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Translator has gone hiding - what should we (a company) do?
Thread poster: Uldis Liepkalns

Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 19:24
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Nov 21, 2003

Hi all, actually this is the situation I have encountered in all the years only twice on local market and never on international.
The translator (ProZ member, credentials OK) accepted a 60 page job (two separate, but very similar files), deadline was yesterday. Yesterday I got from the translator the email that he was ill (some form of, excuse me, hmm… digestion problems) for past three days, therefore the delay, but at least one file will be delivered today. Today has come and gone, the client was furious (it’s understandable, he cannot sell his _VERY EXPENSIVE_ device without manual in target language), the translator doesn’t answer the phone and email, the client told me literally “f&@k the deadline, resubmit the translation to another translator, but get it done ASAP”.

We can (and will) do that, but of course, this means that the original translator will get nought for whatever amount of translation he has already done but not delivered.

Therefore I would like to ask for your opinions, what should we do in such a situation. I should add that we do not have any other means of contact with the said translator than email and phone, yes, the postal address too, but there is no time to exchange postcards….


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 12:24
SITE FOUNDER
Next time, agree in advance Nov 21, 2003

I feel for you, it is an unpleasant situation to be in.

Advice: reduction in payment for late delivery should be agreed upon, in specific terms, in advance.


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xxxPaul Roige
Spain
Local time: 18:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
My 2 cents. Chapter 1: TRUST Nov 21, 2003

Hi Uldis, I'm nobody to give advice, but I do have some thoughts on this.
Basically, it appears to me that some decent contact is necessary before sending out a big job. An agency needs to know well beforehand whether someone is trustworthy or not, and there is one way to get to know this: building a pool of translators who have been tested with small jobs, for a while, and keeping in touch with them regularly. One serious error and you're out, that's that, this is business too. But make them feel you're there and willing to build an ongoing 'partnership' with them and 99% of us we'll be at your feet singing Hossanna.
That is at least my experience. I have been working with the same agencies for years now. The reason? They know I deliver, they know I'll say no when it isn't possible, they know I deal online as I would face to face. Distance is not oblivion. They know. And I ask of them pretty much the same, (plus prompt payment!), the deal's got to work both ways.
Bear in mind too that translators are humans and do get sick eventually (something that is, by the way, overlooked but too often!!). Again, ongoing contact helps to find solutions before it's too late.
There are other ways too, but I'm sure other colleagues will be in better position to explain.
Good luck with it
Paul


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 19:24
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Henry Nov 21, 2003

Henry wrote:

I feel for you, it is an unpleasant situation to be in.

Advice: reduction in payment for late delivery should be agreed upon, in specific terms, in advance.


But the question is not about sanctions on late delivery, what I feel uneasy about is that if I give this job (and sign a PO) with another translator, the initial one will get no money at all, even if he will at some point deliver some portion of translation. That’s what I’m asking advice about- somehow I am accustomed to be honest in all respects and to all parties, but I cannot pay twice for the same job, especially if the client will pay me only once- and, due to the delay, reduced amount at that- if at all, I should add.

I understand that everyone of us can get into some accident and not be able to reply, but the translator in question says he’s a company- some kind of a family business sporting *.ltd, so at least someone should be able to reply anything at all…

I have to take decision what to do in about 10 hours, to take a drive to the said destination and to knock at the windows is out of the question, several thousand miles, borders, petrol costs and all …:)


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
Chapter 2: accountability Nov 21, 2003

Hi Uldis,

I do not know what kind of agreement, if any, you have signed with this translator. I can only speak from my perspective as a freelance translator, having dealt with agencies for the past 15 years. The way I understand your situation, for whatever reason the translator has not fulfilled his/her side of the agreement, and is nowhere to be found to re-negotiate the terms. I would consider this constitutes default on the side of the translator, and you should concentrate on fulfilling your deadline.

