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Any standard remedies in the USA for outsourcer defaulting on an assigned JOB?
Thread poster: José Henrique Lamensdorf

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:03
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Oct 20, 2008

One fine day last June, 2008 an American (large, solid, all WWA=5) translation agency contacted me about a 100,000+ words editing job. It was expected to be urgent. Though a good part of the negotiation was done over international standard telephone (they called me), one of the first e-mail messages I have from their PM asked me:
QUOTE - Would you be able to do 8 hours per day for editing? - UNQUOTE
This leaves no doubt about the urgency of the job.

They sent me a formal Work Order with all the detailed information, and many - if not all - the original files other people were supposedly translating at that time. This WO included several penalties on my side for missing deadlines, poor quality, etc., but none on their side

Then, a couple of days later, the project was put "on hold" by the end-client, to be reactivated at any time, most likely with a very short deadline. I can't disclose any details, but there was a visibly implicit deadline outside the control of the end-client, due to the nature of the documents.

After I did some prompting now and then, today, October 2008, at last the PM there finally sent me an e-mail informing that the job was closed (not cancelled!) a week ago.

Of course I would not accept payment for work I didn't do, in spite of having been hired for it. I just wonder if anyone in the US has been through a similar situation, and if there are any laws there that determine any compensation for work formally contracted and either not assigned, or thereafter assigned to other parties, while holding the formally contracted vendor "ready to be on call" for 4 months, thus responsibly not taking any other large-sized short-timed urgent jobs.

Just FYI I have done nothing BlueBoard-wise so far, but I don't care to work for this client ever again. I'll consider my fellow Prozians' thoughts before going there.

Thanks for your inputs.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:03
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Make sure it is in the contract (well, next time, anyway) Oct 21, 2008

It is annoying when you block of a specific time for a client, possibly refusing other jobs, and then they cancel. This is why I use a specific clause for that in the standard contract I prefer using with clients. This is based on the ATA model contract, and it states that if the job is canceled after signing the contract the client owes me for the portion I have done up to the cancellation, but not less than 50% of the project price.
This helped me at least once to stop a client from taking an assigned job away from me just because their end client all of a sudden decided that they wanted the job a few days earlier and the agency assumed I wouldn't be able to do it (without asking). After pointing out the clause in the contract they already signed, they were immediately willing to negotiate both with their end client and me. (We came to a reasonable agreement - sort of between the original and the new deadline.)

Now, in your case you have not started the project, and there was nothing about such case in the contract, so I am afraid you can't do anything at this point.

In similar cases, when a promised project was put on hold for an unknown time, I just told the client that they cannot expect me to stand by and start working on it right away whenever it comes. I made it clear that when they actually have the project in hand, we can revisit the issue.

I only had one similar case to yours, last year, I think. I was promised a large (also 100,000+ words) translation job from an agency that I have been working for several years. This was a new client of theirs and the PMs involved were different from those that I used to work with. We discussed the details of the project, I asked questions, I got source samples, I quoted, we negotiated, agreed, we tested the technology, etc. The project was "almost here", "we will start soon" throughout the entire summer and the beginning of September. Then silence. In November, I got a call on my cellphone from yet another different PM of the same agency, asking me to REVIEW a few sentences of the project, because the end client is mad as the translator apparently messed up a few strings and they need somebody to straighten it out. This was (needless to say) a Friday afternoon ad they wanted this pretty much immediately, as they wanted to release the software Monday morning. Unfortunately I wasn't in my office then, so I could not help, but I let them know how surprised I was given the agreement we had that I would be doing the translation. Anyway, they admitted that at the last moment they decide to go with a cheaper vendor. (They just conveniently forgot to notify me.) At the end they begged and the entire project came back to me for a complete review/revamp (for which I guess the agency did not charge the end client as what they delivered was a complete mess).

So, who knows, you may end up doing a second review on that project...

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Local time: 17:03
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Hello Katalin and José Henrique Oct 21, 2008

The same happened to me. A chinese outsourcer contacted me regarding translation, but the rate was outrageous..0,02USD p/w for 100.000 words. I obviously refused. A month later, they contacted me regarding the proofreading of the same project at 0,01USD p/w since it was a complete mess. I refused again, because the project needed to be translated all over again.
So, I agree with Katalin. Who knows you might be doing th review of the project...
Night night everyone! No project for tonight so its bedtime

[Edited at 2008-10-21 02:21]

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bohy  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:03
English to French
+ ...
Retainer? Oct 21, 2008

I have not had such a bad experience, but had several times agencies contacting me for a big project promised within a few days, so that I refused others, and then, by the due date, nothing came...
Now, I never commit to a deadline before I get the files; moreover, it is first come, first serve: I give an estimate to my customer, but warn him that, if something comes before I receive his files, I will delay his job accordingly.
There is also one thing which is practiced by attorneys, for instance: retainers. If you want to use regularly the services of such a person, you pay upfront (or on a regular basis) a certain amount of money which you won't get back, but which will be deducted from the actual fees.
I guess this could work very well for translators too... and discipline some customers.

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Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:03
Russian to English
+ ...
I never hold more than a day or two open Oct 21, 2008

for anybody. And no client has ever asked me to. If I don't hear from a client within a day or two of the expected start date, I just assume they've moved on and I move on, too. Then if they show up again, we re-negotiate the deadline.

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Any standard remedies in the USA for outsourcer defaulting on an assigned JOB?

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