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We need a better - or more honest - Blue Board system
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:13
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Nov 8, 2008

I am sick and tired of having a Blue Board system that works according to diplomacy.

Translator No. 1 does several jobs for a new agency, and 30-day payment terms are agreed. The agency happily agrees to them. There is, however, at least a 99% chance that Translator No. 1 will not have been paid for any of the jobs by the time the 30-day mark is reached, and then has to start sending reminders. The agency then pays in about a further 3 to 10 days, starting with the smallest invoice.

Nonetheless, in order to get further jobs from this agency - and because the agency paid in the end, even though it was on average within 40 days, Ttranslator No. 1 goes to the Blue Board and awards the agency a "5", with the comment that the agency is "very professional". If Translator No. 1 awards a "4" instead, because the agency has not behaved perfectly, that is these days regarded as a poor grade, and, if a translator continues to award a grade "4" to every other agency who behaves the same way, then that translator will soon never get any work from ANY agencies again. Therefore, it is imperative to award a 5.

Translator No. 2 comes along, is looking for a couple of new agencies to work for, sees all the 5's awarded on the Blue Board, and thinks, "Hey, this is a great agency to work for!". So, Translator No. 2 contacts the same agency, and the cycle begins again. Translator No. 2 also gets paid after 40 days, instead of the agreed 30, and also awards the agency a grade 5.

Well, that is one situation.

Another situation is this:

Translator No. 1 has been working for a particular agency for the past three years. Three years ago this agency was in the process of getting established and paid Translator No. 1 by return, on the very same day! After a while the agency got a little bit wiser on the subject of money and started paying Translator No. 1 after about 21 days. Over a period of time this became 28 days, then 30 days, and in recent times it has been 35, 40, 45 or 50 days, entirely at random. Translator No. 1 is constantly having to send out reminders for payment to this agency. Unfortunately, this pattern of behaviour does not show up on the agency's Blue Board record. Translator No. 1 had already awarded this agency a 5, along with glowing comments, in the early days. Three years have passed since then. Nevertheless, in the meantime, the agency has also awarded Translator No. 1 an excellent WWA entry with glowing comments. This makes it embarrassing for Translator No. 1 to make a fresh Blue Board entry with a lower grade.

Translator No. 100 comes along, at this very point in time, as a brand new translator for the agency, and receives payment extremely promptly, out of the very money that the agency owes to Translator No. 1! Translator No. 100 therefore goes to the Blue Board and makes a new entry for the agency: "5. Extremely fast payment! Very professional!". Translator No. 1 looks on in disgust. Meanwhile the agency maintains its glowing record of 5's. There is absolutely no suggestion on the Blue Board that its payment practices have deteriorated.

-

Now, what I would like to see is a foolproof system where this cannot happen. What we need is a system where, independently of any comments on the agency's general conduct, we can simply mark down the exact number of days after which an agency paid, like at a credit reference agency. For example, a system where, on the same date that we issue an invoice to an agency, we can neutrally "record" that the invoice has been issued to that agency, giving the date and amount. In the same way, we can put a tick by it, publicly, on the Blue Board, showing the date on which it was paid, thus the number of days after which it was paid. Again, simply done neutrally, factually. In this way a record could be built up which would show payment trends and highlight periods in which an agency pays at 29 days and periods in which it pays at 47 days. It would also show up if an agency pays its established translators at 45 days (after agreeing to 30) and its new translators within a week. We absolutely desperately need a system which is not based on diplomacy.

Astrid


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Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 05:13
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
..and your suggestions? Nov 10, 2008

Hi Astrid,

interesting insights.

What is your suggestion for a better Blue Board? I presume you are aware of the fact that all the cases you have presented are not resulting from any system flaw, but rather from a subjective use of the system. How could the system prevent this?

Thanks!

Giuliana


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:13
English to German
+ ...
Incorporating payment terms Nov 10, 2008

Hi Astrid,
I will only comment shortly on the examples you provide: these effects exist, but not every good average LWA is the result of such tactics. Remember that moderators vet each and every entry posted, so I would assume that we can assess the information: there are 'non-diplomatic' entries, quite a number of them, actually.


Translator No. 1 is constantly having to send out reminders for payment to this agency. Unfortunately, this pattern of behaviour does not show up on the agency's Blue Board record.

