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Computer stolen, put in hospital before delivery
Thread poster: Peter Smedskjaer-Stenland

Peter Smedskjaer-Stenland
Faroe Islands
Local time: 07:34
Danish to English
+ ...
Jul 16, 2013

I accepted my first large bit of work from an agency.
I have written everything and checked it and would have been a few days ahead of the deadline, enough time for editing.
Then I was beaten up and my computer with backup stolen.
I wrote from a loaned computer at the hospital an email informing the agency my computer was stolen and the deadline would not be met. I wanted to rewrite it, to finish it.
I didn't count on the police insisting I come in for interviews or being readmitted to the hospital a day later.
My mistake was taking too big a bite, trying to rewrite the project, not wanting to give up.
I am about to be readmitted again for x-rays and informed the agency, three days past the dead line I cannot meet the commitments.
I screwed up a potential relationship with an agency by not backing my files up in another computer, to start with, then really screwed it up by not withdrawing from it when I was still in the hospital.
I finished most of the invoices, but I am too high on painkillers right now to accept changes by the proofreader and edit it. I am giving the work, free of charge, to the company because I screwed up.
What would have others done?


avsie (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
English to French
+ ...
Did the agency even reply? Jul 16, 2013

Did you get a reply from the agency following any of your communications with them? If so, what did they say?


Sandra Peters-Schöbel
Local time: 08:34
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Oh my god... Jul 16, 2013

Oh my god, what a desaster for you! I hope you feel better now after that horrible experience...

I think you already found your answers. You spent too much time in a hopeless situation. My experience is that most of the project managers can accept that desasters sometimes occur (like a crash of the document before saving it, or computer failures or whatever..) if you tell them immediately. Most of the times they have calculated some extra time to postpone the deadlines.

But one advice I can give you (besides of regular backups) though: try to find some colleagues you might cooperate with or just chat a bit once in a while. And if something like that happens they might be able to help you. It's always easier to tell the agency that you won't be able to finish the work but have a collegue or two who could help you out...
My colleague and I also try to by our vacation backups. So we can announce to the agencies to go on vacation but can offer them a backup. They appreciate that very much.

Good luck for the future,


Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:34
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Keep you backup in another place Jul 16, 2013

Your experience sort of reminds me a a harsh motorbike crash I had a few years back.
First, you want to keep your backup separate from the computer and if on the move and they're together, every time you get home (like in the evening), backup again to another drive that's kept away from the computer. This way you can only really lose a day's work.
When I couldn't work after the bike smash I just told everyone I couldn't do any work for the moment until I felt better and they were really cool. I started working again during rehab. Try contacting the agency again when things have calmed down.

Get well soon, and get yourself into some martial arts classes, krav maga or kali are great for getting you out of trouble.

[Edited at 2013-07-16 15:11 GMT]


Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:34
Hebrew to English
Wow Jul 16, 2013

Who'd have thought the Faroe Islands were so dangerous?

With less than 50,000 people surely the police shouldn't have too hard a time tracking down the perpetrators and retrieving your computer?


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just relax! Jul 16, 2013

I think that what is most important in this case is that you are in the process of getting well and that the attack was not even more severe. You are alive, and that is what matters because those who love you really need you.

Do not worry about things that are minor. If the people at the agency are sensible people, they will make it easy for you and will understand, and if they do not understand, then it is best that you do not deal with them in the long run.

Just take it easy, relax, and get well soon. A big hug from Spain!


Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:34
Japanese to English
Terrible Jul 16, 2013

Yikes, what a disaster. I had my laptop stolen back in January, but at least the thieves had the decency not to beat me. Talk about adding injury to insult. Luckily I had backups so I was able to save the most essential files. You've just reminded me that I'm long overdue for another system backup.


Helen Shiner  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:34
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
Your best Jul 16, 2013

With Tomás. Please just get yourself better. You did your best and could not have forseen any of it. It is a warning to us all to ensure we find and use good back-up systems. The same applies to agencies and clients - they also need to factor in such events occurring now and again. I doubt you will lose your client if they are compassionate and you have worked for them before.


Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
I think you are too generous Jul 16, 2013

This is clearly a case of force majeure. Nobody could have foreseen that. I wish you all the best.


