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This is how I tackled a client, what would you have done in my place?
Thread poster: Narasimhan Raghavan

Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:06
English to Tamil
+ ...
Jul 9, 2007

This happened five months back.

I was in the bank minding my own business, when my cell phone started emitting its ring tone. It was a new client. The Secretary to the Managing Director was on the phone. She wanted me very urgently for French interpreting. The visitor was expected in one hour time.

I gave her my hourly rate plus the other conditions including taxi fare both sides (or car lift and car drop). I made it clear to her that my minimum billing was for 2 hours. She agreed to all these things and sent me the company car. In the meantime I went home and was ready for the car, which came as promised.

The journey took twenty minutes. As I entered the building I asked the girl at the reception desk, whether the visitor had already come. She replied in the affirmative and asked me to wait a few minutes. She phoned the Secretary to MD, who came there within the next five minutes. She ordered cool drink for me and entered the MD's chamber. Till that time everything seemed routine.

But the secretary was taking quite a long time coming out. I was just engaging the charming lady at the reception in a pleasant conversation in Urdu (her mother tongue). Then after sometime I whipped out a Tamil novel and was engrossed in it.

After one hour, the secretary came out and asked me to follow her to her cabin. She hemmed and hawed for sometime and stammered out that the French visitor was fluent in English and the discussion was already proceeding in English. She was flustered and asked me to suggest a course of action.

I just took out my bill book and started billing for the minimum period of 2 hours (Rs.1200 for 2 hours). She became more nervous and called for reinforcements through intercom. The personnel officer arrived full of smile. He took me to his cabin. By that time I had spent nearly 90 minutes in the company. Without losing any words I just presented the bill to him. Now the farce started.

He: Mr. Raghavan, this is quite unfair. You did not do any work.
I: Don't take that line sir. You made me wait for nearly 2 hours.
He: We don't deny it. But there is a thing called fairness?
I: (feigning anger): What do you mean sir? Do you refuse to pay me?
He (indignantly) It is not that sir, accept one hour payment.
I: No chance sir. I told you already about my minimum billing period of two hours. Better pay it in full.
He: OK, it now seems that we will be requiring your services around 3 P.M. (It was 1230 hours at that time). Can we retain you till that time?
I: Of course, return the bill in that case. I will give updated bill including the period in this bill as well as the waiting period till 3 PM.
He: But sir, you never did any work.
I: Am I at fault for that?

The parley went on this vein and U suddenly said that my period was shortly going to cross the 3 hour mark and my demand too will go up. They gave it up as a bad job and paid me my money and dropped me home in their car.

This is how I earned Rs.1200 for reading a novel and carrying out pleasant conversation with that Urdu lady.

But the aim of this post lies elsewhere. What makes this sort of persons tick? When a foreign visitor comes, is it not their duty to ascertain whether he really requires an interpreter? Having found the faux pas, why did they make me wait? And this company was supposed to be ISO 9000 certified.

My question here to my colleagues is this. How would you have reacted in my place? I will tell something more in this connection. But before that I would like to hear their reactions in the first place.

Regards,
N.Raghavan



[திருத்திய நேரம் 2007-07-09 16:22]


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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:36
Member (2002)
English to German
Good reaction Jul 9, 2007

I would have reacted exactly the same way.
As a service provider you have to bill your time. If the client makes you waste your time, that's not your problem.
While sitting in their office you could have worked on another job.

So long

Andy

www.interlations.com


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:36
Dutch to English
+ ...
My two cents ... Jul 9, 2007

It's your time - not your problem if they are disorganised and they didn't make use of the time they booked.

Unless it was a regular client and a one-off occurence in what was otherwise a good working relationship, I would have acted along the same lines, although perhaps queried sooner what was going on (I'm not that patient).

Interested to hear what happened next.


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Yvette Neisser Moreno  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
the same Jul 9, 2007

I think you handled it exactly right. I would have done more or less the same.

