Strange behavior of one translation agency-what to do?
Thread poster: Aleksandar Krga

Aleksandar Krga  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:24
German to Serbian
+ ...
Jul 12, 2003

Hi Colleaugues!

First of all, excuse my poor english.

Some two months ago, I got a call from Polland if I would be interested in a project of nearly 100.000 words (German-Serbian). After that I got E-Mail from slovenian branch with details (no mention about time limit for payment ). They offered 0,04 Euro per word - I asked for 0,045 (it is big project, and I had no other projects at this moment), but they said they can not offer more than that- so I accepted this.

Agreement was to translate some 2.000 words per day. It is very technical and quite specialized text (bottle-fulling plant). I made first batch (some 30.000 words) and one week after the beginning, I asked them for pictures or any other references because there war technical terms, that could have many different meanings in Serbian. I got this reference 2 weeks after finishing this first part (and 3 weeks after my first request). As I got the references, I had only TWO days (weekend) to review and correct my work according to the references.

After that other parts came, so I asked many times: how are the plans for payment (without any answer). That made me a little bit supsictious, so I pointed out, that I am not going to do any further batch without be payed for the first one-at first moment they agreed with that, but told me, I shouls send them a invoice per regular post. I did so and continued my work - no answer again. I asked about invoice, they said, that they got it, and they are going to pay it so soon as possible. After two weeks without any information about that I stopped the work and accented that we had one agreement about paying the first batch, and that I was waiting more then 2 weeks for references and that I continued my work although they did not fulfilled their part of agreement.
Answer was, that client made one Euro 500 discount on first job because of bad translation quality and that should be the reason for delay. In betweeen (suspictios after all this) I asked some 3-4 times when may I expect the payment for first batch and when is the rest of the job to be payed - No answer at all.

Last friday, i checked my bank account - nothing there. I stopped work (this is last part of the project - some 10Kwords) and wrote them E-Mail with all the facts mentioned before and said again that I will not continue the work until:
1. they pay the first batch
2. they should write some kind of "guarantuee" with:

  • details of the project (word number, word price, doscounts

  • estimation of final amount

  • time limit for payment (i proposed 15 days / I know 30 days is fair enough)

They should sign and stemp this agreement, and I will send them last batch just after arriving original guarantee and payment for first batch.

After that I got a big E-Mail: They repeated that they had discount on first batch, they have 45/days payment agreement with customer, they have to wait to customers opinion and so on. I am kindly asked to continue the work, and to send it on monday, after decision of their director.

So I am asking You what would You do?
I am not so much disturbed about not paying; but the fact, that they are ignoring all my questions about final payment (specialy because we work first time together) make me very supsectious. I believe, they will pay, but this discounts (there is no way to prove the quality) make me suspectious, that I will get not even this misearable price, but only a part.

Second question: they make next discounts on repetitions and fuzzy-matches (It was my mistake, I didn't spoke with them before about that):
100% match: 75%
95-99% 70%
75/94% 50%
Is this OK ? The strange thing is, they use Translation Memory, that is mostly filled by my side - they gave me starting TM and made some corrections. Does it affect the number of repetitions?

Now I think, I will insist on a "freelance translation" contract - if I had to expect any discounts, I wont to know aobout them, if they can not pay in less then 45 days - I must know that before we start the project. Yes, I know, I had to make all this things clear before I accepted the work - but I believed there is no reason for that.
Should I insist on contract, or may be, You have a better idea?

Thank You in advance and greetings from sunny Serbia,
Aleksandar Krga dipl ing inf

[Edited at 2003-07-14 10:12]

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Cintia Pecellin  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:24
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
Get a contract! Jul 13, 2003

Dear Aleksandar,

What a problem! I would definitely ask for a signed contract before delivering any more work. As for the poor quality of your translation, if they say so, they have the obligation to tell you exactly where you made your mistakes. If you don't agree, tell them.

If I were you, I will write them yet another e-mail tomorrow morning, telling them I have finished the work, but WILL NOT send it their way untill they either pay me or send me a signed contract detailing all conditions.

