The Business of Integrity

Entrepreneurship in any line of business is all about referrals and reputation. To succeed in our profession, it is extremely important to develop a solid reputation as a trustworthy, professional translation services provider who has, first and foremost, integrity.

It's overused and sounds trite, but it really is true that your character shows when no one is looking. Our your business integrity, in this case.

One of our new clients in Germany, with whom we have a great working relationship , transferred the payment for our services to Dagmar's account in Vienna, as is customary in Europe. Upon closer examination of the online checking account activity, we saw the following:

Two payments for the same project? No, one is enough. It's a large company, so it's quite possible that this billing snafu would go unnoticed. However, we cannot and will not accept more money than we have rightfully earned. Thus, we contacted our client, told them about their accounting mistake, and asked them to reverse the second transfer. Without a doubt, it's the right thing to do.


Anonymous said...

I can even think of a self-serving reason to do the upstanding thing in this case:

Ages ago when I was a poor, starving exchange student student, there was a banking error with my account. No one noticed it at the time. I withdrew the equivalent of $50 or something from my account and the bank somehow recorded this as a deposit of $50. Which meant that my account showed I had $100 more than I actually had. Except neither the bank nor I realized it. At the end of the year, I emptied out my bank account (there wasn't much in it), packed up, and came home.

Then, over a year later, when I was still a broke student, the bank came after me. With all kinds of certified copies of withdrawal slips and official notices showing how I had absconded with the $100. There's nothing worse than having a foreign bank come hound you in a language you barely speak for money you didn't even know you'd "stolen." I think the bank fees for me to send them their $100 were about $30. I'm still irritated about this. It was the bank's mistake. But it was a huge headache for me.

Much better to (notice and) fix these things right when they happen.

A bank also once gave me an ATM card that accessed someone else's account. But that's a story for another day...

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 22, 2009 at 10:45 PM said...

@MT: Wow, those are some crazy stories you have there! What a mess with the bank. I can't believe they didn't just write that sum off and came after you in a different country. When I worked in Vegas hotels, disputed amounts under $200 were just written off upon check-out, because it wasn't worth it for the hotel to pursue it and keep people waiting in line.I wish your bank had done the same, especially since it was their mistake! As a poor student you surely don't enjoy receiving official letters from a foreign bank.

Anonymous said...

As I'm working in a Bank i can say that normaly such mistakes with not that much money involved are indeed written off. But at a first step the bank tries to scare off the customer with all kinds of legal claims and so on. This makes sense because if the client gives the money back everything is ok, if the client gives it not back you've to write it off because lawyers etc. to get your 100$ costs more than 100$ especially for a foreign bank.

Anonymous said...

These transfer mistakes happen more often than I like to think about, maybe once or twice a year out of about 500 payments or so. Once client even transferred a payment three times on three different dates. Neither of us noticed the problem until many months later; the amount was minor (about € 80 too much), all the paperwork was with my overpriced tax accountant (who would probably have charged me that much to find the records) and it was one of my favorite clients, so I just credited her about triple the amount to make things simple. It's fun taking people by surprise like that once in a while.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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