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Debt collection: establish a network of local debt collectors
Thread poster: MariusV

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 01:43
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Jun 26, 2006

Dear translators and proz.com people who are in charge for the money matters,

I have one proposal for consideration both for Proz and for all of us. I think most of us had bigger or smaller problems dealing with unfair agencies and/or clients. As long as it is on a national level (i.e. the client is in your country), he/she can be "taken out from the bushes" easier. But what if I work, say, in Eastern Europe, and the client is somewhere in the middle of the United States or in the province of Italy? The debt is some 500 USD lasting for over half a year here, some 250 EUR unpaid for a year from here, so on and so forth and it accumulates quite an amount already.

So, what a decent translator shall do? Continue sending email reminders that no-one ever reads (translation delivered, you are no longer "interesting") or waste money on dozens of calls to their offices when the answer is "Who are you? Oh...yes...well...but sorry, our boss is on a holiday today"? Take a flight, knock at the door of their office (if such an office or company exists at all) and introduce himself/herself "Hi, I am Peter Johnson, I want my money"? Or write to a lawyer company located nearby the swindlers asking for help? Maybe 500 USD or even 5000 USD for these lawyers is just the amount they spend in a luxurious restaurant every day having a dinner with a millionaire client?

Seems no solution here apart from one good benefit of proz.com like BB (when one can "check" the reputation of an outsorcer if listed or post a "probability of working again rating". What else? How to collect the money earned doing a hard work? Why the translators shall "make a charity" to swindlers? Waste time and energy playing "hide and seek" instead of working for decent clients?

I suggest the following:

1) proz.com could consider establishing a kind of network of "local debt collectors" who could support translators on such problems. I do not think big lawyer or debt collection agencies could work well here. Maybe better some individual debt collection specialists and smaller beginner companies? Sometimes it might even not be necessary to start the legal procedures - maybe it would be enough to have the psychological effect on the swindlers if someone "local" calls or faxes them telling "hey, guys, we have one client who is really interested that you pay the debt to him/her"? And when they see that this cannot be ignored like an email reminder from the translator or his/her calls from time to time, the majority shall think that "well, this is already real, I'd better pay him/her and do not meddle into all that"...

2) all this "local agency" network SHALL NOT be directly related with proz.com, i.e. proz.com should not act as a "mediator" for these money matters, but could only RECOMMEND some "local agency/debt collector" to facilitate the solution of the debt...

3) possible benefits?

a) to translators - I think many cheated translators would have a bigger chance to collect the "irrecoverable debts". at least we should try or discuss if it really could work

b) proz.com could further promote its good reputation and become even safer "translation marketplace" in comparison to their competitors + benefit from promoting such "debt collectors" that could be interesting in collaboration - even could earn/take some additional income for "recommending" these debt collectors to translators. Having in mind that proz.com is a huge site with people from many countries, the number of such agencies and the amounts collected from advertising of them could be interested to the proz.com owners and from these funds these people could further develop their business? (this is just my personal consideration)...

Or, to put it simply...I work in Europe, have someone really unwilling to pay in from the USA. Instead of the above-mentioned non-efficient "reminder" procedure, I simply go to proz.com, make a search by location of the non-payers, find the nearest "recommended debt collector", send them a request, and my problem will start to "move on" from the dead point? I would not even be against to receive part of that cash (to share it with the debt collector for their services) or even to pay an additional paid membership fee "anti-debt Plat" (like some +30 per cent to the usual yearly Plat membership)...


Would be interested to hear your opinions.

Best regards,
Marius Valiukas



[Edited at 2006-06-26 05:50]


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Angela&Claudio
Italy
Local time: 00:43
Italian to Spanish
+ ...
I think that is a great proposal Jun 26, 2006

I am totally for it.

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:43
Flemish to English
+ ...
Letter of credit Jun 26, 2006

"Take a flight, knock at the door of their office"

I've done this once. Not by air, but by car. Unfortunately, the lady responsible for the translation office was "on holiday"(?).
I've also threatened once to take a plane to collect my money so it would not get lost when posted.
Three days later payment came.

Personally, I think that what you propose depends on the willingness of others to participate in such a network. It is mutually beneficial.

In international trade, if you don't trust a party to a contract, it is normal to resort to a letter of credit.

The documentary credit---letter of credit, documentary letter of credit, or commercial letter of credit---is an arrangement whereby the applicant (the importer) requests and instructs the issuing bank (the importer's bank) or the issuing bank acting on its own behalf, pays the beneficiary (the exporter) or accepts and pays the draft (bill of exchange) drawn by the beneficiary, or authorizes the advising bank or the nominated bank to pay the beneficiary or to accept and pay the draft drawn by the beneficiary, or
authorizes the advising bank or the nominated bank to negotiate, against stipulated document(s), provided that the terms and conditions of the documentary credit are fully complied with.
Replace importer/exporter by translator/customer...
I don't know whether this would be feasible.
Otherwise, there is always the "unethical" solution of MsOffice 2007.