That depends entirely on this translator.

Translator No. 1 had already awarded this agency a 5, along with glowing comments, in the early days. Three years have passed since then. Nevertheless, in the meantime, the agency has also awarded Translator No. 1 an excellent WWA entry with glowing comments. This makes it embarrassing for Translator No. 1 to make a fresh Blue Board entry with a lower grade.

Well, we do see entries being changed (or updated entries added) in both directions.

Now, what I would like to see is a foolproof system where this cannot happen.

I don't think it's possible to come up with a "foolproof" system, but I like your suggestion of incorporating payment terms.

What we need is a system where, independently of any comments on the agency's general conduct, we can simply mark down the exact number of days after which an agency paid, like at a credit reference agency. For example, a system where, on the same date that we issue an invoice to an agency, we can neutrally "record" that the invoice has been issued to that agency, giving the date and amount. In the same way, we can put a tick by it, publicly, on the Blue Board, showing the date on which it was paid, thus the number of days after which it was paid. Again, simply done neutrally, factually. In this way a record could be built up which would show payment trends and highlight periods in which an agency pays at 29 days and periods in which it pays at 47 days. It would also show up if an agency pays its established translators at 45 days (after agreeing to 30) and its new translators within a week. We absolutely desperately need a system which is not based on diplomacy.

If I understand you correctly, your concept would extend (and hopefully, improve) the current structure, not replace it.

Personally, I expect that asking providers to post invoice details - particularly with amounts - will deter many providers from participating. Also, creating a full 'date log' would give rise to disputes over when a payment was (or should have been) received. Again, speaking from moderating experience, some providers (can) check incoming payments every one or two weeks only.

What I would suggest is to add a few boxes to tick when posting a BB entry:
- agreed payment terms (90d) after (delivery / invoice date / receipt of invoice / end of invoice month);
- paid within agreed terms (yes / no);
- if 'no', by how many days were agreed terms exceeded.

Standardising the data would probably also help compile statistics, and compare data.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:13
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, I realise that what I have suggested is too detailed for comfort Nov 10, 2008

Many thanks for your response, Ralf! Those three boxes, as you suggest them, would be a great help towards providing accurate information and creating data on trends. It might also encourage outsourcers to be more careful to pay within the agreed time. At the same time, if a record regularly says that payment was 1 to 3 days late, there will probably still be plenty of translators willing to work with that agency.

If a Blue Board entry is based on more than one translation, the provider could answer the three questions based on the average.

Giuliana, my suggestions were given in my last paragraph.


Astrid



[Edited at 2008-11-10 07:42]


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:13
Member (2003)
French to English
Ralf's suggestions optional? Nov 10, 2008

I agree with Ralf insofar as I'd be happy to state whether invoices were paid within agreed terms or not, however I wouldn't be prepared to state my terms any more than I would be willing to state my rates in public - as far as I'm concerned that information is confidential between me and my client.

I think it's also worth bearing in mind that there's more to working with an agency than whether it pays at 15, 30, 45 or 60 days. When I check the Blue Board it's as much to find out whether the project managers are supportive, feed queries through to clients, help the translator to communicate with the proofreader and so on.

Maybe there are some flaws in the system - I can't say I've ever seen a flawless system that involves human input - but surely the key thing is to make it easy for people to participate? I'd rather see a broad range of opinion than very detailed information from a handful.

Best,

Karen


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:13
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Optional boxes Nov 10, 2008

I would suggest that "agreed payment terms" is optional, that "paid within the term" is optional, and that "If not, how many days late was the payment made" is mandatory if the provider has answered that payment was not made within the agreed term. There could also be pre-set answers, such as "1 to 3 days late", 4 to 6 days late", "1 - 2 weeks late", "3 - 4 weeks late", "1 - 2 months late" and "over 2 months late".

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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:13
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Allow more space for comments Nov 10, 2008

I don't think having more tick boxes on the Blue Board is necessarily the answer. I suggest that there should be more room for comments. At present, the space allowed is extremely brief, considerably limiting what a freelancer can say. Another translators' website I belong to allows much more room, which is helpful when detailed explanation of a situation is required.
Would that be possible?
Personally, I find the Blue Board one of Proz's most useful features, even if it has minor flaws.
Regards,
Jenny


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 06:13
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Ralf suggestion seems excellent Nov 10, 2008

I find Ralf's suggestions (and also Astrids and Karens comments about making the boxes optional) very good; tick boxes are easy and quick to use. Of course, also the comment box could be made to allow more text.

