How to collect payment from a non-paying USA translation agency
Thread poster: MariusV

MariusV  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:59
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Feb 19, 2011


I have quite a problem. It is already over 6 months (overdue for 7 months) I am trying to get the money earned from one USA translation agency (the amount is not a small one - it is slightly over 3000 USD).

I tried everything - sent numerous email reminders, posted on Blue Board (their BB rating is rather good, i.e. they do not appear to be scams), phoned their boss at the end (we talked, and they agreed to pay "as soon as possible, in a couple of weeks at the latest"). And nothing received - neither money, nor any explanations or notifications about a possible delay or like.

What could you suggest me to do having in mind that I am at the opposite side of the globe, and also having in mind that I do not believe that debt collectors or factoring lawyer companies could be possibly interested in an amount of just 3000 USD...

I am really losing my hope to recover it and getting really nervous...

Thanks in advance for your advice and consideration.


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:59
English to German
+ ...
Your arm is longer than you think Feb 19, 2011

Please don't hesitate to contact a lawyer. They are freelancers, too, and they have to make a living.

A simple letter by a law firm might work like a charm, and the fees are not outrageous - compared to the amount that you are chasing. Believe me - no US business can afford to have their credit rating jeopardized.

My lawyer here in Portland charges $ 25 per phone call. Money well spent! I even call him with translation problems when I am stuck with a legal text. icon_smile.gif

I don't know where your client is located - check out this website, type in: "collection" and the location (your lawyer needs to be in the same state) and you will receive a list of lawyers who are dealing with these issues. You will also notice that a lot of law firms offer free consultation.

I wish you the best of luck and I cross my fingers. I am very confident that this problem will be solved in no time.


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:59
English to German
+ ...
Addendum Feb 19, 2011

Don't forget that this is a country where people can sue because their coffee was too hot or because Nutella contains fat. icon_smile.gif


The Misha
Local time: 01:59
Russian to English
+ ...
Arrg! People that don't pay their bills ... Disgusting! Feb 19, 2011

Do what Nicole said, plus on top of that write a complaint to BBB and to their state's attorney general's office. Do a search, find the websites you need and follow the instructions, that's easy enough. Be creative and have a go at it as best you can - just for the heck of it if nothing else.

Every time I have a grievance with a service provider, I write them a letter full of menacing legalese, outlining the exact steps I am going to take to harass them. That includes all of what Nicole said, all of what I said above, and then some, depending on a particular situation. Sometimes it works, and when it doesn't at least I have some fun for the money.

That said, assuming they are a small private company, they probably don't give a damn, and there's really very little you can do to actually collect from them. Next time, think twice before accepting a job from the other end of the globe. I don't.


ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:59
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Better Busines Bureau Feb 19, 2011

There is an organization called Better Business Bureau in the United States.

"BBB is the authority on trust in the marketplace. BBB sets and upholds high standards for ethical marketplace behavior. BBB accreditation is a coveted honor earned by elite businesses and charities. BBB is the preeminent resource to turn to for objective, unbiased information on businesses and charities."

What can BBB do to stop rip-offs and scams?

Although BBB does not have legal and policing powers, we provide information about marketplace fraud through alerts on scams to the public.

BBB works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, providing them with valuable information on potential frauds. Many times we are the first organization to know about a developing scam and alert authorities and the public. When a scam develops in one part of the country, the news travels quickly between BBBs in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico that in turn alert the public in their communities.

You can get more information about BBB online. This may be one path to follow for you.


sarandor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:59
English to Russian
+ ...
IRS Feb 19, 2011

In your letter, you can also mention that you will report them to IRS (U.S. tax authority). Deadbeat companies like the one you are dealing with do not want to draw attention of IRS.


Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:59
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
The BBB route may not work Feb 19, 2011

I think the BBB only handles complaint between a business and a consumer, that is, where the business provides the goods and the consumer pays (and there is a quality or whatever problem).
Here, the translator supplies the translation, and gets paid by the agency (well, normally), so this is a business to business transaction from the BBB's point if view, and therefore the BBB will not deal with it.

I think there was someone else also mentioning it on the forums a while ago.

I found another similar discussion here (that's where The Misha mentioned the B to B aspect of the BBB, etc.):

[Edited at 2011-02-19 16:11 GMT]


Sherey Gould  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:59
German to English
$3000 NOT too little for debt collectors Feb 20, 2011

MariusV wrote:
...... having in mind that I am at the opposite side of the globe, and also having in mind that I do not believe that debt collectors or factoring lawyer companies could be possibly interested in an amount of just 3000 USD...

I disagree that $3000 is too little - it depends on how much commission to a debt collector you are willing to part with/agree to.
A few years ago, I had a very similar situation with an "agency" (turns out was only one single man) in London, and I am USA-based. The amount in question was only half of yours. But I did some online snooping and found a wonderful debt collecting company that very quickly collected on my behalf. They charged 25% commission, but I just figured I am still getting 75% of my original invoice versus what would have otherwise been exactly 0%.

P.S. I should clarify they took their 25% AFTER collecting the money. Had they not been able to collect, I wouldn't needed to have paid anything. Maybe if you search for "debt collection" plus the city or state your client is in you might find companies offering similar set-ups?

[Edited at 2011-02-20 05:54 GMT]


Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:59
Member (2008)
English to French
Also used a collection agency for a similar amount Feb 20, 2011

Same as Sherey - I just gave the agency all the information, they were able to collect once the cheque cleared on their side, they cut me a cheque for 85% of the amount. Debt collection agencies have more sway with the client than you or I because they can wreck the agency's credit score so if there is money to be had (ie. the client isn't bankrupt) they have a better chance of getting it for you. I'd use the yellow pages to find an agency based in the city where the client works and then send them all the paperwork. The longer the debt lasts, the harder it will be to collect, and after a year the chances of collecting fall drastically.


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