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Payment disputes for wrong wordcount
Thread poster: MariusV

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:37
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Dec 14, 2006

Hi colleagues,

I have quite a "picky" situation and need some advice:

At the beginning of this year I have established a contact with one translation agency. It had quite a good reputation and I was glad I could start working for them.

At first they sent me a couple of small-scale jobs and we agreed that we can wait till be accumulate a bigger amount reasonable to transfer (just to save their banking costs).

Later on they offered me 2 bigger jobs. They have sent me one (in their PO thei indicated it was ~4200 words), I confirmed and started to work.

When I went up to the middle of it (the schedules were rather tight) i noticed that this job is going somewhat slower and much more is left till I finish it. I started wondering why there is still so much left (as I already have a feeling from a glance into the source text how much time it can take and really takes). So, I decided to calculate the actual word count of the source text (did not do that because I trusted this client and understood they are decent persons). It was a surprise when I realized after the count that there were actually over 6700 words instead of the ~4200 words indicated in the PO.

Before I realized the actual difference in the word count for the 1st job, they sent me a 2nd job from the same project. I was in a rush and just replied "OK, I confirm". The count for the actual volume for the 1st job I did only the next day after the receipt of the 2nd one. Then I also calculated the actual count for the 2nd job and again it turned out to be 2600 words instead of 1800 words indicated in the PO. I wrote an email to them saying that the word count for the jobs was incorrect and asked to count the volume again, on what system they calculated the word counts indicated in their POs, and asked the, to re-issue the POs. There was 1 day left to the deadline of the 1st job, and 3 days for the deadline of the 2nd job. Received no reply nor any feedback from them before the deadline of the 1st job. So, I decided like that - delivered the 1st job on time as agreed, but due to the non-reply to the previous email I put a line that I will charge for the 1st job actual word count. No reply, nor confirmation on the 1st job receipt, nor any explanations to the issue. Wrote one more email then and stated that I refuse to make the 2nd job as I have not received any feedback on their word count system and if they are going to re-calculate it, or, at least provide some explanations. No reply again. Then the deadline for the 2nd job passed, and they started attacking me with emails and phone calls and asking where is the 2nd job. I emailed back them my sent and non-replied emails where I stated that I refused the 2nd job. They have started then explaining that they have a kind of a special system (after the deadline) for volumes and that they have sent me half a year kinda their "technical procedure system, etc." - a document that I actually never received and when they sent it to me back again it contained 17 pages
Most important - it turned out (after 2 weeks of the final deadline) that upon their „special volume count procedures" the previously translated similar texts they copy-pasted from other files next to the source given to me as a „help“ (they mentioned to me like that at first). Now it turned that they are „matches“ or „fuzzy matches“ and „almost ready translation“ where they do not count anything and they do not include these matches into their word count. Well, in reality, upon the grammar and specifics of my target native language, even a single small change usually ruings the whole „fuzzy match" sentence and it shall ne translated anew. Moreover, it was just a simple Word file with columns source – place for translation – match or similar text.


Now things came to invoicing. I decided that it was my fault partially that I trusted too much and did not check the actual volumes before confirmation of the jobs and decided to invoice them 1:1 as it was in their POs just hoping this will be treated as a mutual misunderstanding (moreover, that they probably had to re-assign the 2nd job I refused). But no - they asked for a "credit note" for the 2nd job like a penalty where they claim a fine for non-completion of it and mention it as a very „unethical practice“ to refuse already accepted jobs. I tried to explain to them that I did not refuse the 2nd job as such, but I refused because they did not explain anything about the differences in their word count.

Both sides are keeping their principle and a mutual solution seems to be really hard.

Sorry if I wrote such a long "bed-sheet", but I would like to get some opinions of other colleagues on what to do in this situation. The only fault of mine in this situation IU see that I did trust the client and did not check every word before confirmation. In my opinion, they are quite unfair. Or, at least, they could explain their „word count system“ before the deadlines, not in 2 weeks or in a month when it came to invoices.

Best regards,
MariusV
www.translator.lt


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Dante Bautista
Local time: 03:37
English to Tagalog
you can compromise Dec 14, 2006

for there was really a fault on the part of your client for not detailing the word counts and on your part for accepting the 2nd job. They should have indicated in their PO how many words are new and how many are repetitions or fuzzy matches. Since you accepted the 2nd job and did not deliver, you are in default and certainly you will be penalized for that. So the best thing to do now is to make a compromise whether you finish the 2nd job and charge them with a discounted price to cover the delay or just charge half the amount of the 1st job to compensate your work.

