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Client wants rebate after rush job
Thread poster: Arnaud HERVE

Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:38
English to French
+ ...
Sep 23, 2008

Hi, I have a client who wants a rebate on my last translation.

The reproach is that I neglected the TM in my research for vocabulary. Which is TRUE.

However, here is the context:

- It was a rush job, to be delivered in 24 hours, according to Trados 8 000 words with 3 500 new words. I allowed the client to phone me at midnight and delivered around midnight the day after.

- It was paid as a whole 230 euros, which would be 0,06 Euro/word if there had only been the 3 500 new words. Which I would consider rather low even for a non-rush job.

- The translation was meant for French Canada, and the client explicitely accepted me as French-French (even phoned me in France).

- The client knew it was highly specialized, even for a financial specialist, and didn't ask me for credentials. So I assume they were prepared to spend time proofreading.

- It was a highly specialized subject (hedge funds), in which English vocabulary is often directly used, and it is sometimes long to find the official French word (if any).

- I explicitely told the client it took a long time to find the necessary terms on Internet. He replied he understood that.

- The translation was not delivered as a block on deadline, but consisted of 7 files which were sent as soon as finished, at the request of client. After the first file I received the comment "It looks ok". After the other files I received no comment about terminology.

- Apparently the client had time to proofread the day after. The reproach is that proofreading took longer than planned, not that the translation was delivered unperfect to the end client.

So here it is. Once again I DID neglect looking into the TM. But during that work I believed that if there was any terminology to be consulted anywhere, he would just have told me. So I just used the TM for TagEditor, and assumed there was nothing else interesting in it.

What do you think?


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Mirella Soffio  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:38
Member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
I think... Sep 23, 2008

Hoonestly, I think that you shouldn't have accepted the job in the first place! It was a rush job, poorly paid, in a highly specialized field... A recipe for disaster if I've ever seen one! Believe me, I'm not blaming you - you have probably been pressured into accepting by a particularly insistent PM, and I can understand your frustration. My heart goes out to you, really; BUT, once you accept an assignment - no matter what the rate or the circumstances - you accept responsibility for the quality of the job you deliver. And checking the TM for pre-existing terminology is part of the deal.
I would personally accept a rebate - unless, that is, you have reasons to suspect that their complaints are unfair.


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Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:38
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Coherence Sep 23, 2008

Hi Mirella, thank you for your comment but, since it is two times contradictory, I cannot really use it:

1) You say that such circumstances are responsible for the probability of failure, but that I am fully responsible whatever the circumstances

2) You say you think fair to accept the rebate... unless I have reasons to think it's unfair

I'm going to read the other comments.

[Edited at 2008-09-23 20:42]


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Ivana Friis Wilson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:38
Member (2008)
English to Danish
+ ...
My sympaties Sep 23, 2008

Rushed job, low pay... Don't go there! Even if you need work, it will end up costing *you*.

Of course I can only say that because I have made exactly the same mistake myself But only once, and you will also only make that mistake once.

Of course you should not accept a rebate. That is ridiculous. They have employed a proofreader, so use the proofreader. This is what happens if you don't pay well (no offence) and don't offer a decent deadline.


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
PM needs more margin Sep 23, 2008

I suspect the reality is that the PM, or his manager, decided that more profit was needed on the job. To get the job he had agreed a low fixed price with the client, then something had cost a little more than expected, and you are going come to the rescue with an involuntary rebate.

There are always small errors in content or method on this type of complex rush job. These inevitable errors enable a financially pressed PM to demand a rebate. Your errors are his insurance policy.

If you surrender you may be rewarded with more work, but you will also be marked down as a softie - and your 'agreed' rates will always be downwardly adjustable.

My advice is to look for better clients.


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 13:38
Partial member
Spanish
+ ...
Consistency and TMs Sep 23, 2008

My sympathies to you Arnaud, I wouldn't want to be in your situation. I'm not going to comment on whether to give your client a refund or not because I'm a translator, but I also outsource and I can see where your client is coming from.

About the TM, you said that you "assumed there was nothing else interesting in it". That was a huge mistake on your part. Sometimes the TMs provided by the clients are a complete nightmare and useless, sometimes they're just a minor reference or a way to get an easy discount. But sometimes they're extremely important, particularly in long projects. Consistency is key.

I myself outsource certain projects, and if I supply a TM, I am very clear about that point. The TM supplied should be applied to the translation. And by 'apply' I mean not only fuzzy matches but concordance matches. Maybe your client should have been clearer about this issue, but from what I read, it seems to me that he was clear enough.

