Have I been scammed? My client disappeared and my translation showed up on website - but butchered
Thread poster: Sarah Elizabeth

Sarah Elizabeth
Italy
Local time: 23:25
Italian to English
Jun 12, 2010

Hi,

Two weeks ago I submitted a quote for a job listed on ProZ. The instructions were to contact the poster directly. My quote was accepted. The translation was for an Italian company website -- I checked out the site, and it seems fully legit, and also really interesting.

I prepared my translation and submitted it, on time despite a tight deadline.

I heard from my client a couple days later when he had a question about part of the translation (I had made a typo; bad, I know). I confirmed the typo and sent a new file, with voluntarily added further polishing.

Then my client vanished.

I've received no payment (two weeks was the stipulated pay date) and no confirmation of receipt of my new file.

Part of my translation has, however, appeared on the website, but it has been butchered. Some of the phrasing remains the same, but most has been translated out of mother tongue English into something quite strange. It reads as though parts of my translation were merged with machine translation. Besides the fact that I haven't been paid and that I cannot use this website as an sample of my work since the translation is wrecked, I feel bad for the company, which now has an embarrassing English translation of their Italian text.

And I worry about my reputation, if my name is in any way attached to this translation within their company.

When I did some research on my client after the fact, I found that his name/city happen to be those of a particular, relatively famous Italian, which raised a red flag for me, since it strikes me as probably unlikely that this particular figure also works as a translation agent (anything's possible, though). The company name does not have a web presence. And the email address turns out to be linked to an Asian translation agency, although my client is listed as in Italy and his company name is Italian. Also the company name and the email address do not match (ie suggest two different companies altogether). All of this raises red flags for me, maybe it shouldn't, but to me it seems kind of strange.

Have I been scammed?

And should I write to the end client to let them know that my translation was butchered and that what they have posted on their website is an embarrassingly bad translation?

Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyone out there who has had a similar experience, or who has heard of something like this?

Thanks!

Edited June 13, 2010 to remove clues to client's identity.

[Edited at 2010-06-13 13:08 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-06-13 13:18 GMT]


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:25
French to English
+ ...
Give agency due chance to respond before taking other action Jun 12, 2010


And should I write to the clothing company (the end client) to let them know that my translation was butchered and that what they have posted on their website is appalling?


I luckily haven't had a case like this so far, so this is pure opinion. But I wouldn't just tell the end client without first telling the agency you're going to do this and giving them a chance to correct the situation. Maybe you can tell them that effectively if you don't receive acknowledgement and payment for the translation within 14 days, you'll inform the end client of the the poor quality translation and the fact that you weren't paid for the original job, which was of higher quality. If the end client is legit and the agency not, then at least the client won't then ever use that agency.

Of course, it may be the end client that has butchered their own translation. (I've occasionally had clients adamant that a change should be made bceause Microsoft Word tells them to...)

If a reasonable time has passed to allow the agency to officially tell you that the translation is not up to standard, and they haven't done so, then I think it is reasonable to assume that they have "accepted" the translation and leave a BlueBoard entry. Again, maybe you can send them an e-mail at least attempting to establish whether they have "accepted" the translation ("if I receive no response within 7 days, I will assume that you have accepted the translation of being of an acceptable standard").


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Sarah Elizabeth
Italy
Local time: 23:25
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Neil for your advice... Jun 12, 2010

...I'll be sure to give my client the benefit of the doubt for a while longer, and contact him a couple more times, as necessary. And I will make sure to not contact the end client unless I have first let my client know that I intend to do so, and have also given him ample chance to reply.

It is horrible that clients have such faith in MS Word.

I should have done my research first. If I had, I never would have accepted this job.



And so, one of my questions still remains: Has anyone else seen their translation butched on a website? Is this a scam-technique? My husband says it is a way to get out of paying me -- that the agency can claim they did not use my translation, since only a percentage of it appears.


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Gabriela Daniela Ardeleanu  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 00:25
Member (2009)
English to French
+ ...
This happened to me too Jun 12, 2010

A title in the translation was changed in a machine-like way...horrible. The whole translation was published on the website exactly as I provided it, except for this title. I didn't know how to approach the client in this matter...
For this reason, I cannot put this website in my portfolio, everybody would think I provided it in that form


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Germaine  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:25
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
Is it relevant? Jun 12, 2010

Sarah Elizabeth wrote:

My husband says it is a way to get out of paying me -- that the agency can claim they did not use my translation, since only a percentage of it appears.



