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Abusive e-mails and threats after agency declined my quote (staff: 'please send details')
Thread poster: Pernille Chapman

Pernille Chapman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:50
Member (2004)
English to Danish
+ ...
Mar 26, 2004

I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this posting, but I'm really at my wits' end here. Also, I realise that this is quite a long posting, but I feel this is necessary to give you the picture.

Today, I was asked to quote for a job handled by an overseas agency. Having submitted my quote, which was no more than I would charge any other client, I got what I perceived as a rather cheeky reply, including the lines "You must be much less greedy... :>) otherwise, you will take 90% of our bill to client!!!!! We want you to work for us; not the other way around!" I must admit that the smiley didn't do much for me here, but I replied in what I thought was a courteous if somewhat business-like manner. I told the agency I was sorry to hear that, but obviously I wasn't going to work for less than my usual rate which I know is at the standard UK level. Also, I suggested that the agency shouldn't contact me again unless they could accept my rates as there wouldn't be much point in doing so. This reply, however non-aggressive my intentions were, triggered the following response (no changes in typography or "style" made from my side):


As far as I understand it, this is the e-mail equivalent of shouting at somebody down the phone or to their face. I therefore requested that the agency rep in question stop mailing me. Also, I informed him that I found his manner very unprofessional and that I intended to warn my colleagues against working with someone so unpleasant.

I won't bore you with the details; suffice it to say that this triggered a flood of abusive mails (lots of capital letters), the crux of which was the following:

Subject: WARNING!

"As of today, in all our emails and business correspondence, your name and email will be mentioned with the indication that your rates are outrageous and that you treat translation agencies like en-users.

Typically, we send out about 200 letters, emails and faxes per week. This way, we intend to damage you at least as much as you wish to damage us.

Please govern yourself accordingly!"

I'm not particularly worried about these threats, as I trust any professionals in the industry to ignore such comments, even if the threat was carried out. At the same time, I'm not too sure about the best way to handle this kind of thing. After informing this person that I would be posting the above on, he got even more abusive. At no point did I intend to reveal the name of this individual, but I have nevertheless been threatened further, including:


Please govern yourself accordingly. The moment you THREATEN us, I will make more than sure to harm you 1000 times!


...all your threats have been submitted to our lawyer.

So, I suppose I'm really just posting this to share it with my colleagues - a problem shared is a problem halved, as they say. Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to forget the whole sorry business and ignore the mails, but I felt that if I didn't post this, the guy might think his threats had somehow worked. Has anyone come across similar behaviour, and if so, did you take any action? Also, does anyone know how to set up rules for e-mails so that the sender gets an automatic message saying that his message has been blocked? At the moment, I've only managed to send the messages directly to my Deleted box, but that means I'm still receiving them.

Thanks in advance for any advice - it's great to have somewhere to get these things off my chest (I fear my long-suffering husband has already heard more than enough!)

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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:50
English to Dutch
+ ...
Just forget about this particular outsourcer, Pernille Mar 26, 2004

There are indeed a few nitwits out there who tend to react this way.
Just (try to) ignore their mails and delete their messages.
They're not worth your precious time.

Enjoy your weekend.

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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 23:50
If this is from a registered person, please send details to a moderator Mar 26, 2004

Besides harassment, we see here a threat of defamation. Is this person registered here? If so, please pass the details to a moderator (or me) so that we can terminate the person's membership.

Otherwise, I suggest you simply ignore.

Thanks for posting.

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Local time: 04:50
English to French
Complain to their governing body Mar 26, 2004

What don't you complain to the Association of Translation Companies (
Such behaviour from an agency is not acceptable, and it looks like you have a good case against them...

People like these are not worth worrying about. Enjoy your weekend!

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Similar experience: understand how you feel Mar 26, 2004

Dear Pernille

I had a similar experience not too long ago and it's very, very intimidating, as what they are essentially doing is threatening to damage your reputation and means of earning a living (which is why I am generally against a translator-rating system in ProZ).

Their behaviour was totally unreasonable and highly unprofessional. Your approach was entirely correct and now the best thing you can do is forget about it:-)

My experience, incidentally, is that I found myself in the position of needing a translator for a language combination not my own; the client then cancelled the job (late) and I wrote and pointed out that the translator had already started the job and would they mind paying for the work done (without expecting to be paid, of course. I simply felt I wanted to make my point, and I did so courteously). The individual wrote back a lengthy email, basically reading me the riot act, saying that he/she was doing a doctorate and this was his/her 'research'(setting up people under false pretences????), that I was totally unprofessional, that my reputation would suffer if he/she had anything to do with it, etc., etc.

I was very upset that day, and felt very disturbed at what I saw as unwarrated viciousness and highly irrational behaviour. I never replied to that email - there is simply no reasoning with unhinged minds.

