what to do when a client will not respond?
Thread poster: Patricia Rosas

Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 10, 2009

Hi, everyone,

I'm mired down in an ugly situation and am hoping that people might be able to give me some ideas about my next step. I'll try to keep this brief, but it is complicated!

I have a purchase order dated March 1, which lists, in surprising detail, the scope of a job to EDIT 3 books. The requestor wrote some e-mails to various people introducing me as the person doing these jobs.

I agreed to this work because, although some of the steps in the publications process would involve a learning curve for me, I felt the quantity of work would justify the "learning" investment.

In APRIL, I was told that 7 papers needed to be TRANSLATED for one of the books. Over several weeks, I received 4 of them.

On June 4, the requestor told me there was a June 21 deadline. He referred me to someone else about getting the 3 missing papers. That person hasn't responded.

On June 5, I passed a translation job to someone and she wrote me on June 6 saying that in MID-MARCH a decision had been made to give her 2 of 3 books. I couldn't have cared less about all of this if they had simply told me the moment the decision was made.

She said she was planning to translate the job I'd passed to her in July, so I asked her to return it, and she refused.

I wrote the requestor asking if we could have a phone conversation so I could get clarity on his expectations (and I expressed my displeasure at not being told about the change in plans), and in a second e-mail, about the fact that I can't get any information on the papers. My messages have been ignored.

So, Monday morning I called the university's contracts office, saying that all I wanted was to get out of the contractual commitment and be paid for the translation work. My contact and the requestor's administrative assistant seemed quite happy with that. But the original requestor's signature is needed on the paperwork, and I'm worried that he may refuse to sign it.

So, here are my key issues:

#1: The 4 translated papers are going to cost them 50% of the original PO amount at the rate the requestor and I agreed on. I'm certain he is clueless about how many words I've translated and will balk at paying my bill.

#2: It is June 10, and I don't know if I'm doing the last 3 papers or if they plan to give the work to the woman working on the other books. And of course, if I receive these very complex texts on, say, June 19, what will I do?

#3: Should I stop working on the four translations (all at various stages of completion)?

Thanks so much for any thoughts on what to do!

Patricia


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:43
Member (2008)
Italian to English
What I suggest Jun 10, 2009

Patricia Rosas wrote:

etc

Patricia


Patricia. in my opinion the key document is your purchase order dated March 1.

If anything has happened since that date that in any way alters the terms and conditions of the P.O. then the whole agreement could be considered null and void.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:43
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Agree Jun 10, 2009

Tom in London wrote:
Patricia. in my opinion the key document is your purchase order dated March 1.
If anything has happened since that date that in any way alters the terms and conditions of the P.O. then the whole agreement could be considered null and void.

I entirely agree!


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I don't quite follow ... Jun 10, 2009

Tom in London wrote:

If anything has happened since that date that in any way alters the terms and conditions of the P.O. then the whole agreement could be considered null and void.


Tom,
Does that mean that without telling me they can change the terms of the contract? Sorry but I don't follow the null and void part.

I'm apparently out of that contact without problem, but I've just gotten word that another one that was opened for almost $2,000 less than the amount I've translated.

Thanks,
Patricia


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RieM  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:43
English to Japanese
+ ...
no amendmend to the original PO? Jun 10, 2009

Patricia Rosas wrote:

I have a purchase order dated March 1, which lists, in surprising detail, the scope of a job to EDIT 3 books. ...
...
In APRIL, I was told that 7 papers needed to be TRANSLATED for one of the books. Over several weeks, I received 4 of them.



Just would like to confirm that, isn't there any amendment issued when the scope of this job changed or expanded from "EDIT" to "TRANSLATE"? If not, then I'm afraid that bringing up the "null and void" point only, as Tom has suggested, may not serve you well, if you would like to get paid for the TRANSLATION work you have done....


