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Agency refuses to pay because they had to proofread!
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:02
English to French
+ ...
Aug 31, 2005

Hello everyone,

I would like some insight on a particularly frustrating situation.

I got a job from an agency. It was a PowerPoint presentation with practically zero context. I delivered the translation on time. I got a reply saying they refuse to pay for the translation, because there were two spelling mistakes and a couple of bad translations because of the lack of context. I will not argue about the quality of the work, as they seem to even include things that were done correctly in all my colleagues' opinions as errors. However, what really bugs me is this:

They refuse to pay, saying that because of the errors, the document had to be thoroughly proofread, and this caused the document to be delivered late. They are now saying that they had to compensate the client for this lateness and they hold me accountable for the lateness. The other reason why they say they won't pay is that supposedly, they incurred a proofreading fee because of me that, along with the "compensation" to their client, amounts to what I would have earned had I given them a quality translation.

This is frustrating for many reasons. First, the proofreading is done by someone AT the agency, whose job it is to proofread all documents they outsource. This then means that they didn't outsource the proofreading, they have a person who works regular hours and works for a wage. Therefore, I do not consider that they incurred any additional fee for the proofreading. Second, I am responsible of sending back the document by the deadline, which I did. However, I am not responsible for THEIR not meeting THEIR agreed deadline. Why should I be blamed? It is their responsibility to allow themselves time to proofread. Thirdly, I have done several jobs for this agency before and they were very happy with everything. How come now they are dissatisfied? Could it be the lack of context in the source document? Then again, as an agency, isn't it their responsibility to proofread the document before forwarding it to their client? It is THEIR client, not MINE, and that is why I am paid less than if it would have been a direct client. So, shouldn't they take their responsibility? Isn't it part of the process anyways to proofread a document? Also, if they found errors in my document, wasn't it up to me to correct them? Being the one having done the translation, am I not supposed to be responsible for corrections? Did they have the right to have it corrected by someone else, thereby taking credit for the final translation and also taking the money for it? To my knowledge, when a translation has errors in it, it should be sent back to the translator with comments so that the translator corrects their own stuff.

I think that with this situation, they definitely will not give me any more work, so I have nothing to lose and therefore prefer to collect rather than "suck up" for more jobs that might turn out like this one.

What do you all suggest I do?

Thanks,

Viktoria

P.S: I got a copy of the final document they sent to their client and ran it through WinAlign. Turns out there is a 1% difference between my translation and theirs. Hmmm...

[Edited at 2005-08-31 17:53]


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 13:02
English to German
+ ...
What does your PO stipulate? Aug 31, 2005

Hi! This thing happens all the time. Make one point clear, if your PO says payment is for translation, then you have a right to correct those mistakes within a reasonable period. As translator you cannot and do not translate from a proof-reader´s perspective (this could be any). If your PO says translation and proof-read delivery, then you may be in a soup. This is troublesome. A proof-reader´s perspective could be anything, depending upon the definition of your outsourcer. Target proofing or Target proofing + commenting, advanced editing (like in a .pdf file) or editing target backwards into the source and various others. As a translator you are not responsible for the proof reader´s part. If your PO says, payment only upon Proof-reader´s OK or approval, then things get difficult and dirty. After all a translator cannot be held responsible (unless he/ she delivers totally useless translation which in no way correspond to the picture of the source file), because he / she deals in his/her best ability and belief that he is generating the best of his capacity. A few typos are human errors too, but they can be corrected.Best regards, Brandis

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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:02
Member (2002)
English to German
Is it worth it? Aug 31, 2005

Hi fellow Canadian,

I am pretty sure that you have a right to be paid.

Nevertheless:
Are they located in Canada?
Are the fees high enough to justify legal action?
Are you sure that you will be able to collect money from them or could it turn out that they don't have enough assets?

Such things are very annoying of course. But my experience is that they often get even more annoying if you go after them. You have to carefully consider if you want to invest the time that will be needed. The time you will spend for collecting could be much higher than the time you spent for the translation.

But for sure you should post your experience in the Blue Board.

Anyway, good luck

Andy


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Ford Prefect  Identity Verified
Burkina Faso
Local time: 11:02
German to English
+ ...
Depends how you want to deal with the agency in future Aug 31, 2005

I agree with everything Brandis says. I would add that correcting errors is not only a right but a responsibility.

Personally, I absoultely loathe translating powerpoint presentations - I charge a per-slide fee on top of my per-word rate with the result that I don't get very many (a situation I am very happy with!)

None of us produce perfect work all the time. Complaining about spelling errors is rather pathetic since it takes all of no time to run the document through a spell checker.