Hope this helps reassure you:-)


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Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sounds familiar Mar 26, 2004

The text from the agency looks very familiar. Are you a member of TCR? If you are, post the comments there, I think I know where they are coming from, and if it is the same guy, I can tell you that he does this all the time.

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Agua  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Enjoy your weekend, but report the agency, by all means. Mar 26, 2004


Luckily, I have never been in that situation, but I think you should:

1. set your e-mail server to block their e-mails.

2. get on with your work and life.

3. report the agency to any association it is supposed to belong to, to ProZ moderators and to Henry, so that they can act accordingly.

Good luck,


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Agnieszka Hayward
Local time: 05:50
German to Polish
+ ...
a cup of good coffee Mar 26, 2004

Wait till you calm down a bit and let fury not cloud your judgement.
I had a very similar situation. The person threatened to send emails and faxes to the top 500 companies in Poland, explaining what a threat to the market I was.
I was sad at their stubborn narrow-minded approach. I needed 1 full day to calm down.
I think I know how you feel...

I then asked the bloke if he wanted the email addresses of the companies, because I had them all on my past invoices and in my history of orders. At that point he slowed down and proposed me to work for him (!!!).

I fully agreee with Prozarians suggesting you report the agency to a governing body.

Such behaviour needs to be ridiculed austerely.

Best regards
I keep my fingers crossed for you

[Edited at 2004-03-26 22:56]

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Agnieszka Hayward
Local time: 05:50
German to Polish
+ ...
PS. Mar 26, 2004

needless to say, I am still warning all my translator friends not to make any business with him.

I think some of the ostracism has really gotten to him, I got some really friendly e-mails from him, assuring me I am more than welcome to work for him... well...
funny, isn't it?

[Edited at 2004-03-26 22:54]

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Local time: 04:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Report the abuse to the sender's email service-provider Mar 26, 2004

If blockmail doesn't work and you don't want to pull the plug on your email account, report the abuse to the email source server. Most have an abuse-reporting facility. If it starts up again from another server, keep shopping the abuser.

Harassing telephone calls and malicious mail, even if from abroad, are also reportable criminal offences in the UK.

A court injunction stopping the sender in (his) own country should really be a last resort.

Defamation footnote -> breaks down - as Camaxilo from the US mentions below - into civil or (police-reportable) criminal libel (written) and slander (spoken), but an expensive business in the UK for which no legal aid is available for the civil versions, unless involves 'malicIous or injurious falsehood' i.e. rubbishing someone's trade name, goods or services - as in your case.

Defamation is one of the few civil cases in the UK where a jury trial is available and juries will award - usually high - damages in celebrity cases against a defamer, only to be reduced by a judge on appeal.

[Edited at 2004-03-27 09:05]

[Edited at 2004-03-27 09:07]

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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:50
Spanish to English
Ailish's story Mar 27, 2004

That was shocking behaviour by your client, Ailish. I don't normally work with the end-customer, but a couple of times work I have started has been cancelled and I have always been paid. But unfortunately some people think that the world owes them a living.
This is one reason I prefer not to have to deal with the public.
Regards and congratulations on being so philosophical.

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Camaxilo  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:50
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Unprofessional e-mails Mar 27, 2004

Hi Pernille,

Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens quite often with agencies. Let that not bother you. You did well, in keeping your calm, and continued to be corteous. That is good. You should always be professional and let them threaten you. Collect all the information and keep things together. If you have a lawyer, you should have him or her, involved. And if they receive a letter or a phone call from an attorney, I don't think they will continue to harass you.Just because they are in another country, that doesn't mean you cannot sue them. It pays to have a lawyer on pay roll these days. It doesn't cost much. I have one that I can use to handle things for me. Get one, who can handle international matters.Two important things in this business. For that matter in any business: one should get a lawyer and carry professional insurance.
This person felt threatened by your honest and sincere reply and now he is trying to come back at you with veangence, by using a punishable crime (defamation of character), under the law.-DEFAMATION the publication of anything injurious to the good name or reputation of another, or which tends to bring him into disrepute.A defamation designed to be read is known as a LIBEL; an oral defamation is a SLANDER. Of course this is according to the US laws, which is not too far behind the international laws. A tricky thing is that you cannot go after someone for defamation, however you can go after someone for Either LIBEL or SLANDER. That is because there is no legal cause of action called defamation: libel and slander may be found on defamation. But the right of action itself is Libel or Slander.
My advice is not to worry much about it, but to at the same time take good notes, on this case and talk to an attorney, just in case.I don't know if you have a non-profit-organizations there, where you can consult an attorney, free of charges. I tell you, I would find out how big is this agency, first?
Do you read me? To see if it is even worth fussing about. Keep cool and have a nice weekend. If thing s get uglier and you need further advice, please let me know.


