Would You Tell Someone They Overpaid You, Or Keep It To Yourself?

August 27, 2015  |  

I know what you’re probably thinking: Life is too short not to make it rain from time to time. You can do what you want, but as for myself, I can’t take money that’s not mine.

I know, I know, life isn’t fair and us common folks are often the ones to have to pay for all the craziness. Yes, it’s true much of the wealthy do fatten their wallets from our hard labor, but I’m not talking about that (we can save that for another day). I’m talking about the company that employs you overpaying you by accident. Would you keep the money and play dumb if they eventually found out, or fess up immediately?

I found myself in this very situation a few days ago when a company I used to write for paid me more than the invoice I sent them. You know how you find yourself doing a happy dance at the thought of getting paid? Well imagine that times a few extra levels as I was surprised to see thousands more in my account.

“Is this a going away bonus?” I asked myself. Side note: I was offered full-time employment with one of the companies I freelance for that would make writing for said “generous” company a no-no.

Seeing as I checked my email in the wee hours of the morning (having a two-month-old to nurse will do that to ya), I had to wipe the sleep from my eyes to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. It wasn’t. There in my bank account was a hefty direct deposit that made me want to dig out my pimp hat, queue up The O’Jays song “For the Love of Money” and strut in my pajamas.

Then, reality set in.

“You know you didn’t earn this,” my inner angel told myself. It’s true, I did work hard but didn’t write enough to command all of that extra cash I was seeing in my bank account. “It’s their fault, who’s gonna know?” asked the little devil on my shoulder.

In life, you have two choices: Do the right thing or make the wrong decision. I chose to do the right thing.

No matter how awesome the extra money would’ve been, it wouldn’t be honest or professional of me to keep. Plus, can you imagine how damaging the blow-back would be to my business relationship with the company — assuming I ever wanted to come back? There’s a pretty good chance the person who made the error is going to get spoken to (maybe even fired for their mistake), but the last thing I need is a corporation coming for me because I kept money that wasn’t mine. And so I feel confident that speaking up  and giving the money back was the right decision. Do you agree?

Have you ever been in this situation? If so, what did you do, and what was the outcome?

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