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Agency policy updates re: the economy and our rates
Thread poster: MGL

MGL  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:55
Russian to English
Dec 12, 2008

[Dear Mods: I really don't know which forum is best suited for this topic! Please move as needed.]

Over the past few weeks, I have been receiving unsolicited installments of a peculiar new tragicomedy. I am sure I am not the only one, and was wondering about the impression it left with others. My summary and interpretation:

Act 1: BANNING THE R WORD PAYS DIVIDENDS (hint: it's the recession...)

[…]“We’ve banned any mention of the “R” word at AGENCY X,” Mr.X says. “We’ve also asked our staff to ration themselves in terms of the amount of negative news they watch or read, and we’ve launched a ‘Good News’ staff communication to tell people about all the exciting things that are happening.”[…]

Then, a week later, Act II: Important Notice. Time for some news about all of those exciting things that are happening! Having banned "The R Word," we now receive the exciting news that X are now extending their payment period:

[…]The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to communicate a necessary change in the payment terms set by AGENCY X with its translation service providers.
1. From 1st January 2009, payment terms will be set at 60 days end of month. Therefore if you submit an invoice in January 2009, you will receive payment by the end of March 2009.
2. With the exception of projects for which you have agreed to waive your minimum charge, all jobs under 300 words will now be paid at a standard minimum charge rate of £10 (or the equivalent amount in the currency you charge, and get paid in).[…]


Hmm… OK… So the R of Which We Shall Not Speak exists after all… Yes, Virginia, there IS a—

But wait! Act II is not yet over — there is a surprise twist in the plot, as this message is followed by another nearly 10 minutes later:

“X would like to recall the message, "Important Notice."

Intriguing!!

Now for ACT III, released today and entitled “AGENCY X in the Current Climate.”

Act III begins with the standard song and dance:
[…]“You recently heard from us regarding AGENCY’s success in winning the ‘AWARD NAME’. This was a great achievement for us and reflects the hard work from our Sales teams in winning new clients, our Projects teams for efficiently managing our clients’ projects, and from yourselves for your continued support.” […]

Suddenly the lights are dimmed as the R Word (cleverly disguised as ‘Current Climate’) enters stage left with the following announcement:

[…]We are writing to communicate a necessary change in the payment terms set by AGENCY with its translation service providers:
1. Your standard rate will be reduced by 6%.
2. With the exception of projects for which you have agreed to waive your minimum charge, a standard minimum charge rate of £10 (€12; $15) will now apply.[…]


Followed by the comparably sunshine-and-rainbows resolution to the mysterious recall in Act II:
We considered many options that may help us endure this challenging time, including changing payment terms to 60 days, but have decided to leave these as they are (payment by the end of the month following the month of invoicing), as we understand how important regular cashflow is to all of our suppliers.


Whew! What a relie— wait, what???
I almost can’t wait to see what happens next…!


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:55
French to English
Interesting Dec 12, 2008

That they seem therefore to equate 30/31 days with 6%.
I'd like to know who they bank with

IF I were forced to make a choice, and only from those options, I'd rather get the old rate 30 days later.

Still, I guess you will be seeking pastures new....

(Presumably they are taking a hammering over exchange rates. To be fair, I doubt that a 6% change covers their "loss" entirely. Still, that's international trade. Don't suppose they would be offereing you 6% extra if exchange rates had gone the other way.)


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:55
Italian to English
+ ...
Ridiculous! Dec 12, 2008

They think they can unilaterally reduce how much you, as an independent service provider, decide to charge them?

I'd write back saying something like

"I'm in complete agreement that it's time to abolish the R word. From now on, I shall be referring exclusively to my Tariff. I was in fact about to inform you that, effective from January 2009, I would be amending my payment terms to 15 days, but on reflection I feel that a rise in my standard Tariff of 6% is an option that will help me endure this challenging time."

Alternatively, you can tell them to go to hell in a handcart - I hope you don't actually need to work with a company that arrogant!


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MGL  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:55
Russian to English
TOPIC STARTER
I had the same reaction, basically Dec 12, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

They think they can unilaterally reduce how much you, as an independent service provider, decide to charge them?

I'd write back saying something like

"I'm in complete agreement that it's time to abolish the R word. From now on, I shall be referring exclusively to my Tariff. I was in fact about to inform you that, effective from January 2009, I would be amending my payment terms to 15 days, but on reflection I feel that a rise in my standard Tariff of 6% is an option that will help me endure this challenging time."

Alternatively, you can tell them to go to hell in a handcart - I hope you don't actually need to work with a company that arrogant!



They weren't a regular of mine, just the occasional thing here and there. Thankfully my "current climate" permits me to sit back and watch the curtains close on this one. Pass the popcorn!


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 03:55
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
I replied Dec 12, 2008

I replied, asking if the 6% reduction was in addition to the other reduction "announced" a few days ago.
Nancy


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:55
English to French
+ ...
I just got a toned down version of the same Dec 12, 2008

One of my best clients advised me two days ago that the 30-day payment term is being replaced by a new 45-day payment term. The excuse given has nothing to do with the R word - they say that their clients across Europe and North America have changed (?) their payment terms.

My spontaneous reply to that would be "Well, it is your problem that you let your clients manage your company - meantime, I will manage mine as appropriate, thank you very much. And this includes setting my own payment terms."

I will give it some thought. I just really feel sad that big, professional companies are letting their clients define the company's payment terms. And what would happen if all agencies said "No, Sir, this is our payment term - take it or leave it."? Those clients have to get their translations somewhere - don't they?


