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My story: 'Bad' agency, payment overdue, and unable to do anything except...
Thread poster: Harry Hermawan

Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
Feb 9, 2007

Hi everyone,

I did a job for a new international client (an agency) of mine, no LWA's on Blue Board at ProZ.com. It was in September 2006. The job was proofreading, and editing. PO was made stating the job scope: "proofreading and editing" and the "fee" was also stated. Payment was to be made 45 days after invoice/delivery.

Did the proofreading, and editing. I delivered on time. The contact person sent back reviews, since the job was in .ppt, difficult to edit too small etc. and there were some translation that had to be made that should have been done by previous translator, no complaints from me then, I had to work hard to fit in the format and did it with flying colours.

After that I sent back the review, no note of bad work since the contact person was nice and helpful.

Waited for the due date for payment. Payment overdue, sent a reminder to contact person cc to accounting dept. Contacted contact person via instant messages, got a surprising answer saying that the contact person is leaving for some reason but informed me of things that I had to do i.e. the right direction to the payment/accounting dept. even offered a name of another person in the company to forward my concerns to the right channels.

After thinking a while, sent an email to the new contact name saying if the person could help, the new contact person replied and said that the email had been forwarded. I could see that the cc was the same name I had known before. This was a pseudo reminder.

About a few days later, I sent a second reminder. I got a reply from accounting, saying he had been on vacation. He informed me that he'd settle the matter on the first week of January 2007. I replied saying that the promise should be made and stating that the reply is a second reminder.

Waited, waited, and got a surprising email from accounting saying there was "discrepancy" and statement too confidential to express here. But the tone of the email is not good and that the person in charge will pay the invoice at a different rate than the one agreed. He also said that the contact person had left to which he could not confirm details of the job done.

I felt that this was a negative gesture. I mean, I had agreed to do the job on the rates agreed at the first instance prior to taking the job. Now, he's saying the work was bad (to which he had no knowledge of or confirm), so how can he insinuate that the "the work has been rejected for poor quality or the work would not have been delivered on time."

A funny thing is that he mentioned he had multiple billings for the same job with three other freelancers. The nerve...my emotion boils...

I just could not understand. So, I replied saying that I would not accept lower rates than already agreed. No way. Even if he insist he will "remit the money shortly". To me accepting this would be the same as agreeing to his insinuation, which of course is not true, the delivery was timely and the work, who is he to say if he could not even confirm details?

From the information stated in his email, I could sense that the company was in a mess. I mean if people leave, there has to be a system, documentation, or the sort, and multiple billings for the same work?

Anyway, still waiting to be paid. Suggestions? Concrete action? Much appreciated.

NOTE: this is one way I could think of to channel the frustration. If in anyway this is not the right channel please advise.

THANK YOU ALL...

PS: if anyone needs details, I'll be happy to respond in good faith.


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Rafal Korycinski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 09:08
English to Polish
+ ...
Don't give up! Feb 9, 2007

Harry Hermawan wrote:
I did a job for a new international client (an agency) of mine, no LWA's on Blue Board at ProZ.com.
was made stating the job scope: "proofreading and editing" and the "fee" was also stated.
[...]
Waited for the due date for payment. Payment overdue, sent a reminder to contact person cc to accounting dept.
[...]
Waited, waited, and got a surprising email from accounting saying there was "discrepancy" and statement too confidential to express here.
[...]
From the information stated in his email, I could sense that the company was in a mess. I mean if people leave, there has to be a system, documentation, or the sort, and multiple billings for the same work?

Anyway, still waiting to be paid. Suggestions? Concrete action? Much appreciated.
[/quote]

First - use the BlueBoard to warn another users. If they finally pay, you can always change your comment.

Secondly - I think you should send them again a summary of all the case - in one big e-mail/letter/fax, quoting all documents. Something like this:

Sep 1st, 2006, Mr X has contacted me via e-mail asking for quotation. My answer was, that the translation will cost $xxx (see attached copy of my e-mail dated....). Mr X has confirmed the order (see attached e-mail, dated...). I have done the translation an sent it on .... . Mr X wanted me to do some additional tasks, and did not complain about the job (see attached e-mail)......

You should finish with something like: "Please pay the amount due by Feb 14, 2007. Should I not receive the payment, I shell take all the measure I find suitable to have the payment done, including but not limited to the legal action." The deadline should be as short as possible, but reasonable - allowing a day or two for actually making the payment.

I am sure you can word it in English better than I do.

If the debtor is located in Western Europe, US, Japan - you should probably attempt the legal action.

