Simultaneous/booth interpreting....different assignment...
Thread poster: Jesús Marín Mateos

Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 8, 2006

Hi everyone!!!!
Last weekend I did a simultaneous assignment and the conditions were quite different of what I was hired for. I stated clearly that my rate was under the condition that there had to be another interpreter with me since that's the way to do it and the way I have always done it. The agency said there would be a "company interpreter" provided by the company...this concept was quite strange to me but I believed it. It turned out that there was not second interpreter and I had to do it on my own....one day and a half....as it was the weekend I couldn't contact the agency and I didn't want to complain to the client because it would have created a bad atmosphere.....I have told the agency that I had the option of interpreting only every half an hour (very unprofessional), not to interpret at all (very unprofessional) and do it all by myself in order to provide a good service but knowing this would be tiring. I have asked for 50% more of the agree rate which would be half the rate of the missing interpreter and I thought this was only fair. The agency says they will let the client know for the future but that they will not pay the extra money. I know I am right but what can I do?????
Kind regards,
Jesús.


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Kevin Kelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:02
Member (2005)
Russian to English
+ ...
Depends on what you have in writing. May 8, 2006

If you have a written agreement stipulating that a second interpreter would be provided, then you should pursue every legal means available to secure payment of double your agreed fee.

If there is no written agreement, you may have no recourse. It would be interesting in this case to contact the end client and try to find out whether the agency charged them for one or two interpreters. It may be that the agency is simply pocketing the difference, and telling you whatever they think will get you off their backs.

A similar thing happened to me once, and it was the last assignment I ever did for that agency.


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
PO + e-mails.... May 8, 2006

In my PO of course there is no mentioning of 2 interpreters but I have got 2 e-mails where I reminded the agency that the rate I was offering was under the condition that there'd be 2 interpreters and an e-mail back from them saying there would be another "company" interpreter which turned out not to exit.
I think the problem as always is that agencies don't understand that they are our clients not the "third party client". If the agency agreed with me that there would be another interpreter it is the agency problem and not mine not the client's......but as always we are in the weak position....
Thanks.


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:02
Member (2000)
Greek to English
+ ...
50%? May 8, 2006

Jesús Marín Mateos wrote:
I have asked for 50% more of the agree rate which would be half the rate of the missing interpreter and I thought this was only fair.


Frankly I find this quite unfair, to you. You are being too nice. You were supposed to share the work with another interpreter; instead, you did it all by yourself; you should get double the rate that you originally suggested.



In my PO of course there is no mentioning of 2 interpreters but I have got 2 e-mails where I reminded the agency that the rate I was offering was under the condition that there'd be 2 interpreters and an e-mail back from them saying there would be another "company" interpreter which turned out not to exit.


I don't think that your agreement has to be in a single document (the original PO) for you to pursue it further; you have it in writing, i.e. in subsequent e-mails, and I believe that's enough.

Maria


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teju  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree with Maria May 8, 2006

Jesús, it's very upsetting to read that this type of things continue to happen to free lance interpreters. It goes without saying that the next time that you have a similar assignment, you will include in writing your terms, stating that your fee is contigent upon the agency fulfilling the agreement of having two interpreters working together. You may even be more specific, and go as far as specifying how much your fee will be (it should be double), if there is no second interpreter. That should be sufficient for the agency to keep their part of the bargain.
As far as I'm concerned, if the agency paid you double, it still would not be enough. Think of it this way, the agency is busy, they drop the ball, for whatever reason they don't hire a second interpreter, they still end up paying the same thing as if they would'be hired two interpreters. My opinion is that your fee to work alone should be more like two and a half times more than your normal fee, for it to be a deterrent for the agency not to leave you hanging all day.
It's very sad that they don't consider interpreter fatigue, and the quality of the work that we may be able to deliver after we have been working non-stop for five or six hours. I wonder if the agency realizes how lucky they were to have hired you for this assignment. Like you said, you could've walked away (which is what the agency deserved, it would've made them look really bad). You could've politely told the client that the terms of your agreement were not met, at which point I suspect the client would've made an angry call to the agency, giving you the upper hand. But... instead you sucked it up, and managed to save the day, and now the agency doesn't want to compensate you. Unbelievable!
The agency needs to understand, that if another interpreter would've been present, like you had requested, you would've interpreted half of the time. It makes perfect sense to request that you get paid for the work that the ghost interpreter never did. I agree with Maria, that in those emails you have sufficient written proof to make a strong case before them. If this agency is fair, they will pay you. If their intention all along was to stiff you, then don't work with them ever again, and pass on the information to the Blue Board, so that others know about their tactics. Depending on how much income you earn from them, a compromise would be to call it a lesson, and re-write your contracts to include all these contingencies.
Better luck next time! Please let us know how you resolve this.

teju

This reminds me of a similar situation that happened to a friend of mine. While working as a court interpreter during a trial in federal court, the judge didn't want to take any breaks, only a short one for lunch. After interpreting for more than nine hours straight, the lawyers asked the judge to continue the case until tomorrow, but he wanted to plow ahead, "let's go on", he says. My friend, out of her mind by now, was smart enough to say:
"your honor, the interpreter is experiencing severe mental fatigue, and from now on, she's no longer responsible for the accuracy of her interpretation". That took care of the situation really fast. They all stopped working in that instant. Once the interpreter had gone on the record to say that she didn't know any more if she could do her job well, the judge had no choice but to stop. Moral of the story, there's always someone ingnorant about our profession who thinks we can go on like parrots without taking breaks. Sometimes these ignoramus are judges, some other times they are agencies. I like it when there's a happy ending for the interpreter!


