Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
I got ripped off!!
Thread poster: Ionela Popescu

Ionela Popescu
United States
Nov 10, 2011

This US company I completed a translation for (31 pages, over 6k words, $619) in August, has basically refused to pay for my almost 20 hours of work. Everything was fine with the translation, formatting, style, language (medical field) and I am more than qualified to translate into/from these two languages (English and French) as I have a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in them. I have also been working as a translator for almost 10 years and in all this time I have never had such an issue with any of my clients. Until now.

This lady who is unfortunately also the owner of this small company thought that my translation was so poor that it was undeliverable to the client and she all of a sudden decided not to pay which she communicated to me in the email. She has not brought any written evidence to her statements (proofreading of the translation in track changes so I can have any idea about what she was saying), the only thing she has done has been to not reply to my emails but with very great difficulty and when she does, she threatens and tries to intimidate through her attitude and remarks. She even has time to put little letters into PDF files, trying to look professional, but with all the work I did for her (this was not my first project with her) she never had time to send me a Purchase Order.

Regarding this unpaid translation, when she placed the order with me, she did not even send me the right source and after I delivered the translation, she insisted that I should make some changes inside that I did not actually have in my source and I told her so. After a few days one of her secretaries actually sent me the right source (with the few words that had to be added), she apologized for that and she even said that there was never an intention of not paying from them and that the client accepted the translation and payment was to be sent. What a relief, I told myself. I was oh so wrong! After one month when the payment was overdue, I emailed them about it and they said (her secretary again) that payment was on its way. And it was but only part of it. With this last big amount completely missing!

What else can I say: this owner is basically impossible to talk to. When she was told that it was her secretary who told me that the translation had been accepted and payment was to be made, she said that she had no idea that her secretary had done that (even if the secretary always wrote from the owner's email address!?) and that she does not intend to pay for the translation. I have asked her repeatedly to send me evidence for her refusal to pay such as a proofreading in track changes of the document so I can understand this and which would be the professional and normal thing to do, but she has refused to do that.

When she found out that she had a negative feedback from me for not paying for this translation without a plausible reason and written evidence, she sent a letter saying that she will take legal action against my company (I am the owner of a small translation business, I just opened it a few months ago) if I did not delete the negative posts. Her tone is threatening and frankly it's starting to scare me a little. I am by nature a pacifist, but I hate to be taken advantage of in such a horrible way.

She never answers her phone (actually today when I called she hung up on me, I did not get to say a word) and when she rarely answers her emails, she is aggressive and very short. What actually shocks me is that this person thinks that she is the one being harassed and threatened (?!) by my insistence for being paid for a product I delivered on time (and which I completed in 2 days) and in good conditions.

Yes, I can say that I got ripped off. The most frustrating thing is that I cannot talk to anyone at this company so that someone can give me an honest reason and evidence why my translation was not paid.

Any thoughts on this would be a great help. Thank you in advance.


 

Luiz Vasconcelos  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:28
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Evidence Nov 10, 2011

You should request her point-by-point comments in writing and submit it to an independent third party specializing in the subject for a qualified opinion. From the way you write (clearly and with excellent style) I don't think the lady is right. Don't be afraid, let her be...

 

Deborah Lockhart  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
Unfair US Company Nov 10, 2011

Dear Ionela:

I am sorry to hear of your woes with this US-based Company. It is such a shame when these things happen. The agency owner obviously has financial problems and does not know how to come right out and tell you that. Needless to say, I hope you will be able to collect your payment very soon. And definitely! Do not be afraid.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do to protect yourself going forward:

Draft up an agreement that you will ask future clients to sign. Since you do not want to be annoying, try to make the agreement as concise as possible. If it is a particular client's practice to send you a job order (PO), you may not have to include everything in your standard agreement to that client. However, in the absence of a PO, you may wish to include the following information in your agreement:

- What you bring to the table: your qualifications and experiences
- The scope of the services you will provide to this client
- The deadline for the project
- Provisions to be made so you can address any eventual concerns about the translation and provide fixes
- Details of how you expect concerns to be presented (direct comments about specific parts of the translation, tracked changes, etc.)
-Explain that if some agreement cannot be made, you will find an ATA-certified third party reviewer who will check your translation. If your translation is not good, part of your fee will be used to pay the third party reviewer. If the ATA-certified reviewer deems your translation to be accurate, then the client will have to pay the fees of the reviewer. (This usually makes plaintive clients back down!icon_smile.gif)
- The rate you will be paid for the project; the total word count and total amount (include the currrency for good measure)
- Your expected payment term
- Contingencies if payment is not made within the payment term

Again, if you already have a proven relationship with the client, this may not be necessary. However, when approached by new contacts, just explain that this will protect both the client and yourself. While you should not sound threatening or negative or appear to be pushy, stick to your guns and have the document signed (or at least secure a PO) for your own peace of mind. If the client is under pressure (as I am sure is the case), be flexible and give them a day or two to sign the agreement and return it to you. However, if the client is not offering you any assurances, then I would rethink any decision to work for that person.

