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Business-translator etiquette
Thread poster: Barbara Thomas

Barbara Thomas
United States
Local time: 15:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 18, 2010

Do you find it offensive when a company asks for an estimate or a test and then doesn't even bother to acknowledge receipt? I do, and I suspect that it indicates that a company doesn't value its translators.

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It has happened to me often Jan 18, 2010

Barbara Thomas wrote:
Do you find it offensive when a company asks for an estimate or a test and then doesn't even bother to acknowledge receipt? I do, and I suspect that it indicates that a company doesn't value its translators.

Indeed I find it unappropriate. Having said that, every time that happens (and it happens a dozen times every year), I thank God for "delivering me from evil", as it would be a lot worse to get to work for companies of that kind.


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't like it either but... Jan 18, 2010

...I think it becomes harmful if you take these kinds of things too personally. Project managers and others involved in running agencies are often managing multiple tasks at the same time, and sending an acknowledgment that a test has been received may not be their highest priority at a given moment.

Rather than feel hurt and offended, the best thing to do is to put right in the subject line: "please acknowledge receipt," and then follow up with an e-mail a day or two later if you haven't received acknowledgment.

There are quite a few behaviors of the same order on the part of agencies. One example of this that I find particularly irksome is being anxiously contacted about a potential job, reviewing a document I've been sent, confirming my availability... and then never hearing from the contact person again. Sometimes this happens because the agency never again hears from the potential client. Other times--I am quite certain--they do receive a "no go" message from the original prospect but just never bother to convey that information to me.

In general, the way to deal with these kinds of issues is to make requests and communicate expectations. If you do this, agencies will usually comply. And if they do not, you may indeed need to think about whether they are worth working with at all.

In addition, you can set certain limits in your responsiveness to an agency's demands (e.g., that you are not going to take a couple of hours to drive home and review a document for a potential job when doing so would bust up your personal plans). In a situation where you are awaiting a response about a potential job, and you do not want to be on pins and needles for hours expecting to receive an e-mail, you can simply impose your own deadline (e.g., "If I do not hear from you by 3 p.m. this afternoon, I will assume that you will not need my services for this project.").

I hope this helps.

[Edited at 2010-01-18 16:58 GMT]


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Deliverance Jan 18, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Barbara Thomas wrote:
Do you find it offensive when a company asks for an estimate or a test and then doesn't even bother to acknowledge receipt? I do, and I suspect that it indicates that a company doesn't value its translators.

Indeed I find it unappropriate. Having said that, every time that happens (and it happens a dozen times every year), I thank God for "delivering me from evil", as it would be a lot worse to get to work for companies of that kind.


My thoughts exactly - Tomás. An agency or potential client that does not answer a professional response is not an opportunity missed - it is a deliverance. By our actions others shall know us.


 

Anne Bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:26
English to French
It has happened... but I'm changing my rules Jan 18, 2010

Lack of feedback has happened, both for estimates and for tests. For estimates, it is understandable (you do not know how many estimates have been asked).
For a test (which I assume is a free test, if you don't even get financial feedback), I think it's unacceptable.
I have faced two problems:
- the agency who vaguely acknowledges test receipt but never gives any feedback,
- the agency who asks for your rates, then requires a free test, and when the test is done, begins to complain about your rates supposedly too high.
Now, before taking a free test, I state two conditions:
- My resume must be read, and my rates agreed upon, BEFORE I take the test. Sending me a test is an implicit acceptation of my rates.
- If, after sending back a free test translation, I don't get any feedback, I consider the translation to be mine and I feel free to publish it, as an example of my work, on my Web site or profile.
I have not applied the second rule yet. But I discovered that enforcing the first rule solves altogether the "free test" problem (agencies requiring free test are also those discussing rates). In my opinion, those agencies who don't provide any feedback are those who discover, when everything is done, that your resume didn't suit them.

