The Latest Wall Street Scam: Free Beer


It's supposedly an economic truism: there's no such thing as a free lunch.

But for some on Wall Street, there are free dinners. And even free beers.

Fast Company explains how Wall Streeters are using a web-based food delivery service to scam free meals for themselves.

From Fast Company:

A former Morgan Stanley banker recently described his weekend food-ordering ritual at the height of the recession. While pulling Saturday hours, for example, he'd log onto the bank's account on Seamless, the online food-ordering service, and redeem his meal allowance—plus a few allowances from phantom coworkers who weren't actually in the office, allowing him to eat well above his pay grade. Sure, someone could have cross-checked actual office attendence with the online orders, but is such effort worth the investment bank's time?

"If people weren't around, it was totally acceptable to take their allowance, and pool it together when you ordered," the banker recalls. "Almost every weekend I was at the office, I'd have a $90 dinner of steak, lobster, mac & cheese, and calamari."

Many of the Seemless scams described by Fast Company involve calling the restaurant to switch your order. You generally aren’t allowed to order beer on your corporate account. So you place your alcohol-free order on Seemless, then call the restaurant and substitute beer for an equivalently priced order.

One woman describes how she has food delivered to her apartment. She orders it on Seemless to be delivered to the office. Then she calls and switches the delivery location to her home.

No doubt Wall Street firms will be tempted to crack down on this sort of thing. But perhaps they should think twice. Probably no more than three percent of employees engage in this sort of thing. Any crackdown will simply make the lives of the 97 percent rule-followers more difficult. The return on cracking down isn’t worth the cost.

What’s more, these food scams may be helping morale.

From Fast Company:

Small as the abuses might be in terms of Seamless's bottom line, there's no doubt it has a big impact on the morale of employees, who seem to take pride in manipulating money one way or another. According to Seamless's statistics, for example, the highest ordering corporate user placed more than 2,600 orders in 2011.

"There's nothing grosser or more magnificent than eating $25 of delivered Taco Bell under the fluorescent, sober lights of an office building," says one employee. "Do you have any idea how much baja sauce you can get for that money?"

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