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Ethics: is it ethical to send a gift to a client?
Thread poster: Elisa Martinez-Aznar

Elisa Martinez-Aznar  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:15
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Apr 10, 2012

Hello fellow Prozians,

I have a bit of a moral dilemma I hope you can help me with. I have been thinking of sending a gift to my regular clients as a way to thank them for their repeat custom. This financial year just ended has been fantastic, and I feel so happy to be able to earn a living doing something I thoroughly enjoy that I would like to express my gratitude for their loyalty somehow.

However, I am a bit worried that it may be misconstrued as a calculated move to generate more business, which is genuinely not the case. I just feel very lucky to have brilliant customers that respect me and are a real joy to work for, so I simply want to say "thank you". I certainly do not expect anything in return.

What are your views on this? Do you send gifts to your customers?


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:15
Hebrew to English
Friends or Clients? - Professional distance Apr 10, 2012

Hello.

I'm really ambivalent about this. Firstly, I don't think there's an ethical angle to the dilemma as such. I definitely wouldn't consider it unethical unless the gifts were intended as bribes/touting for (more) business, but I highly doubt anyone would ever interpret it that way.

I understand you wanting to show your appreciation but I'm just not sure gifts are the way to go.

I'd be worried about the precedent it might set and the blurring of the professional relationship. What I mean is, how long before your clients begin to think of you as their friend, which may entail the benefits expected of any friendship (lax payments, discounts, basically taking liberties...who knows?).

In essence I think it is altogether better to maintain a professional distance (similar to the teacher-student divide), it's ok to get friendly and have a rapport but another thing to invite them to your next birthday party.

That said, everyone is different and I guess it depends on a lot of things really and it's quite hard to generalize, but I always prefer to err on the side of caution and keep my distance.

[Edited at 2012-04-10 12:52 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:15
English to German
+ ...
PMs are people, too. Apr 10, 2012

Everybody loves gifts and attention.

I once sent custom-made, personalized cookies by a local vendor to my favorite PMs. The star-shaped, delicious cookies on a stick with the individual first names in sugar frosting were a full success. It was low-key enough to not look like kissing-up or digging for additional business, but neat and sufficient enough to say Thank-You to all the nice business partners, who have to keep up with my mood at times. They deserve a high calorie, vanilla-drenched hug with their name on it because they are the most lovable people ever.


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Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:15
English to Dutch
+ ...
When in doubt... Apr 10, 2012

... get a nice "occasion". It's too late for Easter eggs, but how about this:

"Today, it's exactly X years ago that I started out as a freelancer / started working for you..."

or something like "I just received the Xth job from your agency..."

and then "and I felt it was the right time to say THANKS for YYY by sending you ZZZ."

This way whatever you're sending is always linked to thanks over past jobs instead of expected future ones, and you get a welcome personal touch.


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pgschreier  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 08:15
German to English
Take them to lunch Apr 10, 2012

This depends on your location and that of the client/agency.

For one nearby agency, I take the PMs to a group lunch (I try to do it once a year). In that way, I can get to know them personally, which really helps. This group turned out to be eleven very attractive young ladies and me (one gray-haired gentleman old enough to be in the AARP). People in the restaurant were very curious as to how I pulled that one off! We all had a really pleasant time. It wasn't a small bill, but it has paid off many many times over. Remember, they have the choice of who gets each job among many translators, and if all other things are equal... It also gave me a chance to talk informally about my engineering background, and meanwhile I've become their "go to" person for many technical translations.

The first time we did it, I jokingly told them it was a "Bestechungsessen" (bribery lunch), and we all had a good laugh. Why try to hide the obvious? Since then, I've told them it was a genuine "Dankeschoensessen" (thank you lunch). BTW, I also made a point of inviting the back office people (like the bookkeeper who sends my payment each month -- she very much appreciated being included in the group, and it also scored points with all the PMs, as well -- "das alles ist nicht selbstverstaendlich!").

In a competitive environment, don't forget the personal touch. Our e-mails are now often much more than the "can you take this job" and the "yes" response. Makes the job more fun when you can relax with the people. And if you get in a bind, they're more likely than not to be accommodating.

My experience with this approach has been extremely positive, and my plan is to do the same with other nearby agencies with major billing amounts this year.


