Unfortunate email exchange with an agent

I sent an invoice to an agent. The first page of the PDF was the normal invoice stuff – my name and address, their name and address, the number of hours worked, hourly rate, total amount, etc. The second page was, as they had requested, the hours that I'd worked; each day on a separate line with the start/end time and number of hours lunch.

Obviously I'm not an expert on the German language and tone is always difficult to gauge but they replied:

mit Ihrem Anhang kann ich nichts anfangen, da es weder eine Tagesstundensumme noch eine Monatsumme, noch Ihren Name, noch das Projekt aufweist. ...  bitte ich Sie, mir eine ordnungsgemäße Stundenaufzeichnung zu schicken

My name was on the first page, why do they need it on the second as well? They want to know how many hours I've worked per day, well there is an invention known as the spreadsheet, and that comes with a SUM(..) function.

But it was the tone which annoyed me the most, I mean if they need this info, they can just ask me, I'm more than happy to provide it.

I mean I guess one has to decide, does one just "take it" (signalling that this sort of communication is acceptable) or does one "attack" (leading potentially to disharmony, or, in my case, possible inappropriateness if I've misinterpreted the tone). But I don't want to just always have to "take it" because I'm not confident enough about my German.

So I amended the PDF and sent it to them, but wrote to them in the mail that I assumed they would already know my name, as it was written on the first page.... (The bit about spreadsheets having been invented I left out.)

So I sent that off, was looking forward to see what the reply would be, when I realized that every email I wrote to them I started with "Sehr geehrter Herr X" and every email they wrote to me they signed "Frau X", nice one.... I think I have my explanation as to why they were so displeased with me... and tomorrow they've got my nice aggressive answer waiting in their inbox, also addressed to Herr X ...

This article is © Adrian Smith.
It was originally published on 5 May 2010

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