Good luck collecting payment and in your future endeavors.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:54
English to Tamil
+ ...
Sorry, you did all the possible mistakes with regard to negociations Jul 13, 2003

From your posting I conclude that this is your first project with them. Perhaps you were not even aware of their existence before this. If such is the case all the more reason to be prudent. Did you check the blue board? You should have got the payment question clarified at the outset and insisted on a firm job order along with a reasonable advance before starting the work.
The agency does not seem to be acting in good faith. If your translation was poor why should they ask you to continue? Challenge them to show you where your translation is poor. Do not send any further translations to them. As for repetitions, if the matter had not been raised beforehand, refuse flatly to reduce the rates for the same. I wish I could say something encouraging in this thing. Just cut your losses and sit tight. And consider this as a lesson. Most important, put the agency on the blue board giving full details of the agency. I wish that I am wrong and you get satisfactory payment from the agency. All the best.

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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:24
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
I feel bad for you, Aleksander. Jul 13, 2003

Dear Alekander,

First, your English is fine. I wish my Serbian was as good as your English.

I feel bad for you, doing all that work and not getting paid. I did a bid for a job with this agency and they asked me to do a test translation for them. I did and then never heard from them again. Perhaps I got lucky (who knows, if I worked for them I would have had the same problems) or maybe my per-word fee shocked them. I did not lose anything, but my time but your case is very different.

Unfortunately, you learn from the things that happen to you in the past. Next time, definitely prepare a contract and if it is a large project put in the contract that you need to receive payment in installments. Do NOT start working on the second batch until you have received money in your account for the first one.

Regarding their saying that you did not do a good job. If that were the case, then why did they want you to continue with the second and third batch? Don't believe them; they are probably trying to get out of paying you. Also, next time, get the deadline extended (and put that in the contract as a stipulation) if you have to check your work with charts and pictures they sent you. You should not have to do a rush job and perhaps get rattled because they send the requested materials so late.

Another thing, .05 cents is way too low for a technical translation like the one you are describing. Perhaps that should have raised your alarm too. If they do not want to pay that, there is a problem right there and then.

Well, all in all, this was a lesson you learned. I am sorry that it was such a time-consuming and costly one.

Good luck with the rest of your projects!


[Edited at 2003-07-13 10:26]

[Edited at 2003-07-13 12:07]

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Susanna & Christian Popescu GbR
Local time: 22:24
Romanian to German
+ ...
I had a similar experience with them Jul 13, 2003

so I rated them on the Blue Board here as well and on other forums (Translators'Cafe, yahoo etc.). Some three weeks ago I even got a suspect e-mail with an attachment to be opened. In the subject line they wrote something like their name and *payment*. I wanted to open it, but my administrator had cleaned it with the remark "the attachment contained a virus". No comment!
Apparently they act likewise with others. So I suggest you do the same (rate them wherever you can), as other colleagues should be prevented from working for them. As for me, I wouldn't work for them a second time, even if they paid me half a year in advance the triple price I ask for!
Regards, Christian

[Edited at 2003-07-14 10:41]

[Edited at 2003-07-14 10:42]

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Eva Blanar  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:24
English to Hungarian
+ ...
It looks really bad, but... Jul 13, 2003

I understand you don't have a contract with that agency, but you probably have some kind of written commitment from them where they state
- the task to be done,
- the rate per word (source or target) and
where they evidently do NOT state that there will be a reduction for repetitions (otherwise you would have known about that, wouldn't you?).

My personal opinion is that now that you went a very long way to meet their needs, it is not too likely that withholding that last tiny bit of the job will force them to pay you. I am afraid it'd rather be a good excuse for not paying you. Therefore, if I were you, I would
- send them what is still due,
- send an invoice, by registered mail with confirmation receipt, for the amount calculated as number of words multiplied by the rate per word (if they "forgot" to give you details about their pricing policy, it is their problem),
- start to collect information on the agency's usual payment practices (Blue Board), to learn if there are others who had the same problem and learn about the solutions they came to.

