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The Enquiry/Inquiry

    Most letters of enquiry are short and simple, so much so that many firms have adopted the practice of sending printed enquiry forms, thereby eliminating the need for a letter. As a prospective buyer, the writer of an enquiry states briefly and clearly what he is interested in, and this is all the receiver of the letter needs to know.
    It is rather different when the object of your enquiry is to obtain a special price for regular orders, or selling rights in your area. In cases like these you are asking for concessions, and you have to 'sell' your proposal to the supplier. This requires much more skill than does the writing of a routine enquiry, and we will be returning to letters of this type shortly.
    A first enquiry — a letter sent to a supplier with whom you have not previously done business — should include:
(a) A brief mention of how you obtained your potential supplier's name.
Your source may be an embassy, consulate, or chamber of commerce; you may have seen the goods in question at an exhibition or trade fair; you may be writing as the result of a recommendation from a business associate, or on the basis of an advertisement in the daily, weekly or trade press.
(b) Some indication of the demand in your area for the goods which the supplier deals in.
(c) Details of what you would like your prospective supplier to send you. Normally you will be interested in a catalogue, a price list, discounts, methods of payment, delivery times, and, where appro-priate, samples.
(d) A closing sentence to round off the enquiry.
    Here are some suggestions for sentences which you might include in a routine enquiry:
Opening lines
1. Your name has been given us by the British Chamber of Commerce in  Hamburg,...
2. The British Embassy in Copenhagen has advised us to get in touch with you concerning...
3. We saw your products demonstrated at the Hanover Fair earlier this year, and would like to know whether...
4. Messrs. Rawlingson and Townsend of Bletchley, who we understand have been doing business with you for some years, inform us that you may be able to supply us with ...
5. We have seen your advertisement in last Sunday's Observer, and would be grateful if you would let us have details of...
6. Your advertisement in this month's issue of The Shoemaker states that you can offer...

Indicating the state of the market
7. There is a brisk demand here for high-quality sports shirts of the type you manufacture.
8. Demand for this type of machine is not high, but sales this year will probably exceed £25,000.
9. These fancy goods are in demand during the tourist season (late May to early September), but for the rest of the year sales are moderate, and often rather low.
10. There is no market here for articles of this type in the higher price ranges, but less expensive models sell very well throughout the year.
11. You can count on a brisk turnover if prices are competitive and deliveries prompt.

Asking for information
12.  Will you please send us your catalogue and price list for …
13. Will you please quote prices c.i.f. Amsterdam for the following items in the quantities stated:...
14. We would be glad to receive specifications of your new SE11 type writer, together with your current export price list and details of
trade discounts.
15. We are also interested in your terms of payment and in discounts offered for regular purchases and large orders.
16.  If we place orders with you we will have to insist on prompt deliv-ery. Can you guarantee delivery within three weeks of receiving orders?
17. We would appreciate a sample of each of the items listed above.

Closing sentences
18. We are looking forward to hearing from you.
19. We would appreciate a prompt answer.
20.  As our own customers are pressing us for a quotation, we hope you will be able to make us an offer within a fortnight from today's date.
21.  We hope to hear from you shortly.
22.  Since the season will soon be under way, we must ask you to reply by the end of this month.
    The first three model letters in this chapter are examples of routine first enquiries. Letters 1 and 2 are addressed direct to suppliers, while no. 3 is written to an agent.

Notes on letters 1-3
Remember the following combinations of nouns and prepositions:
demand for: there is a considerable/a steady/some/little/no demand for these articles in this area (cпpoc нa)
requirements for: our requirements for these goods will increase steadily in the course of the year (потребность в)
details of: details of your terms of business would be welcomed (детали, отдельные положения)
samples of, specimens of: we would need samples of materials used, and specimens of finished articles (образцы)

Note these verbs:
to quote: will you please quote us for the following: ... (назначать цену, ставку и т.д.)
Please quote all prices c.i.f. Haugesund.
to look forward to (c нетерпением ждать чего-либо): we look for-ward to meeting your representative. Our customers are looking forward to testing samples of your lines. The verb to look forward to must be followed by a noun or by the form of the relevant verb ending in -ing.
to place: we will be able to place substantial orders with you (размещать заказ).

[1] From a French importer of fashion goods to a British exporter

     Importers of Fashion goods                                               Avenue Ravigny 14
                                                                                                 Paris XV      

    JdP/AG                                                                             12 October 2008

    The Western Shoe Co. Ltd.
    Yeovil, Somerset SI9 3AF

   Dear Sirs

   We have heard from the British Embassy in Paris that you are producing for export  
   hand-made shoes and gloves in natural materials.
   There is a steady demand in France for high-quality goods of this type. Sales are not 
   high, but a good price can be obtained for fashionable designs.
   Will you please send us your catalogue and full details of your export prices and terms of 
   payment, together with samples of leathers used in your articles and, if possible, 
   specimens of some of the articles themselves.

  We are looking forward to hearing from you.