[Edited at 2004-03-27 01:25]

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Eva Blanar  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:50
English to Hungarian
+ ...
The positive side Mar 27, 2004

Dear Pernille,

What happened is simply outrageous and you did well you told about it and I also think you ought to give details to the moderators.

But now, for yourself, I think you ought to look at the positive side only and there seem to be a couple of very positive elements.

First of all, thank you for not entering into a bargain: that would be detrimental for all of us, we all should make efforts to avoid a custom to push down rates by "negotiation" - especially "negotiation" in a rude, uneducated manner.

Second: there are agencies that are excellent to work with, friendly, professional, but there are "middlemen" of this kind, who allow themselves an incredibly rude attitude towards translators: we shall not let this happen! You did well that you refused this and all of us, we shall do the same.

Third: Personally, I don't think those 200 emails were or will ever be sent, but just think of it: what an advertisement... your name will reach 200 potential customers, with your rates. Whatever the context is, this "middleman" will make people aware of your availability as a translator, at known rates. If these addressees are high quality potential clients, they will know what your rates mean, if they are not, you would not work for them anyway, would you? And who cares about clients you would never work for?

As to getting rid of abusive mails, I think you can only automatically delete abusive messages, but your service provider might set a rule to refuse such ingoing mails (eventually, with a notification to yourself that such a message arrived - but I would skip that).

So thanks again for your contribution to keeping our dignity as translators: you already did what can be done and, if I were you, I would draw a line now and forget about the story - this person doesn't deserve any more attention.

Have a nice weekend,

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Pernille Chapman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:50
Member (2004)
English to Danish
+ ...
I can't thank you all enough! Mar 27, 2004

Once again, I've been reminded just what a fantastic resource is. Your support, advice and comments means an awful lot in this kind of situation - thank you all very, very much. While I'm sorry to learn that I'm not alone in this experience, at least it proves that such things need to be out in the open.
First of all, though, please let me assure you that this does NOT involve a member or agency registered with The job "offer" came to me through a colleague (whom, might I say, I fully trust and respect), so I don't actually know the name of the supposed company this person works for or perhaps even runs. This was one of the reasons why I decided to post this thread, as I wanted to do something to prove that I was not giving in to the various threats I had received.
I have followed Ricardo's advice and registered with TCR, so as soon as my registration has been accepted, I will check out their lists.
Can I say a particular thanks to Eva for assuring me that I did the right thing by not giving in to this kind of pressure. Just to prove how right you are, here's an extract of what I received this morning:

"For your information, I have just sent the following to another constipated translator... In the face of my powerful arguments, his US$ 300.00 (22.29 CAN cents since 1 US$ = 1.3 CAN$) has become US$ 200.00 (14.9 CAN)!!!
Read, learn, grow, repent, atone and apologize!!!!"

Message to other translator:
" US$ 250 for 1750 words amounts to 18.57 CAN cents (1 US$ = 1.3 CAN$). Such rates lead to our paying you over 85% of the amount we bill to our client. It is totally unacceptable! So sorry for this time. If you are ready to deflate your rates and moderate
your profits, we can do business. Otherwise, in [country] and elsewhere, there seems to be lots of good translators who satisfy themselves with 8 to 10 US. Not more!...
We are the middleman and do not understand why some rates are so high. Why?Why don't you maximize your chances by offering more humble rates? The higher your rates, the more dispensable you become. I repeat: WE ARE NOT IBM OR GE! Just the middleman!"

Here is the response of this translator to my VERY POWERFUL arguments ->

"Since you describe yourself as being the middleman, do you think it's fair
that you get a 50% cut? I'll agree to do the job for $200 (amounts to about
> 0.11/0.12 US cent per word). I'll have the translation done by [original deadline]."

In view of the above, Pernille, do I have anything else to add?


I really don't want to bore/disgust you all by repeating any more of this, but I believe that it's important to show how some of our colleagues are bullied into to accept lower rates. I know this is an age-old problem, but supportive comments like your own must help to improve things in the longer term.
Thanks again to all of you, not least for the legal advice. I sincerely hope I won't need it, but have kept copies of the offensive mails just in case.
Wishing you all a very happy and relaxed weekend,


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Patricia Posadas  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:50
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Report and forget:-) Mar 27, 2004

Report on this as and where it has been advised to you by other colleagues and forget about it as soon as possible. You did nothing wrong, you just behaved like anyone would have.

As Ricardo says this reminds me of someone whose behaviour was widely described in some lists.

This kind of religious jargon your sender uses where he appears as a kind of menacing God "WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO APOLOGIZE, AMEND AND REPENT FOR YOUR SAVAGE AND HAMAS-LIKE ATTITUDE?" show, in case there was any doubt, that this person is mentally disturbed. In this case, the more you answer and the more you try to be polite etc. the more he will go on spamming your mailbox. As someone said, put a filter to his e-mail address in your Outlook or whatever.

Have a nice WE!


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