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Debt collection
Thread poster: Danielle Hupet
Danielle Hupet  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:17
English to French
+ ...
Dec 13, 2005

What are the possibilities to get paid for a job done when the outsourcer doesn't react. Is there any instance that could help in this matter.

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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:17
English to German
+ ...
More information required Dec 13, 2005

Hi Danielle,
Sorry to hear this.

You should provide more information to get better answers:

- Which jurisdiction(s) are involved (yours and the outsourcer's)?
- Was a purchase order (PO) issued at the outset?
- Did you issue an invoice?

Best regards,
Ralf


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xxxDCypher  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
Italian to English
+ ...
Getting paid: the potential of this community Dec 13, 2005

The nature of this work (often working for clients in another country on a "one-off basis") means that getting paid is a key problem for translators.

For me, a smaller job of 5-10 pages is a relatively small risk to take on an unknown customer (always with a little background information). Some jobs, however, can run into thousands of dollars (e.g., prospectus or annual report) and not getting paid for a job of this scale can be a big hit.

The Blue Board feature of ProZ.com is a valuable resource. However, I think this benefit could be enhanced through a more formalised mechanism which utilises the ProZ.com community and is either directly or indirectly associated with ProZ.com.

Step 1 - Vetting agencies and potential customers. This feature exists already by virtue of Blue Board, exchange of comments and experiences, etc. In my view, the formal rating of agencies could be enhanced via the community. For this, the management of ProZ.com may not have any objections being formally and directly associated. This rating mechanism could range from an enhanced quantitative rating system - with agencies earning a rating through an established algorithm based on number of jobs granted, payment performance factors, etc. - to one which includes qualitative elements - translator feedback, jobs disputed, etc.

Step 2 - Collecting on "bad debt". Some disputes will inevitably occur between agencies/clients and translators. In some cases the agency/client may be justified. Both parties need to be clear on the terms agreed and the quality of the translation delivered must meet an acceptable standard. However, there are agencies/clients around who use "poor quality" as an excuse not to pay. And others who use the distance factor to avoid payment. The independent translator is in another country without the financial resources, know-how, or leverage necessary to collect.

The ProZ.com community offers several key resources: a worldwide community (with local knowledge and presence), an understanding of the dynamics associated with the provision and fair terms of collaboration, and, perhaps most importantly from a credit perspective, the ability to censure/blacklist those agencies/clients who do not pay are deemed to be without justification.

I have drafted some ideas on how a formal collection mechanism could be put into place. This is a mechanism which could be directly or indirectly associated with Proz.com. It is also a mechanism which could range from a voluntary committee which agrees to investigate certain "bad debt" cases and assists the translator in attempting to collect from the agency to a user/member pays service available on an annual fee or % of collections basis. My instinct is that the process should begin with a voluntary, organised, debt collections committee which utilises committee review of cases and other member resources.

I would be interested in feedback from members as to the perceived need and other issues on the subject.

Paul Johnston


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:17
Flemish to English
+ ...
No publicity Dec 13, 2005

http://www.intrum.com/index.cfm

[Edited at 2005-12-13 19:29]


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 09:17
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
Case by case Dec 14, 2005

Paul Johnston wrote:

The nature of this work (often working for clients in another country on a "one-off basis") means that getting paid is a key problem for translators.


Quite true. Ok, let's go case by case: e.g. I did a job, a small job for a big agency then the payment, too small for the company to let out a payment because of company policy. The policy is that payment below 100 USD only by Paypal. Paypal in Indonesia is non-existence although there's 'moneybookers' but the company doesn't do that. So, one option the company offer is that the translator waits for another job until it accumulates and reaches more than 100 USD. This could take a long time and alas what if no more work was there? How can this be resolved? Small in amount for the company but for the translator, it’s significant. What if this happens to several other translators and when you total the sum of the payments due it could reach a high number. Mind you this is only hypothetical. But it can happen right?

The ProZ.com community offers several key resources: a worldwide community (with local knowledge and presence)


Can this mean that the community have its own debt collector due to the presence of the community in that area/ region? Too much huh?


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Danielle Hupet  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:17
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Collection mechanism Dec 14, 2005

How can we get such a committee together? I think it's an interesting measur for many translators.

Paul Johnston wrote:

The nature of this work (often working for clients in another country on a "one-off basis") means that getting paid is a key problem for translators.

For me, a smaller job of 5-10 pages is a relatively small risk to take on an unknown customer (always with a little background information). Some jobs, however, can run into thousands of dollars (e.g., prospectus or annual report) and not getting paid for a job of this scale can be a big hit.

