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What do I do about a non-payer?
Thread poster: Jenya Meltser-Rakevich
Jenya Meltser-Rakevich
Local time: 14:47
English to Russian
+ ...
Oct 21, 2005

I am in a difficult situation (for the first time.) This week I have completed a translation for a new company. Two days after, the agent e-mails me and says that the client hated my translation, that he lost a client and he is stopping the payment. This is the first time in my experience that something like this happens. It was a good translation that took me 10 hours to complete of about 4000 words. What can I do in this situation and how can I get the payment for the work that I did.

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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:47
English to German
+ ...
Ask for criticism to be substantiated Oct 21, 2005

Hi Jenya,
What were the conditions stated in the PO (if any) regarding the handling of any such issues?

In any case, you should ask the agency to substantiate the criticism - just saying that the "client hated the translation" isn't good enough.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Sigrid Thorbjørnsrud  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:47
German to Norwegian
+ ...
Contact the client. Oct 21, 2005

If you know who the client is, why not contact them directly to find out what this is really about?

Best regards,
Sigrid


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Daniel Ehret  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 20:47
French to Hungarian
+ ...
Translation is not about love/hate Oct 21, 2005

Hi Jenya,

Jenya Meltser-Rakevich wrote:

...the agent e-mails me and says that the client hated my translation, that he lost a client and he is stopping the payment.

The fact that the client hates the translation is in no way an argument for not paying your work. A translation is something that can be good (correct) or bad, but if it's bad, then it's is because of the mistakes, of mistranslations and so. You should definitely ask the agency to clarify the situation, since "hate" is not something you can deal with, you can't give any comments on this.
I had myself a translation that was qualified as bad, and the agency told me that in order not to lose the client, they gave the translation for free (which is also a little bit weird: why give anyone a bad translation, even for free?). "Fortunately" I wasn't the one doing the translation, since I outsourced it (I had a little bit too much to do at that time). I received the complaints from the client, took a look, agreed with it, corrected it and then didn't ask for any money for that job. That saved my relation with this agency.

Anyway: ask for comments and try to do the best of it.
If it's just some company that just wanted a translation for free, then you have a problem...

Good luck!

[Edited at 2005-10-21 08:37]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:47
French to English
Just wondering... Oct 21, 2005

Jenya Meltser-Rakevich wrote:

It was a good translation that took me 10 hours to complete of about 4000 words.


As Ralf said, the first step is to ask for concrete examples of what the end-client didn't like. But I feel obliged to say: 4,000 words in 10 hours sounds pretty quick work to me. Can you honestly put your hand on your heart and say - yes, this was absolutely the best translation I could possibly have done?


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:47
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Get another opinion Oct 21, 2005

Hi Jenya
If you've read it again yourself and can't find any reason why they shouldn't pay you stick to your guns.

Get another opinion, in writing, from another professional and if that backs up your case send it to the agent politely insisting they pay you. The fact the client didn't like the translation the agency presented to them is no reason why the agency shouldn't pay the translation they commissioned and got from you.

You may have to accept a compromise unless you want to go legal (which will involve invoicing the work, paying tax on money you haven't received, legal expenses, long waits, and the possibility of never getting paid). That said it is definitely a last resort to consider. Compromise might involve revision of the translation or partial payment. No payment if the translation is anything like half-decent is just the agent not wanting to pay you because the client won't pay him.

Although I've never been in that situation I have dealt with people who had trouble paying and dealing with it calmly, waiting, talking reason, and even accepting compromise seem to work better than "I'll sue your ass to hell." A good agency needs good collaborators just as much as it needs good clients.
Good luck
Mac


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 20:47
French to English
This is entirely subjective, IMO Oct 21, 2005

Charlie Bavington wrote:

Jenya Meltser-Rakevich wrote:

It was a good translation that took me 10 hours to complete of about 4000 words.


As Ralf said, the first step is to ask for concrete examples of what the end-client didn't like. But I feel obliged to say: 4,000 words in 10 hours sounds pretty quick work to me. Can you honestly put your hand on your heart and say - yes, this was absolutely the best translation I could possibly have done?


