Any advice on recovering a small debt from a USA client?
Thread poster: MariusV

MariusV  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:26
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Apr 22, 2013

Dear colleagues,

Can anyone suggest me about the best way to recover a debt of 245 USD from a USA client? Or is it possible to do it at all (having in mind that such amounts cannot possibly be of a "great interest" to lawyers and/or debt collection companies, let alone that I am not from USA, but from Eastern Europe).

My situation in brief:

In September 2012, one of "colleagues" (she is from USA) contacted me and asked if I could take one urgent and highly technical job. We agreed on everything (rate, delivery, etc.), I started working on it and in the middle of the project, at 3 a.m. my time (when I was already asleep) she sent me an urgent email telling to stop translating, to send straight away what was already translated, that the (end) client would send an updated text soon and would pay for the part of the job I already completed. OK, I read her message only in my morning (we have a 9 hour difference) and sent to her the part of the translation I already had. In reply I received accusations that I was late to send the completed part (that it was sent almost 8 hours after project cancellation) and no reasonable explanation, e.g. that there is time difference, that I cannot always read/respond my email at 3 a.m., that I was sleeping, not cheating them (that I had to sleep sometimes), worked out. At the end we agreed that she contacts the client, tried to solve the situation, and will pay for the part I sent. However, from that time, no one ever responded to my emails, reminders, and seems that my direct client was some "semi-ghost" company (I tried to call them at least a dozen of times, but one of the phone numbers is "out of service", and the second number - no one ever picked my phone-call, no one ever reacted to my faxes). I also contacted ATA, ALTA, CHICATA organizations to which she claimed she belongs asking if it is a "normal practice" under the situation for their members, but just got formal responses from all of them that this lady is not their member any longer and that their organizations to not deal with solutions of financial issues between persons...Same was from BBB.

Can anyone suggest me what to do? Or shall I simply "write off" that 245 USD amount to my "losses"?


Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:26
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...

ProZ Blue Board Apr 22, 2013

Please post about your experience to the Blue Board record for your non-paying client. If no Blue Board record exists, please create one with the information you were given by your client.


MariusV  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:26
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Did it long time ago Apr 23, 2013

But no reaction from them at all.


Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:26
English to Polish
+ ...
As far as collection goes... Apr 23, 2013

Selling the debts is sometimes preferable because it just makes the thing go away (fees for recovery can be even higher than commission when you sell but the biggest advantage is when you can just forget and stop thinking about it), as long as there are bad clauses in the purchaser's contract (e.g. handling fees, selling back to you if recovery unsuccessful etc.). Remember to talk to your accountant about a tax write-off for the bad debt.

[Edited at 2013-04-23 23:51 GMT]


Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:26
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
No experience with the US Apr 24, 2013

but I think that I would rather sell the debt to a debt-collection agency (if they'll take it on) than let it ride.
One of the idiosyncracies of the US system which a friend has just experienced is that if someone owes you money and you want to serve a claim, it has to be physically handed to them by hand. This of course increases the cost of claiming a debt because you simply don't know how hard that's going to be at the outset and you have to pay for the time it takes for a person to do so - if you're not there yourself and don't have an awful lot of time on your hands.
I don't know what debt collection agencies charge but if it was just a percentage of the debt, with no charge if they didn't collect it (perhaps that's a utopia I don't know), I'd go for it. I'd rather get 20% of my money and bother the non-payer to boot than nothing at all.


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Any advice on recovering a small debt from a USA client?

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