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:13
French to English
other ideas, take 'em or leave 'em Nov 10, 2008

For several of my providers, I would struggle to tell you what the "agreed terms" are.
Yeah, I know, shockingly amateur of me.
I bill them in the first week or so of a month and payment turns up sometime the month after, everyone's happy.
I only do monthly billing.
However, whether or not that makes me more or less amateur than people running with such a small float that they get twitchy when payments are 2 days after they expect them is not for me to decide.

And so, because we all operate differently, I support the objective factual approach as suggested. I would propose the following 3 fields (for those who wish to):
invoice date (i.e. the date actually shown on it)
invoice sent (i.e. the date it was actually sent)
invoice paid

The reason for the first two? Even a Slack Harry like me has noticed that some agencies will treat an invoice dated on the last day of month M differently to an invoice dated on the first day of M+1, even if both are sent on the 1st of M+1.

I think (altho I could be mistaken) that armed with these 3 dates, people could draw their own conclusions, rather than having to take other people's judgements at face value.


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 06:13
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
A matter of principle Nov 10, 2008

A bit off-topic perhaps...
Charlie: it's not necessarily a matter of the translator being in trouble if payment does not arrive on time. For me it is a matter of principle. I deliver my work to the clients on or before the due date/time. I think I am entitled to expect that my clients in turn respect the due dates on my invoices and pay on or before the due date.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:13
Italian to English
+ ...
I'm even more amateur than Charlie Nov 10, 2008

I sometimes don't check incoming payments for a couple of months - shocking, I know...

I can see the benefit of Charlie's approach, as it is far more objective, but as most of us (I assume) do work with the same agencies repeatedly, it might be best to state that the last invoice issued and paid for a given client should be used. I'd be more in favour of a "reminder needed" box, but as some people seem to send out lawyer's letters one day after the deadline and others finally get round to sending an e-mail after a few months, that would probably be too subjective.

I also agree with Karen that payment terms are not the only important point, and the most useful comments are certainly those which say "x is a joy to work with" rather than "x paid on time", whatever the rating may be.

I don't actually have a problem with the Blue Board as it stands, as I haven't had any of the experiences that Astrid refers to. I've managed to get a pretty good idea of which agencies I want to be working with from looking them up on the BB after they approach me, and I've never been disappointed yet.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:13
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Would the three boxes still work if they could only be used once per year? Nov 10, 2008

I am wondering if the three boxes suggested by Ralf could be implemented in such a way that statistical information could be provided more than once per year - while still retaining the system of awarding an overall grade and a comment only once per year?

For example, if a translator often sends two invoices per agency per month, i.e. 24 invoices per year to a particular agency (or even only 12, if invoicing is carried out on a monthly basis), it would make sense to be able to provide this information on more than one invoice in 24 or 12.

I would therefore suggest that this information could be filled in whenever wished.

Astrid


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
How about yearly reminders? Nov 10, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
Now, what I would like to see is a foolproof system where this cannot happen. What we need is a system where, independently of any comments on the agency's general conduct, we can simply mark down the exact number of days after which an agency paid, like at a credit reference agency.


That is one (complex) solution. I have an entirely different suggestion. If a translator had made a BB entry, he receives a reminder one year later to update his entry. He can't change his old entry, but he can add a short note to it (only if he had recently worked for that client).

A twist in this suggestion may be that a translator should be forced to update his entry (even if it is done by selecting one of three or four options, if he doesn't want to add an updated comment).


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Enrique Cavalitto
Local time: 01:13
SITE STAFF
Likelihood of working again Nov 10, 2008

It is important to remember that the numerical portion of a Blue Board entry is not a measure of the quality of the outsourcer, but a numerical indication (from 1 to 5) corresponding to the service provider's likelihood of working again (LWA) with the outsourcer.

Enrique


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gad
United States
Local time: 00:13
Member
French to English
I like Ralf's/Astrid's suggestion Nov 10, 2008

I think that more information could be helpful, and give a more accurate picture. And tick boxes are easy to use. They could be done somewhat anonymously, like on eBay how buyers can enter more detailed information regarding sellers.

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