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Would you inform the endcustomer?
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:15
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Nov 14, 2003

Let's suppose you get an offer from an agency about a translation job. You find out from colleagues, that the agency is a notorious non-payer. Suppose further, you can identify the endcustomer for the translation. Would you inform this firm about the business practices of the agency: offering cheap translations by not paying its translators?
Is it legally proper to do so? Any opinions?


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:15
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'm torn. Nov 14, 2003

Interesting question, and I have mixed feelings about it, really.

But what I would definitely do is -- if you do take the translation job (I don't know why you would, but let's talk hypothically), and payment is delayed, or never comes -- then definitely contact the end user and tell them. They have the right to know that the company they worked with to get the translation done does not honor its contracts with others.

What does everyone else think? Am I completely off base?


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:15
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
No way ! Nov 14, 2003

What the agency agrees with the enduser is none of your business, (if the end-user does not pay the agency, you still expect to get paid, rigth?) - it´s the same the other way around... however....

You can still draw up something in your contract that the end-user is not allowed to use your translation unless it's paid for, and you will contact the enduser to have them sign an agreement to not use your text if the agency does not pay...


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:15
It happened to me once. Nov 14, 2003

The person with whom I worked was delaying my payments for more than three months and blaming the end customer. After giving it thoughtful consideration, I approached the end customer asking how long it usually took them to pay their invoices. They were suprised and uncomfortable, but they did answer that they paid quite expeditiously (not more than one month delay), PARTICULARLY when they knew the work had been performed by a freelancer. When I explained the situation in full, the end customer did not want to get involved in the matter and politely requested that I solve this problem directly with the agent.

Needless to say, the agent was furious and suggested I was ruining his/her professional reputation (when in fact he/she was ruining it him/herself with such practices).

In the end, my message got across loud and clear; despite the whole ordeal, the agent is still working with me and payments have not been delayed anymore. I suppose I am dealing with one of those persons that are always trying to find out how much they can get away with... nevertheless, it was a very unpleasant experience which I hope I will not have to undergo again.

In your particular case, I would NOT approach the end customer until I had some real proof that the agency is not paying; otherwise, you risk being accused of false statements.

Hope this helps!


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giogi
Local time: 15:15
Not at All! Nov 14, 2003

If I knew that the agency is not reliable, I wouldn't accept their job.

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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:15
I agree with Ed!!! Nov 14, 2003

I read Ed's comment right after posting mine, and I must also say that I totally agree with him; I will include provisions to this effect in any future contract.

However, when I was confronted with the situation, two things bothered me a lot: First, if I did not bring it to their attention, the end customer would never find out they were getting their work done at my expense. And second, the alternative I had left was to hire a lawyer/collector to attempt to obtain payment.

So yes, I confess my approach was used to put pressure on the agent and it worked, but it was not the most professional one!


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:15
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Really there's only one way to deal with this issue... Nov 14, 2003

After further thought, there's only one way to deal with this issue:

Don't take the job.

After all -- why do you need more stress?


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:15
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
You work for the agency, not the end customer Nov 14, 2003

Dear Heinrich,

I would not contact the enduser because you work for the agency NOT the enduser. IMHO doing this could mean professional suicide. This agency might tell whomever they know (other agencies) that you attacked them professinally,went behind their back - whether this is the truth or not. The bad thing is that people often take at face value what they hear and then may decide not to hire you. I think that this is not worth it. I would than rather not accept the job and move to something else. Or they may decide to sue you. You do not want to go through that hazzle. You have to make money not waste time in court.

What I would do if I decided to accept the job (think about that , though) is to set up an airtight contract with the agency and get a sizeable advance before you start working on the translation.

We always run the risk that we may have to go through a collection agency or lawyer. That is the cost of doing business.

Good luck with this difficult situation.
Lucinda


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 17:15
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No false accusations of course! Nov 14, 2003

What I had in mind is a case like this: Agency A offers me a technical translation for the product of Firm B. A is known as non-payer. I have no intention to accept the job, but I know that someone unlucky will in the end. Should I draw the attention of Firm B to the postings about A in translation related forums?
Fortunately I have lost so far only 900 euro to one crook in the beginning of my career as freelance translator, but was saved sometimes from accepting doubious offers by inquiries in Yahoo Zahlungspraxis. But I feel endcustomers should be told too.


