Monday, October 18, 2004

Required: one babelfish, may be used

HSBC has been running their 'We know how to do business anywhere in the world and can help you so that you don't get yourself into trouble, you neophyte globetrotting wheeler-dealer. Just to prove this, we will show you the difference between a football, a mousetrap and a handshake in 3 different countries.' advertising campaign for some time now.

This week, I realised I may need their help.

Coming back from holiday to read my business email account, I received something that made me realise business communication can be a tricky business in and of itself.

Before I left, I had sent out some email 'feelers' for printing quotes. Fearing that my written Polish may not be ... err ... polished enough for a detailed technical email, I had my father help me compose something that (I thought) was entirely unambiguous, descriptive and (most, most, most importantly) obsequious enough to get a decent reply. In a country where the standard terms of address are the third person 'lady' and 'sir' - as in "Would lady terribly mind if I took this seat?" it's rather important to ensure that formalities are out of the way correctly to start a relationship off on the right foot. I'm fine in social situations and had some interesting political discussions whilst I was there, but talking about lithography is a little beyond me.

Anyhow, I got back to an interesting range of quotes. They fell into roughly two bands quite far apart on the price scale - making me think that there was something in the original communication that wasn't as clear as it could have been. I started to send clarifying emails to check on the lower quotes as I was sure printing couldn't cost that little.

This is when The Email came in and it went something like this:

"Dear Lady Monica,

The price of printing has no correlation at all to the run that you require. The job that you sent will cost 72 million USD. This is before tax and includes delivery.

May a thousand roses bloom in the garden of your Summer's day, you sweet angel of heaven (alright, not exactly those words, but stomach-churningly close)
Mr Printer"

Rrrrrrright. For 72 million USD, I would expect that each page was hand delivered by a different, handsome, besuited man who could engage me in witty yet challenging conversation over dinner. He would then give me a back rub or other such service and leave to make room for the next page - and man.

It's the only way I could justify paying that much for a run of approx. 1000 copies.

Bear in mind that this was the ONLY printer that asked for a PDF sample of the work and therefore gleaned that it was to be in English. I wonder if he really thinks the streets are paved with gold over here.

He still hasn't sent a reply to my 'Umm, I think we may have miscommunicated....' email either. I shall wait and see.

In the meantime, if someone has a used babelfish that they could lend me, it would be much appreciated.


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