I wish you all the best for the future and I hope from hereon in, you will find only honest clients.


 

liviu roth
United States
Local time: 03:28
Romanian to English
+ ...
Small Claim Court ! Nov 10, 2011

Did you consider taking her to court ! Not just threats !

 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:28
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Small Claims Court Nov 11, 2011

Here is an explanation about the Small Claims Court procedure and the forms for Washington State (according to your profile that's where you are):
http://www.atg.wa.gov/teenconsumer/rights_and_responsibilities/small_claims_court.htm
http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/?fa=forms.contribute&formid=33

If they are in the same state, you are lucky, because it seems you have to file where THEY are, and that may be a problem if they are far away.

Another option would be to hire a collection agency. They would take part of the money, though.

Katalin

[Edited at 2011-11-11 01:39 GMT]


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:28
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
BBB Nov 11, 2011

Hi Ionela,

I'm sorry to read about your problems.

Aside from the steps mentioned here, you could also send your client a nice, very professional email in which you mention that you intend to report their conduct to the BBB if no consent can be reached in regard to your financial claims. Give them a couple of days to respond, and when they don't, follow it through.

I wish you the best of success and, please, don't be afraid!

Thayenga


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Step up the action Nov 11, 2011

Thayenga wrote:
you could also send your client a nice, very professional email in which you mention that you intend to report their conduct to the BBB if no consent can be reached in regard to your financial claims. Give them a couple of days to respond, and when they don't, follow it through.


Hello Ionela,

It really does sound as though you are on solid ground here. So, you have a good basis for pushing hard. Her position is on unstable ground and she will quite likely collapse if you push hard. If she had genuine quality issues to raise, well then, she would have fired loads of proof at you, wouldn't she? I don't know the situation in the U.S. regarding court claims, lawyer's fees etc., but I think that if anyone sues, it should be you! I have had some experience of the French small claims court, and it is a cheap process, with the loser paying all the fees - when a client refused to pay me on flimsy grounds, the court didn't hesitate.

Frankly, I doubt very much that she will hold fast to her claims if you threaten her with court action in a formal, business-like way. No need for threats and menaces, in fact I believe it is best to stay very polite in these cases. She's in the wrong - don't join her!icon_wink.gif But clearly, you need to step up the action. E-mails are not working, so I'd switch to old-fashioned communication. I'd send a very formal letter (written in legalese, using "we" as you are a company, etc.) saying that she is obliged to pay this debt and that if payment is not received within n (14?) days, you will have no option but to hand the matter over to your lawyer. And of course, let her know how much interest she has to pay if she pays by return, and how much to add for every extra day (not that that will amount to much in these depressed times). Send it by registered post so she has to sign for it and can't claim she didn't receive it, and enclose a copy of the invoice, all possible payment details etc. If you can afford it, get it written by a lawyer him/herself as their letter-headings always carry a lot of weight.

Of course, if you're met by silence, then you have to act at the end of the n days. Don't let it drag on. If she doesn't provide proof of her claim you are on very strong ground.

Good luck and let us know how it pans out.

Sheila (NOT a lawyer)


 

JaneD  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 09:28
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
This is why... Nov 11, 2011

The most frustrating thing is that I cannot talk to anyone at this company so that someone can give me an honest reason and evidence why my translation was not paid.

Any thoughts on this would be a great help. Thank you in advance.




The honest reason why your translation was not paid for is almost certainly that this "lady" has run out of money to pay you. She will be trying the same technique with other translators, no doubt, and she is using the most discouraging of tactics as she wishes you to just go away.

I suggest that you persevere with pursuing your payment by means of whatever inexpensive legal means are available to you, but that you simultaneously

a) stop wasting your time contacting this woman directly as it's quite clear that she has no intention of paying you - or even being remotely civil - and

b) assume that you will not be able to recover this money.

This should minimise the stress of the case and in the unlikely event that you do finally receive payment it will be a nice surprise.

Another option which has been mentioned in similar cases - although I'm never sure whether I would do this myself in these circumstances - is to contact the end client directly, if you know who they are. You can be sure that they will have already paid this woman and will probably not be pleased to find out that they have been charged for something that didn't cost her anything. You would therefore get the satisfaction of dropping her in it with them, but whether this would actually help you or your case in any meaningful way is dubious.