[Modifié le 2010-01-18 16:53 GMT]


 

Barbara Thomas
United States
Local time: 15:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Professional courtesy should work both ways Jan 18, 2010

Robert Forstag wrote:

...I think it becomes harmful if you take these kinds of things too personally. Project managers and others involved in running agencies are often managing multiple tasks at the same time, and sending an acknowledgment that a test has been received may not be their highest priority at a given moment. ...

There are quite a few behaviors of the same order on the part of agencies. One example of this that I find particularly irksome is being anxiously contacted about a potential job, reviewing a document I've been sent, confirming my availability... and then never hearing from the contact person again. Sometimes this happens because the agency never again hears from the potential client. Other times--I am quite certain--they do receive a "no go" message from the original prospect but just never bother to convey that information to me.



[Edited at 2010-01-18 16:58 GMT]



I don't think it's a problem of taking it personally, it's a problem of taking it professionally. Companies should deal with vendors as courteously as they do with clients.

As for your second point, which I agree is irksome, I generally place a limit on my availability ... hours or a day or two on short projects and a little longer on long projects. I never turn down the "bird in the hand," but I often check back before accepting a project that will make it impossible to accept a "potential project." It's just professional courtesy.



[Edited at 2010-01-18 20:24 GMT]


 

Dr. Andrew Frankland  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:26
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Silence can, however, be golden.... Jan 18, 2010

Last week I replied to a call for medical/pharmaceutical translators posted on this site (and still visible I think), quoting my standard rate, and got a two word reply: CARO-PASO. Maybe it would have been better not to have heard anything....

Andy


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
CARO-PASO Jan 18, 2010

Maybe this could serve as the name of a new consortium of Latin American translation agencies that offer their vendors rates in the $0.01-0.03/word range....

 

Celine H  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:26
English to French
+ ...
agree with Robert Jan 18, 2010

I also dislike it, it IS unprofessional but agencies are sometimes understaffed and they have to prioritise things. It is like when you apply for a job but get no reply, because there were too many applications to give feedback to all. Sometimes agencies send tests to so many translators that they don't bother giving feedback. Also it is usually against their policies to send a corrected version that the translator may exploit at their disadvantage.

If agencies were all professional they would at least say something like "only successful tests will obtain a reply". Do you always use the "ask for a delivery/Read receipt" option in Outlook? Some addressees disable it but it's always worth checking it prior to sending if it's an important message.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No excuse Jan 18, 2010

Robert Forstag wrote:
...I think it becomes harmful if you take these kinds of things too personally. Project managers and others involved in running agencies are often managing multiple tasks at the same time, and sending an acknowledgment that a test has been received may not be their highest priority at a given moment.

I don't agree with this at all. How long does it take you to write "Received. Thank you!" and click the Send button in your email client? Is it 3 seconds? Maybe 4 seconds? Add 3-4 seconds more if you want to be extra verbose and include "We'll be back if interested."

Sorry Robert. Courtesy (particularly with those who are the production force of your business) is far more valuable than 3-4 seconds of your time. Some people just can't see it.

[Edited at 2010-01-18 19:59 GMT]


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 21:26
Italian to English
Wise words Jan 18, 2010

Robert Forstag wrote:

In addition, you can set certain limits in your responsiveness to an agency's demands (e.g., that you are not going to take a couple of hours to drive home and review a document for a potential job when doing so would bust up your personal plans). In a situation where you are awaiting a response about a potential job, and you do not want to be on pins and needles for hours expecting to receive an e-mail, you can simply impose your own deadline (e.g., "If I do not hear from you by 3 p.m. this afternoon, I will assume that you will not need my services for this project.").



This is excellent advice.

Never relinquish the initiative in a business negotiation, particularly with new clients. Make sure the next step depends on your interlocutor but always, always be polite.

Giles

[Edited at 2010-01-18 20:36 GMT]


 

Barbara Thomas
United States
Local time: 15:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Definitely Jan 18, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

How long does it take you to write "Received. Thank you!"