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Natasha Stoyanova  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:43
Member (2002)
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
One more vote for this proposal Jun 26, 2006

Let's see what will be the Proz's opinion.

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Goran Tasic  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 00:43
English to Serbian
+ ...
Add me to it! Jun 26, 2006

This is na outstanding idea. Proz.com go for it!

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Ivana de Sousa Santos  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:43
French to Portuguese
+ ...
I vote for Jun 26, 2006

It's far more interesting than having agencies giving us a rate in our profiles.

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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 01:43
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
> Mr./Ms. Williamson Jun 26, 2006

[quote]Williamson wrote:

"Take a flight, knock at the door of their office"

I've done this once. Not by air, but by car.

>>>Well, for "driveable" distances (in Lithuaniam where I work any max distance to any point is max some 350 km) the "national level" this should be more or less possible to solve - one knows the national laws more or less, can contact related authorities or a debt collection agency "at home"...But what about a "crash landing" for the address that is some 2000-3000 km away from you? Well, if it is the Bahamas and one goes for a holiday here, still reasonable to combine the "pleasant and the useful", but what to do in other cases?


In international trade, if you don't trust a party to a contract, it is normal to resort to a letter of credit.

>>>Well, a known thing, but that is a "more usual practice" in trade, or where the amounts are substantial. Try to be in the shoes of a decent client - I phone a translator, and ask for translation of 6 pages. And the translator asks for a "letter of credit"? Being a client I'd think this translator is "a little bit strange" and would look for another one. And what if such a client has a multi-language project into some 16 languages? Arranging these "letters of credit" would probably take more time than administering the translation project itself and will cost more than the client will have to pay for the job itself to the translators? Well, it is just a consideration. Maybe it really works well if you use such a scheme.

But I think there are "unrwitten rules" in the technical process of translations:

1) get a request - ask for the PO (Purchase Order)
2) clearly agree on conditions and payment terms before confirming a job
3) PO is the first and the only document as a proof that you did the job + your email copy about the translation
4) if the job is a substantial one, there are other additional possibilities:

4.1) make an advance "check of the client", i.e. if they are serious and reliable people - one possibility is the BB of proz.com
4.2) if you feel you still would not have a good sleep, ask for advance payment of some 30-40 per cent or split tje payment and the job into several parts

But the best is:

1) you get the job,
2) you agree on the job and its conditions,
3) you do and sumbit the job,
4) you get your payment exactly as agreed


And to ensure such an "idyllic" situation for ourselves, we need a kind of "protective system" - to filter freak and fraud outsorcers. And if any fraud or freak knows that he/she can be taken out from the bushes, maybe he/she will go and pollute other analogous portals instead of messing with proz.com (the "risk" to avoit non-payment would be too high)...


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:43
Flemish to English
+ ...
Hubs Jun 26, 2006

If you use Londen Gatwick as a hub Ryanair makes knocking at some doors rather cheap even if it is at 2000 km from my door. Countries like Italy with its "superfast" payment tradition and Spain are just a few hours away... Of course from you point of view, it is a bit further. If the sum is worth it, Londen is a hub for cheap flights worldwide.
--
It all depends on "who" your customer is: there is a difference :

In some countries, a fax and other writings are only proof between merchants, not between a merchant and a natural person and debts must be collected at the door of the debtor. Between a natural person and a merchant, you need the original piece in writing.

But I admit you lose time and I support your proposal.



[Edited at 2006-06-26 10:14]


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 01:43
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Well, Jun 26, 2006

I think we have to do work instead of flying to the debtors...Even email reminders and calls take time. Why should we waste our time for freaks instead of working for decent clients? If all the world could "fly", there will be no need for lawyers, debt collectors, courts of law, banks, banking transfers...Well, jokes are jokes, but I think all that flight issue is out of topic here?

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Hepburn  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:43
English to French
+ ...
L'union fait la force Jun 26, 2006

I am all for it too.
It certainly would enhance the status of Proz - before competing websites jump on the idea as an added benefit to their members.

It is clear that ProZ has a double commitment to the translators community and to prospective clients. Like siamese twins, these two cannot do without each other and ProZ cannot do without, either. Hence the reluctance to have a "not below.." limit for jobs offered, I suppopse.

However, it is no reason not to be clear about fraudulent customers. It can only be a good thing for all concerned.


