Off topic: Lawful (or almost) ways not to pay a translator
Thread poster: Akoma
English to Russian
+ ...
Nov 4, 2006

There is a famous Soviet satirical novel "The Twelve Chairs," about a conman

The conman says that he knows 300 something ways to legally divest people of their money.

Well, I'm thinking about how many ways there are to lawfully (or almost) divest a translator of his/her pay. Not 300+, but still...

1. Insert a clause in the contract saying that the Contractor will pay the Translator only when the End Customer pays the Contractor. (Some Prozians have said this is illegal, but probably not in every county; in Russia a very well-known and big agency used to have this clause, although, to my knowledge, they dropped it some time ago.)

2. Insert a clause saying that if the Contractor or a Third Party asked by the Contractor determines that the translation is of inadequate quality, the Contractor may reduce or withhold the payment. (Such a clause I saw in the contract of a big and apparently well-established international firm; looking up the BlueBoard, I saw about two dozens entries from different translators. Not a member, I cannot see the comments, only the grades, which were widely varied. Anyway, I was surprised that so many translators whose profiles suggest they are real pros, not just "fly by nighters," apparently signed up for such a contract.)

3. If you live in a First World country, find a translator in a poor country, call him/her and say that you're impressed by his/her CV and have a huge project coming exactly within his field and languages pair -- and meanwhile, will (s)he be so kind as to make a small assignment that of course will be paid... but could (s)he please agree to postpone a payment a bit, just a bit, because the money transfer costs, especially to his particular country, are so high, you know, it will make more sense to add up this small bill to the huge bill for the upcoming project.
Afterwards, if rather than just disappear into the blue, you politely inform the obliging poor translator that, sorry, this particular project fell through, this may score you yet another free small translation from him/her.

More suggestions?

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Lubain Masum  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:56
Member (2006)
English to Bengali
+ ...
My story Nov 4, 2006

Actually, this is not a 'off topic' issue, rather a real issue for many translators like me.

Four months ago, I did a small job (about 500 words) for a Delhi based Indian agency and as it was a small job, I did not bargain or bother for PO or other payment related issues, as my earlier experiences for these types of small jobs were immediate payment by the outsourcers.

Well, as I finished the work, I submitted the invoice and waited for ten days and did not find any response. I asked the outsourcer about the payment, he said his agency pays through wire/bank transfer and if I could do more jobs so that he can send the full amount or it wont be cost-effective. I smelt a rat and told him to pay for this amount first through moneybookers. Surprisingly, he said he does know how to pay through moneybookers. I became a bit angry and said how come you do international business but do not about moneybookers. Then after some days he said he tried to send money through moneybookers but it was 'blocked'. He even said that he called moneybookers office in London and things may be settled soon. After some days, upon my enquiry, he became very angry and said to me, you do not know about the practice of payment. It is 40-60 days and you should wait and be 'cool'. I just said the amount is very small and should not be compared with the big amount for that I can wait for 40-60 days.

Anyway, I waited for 45 days and did not mail in this period.

After 45 days, when I enquired about my payment, the 'gentle' man said he is 'sorry' and will pay within that week with additional $5 dollars as late fee and if he fails, he will give me additional $10 dollars. He also reminded me that his agency is the only one that pays late fee.

Two weeks have gone and again I asked the outsourcer. This time, he said your cheque has been 'despatched'.

Another two weeks have gone and I asked him to give me a proof of despatch so that I can claim money at the post office.

This time he said he sent the cheque in general mail, not in registered mail, and has no proof but he sent a 'photocopy' of the 'cheque' he 'despatched'.

Another month has passed but I did not receive anything. I went to post office and asked whether any mail came to my address from India. They said no.

This is my story. Fortunately, within a short period, I got a good number of very good, cooperative and reliable outsourcers from around the world and they all pay and paid me in time. That is why I did not make a negative entry in the blue board of this 'exceptional' outsourcer yet.

Thank you all.

