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Reduction based on mistakes: is it fair?
Thread poster: Macià Falgàs i Planas
Macià Falgàs i Planas  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:30
English to Catalan
+ ...
Apr 8, 2008

I have recently had a bad experience with a client and I would like to know your opinion in order to determinate if I am right or wrong.

This is the second time I work for this client (she owns a translation agency), and the first time I got paid without problems.

She sent me a big project of 16,500 words, with a deadline of only 10 days. She offered me the rate of 0.028€, which in my opinion was very low. The project was a catalog of products for hospitals, thus it was highly technical and it involved several fields: medical, biology, chemistry, physics, surgery, etc. Some of the English terms only had 3-4 entries in Google, which means they were highly technical.

I contacted two specialists in order to be sure of the translation of some words: a biologist and a physiotherapist.

I also consulted varios on-line catalogs of the same kind, where I found some words which couldn't find in Proz glossaries or in Google.

I sent the translation before the deadline, fully translated, and I highlighted no more than 15 words (out of 16,500) which I was unsure about (she asked me to do so).

Now she is telling me that my translation has some mistakes, so she will be forced to apply a reduction of the total amount. For what she said, I think this reduction will be more than 40€.

I have the following doubts:

- Do you think a reduction like this is fair in a highly-technical, extra-low-rate, rush project?

- Have you ever suffered a reduction of payment? In what circumstances and how much was it?

- To what amount would you consider my reduction as fair?


[Editat el 2008-04-08 21:55]


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Carla Abdel Karim
United Arab Emirates
Local time: 11:30
French to Arabic
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Question is...should you have taken this job? Apr 8, 2008

Honestly, the fair was too low for a technical document and the deadline you had. The reduction is highly unfair, and the client seems to be of a somewhat "greedy" nature.

You could add this comment on their Blue Board Profile

Cheers!

Carla.


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Macià Falgàs i Planas  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:30
English to Catalan
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TOPIC STARTER
Exactly Apr 8, 2008

Carla Abdel Karim wrote:

Honestly, the fair was too low for a technical document and the deadline you had. The reduction is highly unfair, and the client seems to be of a somewhat "greedy" nature.

You could add this comment on their Blue Board Profile

Cheers!

Carla.


Yes, that's how I see it. Price determines quality.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:30
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
No reduction Apr 8, 2008

I just spoke with the owner of a reputable translation agency this morning and it seems that a lot of these kitchen-table agencies that offer low rates and ultra-rush jobs are running into a lot of problems. Agencies are receiving more and more jobs that need to be completely redone because they were done too fast and/or at low cost. It seems that these KTAs are not seeing a lot of repeat customers and are being forced to take on even more dangerous jobs.

You see, in the “olden” days when a client wanted 25,000 words in 24 hours, they were told no. They may have gone to another agency, but they were still told no. Now, there are companies willing to take on these jobs despite all the legal risks involved. However, that does not mean that the clients are happy with the results. Most of these “quickie” jobs have to be retranslated and the KTAs are continually forced to seek out new clients.

However, in this case, I do not think it was the number of words you were asked to do (1650 a day is not too bad), but rather a lack of subject knowledge. Although the companies I work for on a regular basis know what jobs I am capable of translating, I turn down around 7 to 8 out of every 10 job offers from new companies because I simply do not have the ability to translate them.

Next time, you should examine the document more carefully before you agree to accept it. If you cannot understand at least 90-95% of the document just by reading it, then do not accept it. You simply do not know IF you will be able to find the answers you need, especially when you are doing a rush project. With the exception of a few company-specific abbreviations and terms or illegible text, you should not have ANY “untranslated” items in your completed translation.

For this particular case, the rate you were offered is so miserly to begin with that I believe you have already given her a 75%-80% reduction in terms of what the translation should have cost and I would not offer any further discount.




[Edited at 2008-04-08 22:37]


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Macià Falgàs i Planas  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:30
English to Catalan
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TOPIC STARTER
I agree Apr 8, 2008

Thank you for your reply. I agree with you, and this has actually taught me a lesson. Next time I'll be more careful.

I would like to note that my completed translation did not have any untranslated words, just some "unsure" terms that I translated but was not sure of, as my specialists did not know them, and I could not find them on Google, Proz, or any dictionary.

What confuses me is that they do not look like a KTA, they were really concerned about quality. However, this is incoherent with the rate.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:30
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Have confidence in yourself Apr 8, 2008

And above all, do not get discouraged. Have confidence in yourself and know that your time and your knowledge are worth more than .028 euros a word. Accept only work that you can do well (and at decent rates) and soon you will have more work than you can handle. It may take longer than you would like, but it WILL happen.

