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Is courtesy dead - agencies think they own you and owe you nothing
Thread poster: Michael Tovbin

Michael Tovbin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:37
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
Jan 8, 2016

Why do agencies believe they can discard a translator like a used condom? Have you ever been contacted by an agency, replied, and then heard nothing back?

I believe that they should be educated and made to close the loop with you even if they ultimately decide not to use your services. Even from a business standpoint, it is good practice and a good habit to get into.

I would like to solicit some agency feedback here as well. Is there something, I am not understanding?


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 16:37
English to Polish
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We live in NPD times Jan 8, 2016

We live in growingly narcissistic times, Michael, or is it histrionic rather. I don't really know, but a focus on self is clear enough. At the same time education declines, as do manners. People don't really give too much thought to being polite, and perhaps they don't have the instinct to wing it either.

This said, a cultural difference may be involved. I don't want to resort to stereotyping, but not everybody thinks that writing a reply would be beneath him or a usefuless waste of time. Some people in some places tend to think that to not send you a message that can at all be avoided is an act of courtesy in itself.

But that's something I would classify rather as the self-absorbed stand-offish courtesy of the modern era, but one still needs to acknowledge the good intention, if that's the case.

Still, you are definitely not alone if you think agencies are becoming too rude and perhaps even increasingly rude these days.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Some people/busineses are polite; others aren't Jan 8, 2016

Michael Tovbin wrote:
Why do agencies believe they can discard a translator like a used condom? Have you ever been contacted by an agency, replied, and then heard nothing back?

I don't appreciate it, as I would never do it myself, but I don't feel quite that way about it.

I believe that they should be educated and made to close the loop with you even if they ultimately decide not to use your services. Even from a business standpoint, it is good practice and a good habit to get into.

While I agree with the second statement, I'd love to know how on earth you propose implementing the first.


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Michael Tovbin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:37
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
others' ideas Jan 8, 2016

I would love to get some ideas on that. Maybe, even success stories.

I myself tend to write them a message politely pointing out that in future dealings it might be a good idea to let me know. For the sake of good order, like.


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:37
English to French
+ ...
How long are they in business? Jan 8, 2016

My theory (and, since I live in the same state as Michael, rather than in Europe...) is that such agencies are either not long-lived and/or are big agencies where PMs are under a lot of pressure, in addition to having short-lived jobs and no language or professional training or experience.

And, I agree that these people have no idea of conducting business relationships. Nothing new here.

Michael Tovbin wrote:

I would love to get some ideas on that. Maybe, even success stories.

I myself tend to write them a message politely pointing out that in future dealings it might be a good idea to let me know. For the sake of good order, like.


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cranium
French to English
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Absolutely right Jan 8, 2016

Just happened to me this week after exchanging eight e-mails with shifting requirements on their end. I finally asked for confirmation by Wednesday noon since the assignment was supposed to start Thursday (on-site at their client's office, too). No answer.

Contrast that with other agencies that send even a simple "we went with another provider", or "the order fell through". Courteous.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:37
German to English
Agency culture Jan 8, 2016

I'm very fortunate – all of my customers, whether agencies or direct clients, are generally polite in their communications and respond to all inquiries. The engineers at one direct client tend not to use salutations or full sentences, but it's more an "engineer thing" rather than a corporate culture issue, as the managers at the company tend to have better communication skills.

At any rate, I think the agency culture has to do with behavior toward translators. Some agencies view their translators as an asset and employ practices, if not policies, that encourage the free flow of communication, in which even critiques of translation are provided politely and constructively. At other agencies, the PMs are overworked and highly stressed, so responding to inquiries not specifically related to a project are given secondary consideration and frequently ignored due to time considerations. A third situation pertains to those agencies that have the philosophy that the supply of potential vendors exceeds the demand ("dime a dozen"), thus the PMs are not encouraged to "waste" their time on "nonproductive" effort.

There are a lot of good agencies that are a pleasure to work with. The difficulty is finding the right ones.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:37
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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What you describe is normal Jan 8, 2016

Michael Tovbin wrote:
Why do agencies believe they can discard a translator like a used condom? Have you ever been contacted by an agency, replied, and then heard nothing back?


That is perfectly normal in any business. As the client/customer, you are not required (by any moral requirement) to continue the communication with a potential service provider. Nor are you required to state specifically that you are breaking off communication.

Speaking of which, would you actually prefer it if clients were to reply to your reply by saying "We don't want to talk to you anymore"? What would you consider more polite: simply fading away, or abruptly saying good bye?


