Friday, March 02, 2007

Payslip Of Destiny

Jamie at Royal Mail
Originally uploaded by mathieson_jamie.
I used to work in the phone based customer service department for Royal Mail, the UK postal carrier. The calls were primarily along the lines of “I’m 78 and the postman has left my gate open again.” or “Where is my benefit cheque? I am going to f**king kill you if you don’t find it”

You know, the usual.

But I had a plan. Oh yes. I was going to escape and become a stand-up comedian, an ambition I was already making inroads into.

I was paid monthly and never spent too much time checking my payslip – if it looked about right, I would shrug and file it. I usually cleared about £800 a month.

Until one month my payslip read £8000.

That’s right. An extra zero. The decimal point had slipped one place to the right, earning me £7200 in the process. And this wasn’t just an error on the payslip – the money actually turned up my account a couple of days later.

But what to do?

I discussed it with my wife over a weekend. Two options presented themselves; just keep quiet, spend it and hope that no-one spotted the error, or come clean and give the money back.

And this was big money for me in those days. I could survive for months on eight grand. Months without work to focus on the comedy.

But after much soul searching I decided on option two, to give the money back, which may sound crazy, but I really didn’t like the idea of looking over my shoulder for years, fearing that at some point, payroll was going to come knocking on my door and ask for their money back. Presumably at the point when I was furthest in debt.

So, first thing Monday morning, I rang payroll and explained to the nice lady on the line that I thought they’d overpaid me a little. She checked the records and sounded a little shocked as she agreed with me, then put me on hold as she got the manager. The manager came on and explained:

“Er, we haven’t overpaid you. That’s back-pay. We’ve been under-paying you for five years.”

I stood up at my desk, brain whirring and got him to repeat this bit of information. He did, with a little more detail:

“Every year you worked here, you were due an increment which you never received, due to an error in payroll. We have only just spotted and corrected this error.”

The money was mine.

After a quick phone call to my wife, I marched into my manager’s office and asked for six months off unpaid leave. She was only too happy to agree, as her budget was now down by £7200, which not paying me for six months would certainly help.

During my six months off I managed to get enough comedy gigs booked to ensure that I never had to go back to customer services.

And the moral of the story? Be sloppy with your finances. And write good jokes.



Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Brilliant! What a great story...