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Macià Falgàs i Planas  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:30
English to Catalan
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TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Apr 8, 2008

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

And above all, do not get discouraged. Have confidence in yourself and know that your time and your knowledge are worth more than .028 euros a word. Accept only work that you can do well (and at decent rates) and soon you will have more work than you can handle. It may take longer than you would like, but it WILL happen.


Thank you for your support. That's what I will do.


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Cristina Heraud-van Tol  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 02:30
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes, it is. Apr 9, 2008

I see some contradictions on your post. You try to complain but there are still some true facts:

1) 16,500 words in 10 days? That means that every day you had to translate 1650 which is pretty doable, in my opinion. My average is 2000 words, and I have a husband and child, and must do some household tasks at home. I believe you even had an extra day for a thorough check. That you delivered the job beforehand, that's another thing; you never mentioned it was a rush job and apparently the customer never changed the deadline nor told you to deliver days before.

2) The rate was really low and even then you agreed to take it. You should have told the client that the text is highly technical and that she should increase the rate per word.

3) Reductions exist everywhere in the world when mistakes are present. The other day two plumbers came to fix a water boiler but they didn't do a very good job. They came another time to fix it and then we didn't have to pay anything extra, it was like if that working day was discounted for them. If you still feel pain after the dentist fixed your cavity, then you can always go back and the problem is solved at no cost. And if you complain in a restaurant about how bad food is (even though it's nice), they will always try to make you feel happy and bring you a better dish or something else.

This is all because we deliver a service and always or at least, mostly, we must please the customer. If he/she sees mistakes and wants a discount, then he/she must be right. However, the customer could be kind enough to tell you, "Look, these pages/terms are mistaken, could you please fix them? That is, to give you a second chance.


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Macià Falgàs i Planas  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 07:30
English to Catalan
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True, but Apr 9, 2008

Cristina Heraud-van Tol wrote:

I see some contradictions on your post. You try to complain but there are still some true facts:

(...)

This is all because we deliver a service and always or at least, mostly, we must please the customer. If he/she sees mistakes and wants a discount, then he/she must be right. However, the customer could be kind enough to tell you, "Look, these pages/terms are mistaken, could you please fix them? That is, to give you a second chance.


All you say is true, I should have left things clear before accepting this job.

However, I think she should be tolerant and understand that for this rate, deadline and high-technical level, many more reductions to the already-reducted price should not be done.

I have different rates for different clients. My highest-rate jobs are proofread several times before I send the translation, and sometimes they even include a proofreading by another translator. However, my lowest-rate jobs do not necessarily include all this. Clients which accept these low rates already know what they can expect, so they do not have a wide margin of complain.

Televisions have a wide range of prices, and they vary according to quality and what they can offer. If you only have 30 dollars, don't expect to buy the more expensive, you'll probably get a second-hand TV.

Price determines quality.

[Editat el 2008-04-09 13:32]


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Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 09:30
Member (2002)
English to Russian
Whatever the price, the job should be of the highest quality possible Apr 9, 2008

Macià Falgàs i Planas wrote:
I have different rates for different clients. My highest-rate jobs are proofread several times before I send the translation, and sometimes they even include a proofreading by another translator. However, my lowest-rate jobs do not include all this.

Price determines quality. If you pay low, you will receive the same.


I do have slightly different rates for different clients, for various reasons (e.g. I can raise my rate for all new clients while keeping the rate at the previous level for existing clients). However, I don't think you can assume that if you are paid less you are entitled to be less careful and produce more mistakes, and even drop the self-proofreading stage completely. This is very likely to result in problems with clients.

You shouldn't have accepted the job if you felt the rate was too low. I have a constant inflow of translation projects these days, but even several years ago I chose to skip any job that paid less than my rate at that time. Personally, I am confident that it's much better to work 10 days for US$0.10 per word (this figure is for illustration purposes only) than to work 100 days for US$0.01 per word. The bottom line is the same financially, while in the latter case you will have much less time to spend with your family, to have a rest and relax, or to pursue other interests.

[Edited at 2008-04-09 06:23]


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Cristina Lo Bianco  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 08:30
Member (2008)
English to Italian
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Translator may drop price but client has no right to do it Apr 9, 2008

Cristina Heraud-van Tol wrote:



3) Reductions exist everywhere in the world when mistakes are present. The other day two plumbers came to fix a water boiler but they didn't do a very good job. They came another time to fix it and then we didn't have to pay anything extra, it was like if that working day was discounted for them. If you still feel pain after the dentist fixed your cavity, then you can always go back and the problem is solved at no cost. And if you complain in a restaurant about how bad food is (even though it's nice), they will always try to make you feel happy and bring you a better dish or something else.

