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Advice on ultimatum letter for late-payer
Thread poster: Alex Pszczola

Alex Pszczola  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:30
English to Polish
+ ...
Jan 11, 2008

Hello,

I would like to ask you if you could comment on my ultimatum letter which I usually send to late payers. It works, but I would like to improve it anyway. It could also help other translators as a template to get their money.
This company is in UK.

Here it is:
==========
Dear John,

I hope you can resolve the situation as a Managing Director at XXX.

I provided translation for XXX and now my invoice of 1xxx EUR is almost 2 months overdue.
I write this email to you to inform about actions I will have to take.
These are my standard business procedures for companies with payment overdue.

If my invoice will not be paid in 7 days I plan to do the
following:

1. Post to different translator websites/forums/hubs about your payment practice:

Website 1
Website 2
Website 3
Website 4
Website 5
Website 6

Mailing list 1
Mailing list 2
Mailing list 3

In this way I can warn other translators, that your company has cash flow problems.

2. Use services of debt collection agency in your area.

3. Petition for the compulsory liquidation of your company to pay a debt.

Kind regards,
=======

Thanks! Alex


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The Misha
Local time: 02:30
Russian to English
+ ...
Paragraph 3 is not good Jan 11, 2008

The general idea is great, that's what I usually do too and not just with translation business. However, your Point 3 looks laughable enough and obviously stands out as a bluff: you are not going to push for a compulsory liquidation procedure over a few hundred bucks, not from outside their home country anyway. You know it, and they know it, so it looks like a total bluff and does you more harm than good. Scrap it, and instead write complaints to the Translator Institute (whatever the exact name of this UK institution is), the British equivalent of the BBB and whoever else deals with consumer and business complaints there. Good luck.

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:30
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sample letter Jan 11, 2008

Final Notice

Dear Vendor,

I thoroughly enjoyed working with you on a recent translation project (___________________________). However, I regret to inform you that payment for this project is now _________ months/weeks past due.

Although I would love to continue working for your company in the future, I still have not received payment for this project despite the fact that I have sent you several reminder letters.

I would hate to have to resort to posting negative feedback about your company as a result of this unfortunate incident. I really would like to continue working with you, but obviously I cannot do so if payments are not rendered in a timely manner.

I am confident that you will be able to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.

Regards,


[Edited at 2008-01-11 16:57]


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:30
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
10 times better Jan 11, 2008

This is a perfect letter Jeff, polite but insistent with a little bit of a threat but nothing specific. A great example for everyone.

I assume that by "posting negative feedback" you mean on the Blue Board?




[Edited at 2008-01-11 21:42]


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TvNellen
United States
Local time: 01:30
English to Dutch
+ ...
What websites? Jan 11, 2008

Alex,

I'm in a similar situation with (coincidence?) a UK company. I'm interested in your list of websites. I would appreciate it if you could e-mail it to me.

Thanks!

Thomas


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:30
French to English
Uneasy Jan 11, 2008

The importance both letters (but particularly the first) place on negative internet feedback makes me uneasy.

Indeed, you should be aware that threats and harassment (2 incidents only are required to constitute harassment) are illegal in the UK. I'm not sure if or how your targets could instigate proceedings against you, but it is bound to be badly received. Two wrongs do not make a right.

And I also think too much importance is placed on websites such as this generally. If I put myself in the position of a slow payer, who may be thinking of not paying at all, I mentally laugh in your face. I can set up a new company (in the UK) for less than 100 GBP (150 EUR/200 USD) and do the same thing to someone else anyway.

I would be inclined to stick purely and simply to official legal redress to recover the debt. Or at least, in the letter - just don't mention your intentions

For the uk, I suggest perhaps you start here:
http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/infoabout/claims/index.htm

I have no idea if or how it works from outside the UK.

Edit to add: I know the original was just about the UK, but I'm pretty sure that you are not allowed to say anything negative anywhere about companies in other countries, e.g. Italy. So if you are looking for a generic template, you will definitely have to take out all mention of "negative postings"

[Edited at 2008-01-11 19:56]


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Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 08:30
English to Norwegian
+ ...
harrassment? Jan 11, 2008

Surely, it cannot be harrassment to post a true account on the Blue Board about not receiving payment from a client? And they should be thankful if you actually warn them that you are going to do so - and give them a chance to pay up before you do.

Maybe I should keep my mouth shut - since all my clients so far have paid me - but Iwould not feel right sending any of these two letters.
I especially have a problem with Jeff's.
Would you really "love" to continue working with a company with this kind of payment practice? The letter is polite, of course - but it strikes me as very insincere.
Maybe it is just my rude Scandinavian bones reacting... But I would need to be very hard up before accepting another job from someone who needed several reminders before paying me, so why pretend something different?