About the terms of the agreement, nobody forced you to accept it, even if the terms were unfair. Mistakes can be made, specially if the deadline is too tight and the terminology is new. That's why translations should be proofread by a second translator. But disregarding the importance of the reference TM was not a mistake, it was a very unprofessional decision. The TM will have to be applied anyway, and probably the proofreader will do it, which will end up costing more than just a regular proofreading.

Claudia


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Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:38
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks and question Sep 23, 2008

Thank you to Ivana and John for your support.

It is true that working in such conditions is bound to create problems anyway. The client attracts you in a situation where you make mistakes, and then accuses you of making mistakes... asking for even less money... yes, I suppose a few more bucks are needed and calling me a moron is the necessary condition to justify that.

Now two questions for Claudia. You say this:


I myself outsource certain projects, and if I supply a TM, I am very clear about that point. The TM supplied should be applied to the translation. And by 'apply' I mean not only fuzzy matches but concordance matches. Maybe your client should have been clearer about this issue, but from what I read, it seems to me that he was clear enough.


Does it really seem to you "clear enough" from the project manager to declare I'm going in the wrong direction when he tells me "it looks ok" for the first file and no complain about the 6 other files? Does it seem to you "clear enough" not to tell me to look at the TM when I explain the project manager that I am taking too much time searching on the web?

You say yourself that sometimes the TM is a minor reference...

But, more generally, you say it was "unprofessional" from my part. According to you, what is the point of price and time under which I am no longer compelled to deliver a "professional" result? A bag of peanuts? Does "professional translation" come with "professional pay', "professional time" and "professional communication", or is it one way only, and remain compulsory in case of unprofessional pay, time and communication?

Personally, I believe translation is an economic business and not a spiritual sacerdoce. Sacrifices in time and money, feelings of guilt for being unperfect and of little help, I do that already... but for religion.

In translation, if I am not paid enough to remain a professional translator, then I enter the wilderness where I do what I can... I think you can even revert the accusation, and deem that the guy who would have delivered a perfect result for such rates and deadlines would have harmed himself, and the profession, because he would not have made a better result desirable, hence a better price.

Professional = at least 0.08 euro/word to make a living in my country, and be a professional of the profession. Emergency = a bit more to help keeping standards, which is very obvious and shouldn't need much comment.

In noticed that in forums like this, there is always someone who demands that you be flawless. But such commentators seldom acknowledge the legitimity of your desire for gratifications (respect, money, good working conditions...). In short they are close to demanding a sort of sacrifice. But trade must goe both ways, sacrifice can be considered as a vice in trade.

[Edited at 2008-09-24 00:29]


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Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:38
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I'm with Claudia ... Sep 23, 2008

If you are supplied with a TM, it needs to be used to its full benefit. TMs (if they're decent) are frequently packed with client-preferred terminology. When I'm given a TM the first thing I do is open the concordance window. Even if the segment doesn't pull up a match, I constantly use concordance to be sure that my translation is consistent with the end client's past translations. Relying only on segment matches is often a recipe for disaster - and in this case using concordance would have saved you tons of headaches and you would have wound up with a much better product.

I'm not going to speak to whether you should give a rebate - it's really a business decision for you based on if you ever want to work for this client again. My vote would be no - don't bother working for them again. The rate you were paid for this job was a pittance, especially given the subject matter and the rush nature of the work. However, to be completely honest, it sounds like you need to raise your game if you want to attract better clients who pay reasonable rates.

Laura

[Edited at 2008-09-23 23:21]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 20:38
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
I think this is a 3*sigma case Sep 23, 2008

... or disaster or ... one of those things that just happen

meaning in the normal (no pun intended) case less than one in hundred orders will look like this:

a) order by midnight, delivery by next midnight
b) 230 € for 3500 words of business speak rush
c) Quebec factor

M*alors - why then fuss about it? It will not happen again soon. And, well, "S*t happens"... In such cases I help myself with min/max approach - what's the maximum hit I can take? In the above case it is 24 sleepless hours (already spent and accounted for) and a pay between 0 and 230 euros. Not that bad.

As for me - I dont think Ill ever have a case like this. Missing all the excitement (sigh).

Regards

Vito




[Edited at 2008-09-23 23:53]


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Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:38
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Raising game Sep 24, 2008

Laura Tridico wrote:
However, to be completely honest, it sounds like you need to raise your game if you want to attract better clients who pay reasonable rates.
[Edited at 2008-09-23 23:21]


Laura, somehow you make it sound like it was some sort of personal flaw, some slacking, a lack of standards, etc. Or some sort of needed effort at least.