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Mónica Algazi  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
Make an entry in the Blue Board Nov 4, 2006

Hello Lubain:

I was sorry to hear about the bad experience you have gone through. However, since this is by no means the first time an Indian agency behaves this way with translators around the word - including Uruguay - I suggest you should make an entry in the Blue Bord to warn colleagues against this particular outsourcer.

What's more, this would benefit the good Indian agencies that are being affected by a handful of dishonest ones.

Kind regards,


[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-11-04 13:38]

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Agnieszka Hayward
Local time: 08:56
German to Polish
+ ...
Enjoy good clients, comment on the bad one Nov 4, 2006

Lubain Masum wrote:

Actually, this is not a 'off topic' issue, rather a real issue for many translators like me.

Not off-topic indeed, I'd say.

Fortunately, within a short period, I got a good number of very good, cooperative and reliable outsourcers from around the world and they all pay and paid me in time. That is why I did not make a negative entry in the blue board of this 'exceptional' outsourcer yet.

Dear Lubain,
to be honest, I don't see how finding good and reliable outsourcers relates to not entering a negative comment about a bad one on the Blue Board.

Good luck,


[Edited at 2006-11-04 19:15]

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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:26
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Ref Lubian's post Nov 4, 2006

Well, this reminds me of another agency (Indian) that has actually requested my paypal details (???) so that they can pay me. BTW I'm Indian and I live in India and I don't take paypal payments from my Indian clients.

They have a simpler and faster option, go to any ATM and drop the cheque. (They have my account details and there are quite a few ATMs in that city... I know that 'coz the agency happens to be located in a place that I know quite well).

And the mode of payment was discussed in the beginning.

And to top it all the agency has actually sent me another "Small Job". Of course, I've not touched it. I don't work for free...

And another outsourcer (Russian) (from another site) who sent me an e-mail asking for a quote has just sent me an e-mail asking how did I arrive at the minimum rate. BTW none of my clients have ever questioned that and that is my standard minimum rate. I didn't do a special calculation for them.

I don't think it's worth my time to fight (or discuss) with these people. I'd rather finish the projects that I'm working on.

Reminds me of a publisher I worked with... they managed to get a "translator" who charged 10 rupees a page (can you imagine he'd have to translate almost six pages to earn one euro)... and well, of course he got the job as I charged more. Result: I got the job after 10 days as he had really done a superb job of messing up the document.

So I don't worry about them anymore. The one person who didn't pay me is out of job today and I'm still here. It's almost a decade now but I'll never forget that experience as I was told that the document had been rejected and a couple of days later I saw my translation in Print. I was so shocked that I didn't work for any agency for almost 6-7 years... only direct clients.

Anyways, I've learnt my lesson(s).

These agencies are a one day wonder. Why should we waste our time on them? Give a negative blue board entry if they cheat you... and forget them... or blacklist them. A couple of years later you'd be laughing when you see them struggling.

[Edited at 2006-11-04 19:54]

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:56
English to French
+ ...
Oh dear, now I know why the BlueBoard is unreliable... Nov 5, 2006

If I calculate it, based upon your story, Lubain, you have waited 130+ days for your money and kept in touch, all the while staying very patient (if it would were me, I would have lost my cool way before that).

And you haven't made a BlueBoard entry? ? ? ???

If you had to establish whether it is risky or not working for XY outsourcer, based on their BlueBoard, and would have found such a comment as you made above, would you have worked with the outsourcer? I don't think so... Now, some other translator is ripping all his hair out over the money he's not getting - because he wasn't advised by fellow translators that the outsourcer is not trustworthy.

People, some of us pay ONLY to have access to the BlueBoard. PLEASE make it worthwhile! Post!

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Lubain Masum  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:56
Member (2006)
English to Bengali
+ ...
At last, I made an entry; Thanks to all Nov 6, 2006

At last, I made a negative entry in the blue board of the outsourcer that did not pay in the last four months.

I thank all my translators friends around the world for their words of sympathy, inspiration and courage.

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