Personally, I can do from 150 to 700 words per hour with excellent quality. It depends so much on the type of document. If I have a long document that lends itself to using Dragon Naturally Speaking, I can whip out more than 1200 words an hour for the first draft (which would bring the average down after careful proofing of course). Unfortunately for me, this doesn't happen every day!!

I can also struggle through 2,000 words a day on more difficult material.

Words per hour is not necessarily an indication of quality.

And poor quality is not an excuse not to pay. The agency should give you concrete feedback and an opportunity to correct. At the very most, they could ask you to reduce your invoice to compensate them for the cost of correcting your work, but a flat-out refsal to pay sounds like just that--an excuse.

I wouldn't go to the end customer, though. Your arrangement is with the agency and you should work with them to find a solution.

Please keep us posted.

Sara


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:47
French to English
Please don't misunderstand me Oct 21, 2005

Sara Freitas-Maltaverne wrote:

Words per hour is not necessarily an indication of quality.



Absolutely, and like you, I find it can vary from less than 100 to 600+ depending what I'm doing. But the way JMR's posting read to me was thus: "this must have been good work because I spent 10 hours doing 4,000 words".

Of course, there may be other factors at work here - familiarity, CAT, a deadline - but I would think that on average, for the average pro dealing with an average text, 4,000 words in one day = pretty rough version (see also recent Proz poll where I believe the majority said that 2,000-2,500/day was the most they could do and guarantee quality). Ergo, I merely query JMR's *apparent* assertion (as I read it), that because 10 hours was spent on 4,000 words, the quality must be OK.

NB: I didn't say that JMR should go to the end-client - I said only that JMR should ask for concrete examples of what the end-client didn't like. In the first instance (indeed, probably always), that would happen through the agency.

[Edited at 2005-10-21 14:12]


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 20:47
French to English
There's no misunderstanding... Oct 21, 2005

I just think we read the original posting differently. No big deal.

My comment about not going to the end client was in response to another poster, not you, so I am sorry if you thought I was pointing a finger at you on that one. I should have quoted the other poster in my reply to make that clear.

For me, the issue is that making assertions/assumptions about the quality of the work in question is off topic here, IMO.

The point is there's a payment problem and what is the poster going to do about it.

Quality (even if horrible) is not a reason not to pay.

Ralf has mentioned his strategy for this before (which is also how I handle this when I outsource). You *suggest* a discount for poor quality in order to cover your costs for correcting the work. If the translator insists on full payment, you pay but then you don't work with that person again. "Quality" is not an excuse for non payment.

Have a good weekend!!

Sara


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
Was there quality assurance on the agency's side? Oct 21, 2005

From my point of view when your translation leaves the agency and 'arrives' at the client it is the agency that is responsible for the quality of the work since there should have been some proofreading/quality assurance. So if this did not happen the agency should pay you and learn from the lesson.
Good luck.


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:47
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Do not contact the client directly. Oct 21, 2005

Dear Jenya,

I would not contact the client directly, even though you may know them. Your business relationship is with the agency, not directly with the client.

Contacting the client directly without the permission of the agency may set you up for legal action - depending on your contract with with client.

Do ask them to substantiate their criticism or offer to call in an independent, mutually-accepted third party.

For me 4000 words in 10 hours is indeed steep. I am lucky if I get 2000 in a 6-7 hour day. You yourself may wish to go back over the translation critically.

Good luck!
Lucinda


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:47
German to English
+ ...
Do not contact the client directly... Oct 22, 2005

I have to agree with my colleagues above: I can imagine almost nothing less professional that contacting THEIR client. If I were you, I would contact YOUR client, i.e. the agency, and - as Ralf already suggested - ask them to substantiate their claims. And as was already mentioned here, be prepared to go in on a compromise, unless you are really 100% sure of the quality of your work and are willing to spend the time and money pursuing a course of legal action should it come down to that (in which case I would contact a lawyer you trust). If I were doing the calculation, it would also depend on how much is at stake (and keep in mind that I don't have to pay as many legal fees ).