But it's not like that, it's more like the thousand tricks and recipes colleagues give each other on the workplace. So it's like having a new secretary in the office, you don't tell her where the photocopier is, you see her wasting time searching and you say "I always find the photocopier, she must raise her professional standards".

In my case I just needed five words from the project manager: "look at the concordance window" and I knew it for the rest of my life. That would have been better than "It looks ok". So you see it would not have been an energetic personal effort changing my method, and it would not really have been a virtue applying the recipe thereafter. Like the secretary going directly to the photocopier.

You also imply by the end of your sentence that I don't attract better clients who pay reasonable rates. That is unnecessarily severe. You use the present tense as in "That's what you do". You shift from judging one case to judging one person. It is true that I don't use Trados often, but for other works this month I attracted better clients who pay reasonable rates.

It just happened I needed to accept a job in which I was not able to show my best abilities. In circumstances like that maybe other persons too would have been deemed in need of "raising their game". You always have weak points. At least I do.

[Edited at 2008-09-24 00:46]


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Allesklar  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 04:08
English to German
+ ...
learning curve Sep 24, 2008

I reckon your client has a point.

No matter how unrealistic their expectations are, if you agree to something, it becomes your responsibility. You accepted the job and the conditions you described and you didn't deliver a translation that was consistent with the TM you were given.

The concordance search is one of the most useful functions Trados has got and it is much more efficient than an internet search, so I would say it was reasonable for the PM to expect that this would be the first place for you to look for terminology.

How hard you push your client to pay the full rate is up to you and will depend on how much you hope to get more work from them in the future.

Lessons learnt:

Don't accept low rates.
Avoid large rush jobs.
Use the concordance search.
Negotiate with your client before accepting a job, not after it is finished.

And all that in only 24 hours for the price of a Trados webinar - as far as learning experiences go, you didn't do too badly.

[Edited at 2008-09-24 04:37]


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Mirella Soffio  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:38
Member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
I'll try again Sep 24, 2008

Sorry if I sounded incoherent - I think what I was trying to say is that there isn't a clear-cut "winning" strategy when such things happen.


1) You say that such circumstances are responsible for the probability of failure, but that I am fully responsible whatever the circumstances


Rephrasing: there's a "human" side and a "professional" side to it. Professionally, you're bound to do all you can to deliver a top-notch job. Checking the TM for terminology is not an unreasonable expectation on your client's part. Any extenuating circumstances - rush job, insistent PMs and low rates - only pertain to the "human" side of the deal, so to speak.

2) You say you think fair to accept the rebate... unless I have reasons to think it's unfair



Rephrasing: have you had a chance to see the corrected file? Can you tell whether the reviewer really had to put in a lot of work to proof your translation before delivering it to the final client? When it comes to the overall quality of the job you delivered, you're the best judge.


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Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:38
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Webinar, wow Sep 24, 2008

Allesklar wrote:

No matter how unrealistic their expectations are, if you agree to something, it becomes your responsibility. You accepted the job and the conditions you described and you didn't deliver a translation that was consistent with the TM you were given.


Yes, it's the second time I hear the "You accepted the job so..."

But that's like the 19th century British employers saying their workers were free to refuse the job "in a free market". Of course the translators who accept low rates are not free.

Allesklar wrote:
Lessons learnt:

Don't accept low rates.
Avoid large rush jobs.


You have principles. It seems to come from a world where the economy also has principles, allows the translator to work in good conditions, and pays him enough to come back in front of the computer all year long.

I tell you what. I only accept translations now because I have a part-time job elsewhere, and an agreement not to pay full taxes for the moment. But if I was working full time as a translator and charging full taxes, even the rate of 0.08 euro in my country would transform into a 0.03 euro net income for me. Which basically would make uneducated work in the building sector more interesting.

Maybe there was a time when translators could make a living and have standards. It seems I came too late for that. Or maybe I live in a country which combines decreasing rates, high taxes and inflation, i.e. becoming incompatible with freelance computer work.

Allesklar wrote:
And all that in only 24 hours for the price of a Trados webinar


Oh wow. Buying a 230 euro webinar, after the price of Trados itself, is pure science-fiction for me. We don't live in the same world.

Plus, I must say I don't work with that mentality elsewhere. Elsewhere, when people see that I'm not using the button in front of me, they tell me to use that button in front of me. They don't come when the work is finished with reproaches that I didn't use the button. They want the work to be well done, give the average decent help in a work situation, and are not interested in late reproaches. Consequently, in other places I never find myself in a situation where people will tell me I had to use that button in front of me.

