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Is this agency's practice despicable? (Using references to client-snatch)
Thread poster: Mikhail Kropotov

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:54
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Jul 18, 2007

Several months ago a UK translation agency contacted me as a potential client, but our relationship never progressed beyond translation tests.

Today I received an e-mail from them with the subject line "Can we help you with your translation projects?" I was baffled. A client offering to serve as a service provider to its own service provider?

Then I realized what happened. About the same time as myself, a friend translator also signed up with them and asked for a reference from me. I gladly provided it. And now they are offering me - his "client" - their services.

So, does this qualify as client-snatching on the part of the agency? The fact that I am a translator, i.e. outsourcing jobs is not my primary activity, makes it even worse.

Please share your thoughts and experiences. Am I mistaken? Has something like this happened to you? How did you feel?

Best regards,
Mikhail

[Edited at 2007-07-18 02:53]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-07-18 06:38]


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 05:54
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
be careful Jul 18, 2007

I had a similar situation. One USA agency asked me for some references. I gave a couple of contacts of the local clients with whom I work for many years. They said "well, no problem - we know you well and we can say some good words about you if someone is interested". A couple of weeks later one client sent me a proposal from that agency just like you told. The email sender of that agency was so stupid that he/she did not think that I am a freelancer who works for the end client and that there is no "space" for the agency to offer the services to my client directly (in terms of rates, as for the end clients I work "in between" the rates the agencies ask for and the freelancers get from agencies). Moreover, me and my client trust each other. I just felt like an idiot when I got that email copy.

So, I never ever give references any more. What are these needed for? And such requests like "can you provide us your client list" makes me real mad - the first sign not to have anything in common with such an agency (shall I ask their client list too to be convonced they are serious too?). No more "free test translations", no more kilometres of online application forms where the agency does not undertsand half of what they want to be filled in. If people are really serious, they do not give free test jobs - they should have their own quality control system to check what they get (actually any serious agency should have all the texts revised by their own proofreader) if they are so serious. So, it works - for all people interested I have a www where they can find all the info they need about me and my services. They have my contact information. And if they really need a job to be done, they simply order it. Where is the sense to contact a person asking to do a job if you do not trust his/her quality? Do people ask the waiter to have "a test stake" at a restaurant, or a CV of the cook, or the list of all people who attended the resutaurant during the last 3 weeks? All these stupid requests from those fraud agencies sound the same.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
I almost never give references Jul 18, 2007

There's no legitimate reason for references in the vast majority of translation jobs.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some answers Jul 18, 2007

Mikhail Kropotov wrote:
So, does this qualify as client-snatching on the part of the agency?


I'm sure it does. But that's what happens in this cut-throat business. Agencies have to make a living, and you can't blame them for contacting anyone they know to offer their services. It may be regarded as unethical by some.

Ultimately there are many things that determine whether a client uses a certain service provider. Price is but one aspect. Trust is another. Reliability, familiarity, and even personal relationships all come into play.

A smart service provider will therefore take steps to limit other service providers from hijacking his clients. One way may be to provide only references from clients that are unlikely to jump ship (such as agencies). Another may be to build a relationship of trust and reliability with one's clients, and even make the relationship slightly personal. Hopefully this will ensure that they feel so comfortable with your service that they'll hardly consider anyone else's.

Client snatching is not illegal, and in my opinion it is not entirely unetchical (but some might disagree). All I can say is that service providers (and in fact, everyone in business) should be proactive with precautions for such things.

The fact that I am a translator, i.e. outsourcing jobs is not my primary activity, makes it even worse.


Oh, I wouldn't worry about it. They probably have a single list of contacts, instead of different lists for different contacts. It is a sign of a disorganised business if that business fails to separate its clients from its service providers.

Has something like this happened to you? How did you feel?


I can't say that it had, but I would feel somewhat angry (for a few minutes). These are hard lessons, and we all learn by doing.

Just my 2c.

[Edited at 2007-07-18 08:00]


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:54
Member
English to French
To not give away references is sometimes not easy... Jul 18, 2007

I recently negociated with a prospect, we had a deal and I got my first order. But they asked me to fill in an Internet form to enter their automated supplier and management system.
In this form, I had to provide 2 customer references, including their email. I didn't doubt a single moment that this agency would never try to take advantage of this info, nevertheless I didn't want to leave any reference.
The problem was that there was a mask for the email field that prevented me to submit the whole form without both properly formatted email addresses filled in.
To work around the problem, I gave addresses in the following form: idontgivecustomer@details.ok. It didn't offend the (now) client and I still work with them.

I used to be prepared to give away references when I prospected at the beginning, but I noticed that it doesn't add any chance to being noticed and given work...

Enjoy the summer (in the northern hemisphere) or the winter (downunder),
Philippe


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:54
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The same issue Jul 18, 2007

Have a look at http://www.proz.com/topic/78173
It's the same issue viewed from the other end, in terms of time.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:54
Dutch to English
+ ...
Hmmm ... Jul 18, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:

Client snatching is not illegal, and in my opinion it is not entirely unetchical (but some might disagree).


Well, certainly treading on very thin ice legally with issues like data protection in many countries and unethical IMO.

But then again, I'm a lawyer, what do I know about ethics


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Legal x illegal Jul 18, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
Client snatching is not illegal, and in my opinion it is not entirely unetchical (but some might disagree).

Well, certainly treading on very thin ice legally with issues like data protection in many countries and unethical IMO.


The forum rules prohibit discussions which claim to give legal advice, so my apologies if I've inadvertently broken that rule.

But yes, I'm sure there are illegal ways to steal a client. My original comment should be read to mean that client poaching isn't illegal per se.

The reason I think it is not unethical, is because IMO most cases of client acquisition involves a bit of poaching -- new clients are often exising clients of other service providers. Very few translators (if any) who believe that client stealing is unethical will first ask all potential new clients if they have exising service providers, and if so, decline to accept them as new clients.

No, we are all poachers, in a way, and we should take all sorts of steps to ensure that our clients don't get nicked by the competition.


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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 04:54
Member
English to Dutch
+ ...
Side Note: No client discussions please Jul 19, 2007

Hi all,

May I kindly remind everyone that naming clients or people is strictly forbidden by ProZ.com Forum Rules?

Many thanks for your understanding,

Evert


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Margarita Palatnik  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
deceptive practices of corporate members that victimize free-lancers, what are recourses within Proz Jul 22, 2007

Hi Evert,
Sorry for mentioning the unmentionable, I didn´t know...

But, here´s my question, how is Proz working to protect its free-lancer constituency (assuming it is at least as important as its corporate one) from deceptive practices of its coporate members if
a) a poaching translation agency that is a member of Proz cannot be exposed on the Blue Board for poaching while deceptively using false "recruitment" processes for collecting referees information from translators, UNLESS the translator victim has done a job for said translation agency (it usually hasn´t, that´s the M.O.), and
b) if its name is not mentionable in the Forum

??
Suggestions welcome.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Personal opinion versus global opinion Jul 22, 2007

Margarita Palatnik wrote:
But, here´s my question, how is Proz working to protect its free-lancer constituency ... from deceptive practices of its coporate members if...


I suggest you make a suggestion in the Suggestions forum:
http://www.proz.com/forum/13

I think it is good that the Blue Board is specific to people that you've worked for, and that it is not a general complaints bureau where anyone can bemoan the faults of anyone else.


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