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Misunderstanding - What would you do?
Thread poster: lnmichaud

lnmichaud
Canada
Local time: 00:40
English to French
+ ...
May 13, 2014

Hello everyone,

I'm faced with a situation I've never encountered before. A good client of mine sent me a short document (485 words) yesterday indicating that it needed to be translated by today. As usual, I sent my quote clearly indicating that it was for a translation and she gave me the go-ahead. I sent her back my translation but she responded saying that there was a misunderstanding and that the original document needed to be proofread and not translated.

How would you bill a client under these circumstances? Clearly, it is their mistake, but I also want to keep them as a client.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
Lise

Update: The client has followed up owning up to the fact that it was their mistake and that they would pay for it. I'm still not sure about billing them the full amount for the translation (although the work was completed). I will now be billing them separately for proofreading the document.
I'm still of two minds on this. Any thoughts?

[Edited at 2014-05-13 18:20 GMT]


 

Paul Harrison MITI
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:40
French to English
Let them off the hook May 13, 2014

As it's a short text and a good client. Misunderstandings happen, and I'm sure clients appreciate working with people who aren't miserly cranksicon_smile.gif

 

TB CommuniCAT  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:40
Member (2014)
English to French
Let it go May 13, 2014

I agree with Paul. I understand that it is a misunderstanding, but since the client admits their fault, would you want to lose a good client over a short text? icon_smile.gif

 

Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Don't bill them May 13, 2014

lnmichaud wrote:

Update: The client has followed up owning up to the fact that it was their mistake and that they would pay for it. I'm still not sure about billing them the full amount for the translation (although the work was completed). I will now be billing them separately for proofreading the document.
I'm still of two minds on this. Any thoughts?

[Edited at 2014-05-13 18:20 GMT]


Given that the job was only 480 words and this is a good client of yours, my opinion is not to bill them, they'll appreciate it


 

lnmichaud
Canada
Local time: 00:40
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agreed! May 13, 2014

Thank you all for your quick input! I agree that it's worth letting them off the hook for such a short document.

 

Paul Malone  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:40
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
You could share the loss with them as a commercial gesture. May 13, 2014

You could charge a lower rate than usual. It would be a commercial gesture that I would expect they would appreciate in the circumstances. They may well remember it for some time to come and keep on sending you plenty of work. In such circumstances, maybe you could consider how much this will actually have cost you in the medium to long term.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:40
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Good that they've accepted their mistake May 13, 2014

They are clearly a good client - a poor one would have tried harder to dump their mistake on you. Now you have to consider how much their goodwill is worth to you. You don't owe them any favours so you'd be perfectly within your rights to invoice them for both jobs.

But you're presumably talking about monolingual proofreading here, yes? If not, they'd have sent both texts and that would have made it clear they didn't need a translation. Now, monolingual proofreading of a 485-word text isn't worth much in anybody's money as it shouldn't take long. Perhaps that could be included in the translation's invoice as a "commercial offer" i.e. free. Others have advised giving them the translation for free, seeing that they didn't want it in the first place: I disagree as I think they should be let off the lesser of the two bills - it's only a gesture, after allicon_smile.gif.

I'm not saying that's what you should do - that's for you to decide. It's just what I would probably do in similar circumstances. There are times when helping clients out pays real dividends. Apart from anything else, you're setting the 'ground rules' for fair-play, so if you should miss a job off an invoice in the future, or drop a zero in a wordcount or invoice total, then you could expect them to point it out and pay for 100%. I'm willing to bet that's how this particular client will react to fairness on your part.


 

lnmichaud
Canada
Local time: 00:40
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Taken into consideraton May 13, 2014

Thank you for your thoughts on this Paul. I did consider this option, but given that it was such a short document I decided that I would waive the invoice. If, however, it had been a 3000 word document then you can be sure I would have responded differently.

Very wise words Sheila. I did think about offering them a discount for proofreading the document, but all things considered, I thought it was worth letting them off the translation bill in this case. Hopefully, they will return the favor if ever the tables are turned.




[Edited at 2014-05-13 18:54 GMT]


 

Frankie JB
France
English to French
+ ...
Don't make them pay their mistake but don't overdo it! May 13, 2014

I agree with others: it looks like the best long-term solution is to bill it as proofreading. But to me, considering the mistake is theirs, IMHO you shouldn't overdo it and should simply make it sound like a sincere act of sympathy to recognize that a mistake can happen to anyone (including you potentially someday) and not sell it as a kind of "magnanimous goodwill gesture". People are not dumb and if they find it's too much they could suspect your gesture is not sincere and it's a trick to create moral indebtedness...

 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 07:40
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Translation is useless isn't it? May 13, 2014

I also agree that you can easily let it go as a gesture of goodwill. Hopefully the client will reciprocate in the future.

I'm just curious, did they send you the target document for monolingual proofreading? If so, wouldn't your translation be useless as it's in the opposite direction? Then they would still need you to do the proofreading, and in terms of charges being waived it's not just the difference between translation and proofreading, but the full cost of your translation.


 

lnmichaud
Canada
Local time: 00:40
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Psychology for translators May 13, 2014

I agree Frankie. It's always about finding that delicate balance and knowing how to deal with clients.
Now, back to proofreading that document!icon_wink.gif


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:40
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
They are a good customer May 13, 2014

Let's give good customers some slack in these situations. Just charge them for the proofreading (if you finally did it), and forget about the translation. You do not lose a big amount, but they will remember this as a nice gesture for a very long time.

 

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
A good opportunity to show goodwill May 13, 2014

And at the same time know that they will notice it. Not often a chance like that comes up to get in a client's "good books" without a great deal of effort, and this client is evidently one to be valued.

 

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:40
English
+ ...
Yes. Let it go. May 13, 2014

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Let's give good customers some slack in these situations. Just charge them for the proofreading (if you finally did it), and forget about the translation. You do not lose a big amount, but they will remember this as a nice gesture for a very long time.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:40
English to Polish
+ ...
... May 14, 2014

Frankie JB wrote:

I agree with others: it looks like the best long-term solution is to bill it as proofreading. But to me, considering the mistake is theirs, IMHO you shouldn't overdo it and should simply make it sound like a sincere act of sympathy to recognize that a mistake can happen to anyone (including you potentially someday) and not sell it as a kind of "magnanimous goodwill gesture". People are not dumb and if they find it's too much they could suspect your gesture is not sincere and it's a trick to create moral indebtedness...


And neither should you allow it to seem as though clients have a legal right not to be billed when they place an order by mistake or find that the translation wasn't needed after all.

But by this I still mean doing like Frankie said, i.e. keeping it low-key and not a huge gesture, but at the same time not something you were legally required to do.

For the record, the client could perhaps consent for you at least to use the text and the translation as part of your portfolio so that you can benefit from the situation at least in that way. But I think it would be more beneficial not to ask even for that (and not act like the client owes you).


 
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