Jane


 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:28
Member
French to English
+ ...
Dealing with "difficult personalities" Nov 11, 2011

Sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunately, dealing with people like this woman can be soul-destroying. If this is the first time you've come across someone like that in nigh-on ten years of translating, you've done remarkably well! There are a couple of things I would bear in mind here:

First, her threats of legal action: as long as you can back up whatever you have said with evidence (email correspondence, etc.), I don't think she'd have much of a leg to stand on if she tried to sue you, and she probably knows that, so I'd ignore the intimidation. I think it's actually quite possible that she hasn't run out of money; this is simply the way some people prefer to do business, unfortunately. Either way, she will no doubt try this with other people in future, and has probably done it before, so other translators need to be warned. If you have made a BB entry, maybe other victims will get in touch with you and compare notes; if so, that could really help your case, if you do decide to pursue the matter. What her secretary told you (i.e. that the client accepted your work) shows that she is lying - do you still have that email? If so, that should put you in a strong position, as the contradiction will cast doubt on the agency's credibility.

Secondly, I would be especially careful about what you say to the agency concerned, if you contact it again (and personally I wouldn't). It sounds almost as though this woman is being deliberately provocative, and although it's only natural to feel angry in this situation, it's very important not to be drawn into reacting in a way that may be perceived as aggressive, as Deborah says. If you take some form of legal action against her, she's probably the kind of person who would try very hard to discredit you and make you out to be the ogre in all this. So, if you feel you have to contact the agency again, I would suggest that you do so in writing and avoid talking to them on the telephone, so that you can keep a record of whatever is said, and that you write as concisely and as matter-of-factly as possible, avoiding any kind of emotional or unobjective language.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!


 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:28
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Take a deep breath Nov 11, 2011

First thing is to calm yourself. Then look into your exchanges to see where the slip-up took place, and let each party account for them. At the very least, the exercise will give you a picture of what should be filed in the event of a small claim. Try to see things from the unbiased view that a court would theoretically take.

 

xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:28
English to Dutch
+ ...
Attack is the best defense Nov 12, 2011

Attack is the best defense. Have no mercy on these crooks. Give them a one-week ultimatum and then send a debt collection agency straight away. Do it. Now. They've got nothing on you.

 

Maia Rushbury  Identity Verified
English to Russian
+ ...
Can I give you a piece of advice you might follow in the future? Nov 13, 2011

Dear Ionela,

I hope you eventually get some joy from the agency.

Can I give you a piece of advice you might follow in the future in order to safeguard yourself from getting into a situation like you are now?

I once found myself in a similar predicament. It was at the very beginning of my career, when I was not yet a member of any professional organisation and therefore it was not possible to find any information/feedback from colleagues about agencies (good or bad payers). I have been a qualified member of The Institute of Translation & Interpreting, UK, for a number of years now enjoying all the benefits available to the members. We also have a Discussion Forum on the Institute’s website where the members discuss various issues and post their queries and feedback on their dealings with agencies and clients, give their favourable comments on good agencies and blacklist bad ones. I keep records of all bad payers and when I am approached by any agency the first thing I do is to run through the list of bad payers to check out the credentials of the agency.

I suppose, it would be very helpful if you become a member of the American Translators Association (or maybe you are already). I am sure the American Translators Association’s website should have something like that in order to alert members to unethical clients. It is always possible, of course, to remind this particular rogue client that you could arrange for them to be blacklisted among all reputable translators. In the politest possible way, of course, à l’anglaise.
I wish you the very best in resolving the matter in your favour.

Kind regards
Maia


 

Ionela Popescu
United States
TOPIC STARTER
This agency owner got herself an attorney.. For what exactly?? Jan 27, 2012

I just received an e-mail from an attorney saying that he represents the interests of this agency that owes me money and that all communication should be made through him.
Can you believe the nerve on this woman?? This owner of this agency which refused to pay for my 20 hours of work without any evidence?? She got herself an attorney! Now why would she do that??


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:28
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Lawyering up Jan 27, 2012

Why did she do that?
Perhaps because she realized that she (or her secretary) may make comments that could be used against her if you do take her to court. She is covering her rear end.

Bu the way, have you initiated collection procedures for your invoice for that job?
(You did send an invoice, didn't you?)

Katalin


 

liviu roth
United States
Local time: 03:28
Romanian to English
+ ...
a short question Jan 27, 2012

Do you have the name, address and telephone number of the attorney (could be a bluff) ? If "yes" talk to him and see what is his client's position. If eventually you go to court, you need to present some evidence to support your claim. Be prepared !

Best of luck,
Lee


 
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