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I took an urgent translation job and no payment (after 2 months..)
Thread poster: Andre Dumoulin

Andre Dumoulin  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 00:15
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 25, 2011

On July 17, I took an extremely urgent 60 pages translation job with a 2 days deadline. The translation was sent within the deadline, but needed proofreading.

I was supposed to be paid by the end of August. I am still not paid, and now, After two months, I am left with the following message from the agency:

"As you were aware the company rejected the translation because of some major problems and formatting issues, and as a result i will not be paid at all for this transaction. However, i am a reasonable person, and i do understand you took the project at very short notice and you probably needed a lot more time(which we did not have) to produce an acceptable file for the end client. This is a very important client of mine and i had to act this way to ensure they continue to use my services.
I will of course pay you the full outstanding invoice, however i am waiting for a large payment to arrive before i have the spare funds to complete. Please allow me a few more days for this, and i promise you will be fully paid."

This message was sent on September 1.

My question is: How long should I wait and how could I efficiently claim my due? Should I write on this forum the full name of the agency and its manager, since I got the job through Proz? Should I be more patient? Or should I drop my claim and consider that if I have been stupid enough to take a job with a too tight deadline I should also give up my claim to be paid for it?

Let me know if you have any advice.


Andre Dumoulin.

[Edited at 2011-09-25 12:51 GMT]


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Yolanda Broad  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:15
Member (2000)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Please use the Blue Board if you need to identify your client Sep 25, 2011

Dear André Dumoulin,

I am sure other participants in this forum wiil have some useful advice for you about how to deal with your client. However, he should not be identified here:

Outsourcers may not be discussed specifically. Posts or comments regarding a specific outsourcer (identified by name, reference, link or other means), whether positive or negative, are not permitted. (To indicate their likelihood of working again with a given outsourcer, site users should use the ProZ.com Blue Board.)
http://www.proz.com/siterules/forum/8#8


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Hmm... difficult one Sep 25, 2011

Hello André,

I don't think there is a simple answer to this one.

I'm amazed at the figures involved, I must say. If you take very average figures of 250 source words per page and daily output of 2500 words, then you have a possible 15,000 words, which would take an average translator 6 days to translate and proofread. I realise that these are averages (and based on the English language) and may be quite a long way from the truth, but it's difficult for most of us to imagine 60 pages in 2 days, and rather easier to imagine that there were quality issues.

Then, even if you take your average per-word rate (which I personally consider to be very low, but that's a separate issue), we're talking of about $900 - not peanuts and not a sum you'd be happy to wave goodbye to, I'm sure.

The question is, is it worth holding out for payment? The agency has offered to pay in full, even though the translation was rejected, but haven't actually done so. It could well be that they are having second thoughts about handing over such a sum when they have no doubt lost a good customer. I would think that a reminder is overdue, but if the payment is not forthcoming then perhaps you should negotiate on the basis that you only spent 2 days on this job.

We haven't seen the translation, so can't comment on the quality issues, but if it really wasn't worth the paper it was written on then you shouldn't expect full pay, in my opinion. Nor are you strictly speaking allowed to complain about the agency on the Blue Board (see the rules re. BB and quality issues). Still, the agency is obviously aware that they were asking for the impossible, so they must share the responsibility. I would certainly see it as a favour if you reported on the BB that this agency expects magic - they are to be avoided at all costs.

In short, I wouldn't advise you to give up at the moment, but rather re-negotiate the payment and be patient. I doubt whether you would get much joy chasing them through the courts etc as they probably can't be forced to pay if they can prove the end-client rejected the translation.

Good luck - and learn a very useful word for next time you're asked to produce a rabbit out of a hat: NO!

Sheila


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 06:15
English to Czech
+ ...
Difficult one indeed Sep 25, 2011

Hi André,
first of all, let me tell you I'm truly sorry for your experience.

On the other hand, if somebody requires a single translator to translate 60 pages in 2 (!) days, you can smell problems because no professional with a healthy state of mind could post such a requirement. I'm a very fast touch-typist (about 300 net keystrokes per minute), but can only translate about 4,500 words per day on average.

If you do 60 pages in 2 days, probably with little or no sleep, quality issues will be inevitable. You should have arranged this with the agency before getting down to work.