Rie


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conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:43
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
The client is not fulfilling standard business obligations Jun 10, 2009

It seems like you are dealing with various people on this project:
1. The "Requester" who issued the PO
2. Your "Contact"
3. The Requester's Admin. Asst
4. The other translator

First off, you should not have to find out from some other translator that part of your work that was on a purchase order was given away. Has your client actually verified that this is true?

Also, the Requestor issued a PO that stated in detail, what jobs you were to perform. However, there are several problems with this:

1. The Requestor promised you work in the written form of a PO, which was later taken away from you and given to another translator, without notification to you, and without revising the PO. This is a highly suspect action on the Requestor's part. I agree with Tom in London that this action on the Requestor's part might constitute revocation of the entire agreement. If it was me, at that point I would have told them to revise the PO within 24 hours, or I would not be doing any further work.

2. You never received the source files (namely the 3 papers you haven't received):
I would make an estimate of time it would take to complete them, and issue a statement as soon as possible saying that it takes X amount of time to complete the files, if you don't receive them by X date Y time in Z time zone, you will not be able to complete them. If you don't know how much time it will take to complete them, then just pick a date and time (like 24 hours from now). Obviously, you can't do work when you never received any source files. It will also take a certain amount of time to translate those papers, based on how many words they are. If for example you can translate 7000 words per day, and they give you something that is 77,000 words, and only 1 day to complete it in, it is obviously not possible for you to complete this within their deadline, and I am sure this could be successfully argued in court, should it come to that, as long as you notify them.

3. The client's communication is spotty. If it was me I would complete what translation I can, the documents that you have received already as part of the agreement, but state that you are not working on anything else unless the Requestor contacts you in 24 hrs (or 48 hrs, whatever). It is not feasible for you to work under these circumstances with no communication (and in some cases no files) from the client.

It might be good to see an attorney for some advice, as well, about what lack of communication and breach of contract would constitute on the client's part.

I wish you luck and hope it all comes out OK.


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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:43
Member
French to English
+ ...
Go to them Jun 10, 2009

I'm not sure if it's possible for you, but you might consider hopping on a bus/train/plane and going to see the customer yourself.

From my experience, university contracts are often complicated and somewhat disorganised (particularly if you're dealing with an anthology editor), but they're not usually dishonest.

Just this morning in the forums, a colleague told of an experience where she solved a problem by taking a train across the country (granted, France is smaller than the US!): http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/136714-what_can_i_do_when_my_very_good_translation_is_ruined_by_the_client-page2.html#1142956

You might think about doing the same. You will be more likely to get an answer if you can corner your requestor in an office. (Just be sure that the person is not on vacation or sabbatical before going.) Academics can occasionally be totally clueless to the translation process - and to many other workings in the business world.

I hope that you are able to get things sorted out. Don't give up hope yet!

Good luck,
Jocelyne


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks to everyone ... Jun 10, 2009

Thank you, everybody, and especially those who took time to write at length.

The Contracts officer canceled the first contract and the assistant created a new one.

It turns out the director was in DC and may never have seen my e-mails over the weekend, which is really unfortunate.

The immediate problem is that the amount on the new PO is too low if I translate the 4 papers and WAY TOO LOW if I translate another 3 (esp. as a rush job). And while I heard from the man with the missing papers, he didn't answer my question!

From what most of you say, they breached the contract, and so I feel justified in standing firm since they owe me something for not having been honest.

I can't hop a train and go see them (show up at the director's front door, no way!), but I did phone the assistant and put a bit of pressure on her. However, she says we have to wait until the end of the day.

Thanks again for responding!


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I got everything I asked for! Jun 10, 2009

Thanks again for helping me this morning.

In the end, it appears it may have been (partially) a problem with the director not having seen my messages (although that doesn't excuse passing the work on the original PO to someone else). Once we connected, the terms that I'd set for doing the translation were honored and the two missing chapters came in, and I was asked to do those. The third one was canceled.

So, I'm a happy camper!


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conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:43
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Yay! Jun 11, 2009

I'm happy for you.

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