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Hi everyone and thank you for reading my question.

To give a bit of context I have an Etsy shop that sells digital products, specifically resumes in German, now I want to send a thank you note to my customers hoping that they will reviews my products more often but I'm not sure about how I should address them.

The spirit of the thank you note is friendly and its purpose is to get closer to the customer so that he / she starts understanding who is behind the brand.

In English the note would be something along the lines of:

"Kind Name,

Laura here, the founder of ShopName.

I’m writing this surprise letter to tell you that I’m so grateful for choosing my brand!

My small business started in 2021 with my love for good design and the value I see behind people’s dreams with the aim to follow my own dream of buying a house with my fiance.

Your review will mean the world to me and it will keep me going on my journey.

Thank you for your invaluable support

Laura"

So, in this context do you think I should use Sie? I'm afraid to be felt as too distant in this case since it's a one-person-brand and I'm trying to be felt as more close, but I'm afraid that "du" could be seen as disrespectful to the customers?

I'm really confused, please help me, which form would you feel more comfortable with if the letter was addressed to you?

Thank you a lot!

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  • 1
    If you have a translator available who can write a formal document like a resume in German, can't they help you to write this note?
    – The Photon
    Feb 26 at 19:23
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    @ThePhoton After searching Etsy, I assume Laura is selling resume templates/designs for word processing software.
    – HalvarF
    Feb 26 at 19:26
  • 8
    As a German, I can tell you that it wouldn't matter to me. I'd despise the manipulative begging either way. Feb 27 at 12:40
  • 3
    @Laura: As an American, I can tell you that your letter would bug me. I'm doing business with you, not trying to become your best friend. Reviews tend to be fake, effusive, gushing with no content. I rarely read reviews, and more rarely write them. You need something above and beyond "ordered and delivered" to get a review. Begging for a review is just tacky.
    – JRE
    Mar 1 at 14:56

7 Answers 7

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The usual way of talking to people you don't personally know in any kind of business relationship would be "Sie". Even on eBay, eBay classifieds, other Craiglist-like marketplaces, or on flea markets in most regions.

My opinion:

If you're seeing yourself and your customers as part of an alternative scene, you can use "du", but it does have a risk of alienating people. It would alienate me slighly if a person that is doing business with me used "du" in written communication over the internet without knowing what kind of person I am. It's easier to judge if you meet each other personally.

So I would root for "Sie" and say that the customer needs to be the one who uses "du" first. If they do, you can definitely reciprocate. If you know they're under 30, and they know you know they're under 30, you could maybe assume a "du". In any case, imo, you're not distancing too much by using "Sie", it's just the usual first way of addressing strangers.

There are businesses that do use "du", for example IKEA has been using it since when they came to Germany in the 1970s, because it's what everyone uses in Swedish. For me, it conveys a sense of a business trying to one-sidedly establish closeness that doesn't exist.

(For context, I'm born in the seventies, so a rather old guy.)

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  • 3
    "You would alienate me slighly if you used "du" in written communication over the internet ..." Perhaps this is a new question, but on your general internet forums, do people use Sie? Or is it maybe "internet culture" and "du" is used commonly?
    – BruceWayne
    Feb 27 at 3:08
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    @BruceWayne Usually forums are considered less formal and Du is standard. Especially in any kind of short message (Twitter etc.). But beaware that this, as a general rule is only valid among regular members. If said board is for example a support forum hosted by a company for their product, it might be more appropriate to use Sie when answering requests from customer, restricting Du to unspecific chit chat / discussions with established members.
    – Raffzahn
    Feb 27 at 5:51
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    @infinitezero First of all, there is no 'must' in writing, only convention and convention for letters is upper case addressing. Emails are letters. Second, outside of letters neither have ever been written using upper case. Next, the rule is not about singular or plural pronouns, but direct addressing a person or group or not. . Last, but not least in this case, you may have noticed that the answer uses in all instances the spelling as "Sie" and "du" as if only the first had to be upper cased. This is simply not tue. Case is the same for either.
    – Raffzahn
    Feb 27 at 7:32
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    @Raffzahn you open with "there's no must in writing" and follow up with a couple "have to's" . That does not make sense to me. Furthermore there's no convention, only a recommendation: Duden | du/Du. Feb 27 at 7:55
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    @Raffzahn: From what I've understood, you have claimed that Du and Sie has to be written in upper case, in an address. The link I've posted does not support your point but refutes it. As far as I'm concernced, pointing out a mistaken belief is "adding [something] of substance". Feb 27 at 9:01
12

Adding to HalvarF's fine answer:

It might be worth to consider which of the options creates the least negative effect:

  • addressing customers that are fine with "Du" as "Sie" will be of no concern, while
  • addressing people who would expect "Sie" by using "Du" might create an uneasy feeling.

Or as the usual 4 quadrant table:

Customer expecting "Du" Customer expecting "Sie"
Using "Du" good ✅ bad ⚠️
Using "Sie" neutral good ✅

Bottom line: as a business one would want to avoid to choose any line with a 'bad' quadrant.

Any divergence needs a good reason, including the acceptance of alienation of possible customers.

BTW: This is especially true when messages may have negative content - like non fulfilment of an order - where usage of "Du" might be perceived as condescending.