  Yours faithfully

  J. du Pont
  Managing Director

[2] From an Australian engineering concern to a British supplier


Harbour Road
  HS/ja                                                                                                 25 June 2008

  The Aluminium Alloy Co. Ltd.
  79 Prince Albert St.
  Birmingham B21 8DJ
  Great Britain

  Dear Sirs

  We have seen your advertisement in The Metal Worker, and would be grateful if you would 
  kindly send us details of your aluminium fittings.

  Please quote us for the supply of the items listed on the enclosed enquiry form, giving your 
  prices c.i.f. Melbourne. Will you please also indicate delivery times, your terms of payment,
  and details of discounts for regular purchases and large orders.

  Our annual requirements for metal fittings are considerable, and we may be able to place
  substantial orders with you if your prices are competitive and your deliveries prompt.

  We look forward to receiving your quotation.

  Yours faithfully

  H. Smithers

[3] Letter to an agent


  Photographic Dealer

  J.White & Co.Ltd.
  254 Smuts Avenue
  Cape Town    ,
  5 May 2008

  Dear Sirs

  I see from the Camera Review that you are the South African agents for Messrs. Derby and
  Sons of London.

  Would you please send me price-lists and catalogues for all DERVIEW products you stock, as
  well as details of discounts and terms of payment. Are you prepared to grant special terms
  for annual orders totalling R 35,000 in value?

  I would appreciate a visit from your representative when he is next in the Durban area: 
  perhaps, he could bring some samples of DERVIEW colour transparencies, which are
  attracting a good deal of interest here.

  I look forward to your reply. Yours faithfully James Scott

  Yours faithfully

  James Scott

    Another very common type of enquiry is one in which a customer asks a supplier for a special product line which the supplier may not already be producing. When writing letters of this type it is essential to explain exactly what is wanted, and in what quantities. A supplier will also need to know whether there are long-term prospects for his article on your market, since otherwise it might not be worth his while manufacturing it. The next model letter is an example of this type of enquiry.

[4] Enquiry from an import agent in India to a British export manufacturer

                                                                                  DYMONT & CO
                                                                           General Import Merchants
                                                                                              1 December 2008

  Weatherproof Ltd.
  Liverpool L 30 7 KE

  Dear Sirs

  We have now been importing your "Litewate" raincoats for a number of years, and our trade
  connections throughout India have been more than satisfied with the garments.

  However, two or three Indian manufacturers have recently launched ultra-lightweight models,
  and these are catching on' very fast. In view of the increased competition this involves, we
  wonder whether you have considered marketing a coat of rather lighter material than the
  "Litewate", but equally waterproof. A garment of this type would have a large sale in this
  country if you could offer it at a competitive price, that is to say not more than £3.50 for a
  man's model, and slightly less for a woman's. You will be interested to learn that raincoats
  being produced here suffer from one major drawback2, namely excessive condensation3 on
  the inside surface.

  We would be grateful for your preliminary comments as soon as possible.

  Yours faithfully

    Asking a firm with whom you have not done business to supply an urgent order may call for tactful wording, especially in cases such as that mentioned in the next letter.

    Notes on letters 4-6
    The adjective competitive, which means favourably comparable with rival offers, occurs very frequently in enquiries and letters replying to them, as do the verb to compete and the nouns competition and competitor.

[5] Enquiry from an export merchant who has not been able to obtain satisfactory deliveries from his regular suppliers

                                                                                       A. ZIMMERLIA.G.

                                                                            Import-Export Merchants    ZURICH

  Messrs. W.H. Strong and Co.
  73 Crimea Road
  London SE25 3NF
  England                                                                                     23 April 1978

  Dear Sirs

  We have been given your name by our associates4 J.J. Mueller of Basle, who inform us that
  they have been doing business with you for some fifteen years. We asked them if they knew
  of a manufacturer who might be able to supply at very short notice the articles specified on
  the enclosed list, and they advised us to contact you.

  We can explain in confidence that our normal supplier has rather let us down5 on delivery
  dates this year, and we are in danger of getting into arrears6 with some of our overseas  

  If you can supply the goods we require, please accept this as our order. Payment will be made
  in accordance with your usual terms of business.

  We hope you will be able to help us in this instance, and can add that if your products and
  terms are as competitive as we have been led to believe, we will be interested in a long-term
  contract with you.

  We would appreciate a reply by telex.

  Yours faithfully
  A. Zimmerli AG

  Bruno Schmidt
  Export Manager


[6] An enquiry from an import/export agent on behalf of a client

  A. B. White & Co. Ltd.                                              567 Queen Street
  Import and Export                                                            London, EC4 8YH

  Directors: A. B. White, T.D. Pearson                                    Telephone: 4946130

  31 January 2008
  The Excelso Company Ltd.
  High Wycombe, Bucks. B84 1WE

  Dear Sirs

  We have just received an enquiry from a multi-national organisation owning several luxury
  hotels in East Africa. They are opening a new hotel next spring, and have asked us to submit
  quotations for furniture and fittings in accordance with the attached list.

  The articles in question must be hard-wearing7 and up-to-date in design, and delivery by
  February of next year is essential. Will you please let us know, therefore, whether you will be
  able to complete an order for the quantities required within the time at your disposal.

  We will also be glad to have an estimate for the number of containers required and the
  approximate cost of packing.

