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Miscommunication - Who is right?
Thread poster: Sandra Alboum

Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:12
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 4, 2009

Briefly:

Casual agency client (work for on occasion) emails me from Europe at 6:30am my time on Thursday with a 650 word translation. I email her back at 8:30am my time confirming receipt and deadline (today). I deliver the job on Sunday, early.

This morning she emails me and says sorry, I assigned it elsewhere.

I write her back and say hey, I confirmed it and did it and delivered early. I should be compensated.

She writes back and says sorry, I can't pay for it twice. I never wrote you back to confirm AFTER you confirmed, so the translation wasn't yours to do.

I write back and say you never wrote me to say your offer of work had been rescinded because you had assigned it elsewhere / hadn't heard back from me. So I did it and I need to be compensated.
I offer a 50% discount. (We're only talking maybe 30 euros here that she would be shelling out.) I say this would be fair for the miscommunication. I will take half the blame.

She writes back and says nope, sorry, no can do.

My last communication to her says

"I am sorry to hear that this is your point of view and that you cannot find it in your budget to compensate me for half of this job, which would be a small sum for the time that I spent. We are in the communications business, [name of project manager], and there was obviously a breakdown in ours. I am willing to take half the blame for it. You are not. That says a lot about how you deal with your vendors.
What also says a lot about how you deal with your vendors is the fact that my invoice 007 is now 13 days past due, and you did not pay it last week, as you said you would do. Please pay this invoice now."

Anyhow ... am I being ridiculous? Am I right? What's the general take on this?

Thanks.



[Edited at 2009-05-05 11:18 GMT]


 

Vladimir Kolteniuk  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:12
English to Russian
+ ...
You are right May 4, 2009

You are totally right.

What I would have done differently though would be:

1) Never offered her to share "the miscommunication fault"

2) Spread the word in ProZ (Blue Board) and elsewhere


 

Judith Kiraly  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:12
English to Hungarian
I understand your pain May 4, 2009

Hi Sandra,

It is really a pain, at least for me that outsourcers don't take the trouble to answer the translators/proofreaders, only when it is in their interest (there are exceptions). Professionalism has to work in both ways!
You are very generous with your discount but I have to agree with Vladimir, you are entitled to full payment for your timely and solicited work.

Please make a Blue Board entry for all of us and learn from it (after all the years in the business).

Judith


 

Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2007)
English to Turkish
+ ...
The situation is complex May 4, 2009

Sandra Alboum wrote:

Briefly:

Casual agency client (work for on occasion) emails me from Europe at 6:30am my time on Thursday with a 650 word translation. I email her back at 8:30am my time confirming receipt and deadline (today). I deliver the job on Sunday, early.

This morning she emails me and says sorry, I assigned it elsewhere.

I write her back and say hey, I confirmed it and did it and delivered early. I should be compensated.

She writes back and says sorry, I can't pay for it twice. I never wrote you back to confirm AFTER you confirmed, so the translation wasn't yours to do.

I write back and say you never wrote me to say your offer of work had been rescinded because you had assigned it elsewhere / hadn't heard back from me. So I did it and I need to be compensated.
I offer a 50% discount. (We're only talking maybe 30 euros here that she would be shelling out.) I say this would be fair for the miscommunication. I will take half the blame.

She writes back and says nope, sorry, no can do.

My last communication to her says

"I am sorry to hear that this is your point of view and that you cannot find it in your budget to compensate me for half of this job, which would be a small sum for the time that I spent. We are in the communications business, Yamina, and there was obviously a breakdown in ours. I am willing to take half the blame for it. You are not. That says a lot about how you deal with your vendors.
What also says a lot about how you deal with your vendors is the fact that my invoice 007 is now 13 days past due, and you did not pay it last week, as you said you would do. Please pay this invoice now."

Anyhow ... am I being ridiculous? Am I right? What's the general take on this?

Thanks.



I would like to bring some other points to the facts you wrote.

If you have received the mail at 6:30 a.m on Thursday that means it was sent to you (by local time approx.) at 12:30 afternoon on April 30th and you have answered it (by local time approx.) at 14:30 on 30th of April.

Those dates are very important because in most countries May 1st is holiday and some countries begin their holiday from the afternoon of the previous day (short day).

If to assume those facts I can't say that you are absolutely right.

I suppose that the person left the office early on that day.

And they were out until today (Friday May 1st, Saturday and Sunday)

They have reasonable grounds regarding the dates.

But in which you are 100% right is:

if this person is a worker there, and sent you an e-mail regarding obtaining your services, then when he/she assigned it to someone else he/she should have sent you a cancellation letter.

If they did not do it then they should pay for the open order in 100%.


To my opinion there was not any bad intention from the agency side but there was an unfortunate coincidence regarding the dates and a forgotten action by the worker of this agency.

