Thursday, July 31, 2008

Should we haggle like Levantines?

I was recently contacted by a translation company with a good reputation. They asked us for the usual information, including our rates and our résumés, and asked that we do a free translation test.

Since the test was of reasonable length, I agreed, and scheduled it for next week.

Today they called me asking for urgent help with the translation of a short document. I'm already overbooked, but I wanted to start on the right foot with a new customer, so I agreed to help.

They then proceeded to beg for a discount: could I do it for our minimum rate, instead of the price that would result from our word rate? The difference was minimal (about 5 dollars), but I declined, and refused the job.

We may have lost the chance at a new customer, but I prefer that to the prospect of haggling every time we receive a project.

Our customers should remember this is a professional service, not a fish market. If they don't, it is up to us to remind them.


They wrote again today, without reference to our phone call and messages yesterday, thanking us for our availability and asking a 15% discount from our rates. Declined again, of course.


  1. As professionals, I think it's important for us to know how to negotiate (lawyers sure do it all the time). However, it's an indelicate client (to be polite) who haggles over $5 on a rush job.

  2. Going back to this post - agreed, absolutely no reason to accept every job that comes our way, least of all rush jobs, even less than least of all low-paying rush jobs.

    I really can't see what a few percent difference in the price means to a serious corporate customer anyway...

  3. I find your use of the term "Levantines" in this context a little bit derogatory. As a Levantine, I haggle when it suits both parties and when it is socially acceptable, and certainly detest this connotation to "fish markets", etc. If you knew more about Levantine culture instead of being an ignoramus, you might be taken more seriously in your rants. I certainly would not use a translation company with such a load of cultural stereotypes. Bah.

  4. Hi axel, you managed to spoil your justified complaint. I read until "derogatory", started to regret my overhasty choice of words, and thought to change it (maybe to "fishwives" - does that sound better to you?).
    Then I read on, arrived at the point where you call me an "ignoramus", and decided to leave "Levantine" in.

  5. Hey Riccardo,

    My mother is not only a Levantine by origin, but her names is Leontine too. And man does she make me wanna melt away when she starts haggling. I full understand your abruptness in refusing the client I would've done the same. Just for your info, many levantines trace their origins to venetians and genoese, hope you don't have any of those origins.

  6. Hi Anonymous

    Actually, I do have those origins (Genoese), so you might say I know what I'm talking about.


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