The Blue Board feature of ProZ.com is a valuable resource. However, I think this benefit could be enhanced through a more formalised mechanism which utilises the ProZ.com community and is either directly or indirectly associated with ProZ.com.

Step 1 - Vetting agencies and potential customers. This feature exists already by virtue of Blue Board, exchange of comments and experiences, etc. In my view, the formal rating of agencies could be enhanced via the community. For this, the management of ProZ.com may not have any objections being formally and directly associated. This rating mechanism could range from an enhanced quantitative rating system - with agencies earning a rating through an established algorithm based on number of jobs granted, payment performance factors, etc. - to one which includes qualitative elements - translator feedback, jobs disputed, etc.

Step 2 - Collecting on "bad debt". Some disputes will inevitably occur between agencies/clients and translators. In some cases the agency/client may be justified. Both parties need to be clear on the terms agreed and the quality of the translation delivered must meet an acceptable standard. However, there are agencies/clients around who use "poor quality" as an excuse not to pay. And others who use the distance factor to avoid payment. The independent translator is in another country without the financial resources, know-how, or leverage necessary to collect.

The ProZ.com community offers several key resources: a worldwide community (with local knowledge and presence), an understanding of the dynamics associated with the provision and fair terms of collaboration, and, perhaps most importantly from a credit perspective, the ability to censure/blacklist those agencies/clients who do not pay are deemed to be without justification.

I have drafted some ideas on how a formal collection mechanism could be put into place. This is a mechanism which could be directly or indirectly associated with Proz.com. It is also a mechanism which could range from a voluntary committee which agrees to investigate certain "bad debt" cases and assists the translator in attempting to collect from the agency to a user/member pays service available on an annual fee or % of collections basis. My instinct is that the process should begin with a voluntary, organised, debt collections committee which utilises committee review of cases and other member resources.

I would be interested in feedback from members as to the perceived need and other issues on the subject.

Paul Johnston

It seems that such "discomfortable" situations are not an exception. A voluntary committee is an excellent idea which I would be the first one to join. I would be very pleased to take some of my time to assist the translators, new or not in this profession, in their steps to collect a debt. Do you think that a committee acting on Proz would gain enough influence to persuade the non-payer? Most of the time the Blue Board reflects unfortunately only positiv experiences rather than the bad one. Does the translator know the impact and the consequences of such a mention? In my case, the agency has immediately reacted on my negativ mention in the Blue Bord and assured having paid but my bank account proves the opposite.
I'm ready to participate to any king of process that should help in any case to avoid such annoyance.
Thanks a lot Paul

[Edited at 2005-12-14 10:40]


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xxxDCypher  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
Italian to English
+ ...
Some Feedback Dec 14, 2005

In the case of Harry, I would say it is always advisable to be clear on the other party's terms of doing business before accepting a job and maybe renegotiate those terms. I work with one agency whose terms of payment are 120 days. My terms are 30 days maximum. In the end, I have agreed 45 day terms with them. However, they often find that I am not available. Why? Usually because I have accepted work from another client who offers more favourable terms. There is perhaps room for an industry group to give feedback to an agency that certain terms and conditions are highly unfavourable to their suppliers.

In response to Danielle, I think that a group/committee of translators (whether or not they are formally associated with ProZ.com) has a powerful tool at its disposal. The ability to censure. An agency relies on translators. They are its product. If an agency supports translators and works with them on a fair and positive basis, it should be rewarded. Hopefully that reward is that they are able to choose from amongst the best translators globally. Likewise, those who are unfair or dishonest with their suppliers can be penalised as the community will steer away from them towards the other "highly-rated" agencies. Over time they may find that their resource dries up. A direct consequence of improper business practices. Imagine the power of a review committee (rather than a mere individual) posting a comment that Agency X did not pay a translator for work of "good quality delivered under the terms & conditions agreed".

I am suggesting a mechanism where the community can support an individual translator when needed. By doing this, the independent translator is less vulnerable to individual agencies who simply choose not to pay because they believe they can get away with it.

I would like to highlight 2 things which I believe are important:

1) ProZ.com has created a community and I would imagine has an interest in keeping that community as friendly, positive, productive as possible. If this idea develops, we would need to ask the management of ProZ.com how much or how little they would wish to be associated (e.g., would they object to such a resource being a feature of the site and under what conditions).

