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Is the financial crisis a credible excuse for delaying payment?
Thread poster: Clémentine Choubrac

Clémentine Choubrac  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
Member (2008)
English to French
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Oct 21, 2008

Hello everyone,

I am looking for a word of advice. I have been working as a free-lance translator for almost 2 years now. I am now experiencing difficulties with a free-lancer from Belgium who posted a job on ProZ.com in May (he is also registered on ProZ). I replied to this job offer and ended up doing this job for him, and then a couple of others as he needed help on projects, between end of May and end of June.

Payment (500 € altogether) was due one month after reception of invoice. By mid August I send an email asking him when was the payment going to be made. He replied saying that he was on holidays, that he hadn't been paid himself for those projects before he left, and that would be back in the office 1st of September. He never got in touch with me again. I emailed him on 23rd of September, no reply. I tries to call him on landline and mobile phone, no reply.

Today I email him and he tells me that his bank cancelled without warning his line of credit, that this is propably linked to the financial crisis, that he basically doesn't have cash to pay me and asks me to be patient. I have been patient enough and I'm thinking of taking legal action.

My question is: do you think this is a valid excuse? is it actually possible that his bank cancelled his cash credit without warning? Are there any other Belgian translators to whom this has happened? I must admit I don't belive him. But if he doesn't have money, a reminding about payment from a lawyer won't change anything about the situation.

Thank you for reading!


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:46
English to German
+ ...
No excuse Oct 21, 2008

Hi Clémentine


My question is: do you think this is a valid excuse?

No.

is it actually possible that his bank cancelled his cash credit without warning?

Yes; as you will have noted, a Belgian bank was amongst those hardest hit.

But that problem is the outsourcer's problem, not yours.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:46
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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You have done your part; now they have to do theirs Oct 21, 2008

Ralf Lemster wrote:
But that problem is the outsourcer's problem, not yours.


If you have done your part with a delivery on time with the quality requested and following their rules and instructions, there is no excuse not to pay you. They must pay you on time even if they have to paint the money!


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Clémentine Choubrac  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I thought as much Oct 21, 2008

Ralf and Tomas, thank you for your quick answer.


Yes; as you will have noted, a Belgian bank was amongst those hardest hit.

But that problem is the outsourcer's problem, not yours.


I actually thought as much; actually, if he had paid me on time, the financial crisis would never have anything to do with this situation and I feel this is just another excuse for not paying me.

Best,

Clémentine


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Ruth Martinez  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just another excuse - after so many Oct 21, 2008

Hi Clémentine,

I completely agree with Tomás and Ralf's comments.

While it is perfectly possible that this person has been affected by the current financial situation, it is also true that you should have been paid for your work a long time ago - even before his bank collapsed (if it ever did).

He has basically failed to be professional form the beginning, using a series of completely unacceptable excuses:

"He replied saying that he was on holidays, that he hadn't been paid himself for those projects before he left, and that would be back in the office 1st of September. He never got in touch with me again."

Next time I organise any holidays I won't worry about making sure I do not accept any jobs with a deadline that clashes with my holidays. At the end of the day, I can always tell my clients that I will submit my translation when I am back...

Good luck,

Ruth


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:46
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
So cheeky! Oct 21, 2008

Clémentine Choubrac wrote:
He replied saying that he was on holidays, that he hadn't been paid himself for those projects before he left, and that would be back in the office 1st of September.


This is so cheeky!! I can't believe it.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:46
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Does this person/company have a BlueBoard? Oct 21, 2008

If it does not, you can always create a BlueBoard yourself, I think. It would be good to keep track of the BlueBoard and inform this person that you would create a negative entry if you are not paid in 5 days. You can always make the negative entry anyway, as other translators are at risk.

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Clémentine Choubrac  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
Member (2008)
English to French
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TOPIC STARTER
BlueBoard Oct 21, 2008

Tomás Cano Binder wrote:

If it does not, you can always create a BlueBoard yourself, I think. It would be good to keep track of the BlueBoard and inform this person that you would create a negative entry if you are not paid in 5 days. You can always make the negative entry anyway, as other translators are at risk.


I just did as you said, emailed him with a deadline for payment. If it is not respected, I will add a negative BlueBoard entry for that person as a 1st step to getting paid.

Thank you all again for your answers.

Clémentine


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Oleh Dyachenko  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 22:46
English to Russian
+ ...
negative entry Oct 21, 2008

Clémentine Choubrac wrote:

I just did as you said, emailed him with a deadline for payment. If it is not respected, I will add a negative BlueBoard entry for that person as a 1st step to getting paid.

Thank you all again for your answers.