In other words, there have been mistakes on both parts:
1. You shouldn't have accepted the job under such unreasonable conditions;
2. The agency's responsibility is to check the quality of your work before sending the work to the client; if they failed to do this, they are probably one of the "postman agencies" forwarding files to and fro, which usually indicates problems;
3. You should be paid by the agency regardless of when or if at all the agency is paid by the client;
4. If the client is from a distant country, you should have required at least a partial down payment.

I'm sorry for this, but there is every indication that getting paid for this job will be probably be very difficult.

[Upraveno: 2011-09-25 14:28 GMT]


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Andre Dumoulin  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 00:15
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Magic hat..... Sep 25, 2011

Thank you for your comments.

The name of the end client is in the document - you would be also surprised because they are a VERY big name and wouldn't tolerate indeed any negative effect of this kind of practice. It was an EN-FR translation related to the international tax policies of a well-known multinational media group.

It seems that they have received the translation, but weren't required to pay because of the quality issue and because the agency wanted to keep the client.

So you have a chain where a hot potato is transmitted to a translator (me) on Friday afternoon with the request of doing the impossible to submit a translation by Monday morning 7 AM, including sharing the job with other local translators...

The number of words in the source document was 11,679. They explained me that they had been abandoned by the translator who originally was in charge of the job.

Like you say, I didn't sleep and did my best to submit the document at the required date, and submitted it as it was.

I am ready to settle for a lower price given the impossible conditions that I had accepted, and I hope that the simple fact of publishing these lines and sharing them here without mentioning any name will have some effect...I don't want to threaten anybody. Just not to leave the issue hanging...


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:15
German to English
Some lessons are learned the hard way Sep 25, 2011

If I were King Solomon, I might apportion fault evenly.
The agency should have either
1) Tried to convince the client that their deadline would make a quality translation impossible, and that more time would be needed
and/or
2) Divided the document among several translators and an editor to provide consistency, other quality control while keeping to the deadline

The agency chose the simplest, and ultimately least satisfactory solution. If this was really an important client, they should have run the risk of making a little less profit (due to project management, editing, QC costs) in order to make the client happy.

You, on the other hand, should never have accepted a job that was beyond the ability of most translators to deliver a quality product within the time parameter. As a result, you delivered what was in all likelihood a substandard translation.

I think most experienced translators might agree with the following principles:

1. Never take a rush job from a new customer
2. Never take a job, rush or otherwise, with a deadline that might cause you to neglect quality. It's important to reserve time to check your work. Your good reputation is worth money in the long run
3. Never guarantee an output greater than your normal capacity. I promise 2500 words/day, even though my actual production is greater than that. If someone were to approach me with a 12K word project, my response would be that my delivery date would be no sooner than 5 days hence
4. Don't let good intentions get in the way of good sense (I need to remind myself of this, even though I've been in this biz for decades)

I don't advocate being inflexible with regular customers, but it's always a good idea to be honest with yourself -- and your customer -- with respect to your abilities.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
short vs long-term capacity Sep 25, 2011

Kevin Fulton wrote:
3. Never guarantee an output greater than your normal capacity. I promise 2500 words/day, even though my actual production is greater than that. If someone were to approach me with a 12K word project, my response would be that my delivery date would be no sooner than 5 days hence


I would do the same, Kevin. However, let's not get the idea that our maximum is absolute. I think we can all pull out the stops for one day, two days maximum. Longer than that, it becomes impossible - quality is bound to suffer. And time still has to be reserved for proofreading, preferably with a break between the two jobs to have a fresh mind. Finally, there has to be some time for the invoice! It might be a bore, but without the admin, no money comes in!

Sheila


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:15
German to English
Need to be flexible Sep 25, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:

[snip]However, let's not get the idea that our maximum is absolute. I think we can all pull out the stops for one day, two days maximum.



Of course, for the right customer!

My real maximum is almost twice my stated guarantee -- in burst mode, with good reference material (TM, termbase) and clearly written source material -- potentially with an editor following me if the material is complex. My stated max takes into account unanticipated distractions (extensive queries to the customer, computer crashes, power outages, my daughter's existential dramas, etc.) and QC. I usually don't stop working only because I've translated my word count target for the day.