At any rate: be polite, but firm. Let them understand that they ordered a job from you and they shall pay for it. Don't enter into some dispute about quality and what is usual, what not: I'd say you ought to communicate with them only in writing, in short sentences, and without emotions. You don't need to explain yourself: you did a job and the time to pay for that has come. Period.

Just for your information (and not to be used as an argument for getting paid):
- the price you mentioned is so low that all discounts shall be included in that, even the eventually poor quality of the translation
- a discount applied by the client is extremely unlikely (why didn't they withdraw their order instead?!)
- the agency's task is to take charge of quality assurance, not yours and, actually, why did they go on sending you new and new portions of the job if you did not perform well? And why didn't they appoint a proofreader? No, don't let them cheat you!

I'll cross my fingers for you

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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:24
Dutch to English
+ ...
Payment Jul 13, 2003

Eva Blanar wrote:
At any rate: be polite, but firm. Let them understand that they ordered a job from you and they shall pay for it. Don't enter into some dispute about quality and what is usual, what not: I'd say you ought to communicate with them only in writing, in short sentences, and without emotions. You don't need to explain yourself: you did a job and the time to pay for that has come. Period.

Eva is right. I would also deliver what is left and just 'bombard' them with letters (and calls if you feel up to that). Start just sending them reminders with a covering letter stating that payment is overdue. Something like:
Please find enclosed copies of invoices XXX and YYY, which are overdue and, as far as I can tell, unpaid.

I would much appreciate it if payment of the above was done as soon as possible.

If nothing happens, be more and more threatening. Always sign and date your correspondence.

My next step is:
I would much appreciate it if payment of the above was done as soon as possible. Should payment not be received by [the date] I will have to seek legal advice on how to retrieve the money that is owed to me.

My third step would actually constitute a threat of taking them to court which I have never had to do so far (I am glad to say).

Deducting 500 euro from the first batch would represent a 40% discount. Don't accept this. Like Eva said, that is not your problem. The agency should have had the work proof-read and should have informed you in time so that you could make amendments.

100% match: 75%
95-99% 70%
75/94% 50%

I think the above should be:
100% match: 50%
95-99% 70%
75/94% 75%

Were you aware of the discount rates for matches before the project started? If so, they are not unreasonable. The analysis should, however, be transparent to both you and your customer.

Good luck!

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invguy  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:24
English to Bulgarian
Just an idea. Jul 13, 2003

Go to a lawyer (or, even better, to a law firm), explain the case and ask them to send a letter to that agency. They'd normally know what to do, but here are some suggestions:

- state that from this point on they are authorized by you to handle communication between you and the agency referring to legal and financial matters;
- state that all previous communication had been stored and all further communication will be put on record, in case problems arise betwen you and the agency;
- make mention of international law-related agreements to which both countries are sides;
- formulate all this in the appropriate way... they know how.

The prospect of a lawyer handling legal/financial relationships always makes an ill-meaning client shape up and be more careful about what they're doing. Luckily, I've never needed to use this method myself, but I know people that have, and I can tell you it works.

Best of luck... neighbour

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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
magic words Jul 14, 2003

Marijke Singer wrote:
My next step is:
I would much appreciate it if payment of the above was done as soon as possible. Should payment not be received by [the date] I will have to seek legal advice on how to retrieve the money that is owed to me.

The magic words "I will have to seek legal advice" worked for me like a charm in a recent situation. I am happy I did not have to go through with actually dealing with a lawyer, but sometimes it is enough for your debtors to realize you are aware of your options and are ready to pursue them.

I agree with what has been said about the agency not playing fair with you. And I wish you the very best luck.


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pascie  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:24
English to French
+ ...
Just an option Jul 15, 2003

Dear Aleksandar, I do share your disappointment. This is what I will do in your case. Try to find someone who can certify the translation of your first batch. Send it to this agency with your invoice and a nice letter. I am sure you will get a quick feedback.
Really hope things will be back to normal for you and you will see your efforts and work granted.

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