I myself would be ashamed if I had recruited a newcomer, had seen him toiling all day long in the wrong direction, had restrained from telling him to use that button in front of him, and had waited for the next day, all work finished, to tell him that he hadn't used the button, and that now he had to be paid less.

And also, more intellectually speaking, I prefer to work in a situation where I fully master the vocabulary before starting. That is why I am specializing now in a specific field. But then anyway I will always need my part-time job elsewhere in order to be able to accept translation jobs only in that field.

But the days when I had to accept jobs in fields that I didn't really master and to rely on a terminology without really understanding what the words meant are over for me. I am sick and tired of that kind of generalist translation. I want to fully understand the text now.

[Edited at 2008-09-24 07:36]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:38
Italian to English
+ ...
You accepted the job under those conditions Sep 24, 2008

It's not the first time I've seen people in here saying "well, I was paid a pittance so they can't expect a professional job". This is simply unacceptable in my opinion. You agreed to do the job - no one forced you to - and you have a responsibility to follow the client's instructions and deliver the best translation you can. If you didn't like the rate or the urgency, you should have negotiated better conditions before agreeing to do the job.

Having said that, in this case I don't think you should offer a discount, as 1) the client didn't offer you any ongoing feedback and 2) proofreading is part of the added value an agency offers and it shouldn't come out of the translator's pocket. So if I were in your shoes (not that I would ever have accepted a job like this), I'd insist on full payment and never work with them again - it's unlikely they'll want to work with you again anyway*, so you have nothing to lose by sticking out for full payment.

* If they do want to work with you after this, that in itself would be proof of their bad faith.

Edit: sorry, I started writing this before your last post appeared. I do see your point, and I doubt that many of us haven't been burnt in the same way (I know I have, not long after I first started out). Make sure you do learn from the experience though!

[Edited at 2008-09-24 07:50]


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Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:38
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Microeconomy ethics vs macroeconomy ethics Sep 24, 2008

Thank you for your kind comments Marie-Hélène. I wish to drift away from my personal case and discuss the subject on a wider-scale. I'm going to be a bit long, because I have time this morning. You say that:

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

It's not the first time I've seen people in here saying "well, I was paid a pittance so they can't expect a professional job". This is simply unacceptable in my opinion.


That sounds virtuous. However, logically, what you say also entails that it is acceptable to deliver a professional job while being paid a pittance.

So I wonder if it is really economic virtue, in the end. Why then complain about decreasing prices on other proz forum threads? If the result must be perfect with lower prices...

I think the different opinions here come from a confusion between the individual level and the economic level. At the individual level, it is true that I could lack virtue, for example slacking watching TV on my sofa whereas I have tight deadlines. On the wider scale however, there are markets, prices, regulations, tools, training, and personal virtue is not really relevant.

On the wider scale, no one wants to deliver a bad job, and people who are confident in their income for the next months will refuse rush jobs. They are not people who "will never" accept that kind of job, they are people who can refuse that kind of job.

Of course they think their capacity to refuse is a personal virtue, or a more clever safer cleaner choice. And they think the others, somehow also by lack of personal virtue, make a personal wrong choice accepting rush jobs.

It has become prevalent in nowadays' societies to judge everything by personal behavior. The world is composed of individual emotions only, like in reality shows. But still there are economic and technical necessities. If translation didn't allow you to earn enough to pay your Internet connection, you would not have the means to write about what is a good choice or not in translation.

I don't know if you have noticed those interviews of travel writers on the radio, or other people who call themselves "creative". They always say "I wanted to do something so I did it". It's always willpower and personal fighting. But if you think a moment, they "did it" because they had the money to do it. Otherwise they would have been working pushing boxes in a supermarket, not traveling.

On the wider scale, people need to be paid enough to buy the tools necessary for their work. It seems obvious for instance that the rates for Trados jobs must somehow pay the purchase of Trados. At least. A rate that not only does not bring profit, but doesn't even pay the expenses seems to me more dangerous for the profession than personal inexperience.

The problem is that "unacceptable" is always directed towards the translator alone, like frozen with guilt in his little home. But rates that only allow to pay taxes, i.e. work for free, are deemed worth of a perfect translation delivery.

To push it to caricature, why not call people who translate for 0.02 euro/word "volunteers" from now on? After all, it's their choice, isn't it? That would remove all necessity for macroeconomic ethics, if they are volunteers.

And why not publish quality standards for volunteers after that?

And give them recycled computers, with 16 colors screens, windows 95 and MS Word 6, if they are faultless and agree to do rush jobs...


[Edited at 2008-09-24 10:32]


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