Furthermore, I usually tell clients that documents are NOT proofread at their sole risk - it is incredibly difficult to proof your own work, especially in two languages and if you are dealing with a long document. A fresh pair of eyes will pick up things you never would in your own work, and there are sometimes occasions where you want a second opinion (and if I come across one I specifically ask for it - if only to cover my ass.) However, a lot of the time this comes down to opinion on how something is best expressed - I usually change something when proofreading, but that does not mean the translator has actually made an error!

In my view, minor errors in a document are not grounds for withholding payment, although if you are in the habit of making even trivial mistakes on a regular basis your agencies might go to someone else.

In this case, I would ask them to quantify the loss (proofreading time), and ask them why they don't think proofreading is essential for every document (in my opinion proofreading should be the norm, not the exception.) As for late delivery, well this happens sometimes, and I can't believe they needed to "compensate" the client. If you delivered satisfactory work on time and made requested corrections within a reasonable time, it's their problem if they contracted to deliver 30 minutes after the deadline they set for you. Again - ask them for documentation (better still ask them to send the documentation to your lawyer), a copy of their contract with the client will do as it should specify late delivery penalties.

You now have a difficult situation: fight your corner and risk losing the client (although if you are in the right you shouldn't lose them, but some people have a nasty habit of putting their emotions ahead of the facts), or let it go and risk being abused for minor problems in future. Perhaps you can compromise by offering to discount by 50% of their documented "loss", but you must specify this is as a gesture of goodwill, and that you in no way accept liability.

Next time, as Brandis says, get everything specified in your PO - particularly for first time clients. Clear agreements make for lasting friendships.


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 04:02
English to French
+ ...
Let me guess... Aug 31, 2005

Hi Viktoria

Were the previous jobs you did for them -and they paid for- much shorter than this last one? Are they in another country, which would make any collection effort on your part complicated and costly?

This sounds so much like déjà vu...

Unfortunately, not everyone out there is as honest as we would like them to be.

Sorry to hear you have to go through this.


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Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:02
Member
French to English
Are you serious? Aug 31, 2005

ViktoriaG wrote:
I got a job from an agency. It was a PowerPoint presentation with practically zero context. I delivered the translation on time. I got a reply saying they refuse to pay for the translation, because there were two spelling mistakes and a couple of bad translations because of the lack of context. I will not argue about the quality of the work, as they seem to even include things that were done correctly in all my colleagues' opinions as errors. However, what really bugs me is this:


You cannot just deliver something on time and expect payment.

As translator, you are responsible for asking questions if you do not have enough context.

If a client (agency or direct) refuses or cannot give you context, you must refuse the work or include a disclaimer. If there is that little context, chances are you cannot do a proper job.


They refuse to pay, saying that because of the errors, the document had to be thoroughly proofread, and this caused the document to be delivered late.


What this means is that it took longer to proofread than it should have taken had you done your part properly.

It takes a lot longer to proofread and fix a badly done job (which you don't dispute) than to proofread and polish a quality job.


They are now saying that they had to compensate the client for this lateness and they hold me accountable for the lateness. The other reason why they say they won't pay is that supposedly, they incurred a proofreading fee because of me that, along with the "compensation" to their client, amounts to what I would have earned had I given them a quality translation.


Sounds completely valid. Why should their client have to pay full price for a late job? The presentation may have been for a meeting or seminar that had to be rescheduled. They may have incurred printing costs for invitations or other things that had to be redone. They may have had guest speakers who had to be compensated.

Substantial costs can be involved when documents are delivered late.


This is frustrating for many reasons. First, the proofreading is done by someone AT the agency, whose job it is to proofread all documents they outsource. This then means that they didn't outsource the proofreading, they have a person who works regular hours and works for a wage.


Yes, it is their responsibility to proofread, but as I said before, is the work was substandard, much more time is involved -- sometimes more time than doing the translation from scratch because you have to clear the bad material from your mind.

If they were late meeting a deadline and the client was unhappy, possibly threatening a demand for discount, the proofreader probably had to work overtime. Employees usually want to be paid if they have to work overtime.


Therefore, I do not consider that they incurred any additional fee for the proofreading.


People who supply substandard work usually don't think of what is involved for those at the other end. I have had to pick my way through stuff like this myself and it made me so angry, I now refuse all revision work. Many freelancers no longer want revision work for the same reason and agencies have a very hard time finding people willing to do this type of work.


Second, I am responsible of sending back the document by the deadline, which I did.


No, not only that. You are responsible for doing what is required to submit a quality job -- that includes asking questions when things are not clear. You can't just sit back and say, "I delivered on time!".