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    I think the number of customers who will be offended by a small shop using „Du“ in an informal letter is very small. At the same time it can help create a feeling of friendship and closeness with most other customers which could help the business succeed. So picking the “safe” option might not necessarily be best.
    – Michael
    Feb 27 at 17:39
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    @Michael Serious that a 'closeness' is something German customers value as long s it's only done by words? It can only come from genuine friendly and supportive behaviour not words. One reason why many Germans think of US interaction as fake, like perfect shown in this comment? I also have a hard time to see any good business practice that includes alienating customers, no matter how small, without any gain otherwise.
    – Raffzahn
    Feb 27 at 17:43
  • I’m not saying it’s going to work on everyone. But personally I prefer it when a shop uses „Du“. It’s easier language and makes communication easier if I have to contact their customer support. When a shop uses „Sie“ I switch into formal mode and spend way too much time and effort into writing perfect formal Hochdeutsch and avoiding anglicisms. Of course we are not going to be best friends just because they open with „Deine Bestellung ist unterwegs!“
    – Michael
    Feb 27 at 18:14
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    I agree with @Michael and personally I'd avoid any person that gets "offended" by the usage of "du". "Sie" is an annoying concept in my view. It's alienating and cumbersome. For context I'm from Switzerland.
    – marco-a
    Mar 1 at 4:49
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This entirely depends on your target group. About 20 years ago, there would have been probably no discussion about this, and "Sie" would have been the way to go. However, nowadays it's way more common to address strangers as "Du" and a lot of online shops to the same, especially if their target audience is "young" (say < 40 ).

Now If your target groups are mainly students, pupils or the like, you can use "Du" and it probably won't upset anyone (Ausnahmen bestätigen die Regel).

If your main target group are senior citizens, law offices, states or communities, or other "official" institutions/employees, you should go with "Sie".

Lastly, there is the option to formulate sentences without "Du or Sie".

Instead of

Vielen Dank, dass Du/Sie sich für meine Marke entschieden hast/haben

you could say

Vielen Dank, für die Entscheidung ...

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    @BernhardDöbler I've been on eBay since 1999, and this is just not true as a universal statement. The huge majority uses Sie on ebay in direct contact.
    – HalvarF
    Feb 26 at 12:30
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    @BernhardDöbler I don't see how that comment bears any relevance. This is not on a customer to customer basis, and just because you are free to decide how and what you communicate, does not mean it is advisable to do so. A shop for high-tech security devices advertising as "Yo digga, kauf hier die krasseste Alarmanlage damit dir kein Babo ins Haus einsteigt" might not attract many customers. Feb 26 at 14:46
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    Vielen Dank für das Entscheiden is not incorrect but it sounds weird.
    – RHa
    Feb 26 at 20:34
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    "Vielen Dank für die Entscheidung" sounds better to me.
    – Bergi
    Feb 27 at 0:23
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    @Bergi "Vielen Dank für die Entscheidung" sounds quite impersonal. I would expect an "Ihre" oder "deine" here, but then the Du vs Sie problem raises its head again.
    – RHa
    Feb 27 at 9:58
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The original text is

"Kind Name,

Laura here, the founder of ShopName.

I’m writing this surprise letter to tell you that I’m so grateful for choosing my brand! My small business started in 2021 with my love for good design and the value I see behind people’s dreams with the aim to follow my own dream of buying a house with my fiance.

Your review will mean the world to me and it will keep me going on my journey.

Thank you for your invaluable support

Laura"

Texts of this kind IMHO do not need a literal translation, but should be toned to match the average expecation of the target market - even when that means quite a bit deviation from the original.

Reading some of the comments, it seems that I'm not alone in perceiving such wording as so much over the top and way too personal from a shop or business I bought something from to make me feel uncomfortable. A suggestion for a much more liberal translation with about the same key request: to leave a review:

Sehr geehrte(r) NAME,

wir freuen uns, dass Sie sich für MARKE entschieden haben. Wir glauben an gutes Design und leben dafür. Wenn Sie mit uns zufrieden sind, so können Sie uns sehr helfen, wenn Sie ein Review hinterlassen und uns weiterempfehlen.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Laura, Inhaberin von SHOPNAME

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  • Are you serious? Well you sound very serious. :-)
    – HalvarF
    Feb 28 at 18:36
  • @HalvarF yes. You cannot stop businesses to send these kind of mails - and given the algorithms with stars and reviews, it makes sense. But let them be well-worded and not intrusive, so they might reach some people, if they are really satisfied with the service :) (yes, these kind of e-mails never come as surprise). I really think the other answers only address the translation verbatim - but doing so, they basically do the prospective business a disservice (IMHO) Feb 28 at 19:28
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I feel like smaller brands should use "du"-form. As a customer it's a nice feeling to see the not so "official" side of a company sometimes. Especially when being thanked for using/buying their goods or services.

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    I don't think so. Appropriate language is important,whether it is a small business or big Feb 27 at 6:20
  • I do not agree either. I'm not german speaker, but same problem in our language - and being from older generation, I almost hate, when some unknown entity addresses me as 'Du'.
    – Arvo
    Feb 28 at 9:37
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If you expect your target audience to be reasonable, down to earth people there should be no problem with addressing them with "Du". It might of course depend on the type of shop, if you are selling products for lawyers for example you might find people being very formal.

But from my personal experience using "Du" with small businesses is quite common nowadays. "Sie" is kind of loosing importance in german, and might even be seen as rigid by some people.

In any case you should always capitalize such addressing forms to differentiate them from a pronoun. And whatever you use – I do not think anyone would have much of a problem with it.

-1

Business is business. Do not use Du. You are not close enough on a personal basis. You may also want to delete the bit about buying a house.

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