If the debtor is from Russia, Poland, Africa, or any other country with inefficient legal system, you should rather consider selling the debt to some local specialized agency. In Poland, depending on the debtor, you can expect to receive something between 30% and 85% of the initial amount - in cash, and immediately.

If the amount due is something like $100, you better only post in the Internet the name of the company and go for a drink, trying to forget about all the case. I know the pain from my own experience, but the life itself is painful, so let's better not make it still worse remembering the cases like this


Regards,

Raf


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Feasibility of debt collecting agency Feb 9, 2007

Hi Harry,

I am very sorry to hear your story. I have read all the documents you sent a few days ago, but I could not reply right away for my Speedy was out of order (it was just recovered today in the afternoon).

You are completely on the right side. It appears that they have really bad management system. This is evident from the rate confusion and multiple billings. BB posting is a good idea.

Furthermore, what Rafal suggested (sending the summary) is worth a try. If it does not work, using debt collecting agency is the last resort. Nevertheless, you should consider whether the amount due is worth the cost or not.

Be patient and keep struggling. May this loss result in more benefits in the future.

Good Luck


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:08
English to German
+ ...
They seem to be organized quite well ... Feb 9, 2007

I agree with Rafal on the steps you could take next.

But I can hardly believe this to have happened unintentionally from their side.
To me this seems like the average story we too often hear in this place. The alleged agency that knows very well how to milk good-willing translators. There are lots of professional and very good and honest agencies out there, so no offence meant for those.
But what you describe here seems very systematic to me:

Sending you a job you complete as agreed.
Sending it back to you with some extra work that was not agreed, but its a new customer and they are so nice etc. etc. so you are happy to oblige.
Then nothing.
Then sending you around from e-mail address to e-mail address to confuse you, to win time.
Then trying to convince you that it was all your fault, that your work is bad, that you should be grateful to receive any money at all.
And finally to frustrate you into giving up.

This seems to be a way of handling business that far too often works for these people. Are you sure you have ever been in contact with more than one or two people? Does the company have a professional website? Have you checked their physical address? Have you checked what the Internet knows about the company and the contacts given to you?

Maybe I sound or really am a bit paranoid in this matter. I know that agencies always have to answer lots of questions from me on first contact. I am not an "easy-going" translator and I am grateful for any project manager's patience with me. But this also means, even the second step you reported would not have worked.

Be nice to new customers, but stick to your agreements. This is a test of how professional an agency is and how willing they are to take you seriously as a business partner. If they fail this test, from my experience it is not worth the effort.


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
TOPIC STARTER
Will do... Feb 9, 2007

Rafal Korycinski wrote:
....

First - use the BlueBoard to warn another users. If they finally pay, you can always change your comment.
...
You should finish with something like: "Please pay the amount due by Feb 14, 2007. Should I not receive the payment, I shell take all the measure I find suitable to have the payment done, including but not limited to the legal action." The deadline should be as short as possible, but reasonable - allowing a day or two for actually making the payment.
...


I will, thanks for the encouragement.



[Edited at 2007-02-09 22:34]


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 9, 2007

Hipyan Nopri wrote:
...
Be patient and keep struggling. May this loss result in more benefits in the future.



Tengkiu Da...moga-moga tembus...


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
TOPIC STARTER
Much appreciated Feb 9, 2007

Claudia Krysztofiak wrote:

...
...
Be nice to new customers, but stick to your agreements. This is a test of how professional an agency is and how willing they are to take you seriously as a business partner. If they fail this test, from my experience it is not worth the effort.



Good point, will consider your thoughts. Thanks.


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Termination Policy Feb 11, 2007

This is another possibly effective measure to take, Harry.

http://www.proz.com/termination_policy


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Navy Huang
China
Local time: 15:08
English to Chinese
+ ...
Seasoned more to be more wise Feb 13, 2007

Claudia Krysztofiak wrote:

I agree with Rafal on the steps you could take next.

But I can hardly believe this to have happened unintentionally from their side.
To me this seems like the average story we too often hear in this place. The alleged agency that knows very well how to milk good-willing translators. There are lots of professional and very good and honest agencies out there, so no offence meant for those.
But what you describe here seems very systematic to me:

Sending you a job you complete as agreed.
Sending it back to you with some extra work that was not agreed, but its a new customer and they are so nice etc. etc. so you are happy to oblige.
Then nothing.
Then sending you around from e-mail address to e-mail address to confuse you, to win time.
Then trying to convince you that it was all your fault, that your work is bad, that you should be grateful to receive any money at all.
And finally to frustrate you into giving up.

