When *their* client is not happy after their proof+QM of your trans were ok
Thread poster: pcs_MCIL
May 4, 2013

Suppose you translate an urgent technical job for a long-term agency. You have some doubts on a couple of terms and you inform the PM about them immediately - but you never got a reply.

Your translation is then proofread by another linguist (chosen by the agency), and then undergoes to QM's screening (in-house from the agency) but after 3 months the agency tells you that the client was not happy with the translation delivered.

In fact, they sends you a PDF with the client's edits and each of them is commented by another linguist that the agency hired with the purpose to assess the client's edits.
You notice that the final version in the PDF is identical to your translation: nor the proofreader nor the QM changed a comma in your translation!

You are informed your compensation will be deducted by 30%, which should cover the third party review. They also inform you that "everyone involved in this project" is going to pay for this.

Considering it was a strongly technical translation of 4000 words in 36 hours, and that 80% of the edits are style-related (as assessed by the third party review), either:
  • 1) the proofreader and the QM never read your translation

  • 2) the agency decided to skip these steps - not a smart move for an urgent project


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:43
English to Polish
+ ...
That sucks May 4, 2013

As jurist, I've got to say that sucks and some guys should straighten up. If the final version remains unchanged, those guys essentially want a discount based on supposedly deficient quality. And that after ordering an urgent translation. Basically, the agency is allowing the Client to do that, while trying to dodge its own professional responsibility for having processed an urgent translation.

Nothing unusual, by the way. In this consumer day and age, 1) Clients want even lower rates combined with even shorter deadlines, combined further with even better quality. Nobody thinks how much skill is needed there, how much schooling costs to become a qualified translator, nor even how subjective those style-related reviews and edits can be; and 2) agencies are growing increasingly spineless in their client relationships while trying to push any problems on the translator. None of which is acceptable.

Get yourself a clear Terms of Service/General Terms and Conditions document, put an appropriate link and disclaimer in your business e-mail footer (a.k.a. "signature"), and carefully review all your contracts. Insist on shorter deadlines for edits and complaints, especially those relating to style alone. It won't fly with consumers (unless it will, but you'd need to ask a lawyer where you operate), but with business clients it can. Also, exclude any discounts whatsoever based on whimsical (use this word) comments or impressions, subjective (again this word) opinions, mere differences of opinion (copy this phrase) and so on and so forth.

You need to because there are just so many people who think they're entitled to translation for a half of the price if they aren't personally, subjectively satisfied with the style, or even people who use complaints to renegotiate your rates and make some post-purchase savings.

In the current case, I'd be tempted to ask a pal with bar admission to sign a nice little call for payment, categorically rejecting the hanky panky presented so far.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:43
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The end client should pay IMHO May 4, 2013

The agency is resonsible to the end client, and in fact you as subcontractor have no business relations with the end client.

You delivered a translation that went through QA and was accepted.

It was an urgent translation, and must have served its purpose at the time.

Unless there were some very specific and very objective flaws in the translation (which there were not in this case when all the linguists agree) - I would not accept any reduction in my fee.

'Everyone involved in this project' should not hae to pay. The client who made a fuss and was proved wrong should pay. Otherwise clients can always invent some matter of style and demand a reduction every time... forcing 'everyone involved' to pay!

It may be difficult to enforce if you have not already been paid. (After three months I hope you have!) But as the agency is a long-term client of yours, I would write a calm, polite mail to them and say you are not prepared to accept a reduction at all.
___________________________
The best agencies I have worked for simply absorb costs like checking an extra time and explaining to the client that in fact the translation was correct.

When I worked in house, I was sometimes in the same office when a colleague took phone calls and explained, carefully and diplomatically, why the translation was right. He often found a solution where the client saved face and felt they were in good hands with such experts who knew more about the language than they did.

This colleague was a real asset to the agency - he reassured the end clients, and they came confidently back next time they needed a translation.

Best of luck!


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:43
Chinese to English
Just say no May 5, 2013

Absolutely not on.

1) Check your contract. Your contract with the agency should specify under what counts as acceptance of your work. If you have a bad contract, then you've got trouble, but most contracts don't allow for this kind of rubbish.