This is all because we deliver a service and always or at least, mostly, we must please the customer. If he/she sees mistakes and wants a discount, then he/she must be right. However, the customer could be kind enough to tell you, "Look, these pages/terms are mistaken, could you please fix them? That is, to give you a second chance.


I don't agree. 15 words over 16'500 it's not the same as a tooth aching or a boiler not working properly! Translating can be difficult an sometimes it is impossible to know ALL the words, especially if the text ranges across many fields.

Anyway, I think the client has no right to drop the price afterwards. He has the right to say "I won't work with you again". On the other side, the translater may
decide to drop the price himself, in the same way a waiter could offer you a free dessert in a restaurant after you complained about the main course. Butt I wouldn't do in this case, since the rate was already so low.

Ciao,
Cristina


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Claudia Digel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:30
English to German
+ ...
Agree with Vladimir Apr 9, 2008

Vladimir Pochinov wrote:

You shouldn't have accepted the job if you felt the rate was too low.


I fully agree with Vladimir. If you accept a job at a given rate, you need to produce the highest quality possible, no matter how low the actual rate is. (The only difference would be if the client explicitely asked for a rough translation at a lower rate.) It is your decision whether you work for a given rate or not. And, to be honest, the rate you mention is ludicrous for any kind of job, let alone for a highly technical catalog.

You are free to accept what a client offers or to refuse it, after all, you are not their employee but a self-employed person who has to make their own business decisions. Not to deliver the best quality possible and blame it on the low rate is highly unprofessional in my opinion.

I cannot really say whether the reduction is justified or not but I think you have learnt two valuable lessons from this job:

a) Don't undersell yourself. and
b) Don't accept any translation job that is not within your area of expertise.

These lessons might be worth the €40 that will be deducted from your invoice.

Just my 2 cents...

Best regards,
Claudia


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Have to agree with Vladimir and Claudia Apr 9, 2008

Claudia Digel wrote:

I fully agree with Vladimir. If you accept a job at a given rate, you need to produce the highest quality possible, no matter how low the actual rate is. (The only difference would be if the client explicitely asked for a rough translation at a lower rate.)...

a) Don't undersell yourself. and
b) Don't accept any translation job that is not within your area of expertise.


I have no idea of the average rate in your language pair, so I can't specifically address the monetary value of the "discounted rate" you accepted or the appropriateness of the penalty applied.

I think what this comes down to - which I'm not sure if you have clarified - is whether you specifically arranged with the client to provide a "lower quality" translation in return for this low rate.

In agreement with Claudia, I also feel that you are obligated to produce your best quality for all clients, unless you have a specific arrangement to the contrary.

It definitely hurts both the pride and the wallet to be told we've turned in a translation with mistakes (if they truly are mistakes), especially after we have done painstaking research.

But in the end we are professionals, and as Claudia points out, that is the code that professionals live by.

However, if you did have a specific arrangement with the client due to the price agreed or the timing involved, then you would be within your rights to call this to the client's attention and provide your argument against the penalty. That is the flip side of the coin.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
Where were the mistakes Apr 9, 2008

I agree with the opinions expressed above, you accepted the rate, and that it should not affect the quality of your work.

Were the mistakes the terms you highlighted or completely different ones? My 2 cents is that even if an agent tells you to highlight terms you are unsure of, do not do it, they are only trying to catch you out. You do everything you can to use the right terms then send it off, without a word, again, this is my opinion. All my work is for Spain. Never create doubt around your work.

You don't seem to have defended yourself against the so-called mistakes. A few months ago I got an email from an agent, after submitting a translation, in which the agent passed on a question from the client. The client simply did not know the English word I had used and wanted to check it. I sent an email with a couple of links showing the word in context, and that was that. There was no mistake to speak of, it was a mere enquiry. So are you sure that the words were mistakes? Even if they were, offer some defence. I wouldn't invoice for the mistaken words, so I would discount €0.028 for each mistake.


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alessandra bocco  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:30
Member (2006)
English to Italian
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Ask to see the mistakes Apr 9, 2008

I agree with the previous posts, but I think you should ask the client to see the mistakes in your translation and then try to find someone (if you can't do it yourself) to confirm the client's opinion. If they are real mistakes, then I think you should accept the price reduction, but maybe you just used a synonym... I have never faced a situation like yours, but it happened once that I did a test translation for a new agency and some time after I was told I had not passed it. I asked to see the corrections and I realized there was not a single mistake in it; the proofreader had changed a few terms with synonyms, turned differently some sentences and that was all! I wrote to the agency about it, I was told I was probably right and a second proofreader would have read my text and... never heard from them any more!! But at least I knew that I was right. So try to know what really happened to your translation!
Alessandra


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