2) The panel or committee I am suggesting would need to establish itself as a fair-minded body which follows up on situations that are clearly incorrect and unjust. The panel/committee may also have to recognise at times that the translator has not respected the conditions agreed to or has not delivered a quality product. (In such cases, the panel/committee would perhaps be unable to assist the translator further other than to provide some generic guidelines on how to improve the probability of getting paid for future work.) It would be in everybody's interest to keep an initial approach or "demand" to a delinquent agency as professional as possible while showing that there are some "teeth". Cases requiring a true debt collection service (i.e., initial approach and censure have not had produced a result) would likely need to be referred to an external, professional debt collector or other local mechanism available to the translator. For this there is a cost and an infinitely more involved process.

The basic elements of my proposal envision letting a delinquent agency/client know that there is a community and not just an individual to be reckoned with and helping a translator understand the correct approach and the resources which are available to him/her in recovering unpaid monies.

More debate and thoughts encouraged. Paul

[Edited at 2005-12-14 16:55]


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 09:17
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
Input gladly accepted, other issue... Dec 16, 2005

Paul Johnston wrote:

In the case of Harry, I would say it is always advisable to be clear on the other party's terms of doing business before accepting a job and maybe renegotiate those terms. I work with one agency whose terms of payment are 120 days. My terms are 30 days maximum. In the end, I have agreed 45 day terms with them. However, they often find that I am not available. Why? Usually because I have accepted work from another client who offers more favourable terms. There is perhaps room for an industry group to give feedback to an agency that certain terms and conditions are highly unfavourable to their suppliers.


Thank you for the encouraging input. Alas my negotiating ability is still in its infancy. But forum like this helps a lot, at least, it gives us a better understanding.

The idea on the "industry group to give feedback to an agency" appeals to me. Especially to fill in certain gaps that may have its advantages not only for translators but vice versa for the agencies. So, maybe large agencies doing business may be able to be a bit flexible in the paying area instead of just letting outstanding payments to pile up and to adopt a policy to let the translators have their money, in good time. I'd like to see how this issue develops.


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xxxDCypher  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
Italian to English
+ ...
Draft Proposal Dec 16, 2005

Harry

If you would like a copy, please send me an email and I will forward you a one page summary of the draft proposal for the establishment of "The Debt Panel".

Cheers PJ


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xxxDCypher  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
Italian to English
+ ...
The Debt Panel Dec 22, 2005

Hi Harry

Hope you received the file. Anyone else who would like to receive the file which provides a draft proposal for a "debt panel" is welcome to send an email.

Rgds, PJ


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Genevieve Tournebize
Local time: 20:17
English to French
+ ...
I am interested Dec 22, 2005

I think that most translators don't take necessarily the time to check if the company they are going to work for is sound or reliable for payments. I like to see your suggestions. I find though tthat a more active role needs to be taken. Because we work on email we have the problem of not being able to meet the person in their office to pick up the check.
I think that for the translators in the USA we need to start establishing a legal system that forces the client to pay. It is possible that some translators don't do a perfect job but does the doctor cures you every time, is he always right, do you get your money back whenever he is wrong, not generally. Are all the teachers good, are all the plumbers etc. perfect no, no ,no...!!!
If there is a contract, a written agreement, it should be followed. No work should be given unless payment is given in return. We have started a bad trend when we accept to give discount because the client does not like our style. Most of the time agencies give a discount and do not spend the time to review the work in question. I have had the following situation: a client receive its traslation finished and makes a ton of comments...I review the file and a lot of the changes where: empty comments, change of a masculine word for a feminine word, which in French forces you to change all other words too because of grammatical agreements, changes that actually were a repetition of the original work, tenses like passe compose that was replaced by passe simple (if I had used passe simple I know for a fact that that person would have used the passe compose), etc. etc. I can go on , and on... At the end when everything was done there were only 5 spelling mistakes and typos. When I showed the person the results, I told her that I would discount only for real mistakes at whatever rate the word was...she was not happy but had no choice but to agree that she had pushed the envelop and she paid what I asked. They know they can get a discount they will ask for it. Don't give it correct the translation until it is of their licking but don't give in. They ask for a job they pay, let them get take time to argue the amount paid if they are not happy with the work. We cannot garantee what happens in other countries but we have to garantee first the people here because once we know how to do it , others will learn too, and everyone will be better off. OUPS, I did not think I was going to be so long.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:17
English to German
+ ...
Thorough checking in advance is better than collection procedures Dec 23, 2005

Hi Geneviève,

I think that most translators don't take necessarily the time to check if the company they are going to work for is sound or reliable for payments.