If the person with whom you are in contact just the worker then I recommend you to contact with the owner or responsible person of this company.

And I believe that they will understand you.

But I do not recommend you emphasizing on the datesicon_smile.gif

The situation is soluble.

Good Luck & Best regards,


M. Ali


 

Claudia Digel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:12
English to German
+ ...
Difficult... May 4, 2009

Hi Sandra,

This is a difficult situation and it's really difficult to judge without knowing further details.

With agency clients, especially with casual ones, I tend not to start working on any job before they have confirmed my confirmation that I can take the job. Many agencies send out requests to several translators and assign them on a first come first served basis and you cannot always be sure that they haven't assigned the job to someone else by the time you reply (especially if 2 hours have passed since they sent their original e-mail). - If this is the case with the agency in question and you knew that they were likely to ask several translators if they could take on the job, you shouldn't have done the translation without a confirmation from them.

Also, I'm not sure if you are aware of the fact that Friday was a public holiday in most of Europe. So what might have happened is that the project manager was in a hurry to leave the office for the long weekend, assigned the job to someone else and had left the office by the time you responded. If this was the case, she only received your confirmation along with the translated file this morning and, obviously, never had the chance to tell you not to complete the job.

Having said this, I think she really could have agreed to compensate you for half of the job, after all it's not a big sum. But then again, I guess a lot depends on the size of this agency. I, personally, would have compensated you (probably for the entire work done) but then I'm a one-person business and there's nobody who would want to know why I spent the extra 30 euros and for what. I know that in some agencies project managers are given a hard time if they exceed their budgets. Perhaps the project manager just wanted to avoid a situation that would be embarrassing for her. - Of course, I'm just guessing here.

In this situation, it's probably bet to forget about the money and put it down to experience. I know this is easier said than done but by now you've probalby spent more time on this than it's worth.

Kind regards,
Claudia


 

Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 14:42
English to Hindi
+ ...
Vladimir is right; and you are not wrong! May 4, 2009

It happens, may be by accident or otherwise. If it is all that exactly as you say, then there can’t be any other gentle way, then how you handled it. We have Halls fame (sorry, some call it hell) here some ware. I don’t see any option left for you, but to make them famous!

 

Ulrike Kraemer
Germany
Local time: 11:12
English to German
+ ...
Well, it would be interesting to know ... May 4, 2009

Sandra Alboum wrote:

Briefly:

Casual agency client (work for on occasion) emails me from Europe at 6:30am my time on Thursday with a 650 word translation.



... the wording of your client's initial email message. Did she advise you to go ahead and do the translation? If she did, you are right. If she did not, she's right. That's how I see it.


 

Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:12
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Miscommunication resolved... May 4, 2009

Okay, well, she's going to pay me for half of it.

Her initial email said "Can you do this project? 600 words (estimated) and rate of X for Monday morning". That's about it. It's what all her emails tend to say. And I wrote her back and said "confirmed".

I understand that Friday was a holiday. I still think that she should have rescinded the offer to any and all other translators she emailed. You can't just disappear and expect that everything will work itself out, now, can you? That's not what a good project manager does. She should have tied up all loose ends before leaving so no one was hanging.


 

Elías Sauza  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:12
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My opinion May 4, 2009

For casual jobs, I would not take any job without confirmation or a purchase order. I would refrain from giving a low rating or posting a negative comment in the BB before being 100% certain that it was the client's fault or if I recognized it was partly my own fault.

 

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:12
Italian to English
+ ...
Each client is different May 4, 2009

I'm not sure it's very helpful to generalise about new clients or always requiring a PO or whatever - the fact is, with some clients you can be confident that no reply = confirmation, and that seems to be what Sandra's talking about here. I know I have some clients where I'll always ask for written confirmation or wait for the PO before adding it to the list, whereas with others they simply say "can you do this by Friday morning?", I reply"OK" and it's confirmed as far as both of us are concerned.

So if that's normally the situation with this client of Sandra's, I'd say she's absolutely right. (If it's not the case, then she should have waited for confirmation, certainly, but I'm assuming she would have done so if she had any doubt over the client's normal practice, and I agree that it's common courtesy anyway to notify people that the job has been assigned elsewhere.)

In any case, when such a small sum is concerned I wouldn't even have quibbled about paying it - surely it can't be worth upsetting a known and reliable translator with whom you have an ongoing relationship for such a tiny amount?


 

Ann Krol  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2008)
Polish to English
+ ...
No May 4, 2009

Sandra Alboum wrote:

Briefly:

Casual agency client (work for on occasion) emails me from Europe at 6:30am my time on Thursday with a 650 word translation. I email her back at 8:30am my time confirming receipt and deadline (today). I deliver the job on Sunday, early.