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:55
French to English
(Another) British disease? Dec 12, 2008

I'm guessing the ref to "£" as the first currency they mention means they are my compatriots.

As I've mentioned on this forum before, several major retail chains in the UK announced months ago (possibly even last year?) that they were unilaterally imposing 2% discounts from supplier invoices that were paid on the due date.
Why? Because they can. The suppliers need them more than they need the suppliers. The customers act accordingly.

I would venture to suggest that this is the perception here. If you don't accept the terms, there are dozens of translators who will. (This does, of course, rather assume that all translators are equal and interchangeable; we, of course, know different )


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:55
English to German
+ ...
Just tell them that you have banned the R-word in your office as well Dec 12, 2008

R = Reduction

Which is soooo not acceptable.

"Your standard rate will be reduced by 6%." - hee, that's a good one. I will use it when I go grocery shopping tonight. Let's see what they tell me.


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Dawn Montague  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:55
German to English
+ ...
I got the same letter Dec 12, 2008

Got the same letter and told them my rate would go up, not down. My registered rate with them was already higher than they really liked, so I didn't get much work from them anyway. I told them that from now on, if they wanted my services, I will charge them my new client rate. After all, my costs have gone up over the past year, not down. I'm sure I won't get any more work from them...

Negotiation is an important part of business - but that is not negotiation. Negotiation should include respect. If they want 6% cuts from all their translators, they should also demand it from all their employees - just see how that would go over.

In the end, it's a shame we have to deal with such things, but it is a fact of life, and I'm sure they will find translators willing to accept their terms. There was a time, when I was starting out, that I would have grudgingly accepted simply because we were "hungry" and I was naive (not the best condition in which to start a translation career). What bothers me the most, I think, is that their goal of becoming one of the top 5 translation agencies looks like it may be achieved on the backs of their freelance contractors.

[Edited at 2008-12-12 22:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2008-12-12 23:05 GMT]


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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 10:55
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Yeah, I received a few like Dec 12, 2008

Megan Lehmann wrote:
1. From 1st January 2009, payment terms will be set at 60 days end of month.


And replied that due to the crises we will schedule deliveries first to our clients paying on time, for the rest, due to the crises, we sadly will have to reschedule our deliveries to take place 60 days after the deadline EOM.

Let's see...

Uldis


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Nadejda Vega Cespedes  Identity Verified

Local time: 09:55
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
How come did I miss Act II? Dec 13, 2008

Here, Act I was immediately followed by Act III. I told them my rates would remain unchanged until further notice – from me, not from them, – and that was it. The agency is huge, their clients are even bigger, the idea that any of them will fail to survive the crisis unless I charge them 6% less is ridiculous. To be sure, considering the way I was approached, accepting the reduction was out of the question anyway.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
We should express our opinion to the customer Dec 13, 2008

It is so important to have the rates included and signed along with the NDA and contract agreement agreement you may sign with new customers from now on!! We have done so with a new customer recently and are very happy. It was their initiative, which speaks a lot about them as a responsible company. Their non-disclosure and liability clauses were completely reasonable.

On the other side of things: this week we were informed by another new customer that they have changed their payment terms too... unilaterally. Luckily, we hadn't signed the contractor agreement yet (although we have done some jobs for them already), so I have included the payment term and the rates in the contract and have sent it to the customer, along with other changes in parts we did not agree with.

[Edited at 2008-12-13 09:16 GMT]


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:55
Dutch to English
+ ...
I got the same information Dec 13, 2008

And they offered me a highly specialised job for a blue chip company at half my normal rate but since it was for such a prestigious company... I was very lucky to get this job.

I told them that since most of my customers are based in Europe, my rates had actually gone up by 20% and it made no business sense to accept this job. Needless to say, I never heard any more about this. Just as well since I've been swamped with jobs ever since... and am fully booked at my exorbitant rate until March 2009.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The luxury car thing Dec 13, 2008

I sometimes wonder what would happen if we went to an Audi dealer and said we wanted an A4 for the price of a small Skoda. They would simply find it amusing, and would perhaps go down 10-15% of the price and/or will give you some extra for free. But they will not go down 50% just because they are not selling at one particular moment in time. They prefer not to sell than selling badly. It's just a prestige matter.

As long as we can handle and we are not at the verge of not being able to pay our bills, we should not reduce our rates dramatically to get jobs. A 10-15% of leeway is OK, but if we sell our Audi for the price of a Skoda... we'll be doing a big damage to our own future and the future of the industry. And in fact, if you value your job and can sell it to the customer, they will be happy to offer a rate that is still OK for you. This has happened to us many times in the past.

NB: I have a Skoda, so I'm not saying it is a bad car. It's an excellent car for my needs!


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Paul Adie  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Spanish to English
+ ...
Just sent an email... Dec 13, 2008

Just sent an email responding to the letter informing me of a 6% reduction. I am really rather fuming at this. How dare an agency say that it can control our rates as freelancers? This is a complete contradiction of what being a freelancer is supposed to be.

I have done what I can, sent an email to the agency in question describing my feelings, and posted a comment up here. I ask other translators to do the same, as we really must rally together to raise awareness of translation as a serious profession, and of translators as serious professionals just like doctors, architects, teachers, etc. and to dispell the view that we can be herded together like sheep and be forced to run whichever way the snapping foul mouths of agencies decides.

This is why I love ProZ.com.

On a lighter note, I do work for some very professional agencies.

Let's stick together on this one!

Paul


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