[Edited at 2010-01-18 19:59 GMT]


I think that we're all aware of time constraints in our profession. I wouldn't expect to receive a long explanation or an annotated test. I definitely wouldn't expect a rude response like "caro - paso" from a professional service provider.

However, it takes no time at all to send the minimum message: "Received, thank you." Good professional practice guidelines also dictate that a company shouldn't keep a vendor in the dark, hence a second minimum message would be in order: "After considering your estimate we have assigned the job to another translator," but a company could also resolve everything with one message "Received, thank you. If we do not contact you within XX hours/days, please assume that the client did not accept our bid or the job was assigned to another translator."

If a company can't find time to think about how to handle the niceties efficiently, how good can it be?


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
@ Tomas: Acknowledging receipt would entail having reviewed the test to assure that... Jan 18, 2010

...there are no omissions that might be excusable, that the format is correct (e.g., that the document does not contain a bunch of gibberish because it was composed in a later version of MS Word than the one the agency uses, etc.) and all this takes somewhat longer than a few seconds.

I am all for courtesy, I am not happy when I don't get it, and I do what I can to increase the probabilities that those I interact with regularly provide it. At the same time, there is a particular trend of thought on the various forums of this site that is preoccupied with such matters in a way that strikes me as counterproductive and possibly professionally damaging. For if you start to make decisions about who you will and will not work with in too rigid a way, you may well find yourself in a very lonely place. There certainly are people for whom this is not true, and whose labor is in such frenzied demand that they can choose with whom they collaborate on the basis of such things as consistency in the promptitude and formulaic courtesies of e-mail responses. I confess that I envy such people.

This is not the reality of my world, however. And I suspect that it is not the reality for many of our colleagues.

[Edited at 2010-01-18 20:59 GMT]


 

Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
Automatic response Jan 19, 2010

Last week, I was contacted by an agency about a project, but the conditions were not applealing to me and I refused their offer.
Two seconds later, I received an email saying "Thank you for your interest in this opportunity"...
They should have at least written a more neutral message, such as "We acknowledge reception of your message and will get back to you as soon as possible".


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I insist: there is NO excuse for not saying "Received. Thank you." Jan 19, 2010

Robert Forstag wrote:
@ Tomas: Acknowledging receipt would entail having reviewed the test to assure that...
...there are no omissions that might be excusable, that the format is correct (e.g., that the document does not contain a bunch of gibberish because it was composed in a later version of MS Word than the one the agency uses, etc.) and all this takes somewhat longer than a few seconds.

Not at all. Acknowledging receipt of a test is just that: acknowledging receipt. "Received, thank you." is more than enough at this stage, and no reasonable translator will expect that the test is reviewed immediately. We all know that it can take even months until the customer finds someone qualified enough to do the review, and that is normal. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not saying just "Thank you."

Robert Forstag wrote:
I am all for courtesy, I am not happy when I don't get it, and I do what I can to increase the probabilities that those I interact with regularly provide it. At the same time, there is a particular trend of thought on the various forums of this site that is preoccupied with such matters in a way that strikes me as counterproductive and possibly professionally damaging. For if you start to make decisions about who you will and will not work with in too rigid a way, you may well find yourself in a very lonely place.

I suspect you misread my words, or intentionally exaggerate. Which of the two is it?icon_smile.gif I only said that if some prospect is not polite enough to acknowledge receipt when I send a test that could have taken me hours to complete, is this prospect genuinely interested in my services or is he only trying to fill a big folder with tests? What degree of respect for my work and politeness can be expected from this person in the long run?

My experience with my --luckily-- very good customers is that, when they started communicating with me and sending out tests, they were very cooperative and kept a good communication at all times. They were genuinely interested in my services after reading my CV and listening to what I had to say about my work, and they knew that interfacing with vendors correctly is critical for their own business. That is the kind of customer I like, because I too feel that listening to them and interfacing with them correctly is critical for my business.

[Edited at 2010-01-19 06:19 GMT]


 
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