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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:37
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
the are always two sides of the coin... Dec 14, 2006

Dear Dante,

Thanks for the info. Well, the thing is that they are not willing to go into a compromise despite that I proposed:

1) to invoice for the 1st job just as it was in their PO for the 1st job (not for the actual word count I did) +
2) offered them a possibility of a discount for any jobs in the future if they still want to cooperate - a discount for any 20 000 words they will give that is even much more than the penalty they want to impose
3) I have helped them to sort out a lot of mess with proofreading their texts done by their previous translators that were of poor quality with elementary grammar mistakes (let alone technical nonsenses) and worked 4-5 hours instead of 2 hours stated in the PO - just on a friendly basis. They should evaluate that - giving such poor quality translations done by previous vendors could have caused serious problems (incl. non-payment from their end client that could cost them several times more, let alone a loss of the client).

But it seems they do not want a compromise.

Well, the only fault I see from my side, is that I accepted the jobs without re-checking every word for correct volume. But again, if one starts checking like that each client, there will be no time left for real work. Moreover, they demanded confirmations on the spot. So, this "on the spot confirmation demand" and non-reply to my issue about re-checking the volumes (no reply in 3 days in turn despite that they probably read all my emails), makes me think that this was not just a simple "technical misunderstanding" (lots of things might happen), but just a fraud - why they couldn't simply reply that "sorry, this count was made upon our system and please do the jobs accepted as otherwise we might impose penalties"...

Finally, the issue about the penalties came out when they are already late with payment for over 2 weeks and before today they NEVER contradicted my invoices. And still I am open for and offering a compromise, but they seem not to have an intent for that...Sounds really strange.

Regards,
Marius


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:37
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Stick to your guns Dec 14, 2006

I completely disagree with Dante on this point:


Since you accepted the 2nd job and did not deliver, you are in default and certainly you will be penalized for that.


You should be paid in full for the first translation, and you should not be penalized for the second. Sending an incorrect - or in the best case, incomplete PO - is unacceptable. Even more unacceptable is not replying for 3 days. Do you have an e-mail in which they acknowledge this?

Of course, you should have checked the word count and when they did not answer your e-mails you should have phoned them. But you can make a mistake and correct it afterwards. You were right not to deliver the job: you did not have a PO that corresponded to it. If you had delivered, you would have had no argument to support your position that the PO should be corrected.

I suppose you have signed a framework contract - does it have anything to say about non-delivery? Does it have anything about not replying to e-mails? Does it say anything about the counting method they are using? Or is everything in that famous document that you received only afterwards?

They seem to be foul players - so you should not propose even more favorable conditions. You should tell them that you will publish your opinion on various forums (Blue Board, payment practice lists, etc.).

Good luck,
Attila


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:37
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hi Attila Dec 14, 2006

Thanks for your moral support

Well:

1) I wrote them an email (2 days before the deadline) that I request a revision of the actual word count and a possible re-issue of the POs. No reply. Phoned at least 3 times - the person in charge was not available. The wrote one more email telling that I request again to revise the word count or otherwise I will refuse the confirmed 2nd job as the actual word count differs from the PO. No reply, only "read email confirmation" from the person in charge.

2) today I got an email - a quote from it CONFIRMING that they had and read my emails about the differences in PO and actual word count. Maybe I was even stupid to offer a compromise? What do you think?

"...If you'll remember, this is for project abc2 which you confirmed, then cancelled 3 days later. I requested a 100% credit note as a financial penalty. I requested a 100% credit note as a financial penalty. The PO amount for this project was abc euros, which I expect to deduct from the total amount we currently owe you. It may sound harsh, but it was very unprofessional. I believe few agencies provide so much information on their working method and format at the onset of their collaboration with translators. I believe we are very transparent in terms of expectations and very fair in our financial proposal. Yet it seems some translators don't care much anyway and then come back later with complaints. I wish it weren't so and I still don't understand where the misunderstanding lies concerning volume on the first job. I still think that the volume was correct in view of the project requirements and the price offered fair. If you decided to do more than what was required, I'm sorry."

P.S. Just a question - what was so "harsh and unprofessional" and from which side...They have been informed about the refusal and they had sufficient time to re-assign it to someone else or to solve that with me. Maybe I do not bother about it anymore, and go to BB to post a "1" for them?

