The Paperless Invoice

January 2nd, 2006

It’s the beginning of the month, which means it’s invoice time for me. I very rarely send out paper invoices. These days most companies are hip enough to have addresses like AccountsPayable@<company>.com. So my low-volume invoicing mechanism involves a Pages templates document, and a little manual copy and paste from my web-based hour-tracking system.

One company I work for makes things “easier” by requiring that I submit invoices through a nasty web invoicing system. Just about everything about this site is wrong. To add insult to injury, they charge me, the “supplier” for the privilege of stumbling my way through their ridiculous invoicing system. To be fair I haven’t run out of “free credits” that I got when I first signed up, but I’m really not looking forward to the day when I have to pay for this abuse.

Among the ridiculous things I must endure every month as I fill out the invoice data, is the selection of “units” for my “hourly work” line item. It’s always “hours,” just like every other professional consulting service is almost always “hours.” But hours aren’t special to this company – they’re just another item smack-dab in the middle of the world’s most comprehensive list of invoicing units, and I have to scroll down to the middle of it every time:

I know – it’s funny! Like – Brazil funny. The first time, and then you start to loathe invoices. This should be a happy time, when you think “I’m going to get paid.” Instead I think, “I wonder if I’ll survive the invoicing system this month.” Maybe one month I’ll just charge them for “27 50-Pound Bags of Mac Consulting” and see what happens.

Other fun aspects of this system include the classic “works only if you click the Submit button” bug. Hitting return submits, but submits with bogus data. This allows me to regularly observe the classless manner in which the system conveys SQL database errors to me! “Oh! ’16:Can not init Service’, that explains it!”

This is a perfect follow-up to my Verizon post. It’s another example where a company must be making hundreds of thousands – no millions – of dollars peddling crap. On the bright side, when you swim in a sea of useless and buggy software, it’s easy to feel good about putting an honest day’s work into quality programming, and working with people who share these values.

10 Responses to “The Paperless Invoice”

  1. Hanno Says:

    Or you could just click the popup button and hit ‘H’ to jump straight to the hours instead of scrolling, this works in Safari, it might work in other browsers too but I didn’t try :)

  2. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Thanks, Hanno! That makes at least this part of the nuisance a lot easier.

  3. Nathaniel Says:

    Single funniest drop-down menu ever.

  4. Mac Says:

    Perhaps it is because I happen to know I would be able to get away with it, should my current job implement such a system, but I would have already charged this site for several Synthetic Latex Wet Kilos of Mac Consulting.

  5. David Young Says:

    Time cards and invoices are the #1 reason why I stopped contracting and went to being a salary man. Seriously. If it’s not the enormous list of units, it’s something else, like a timecard submission system which is backed by some CGI running, almost unbelievably, as a batch file on some machine referred to only by IP address.

  6. alexr Says:

    Lawyers have a special way of dealing with crap like this. They bill a “minimum billable unit” for each task, even if the task comsumed a fraction of that time. So, dealing with this company’s unique invoicing system involves a minimum billable unit of one hour since it “cannot be automated like the rest of your clients.”

  7. Jon Thompson Says:

    Alexr has it right. In fact, the only thing I would add is that the “Minimum Billable Unit” needs to be at least twice the rate that they are _charging_ you to get paid.

  8. codeman38 Says:

    What amazes me is the needless duplication in the list. ‘Kilometer’ and ‘Kilometre’. ‘Minute’ and ‘Minutes’. ‘Inch’ and ‘Inches’. ‘Pound’ and ‘Pounds’. But no ‘Hours’, just ‘Hour'; and ‘Pages’ is only available in the plural. And ‘Truckload’, ‘Ounce’, ‘Load’, and ‘Kilowatt Hour’ are, for no explicable reason, listed twice without even a slight change in the wording.

    And the numeric units… why?! Isn’t that what having a number field is for?

    Some invoice designer really needs to have a few Outers of human-computer interaction training.

  9. wilbur Says:

    Have you checked Time net for mac ox
    it seems cool at least by the testimonials
    http://www.applesource.biz/software/timenet/

  10. Misty Says:

    I agree, TimeNet is the best one out there! http://www.applesource.biz/software/timenet/

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