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50% discount for five mistakes - surely this is unacceptable?
Thread poster: Andrew Higgs
Andrew Higgs  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:58
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Oct 11, 2005

Hi everyone.

I recently took on a job for a company (which shall initially remain nameless) which had the following wording in their terms and conditions (sic):

"For 5 or more serious mistakes are
found, 50% reduction in total payment shall apply to compensate for employment of
another independent proof-reader"

The agreed rate was low and the deadline not great. However I delivered the work, and it was amended a couple of times (I answered immediately and made the corrections right away). The job was finished. A month passed, no payment. I sent an enquiry and eventually (after some days) I received a reply stating that they had sent me an email before (they had not) in which it had been stated that due to the fact that there had been more than five serious mistakes they were going to pay only half. And that they would not pay until they received a revised invoice. And that they would then pay 30 days from THIS date!

My question to the forum is this: what kind of mistakes can possibly justify a 50% reduction? I myself run an agency and have never dared to demand such a massive reduction even in cases where the translation was extremely poor. The mistakes listed included the wrong use of Bold and a punctuation mistake.
Is it not accepted practice to inform the translator and get them to make the changes? And to at least make contact within reasonable time if there are issues regarding to payment?

The most astonishing fact is that this company has a 5/5 rating on the blue board.

I believe that this is unethical and exploitative business practice and would like some feedback from other translators before I post on this and other boards.

Best regards,
Andy


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Nina Khmielnitzky  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:58
Member (2004)
English to French
It's your turn to grade the agency Oct 11, 2005

A big mistake is mistranslation or grammar or spelling, not wrong use of bold. If you agreed on a price in your PO, this is what they should pay you. You can tell them they will be graded poorly in the BB. You can also write to the people who graded them to ask if they had such clauses in their contract. I would find it unacceptable not to pay a translator for a job done. Tests exist to select the most appropriate translator and see if they grasp the meaning correctly. They can't come back after the fact and change their mind. I think the only reason is cheapness. It's the first thing that come to my mind.

Nina


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:58
English to German
+ ...
It is - but why did you accept it? Oct 11, 2005

Hi Andy,
I regularly outsource work myself - I don't use such clauses at all. Whenever there's a problem, I propose a reduced invoice (with the reduction based on extra time required to rectify any shortcomings). If that proposal is rejected, I pay up, but make it clear that this was the last job.

What I don't quite understand is this:
"For 5 or more serious mistakes are
found, 50% reduction in total payment shall apply to compensate for employment of another independent proof-reader"

If I understand correctly, this was known in advance - why did you accept it?

I believe that this is unethical and exploitative business practice and would like some feedback from other translators before I post on this and other boards.

Just a reminder that the forum rules don't permit discussions of outsourcers - therefore, the company will need to remain nameless (here).

Best regards,
Ralf


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Andrew Higgs  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:58
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Definition of 'serious' Oct 11, 2005

Ralf Lemster wrote:

Hi Andy,
I regularly outsource work myself - I don't use such clauses at all. Whenever there's a problem, I propose a reduced invoice (with the reduction based on extra time required to rectify any shortcomings). If that proposal is rejected, I pay up, but make it clear that this was the last job.

What I don't quite understand is this:
"For 5 or more serious mistakes are
found, 50% reduction in total payment shall apply to compensate for employment of another independent proof-reader"

If I understand correctly, this was known in advance - why did you accept it?

Well I was sure that the work would not contain any serious mistakes. And it is this definition of 'serious' that is the problem...the agency had a good rating so I imagined that they would be fair in their assessment. The first batch of amendments and suggestions from the proof-reader were also mostly unnecessary, which was explained to the agency in detail and accepted. Since I did not hear from them after delivery I automatically assumed all was well.

I believe that this is unethical and exploitative business practice and would like some feedback from other translators before I post on this and other boards.

Just a reminder that the forum rules don't permit discussions of outsourcers - therefore, the company will need to remain nameless (here).

I didn't mean that I was going to name names here, I meant on the Blue Board itself.

Best regards,
Ralf


[Edited at 2005-10-11 18:24]

[Edited at 2005-10-11 18:30]


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Cintia Pecellin  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:58
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
Outrageous! Oct 11, 2005

This happened to me once! (maybe with the same agency?...) and I ended up demanding the employment of an independent reviser (from ProZ) to be paid by me if the mistakes were in fact there, or by the agency if this was not the case. I had to pressure them a bit, but finally had it my way. I got paid (the full amount noted in my original invoice) right away thru Paypal, and so did the reviser

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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 05:58
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Epidemic Oct 11, 2005

It does not bring any joy to know that I am not the only one suffering from agencies with ridiculous expectations. I have worked with two agencies who seemed to view the difference between the their payment to you and the payment from the client as pure profit. This last one was surprized when I said that they are paid to proof documents and that 100% is not a reasonable expectation.

To answer your question, it is unacceptable. I can only suggest that you state in advance your minimum level of accuracy, 97% or so, depending on the length and level of the text. Do what the agencies do: state your conditions in advance. You cannot count on assumed common standards.

Good luck.

P.S. One of these agencies also had a high rating.


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E.LA
Spanish to German
+ ...
contract terms Oct 11, 2005

It is sad, but the fact is that you accepted the terms and conditions of the contract, thus you opened the door for such a situation.

Nobody should accept such a contract. It is so easy to find 5 so called mistakes in translations!

If nobody accept this, then these agencies have to finish with this kind of behaviour and contract terms.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:58
German to English
+ ...
Pardon? Oct 12, 2005

Stephen Rifkind wrote:

I have worked with two agencies who seemed to view the difference between the their payment to you and the payment from the client as pure profit.