Best regards,
Marius


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:37
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Play tough Dec 14, 2006



"...If you'll remember, this is for project abc2 which you confirmed, then cancelled 3 days later. I requested a 100% credit note as a financial penalty. I requested a 100% credit note as a financial penalty. The PO amount for this project was abc euros, which I expect to deduct from the total amount we currently owe you. It may sound harsh, but it was very unprofessional. I believe few agencies provide so much information on their working method and format at the onset of their collaboration with translators. I believe we are very transparent in terms of expectations and very fair in our financial proposal. Yet it seems some translators don't care much anyway and then come back later with complaints. I wish it weren't so and I still don't understand where the misunderstanding lies concerning volume on the first job. I still think that the volume was correct in view of the project requirements and the price offered fair. If you decided to do more than what was required, I'm sorry."



Well, in my mind somebody who really thinks that the word count is correct would be ready to discuss it before the deadline. I believe that if an agency is transparent that it does not hide for three days without answering a crucial e-mail. And I am convinced that an "agency that provides so much information on their working method" should do it beforehand.

It does not sound like the arguments of somebody who is convinced that they are right. "... which I expect to deduct from the total amount we currently owe you" - well, they can expect or rather hope it, but they might not have it. Playing the earnestness card "I believe we are very transparent in terms of expectations and very fair in our financial proposal" after hiding for three days? Come on.

They certainly have a long list of terms and conditions, most certainly with several paragraphs on financial penalties that the translator should face. Let them have it. If you have not signed it then you should not bother about it.

You are the service provider, you set certain conditions. And they cannot be imposed on you - especially not in a one-sided way, a posteriori. You might be nice and send the invoice of the first job with the reduced price. You can be tough and send it with the total amount calculated on the basis of the real word count. And why not include your terms for late payment?

And perhaps write a BB entry right away, you can correct it later, when they have paid. You have shown enough of your compromise-searching face, you can show them another, a determined one.

Attila


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Nizamettin Yigit  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:37
Dutch to Turkish
+ ...
Word Count Dec 14, 2006

Hi,

I personally think that you should be paid for the full word count regardless of the PO or have a credit to be added onto the next PO.

From time to time, word count diferences has happened for my case (due to text boxes are not counted in MS Word or MS products.

If I see a text box, than I export the text into plain text file and do the count from that file. I informed the client, agency X, and they understood and accepted that I was correct.

I also disagree that agencies having a special system for freelancers and they inform their life saving secret etc...
No there is no secret or price worthy system or protocol in reality. It is a a little more than simple office management.

But if they provided you a special tool, a special software or shared their TM, than that is something else.

So far I have communicated with my clients and even asked what software do they advice, so I do not invest into anything junk but a real helpfull product. All of the people I asked responded positive and made good advices.

For the second job, you had two options. You could have translated and send an invoice for the full word count.
Or you could deny to do it even you accepted once.

My reasonings:
- This is a word count default error and it is intentional. Any intentional errors could be and should be treated as fraud. Because intention invalidates the insanity.
- Or the error is as if there was an error in the payment amount not word count. Lets say numbers and euros dont match. One could not ask you to pay your money amount that they have mistakenly (whether intentional or not) altered the numbers. The same way in case the alterations are on your behalf (as increase) you should have no right to ask that high amount, eventhough you/they agreed. You should get what it is.

My final two cents, in this case the way of doing busines becomes important.

Good luck.

N. Yigit


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:37
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
about being nice... Dec 14, 2006

Thanks, Atilla,

I always try to solve situations by compromises and amicable means. Well, wrote then an email proposing either to pay 1) on the POs as they are without the penalty or 2) actual word count minus the penalty (but the amount will be bigger then even after the penalty as compared to the 1st option. Will see what they reply - if they do not go neither for 1, nor 2, will invoice them on a full scale + penalty for late payment (if they like these penalties so much), will give them 2 weeks to settle the payment and if they do not, will post a "1" in BB and will claim for intellectual property rights to their clients for non-paid translation, cancel all proposed compromises, and will leave the issues as their own problem then. And most imporant - the main reason for refusing (not providing) the 2nd job was related to their non-clarification of the word count procedures. They even did not give any reply. I did not refuse the job just because of my "own" non-substantiated reasons...

From the very principle I believe that the client and its vendor are both equal parties and they work because they both have a mutual interest. Not anyone superior, or inferior, not only one party with an interest, where the other works just for "someone else being happy".

Thanks for your support. I had some doubts , but now I see that other reasonable people think like that.

So, a good lesson learned - better to spend a lot of time and to check the volumes before confirming jobs, than to rush, confirm, and have problems later...