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Michael Tovbin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:37
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I would like to have closure Jan 8, 2016

I disagree. As a client, an agency is required to tend the relationship with a potential supplier (myself). This is a two-way street. Not only do I need the agency to stay employed but the agency needs me (and others like myself) to stay in business.

I would actually prefer to be told that the agency (or a direct client) went with a different supplier than not be told anything. Because otherwise, what might happen is this: a potential customer requests my availability, I reply that I am available, they go off and forget about me for a while, I take on some other job thinking that was the end, then they come back to me with a PO, and I have to tell them I am already doing something else.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:37
German to English
Unsolicited applications > round file Jan 8, 2016

Michael Tovbin wrote:

As a client, an agency is required to tend the relationship with a potential supplier


No requirement at all.
The key here is **potential supplier**.
If you've sent an unsolicited CV to an agency, they are under no obligation to respond to your inquiry. Agencies receive dozens of e-mails daily/weekly from people looking for work. Reviewing/responding to all of them takes up time that might be better spent making money.

If, however, you are responding to an inquiry from an agency, then I agree that a response – either positive or negative – is called for.

I feel the same way about inquiries *from* agencies. I don't respond to "Dear Translator" queries that are part of a mass mailing. However, inquiries addressing me directly usually receive a polite response – usually negative, since I'm generally not looking for new clients – unless the rate offered is well below a reasonable standard, in which case I don't respond at all.


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Michael Tovbin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:37
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not "cold calls" Jan 8, 2016

I was only referring to situations where I initially get contacted by an agency for a specific job (by name, for I do not respond to mass mailings either), provide a polite response, and do not hear back.

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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 22:37
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Respect toward professionals Jan 9, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Michael Tovbin wrote:
Why do agencies believe they can discard a translator like a used condom? Have you ever been contacted by an agency, replied, and then heard nothing back?

I don't appreciate it, as I would never do it myself, but I don't feel quite that way about it.

I believe that they should be educated and made to close the loop with you even if they ultimately decide not to use your services. Even from a business standpoint, it is good practice and a good habit to get into.

While I agree with the second statement, I'd love to know how on earth you propose implementing the first.


To compare, doctors or lawyers are much honored. Do we translators act cheaply and again no respect?
Our professional training is as extensive as other professions, though.

Soonthon L.


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:37
Member
French to English
+ ...
Time of year? Jan 9, 2016

Michael Tovbin wrote:

Have you ever been contacted by an agency, replied, and then heard nothing back?


Yes, and I saw a sudden spike in this behaviour in the run-up to Christmas, but it was counterbalanced by a larger number of confirmed orders than I usually receive in December. To my surprise, however, a couple of the potential clients I'd given up on came back to me after Christmas/New Year's Day and confirmed the jobs after relatively long intervals (2-3 weeks). So I put it down to the time of year, with people going home to be with their families, decision-makers leaving the office, etc. Some translations just aren't that urgent, I suppose!

Generally, though, I see it as a "first come, first served" situation. Unless and until a client confirms an order, I don't reserve my time and am ready to consider other offers. Equally, clients aren't obliged to hire me and they are free to withdraw from negotiations at any time. I choose to look at it in the way the law would see it: a contract isn't a contract until both parties agree, and before that point, either party is free to walk away - and silently if they so wish. I do feel disappointed when no one gets back to me about a job I wanted, certainly, but it doesn't make me feel used, as all I've done is provide a no-obligation quote.

[Edited at 2016-01-09 01:24 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Is it so different? Jan 9, 2016

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.) wrote:
To compare, doctors or lawyers are much honored. Do we translators act cheaply and again no respect?
Our professional training is as extensive as other professions, though.

Our profession is unregulated, Soonthon, at least in most parts of the world. There is no training requirement whatsoever. You need to be able to provide quality work or else you won't get repeat jobs, but that doesn't mean you have to have any sort of university degree.

But I believe doctors suffer a lot at the hands of thoughtless and even rude patients. I know of many who are totally frustrated at the numbers who make appointments and then simply don't turn up - no notice of cancellation given. So this highly-paid doctor is sitting there waiting, and being paid zero (unless s/he expects it to happen and overbooks).


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:37
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Do some agencies view us as goods in a shop? Jan 9, 2016

I suppose the "no reply" situation might be comparable to shopping - I'm not saying it's OK to be rude. Of course not.
You walk into a shop, look around at the goods, don't see what you want and walk out.
If you're a polite person, you might smile and say "Thank you. Goodbye" before you leave, but you don't really have to.
Is that a valid comparison?
If the agency approached you personally about a specific job, you replied with a quote and then you heard no more from them, yes, I think that's annoying and rather rude, but it's not unusual.


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