This morning she emails me and says sorry, I assigned it elsewhere.

I write her back and say hey, I confirmed it and did it and delivered early. I should be compensated.

She writes back and says sorry, I can't pay for it twice. I never wrote you back to confirm AFTER you confirmed, so the translation wasn't yours to do.

I write back and say you never wrote me to say your offer of work had been rescinded because you had assigned it elsewhere / hadn't heard back from me. So I did it and I need to be compensated.
I offer a 50% discount. (We're only talking maybe 30 euros here that she would be shelling out.) I say this would be fair for the miscommunication. I will take half the blame.

She writes back and says nope, sorry, no can do.

My last communication to her says

"I am sorry to hear that this is your point of view and that you cannot find it in your budget to compensate me for half of this job, which would be a small sum for the time that I spent. We are in the communications business, Yamina, and there was obviously a breakdown in ours. I am willing to take half the blame for it. You are not. That says a lot about how you deal with your vendors.
What also says a lot about how you deal with your vendors is the fact that my invoice 007 is now 13 days past due, and you did not pay it last week, as you said you would do. Please pay this invoice now."

Anyhow ... am I being ridiculous? Am I right? What's the general take on this?

Thanks.



Dear Sandra,

Last week I have received about 1200 words from an agency in the USA at 4 a.m. (European time) and I have sent confirmation after 1-maybe 2 hours and ask the PM does she still need the translation. Usualy I start to work only if I have the confirmation, if required - "confirmation of my confirmation" - within 2 hours the assignment can be given to someone else and it's OK.

I think, it's a small assignment, so maybe you don't need to think about it any more and just concentrate on next jobs...

All the best!
Ann


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:12
Member (2004)
English to Polish
No reply = confirmation? May 4, 2009

I am sorry, but the assumption „no reply = OK” is not reasonable, in my opinion.

First of all, you cannot be sure that your message has reached the recipient at all - surely we all have seen cases when the message gets delayed or is not delievered at all. Remember that your mail server can be trying to deliver the message for up to three days (!) and inform you of any problems only after that.

Therefore, my exchange for a given job (and my clients seem to agree with that) consists of at least three messages:

1. PM: „Are you available/willing to do X for Y?”
2. Me: „Yes”
3. PM: „Then go head” (most of the time with PO attached)

However, to be safe, I also usually „confirm the confirmation” (4. Me: „Starting then.”) so that the PM knows I have received it and I am indeed commencing the work (most dilligent PMs would ask about that after some time anyway...).


I do agree, though, that it would be nice of the PM to inform you that the job has been assigned to someone else, although I would not say it is obligatory.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 11:12
German to Serbian
+ ...
... May 4, 2009

If I am about to START working, I always send a message to the client asking him/her to confirm, and I usually say " I'm starting working today at XX hrs, is it OK, please confirm, I won't begin working until I get a confirmation to start "

And I NEVER start the work before receiving the official confirmation to begin working.

SO, I'd say you definitely have your own portion of responsibility in this.

I've perceived these issues from both sides, because I also occasionally outsource projects, and there will always be one or two ( luckily not many) translators who will not follow the guidelines, or who will ask weird+ illogical questions, although I explain everything clearly. Sometimes it takes just common sense, and I act with presumption that common sense is not something I should teach "professional" translators.

[Edited at 2009-05-04 20:58 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:12
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The situation is not complex at all! May 4, 2009

She offered a job, you accepted it, and that is the end of the story. Doesn't she read her email before sending more email to offer the job to other people? Or does she offer the job to more than one person at a time and lets more than one person do the job? In my opinion, you were too generous offering the 50% discount!

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:12
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Incorrect interpretation May 4, 2009

Jabberwock wrote:
I am sorry, but the assumption „no reply = OK” is not reasonable, in my opinion.


I don't agree with this at all. There is no plausible reason why the reply accepting the job would not reach the outsourcer. And a confirmation from the outsourcer would have been required only if Sandra had proposed a different deadline.

The outsourcer proposed a job and a date, and even sent the file to be translated. Sandra accepted the job as proposed by the outsourcer, and no further reply was received from the outsourcer for several days. The outsourcer was plain irresponsible for not checking her email for a potential reply from Sandra before assigning this to another person, and more irresponsible if she asked several people in one go, assigned the job to the first person to answer, and forgot to tell the rest that the job had been assigned!

Jabberwock wrote:
I do agree, though, that it would be nice of the PM to inform you that the job has been assigned to someone else, although I would not say it is obligatory.


Oh my goodness! This really hurt! Some customer sends you a job, which you accept, then assigns it to someone else, and you would not say it is obligatory to tell you!!!??? Honestly, my friend... How many emails to and from do we need to confirm a job? :-/

[Edited at 2009-05-04 21:59 GMT]


 
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