I think it is a good idea to

1. check the Blue Board or similar before accepting ANY project
2. only accept relatively small projects from new clients
3. certainly not keep working for them if they do not pay

And if you end up not getting your money - please post that on the Blue Board to help all the rest of us avoid a similar fate.


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xxxJPW  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
late payers Jan 11, 2008

Charlie,

your remarks are good in general, especially about feeling uneasy, but the problem still remains that a late payer is going to give you the runaround again and again...he's a late payer because he has no intention of paying (OK, a late payment could be an admin oversight, and 9 times out of 10 this is probably the case).

But if we are talking about the malicious and deliberate non-payer, a letter, no matter HOW POLITE or HOW THREATENING, may have little or no effect.

It will, however, (by keeping copies of course) suffice as evidence that you have tried to mitigate your circumstances as much as possible IF and WHEN you may need to take the matter to the courts: which should always always always be a last resort, whether we are talking about a few quid for a few pages or a few grand for a whole book translation, at the end of the day, by going to court - and the same goes for employing the services of a collection agency - you may simply be throwing good money after bad...

It says a lot (IMHO) that sites such as Proz exist where there is an opportunity to provide negative feedback, thereby warning others, although personally I (again) would leave that to the very last resort. The price of a phone call (to the defaulter/company) at the end of the day is a lot cheaper than jumping to a conclusion and hiring the country's top lawyer to 'get your money' for you.

Misha's point was a good one about para 3 - it does turn the whole letter a bit farcical, and almost invites the defaulter to say: okay then, sue me!! I'm calling your bluff! The person/company in question knows full well that it will cost a fortune to claw back the money.

Your point about harassment is a bit obscure (in my opinion) - isn't there also laws about being entitled to prompt payment? Which takes priority? And what exactly do you have to do (or say) to get paid?

This is how I would approach the situation.

Personally, I would not use either of the templates - in fact I would not use ANY template at all: just as sending out 4000 identical CV's will get you nowhere, sending out a template version of a 'where's my payment' letter or e-mail - especially one with veiled threats - is just as bad. If you are intending to post negative publicity, then just do it: why warn them? This kind of situation, if you have half-decent clients, will not arise as often as you fear, therefore when it does, treat each case individually....every company is different, in some there are nice people and in others there are cowboys; and plan your 'operation money recovery' accordingly. Is it worth throwing good money (and time) after bad...? Or should you simply cut your losses, put it down to a bad experience and learn not to get stung next time?

If you have to write off the invoice, at the end of the day, don't get mad - get even! Stick your comments on the Blue Board, write to the ITI etc; hell, you can even get in touch with Trading Standards, Citizen's Advice, the whole lot. Send them a million spam e-mails for good measure too!


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:30
French to English
Minimum info Jan 12, 2008

So we agree - post on forums if you like, just don't mention it to them

I fully agree re: para 3 of first letter, of course. We should make allowances that English is not the posters native language and perhaps he meant something else.

John Paul Weir wrote:
Personally, I would not use either of the templates - in fact I would not use ANY template at all:


Actually, I think a basic template serves a purpose, one of which might be not to overlook some of the key info you need in a reminder letter and some of which is absent from the examples above, namely:
invoice reference number
invoice date
invoice amount
initial due date.

I'm not sure that just describing the project and giving an approximation of how overdue payment is will necessarily help people track an invoice, altho it's worth mentioning. Give as much info as poss.


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Alex Pszczola  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:30
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More information on this particular situation Jan 12, 2008

Thank you so much for every comments and suggestions. This is my first late-payer in 7 years.
I always check Blue Board record and this company has score 5 from many translators.

Actually I sent 2 emails and called 2 times to this company and accountant said they are waiting for money to pay me. So my goal is to force them to pay over 1500 euros quickly (they should pay me 2 months ago).

I don't like this gentle attitude which some of you proposed - after all they are stealing money from me. Should you be gentle with thief?

I read also in some other forum that translators put on their invoice warning about 5% or 10% interest for late payment. But since I did not put it on this invoice, I guess I cannot demand it?

Please put more ideas, which could be inserted to such ultimatum: maybe some UK translator association or consumer help organizations or .... where I can complain about money practice. Or maybe someone knows some link to list of such organization in different countries?

The idea is that together we can brainstorm and prepare good template or sample to start from when dealing with such late payers. Of course this is not template to send without changes for every situation. It is sample with some ideas what to do in such cases.

