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How I lost a client without doing anything wrong
Thread poster: Jørgen Madsen

Jørgen Madsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
English to Danish
+ ...
Mar 15, 2013

In December 2012 I sent an invoice for about 1600 euro to a client in the Netherlands. I recently discovered the invoice had not been paid, so I sent a reminder to the client. The client said they had transferred the money, sending me a screenshot of their transfer order. I checked again and the money had not been received in my account. The transfer was ordered over two weeks before this. I sent a screenshot of my account statement showing that I hadn't received the money. It took me a long time to convince my client that I had not received the money.
My client contacted their bank who claimed my bank had been taken over by another (very small) bank and that my bank had to change its bank code... which of cource was incorrect, it was the other way around; my bank had taken over the small bank and my bank still has the same bank code.
I contacted my bank to confirm this and they asked me to get a Swift receipt from my client which would show what had happened. They said that the transfer order didn't show anything about what had happened, only what my client had ordered. It took me a long time to convince my client to ask for the Swift receipt from their bank. When the bank finally sent the swift receipt, it showed that the bank had not only changed the name of the bank but also the bank code and therefore the money was sent to another bank, who returned it.
However, my client's bank insisted that I should provide the "correct" bank code, eventhough they were the ones who used an incorrect bank code in the first place. It made no difference when I argued I have received several overseas transfers from clients using the exact same banking details. The whole ended up with my client sending me a cheque for which they told me to pay their cheque fee (15 euro) which I of course refused for the simple fact I had done nothing wrong. I still have to pay a cheque fee at my bank when cashing the cheque.
I told my client that I could no longer work for them as they are not able or willing to pay me by bank transfer. I had done nothing wrong, but if I can't get paid, there's no point in working. It's times like this that I really don't like this business and dream about doing something else...


 

Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Algeria
Local time: 23:43
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
Bad things happen Mar 15, 2013

Hello,

Bad things happen, you should be more focused about the solutions rather than the problems.

You can try alternative payment methods Paypal or Skrill for example. You can also consider receiving credit card payment through Payoneer.

As for the client, tell yourself that there is more than one fish in the sea. Cheer up as there are more than one client out thereicon_smile.gif

Moh


 

Châu Nguyễn  Identity Verified
Vietnam
Local time: 05:43
Member (2012)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Risky business Mar 15, 2013

My sympathy to you. We have this http://www.proz.com/termination_policy to deal with bad guys. Anyways, what done is done, we can kiss our payment goodbye if the outsourcers dont pay. You're still lucky to have your payment back, not fully though.

Have a beer ~^^~


 

Jørgen Madsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The ironic part is... Mar 15, 2013

Well, the ironic part is that my client apparently didn't do anything wrong either. The fault is with their bank who made the mistake of changing the bank code... how bizzare it that?

 

Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:43
Finnish to English
yeah banks Mar 15, 2013

Banks have killed the global economy.

But there are bad payers in other sectors too. A friend of mine installs gas fires, and says he has to write off debts when people simply don't pay.

best


Spencer


 

Frank Jensen  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:43
Member (2013)
English to Danish
+ ...
Maybe go less harsh on the client if it is a good one.... Mar 15, 2013

These things always end up bashing egos against egos... nobody did anything wrong and nobody really understands what happened.... In the end this is AGAIN a matter of incompetence in the banking system.....


I would evaluate the amount of work you do for the client and if substantial and otherwise a good client I would retain them....

If it is really the banks fault - not yours nor the client - who should really be punished here?


 

Jørgen Madsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You should not always be harsh... Mar 15, 2013

On the other hand, there's a very good reason why translation is so poorly paid and conditions being as their are with translators accepting longer payment times and lower rates. We have to demand reasonable conditions and not give way everytime something comes up.

 

Laura Brugnaro  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:43
English to Italian
+ ...
Don't give up! Mar 15, 2013

I agree with Mohamed, there are alternative payment methods you can try, it's a pity you loose a good customer, especially in an economic period like this one.
Unfortunately in the end we cannot work without a bank, but as for payments there are other ways.
Good luck.
Laura


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
The irony is that you and the client didn't work together to defeat the bank Mar 15, 2013

Jørgen Madsen wrote:
Well, the ironic part is that my client apparently didn't do anything wrong either. The fault is with their bank who made the mistake of changing the bank code... how bizzare it that?

It isn't at all bizarre, in my experience. Banks are large, impersonal organisations - not only totally faceless but they never see the faces of their clients, either. They neither know nor care who you and your client are. What does it matter to them whether people get paid? They're just sending pieces of paper around the world and earning lots of money for doing so. I have 3 banks in 3 countries and, believe me, they find no end of ways to mess things up for me and their thousands of other clients. I used to change bank after really big problems, but I've realised now that that just causes more stress and inconvenience - they're all as bad as each other; better the devil you know.icon_frown.gificon_mad.gif

What's sad here is that you weren't able to sort things out without losing your client. That's a real shame. Did he give you cause to think he was trying to avoid payment? If he was just busy with his business, is it possible he thought you were wasting his time? After all, he had paid you (as far as he was aware). I imagine that when you sent your screenshot to the client and started going on about not having received it, he took that as being called a liar.