I consider myself a very quick translator, but I have to agree with some of the previous comments - I'm not sure if I could guarantee perfection for a translation of 4,000 words done in 10 hours (even in my area of specialization). I'm not saying that it is impossible, but it does come across as a bit unrealistic to think that there will be no mistakes in such a rush-job.

Still, assuming that you are experienced and working within your field, I also can't imagine that there could be so many mistakes that payment would be flat-out refused. Thus, I think that Ralf's approach is probably the most prudent.

BTW - Sometimes (rarely) they are right and there were serious mistakes, in which case humbleness seems to do wonders (you may even get paid). Good luck!

[Edited at 2005-10-22 17:45]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 20:47
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
We get paid for doing, not for working... Oct 23, 2005

What can I do in this situation and how can I get the payment for the work that I did.

Talking from my own experience, I had my moments of rightful anger over how my work was treated. And guess what, they were right in a lot of cases. To be honest, they were right close to 100% of the time. And even if they were not - the customer is always right.

Your customer being the agency, help them make THEIR customer happy (by finding out, what made their client dislike your translation etc).

All the best and keep us informed, how things went.


smo


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 20:47
English to German
+ ...
illustrating one of my late experiences Oct 23, 2005

I did a translation for a so called big agency lately without sleep and getting up from the table. From my perspective I did a full translation, but the customer argues that his proof-reader sees French (I do EN-DE and DE-'EN combination). It took me lot of energy to get his patched up .pdf file in a straight processible form initially. His other translator is seeing only gaps. I was totally surprised and went back checked the document, no I still did full translation. Finally the customer said he won´t pay, because he had to pay a lot of money to his proof-reader and his other translator, who didn´t aid him initially came helping, and that he would pay rest of what remains in that budget. Personally he wrote me I won´t get any payment. I really don´t know what to do in such situations. When they come, mostly with very low price, asking for help, and get out in this manner. I don´t have any problems to agree if a translation was not fully done or partly delivered, but a quality issue is a very subjective matter, to regulate this there are various standards like the ISO type, this customer didn´t hav any. He said he was paying his proof-reader as much as he was paying me. What to say to that now. The PO read translation, take care of spelling or typing mistakes and the overall finish should be OK (I feel there is a catch built-in here from the beginning) I hope that made an interesting reading. An evening to all. Brandis

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Jenya Meltser-Rakevich
Local time: 14:47
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all for your comments Oct 24, 2005

Dear all,

Thank you all for your comments. I received the comments from the agency; the customer is saying that the translation is gramatically incorrect and that there are some spelling errors. Now, not only did I proofread it myself before I sent it to the agency, I also had it proofread by my husband -- also a writer and a translator, fluent in Russian.

And if there are spelling errors, which I've happened to miss, isn't that something that needs to be corrected by the editor?. Truthfully, I have edited translations that are much worse than this one; I had received translations where there would be parts left untranslated that I would then translate myself. This specific translation was very easy, written in a simple conversational language that permitted me to complete it in 10 hours. I agree that the document is not perfect, but with a two day deadline, I assumed that any minor mistakes could be fixed by an edditor. And as I have mentioned above, their major complaint is with Russian grammar, that neither I nor my husband found any major problems with.

Also, I did not have a contract with them. That must have been my biggest mistake. The agency had e-mailed me asking to complete this translation with a very short deadline. The only agreement was that the check will be mailed out the day after the translation is submitted.

It sounds very suspicious; the manager said that this was a major client, but you simply do not give a translation of such importance to a translator that you've never worked with before. He gave me his lawyer's contact information and told me to have any further conversations with him.

In the end, I believe that I should be paid at least partially for the work that I did, considering that when I submitted the translation, I provided a list of things that the editor should pay attention to. But they are absolutelly refusing to pay.

Again, thank you for your prompt and informative responces.

Jenya


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