Can a client make such a claim after the quote has been accepted and the translation delivered? It seems to me that whether or not you wear the skirt you've bought is not really of my concern...


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:25
French to German
+ ...
Yes, I have seen it Jun 13, 2010

Sarah Elizabeth wrote:
And so, one of my questions still remains: Has anyone else seen their translation butched on a website? Is this a scam-technique? My husband says it is a way to get out of paying me -- that the agency can claim they did not use my translation, since only a percentage of it appears.


Yes, I have seen it. This had nothing to do with a scam technique - at least not always. Some clients simply do not understand that the translation delivered to them is an end product and not a draft.

[Edited at 2010-06-13 10:11 GMT]


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
English to Russian
+ ...
Italian agencies Jun 13, 2010

I have several regular customers from Italy.
They regularly settle my invoices but... in 3 months of the issue date.

In view of this local Italian practice I would be surprised if some Italian client paid me in 14 days only.

One more point - have you received any purchase order from your client?

[Edited at 2010-06-13 08:19 GMT]


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Sarah Elizabeth
Italy
Local time: 23:25
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
thank you.... Jun 13, 2010

Gabriela: thank you for writing to let me know that you had a similar experience. I am sorry to hear it, especially since all but that one title is your own work. Judging from the paucity of other responses affirming similar experiece, perhaps it's relatively rare and we were unlucky!

Germaine: I honestly have no idea whether it's possible that the client can claim to have not used my translation and therefore not pay, esp. since my client made no complaint about the translation. It hasn't come up before: Prior to joing ProZ I worked only with clients I knew directly. Whether paid or not, I'll certainly learn from this experiece.

Laurent: thank you for sharing your knowledge of this kind of situation. The weird thing is that the changes to my translation are simply bizarre "English". For such messed-up language, there was no need to seek out a mother tongue translator, much less a trained, professional writer with particular knowledge in the sector. Grrr.

Sergei: thanks for letting me know of your experience -- I will keep it in mind and will also try to put the payment issue on the back burner. It would be a nice "surprise" to receive the payment in a few months time rather than never. And yes, I did receive a purchase order, through email, not through Proz: I sent a quote with my terms, he sent a reply accepting (and restating) those terms, and I sent confirmation of my acceptance (again restating everything).


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:25
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Twice Jun 13, 2010

This has happened to me twice with (private) clients who thought they knew everything better. Sadly, I cannot mention these translations in my portfolio but they did pay me ....

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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:25
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Clients who know it all! Jun 14, 2010

Translations being butchered, changed, downgraded... part of the business. It's so disheartening because you try your best until you have something you're really proud of and clients/proofreaders change it for the worse. Some of them are quite stubborn and showing them the dictionary does not work! What puzzles me is that if they had such faith in their language/writing skills in the first place, why hire someone and not do it yourself?

Lots of people (even PMs) seem to believe MS Word knows everything.

I've had cases just like yours, when they use machine translation in certain segments. Except that in my case, people did complain and this client tried to blame me and even get away with paying (saying the work was so bad it did not deserve to be paid - yes, the final result was but not what I delivered). This client was so stubborn he even invented words that do not exist - and then told everyone he had nothing to do with it. I've asked to have my name removed from this project, and they agreed and in the end they left it anyway, claiming I've never asked for such a thing.

I think your husband might be right. Unfortunately, I've seen all kinds of scam in this business. The most common one is simply vanishing, and the second changing things and then saying "I can't pay you because your work was terrible and I had to hire someone to fix it", and when you find it it's just the exact same thing with some minor changes (for the worse). Or even "I did not use everything so I'll only pay you --- this much ---".

It's not unusual that shady agencies send the same text to more than one person, and then alternate paragraphs or something in order to claim it's not your work.

I tend to get suspicious if a new client offers me a huge project right away.

I hope everything turns out ok and you get paid in the end!

In my experience, just the threat to get legal advice works perfectly. You'd be surprised how many translators just let people get away with not paying.





[Edited at 2010-06-14 01:08 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-06-14 01:09 GMT]


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Sarah Elizabeth
Italy
Local time: 23:25
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
and more thanks... Jun 14, 2010

Tina: And may it never, ever happen to you again! I am glad you did get paid -- fingers crossed that I do, too.

Paula: Wow, thank you for sharing all so much of your experience. I appreciate the detail -- I see much more clearly now what my situation might be, given all that you've written. I hope that you've seen the last of this thing! (And me, too.)


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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:25
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Puzzling Jun 14, 2010

The interesting thing is that generally know-it-all clients that complain too much about your work do come back at some point.

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