Paul is right, illness does happen. But if the translator has been ill for three days and waits until the deadline to inform you of it, and then vanishes...we are all human and it can happen, but if I were in such a situation as a translator, not only I would not expect payment but I would be bending over backwards to compensate the agency for the mishap.

I wish you the best luck,

Susana Galilea
Accredited Translator, EUTI
sgalilea@ispwest.com
www.accentonspanish.com


[Edited at 2003-11-22 00:05]


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 19:24
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
We sent to the translator Nov 22, 2003

our standard signed and stamped PO in PDF, guaranteeing payment, mentioning the sum, all amounts, deadlines and terms of payment. We did not receive signed PO back, just an e-mail acceptance, but that is usual and we have not encountered any problems because of that before. I guess we all understand – the more time we spend on elaborate formalities, the less time there is left to do the actual job.

Actually I was asking not for legal (we have our lawyers, if it comes to that), but for ethical advice…

Susana Galilea wrote:

Hi Uldis,

I do not know what kind of agreement, if any, you have signed with this translator.


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:24
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good luck Nov 22, 2003

Hello Uldis,
I can feel your pain all the way from Spain. It hasn't ever happened to me, but I endeavor to take precautions. If it is a good 60 pages and your translator is new then you should keep your eye on the project closely. You could have contacted the translator at some point during the project to see how it was going. You also could have asked for parts of the first draft as he/she went along. Also, what Henry says makes a lot of sense. Get everything clear from the start.

But you don't want to hear this. You have to find a solution from where you are. Keep ringing, faxing and emailing. In one of your emails/faxes you might say something to the effect of "if I do not hear from you in X hours then Y will happen". This lack of communication is extremely unprofessional on the part of the "translator", sick for three days or not. Take care.

Ed


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:54
English to Tamil
+ ...
Send one more email to the translator Nov 22, 2003

Saying that as he has breached his contract, he cannot be expected to be paid anything at all. And you reserve your rights to prosecute him.

But let the mail be courteous. It is always possible that the translator in question may have had some genuine problems and may convince you of the same in the future. At that time you do not want to regret your harsh words. But paid he shall not be.

Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2003-11-22 00:39]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:24
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Chapter 3 - Dealing Up Front Nov 22, 2003

This is not directed to Uldis on any count, as I believe the agency has been "up front" in its relationship with the translator, but to a practice amongst certain colleagues which I have been informed of as a moderator.

Those of you who read the Spanish forum will know I uphold a principle of fair retribution for translators and interpreters over and above global dumping (both terms being so hard to define and so technically grey). But in return, I also expect clear-cut, honest, open, up-front professional conduct on their part. And that includes Chapter 1, saying "no" when the price does not suit them, when the working terms are unreasonable, or when the job is simply impossible for them to fulfill, for any other reason whatsoever.

I never wanted to bring this up in public, but yes, I have been informed of cases which sounded all too suspiciously like camouflaged industrial action. I'll try to typify it: an outsourcer assigns a job, which is accepted by a translator, at a price I may not personally agree with, but which the translator accepts. A reasonable delivery deadline is agreed upon (which may take low priority into consideration, as the translator may be working on more profitable assignments at the same time). Come the deadline, however, the outsourcer is informed that the translator has moved to Scandinavia, he has only done part of the job, please wait, or that he is only submitting one file out of ten along with the corresponding invoice, goodbye. (Altogether, the typical excuses transmit one message, which may be more or less surmised.) And I have to openly say, this is NOT ETHICS. And it hurts to admit that this complaint was brought against some ProZ.com members.

Blackballing is not a professional answer. While I am aware that legitimate professional organisations and accrediting bodies may cry bloody murder to some job offers, certain agreements (in particular, verbal ones where these are upheld and respected in the Courts of Law) would be sufficient to justify legal charges having the same effect of barring such an individual from further engagement, notwithstanding all his other qualifications. And where the job involves an official entity -- never mind if an agency risked its neck and played go-between -- it will carry far-reaching repercussions. It's too small a world for such underhanded conduct.