John Weir gave some ideas what else to include:

Stick your comments on the Blue Board, write to the ITI etc; hell, you can even get in touch with Trading Standards, Citizen's Advice, the whole lot.

[Edited at 2008-01-12 18:00]


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 08:30
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
Jeff's got the right idea Jan 12, 2008

Jeff's letter sounds good, but I would suggest one small change:

Although I would love to continue working for your company in the future.
I think love is a bit over the top. I would say like to continue working ...

Just a suggestion.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:30
English to French
+ ...
Threats Jan 12, 2008

I don't agree that letting a client know in advance about your collection procedure (which is perfectly legal in pretty much any country anyways) can be considered a threat - it is purely information, and if the client interprets it as a threat, then they are the ones who are not dealing with the situation properly. You are basically saying to the client that you will go through with the procedures you are legally entitled to use. What can be wrong with that?

As for the BB, well, telling the client in advance about it makes no sense really. If you have anything to post to the BB, just do it. Besides, you can modify or delete your BB comment later when the client pays up (with the assistance of a moderator). How your client interprets this is their bloody business - and if they are smart, they will do the right thing, which is recognize that their practices are hurting their business as much as yours, and then do what they can to remedy the situation by paying up. Also, as long as there are no threats in your BB but simple facts that you can prove (such as "is two months late in paying for a EUR 1500 invoice"), nobody can say you attacked their reputation even if said BB record does hurt their reputation. You are simply telling the truth and the only way they could shut you up about it is if they pay you and then have you sign a document wherein you waive your right to speak about the incident publicly (I would never sign such a document since it is still important that others are aware of the risk they take by working with this client).

I think what you need to know at this point is if you are willing to end the relationship with the client, that is, whether they are trying to trick you or whether they simply made an excusable error. If you think they have good intentions, then you may want to put your silk gloves on before "handling" them. If you think they are trying to run away with your money, or even just trying to delay the payment to serve their own interests above yours, you can be more demanding and go ahead with collection procedures because you don't want to have such an experience again.

It sounds as though your client is telling you that they can't pay you because they haven't been paid for the job and so don't have your money. You can reply to this that that is none of your beeswax since you only signed a contract with them and not with their client, which means that they still have to honor the contract whether they got paid or not.

All the best!


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:30
French to English
Clarification Jan 13, 2008

Speaking as one of the individuals who mentioned the word "threats":

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

I don't agree that letting a client know in advance about your collection procedure (which is perfectly legal in pretty much any country anyways) can be considered a threat ...What can be wrong with that?

Quite. Personally, this was not what I was referring to when I talked about "threats", and I don't believe anyone else was either.

As for the BB, well, telling the client in advance about it makes no sense really.

Quite. This was the the kind of thing I meant as "threats" - negative statements on the internet or elsewhere, or anything else. Basically, "I'm gonna....." where "....." is anything not related to standard debt collection procedures.

Also, as long as there are no threats in your BB but simple facts that you can prove (such as "is two months late in paying for a EUR 1500 invoice"), nobody can say you attacked their reputation even if said BB record does hurt their reputation.

This may be generally true for the UK, which was the OP's issue. However, my understanding is that this is not the case everywhere. I seem to recall that Italy is particularly strict on the issue to the point that even truthful negative statements are not allowed. Legal advice is not allowed on the forums but I think it is fair to say that generalisations do not apply to this aspect, and what might be fine in, say, the UK could well be illegal in say, Italy


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Mónica Algazi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 03:30
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
Jeff's letter Jan 14, 2008

I feel Jeff's appoach is excellent.

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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:30
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Keep it simple and cold Jan 17, 2008

Politeness is not the issue, you can be polite and business (cold) without going as far as specific threats. Here is my final notice letter (adapted from French), and they paid. Notice the use of 'We' as a method of de-personalizing the situation.

I avoid saying I would like to continue working with them, because I usually don't continue working for people who give me payment headaches. If they contact me again, I will remind them of previous difficulties and only accept a job if paid up front.

(I sent two pages because I had 2 invoices unpaid, and the second page had a table with the invoice reference, amount of each, total amount due, and late interest.)
-----------------------
Cover letter
---------------------
Dear Sir,

Despite several reminders by email and by telephone, your payment of xxxx € is now YYYY days overdue. Please refer to the table sent with this letter for details.

If we do not receive payment in full within (48) forty-eight hours of the date of this letter, we will be placing your account with XXXXX (Collection Agency).
(OR According to law, we are giving you final notice to pay the sum overdue within XXX days/hours, failing which we will be forced to take such actions as necessary to protect our interests)

We urge you to give this matter your immediate attention.

Sincerely,


[Edited at 2008-01-17 11:01]


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