This is what keeps amazing me - the fact that people are prepared to lend money (for this is what you do, in substance, by delivering work in advance of payment) to complete strangers they have met over the internet. In our work as Jobs/BB moderators, we keep hearing stories of translators who shied away from the cost of an international phone call, which would have uncovered that something wasn't right...

I like the suggested concept, in principle - what we need to see is whether this is something ProZ.com can get involved in (obviously, Henry Dotterer will need to make that decision). But in any case, the need for collection procedures would be much lower if more translators adhered to basic caution when doing business.

Best regards,
Ralf


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xxxDCypher  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
Italian to English
+ ...
Ralf makes a very good point Dec 23, 2005

I agree with Ralf. In any business relationship or contract, the best way to avoid difficulties is to have a clear understanding and trust between the parties. (Both are necessary. If I trust you 100% but was not clear about what we agreed, we will inevitably have an issue to sort out.)

The proposal I have made will rely on the fact that a translator can substantiate his claim. This requires doing the first part...establishing the relationship and establishing the terms and conditions of the job. Imposing this discipline on ourselves will, I believe, help the translator community as a whole.

Even this week, I have noticed a big difference between agencies. The truly professional agencies recruit in advance, verify the credentials of a translator, and establish payment and credit terms up front. Some other agencies make first contact when they need a translation urgently.

Rule 1 - try to establish a relationship with the first type and steer clear of the second type. The latter group includes those agencies that have little concern in providing a top quality product for their clients and even less concern in paying their suppliers.

PJ

[Edited at 2005-12-23 14:29]


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Danielle Hupet  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:17
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Answer to all Dec 23, 2005

Thanks a lot to participate so intensively to the forum that I initiated with my question concerning debt collection.
Money is one part of the contract, that is to be cleared up at the very beginning before accepting a job. But the other part "quality" is very subjective and can not really defined. As translator with more than 7 years experience, I do my job with professional conscience and refuse the jobs that don't match my knowledge. As Geneviève tells it, the style is a questionnable matter. The translator has no change to compel recognition toward the agency that takes this matter as a good raison not to pay. A neutral committee of proofreading documents would prehaps help a translation in need. What do you think about it?

Tanks to every one of you and merry Christmas .

Danielle


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Genevieve Tournebize
Local time: 20:17
English to French
+ ...
The payment Feb 3, 2006

When, at the beginning of the year Proz.com offered a list of 10 improvements that could be done, I mentionned the need for such a committee. Many translators spend an awful amount of time trying to get the money they justifiably should receive.
I made some investigations about different procedures that need to be considered.
1. We have to try first to get the money ourselves (the translators in general), which mean that a "Payment committee" created by us would prepare a letter of warning to the client or agency to let them know that the translator is not alone and has the backing of a serious entity. Only showing that one is not alone in this matter is of upmost importance.
(Naturally before hand, the translator would have to sign a paper authorizing the committee to act in his or her behalf.)
2. The letter sent should have a delay for answering of no more than three days -because in the majority of the cases the translator would have already waited the time required in initial contract.
3. If this does not do the trick, then the "Committee" could hire a debt collector, paid by the group funds (maybe made of a few dollars a year membership optional, but required if you need to use the system). Debt collectors would not go for one case at a time but for a group of cases at once. This way small amounts as well as big ones would be dealt with. Generally, debt collectors require one month to solve the problem. So, there would be a month of waiting to see where the problem is going.
4. If it is not resolved at this time, then the next step is to go to the Attorney general in the state the debt comes from. Attorney General addresses and names are easy to find on the Internet. I was told that this costs about $150.00 or about... (maybe if several debts from the same agency or client exist then all could be resolved at once). I was also told that when there is a contract, and the money is owed, and not pay... the DA send a letter telling the contractor that the wages of the contractor will be garnished , or his or her business will be closed. Not paying amounts due under contract is a very serious offense. Generally, this works for bigger amounts, but I am sure that if one agency does these kinds of non-payments with someone, and see that nothing was done, it probably will do it again with someone else.
Other options can be also looked at. Everyone should put their heads together to see what in the past has worked and what has not.

Once the "committee" is created, I believe it would be possible to send a notification to all agencies, and translators to let them know about this new committee. Maybe an annual fee of $20 per translator or company or agency could get a paralegal, attorney or anyone in the legal arena assigned to all the requests. We have to investigate the possibilities and join all of our knowledge for this site to be a safe environment for all.
Because the translators' world does not have a legal representation, it is in a dangerous situation, especially in time of recession or national difficulties. Today, salaries stay the same but the cost of living has grown disproportionally, so it is more important now than ever to be sure that translators do not translate free of charge.

[Edited at 2006-02-08 06:36]


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