As a PA, I try to be pleasant and accommodating. This used to extend to occasionally using my own credit card for production purposes, on the assumption that I would be reimbursed. No longer.

I was on a show, a real show, with an actual budget. I was told to order sandwiches for the whole crew. Since the coordinator was out at the time, I didn’t have access to the production’s credit card. So, I just placed the order and used my card to hold it. We’d use petty cash to pay for the order when we actually picked up.

But, as it turned out, there was some sort of Jewish holiday at the time (I don’t remember which one, sorry), and a number of producers weren’t allowed to eat bread that day. Why this information was not put to use before I placed the order, I have no idea.

So, I called the sandwich place to cancel. The owner, with an angry and neigh-indecipherable accent, informed me he’d already made the sandwiches. Whether I picked them up or not, he’d be charging me.

I told the coordinator about the situation, and he assured me, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of it.”

And then he immediately proceeded to… not. I asked and asked for my money (several hundred dollars), and he kept saying he’d get it from the accountant. He had to get permissions from people and things of that sort.

Now, bear in mind, this was a network show. Only a few days earlier, they’d spent $500 on flowers. They didn’t actually need $500 worth of flowers; they needed $50 worth of flowers, but couldn’t decide what color the contestant would like.

So, clearly they had money to burn. I, on the other hand, had just been charged more money than I earn in a week for sandwiches that nobody ate.

I continued to bug the coordinator until I wrapped for the season. I called the office every couple of days, and eventually, he just stopped returning my calls.

Let this be a lesson for you PAs. Never, under any circumstances, use your own money (or credit card), and expect the production to pay you back.

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13 Responses

  1. Sounds to me like your coordinator submitted the reimbursement and kept the cash. Sounds ugly and accusatory? Sure. But the situation you describe here sounds EXACTLY like what happened to me many years ago as a PA.

    After this awful and expensive experience, I served up face time with the production accountant daily on any film I worked on and I NEVER used my money or cards again.

    Painful learning, indeed. Sure hope that coordinator doesn’t run into you again…:)

  2. Bravo! By having paid for this meal, you’ve now become a producer on the show. O.K., not exactly an “Executive” producer, but maybe we could at least call you an investor.
    In any case, I agree with one of the posters above in that you are now qualified to take away (an equivalent cash value amount of) whatever you can carry out the door, or at least catch up with all of those delayed phone call returns to your friends in Italy or wherever.
    Best regards,
    Jerry w

  3. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. The first bills, and I’m not kidding, that should be paid, are reimbursements to staff who are not in the business of extending credit.

    A couple of quick notes:

    It’s def just a check request thing by the coordinator. If you have a receipt and coordinator signs off, you’d have the money.

    Don’t use your own CC. Already said.

    People who earn more sometimes don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to use your credit card. This can be kinda awkward, but I’ve seen it happen.

    Best is to simply say, I don’t have my card with me today. Do that a few times and then ask for a production card in your name. It’s usually a few clicks on the Chase website to issue another card. Fat chance of that happening of course.

    If you know anyone in AP your day is made. The question is, I wonder what happened with my reimbursement, here’s a copy of the receipt I submitted.

    Super lame though. Good for you on bugging them.

  4. At P.A. Bootcamp, we assure our “campers” that they’ll get gain the experience of losing hundreds of dollars — simply by enrolling into our program!

  5. Yup, I went down that road many many years ago when I worked as a photo assistant . I learn early NEVER use your own cc or cash.

    What that coordinator did is just so not cool.

  6. Hey , really like this post, cheers for that , may i put a link to it from whice is my blog?
    all the best
    where did you get this cool theme ?:)

  7. You speak the Gospel.

    Take them to small claims court. Odds are they won’t show up and you’ll win by default without even having to present a case.

    Show up at the studio with a court order and make them pay your ass.

  8. Oh man, NEVER pay for anything with your own money as a PA, especially on your credit card. Or use your credit card to hold a meal. I did that once and ended up getting charged even after we paid in cash. Took me over a week to get my money back from the place. I never let my PA’s use their cards for these very reasons.

    I’m sure the coordinator had to fill out a check request or something for accounting but that’s absurd that they were so slack in getting you your money back. Not cool.

    The holiday was Passover btw 🙂

    Also, nice blog. Never commented before but I’ve been reading for a little while now. You paint a good picture of this crazy industry we’re a part of.

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