Rightly or wrongly, I always assume my clients are as well-intentioned as I am (unless I've had problems with them before), but that they're just as fallible as I am. Sometimes it's my error, sometimes theirs, most often the bank's. I have one well-intentioned client who has TWICE sent their payment to a bank account that I closed some while ago (despite bold, underlined instructions to pay to a different bank account). That was then compounded by the fact that the bank never closed the account properly, so rather than being returned to my client, the money has gone into some sort of "limbo", some virtual strongbox where I can't get hold of it. With the bank being 4000 km away, this is a real problem for me, but it can't be allowed to sour relations with the client - they're just a bunch of well-meaning humans.

However, my client's bank insisted that I should provide the "correct" bank code, eventhough they were the ones who used an incorrect bank code in the first place. It made no difference when I argued I have received several overseas transfers from clients using the exact same banking details.

Very annoying, I know. But did you get your bank to send the client's bank an official notice of the correct details? I know they'd have been identical, but it might have made all the difference. The client's bank clerks were probably blindly following their manual under "What to do if a payment goes astray". You can't win a shouting match against a bank, you know. David and Goliath - it's a myth. It isn't going to happen. You have to stay calm and reasonable until, maybe, they accept that they messed up this time.

I told my client that I could no longer work for them as they are not able or willing to pay me by bank transfer. I had done nothing wrong

But then neither had your client. They were certainly willing, weren't they? And they'd have been able once the banks got their act together.


 

Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:43
Finnish to English
Absolutely Mar 15, 2013

On the other hand, there's a very good reason why translation is so poorly paid and conditions being as their are with translators accepting longer payment times and lower rates. We have to demand reasonable conditions and not give way everytime something comes up.

Yep


 

Jørgen Madsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I just got fed up... Mar 15, 2013

After having used four days trying to clear things up, writing emails and talking on the phone with both my client and my bank, I just got fed up... it completely destroyed my mood and my motivation for working. And as freelancers, we don't get paid for writing emails or talking on the phone... or most anything else expect when we actually translate. Project manager etc. get their wages whatever they do...
Anyway, I tried to involve my bank more, but they wouldn't lift a finger exept demanding to see the Swift receipt, which of course was the smoking gun that didn't solve anything in the end... And as long as we have bank transfers (which should be safe, cheap and reliable), I don't intend using alternative payment methods which often have tainted reputations. And I agree totally with Sheila in her view of banks and how they operate...
I know my client was honest and wanted to pay me, but I can't accept that they pass the buck to me when they can't make their bank do what they ask them to. Only when translators start putting their foot down demanding reasonable conditions, things would start improving in this business.


 

KateKaminski
Local time: 22:43
German to English
What everyone is forgetting here Mar 15, 2013

Banks are businesses just like any other, and therefore need to keep their customers happy.

Not only that - they appear to have made a serious error and now refuse to put it right, which is quite frankly illegal. It has impacted your own business and put your client under stress through no fault of their own.

Have you been contacting them over the phone? Write them a registered letter explaining the problem as briefly and calmly as possible, along with the fact that you are now out of pocket and have lost an important client as a result of their negligence. Also include your payment details and tell them to contact your bank if they are unsure about the bank code but you are absolutely certain it is correct as you use it successfully on a regular basis.

Ask them to contact their customer (your client) in order to remedy the situation. Keep your tone business-like and serious, hinting that you intend to take further legal action if they do not fix this error - even if you never intend to!

You might not get your client back but you should not let the bank get away with this. They are merely a service, not an intimidating faceless government authority!


 

Jørgen Madsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The bank refused to communicate Mar 15, 2013

KateKaminski wrote:

Have you been contacting them over the phone? Write them a registered letter explaining the problem as briefly and calmly as possible, along with the fact that you are now out of pocket and have lost an important client as a result of their negligence. Also include your payment details and tell them to contact your bank if they are unsure about the bank code but you are absolutely certain it is correct as you use it successfully on a regular basis.


We actually tried to make the banks sort things out among themselves, but they refused... they don't communicate directly with each other... some silent agreement, I guess... Anyway, I don't trust banks... or any other business for that mattericon_frown.gif


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:43
Italian to English
Another angle on rates Mar 15, 2013

Spencer Allman wrote:

On the other hand, there's a very good reason why translation is so poorly paid and conditions being as their are with translators accepting longer payment times and lower rates. We have to demand reasonable conditions and not give way everytime something comes up.

Yep


Grunt work will always be poorly paid, if at all.

There's no point in "demanding" better rates if we offer nothing in exchange. We have to create our own markets by differentiating our work from everyone else's so that a certain number of customers have to come to us for the specific services they require. At that point, we can begin to dictate our own terms.

And remember that the best guarantee of payment is the customer's need for another translation from you.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Are you trustworthy? Mar 15, 2013

Jørgen Madsen wrote:
Anyway, I don't trust banks... or any other business for that mattericon_frown.gif

But isn't that exactly what you are - a business?


 
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