Me vs. the robots (a QuickBooks Online story)

I’m continually taken aback by the way QuickBooks Online does my thinking for me. As a self-taught bookkeeper/accounting person* who’s still learning, I prefer to do everything by hand and avoid shortcuts. QBO automates certain transactions, taking care of them behind the scenes in a way that makes the process invisible. This is something it’s always done, of course: I’m sure the first accountants to use it were horrified by all the tasks it automated (posting to journals?!). That’s always been the bargain with QB and QBO: give up control (autonomy, privacy, your own thought process) and let your life be made easier. In fact, it’s the bargain we make with every digital device and platform we use now.

For example, here’s how QBO writes off invoices: It applies a 100% discount to the invoice, decreasing Accounts Receivable and increasing Bad Debt. Although this is the end result that I, too, would arrive at, I would do it by means of a journal entry, not invisibly. It took me some time to puzzle out what QBO was doing.

Today I noticed another “advance” in this area. A customer, Suzie, who is billed monthly, always in the same amount of $135, made a $405 payment in September. Not having gotten a chance to put my hands in the books properly until today, I planned to sort through her account to find out why she overpaid, contact her, and apply the remainder as she desired. But QBO had already done everything for me. Although the deposit was made in September, the payment record shows that payment has been applied to October and November’s invoices as well. Thus, there is a temporal impossibility in the books: Suzie’s payment of September 4th paid her invoices of October 1st and November 1st as well.

What would I have done? I would have looked at the record, realized that Suzie was paying three months in advance, verified this with her, and applied the credit on her account to October’s invoice with an October date, then to November’s invoice with a November date. That’s two payment transactions plus a phone call. Am I glad I was saved all that time so that I could write this blog entry instead? I can’t decide.

* Yeah, I’m really not just a bookkeeper anymore, I’ve realized.

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