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Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:15
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Quick off-topic about the dangers of taking on too much work Sep 25, 2011

Kevin Fulton wrote:
my daughter's existential dramas, etc.


Thanks Kevin, that made me smile. It sounds so familiar


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just a quick question Sep 25, 2011

Did the agency give you a marked-up document showing the kind of "mistakes" the customer had to "correct"?

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Andre Dumoulin  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 00:15
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No they didn't Sep 25, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Did the agency give you a marked-up document showing the kind of "mistakes" the customer had to "correct"?



They asked me to comment on the opinion of two proofreaders who indeed pointed out the problems due to the lack of time. None of the proofreaders said that the translation was not usable. Only that they also needed more time to work on it....

It is common sense that such a short deadline creates quality problems. If the customer is informed and wants to proceed anyway, it's too easy for him to omit to pay later, after stating repeatedly that he would pay, but missing his own deadline which was the end of the month of August.

[Edited at 2011-09-25 19:56 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Hm... Sep 25, 2011

Andre Dumoulin wrote:
Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Did the agency give you a marked-up document showing the kind of "mistakes" the customer had to "correct"?

They asked me to comment on the opinion of two proofreaders who indeed pointed out the problems due to the lack of time. None of the proofreaders said that the translation was not usable. Only that they also needed more time to work on it....

OK, but did they give any examples of the mistakes and, more importantly, do you agree that such examples are indeed mistakes on your part?

Edited to add this: I know the colleagues have mentioned this already, but I really think that the only mistake you might have made with this job ws to take it. It is quite possible that a vast majority of translators have taken jobs they have regretted later, as it has happened to me in the past. The good thing about this all is that it is providing you with a very good opportunity to learn to let things lie for a while in the next urgent job (wait for a couple of hours before saying yes), and let it go if you get a bad gut feeling about it.

[Edited at 2011-09-25 20:19 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Let things lie? Sep 25, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
It is quite possible that a vast majority of translators have taken jobs they have regretted later, as it has happened to me in the past. The good thing about this all is that it is providing you with a very good opportunity to learn to let things lie for a while in the next urgent job (wait for a couple of hours before saying yes), and let it go if you get a bad gut feeling about it.


Sorry Tomás, but I really can't agree that we should delay our reponse to an urgent job by a couple of hours. We have to live in the same real world as our clients: if something is due yesterday, then an agency is up against it and, if we value our relationship with them, we owe it to them to give a more-or-less instant decision. At least then they are free to go elsewhere in the event of a "No, sorry".

Yes, I think we've all been there and had our fingers burned, like André, but that doesn't excuse procrastination.

Sheila


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Procrastination?? Sep 26, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
It is quite possible that a vast majority of translators have taken jobs they have regretted later, as it has happened to me in the past. The good thing about this all is that it is providing you with a very good opportunity to learn to let things lie for a while in the next urgent job (wait for a couple of hours before saying yes), and let it go if you get a bad gut feeling about it.

Sorry Tomás, but I really can't agree that we should delay our reponse to an urgent job by a couple of hours. We have to live in the same real world as our clients: if something is due yesterday, then an agency is up against it and, if we value our relationship with them, we owe it to them to give a more-or-less instant decision. At least then they are free to go elsewhere in the event of a "No, sorry".
Yes, I think we've all been there and had our fingers burned, like André, but that doesn't excuse procrastination.

What caused this little disaster is the combination of overconfidence and a project manager who knew how to press Andre until he accepted (maybe by flattering, maybe by a play of desperation) and who wanted to do this job for his customer by all means.

The only protection I can suggest to him for the next job of this kind is to take his time to think about it. If the only option is an instant decision, then reject the job immediately because you don't have the chance to detect a lemon.

I must really wonder what really happened with the previous translator who "abandoned them". I have a strange gut feeling about this. People sometimes use words that do not describe the real situation, the same way "procrastination" is not the right word when you are taking time to make an important business decision.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
"Abandoned" Sep 26, 2011

Andre Dumoulin wrote:
The number of words in the source document was 11,679. They explained me that they had been abandoned by the translator who originally was in charge of the job.

Let me ask you this: was any part of the job already translated when you took over?


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