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ProZ quotation requests - a waste of time?
Thread poster: Andrew Catford

Andrew Catford  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:05
Member (2008)
German to English
Sep 1, 2009

I've had a series of requests for price quotes in recent weeks. From here in the US and from Germany. All from agencies who have sent their invitation via the ProZ.com directory.

The requests all have several characteristics in common.

- They all want to know "your lowest rate" despite the fact that my rates are published in my ProZ profile..
- They are clearly written by someone taking a shotgun approach to finding translators by firing off numerous requests.
- They all want something special for their "lowest rate" such as expertise in DTP or really exotic subject matter.
- They give no indication of the content beyond a vague file name.
- They all lack sufficient professional courtesy to respond to a quote or inform me that another translator has been found. (Maybe they are too busy "multitasking").

Sure, I can name names, but it's probably against the rules here on ProZ.

I am reminded of some lessons from a former life as a construction manager.

1) A public newspaper advertisement for an employment position is a sure sign thet the employer thinks almost anyone can do the job. Beyond some minimal language pair qualifications, the same thing seems to be true of these agencies.
2) When someone asks you to review your bid and give them a better price, promise to do so. Then return with a higher price. Explain that you did not fully understand the difficulty of the project when you first reviewed it. Suddenly the first quote seems attractive!

As I said, these emails came through the ProZ.com directory. Is it beyond the technical ability of ProZ to
1) track the number of mailings sent out under a single subject heading and attach a number to my copy (e.g. 21/35)
or
2) allow me to search ProZ to determine how many other translators receeived the same message?

Meanwhile, I'm changing my rates to scare off the bottom feeders.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:05
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I've had the same experience Sep 1, 2009

I've received similar "mass mail" letters seeking a Spanish-to-English translator. I typically do not respond to such mails, because I am sure that there is always someone with the ostensible qualifications willing to quickly agree to do the job at a very low rate.

In passing, I would note that the same phenomenon often applies to jobs posted on the site. Just now, I saw a post offering 2 cents a word for a million-word job.....


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:05
English to German
+ ...
Also: The tonality Sep 1, 2009

Is it just me, or has the overall tonality of such mass mails changed as well? I am not interested in being "recruited", I don't want to "register", I don't want to "sign up" and I most certainly don't want to be "listed" on any translation broker website (hey, at no charge! ).

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Taña Dalglish
Jamaica
Local time: 13:05
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree with you Robert Sep 1, 2009

Robert quoted "In passing, I would note that the same phenomenon often applies to jobs posted on the site. Just now, I saw a post offering 2 cents a word for a million-word job.....".

It is indeed a very sad occurrence and it is all too common nowadays. In fact, last week, there were two similar occurrences, if not more, and both were rush jobs at that (weekends) - one being 30,000 words in a day and a half and at the same lousy rate (between US$ 0.02 - 0.03 cents). Furthermore, they are specialized areas. What is perhaps sadder is that there are still bidders. Recruiters and agencies appear to have some over a barrel! Why is this being accepted? This is not slavery? Why must they always hold the handle and we hold the blade? I find this a totally insulting to our profession and I have often pondered how this practice can be ended - but I suppose it is the law of supply and demand?

Sorry all - enough of my ranting and raving!

Regards.

Taña


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:05
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Taña : No apologies necessary Sep 1, 2009

One of the things that I notice about these insultingly low offers is that the bidders often add an extra decimal place to the quoted price. Hmmm. I wonder if they think that doing this will trap the unwary, who will only realize when the check arrives that they are receving a mere 10% of what they had expected.........

Joking aside, there is something deeply troubling to me also that someone is actually disposed to accept such jobs. I can only imagine that anyone entering a bid on such a project is not a native English speaker and that the agency in question does not really expect anything more than a "sense translation" (i.e., a translation that is little better in quality than a machine translation).

A very sad state of affairs indeed.......

P.S.: I went back and looked at the post and the agency in question specifies that it is seeking "NATIVE speakers." Seeing evidence of such a clear concern for rigorous standards of quality, I have to say that I feel suffused with a sense of reassurance that perhaps things are not quite so bad after all........

[Edited at 2009-09-01 03:14 GMT]


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Taña Dalglish
Jamaica
Local time: 13:05
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I think they should pay Google to translate it and at a better rate I might add! Sep 1, 2009

I propose that a few of us working in our language pair get together and give them a Google translation! What you pay for, is what you shall receive, although I might add Google might be too good for 0.02 cents. Anyone game?

Regards.

Taña


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Taña Dalglish
Jamaica
Local time: 13:05
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I am not reassured! Sep 1, 2009

Despite asking for native-English speakers, how, pray tell, can one be reassured? Not only is the rate abominable, but the time frame is horrendous, which leaves little time for coordination or proper research, especially if there are other translators involved, which would have to happen!