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Pat Jenner
Local time: 15:15
German to English
+ ...
depends on whether you accept the job Nov 14, 2003

Then you would be bound by the terms of your contract with the agency, which I expect would preclude you contacting the end customer (though of course if the agency fails to pay you they are also in breach of contract). If you don't accept the job you have no contractual obligation to the agency and I can't see anything preventing you from contacting the end customer, pointing out the agency's poor reputation and saying that you don't work with them for that reason.

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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
No contract, no NDA Nov 14, 2003

If you do not have a contract or NDA, you can do what you like. But you should do so discretely.

Cheers

PS There is no need to say anything about the agency unless they specifically ask you. You do not need to say anything negative. This is an opportunity for you to market yourself and let me know how personalized service can make a difference for them.

[Edited at 2003-11-14 16:59]


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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 19:45
English to Hindi
+ ...
Informing End client Nov 14, 2003

For most people, this must be the Hobson's Choice and rightly so. Well, true, one works for the agency and not for the end client. And under most systems of law, and if my legal friend's information is right then certainly under Continental European law, if a client does not pay you for over six months but keeps on paying his employees and regular staff, then it does constitute malafide intent and can be persecuted by law, including a criminal court.

However, for 'smaller' amounts, such options may not be too advisable.

Secondly, when one has worked for the end client, even if one has worked through an agency, if the end client has paid the agency, but if the agency has not paid the translator, then the intellectual property of the translation of that particular document has not been transferred to the end client from the translator concerned. As far as the intellectual property of the translator is concerned for that particular document (s), if it has been clearly [the word 'clearly' is important] breached, then the translator has no recourse but to approach the end client.

However, before taking any such action, the translator should in all fairness contact the agency concerned, with the copy of the communication to be written to the end client and give the agency sufficient time to ponder over the possible action. [A week is fair enough. You can give the agency a week's notice that after a week, you would contact the end client with the communication, a copy of which you have given the agency in advance.]

Also, you can certainly hint to the agency that after you contact the end client (s), if they were to sue the agency concerned for malafide service, you would not be held accountable for it.

If you contact the end client without informing the agency, then you were clearly at fault. After all, one should not steal to correct a thief who stole from oneself. So, if one gave notice to the agency that one were going to contact the end client, then one would be on the safer side.

Any more ideas required on the matter?

Roomy Naqvy


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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:15
French to English
Let it be... Nov 14, 2003

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

What I had in mind is a case like this: Agency A offers me a technical translation for the product of Firm B. A is known as non-payer. I have no intention to accept the job, but I know that someone unlucky will in the end. Should I draw the attention of Firm B to the postings about A in translation related forums?
Fortunately I have lost so far only 900 euro to one crook in the beginning of my career as freelance translator, but was saved sometimes from accepting doubious offers by inquiries in Yahoo Zahlungspraxis. But I feel endcustomers should be told too.


I agree with the others who have said that this would not be wise from a professional standpoint. Translators who work with agencies have an agreement with them, not with the end client, and should not involve the end client in disputes with the agency.

There are unfortunately agencies out there who do not pay, but I think it is up to translators to check out an agency before working with them. There are numerous resources on the Net for this.

I don't see why end clients should be told that the agency doesn't pay its translators. Just to play the devil's advocate here, an end client contacts an agency for a translation, the agency delivers it on time and it is of good quality. The end client is satisfied and pays the invoice. End of story for them.

If enough translators refuse a job from a non-paying agency, then the end client will certainly feel it because the agency wouldn't be able to deliver the product.

FWIW,

Erik


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Klaus Herrmann  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:15
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Unpaid electricity bills Nov 14, 2003

Question is, would you think it's appropriate if an utility company calls an agency about a freelance translator not paying his bill? Probably not. From the clients perspective, imagine you've just received your glossy 4-page 4-color brochure advertisting your service. After you paid, some 8 weeks later the ink manufacturer calls you up and tells you the print shop didn't pay for the ink. What would you think?

I don't mean to be rude, but you have no business whatsoever with the end user. If you work with the agency, it's between you and them, and this is confidential. On the other hand, if you don't work with the agency, I'd think it's not exactly good business style to call somebody elses customer. If you're competing with the agency for this client, this is true even more.

Again, no offense, but I think it's not a question of whether or not this is a smart move business-wise. It's a question of business ethics.

[Edited at 2003-11-14 17:24]


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
It is right to weigh up ethical values against each other Nov 14, 2003

..and it is even your ethical duty.

But I think Roomys approach is the most promising one - because the end client would probably not really care.

(I think this view of the end client is what Klaus tried to clarify, although I think it is definitely not the same whether you delivered the ink or the translation for a printed document.)


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