charge your friends to hang out with you?
posted by mkultra at 6:04 PM on June 24, 2006


As people have mentioned many businesses have policies relating to getting a lift or staying with a friend. In the case of the lift this is often the same as if you were using your own car. In the case of accommodation enlightened businesses normally will state a fixed rate per night. You might check to see if there are in fact some rules on this.

Business expenses - for all their tedium are one of those areas where it pays to be scrupulously honest and open I think: they are going to be seen by your boss, possibly your client or other funder as well as by a bunch of detail-fixated finance people. I imagine that many of the people who commit major business fraud submit full and flawless travel claims as a matter of course.
posted by rongorongo at 6:11 PM on June 24, 2006


mkultra writes "Again, that's your charge for DOING YOUR JOB. This guy's friend is not a professional chauffeur."

So if I'm digging a ditch I can't charge for it? The professional status of the ride provider doesn't seem terribly relevant to whether the OP is acting ethically by paying his friend for the lift.

mkultra writes "Do you guys charge your friends to hang out with you?"

No but I might slip a friend a few bucks to schlep me half way across the city to the airport (a $40 cab ride for me). It would depend on the chances of ever being able to return the favour or not and whether the cost of the gas involved would be a significant hardship for the friend. If my boss was the payee then ya I'd pay him. Why not? It isn't any different than if my boss was looking for someone to trim the hedges or wash the windows and I knew my friend was looking for some casual work.
posted by Mitheral at 7:54 PM on June 24, 2006


My brother drove my family to the airport, saving us at least $90 in parking plus gas. I gave him $40 for it, because his time is valuable, and I really appreciated it. So in my mind, it's not shady, your friend SHOULD get some money, the question is whether it's from you or your business. Since it was a business trip, and they needed you to get to the airport, I think they should pay.
posted by visual mechanic at 8:17 PM on June 24, 2006


So if I'm digging a ditch I can't charge for it?

Not double your regular contracting rate, which is what the poster was blithely suggesting.

Again, I'm not saying that you shouldn't do this, but to suggest that the value of your friend driving you to the airport is equal to either his regular wage (unless he doesn't make much to begin with) or a cab fare (which incurs overhead way above and beyond the cost of gas) is ludicrous.
posted by mkultra at 8:30 PM on June 24, 2006


I should mention that in Calgary Sedan rates are fixed from each community to the airport, so if policy allows for sedan usage then the rate to be charged is known exactly.

mkultra writes "Not double your regular contracting rate, which is what the poster was blithely suggesting."

You'd have to pay me better than double my regular hourly rate to dig a ditch, it's not work I enjoy.

mkultra writes "a cab fare (which incurs overhead way above and beyond the cost of gas) is ludicrous."

Remember the friend has to drive to the posters house and then drive home again. A cab is going to be paid for the return trip (assuming he has an airport licence) and with good dispatching is probably closer to the poster's house than the friend.
posted by Mitheral at 8:39 PM on June 24, 2006


I apologize if this has been said already; not sure I completely absorbed all the comments thus far. But it seems to me at least a conflict of interest, and probably more (less this seem hostile, this is by way of agreement with your instincts). The notion of business expenses, I think, is to make you whole for expenses you otherwise would bear yourself. This isn't perfect -- many of us would stay at a lower class hotel, etc. -- but the idea is certainly not to license us to invent lower-cost alternatives that permit us to steer business as we wish. (Insert hypothetical involving spouse preparing sandwiches in lieu of room service.) Those focusing on the fact that no harm may be done in this case may be overlooking the general hazard this creates (e.g., dampering incentives to drive -- pun intended -- the best deal possible) and the tendency this creates for self-dealing and rising baseline costs.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:42 PM on June 24, 2006


The ethical solution would be to explain to your company's accounting department that you have a private driver who would charge less than the cost of a cab ride and thus the company would save money. This way you could get official approval - your company saves, your friend is paid, win-win. Granted, accounting departments aren't know to be understanding or flexible... and there may be some question of liability, etc. But it's worth a try if you're really concerned about it.

Great question, btw.

On preview what Clyde Mnestra said...
posted by wfrgms at 11:18 PM on June 24, 2006


Remember the friend has to drive to the posters house and then drive home again.

So? Again, mileage is a perfectly reasonable reimbursement. It's still not even going to approach the equivalent cab fare.