Also, if they found errors in my document, wasn't it up to me to correct them?


If the work was substandard, they probably did not want you to correct it. If you just blazed ahead without understanding the context, how can you possibly fix it afterwards?


Being the one having done the translation, am I not supposed to be responsible for corrections? Did they have the right to have it corrected by someone else, thereby taking credit for the final translation and also taking the money for it?


Of course, if the quality of what you delivered was not acceptable.


To my knowledge, when a translation has errors in it, it should be sent back to the translator with comments so that the translator corrects their own stuff.


Only if they feel they can rely on the translator and if there is enough time to do it that way.

Given your description of this situation, I don't believe they felt they could rely on you.


P.S: I got a copy of the final document they sent to their client and ran it through WinAlign. Turns out there is a 1% difference between my translation and theirs. Hmmm...

[Edited at 2005-08-31 17:53]


What on earth does that mean? Can WinAlign read a document and determine whether something was translated correctly. You can have two incorrect words in a document that completely change the meaning and that can make the entire submission questionable -- at best, they at least have to check everything very carefully.

Take care,
Karin Adamczyk


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 13:02
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
For next time.... Aug 31, 2005

...include this in your terms and conditions: I/we reserve the right to correct any mistakes, errors, typos.......etc.

Anyhow, I agree that if the PO did not state anything about having to proofread, I would probably say this to the co. - plus that the co. must always expect to proofread a translation job. This is not a valid explanation. You should ask for more info - e.g. what were the mistakes? This ought to be the professional approach of a translation bureau, IMHO!!!!

Doing a WinAlign won't cut it - you should do a "compare document" in Word if possible. This will show you exactly where the corrections have been made, and otherwise the client really should supply this info, as mentioned before.

I hope you won't run in to this kind of problem again.

Happy translation


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Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:02
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
... Aug 31, 2005

Karin Adamczyk wrote:
As translator, you are responsible for asking questions if you do not have enough context.

If a client (agency or direct) refuses or cannot give you context, you must refuse the work


OK, so I've agreed to do a job, then asked a question which was not answered so now I should refuse to complete the job?

Sorry, but your arguments just don't add up - this is just an example.


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Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:02
Member
French to English
Right Aug 31, 2005

Konstantin Kisin wrote:

Karin Adamczyk wrote:
As translator, you are responsible for asking questions if you do not have enough context.

If a client (agency or direct) refuses or cannot give you context, you must refuse the work


OK, so I've agreed to do a job, then asked a question which was not answered so now I should refuse to complete the job?

Sorry, but your arguments just don't add up - this is just an example.


Really? Do you really think it's better to send work that is an example of you not understanding the text?

I sure hope this is not the general consensus!

Do you not read the texts you receive before you get started?

Do you not make a preliminary list of questions?

Do you not see it when a document contains practically no context, as was the case here? Would you not then contact the client right away to discuss the situation?

If you approach translation in this sloppy, haphazard way, I believe you deserve what you get.

Take care,
Karin Adamczyk


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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:02
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Make a list of difficult terms Aug 31, 2005

I am just finishing a very technical 23 000 word translation. One of the files was 9000 words of non-context button and command names. There was no way I could ever read it before I accepted the job as this was only part three of a huge project (it would take me a week to make a list of the questions).
However, I did make a list of questions when I was translating and sent them back to agency that forwarded them to the client. That was three weeks ago - apparently the client himself has difficulties deciphering the contents. However I am not in the wrong - I delivered the list of questions well in advance and I have told I will only be able to finish the translation when I get my answers.
I believe you should never try to translate anything you do not understand. If there is a problem (lack of context), you can subtly shift the responsibility off your shoulders - send in the list of questions, do it in time and warn them that you need answers latest 1 hour/1 day/3 days before the deadline or you deliver partial translation which can be finished by the editor when he/she has the list of questions you never got hold of (even if the agency does not have a proofreader, they will not admit it). They did not get back to you in time - not your fault. You fulfilled your part of the contract without even being nasty.
Maybe that is what you should have done in this case. Still, as you cannot turn back time, so I would advice to compare original and proofread file and take it from there - if there are no serious mistakes, fight it. If there are mistakes, I would probably accept the losses.