This seems to be a way of handling business that far too often works for these people. Are you sure you have ever been in contact with more than one or two people? Does the company have a professional website? Have you checked their physical address? Have you checked what the Internet knows about the company and the contacts given to you?

Maybe I sound or really am a bit paranoid in this matter. I know that agencies always have to answer lots of questions from me on first contact. I am not an "easy-going" translator and I am grateful for any project manager's patience with me. But this also means, even the second step you reported would not have worked.

Be nice to new customers, but stick to your agreements. This is a test of how professional an agency is and how willing they are to take you seriously as a business partner. If they fail this test, from my experience it is not worth the effort.


Sorry stories similar to Harry's can often be seen on all kinds of translation-related forums, which might end with the tellers success, partial success, or most often total failure in their struggles. Everytime I read such story that brings back memory of my own painful experience I would not feel good. At the beginning I did fight for my good benefits, but as time went by I learned that the only effective way and perhaps a better way for such terrible thing is to collect knowledge of fraudulent agencies from painful stories so as to work out preventive measures. Nothing can ever be better than end the terrible story before it even happens.
I quite agree with Claudia's suggestion that might really help in distinguishing "good" and "bad" agencies. Harry, maybe you can have a try in the future.


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
TOPIC STARTER
How... Feb 13, 2007

Haijun Huang wrote:
...quite agree with Claudia's suggestion that might really help in distinguishing "good" and "bad" agencies. Harry, maybe you can have a try in the future.



At first I though LWA was one way to measure the credential of an agency, but unfortunately no entry at the time.

And, the contact person, had the confidence to convince you eventhough we don't exactly know how the agency works.

And I did contact a peer, (who did the same job and who got paid for his part, but he got his share of payment late, and sadly gave good remarks to this agency in Blue Board), inconsiderate though he may seem, he does show his true side of his story.

So, it is sadly a repeat-again phenomena on the freelancer's side. And, I am going through it all, just as any freelancer will go through in this business, being 'trampled' over by unprofessional individuals.

But, hey, I'm surviving, it's just I would be more happier if those that did us freelancers bad things get their fair share of unfortunates somehow through our 'togetherness', but I feel pessimistic that won't happen now.


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Navy Huang
China
Local time: 15:08
English to Chinese
+ ...
Don't be so pessimistic Feb 13, 2007

Harry Hermawan wrote:


But, hey, I'm surviving, it's just I would be more happier if those that did us freelancers bad things get their fair share of unfortunates somehow through our 'togetherness', but I feel pessimistic that won't happen now.


Please don't be so pessimistic. You can see so many colleagues are helping you out of this, which is but a good demonstration of "togetherness" though it still needs further enhancement.
My point is, to quote Rafal's words "If the amount due is something like $100, you better only post in the Internet the name of the company and go for a drink, trying to forget about all the case. I know the pain from my own experience, but the life itself is painful, so let's better not make it still worse remembering the cases like this" and I am glad you have been through this. Unfair things keep happening every day on this planet and you would never feel truly free or happy till you truly free yourself from wanting those "bad" guys to suck their "fair share of unfortunates". By agreeing with Claudia's suggestion I mean it is really a good idea to test translation agencies in the way she mentioned besides just browsing entries on LWA before working with them.
As life goes on, as translation career goes on, as we meet new faces, as we cooperate with agencies, the possibility of being cheated is always there! And I think it would really be better if we can prevent those things from happening.
Good luck, my dear colleague


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 09:08
French to Dutch
+ ...
My experience Feb 13, 2007

I once worked for an agency and the story was the same: no payment, even after some reminders. It was a small amount and I forgot about it. Eighteen months later (!) someone came, felt that this was not good for the reputation of the agency, cleaned up the mess and I got paid.

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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
TOPIC STARTER
You know the feeling...time will tell... Feb 13, 2007

Haijun Huang wrote:
Please don't be so pessimistic. ....
...

By agreeing with Claudia's suggestion I mean it is really a good idea to test translation agencies in the way she mentioned besides just browsing entries on LWA before working with them.
.....
Good luck, my dear colleague


You get the feeling.

I guess time heals all wounds. No grudges.

Just happy to see all of you are "listening".

Thanks again for the encouragement.

:D:D


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 14:08
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
TOPIC STARTER
Hope this happens....soon Feb 13, 2007

NMR wrote:

...Eighteen months later (!) someone came, felt that this was not good for the reputation of the agency, cleaned up the mess and I got paid.


Hoping it will happen sooner... Thanks for sharing...people....


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