Missing payment or payment delay?
Thread poster: casey

casey
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member
Japanese to English
Mar 12

A very large multinational company sent me a confirmation of payment on February 23, but the payment date was February 28. So I waited until February 28, and nothing came. They have issued payments by bank transfer to the exact same account multiple times before, and it usually comes through the same day they send the remittance advice. I sent an e-mail inquiring with them, and the person in charge said she would check. Two days later, I inquired again, and she said she was still checking. Here we are almost two weeks after the supposed payment date, and I've still seen and heard nothing. How frequently should I be checking on this? I've had late payments before, but I've never had a missing payment.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:20
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Don't let it drift Mar 12

casey wrote:
Here we are almost two weeks after the supposed payment date, and I've still seen and heard nothing. How frequently should I be checking on this? I've had late payments before, but I've never had a missing payment.

Maybe something went wrong that was entirely outside their control; or maybe they're having cash-flow problems and are stalling. In the former case, they could at least have the courtesy to keep you informed. In the latter case, things could turn out okay, or they could turn out to be very bad. It isn't unusual for companies - even enormous ones - to have cash-flow problems, but if they don't get enough money in, or if some big creditors get fed up with waiting and refuse to extend further credit, then you could find they go bankrupt. That will most likely mean that you lose every cent (at least, that's been my experience - twice!). So keep your demands in their field of vision by constantly reminding them you're there, waiting extremely impatiently. Keep things civil though - no threats, etc are called for; you're just doing what any business would do.


 

casey
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Mar 12

Sheila Wilson wrote:

you're just doing what any business would do.


Yes. I don't want to overreact, but a missing payment is serious. And the monetary amount this time is not insignificant. I just can't understand why it would take so long to determine what happened. I'm pretty sure I could find out in a day what happened to a payment I sent, and I'm just a one-man operation.


 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
missing payment Mar 12

Your next step is too send them a letter by certified mail asking them to clarify their payment intentions.
If two more weeks go by without payment or contact from them, send them another letter by certified mail indicating that you will take legal action if they do not contact you with a firm date for payment. If this is ignored, take them to Small Claims Court. A summons from Small Claims Court can be a powerful incentive to pay. I recently had to take a firm in Texas to court. Along with the translation fee, I charged them round-trip airfare from my hometown to Texas, one night's lodging, surface transportation and revenue lost from the two days estimated to go to Texas and face them in court. They paid. If a company goes bankrupt or is in administration, you will want to make your presence known to a bankruptcy court as a creditor as soon as possible. The strategy is to keep things polite but firm during the process.


 

casey
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
International jurisdiction Mar 12

Unfortunately, I'm in the US, and the company is based in the UK. I don't think I can actually afford to take them to court in the UK, although they do have a US office. The PO has the UK address on it, so it's clear I was working for the UK office.

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:20
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Contemporary banking Mar 13

Brazil, thanks to its 3-digit inflation until 30+ years ago, has had the fastest and most efficient banking system in the world for a long time.

Nowadays, during banking hours (Mon-Fri 10AM-4PM) it is possible to transfer funds from an account in any bank to any other, regardless of branch location within the entire country in less than 20 minutes. Off-hours transfers are processed overnight Mon-Fri. And transfers between accounts within the same bank (most banks are nationwide) are processed in real time 24/7.

All this has been made possible through computers. However computers are "stupid", they can't override human mistakes. (Like machine translation leaves incomprehensible typos - e.g. TWETNY - untranslated.)

My branch # at Itau Bank is XX55. My checking account number is XXXX5-6. My tax ID (we call it CPF) is required for transfers to my account. These three numbers are all a client in Brazil needs to pay me via bank transfer, which costs up to ~USD 6 in fees.

This has happened three times already, but some clients don't copy & paste, they read and type these numbers. So they looked at my branch number upon typing the account number, and entered the latter as XXXX5-5. My 11-digit (two of these are check digits) tax ID/CPF was correct, so there couldn't be any doubt that I was the intended beneficiary.

The first time this mistake happened, it was a large sum sent through the overnight transfer process from an account at HSBC to my account at Itau. The funds simply vanished! My client's account manager at HSBC couldn't trace them, and she was desperate! My account manager at Itau couldn't either. Three days later, the funds magically reappeared in my client's account, as if she had never attempted to transfer them elsewhere.

So the transaction got "jammed" in the computer network because of a mismatch, and it took three days to flag a human operator to intervene, cancel and reverse it. In the old days of manned transactions, a human operator would simply fix the 5 into a 6 after having checked that everything else matched - especially the unique Tax ID/CPF. The entire process took longer then, but the correction of such minor slips was immediate.