I doubt it - even the most naive business person must notice that there are such things as costs.

This last one was surprized when I said that they are paid to proof documents...


I'd have been surprised too, in their shoes. What the agency is paid to do is defined in its contract with the end customer, and I doubt that in most cases this explicitly requires "proofing". At any rate, what is agreed between those two parties is no concern of the freelance translator's.

...and that 100% is not a reasonable expectation.


On the one hand, any translation can always be improved upon. But if 100% is expressed in terms of a translation's fitness for its intended purpose, then I think 100% most certainly is a reasonable expectation, and the translator can therefore be expected to take all reasonable steps to assure that standard.

I can only suggest that you state in advance your minimum level of accuracy, 97% or so...


I'll be very interested indeed to hear your experiences after advertising your services as "at least 97% accurate".

Marc


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:58
English to Italian
97% accurate Oct 12, 2005

MarcPrior wrote:


I'll be very interested indeed to hear your experiences after advertising your services as "at least 97% accurate".

Marc


Yes, I would be interested too!

The fact is, our fellow translator should have not accepted such ridicolous terms. It's too late now. You can argue, but I will be surprised if Andy will get more than 50%.

Giovanni

[Edited at 2005-10-12 08:35]


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:58
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Why did you accept those terms? Oct 12, 2005

When we are offered a contract, we can always negotiate about it: some agencies try to pass on to the translator all financial risks ("payment will be made after our customer pays us"), or they may try to overprotect themselves against translator errors, as, apparently, in your case.

If we don't like some clause in a contract, we should ask that it be removed or changed. Sometimes an agency will accept our amendments, some other times, not.

At that point is up to us whether to accept the contract, or refuse the job.

[Modificato alle 2005-10-12 16:01]


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:58
Member
English to Turkish
The key here is the definition of 'serious' Oct 12, 2005

Hi Andy,

I am sorry that you had to go through this sort of thing.

I think you should first, without losing composure, insist on actual feedback on the errors, and see for yourself how serious they really are. I rather have the impression that these people act as if they are resolved to give you a hard time, though, but still, don't forget that a bold in the wrong place might well cause an important shift of focus in the sentence, if not create a semantic change. Likewise, there are times wrong punctuation might lead to disaster (remember Eats, Shoots, and Leaves?).

In any case, I believe 50% reduction could not be justified on bold and punctuation alone. But it's always advisable to see the opponent's hand first, and then fight accordingly. If their 'serious' is not the same as yours, you should insist on full payment whatever other course of action you take in between: asking them to have a third party assigned for revision, arbitration, whatever; giving them a rating accordingly in BB and other payment practices lists; going to court - whatever you are capable of doing. But don't ever readily accept 50% reduction.

Best of luck!


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Kimmy
Local time: 12:58
Italian to English
+ ...
I am shocked they can afford to be so "cocky" Oct 12, 2005

Xola wrote:
I think you should first, without losing composure, insist on actual feedback on the errors, and see for yourself how serious they really are.


Well they must be absolutely diabolical mistakes if the outsourcer's mistake in his conditions of contract passes as perfect English!!!

"For 5 or more serious mistakes are
found, 50% reduction in total payment shall apply to compensate for employment of another independent proof-reader"

Where did that "are" come from????

Despite the fact that you accepted the conditions, which kind of puts you on the wrong footing to fight in the first place I do feel that they are giving you the run around...

I rather have the impression that these people act as if they are resolved to give you a hard time


Ask them for the original e-mail they say they sent to you (and that never mysteriously arrived) as a forwarded mail - so you can see the actual log of the first sending (can they be fiddled?)... together with a list of these 5 atrocious 50% discount-justifying mistakes. Then go into battle at least well informed!

Is it normal practice to re-issue an invoice with a discount in this kind of situation?
Isn't that tantamount to admitting "I stuffed up, you are right!".....
Once you do that you have admitted fault and they have a clean slate!

If you REALLY need this particular invoice paid and are prepared to strike them off your client list (as I certainly wouldn't be collaborating with them again) then do as they ask - you get the 50% at least. Not the most honourable thing to do but I can understand that reasoning...

If not, fight - but only if you are prepared to lose the money while retaining "face" (assuming they ARE taking you for a ride and the 5 mistakes were not serious)....

Mistakes are mistakes! We all make them along the way! But without the correct feedback we may very well make them again ... and again .... and again ....

Maybe pick them up on their "serious" mistake in their contract conditions! Then see what happens!

Surely they have a list/definition of what constitutes a "serious mistake"... (well considering their conditoins - maybe not - scary thought)...
If not, it's a loophole they will continue to use unless people start making a stand..... or at least insisit on clarification.

Good luck from my end too!

Kim


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:58
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Hi Andy Oct 21, 2005

I wouldn't have accepted those conditions because with revision if you want to find mistakes you can, in almost anything.

That doesn't necessarily mean they'll be mistakes like: "Yo, Mr translator man, you didn't have a clue what the original doc was on about did you dude?" or "The translation of this machine manual reads like it was done by the same malfunctioning machine designed and built to chop operators' hands off" or "This is an excellent translation, best I've ever seen by Bablefish. What? It wasn't done by Bablefish? Are you sure about that?"

If I'm revising something I probably won't touch it unless there are glaring errors of interpretation, or it was obviously done by someone who studied the target language but never thought it.

Once you start revising things, you'll easily make more than 5 changes.

If you really did make some humongous mistakes and accepted the 50% discount terms ok, but if it's just a case of punctuation since when does the punctuation in a translation have to be as bad as the original?


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