Best regards,
Marius


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:37
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hi Nizamettin Dec 14, 2006

Thanks for your considerations. I had quite a dozen of situations where the PO and actual volume differed, but it was always solved. They did not give ANY CAT tool - their "count system" was a simple word count divided into 3 columns. 1 - the source text to be translated, 2 - empty where the translation shall be, 3 - "matches" from similar previous translations - previous translations could not be used in any sense because they were of very poor quality (if I copied or used these, anyone can have claims for quality). That was explained just when I started with the 1st job, and they said "do what you think is best" (and did not mention ANYTHING that these were included as "matches" for no cost or partial cost).

Well, the strange thing here that this agency is a reputable one and has a rating of almost "5" at the BB. Were it an agency of no reputation, so, it will be clear from the beginning what it is all about. Now - a reputable agency "from the glance" playing tricks - that was the thing that caused my concern. Moreover, this was claimed AFTER the payment term passed that makes the situation even more strange. Maybe they are going to go bankrupt soon (some owners changed, etc.) and now they are trying to find any possible reasons to "save some money"...Or, maybe, just a dumb project manager without eny elementary knowledge of translation project management and elementary business "abc"...



[Edited at 2006-12-14 22:47]


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Agnieszka Hayward
Poland
Local time: 20:37
German to Polish
+ ...
Don't let them bully you Dec 15, 2006

Hi Marius,

I'm really sorry to hear about your trouble with a dishonest agency. I know it only too well myself. Unfortunately

I'm afraid I have to disagree with Dante on the "matter-of fact" fault on you side. Yes, you should have done the word count yourself (doesn't take that long, does it?), but it still remains THEIR fault. From what you say, they have INTENTIONALLY misled you.

I fully agree with Attila and Nizamettin. I second everything they said here.

IMHO you have done more than enough to show your willingness to resolve the issue amicably. Alas, no similar sign of good will ever came from the agency. Instead, they put the blame for all things possible on you. How characteristic of fraud.

From what you say, this client clearly wants to get the maximum profit with little (if any) expense on their part. Do your best not to let them.

I would definitely voice my opinion on the BB, maybe pasting the link to this forum in your post as well.
Such outrageous practise must be stopped once and for all.

If you know any translators' forums specifically devoted to your language pairs, why don't you get them interested in what has been happening.

I wonder which country the agency is based in. Sounds like they're looking for cheap labour. In the past, I myself experienced it more times than I'd think was bearable Luckily, they nearly always tried to get away with laughable rates, not with dodgy business practises, like in your case. So, it was easy to just refuse without any consequences or waste of time.



I wish you all the best, and I hope this unfortunate situation will soon come to an end satisfactory to you.
Keep us posted, please.

Best regards,
Agnieszka


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:37
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Dear Agnieszka Dec 15, 2006

I got what you meant and thanks a lot for your support. I will feel less "pain" for being blamed for the refusal of that 2nd job (where I have a lot of doubts as how to feel about it). As for a compromise, if you think I really made all possible ways for it, so thanks - can take a deeper breath

Well, the INTERESTING thing here is that this agency is really supposed to be a reputable one, not some freaks from somewhere, we have agreed on one of the best payment rates in my practice, so I had actually no reasons to mistrust them.

Also - I have already passed the stage of being "turned around" by all these freaky agencies who try to find any possible reasons to reduce payment or not to pay at all and exploit translators and already know their email texts by heart as "cheater email templates". And I have passed this period at least 5 years ago + cleaned up my client list from all these late or non-reliable payers, cunning, disorganized or non-professional people and never had a single problem in 3 years about payment (except for some trivial cases where I had to remind in a polite way that "you are a little bit late with your payment", what sometimes happens to people and I think it is still not a big problem if payment arrives a week or two later just for pure technical reasons).

I would like to post the name of the agency here, but I have to respect the forum rules. Will see what they reply in response to my last email.

Thanks again - your advice and support provided more confidence in myself. Will keep you posted about the outcome if interested.

Best regards,
Marius





[Edited at 2006-12-15 03:37]


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:37
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Use Translator's Copyright Dec 15, 2006

Hi,

I agree with Agnieszka and Attila. They are being unfair and are at fault. You did your job when you informed them and in case they were so sure they would have responded before deadline. The fact that they didn't makes it their fault.

I think you should invoice them for the job that you completed on deadline (the actual wordcount at the agreed rate) and give them time till the agreed deadline for payment. If they pay, good enough.

If they don't pay their dues on time then mark them a 1 on blueboard (also remember to keep the copies of your e-mail exchange with you, just in case).

I don't think it's fair to put 1 on the blueboard if they honour their agreement and pay you the actual amount on time.

