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Purchase Orders (POs): a must?
Thread poster: ICL

ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:54
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 14, 2006

Hello,

I just quickly searched the forum database to see if this question has been asked here before, but could not find any specific message about this.

So I was wondering if any of you have read something similar here and, if not, if you could kindly give me your opinion about this issue.

The thing is, I am in contact with this very promising company, and they seem very professional and "big" enough, however, they do not issue a PO, but only give you the details of a given job (after I had to request them) by email. Do you find this odd? Shouldn't all companies work with a PO or something similar so that both the translator and the company itself know what their earnings/expenses will be?

Thanks in advance for your feedback,

Ivette


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:54
Member (2000)
Greek to English
+ ...
not all agencies issue a separate PO Jan 14, 2006

Ivette Camargo López wrote:

The thing is, I am in contact with this very promising company, and they seem very professional and "big" enough, however, they do not issue a PO, but only give you the details of a given job (after I had to request them) by email. Do you find this odd?


Hi Ivette,
You should always have a PO, in my opinion; no matter how big or small the agency is. However, the PO doesn't have to be a separate file attached, called "PO"; it can be details of a job in an e-mail. I think I asked a similar question in a forum (or perhaps it was a client who told me this), and the answer was that in France, for example, it's common practice to give the details of a job in an e-mail, which can be used as your PO.
I've had to work with a large agency recently, and they told me they don't issue POs but would do so if I really needed one. I told them I really needed one, so they sent me back an e-mail with the job details in the body of the e-mail. They turned out to be a great agency, the contact person and PM were very professional and paid ontime; had this not turned out to be the case, I wouldn't have been able to take any action against them without a PO confirming that they did ask me to do the job.
Don't feel bad about asking for a PO. They should know it's common practice. Or you can simply tell them that this is your policy.
Maria

[Edited at 2006-01-14 13:42]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:54
English to German
+ ...
Your call: are you prepared to take the risk? Jan 14, 2006

Hi Ivette,
Whether or not you're prepared to accept work without a written purchase order is entirely up to you. Even a telephone conversation constitutes a legally valid and binding contract - the problem is in the evidence: how are you going to prove what was agreed upon, should your counterparty dispute this?

The issue with e-mails is similar: if the e-mail contains all relevant details, that's fine - unless the company decides to say that they didn't send it. It's not that an e-mail isn't legally valid (it is), but you need to make sure that you can prove who sent it (which is not as trivial as it sounds, as forging sender addresses is rather simple).

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you shouldn't do it (I regularly work on the basis of oral contracts, for jobs involving several thousand euros), but you need to be aware of the risks involved. If you're happy to accept them, go ahead.

Best regards,
Ralf

PS A company's size is not a good indicator of professional conduct...


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:54
German to English
+ ...
Purchase Orders (POs): a must? Jan 14, 2006

Ivette Camargo López wrote:

they do not issue a PO, but only give you the details of a given job (after I had to request them) by email. Do you find this odd?


It is quite common for jobs to be issued without a formal PO. Of all my regular customers, only two issue formal POs. One of these is in Belgium. The POs sent by the other arrive by post, invariably after the job has been delivered, and are sent for internal reasons. The same customer even has another department whose jobs go through the same accounts dept. but which doesn't send me POs.

There's no need to request the details of the job from a customer. You can send them a quotation and ask them to confirm by returning the e-mail. I normally do this with first-time customers. The quotation indicates the scope, typically the name of the file(s); rate, approximate volume and approximate end price, indication that VAT is payable; delivery deadline; and anything else that might be worth clarifying. No serious business party will consider it unusual to be asked to confirm terms in this way.

Marc


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Maria Antonietta Ricagno  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:54
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
PO Jan 14, 2006

Dear Ivette

of course, a PO should be a must, as it is the only evidence you have testifying the agency has given the go-ahead to translate the job.
In case of any discussion about prices, deadlines, etc, you will have the PO.
But there are several agencies, even big and famous, that do not issue a PO: I always ask for it, except in the case of old and trusted clients, but that will depend to the degree of knowledge and confidence you have of your clients.
Another case is that of the translation department of a big multi-national company I have been working for since last year: they issue a blank PO number expiring after 2 years, so they do not need to send a separate PO for each job.
In general, I think it is always better to get a PO.

Anto


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Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 22:54
Italian to Danish
+ ...
A PO is a must - and not only by email Jan 14, 2006

I have just "celebrated" my first non-payment ever (without due cause) and the lawyer which is taking care of this told me that even though a regular PO was issued (and sent by email) and even though different payment terms than "the usual" were agreed upon, still by e-mail (30 days instead of the usual 60), I had better wait till the usual 60 days term had expired before starting court actions, since I could risk that the other party would deny ever having sent the email with confirmation of the 30 days payment terms. Furthermore, the lawyer informed me that I should always insist on receiving a signed PO by mail or at least by fax, signed by the responsible of the agency that it, not by just any project manager without authority to engage the agency!

You will discover this only when it becomes necessary to have your paperwork in order! As long as the client pays, you have no problem whatsoever...

Dinny


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Theoretically a must - practically too worrysome Jan 14, 2006

In my four years of freelancing I got into trouble only with two clients, and both of them sent a PO, and of course the cause for the trouble was not addressed therein.

90% of my clients do send POs, but many send it too late, sometimes I even deliver a translation before I received the PO, although many clients explicitely state in the footers of their emails: "Don't start without a PO".

Of course I have to know a client very well to start a translation before I get that PO, but I try to understand the problems of the project manager like I expect him to understand my problems. And one of his problems is, that his boss put that obstructive footer there..

On the other hand, I stopped starting to work just on a phone call since I realised that mistakes and misunderstandings can easily happen in the hurry of such a call, even with one of your best clients phoning you in your mother tongue.


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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:54
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Jan 15, 2006

To everyone for their replies... The answers are very helpful.

I see that we have basically 2 lines of thought in this respect: POs are not necessarily a must and POs are a must. I guess POs might obviously become more of a must in case of payment problems, when you need all the documentation you can get in order to backup your claims. Hopefully that will not be the case.

I guess what puzzled me from an apparently "big" company is, like I said, that they should not see POs as actually a useful document, since it helps them keep track of their earnings, since POs reflect what will actually be paid to the translator, and so it is already a step ahead in terms of accounting. But I guess different companies have different ways of doing things.

I did reach an agreement with the said company, so I have a minimum backup (by email) of what is being assigned/paid to me for each job. Wish me luck

Saludos,

Ivette


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Jeremy Smith  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:54
French to English
+ ...
I just had a mildly unpleasant experience Jan 24, 2006

A client contacted me today and confirmed a job over e-mail. When I requested a PO, they said it was not their policy to issue POs.

And therein lies a mercifully rare misconception in some agencies. Agencies such as the one that contacted me today seem to be under the impression that translators are obliged to follow the agency's internal rules and conventions. This is not the case. We are suppliers (contractors). We enter into mutually beneficial agreements. We do not simply follow orders.

When I politely replied, saying that I was unable to commence work without a purchase order, the agency withdrew the job. I know what conclusions I draw from that fact.


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