Agencies not adhering to their own contracts?
Thread poster: Kirsten Bodart

Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
Sep 22, 2011

So, I need some advice from the old crocodiles among you.

I was approached by an agency for a translation into a target language I don't do, tough it is one of my source languages. This is not an amateur agency, they are actually pretty big and have a good Blue Board. Just to make that clear.

So, I e-mailed back that I didn't do this, but if they wanted to contact me for x, x and x, they could count on me. Several days nothing then an e-mail back saying that they did want me for the other languages, but that I would have to document experience and do a test (unpaid).

I e-mailed back, 'no, no unpaid test and no disclosure due to confidentiality' and added that we hoped that the agency would also expect that from its own translators under contract. I didn't expect anything back, but was surprised when they sent me an e-mail saying that they would pay for a test. In the mean time we already agreed to a fee per source word that is virtually double what they usually pay.

So, then the contract. I read it, it says that tests are voluntary. I strike the sentence through and send it back, signed. Days later, they a-mail me to say that it is impossible to put it into the system because a sentence has been struck through. Weird, because surely a scan is able to go into the system no matter what is on it. Anyway, I e-mail back that I would like the sentence to be scrapped because that this doesn't apply to me and that US law explicitly states that I may do this without problems (the contract is governed by US law). I get a somewhat angry e-mail back that they have already confirmed in writing that this clause does not apply to us and PM quotes his/her manager who mails as well that this clause does not apply.

I reply that their contract explicitly states that the contract as it is signed requires written and signed (I underlined 'signed') documents for any changes to the contract and that it supercedes any previous agreements made, whether oral or written.

Thereupon, believe it or not, their European director of operations e-mails to say that he also confirms that this clause does not apply. I let the matter lie for about two weeks, not expecting anything back, as I do not want the hassle of an agency that clearly does not even want to comply with its own contract. But, today, an e-mail, kindly asking again that I sign the contract as it is (unpaid test).

What do I have to do with this? Is it worth risking it and just putting a very very bad Blue Board record if they don't pay in the end, or do I have to state again that they do it my way or not at all?

I am a bit at a loss why they would like me to sign that contract so badly.

There are other fish in the sea, right?



[Edited at 2011-09-22 20:00 GMT]


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:26
Member (2003)
German to English
Follow your nose Sep 22, 2011

If it smells fishy to you, for whatever reason, then it probably is. Let it be.

Hope that helps!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:26
English to Portuguese
+ ...
If you don't see the whole picture, imagine us... Sep 22, 2011

Kirsten,

Let's take one thing at a time. Translating into a source (not target) language of yours is possible and reasonable if - and only if - a) it relies on a specialty area of yours, in which they didn't find anyone more suitable, and b) there will be qualified reviewing afterwards.

I had a somewhat similar case years ago, the only time ever I translated from French (which I speak, however only for my personal use) into my native Portuguese. They needed eight training videos translated for dubbing (my specialty). However there would be two bilingual executive secretaries (not translators), one native French, the other native Brazilian, reviewing it, and I'd still have a final review on metrics. It came out really great.

The second item is the agreement. I am guessing, however maybe that agency hired a lawyer to write that contract, and this lawyer said that as long as they don't change one iota in it, their position will not be compromised; otherwise they'll be a babe in the woods.

Overall, I must guess again, the reason they want the test, paid or unpaid, and the agreement signed so badly seems to be that they have a request, and they want to have something to show that they have people capable of delivering it. If they doubled their fee just like that, it doubles the chances of this assumption being correct. Afterwards they'll probably outsource it to the cheapest sweat shop they can find. You'll have been the Cyrano for some amateur, most likely with a different outcome.

It's your call, of course, however I'd play coy with them.


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks both of you! Sep 22, 2011

The language in question was Belgian French and the area Medical. Personally I don't believe that there are no Belgian French translators to be found in this area...

I think I will not be their Cyrano then (great play, that is by the way).

Thanks for your thoughts, Enrique I must say what you write is quite plausible.

I'll stress my case again.

Any other thoughts are always welcome.