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
Member (2018)
French to English
Don't worry Jul 16, 2013

Something similar happened to my best legal translator when I was working as a PM. Didn't stop me begging her to take on the very next job that came in once she'd got a new PC sorted.

Concentrate on getting your health back to normal and try not to think about that especially while you're still on medication that clouds your thoughts.
I once went to work when still on painkillers and managed to cause considerable damage to the firm. I actually threw some cheques in the bin by mistake. I can laugh now but at the time I was so mortified at my colleague having to repair the damage, contact the clients for them to write out another cheque etc.

(Like Ty I was wondering how such a thing could happen in the Faroe Islands. Just looked them up on the map and am quietly chuckling at my sheer ignorance as I would have sworn they were in the Pacific. )


Local time: 15:34
English to Chinese
+ ...
Health is the first Jul 17, 2013

I hope you are better now.
If the client is really sensible, I think it is probable that they won't blame you for this. Besides, backup system is really important. I generally store them in USB or just send them to myself as attachments. Guess it won't be greater than 1GB.
Last but not the least, take good care of yourself. Health is the first important, without it, nothing is sensible.


Local time: 15:34
English to Chinese
+ ...
BTW Jul 17, 2013

Also follow up the police, because they are POLICE, isn't there any cam or stuff that may be of help?


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
You can't really learn from this Jul 17, 2013

ExScientiaVera wrote:
I wrote from a loaned computer at the hospital an email informing the agency my computer was stolen and the deadline would not be met. I wanted to rewrite it, to finish it.

You probably felt well enough and thought that you would still be able to meet the deadline. You also felt that you had a responsibility to the agency not to leave them in the lurch, since you were unable to hand anything of value to the "next" translator. This was probably your first mugging, so you did not realise how time-consuming the aftermath would be or how your body would respond to it (shortly after the event your body copes well because it is in emergency mode and uses up more of its stores that it normally would, so you think that you're over it).

I would probably have done the same as you did, though. It seems like the "right" thing to do, but from a practical point of view the best thing to do in a disaster situation is to hand off as quickly as possible (i.e. let the agency handle it -- that's what they're there for). I know this puts the agency in a tight spot, but this is not your fault.

Regarding backups, yes, you absolutely must backup all your latest work so that you can finish any work that you were busy with, even if it means asking for a deadline extension due to having to reconfigure your new computer, etc). This is especially true if you carry a laptop. I suppose when you live in a relatively safe country you don't consider the possibility of getting mugged.

I finished most of the [work], but I am too high on painkillers right now to accept changes by the proofreader and edit it. I am giving the work, free of charge, to the company because I screwed up.

I think you should not worry about what the agency thinks of you right now. If this is a Western agency, you may well have ruined your relationship with them, and you will not make it better by trying to appear helpful when in fact you are unable to be of much help. However, it is important that you let the agency know that you are unable to do any work (for the next month or two) and that they need to handle this themselves. Apologise to the agency, but resist the temptation to make promises.

I have no opinion on whether you should give the work for free -- except that you should consider the option of not offering a discount but rather letting the agency take the initiative in asking for a discount.

Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Empty post

Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:34
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
Your life is the most important thing Jul 17, 2013


Frankly, people like you are few in this world, I do understand the importance of commitment and I highly value my word, however, I think you should have contacted the client and explained the situation thoroughly.

And I do believe that any human being, when reading such an appealing story would be more worried about you than the job! I'm pretty curious about how your client reacted though. Nonetheless, you should focus on getting better, because in the end if you don't value your life or your health enough, you might end up enable to work at all.

Furthermore, this is not your first client and probably not your last, so try to take it easy, as opportunities come and go, you being the only constant in YOUR life.

That being said, like everybody else I'm really worried about your health and your well being, so don't hesitate to contact me if you need anything. I've been jumped before (nothing as serious) but I know the feeling, it's not your fault on all levels ! You really should focus on getting better now and forget about work altogether.

Also, as it was already said by our peers, you should try to diversify your activity and have some collaborators, that would take some load off your back from a time to another.

You seem to be very kind hearted and professional, and I truly wish you all the best.

Kind regards,


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