Star Wars Mouse Pads and a Golden Pencil: What’s the Strangest Purchase You’ve Been Asked to Approve?

Andriy Brazhnykov/Adobe Stock

Earlier this week, I moderated a webinar with Procurify customer Lynn Gabriel, COO of Mainstream Fiber Networks, about her experience with implementing spend management technology for the first time (watch the webinar here).

In explaining the change management process, Lynn mentioned the importance of helping employees understand cost savings measures within the organization and told a funny story: one of her employees submitted an approval for a $30 Star Wars mouse pad, insisting that it would help him be infinitely more productive on the job. (Needless to say, it was not approved.)

Lynn’s story instantly transported back to my first “real” job after college, as a production assistant at Publicis, where I was actually a sourcing manager without realizing that my job was 100% procurement versus production. The best part of my job was when we were deep into pitch mode. Creative directors and art directors spent endless hours locked up with copywriters coming up with wild ideas around how to make consumers buy things, and then production was called in to bring the ideas to life via video, photography and sound.

Who was in charge of sourcing the things we needed to do this critical work? Me. I took taxis (on the company’s dime) near and far, and mind you, this was well before Amazon Prime. Here are some of my favorite real-life examples:

  • “Get me a huge golden pencil. As big as you can find.”
  • “I need 10 burritos. You choose the fillings, all different, and make them interesting enough to look good when the burritos are cut in half.”
  • “Make me an alphabet out of server wires. Colorful ones. Red, yellow and blue would be best.”
  • “400 magenta t-shirts. Day after tomorrow. Get them all hand screenprinted, too.”

I’d love to see the line-item expense ledger in accounting for these items, because I was reimbursed for every single one of them. We thought it would be a fun activity to ask, “What are the strangest items you’ve been asked to approve as purchasing managers?” Comment below — the weirder, the better.

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Voices (2)

  1. Pete Loughlin:

    The strangest line item I ever saw was when I was working in a bank – it was an elephant. I kid you not.

    1. Sheena Smith:

      I wonder what ever happened to that elephant…

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