Cecilia


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Oleg Prots  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 19:24
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Totally agree with Narasimhan Nov 22, 2003

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:
Send him one more email.

Saying that as he has breached his contract, he cannot be expected to be paid anything at all. And you reserve your rights to prosecute him.

But let the mail be courteous. It is always possible that the translator in question may have had some genuine problems and may convince you of the same in the future. At that time you do not want to regret your harsh words. But paid he shall not be.


I guess that's exactly what I would do in such a situation. (knock, knock)

Take care,
Oleg


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Rusinterp  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
English to Russian
+ ...
Just a thought Nov 22, 2003

Uldis, the situation being so grave, I wonder if the guy might be in more serious trouble than we think. Not answering phones might indicate that he ended up in the hospital for example. It does look truly extraordinary - and no one in their right mind would do such a thing on purpose, it seems to me. Maybe, while you are doing your best to get the translation redone by someone else, it would make sense to write that first chap an e-mail to express your concern not only about the fact that due to this whole problem you will be unable to pay him, but also about his health.

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Vidmantas Stilius  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:24
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Fully agree Nov 22, 2003

Alexandra Tussing wrote:

Uldis, the situation being so grave, I wonder if the guy might be in more serious trouble than we think. Not answering phones might indicate that he ended up in the hospital for example. It does look truly extraordinary - and no one in their right mind would do such a thing on purpose, it seems to me. Maybe, while you are doing your best to get the translation redone by someone else, it would make sense to write that first chap an e-mail to express your concern not only about the fact that due to this whole problem you will be unable to pay him, but also about his health.


... because I've encountered a similar situation myself. I asked my colleague to help me with the translation of a few pages during the weekend, she said OK. A few hours later I phoned her to ask how things were going on. Her husband answered the phone and told me she'd been rushed to the hospital, and had to be operated immediately.

Things do happen sometimes.


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Gayle Wallimann  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:24
Member (2001)
French to English
+ ...
Might be more serious than you think Nov 22, 2003

Alexandra Tussing wrote:
I wonder if the guy might be in more serious trouble than we think. Not answering phones might indicate that he ended up in the hospital for example. It does look truly extraordinary - and no one in their right mind would do such a thing on purpose, it seems to me.


I agree with Alexandra, it sounds like the situation could be more serious than you think. If the translator doesn't answer, he/she must have a good reason for that. Hopefully, it won't be too serious. Do send an e-mail that is thoughtful enough to take that into consideration. I understand that the translator will not be paid, but it is true that on large projects, my clients always ask for parts of it as it is finished, or at least daily progress reports. It reassures the client and it helps the translator to keep on track and see if he/she is not going to make the deadline for X reason. Good luck,
Gayle


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Give the job to another translator immediately Nov 22, 2003

If your translator is so ill that he cannot answer phone calls and emails, then he is also too ill to translate.
So you have to look for another one because your client needs it ASAP.
For this point it makes no difference, whether he is really in trouble or only pretending (which should be relevant for future jobs).
- But don't forget to get your clients OK for the new deadline -

[Edited at 2003-11-22 09:44]


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two2tango  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 13:24
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
In a nutshell Nov 22, 2003

1 - Normally the translator gets paid for delivering a good timely translation, while the agency gets paid for finding a good and trustworthy translator to do the job (plus DTP and other value-adding post-translation activities).

2 - The current translator's situation can not be assessed, but it was unprofessional of him/her not to resort to a back-up colleague while he/she was sick. Besides, the agency should have been warned in time of any problem.

3 - The agency got no translation, gets no response and will have to find other pro to do the job in a rush. In such situation there is nothing to pay for (no delivery, no reasonable hope of getting one).

4 - With all due respect, I am not impressed by an agency that trusts an all-important lengthy job to an untested translator, then keeps no monitoring on him/her until deadline, and has no b-plan at hand when the translator is not found.

Regards,
Enrique Cavalitto


[Edited at 2003-11-23 15:36]


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