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Alp Berker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:43
Turkish to English
+ ...
Can't hurt Jun 26, 2006

Having a network can only help, and would bring some relief and professionalism to the industry. Put me down also.

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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 00:43
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
"How big is the amount defaulted? Five digits, I presume?" Jun 26, 2006

I can just talk on the basis of my own - limited - experience. The lowest amount defaulted was 20 bucks, and the biggest I think was around 350$.

I don't think I'm out of the line in this respect, so I guess we are all in the kiddie league when it comes to defaults.

I wonder who the members of the worldwide Proz Collectors guild would be?Who would take up this kind of jobs? Keystone cops? Marx Bros? Three Stooges? Definitely not somebody who's in it for his living - I dont think you can make your living with this kind of jobs - too sparse and too little money in there.

To end on the positive note I would appreciate to hear from anybody who had a collctor agency buy his defaults, what was the amount, the cents per dollar discount etc - the whole shebang.


Regards

Vito


[Edited at 2006-06-26 13:45]


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 01:43
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Dear Vito, Jun 26, 2006

A good question, I think So, let's be more exact on what "target amounts" we are speaking.

Well, if the amount is "five digits". First of all (in my opinion) no one (with a reasonable sense) will let oneself to accumulate such. Secondly, if it ever happens so, it is already a "larger-scale" issue and there will be already somoene willing to help and have its own "interest". This should be out of question.

Despite I had only a couple of such unpleasant situations in my 10 years practice, I think that the most delicate "target amounts" are from several hundred up to a couple of thousand - such amounts are neither fish, nor meat, neigther go to the lawyer, nor "fly" to the client, not "forget about". Of course, no one will care for 20 USD - it will be more time wasted.

And one more good question - who will undertake the function of "collection assistants"...? I do not know what is the situation in your country (maybe there will be really no-one to bother about such things), but in my country there are debt collectors (mostly small companies with the staff of several people) and they are usually "happy" even with relatuvelly small amounts. And here is nothing too complicated from the formal point of view as long as the translator has a PO, and a proof on delivery of the job. In my opinion, the only thing such "collectors" have to do is to contact the freak, tell him/her "Hey, guys, you owe money to one of my clients and we have all the proof. Are you intending to settle without any further procedures, or shall we prepare the docs to go the legal way?". I think that from the psychological point of view, the primary stage should work in 2 cases out of 3. And in case of 1/3, no big "formalities" here. Auhtorisation to the debt collectors signed by the translator, colectors write "cliche" application to the local court of law, attaching the documents of proof, several weeks after that - there is a decision of the court of law that the debt shall be settled by that and that date. If not - collectors arrange a bailiff, and the non-payer pays on a full-scale, incl. for the "services of the bailif, for the services of the debt collectors, for the expenses of the court of law, overdue payment interest rate, overdue rate for late payment to the bailiff, etc."

And finally - it is not for the cash itself. Well, if one has 400 USD less or 400 USD more, it makes no vital imporance. More important would be the prestige and kind of trust in proz - decent translators will know that freaks cannot make jokes here, and freaks will know that better not to meddle with proz if you have an "advance intention" to cheat someone...

Regards,
Marius


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Hepburn  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:43
English to French
+ ...
Support from the website Jun 26, 2006

MariusV wrote:




And finally - it is not for the cash itself. Well, if one has 400 USD less or 400 USD more, it makes no vital imporance.
More important would be the prestige and kind of trust in proz - decent translators will know that freaks cannot make jokes here, and freaks will know that better not to meddle with proz if you have an "advance intention" to cheat someone...



It makes little difference, but somehow I would rather have that well earned cash myself than know that someone who has used my time and energy is using it shamelessly.

I support entirely what you say afterwards. I think it is a question of self respect for a professional website.


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:43
English to German
+ ...
On freaks and unscrupulous operators Jun 26, 2006

Hi Marius,
More important would be the prestige and kind of trust in proz - decent translators will know that freaks cannot make jokes here, and freaks will know that better not to meddle with proz if you have an "advance intention" to cheat someone...

I take it you're aware of the ProZ.com Termination Policy? This is being enforced by a team of Jobs/BB moderators.

Obviously, this is no 'magic wand' against non-payers, nor are we able to detect any unscrupulous outsourcer before someone suffers damage - but OTOH no collection procedure will protect you against someone who's out to defraud in the first place.

Although there will be some practical issues (such as the minimum amounts problem, plus the fees involved), I like the idea. Whether ProZ.com would want to get directly involved is for Henry to decide, obviously - but I could imagine a list of 'recommended' collection agents, based on member input.

Best regards,
Ralf

PS I have alerted Henry to this topic.


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