Clémentine



Good job!!!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Your subject line is wrong Oct 21, 2008

Clémentine Choubrac wrote:
My question is: do you think this is a valid excuse? Is it actually possible that his bank cancelled his cash credit without warning?


Your subject line is "is the financial crisis a credible excuse for delaying payment", but the translator did not use that as an excuse at all. His excuse is that his line of credit was cancelled. As a way of explanation (possibly to assure you that it is not his fault) he says that the financial crisis probably has something to do with it.

I'm not Belgian, but in my own country a bank can certainly cancel a line of credit at any moment without warning. It is terribly disrupting when it happens, especially if you're running a business, because as a business person you tend to push all profits into your credit line to keep the interest low. When the bank then cancels the credit line, you end up not having access to the money that you put into it, because strictly speaking you were simply paying off your credit.

It is quite normal for a business to operate in the red during its first months or even years. There may have been startup capital but most of that is used up in the first weeks to start trading. From then on, the business runs on credit and slowly drags itself out of debt over the months or years. In fact, some businesses run on credit as a matter of policy, although that is generally not healthy for small businesses.

It is therefore not impossible that this translator had taken the client's money, put it into his debt account to accrue a few days' interest, with the full intention to pay you, and then his bank cancelled the line of credit. Banks do such silly things when the going gets tough. It could even be that the friendly bank manager who granted the translator his line of credit was promoted and replaced with someone a little more cynical, who decided that the risk was too great.

But if he doesn't have money, a reminding about payment from a lawyer won't change anything about the situation.


If he is telling the truth, then he is probably truly in a little financial crisis himself right now. My feeling is that he is not going pay you soon, so here's what I suggest: tell him that payment is due and that interest is accuring, and that you understand his position, and that for that reason you'll hold of making a negative entry in the BB for another three months, hoping that he will regain liquidity in that time.


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Clémentine Choubrac  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
Member (2008)
English to French
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TOPIC STARTER
My subject line is wrong Oct 21, 2008

Hello Samuel,

Thank you for providing explanation to this cancelling of credit line. I don't doubt that he is in a financial crisis now, but the payment was already late before this financial crisis started and impacted this person's bank and business.

That's what really annoys me, I feel it is a convenient excuse, just like the one he gave me the first time I reminded him of the payment. I have no way of checking that this line of credit cancelling is true, and I think starting with a negative entry could be a way to call his bluff.

In his last email (reply about my telling him about the negative reference), he now accuses me of blackmail and yet still refuses to give me a date for payment. So if I wait 3 months before making that entry, what happens then ? he tells me his account is still blocked and I can wait another 3 months... That's not a solution and it is the surest way to find myself in a financial crisis of my own.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The point is Oct 21, 2008

Clémentine Choubrac wrote:
In his last email ... and yet still refuses to give me a date for payment. So if I wait 3 months before making that entry, what happens then ? he tells me his account is still blocked and I can wait another 3 months...


The point is that someone has to put foot down and set a date. It can be you or him. He hasn't taken the initiative, so it is up to you. You can set an unreasonable date or a reasonable one. In my opinion, three months is both reasonable and not unreasonable, for someone in his assumed position.

You want to use the BB as leverage or a threat -- well, a deadline like the one I propose is also leverage, and it has a greater chance of producing a win-win situation. Once you go public, there's no turning back. In a sense, you have greater leverage while you hold the card in your hand than when you actually play the card.


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:46
English to Dutch
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Interesting Oct 21, 2008

So he does have money to go on holidays, but he has no money to pay you.

Interesting.


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Clémentine Choubrac  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Very interesting Oct 21, 2008

Loek van Kooten wrote:

So he does have money to go on holidays, but he has no money to pay you.

Interesting.


You see my point.

Actually the mere mention of my giving him a negative reference made him describe his situation in more details: if what he said is true, he is in a very dire situation. But he always gives me the same answer when I ask him what is the deadline for the payment: "I will pay as soon as I can, I can't say more now".

I asked him to understand that I cannot accept such an declaration as a proof of impossibility of payment, and he mentions talking to his accountant about paying at least one of my invoices to prove that he's not trying to rip me off. And then realises it is not possible because of a technicality (something required by EU law; but I don't live in the EU and he's known that fact from the beginning). I have the impression he never had a look at my invoices where I sent them to him in May and June... It gets weirder and weirder.

[Edited at 2008-10-21 15:47]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Not that interesting Oct 21, 2008

Loek van Kooten wrote:
So he does have money to go on holidays, but he has no money to pay you.
Interesting.


If his business pays him a salary, then it is not that interesting. Besides, he was on holiday before his line of credit was supposedly cancelled, remember.


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