And thank you for an entertaining anecdote!

I've given up trying to figure out what makes other people tick. It's impossible and takes too much of my energy.

Regards,
Yvette


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 15:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
I've been in almost the same situation Jul 9, 2007

twice in the past month. At the Immigration Board here, two days in a row I was booked for interpreting, only to arrive and be told that the person wishes to speak English, and would I mind just sitting in, in case they need me. The board here pays a minimum of 3 hours usually, so I spent 20 minutes and then 1 hour two days in a row, listening to interesting cases and making shopping lists, while being paid...

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Monika Jakacka Márquez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:36
Member (2006)
Polish to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
well done Jul 9, 2007

You did the right thing.

Once I was called to the court to attend a Polish citizen. As the court was in a small town and there were problems with finding an interpreter, I had to travel nearly 4 hours. Then, I spend 1 hour waiting for the questioning of the suspect. As a Polish guy knew Spanish, I was sitting there and listenidg to the parties, without speaking nor working. Later, another 4 hours of way back home.

They had to pay me the trip and my time (travelling + waiting + attending the questioning). And there were no problems with that.

Everything depends on the attitude and, of course, the profesional approach, not only yours but your client's too.

Regards,
M.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:06
English to Tamil
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Shalom Alleichem. How would you have reacted if they tried to talk you out of the payment? Jul 9, 2007

Is it the same situation?

Regards,
N.Raghavan

Juliana Starkman wrote:

twice in the past month. At the Immigration Board here, two days in a row I was booked for interpreting, only to arrive and be told that the person wishes to speak English, and would I mind just sitting in, in case they need me. The board here pays a minimum of 3 hours usually, so I spent 20 minutes and then 1 hour two days in a row, listening to interesting cases and making shopping lists, while being paid...


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Mike Gogulski  Identity Verified
Slovakia
Local time: 21:36
Slovak to English
+ ...
ISO 9000 Jul 9, 2007

Sounds like par for the course just about anywhere. Glad you got paid.

As for the "gosh they're ISO 9000 certified" bit, I wouldn't be too surprised. Despite the claims of most firms who go through this, the certification amounts to little more than a big set of binders sitting in someone's office being studiously ignored in favor of a) getting actual work done or b) screwing up as always.

I've had one ISO-touting client, for example, provide three different responses to the simple question "can you accept a single invoice for more than one order?" One yes, one no, and another saying basically "just bill us and you'll get paid somehow". All three from different people at the agency, of course.

Great story anyway. Hope you enjoyed the book!


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:36
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I agree Jul 9, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

It's your time - not your problem if they are disorganised and they didn't make use of the time they booked.

Unless it was a regular client and a one-off occurence in what was otherwise a good working relationship, I would have acted along the same lines, although perhaps queried sooner what was going on (I'm not that patient).

Interested to hear what happened next.



I agree. I'd have done the same as you, but perhaps would have asked the nice Urdu lady to try to find out what was happening a little sooner.
Do tell us the end of the story.
Kind regards,
Jenny.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:06
English to Tamil
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I did query the nice Urdu lady but... Jul 9, 2007

She too was a little puzzled by the funny face the secretary to MD was making as she came out of the MD's cabin for a few minutes and on seeing me again rushed in back.

I myself was slowly coming to the conclusion that something was rotten in the State of Denmark. I was mentally bracing myself for a showdown. In hindsight it appears that the company people were banking on the premise that they did not take any work from me. But they did not know enough about Narasimhan Raghavan.

For those who want to know about the later development hinted at by me, I would like to state that I was actually referring to the reactions by the non-professionals to this happening. I did relate this incident in my Tamil blog at http://dondu.blogspot.com/2007/02/blog-post_06.html

The comments hostile to me were more than the suppoorting ones. Many thought that I was too harsh to the client. Those who can read Tamil can go there and read the comments by themselves.