Cheers all! Un abrazo.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:05
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Having second thoughts...... Sep 1, 2009

Perhaps the rate isn't the best, but my guess is that they make up for it with the great support they offer to the members of their translation team. Why, I bet that there is a whole phalanx of highly skilled project managers ready to smilingly address any query that one of the freelancers working on the project might have, right up until that blessed moment when the millionth word has been translated. And, don't forget, once all the work has been done, you only have to wait another 30 days until the check arrives.

I'm seriously contemplating enterring a bid. If all goes well, I can write up a gooey review of my experience afterward........



[Edited at 2009-09-01 04:02 GMT]


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Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:05
Member (2009)
French to English
Bids may not always be what they seem Sep 1, 2009

I suspect that some of these bids may be for considerably higher prices than the posters had requested. I know that if I wasted my time on the .02 projects, my bit would be a wee bit higher than the stated budget.

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Annett S. Brown, MBA, CT
United States
Local time: 13:05
Member (2009)
German to English
If you buy it cheap, you buy it twice Sep 1, 2009

I have actually benefited from some of the disastrous translations submitted for USD0.02 a words. After the "cheap" route did not turn out be yield the expected results, the project managers quickly turned around and payed a premium rate to have me fix the blunder. Too bad, the project manager did not meet his/her milestone target date.

The same thing happened to me working in pharmaceuticals, where I spent the last 7 years selling controlled substances in international markets. After being outbid by, lets just say, middle Eastern and Asian companies, I raked in plenty of business at premium rates - actually delivering the respective product (as defined by quality standards) the second time around.


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Andrew Catford  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:05
Member (2008)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Good to know we're not alone! Sep 1, 2009

All,

I missed the offer of 2-3 US cents/word. Darn! Probably wasn't my language pair anyway.

I'm grateful to ProZ for the opportunity to discuss issues like this with fellow toilers in this isolated field. Is that what makes some translators so vulnerable to the circling sharks; isolation? Or are the requests merely an auction opener, as Jenn suggests?

Looking at these offers as pure entertainment gives me another reason to love ProZ. Without the exposure ProZ offers these lowballers, I'd be deprived of one of life's great sensations; enjoying the " there but for the grace of --- " effect. This view is only slightly offset by my wonder that a membership organization dedicated to advancing professionalism on both sides of the marketplace doesn't object to members being exploited in this way.

I know the restraint of trade argument, but surely there is room for a little fragging? Say a smiley face blowing a raspberry or an insert to the effect that the offered rate is less than 20% of the mean rate charged (claimed to be charged) by ProZ members who offer this language pair.

Hey, does the American Medical Association allow their website to be used to bid out brain surgery to the lowest bidder?

Meanwhile I'm following Robert's lead, with a kicker.
1) Don't respond to cold calls.
2) No text sample for review = no quote


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:05
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Good idea! Sep 1, 2009

Andrew Catford wrote:

Is it beyond the technical ability of ProZ to
1) track the number of mailings sent out under a single subject heading and attach a number to my copy (e.g. 21/35)
or
2) allow me to search ProZ to determine how many other translators receeived the same message?



I must say, this is an excellent idea! +1!

Regards,
Erik


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Elvira Alves Barry  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:05
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
@ Robert Sep 1, 2009

If you "only have to wait 30 days" (more common in the U.S. than in Europe) for the check, you're lucky. Most often you have to wait around until they get paid first, so we're talking 45-60 days!

And I agree with Nicole about being "registered", "signed up" and "recruited". Let's not forget (and we all do sometimes) who's in charge here. If I had a euro (dollar, whatever) for every form I've filled out to be on somebody's list of folks they're going to call "as soon as we get something in your language pair" . . . ARGH!!!!!


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:05
Flemish to English
+ ...
Monopolistic competition vs.oligopoly. Sep 1, 2009

Depends whether it is for translation or interpreting.
In the latter, there is not so much room for price haggling, because interpreting tends to be more an oligopoly market, whereas translation is a monopolistic competiton market. In the translation, the "tragedy of the commons" occurs more frequently.
Through the first portal for translators on the market, I sometimes get requests at decent rates. If I am not mistaken, this portal had/s a minimum price-setting/bidding tool. Through Proz, I have not received such requests yet.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:05
French to English
Indeed Sep 1, 2009

Taña Dalglish wrote:

I have often pondered how this practice can be ended - but I suppose it is the law of supply and demand?

Pretty much. And while the law of supply and demand tends not to fundamentally change, one's position/role within it can....

http://www.cbavington.com/Thoughts/WhoSetsPrices.shtml


And yes, I think there are a number of "bids" for some jobs which are people replying along the lines of "are you kidding" or bidding at higher rates out of principle.


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