No question of credit over a period of time. Why should there be any credit when they are clearly at fault?

Also, in case they say something then inform them about your copyright and that they can not use any part of your translation in any form till they have paid you. And in case they continue, inform the end clients and also of the fact that they can not leaglly use your translation.

Unfortunately this is a risk we have to take.

I hope things will be resolved amicably.

Best regards,

Ritu


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:37
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Faults both sides Dec 15, 2006

MariusV wrote:
I was in a rush and just replied "OK, I confirm".


Bad move. The fact that you wrote a very short answer does not indicate to the recipient of your e-mail whether you had the opportunity to peruse the content or not. Your confirmation is a confirmation. Why on earth would you confirm something you haven't looked at?

They have started then explaining that they have a kind of a special system for volumes...


An agency should make it clear (preferably in the PO) if a job is a leveraged job (one with discounts for repetitions) or not. The agency cannot simply assume that the translator will know that and accept that. I have no objection to working "Trados-style", but any deviation from normal should be mentioned clearly and in advance.

But again, if one starts checking like that each client, there will be no time left for real work.


I disagree. The translator should have a system in place according to which every new job is dealt with. One point in the procedure should be to double-check the word count.

Moreover, they demanded confirmations on the spot.


You can give provisional confirmation in such cases. Say so in the e-mail. "I'm confident that I can do this job; can I get back to you in half an hour for final confirmation?" or similar.

I wrote them an email 2 days before the deadline... Phoned at least 3 times... Then wrote one more email...


They should have answered your calls or written back, even if only a short note that they will look into it.

"...I believe few agencies provide so much information on their working method and format at the onset of their collaboration with translators. I believe we are very transparent in terms of expectations..."


Rubbish, IMO. How can an agency be unclear about deviations from the norm when hiring a translator, and then just expect the translator to take such deviations in stride? I can understand that an agency might not want to divulge its working methods etc, but anything that directly affects the relationship with the translator needs to be said clearly.


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:37
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Dear Samuel Dec 15, 2006

Thanks for a critical and matter-of-fact approach. I see that there is really a lot to learn from what you commented.

Looking from the formal side, well, I really agree with you that it was my fault not to mix the two major things - first I had to check if the volume is OK, and only after that to confirm or ask to recalculate the volume. Not vice versa. I think I will further take as a rule Nr.1 for any projects in the future. Maybe better to delay a little bit with answers/confirmations, that have to untangle a situation like that.

However, there is another side of the coin - real life. I do not work on an advanced presumption that the people are unfair. I always try to think that people are fair or at least professional and the volumes they indicate are just as it is. I think you get and have to reply dozens if not hundreds of emails per day, have to confirm several or a dozen of projects in a rush, + do you translation work and you just do not have time to think "well, I need to spend half an hour to check if they are not cheating me on volumes". Sometimes you need "be quick or be dead" - need to give a very prompt answer and even a couple of minutes related to the reply time might decide if you are the one to receive the job, or the job is given to someone else who was faster to respond.

One more thing to that - what goes for Trados and for Word formats, well, no problem to check the volumes. But also there are special softs, and things like that where checking the volume or even copy-pasting the texts is technically not possible. So here one has to depend on the fairness of the client actually.

Well, as for the client's fault - now I see all that from the client's view. The really should have very clearly indicated all these things in the PO as the PO is the main (and very often - the only) written document proving the conditions of the agreement. If there was a line that "the word count was estimate upon Item 12.2a of our stardard volume estimation system and the volume stated cannot be altered + non-delivery or late delivery of a confirmed job will be fined at that and that amount" - OK, there will be no space for any disputes, except for a possible case where the client really made an accidental mistake counting the volumes and can revise it on a friendly basis (but what is not related to their procedures). But if people pretend they "do not get" emails of a crucial importance for both sides for 3 days in turn when they usually reply in 10-15 minutes, well, that is not a fair game.


So really good lessons to be learned from your ideas:

1) always try to check every job volume BEFORE confirmation or give a short answer "well, I am interested, please send me a PO, give me that and that number of minutes to check everything before I confirm". That is really much better that a rush reply "I confirm".

2) to start working ONLY when all the things are clear or clarified - not to clarify things our after the work is finished.

So, thanks a lot for these practical things! Best regards and wish you not to have problems like that

MariusV


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:37
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
copyright claims Dec 15, 2006

Dear Ritu,

Thanks really a very good idea. I never thought about that! That could be a big advantage against the client if it finally comes out that they were really unfair and played a foul game making an imagination that it was just "a misunderstanding"

Thanks a lot.

mariusv


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