Take care,
Burrell


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Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:02
Member
French to English
Exactly Aug 31, 2005

Burrell wrote:

I am just finishing a very technical 23 000 word translation. One of the files was 9000 words of non-context button and command names. There was no way I could ever read it before I accepted the job as this was only part three of a huge project (it would take me a week to make a list of the questions).
However, I did make a list of questions when I was translating and sent them back to agency that forwarded them to the client. That was three weeks ago - apparently the client himself has difficulties deciphering the contents. However I am not in the wrong - I delivered the list of questions well in advance and I have told I will only be able to finish the translation when I get my answers.
I believe you should never try to translate anything you do not understand. If there is a problem (lack of context), you can subtly shift the responsibility off your shoulders - send in the list of questions, do it in time and warn them that you need answers latest 1 hour/1 day/3 days before the deadline or you deliver partial translation which can be finished by the editor when he/she has the list of questions you never got hold of (even if the agency does not have a proofreader, they will not admit it). They did not get back to you in time - not your fault. You fulfilled your part of the contract without even being nasty.
Maybe that is what you should have done in this case. Still, as you cannot turn back time, so I would advice to compare original and proofread file and take it from there - if there are no serious mistakes, fight it. If there are mistakes, I would probably accept the losses.

Take care,
Burrell


I agree completely.

BTW, further to my earlier response, refusing the work was not the only solution I offered -- I also suggested a disclaimer.

When you accept work, you accept responsibility for it. If a client supplies a document that cannot be understood and then does not send answers to questions in time, you have fulfilled your part of the deal as best you could.

If a client then refused to pay because the work was not complete or there were still questions, they would be completely in the wrong and you would have a paper trail to show for it.

Take care,
Karin Adamczyk


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Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:02
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
the agency's client is the agency's problem Sep 1, 2005

Karin Adamczyk wrote:

Really? Do you really think it's better to send work that is an example of you not understanding the text?

I sure hope this is not the general consensus!

Do you not read the texts you receive before you get started?

Do you not make a preliminary list of questions?

Do you not see it when a document contains practically no context, as was the case here? Would you not then contact the client right away to discuss the situation?

If you approach translation in this sloppy, haphazard way, I believe you deserve what you get.

Take care,
Karin Adamczyk


Nah, handing in poor quality work is not something I do, however you have to consider that your situation might not be the same as someone else's...

For example, I have a very very valued client that regularly sends me 1-2 month long assignments. Everything about that client is great, except they expect you to be able to do any work that comes in an assignment and when you quote you never actually see the text Sure, it's not to everyone's liking but for me the benefits of working with them far outweigh this problem. So far I'm happy, the client is happy, my proofreader is happy, everyone is happy.

To suggest that one shouldn't take a job one can't do well makes sense but now that the job is done, all you're saying is "you did a bad job, suck it up" which helps no-one.

The bottom line is the responsibility for a job lies with the agency, if it delivers late it suffers the consequences. There are standard practices for dealing with inadequate translations, which include things like allowing the translator to amend mistakes, *partial* reductions of the agreed fee and so on. In any case, all of this has to be in the PO for it to apply, otherwise the agency has to pay the full sum (and draw conclusions about the translator).


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:02
Member (2004)
English to Italian
two alternatives... Sep 1, 2005

if a job turns out to be impossible for the lack of context, you either turn it down or send a list of all your doubts and then deliver the job with a disclaimer.

Giovanni


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Leylaw
English to Spanish
+ ...
The Predator Agency Sep 1, 2005

The bottom line is as follows: you performed a job and you did not get paid. The agency must compensate you somehow. If the agency found an error, it should have contacted you to discus any problem. In spite of the fact the agency detected some mistakes, I am sure it utilized the overall content produced by your labor for the presentation. Besides, the agency is acting like a condescending hardcore teacher who refuses to give credit to a student in the case of grammatical mishaps within a given composition. Simply, this is a case of a lack of professional etiquette on the part of the agency. Given that litigation in this context may be an overtaxing venture as far as you are concerned, you may have a more efficient option to avoid the recycling of this type of despotic posture in the future. As such, the agency should be publicly exposed via the elaboration of a warning to translators in this community on the basis of questionable business practices (lack of payments for rendered services). Once the agency learns that its commercial name is associated with a complaint highlighting dubious business practices, it is likely it will exercise more caution next time it deals with language contractors. In addition, this exposure may work as a powerful deterrence to other agencies whose business practices may be categorized as borderline. You never know, the agency may pay you after all. This might be the case as the result of being placed in the limelight for its dysfunctional business agenda to your detriment.

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Will Matter  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:02
English
+ ...
Disagree Sep 1, 2005

I disagree with this perspective and approach. In this case, it appears to me that the agency is "splitting hairs" as an excuse not to pay Viktoria, it happens all the time and "any excuse will do in a pinch". I agree with Viktoria & Konstantins understanding of this issue and disagree with Karins. I think the agency is just trying to screw her out of the money with flimsy, implausible excuses and she made a more than reasonable attempt to fulfill her responsibilities as a translator.

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