2) Most of the information you gave us isn't strictly relevant. It doesn't matter how much of a rush job it was, nor whether the editors changed anything. These points might be useful to help win over someone in the company (e.g. the PM) to your side, so that they will argue for you internally. Good ammunition for negotiation! But these points are not the core argument.

The core argument is: I delivered a competent translation (maybe not perfect, but competent); you accepted it; pay me.

You have no relationship with the client. The client's problems are not relevant to your work.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:43
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
deadline for complaints May 5, 2013

Three months is a very long time, and you say the job was URGENT?

Your translation served its urgent purpose, now someone has taken the time to look at it in detail.

My terms specify a 2-week deadline after delivery during which the client may come back with complaints, after that period, I may make an effort to look at the comments and see whether corrections are needed but will refuse to budge on discounts or anything (unless the document is so big you can't possibly read it in two weeks, but then I would probably have delivered in several instalments anyway).

I remember a friend of mine needing a translation urgently: it was for the packaging of a product. She was with the DTP team and they wanted to know how much room to leave for the translation. I told her that we couldn't just whip something up straight off and that when the time came for her packaged product to be sent out to clients she might get negative feedback. She acknowledged that it would be better to finalise her source text properly and have the translators produce the target texts in a decent time-frame, to avoid problems later. But when she first called me, she was just in a panic because DTP said they needed the texts. This being a friend, I knew more about her business and she was more up-front than the average client too, so we were able to sort things out smoothly. But I'm sure that agencies don't have that good a relationship with their clients to be able to ensure that translators have enough time to produce great work.

bon courage!


 

TranslateThis  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Giant agency May 6, 2013

I am 99% sure I know which agency you are talking about. They usually reduce your PO amount no matter what. You can try disputing this by documenting everything and contacting the Team Lead.



[Edited at 2013-05-06 06:44 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@TranslateThis, and @Paolo May 6, 2013

TranslateThis wrote:
I am 99% sure I know which agency you are talking about.


I rather doubt that. The situation described by Palola is quite generic.

Paola Slajmer wrote:
1. Suppose you translate an urgent technical job for a long-term agency. You have some doubts on a couple of terms and you inform the PM about them immediately - but you never got a reply.
2. Your translation is then proofread by another linguist (chosen by the agency), and then undergoes to QM's screening (in-house from the agency) but after 3 months the agency tells you that the client was not happy with the translation delivered.
3. You notice that the final version in the PDF is identical to your translation: nor the proofreader nor the QM changed a comma in your translation!


Firstly, the fact that something is urgent at one point in the production process does not mean that it is urgent all the way through. The agency had a tight deadline because the agency's direct contact person at the client's business had a tight deadline, but that could have been for any reason. To give just one silly but not improbable scenario: perhaps he was about to go on holiday and he wanted to clear the job as soon as possible. So he tells the agency that it is "urgent", and consequently the agency [and the translator] treats the matter as "urgent", but in reality the translator will be given one glance and then sit in a drawer for a week or two after you deliver it.

The relevance of "urgent" here is simply that you did the job faster and perhaps less carefully as you would normally do it. But: I think the agency should recognise that -- rushed jobs require more after-care: that is logical. Unless your translation had some serious issues in it, and you need some way to excuse them, I would not make the rushness one of the arguments in this debate, however.

Secondly, are you sure that this translation would have been proofread and QM'ed? The fact that the agency normally does all of that may simply be a requirement from the end-clients that you normally work for. The agencies that I work for tend to adapt the quality assurance procedures to the requirements and wishes of the end-client, so different translations receive different measures of after-care.

As to the third point, I think you should point this out to the client when you deny his "request". Both the proofreader and the QM thought that your translation was good enough to be delivered.

If the agency then comes back with the confession that there was no proofreader or QM person, then you'll have to fight this battle on the strength of the fact that "most" of the changes are preferential and the fact that it was urgent and the fact that you did point out these issues. You deserve full payment.

You are informed your compensation will be deducted by 30%, which should cover the third party review. They also inform you that "everyone involved in this project" is going to pay for this.