[Edited at 2011-09-22 20:12 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Clearly a no-go Sep 22, 2011

Personally I think that a good customer is always a simple customer (I mean simple business workflows and communications, not simple translation work). If a customer is becoming so complicated just for a test... clearly you don't want to work with them since you already started on the wrong foot.

There are other fish in the sea, and there are excellent agencies out there that are tremendously simple to work with. I would politely email this firm stating that you are not really sure whether you are in the same wavelength in the business side of things, and proposing to terminate the contract after all. If they do not respond, read the contract for the termination clause and do what is estipulated in the contract for a formal termination from your part (maybe send a registered letter to this or that address terminating the contract, with this or that advance time or whatever).

Good luck!


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:26
French to English
Maybe I have missed something... Sep 22, 2011

... and I really don't wnat to spend all my time on here adopting a contrary position (although I seem to do so quite a lot) but anyway....
Kirsten Bodart wrote:

So, then the contract. I read it, it says that tests are voluntary.


... why can't you just not do tests that are offered? If the email agreement you have says that tests will be paid, then one could argue that they then fall outside the scope of "tests" as defined in the contract and become paid "jobs" or "projects" or whatever their terminology is, and are covered by the usual terms.

That said, I have to agree with Tomas. If you've got off on the wrong foot, it can be very hard to get a decent relationship going subsequently.


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Narcis Lozano Drago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:26
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
All others matters aside... Sep 22, 2011

... If it is indeed a paid test, just ask for a PO for the project,
preferably before signing the terms.

Narcis


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:26
German to English
Charlie and Narcis' suggestion sounds promising Sep 23, 2011

Hello Kirsten,
I would also tend to think along these same lines, although Tomás has a good point: If they behave this way regarding a test, who knows what they will do later.

Surely, a purchase order has priority over any contradictory items in a general contract or general terms and conditions. If you have an e-mail that states "Translate this text for this amount of money by this deadline according to these guidelines," they can't refuse to pay you on the basis of a prior general agreement.

On the other hand, I'm no "old crocodile" and it is always better to rely on experience than logic.

Sincerely,
Michael


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not a promising picture at all Sep 23, 2011

Michael Wetzel wrote:
I would also tend to think along these same lines, although Tomás has a good point: If they behave this way regarding a test, who knows what they will do later.

Indeed. If they do not do their best to treat you right and iron out any wrinkles at the beginning, it is proof that they do not think you are important, and that is the kind of customers we do not need.

If you are dating a new guy/girl and he/she wears the old training suit day after day, does not comb his/her hair, smells like he/she is not very fond of the shower, and makes disagreeable noises during lunch... don't expect a marvellous, respectful relationship later on. Run for your life!!


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I forgot to mention Sep 23, 2011

that there is no PO without the terms signed, as they are.

I pointed out the fact that I would have no argument if they didn't want to pay me if I was to sign this thing, and then they got angry.

They keep promising to send the POs after signing my contract.

The agency was allegedly suspended from posting on this website too for a few non-payment reports from other translators. This was until Feb 2010. (and now probably some will realise who this agency is)

I googled them last night and apparently their sales team in the US has a turnover of personnel of more than half every year, reason why they are continuously advertising en masse for jobs. Their PMs allegedly don't speak languages either and their proofreaders are bad so that they make changes just to make a point of their job. Not to mention that their directors get drunk to the point of collapsing when there are parties and even during interviews. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. And they pay bad rates, so I don't understand why they then double it especially for me (not that I am über-qualified).

I guess it's a no-no then.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:26
French to English
A crocodile speaks Sep 23, 2011

Word to the wise....

Kirsten Bodart wrote:

I googled them last night (snip)

I guess it's a no-no then.


.... do that first next time you are approached. Saves a lot of time and effort all round. Although the parties sound as though they might be, er, interesting?


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Oh, but googling them wasn't that easy Sep 23, 2011

Due to their great amount of job offers, the only thing that appears in the Google list is job offers and how great they are. You are really tempted to believe that they are great, too.

The entries that are really about them from other people are very rare. And I mean 100s and 100s of entries by themselves and one forum topic about them, tucked somewhere in between.

Also part of their clever plan, I suppose.


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