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JerryGN
Czech Republic
Local time: 08:15
English to Czech
+ ...
Be responsible Apr 10, 2012

I have received great gift from one advertising agency. They sent me a picture drawn by a kid - they simply sent some money to the orphanage, took the pictures and wrote "Instead of giving you expensive wine bottles or diaries, we gave the money to those who really need it - this is their thank you". I think this is win-win for all.

Other gifts we receive each year (I am a journalist) go to auction - different bottles, perfumes, candy boxes, toys... and again, money collected go to charity. Only once we sent the gift back - one electronics distributor sent us brand new ipad, we couldnt keep that.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My two cents Apr 10, 2012

We in the office send little boxes of Christmas goodies to our main customers every Christmas.

You can rest assured that, should your customers find that your work is of no benefit to their customers or themselves, they will stop using your services and find some other resource. No sensible person would put their customers' satisfaction at risk because of a little token of your appreciation, so you can indeed make a little present with no remorse and keep working with the highest degree of service and quality you are capable of.

Some sweets, a bottle of wine perhaps, or something they can enjoy and can have a good memory of, without having to keep it forever, is the best gift in a service situation if you ask me.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Exactly... Apr 10, 2012

Susan van den Ende wrote:
... get a nice "occasion".

Completely agree.


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:15
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nice comments Apr 10, 2012

Nice story in the post by pgschreier. He´s got a good thing going there.

I send boxes of chocolates to some of my favorite customers once in a while.

I also treat some of my collaborators to meals and beers. Good all around.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:15
English to German
+ ...
Looking back in terms of nice gestures Apr 10, 2012

I have to admit that PMs and direct clients have engaged in more personal gestures than I ever sent in return. I bend backwards, I go the extra mile, I go an extra hundred miles for my clients. I kill myself, I will never let a client down. I charge for it, though. However, once after I jokingly asked for flowers and candy for doing so, a PM crafted a really hand-made and unique thank-you note with pictures of candy and flowers and a personalized little poem for me. You will never, ever forget anything like that.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends Apr 10, 2012

I don't about the ins and outs of the ethical issue, but I have occasionally thought about sending an end-of-year gift to some long-standing regular clients, although I never got round to it. I recently gave one of them an unsolicited 10% discount on quite a large a bill, telling them it was in recognition of their loyalty over the years. They were pleasantly surprised.

In general though, I tend to try to keep a discreet distance.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just relax! Apr 10, 2012

neilmac wrote:
In general though, I tend to try to keep a discreet distance.

I remember that a very long time ago my employer at that time deployed me as part of a team to Ireland, to work on a localisation project at a major IT company.

We were quite an interdisciplinary crew working there for some months, and were assigned email addresses at the firm to better communicate with their teams. One of our team's members was a jolly and young fellow who wrote jokes, told personal stories, suggested pranks, etc. over the email. I found that absolutely inconceivable and risky for our credibility as a company... but the customer's employees loved it and after all he did an excellent job there (as well as a successful career afterwards; has now an important job at a big IT manufacturer).

My colleague's creative way of dealing with the customer taught me a lesson and made me be more critical with my previous discreet-distance attitude towards communications with customers. I think the "discreet distance" can be counterproductive if you are too strict with it.

[Edited at 2012-04-10 16:10 GMT]


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Elisa Martinez-Aznar  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:15
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Very nice comments indeed Apr 10, 2012

First of all, thank you all for taking the time to answer my query, and for your very interesting suggestions and comments. I found them all very helpful. Much appreciated.

In view of your comments, I have decided to send the gifts. After all, these are clients that have been keeping me busy week after week for more than a year now, so surely they will know it is not bribery to get more work. Although I will probably phrase it along the lines of Susan's suggestions so that they have no doubt about it.

Many thanks again, and happy translating!


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:15
Member (2008)
French to English
Gifts to government buyers Apr 10, 2012

It's quite ethical to send a reasonable "thank you for your business" gift to a client.

Be careful about sending gifts of any sort to government buyers, however. Some are prohibited by law from accepting gifts, even a pen. I had one government buyer warn me that if I sent even such a minor gift as a pen I would be obliged to pay courier charges to have it returned.

However, there should be no such complications with private clients.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Careful with big corporations Apr 10, 2012

John Fossey wrote:
However, there should be no such complications with private clients.

Some customers in large corporations might have issues. At least one of our customers has a policy that prohibits employees from accepting costly gifts. Luckily, we only send them sweets of a rather nominal value.


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