Well, if the contract that you have with the agency contains a "hold harmless" clause, then you'll have to pay up whether you are in error or not. The "hold harmless" clause typically means that you will pay for all of the client's expenses relating to your translation, regardless of whether you think the expenses are fair, and regardless of whether the outcome proves that you are right and they are wrong. In this case, the client thought that a third-party review was necessary, so if you signed a "hold harmless" clause, it means that you declared that you would willingly pay to prove your innocence.

1) Is there a custom time for such remarks?


Many translators feel that there should be, but in reality there isn't.


 

TranslateThis  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
It sounds too familiar May 6, 2013

@Samuel
You clearly don't know this agency. Good for you. I am almost certain that I do, although I am only 99% sure. FYI, Paola made a BB entry for them. I stopped accepting jobs from them after they reduced the amount due by 30% claiming typographical errors. Since then I've talked to several experienced translators who had similar "issues" with this particular agency and only with this agency. And yes, there is a clause about reduced payments. BTW, this outsourcer was even banned by Proz.com at some point. But this is a bit off topic and I may have already said too much.

@Paola
I will send you a private message.


 

pcs_MCIL
TOPIC STARTER
So they're *that* popular May 6, 2013

TranslateThis was right about this agency, which apparently pulls up there stunts with many linguists. Because they are so big, there is no way on prevailing on their decisions or terms, so I am sure that even if I put a disclaimer in my signature, in case of trouble it would be worth nothing.

I think that the urgency was relevant. Reading my translation after three months, I myself would have rephrased some sentences. I was stating it was urgent because I believe that reading your own translation on a fresh mind (after a good sleep, or after a day or two) you can spot areas of improvements. Of course, if you are given a very tight deadline, you can put as much effort as you want, but you can't get the same level of quality as when you have more time to work on it.

And about the proof and QM, they were explicit for this project -I was asked if I wanted trans or proof, so the proofreading was actually planned and assigned.

The point is, if my translation was going to go directly to the client, allowing me just the time for a translation was not a smart move. Neither canceling the proofreading or the QM.
So what I think happened is that someone sent to the client my translation by mistake, rather than the revised and QMed translation. Either way it was not my fault.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:43
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
a mistake? May 6, 2013

Paola, of course you think of better ways to translate things when you come back three months later. That is not an indication of bad work, because I get the same feeling with stuff that I polished and honed with great care! Perfection simply doesn't exist. You have admitted that a small proportion of corrections were not style-related, given the circumstances it is perfectly understandable.

It seems this agency's policy is to simply to milk translators as much as possible and you're probably being far too generous in thinking that your non-revised translation was sent by mistake. It was more likely that they glanced through, decided it looked OK and decided to send it on without proofing it properly, and pocket the extra that was supposed to be spent on QA. Or maybe they couldn't find anyone to revise it, or maybe they never change anything in your work and assumed this time it would be the same.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:43
English to Polish
+ ...
Brilliant May 7, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

rushed jobs require more after-care


Samuel, you have a talent for explaining things in plain words. I believe I've already said this on one occasion. When you say something like that, it makes a perfect plain language ToS clause.


 

pcs_MCIL
TOPIC STARTER
I know May 7, 2013

Texte Style wrote:

It seems this agency's policy is to simply to milk translators as much as possible and you're probably being far too generous in thinking that your non-revised translation was sent by mistake.


I am too thinking that this is just another stunt they are pulling to lower my fee. There have been others, and I am starting to get tired of them.


 

kchansen
Local time: 02:43
English to Danish
Dump them! May 7, 2013

Paola Slajmer wrote:

I am too thinking that this is just another stunt they are pulling to lower my fee. There have been others, and I am starting to get tired of them.


If you feel that way, the best thing to do would be to post a bad or mediocre Blue Board entry and focus on other clients which you trust more.

As long as you allow them to reduce your fee whenever they can come up with an excuse, they will keep finding excuses to reduce your fee for errors real or imagined.


 

pcs_MCIL
TOPIC STARTER
BB May 7, 2013

kchansen wrote:

the best thing to do would be to post a bad or mediocre Blue Board entry and focus on other clients which you trust more.


That I did and I agree with you. I was contacted back from them and now I am trying to get this sorted.

Thank you all for your help!


 


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