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 09:02
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Communication is Key May 8, 2006

teju wrote:
My friend, out of her mind by now, was smart enough to say:
"your honor, the interpreter is experiencing severe mental fatigue, and from now on, she's no longer responsible for the accuracy of her interpretation". That took care of the situation really fast. They all stopped working in that instant. Once the interpreter had gone on the record to say that she didn't know any more if she could do her job well, the judge had no choice but to stop. Moral of the story, there's always someone ingnorant about our profession who thinks we can go on like parrots without taking breaks.


That's exactly right. We have to educate our clients, just like any industry.

You definitely have the right to take double the fee, Jesus, and take this opportunity to educate everyone, for everyone's sake.

Let us know how things work out!

Nancy


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xxxEmmanuelleAn  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:02
English to French
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Fully agree with Maria May 8, 2006

Of course you should ask for double rate! You did the job of two people by yourself! You have been really (too?) nice. I know some people who would have refused to do the entire day and walked away.
It's high time some clients and agencies were educated about our job! There are good clients and agencies who know how hard it can be, that we are not parrots.
I have heard about interpreters who have set up some comprehensive "guidelines" that they provide well in advance to their clients and sometimes agencies...I know a technician -they usually know our job very well- who does it. I think it is a professional way of doing things.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:02
English to Spanish
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Teju May 8, 2006

I think Teju, my esteemed colleague and of course personally known, has said all I could say and much more.

¡Basta de abusos!


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Feedback from end client May 9, 2006

The end client after being asked by the agency said that they used only one Spanish interpreter in another conference in Lisbon and he didn't complain and more or less that a professional interpreter should be able to do it on his/her own.
I don't care what the end client thinks. The agency, who is refusing to pay the extra, is who confirmed there would be another interpreter and the agency is responsible towards me because they confirmed this beforehand.
But again how do you get them to pay you?
Thanks for all your comments.


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Pablo Grosschmid  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
neither the client nor the agency know how interpreting works May 9, 2006

Should have informed immediately the client that you were hired in a team of two, as it must be, and that you would work only every second half-hour. Period.

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teju  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
Suggestions May 10, 2006

Jesús Marín Mateos wrote:

The end client after being asked by the agency said that they used only one Spanish interpreter in another conference in Lisbon and he didn't complain and more or less that a professional interpreter should be able to do it on his/her own.
I don't care what the end client thinks. The agency, who is refusing to pay the extra, is who confirmed there would be another interpreter and the agency is responsible towards me because they confirmed this beforehand.
But again how do you get them to pay you?
Thanks for all your comments.


We can assume that the client is an ignorant fool who's never hired an interpreter before and doesn't know what the work entails. Either that, or they are plain cheap, and they told the agency that they did not want to pay for two interpreters, and the agency hid that fact from you to get you to accept the job. At any rate, the client didn't hire you, the agency did. They have an obligation to fulfill their end of the deal, which was to provide another interpreter. And, the agency knows better. Without a doubt, the agency knows that interpreters work in tandem for long assignments, such as this one, and that's why they confirmed it to you on their emails.

Unfortunately, I don't think that I can be of much help to you because I don't know how things work in England. In the US, I would try first sending the agency a certified letter outlining your position for billing more than originally planned, and requesting immediate payment. Sometimes putting things in writing makes them take notice. You may even want to send them printed copies of their emails, where they clearly said that another interpreter would be present, to document your case. You can tell them that your offer to bill them double is fair considering the circumstances (you had to do twice the work), and that you hope that you can resolve this matter promptly. If they are smart, they'll read between the lines, they'll know that what you really mean is "don't make me have to sue you". If that doesn't work, then you could either hire a lawyer, or you could bluff, and write them a second letter telling them that you've hired one, to see if that works (do you have any lawyer friends who could help you with this?) As far as I'm concerned, this is breach of contract. They did not meet the terms of the agreement. I don't know how far you want to take this. You certainly don't want to spend more in lawyers than what's owed to you.

If I didn't get a lot of work from this agency, and I didn't care if they never called me back, I'd definitely try to scare them with a stern letter or two. Like I said, I don't know if there's a better way to do this where you live, maybe another colleague can give you better ideas.

Fortunately, I've only had one rotten client who didn't want to pay me for an interpreting assignment at a deposition that got cancelled once I was already there (my agreement clearly says that I'll charge them a minimum of two hours if they cancel without 24 hour notice). Since my client was the attorney, all I had to do was write him a letter demanding payment, or I would report his unethical practices to the bar association. That took care of the problem, he sent a check really fast. But with agencies, it's a whole different ball game.

For everyone who's reading this, please, make sure your agreements with your clients specify everything! We are protected better if it's right there in writing with their signature below. Sometimes, even with a good agreement, clients still don't want to pay.

Best of luck to you my friend! And please, write again, we want to know how things turn out.


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