I will anyhow summarize their reactions afterwards. This incident also highlights the wall of misunderstanding standing between translators and non-translators. The latter seem to think that we translators are just a little above typists and clerks using another language of course.

Regards,
N.Raghavan

Jenny Forbes wrote:

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

It's your time - not your problem if they are disorganised and they didn't make use of the time they booked.

Unless it was a regular client and a one-off occurence in what was otherwise a good working relationship, I would have acted along the same lines, although perhaps queried sooner what was going on (I'm not that patient).

Interested to hear what happened next.



I agree. I'd have done the same as you, but perhaps would have asked the nice Urdu lady to try to find out what was happening a little sooner.
Do tell us the end of the story.
Kind regards,
Jenny.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:36
Italian to English
+ ...
Agree with everyone else Jul 9, 2007

and as Andy said, while you're sitting there, not working for them, you're still prevented from doing any other work for anyone else. Of course they have to pay you for your time.

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Lenah Susianty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:36
Member (2004)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
agree Jul 9, 2007

I would react the same way, interpreting is paid per hour. I wouldn't care whether the hours are spent for the actual interpreting or for waiting, as long as we arrive at the venue on time, then from that time we count it as our working hour (till the time we leave)

Glad you got the money!

L


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 15:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
shalom shalom... Jul 9, 2007

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:

Is it the same situation?

Regards,
N.Raghavan

Juliana Starkman wrote:

twice in the past month. At the Immigration Board here, two days in a row I was booked for interpreting, only to arrive and be told that the person wishes to speak English, and would I mind just sitting in, in case they need me. The board here pays a minimum of 3 hours usually, so I spent 20 minutes and then 1 hour two days in a row, listening to interesting cases and making shopping lists, while being paid...


Luckily, since the Board where I was working is a government office, there was no problem, as their minimums are fixed from the moment they book you. However, I had a bad experience with an agency in Toronto where I sat in a doctor's waiting room (hoping not to catch what everyone had) for a patient who never appeared. After an hour I phoned the agency, reported that the client was AWOL, and they could please send me a cheque for my 2 hour minimum within 30 days. When they tried to wiggle out of it, saying "you just sat there", I mentioned that my best friend is a labour lawyer who would have no problem dealing with my small but significant case...Payment arrived quite promptly, and they even called me again- but I declined.


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lingomania
Local time: 06:36
Italian to English
You did the right thing Jul 9, 2007

[quote]The latter seem to think that we translators are just a little above typists and clerks using another language of course.équote]

This is the kind of attitude I detest. Mind you, typing and secretarial work is as noble as any other work, but it's like saying "hostesses (or flight assistants) are merely waitresses in the sky". Having said this, you couldn't have handled it better because remember, "time is money".

Robert


[Edited at 2007-07-09 21:54]

[Edited at 2007-07-09 21:55]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:36
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The oldest profession in the world Jul 9, 2007

I don't know if I'm allowed to name the oldest profession in the world here. Everybody knows what it is, and that it still exists everywhere.

The reason it still exists is that these professionals sell their TIME. What they will do, or what will be done upon them is negotiable. But they get paid by the hour, by the X-hours night, whatever time unit is agreed.

And during this time they are paid for, regardless if they are waiting, just showing off, or actually doing something, they get paid.

This is a good example of how a time-paid profession manages to survive for millenia. Just compare with the number of salespeople who had to find some other way to earn a living, because all their clients now are buying online. They used to get a commission on sales, but nobody ever bothered to calculate how long (i.e. how much time) it took them to earn 1 unit of whatever currency.

I'm not comparing translators to the aforementioned professionals in any other way than charging for their time. As all translators (and all other beings as well) have 24 hours in a day, some of which are committed to maintenance (viz. getting food, rest, and some fun), the remaining hours is all they have left to sell. If they sell them cheap, give them free, or simply waste them, the resources needed to fund the maintenance hours will be scarce.

So if any client occupies a professional's time, they should pay for it in full, because that is what this person would have been earning while doing work for someone else.


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