Your process is international, funds are "wire" transferred from the US to the UK.

I have these too. At Itau I can choose between having the bank forex operators doing it (higher fee, automatic) or doing it myself online. I chose the second one.

The time between the client sending the funds and me getting notified of their arrival spans from one hour to five banking days (statutory limit). After I am notified (via both SMS and e-mail - my options), I log into my account via computer or smartphone, and do the forex transaction for my account to be credited.

Sometimes such transfers get "stuck" on the way, I get no notification, and I have to phone Itau bank's forex helpline, some of the nicest CSRs I've ever "seen". They explained to me that, as these operations involve countless banks in countless countries, it is normal that now and then some fields on e-forms don't match between banks, so they have to match them manually. It takes them about 5-10 minutes to fix it, and then everything is normal, I can do the online processing.


Bottom line is that if things went awry on one computer on the way, it may take a couple of days - under some pressure - for human operatives at banks to sort it out.

I usually point this out to clients, assuming that they DID pay on the date agreed. This leaves them the option to save face by saying that the transfer bounced (like in the first example above) leaving no trace, and they failed to notice it, so they are "re-sending" (as if it were not for the first time) the payment.


 

casey
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Mar 13

Thanks, José. Since it will be two weeks late tomorrow, I will send another inquiry and try to find out what exactly the delay is. I'll offer to contact my bank with the transaction details and see what they say.

 

casey
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Paid Mar 16

When I contacted them to remind them that it was now two weeks late, they suddenly discovered that the payment had been returned (because they failed to enter my account details correctly). They resent the payment, and I received it today. I can't see how it would have taken that long for the payment to be returned to them, but it's been paid, so I'm happy now.

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:20
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Exactly as I described it Mar 16

casey wrote:

When I contacted them to remind them that it was now two weeks late, they suddenly discovered that the payment had been returned (because they failed to enter my account details correctly). They resent the payment, and I received it today. I can't see how it would have taken that long for the payment to be returned to them, but it's been paid, so I'm happy now.


If it worked like my case, they had to check their bank statement, one transaction at a time, to discover that the money they supposedly sent you never left their account. It is harder to search trying to ascertain that something is NOT there. The other way around involves merely typing whatever you are looking for in a search field. This would only work if your payment had been sent somewhere else by mistake, which did not happen.

Keep in mind that your client's bank doesn't know whether your details are right or wrong until the transfer reaches your bank. Then some human has to check what is wrong (perhaps someone just abbreviated one of your names into its initial or vice-versa0, and if there is reason to send it back as processing will not be possible.

Computers don't handle human goofs well.


 

casey
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Indeed Mar 16

Yep, you nailed it, José. Thank you for the useful information. In all of my years working as a freelancer, this had never happened, so I didn't know how forceful I should be in insisting that they find the error. Now I know what to expect if it ever happens again.

 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:20
Member (2008)
French to English
International wire transfers Mar 16

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Computers don't handle human goofs well.


And when it comes to international bank transfers, there is more manual handling than people realise, hence room for error. I have had a payment wired from the EU to Canada that went missing. It finally turned up - in a Citibank corresponding bank in New York! It had been sent overseas by fax! and was missing contact information. Citibank was literally waiting for someone to yell about the missing amount. It took several weeks to sort it out.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:20
French to English
Chasing payment overseas Mar 17

One of the big risks in working for clients outside one's own jurisdiction is that if there are problems with payment, recovering your due can be very expensive, something prohibitively so. Your options are:
- don't work with clients outside your own jurisdiction (which means passing up on some interesting possibilities)
- work with clients anywhere, but be informed on how to reduce the risk in the event of problems with payment.

Options might include:
- never accepting a contract worth more than you are prepared to lose
- accept large contracts but ask for payment on account (30% upfront is not unusual)
- on big/long jobs, arrange for payment in instalments
- seek information BEFOREHAND on what recovery procedures are possible.

In the UK, for example, there are means by which you can make a "small" claim through the court system, without seeking the support and advice of lawyers or debt collectors. The work translators do often falls within the amount of "small". Similar systems exist in many jurisdictions. This means, that taking action for recovery is not always that costly. However, the best thing to do is to arrange to be pâid in ways which avoid this ever being necessary. In some cases though, when a client is having cashflow problems or is about to go bankrupt,you have next to no chance of ranking highly in the list of creditors, so it usually means you have worked for nothing.


 


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