  Please let us have your quotation as soon as possible.

  Yours faithfully

  Jennifer Ring (Miss)
  Overseas Dept.

Here are some examples of how these words are used:

Competitive prices and terms are essential if this article is to sell on overseas markets (конкурентные цены).
These products will have to compete with mass-produced equipment from Asian countries (конкурировать).
Competition in the textile trade has never been keener: our competi-tors are offering lower prices all the time (конкуренция; конкуренты).

Explanation of reference numbers in letters 4-6
1 catching on: becoming popular or fashionable (входящий в моду)
2 drawback: disadvantage (недостаток)
3 condensation: drops of liquid forming, in this case, in tropical climates (конденсация влаги, напр., на ткани)
4 associates: people the writer does business with, or people in the same line of business as the writer (партнеры, компаньоны)
5 let us down: (in this letter) failed to execute our orders properly (зд. подвел)
6 getting into arrears: falling behind schedule (задерживать выплаты/платежи)
7 hard-wearing: strong, able to stand up to a lot of use (прочный, износостойкий).

Finally, here are some sentences which are commonly used in letters:

Hinting at future business, requesting special terms, and asking for information about deliveries:

23.  As we do a considerable trade in this line, we expect a keen price.
24.  If your goods are up to sample, they should sell readily in this market.
25.  If the quality is right and the price competitive, we think we can promise you good results.
26.  Provided you can guarantee regular supplies and promise deliverywithin a fortnight of receiving our orders, we should have no trouble in marketing your products here.
27.  As we are the leading dealers in this (town) (area) (country)...
28.  Since we have connections throughout the country...
29.  In view of the fact that we are sole agents for this product...
30.  As our estimated monthly requirements are in the region of 2,000 cases...
31.  ... we would like to discuss the possibility of a contract of agency with you.
32.  .... we would like to know whether you would be willing to grant us a special discount.
33.  As we are under contract, please let us know whether you can guar-antee shipment by 3 July.
34.  Would you be able to deliver within 5 weeks of receipt of our order?
35.  We require the goods by 1 June at the latest.
36.  Please, quote your price (f.o.b. Liverpool) (c.i.f. Rio de Janeiro).

Abbreviations used to indicate to what extent charges for freight, insurance, etc. are included in the price quoted
ex-works; ex-factory; ex-mill/mills: price without any transport (c завода, франко-завод)
*f.o.r. (free on rail) (франко-рельсы, франко-вагон), *f.o.t. (free on truck) (франко-вагон (aм.), франко-грузовик): price includes de-livery to the railway and loading on a truck
*f.a.s. (port named): price includes delivery to loading point 'along-side' ship (франко вдоль борта судна)
* f.o.b. (export port named): price includes delivery to docks and loading onto a ship (франко-борт, фоб)
*f.o.b. (import port named) (particularly used in U.S.A. trade): price in-cludes all costs up to arrival in the importing country, but not insurance or unloading (франко-борт судна)
*c. & f. (destination named): price includes all costs up to the named destination but not insurance (стоимость и фрахт)
*c.i.f. (destination named): price includes all costs including insurance, up to named destination (стоимость, страхование, фрахт – СИФ)
ex-ship (importport named): price includes delivery to the named port of destination; the seller is responsible for the goods until the ship arrives (франко-строп судно; с судна)
franco quay; ex-dock (importport named): price includes all costs, un-loading, customs duties, etc. (франко-причал; с причала)
franco domicilium; free delivered: price includes delivery to the premises of the buyer or consignee, customs duties paid by seller or consignor (доставка франко)

The following are used for home trade, in Great Britain:
carriage paid home: all transport paid by sender (перевозка оплачена)
carriage forward: transport to be paid by buyer (перевозка должна быть оплачена покупателем)
franco; free delivered: all costs paid by sender (доставка франко)
С.О.D.: goods to be paid for by buyer on delivery (оплачивается при доставке)

1. Fill in the missing words:
We have been ____ your name ____ our associates ____ Horward & Co. ____  Carlisle, who ____ us that you have been ____ them with stationery ____ a number of years.
There is a _____ demand here ____ Edinburgh ____ the qualities you ____, and we believe we could ____ large orders ____ you if your ____ are competitive.

____ you please send us your illustrated ____, together with your ____ list and details of your _______ of business.
We look forward to ____ ____   you.

2. You are J. du Pont, Managing Director of Fournier & Cie SA of Paris. Write to the Western Shoe Co. Ltd., Yeovil, Somerset S19 3AF, England, telling them where you have obtained their name and what you know about them.
Indicate that there is a good market in France for their products, and then ask them to send you their catalogue and anything else you think you should have. Round off your letter with an encouraging sentence before signing it.
Remember to include the date and inside address, and make sure you use the correct salutation and complimentary close. When you have finished your letter, compare it with letter no. 1 of this chapter.

3. Use the following notes to compose a letter of enquiry for a firm of importers:
To the Drake Cycle Company, Wellington, New Zealand: Your new sports models seen at the Birmingham Trade Fair. Request details all models, catalogue, price-list, terms, delivery times. Requirements: 50 each, women's and men's. Discounts? Future supply position?


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