I think Clyde Mnestra really nails the point. Another way to look at it, from a strict position of ethics- how much would you feel comfortable expensing, on the condition that you tell your boss what actually happened? That's the ethical amount to claim. Calling something that you have to lie to defend "ethical" doesn't wash.
posted by mkultra at 7:12 AM on June 25, 2006


You'd have to pay me better than double my regular hourly rate to dig a ditch, it's not work I enjoy.

I'm assuming that the friend offered to drive the poster, which negates this logic. If the poster was soliciting a ride, there's no reason not to solicit a cab ride.
posted by mkultra at 7:46 AM on June 25, 2006


"Unless you're WORKING during that time, its financial worth is zero."

That's retarded. His friend is WORKING, he's WORKING at driving his pal to the airport.

If he gets the ride for free, he's exploiting his friend. If he gets the ride for more than what a cab would cost, he's exploiting his employer. If he gives his pal about what the cab would cost, the ethics are a wash, and if his friend chooses to spend that on a dinner for both of them, that's fine. Cash is fungible.

And his friend's free time is worth whatever the Next Available Alternative is to Em. Because if the friend doesn't do it, the poster will have to engage the services of someone else.

"If the poster was soliciting a ride, there's no reason not to solicit a cab ride."

He'd rather ride with his friend? If costs are equal, then there's no real reason not to ride with his friend. And just because his friend offered doesn't mean that he shouldn't get paid. People offer me their services all the time, at a price. That's what advertising is, and informal advertising isn't significantly different.

"but the idea is certainly not to license us to invent lower-cost alternatives that permit us to steer business as we wish."

Why not? Employment is not an abdication of autonomy. Everyone comes out better if he engages his friend to drive him rather than getting a cab. Why do you hate the poster's friend?
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 AM on June 25, 2006


That's retarded. His friend is WORKING, he's WORKING at driving his pal to the airport.
If he gets the ride for free, he's exploiting his friend.


That's a really odd view of friendship. Don't you do things for your friends simply because they're your friends?

He'd rather ride with his friend? If costs are equal, then there's no real reason not to ride with his friend. And just because his friend offered doesn't mean that he shouldn't get paid. People offer me their services all the time, at a price.

Is your friend offering his livery services to others? His friend is doing him a FAVOR. It's not a JOB.

Everyone comes out better if he engages his friend to drive him rather than getting a cab.

Not the poster's company. They're overpaying for services. I know it's fashionable to bag on one's employer, but I think there's something to be said for helping to keep corporate costs down.

Why do you hate the poster's friend?

I know this is a joke, but no one here is even coming close to saying that. I actually think he's a great friend for doing this. A great friend who deserves gas money.
posted by mkultra at 12:12 PM on June 25, 2006


Disclaimer: I'm a probity auditor for the Australian Government.

This is not ethical, unless you made it completely clear to the reimburser that your friend gave you a ride, that you were seeking money to give to your friend as compensation for providing that ride, that you made it clear that there was no "re" in the "reimbursement", because you were not out of pocket, and that the reimburser agreed with the method you used to arrive at the value of the friend's ride (for example, by calling a cab company and asking for the value of an average fare from your home to the airport, or by calculating the distance and offering a cents per mile arrangement).

The situation would be different if you were paid a "travel allowance" up front - a daily rate intended to cover your meals, accommodation and incidental expenses. As far as an employer is concerned, you can eat dried ramen and sleep in a bus shelter if you like. But if you're seeking reimbursement for an expense, you need to have actually incurred the expense in the first place, and you need to be completely transparent about the nature of the expense.

Travel in a personal vehicle is never reimbursed at the same rate as that for a cab fare. A cab driver will seek to pass all of his expenses to his passenger, and to make a profit. The owner of a private vehicle would be expected to pay for the cost of ownership himself, and should only pass on actual expenses for gasoline, plus a very, very small add-in for wear and tear.

If your friend is charging for his time, then depending on local, state and Federal laws, he may be breaking a range of laws relating to cab licensing, public liability and taxation.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:55 PM on June 25, 2006


Thank you very much for the replies -- I'm constantly impressed by the depth of expertise and careful thinking around here.

On balance, it sounds like the way forward in my case may be to claim per-mile reimbursement as if I had driven my own car, then top that up on my dime to the price of dinner for the two of us. It costs me more than the $0 I would end up spending if I called a cab, but this way I get the pleasure of spending time with her instead of with an unknown-to-me cab driver, so I should be willing to pay a bit for that.
posted by em at 7:12 AM on June 26, 2006


« Older What's wrong with my 'fridge?   |   This story is boring, miss! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.