What to do when a client is not satisfied by what one of your translators delivered?
Thread poster: helloworld
helloworld
United States
Mar 23, 2016

Hello, from time to time, I assign a list of tasks to fellow translators especially when I'm too busy. One of the translators I trusted unfortunately didn't pay due attention to his work, completing the task in a hurry. And now I got an email from my client, who thinks that the translation is done by me, while that is not the case. And they are not satisfied with the work, and sent an edited version, which is fair enough. My mistake here is to assign someone else for what I was supposed to do, trusting him to an extent that I didn't read and edit much of the text. The first time I'm doing is, and it resulted in a crisis. Now, how to solve such crisis when you are not actually directly responsible for the translation? Any suggestion is very much appreciated.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 21:38
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Well... Mar 23, 2016

I do outsource work from time to time and I have been working with the same tested, approved and trusted translators for ages. Anyway, I always revise and polish their work before delivering it to the client: never had a problem!

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Irene McClure
Local time: 22:38
Member (2008)
French to English
+ ...
Your responsibility ... Mar 23, 2016

It's an unfortunate situation, but in my view you are 'directly responsible' for the quality of the translation. Your client contracted you to provide a translation and the client's dissatisfaction is with the quality of the translation you submitted. Whether or not you sub-contracted the work out to another translator is neither here nor there and you are responsible for taking the necessary action to correct the translation or take the financial hit if the client doesn't pay due to lack of quality.

In future, you need to build in enough time to proofread and correct translations that you are submitting, or else put the translator in direct contact with the end client, dissolving you of any responsibility. You can't have your cake and eat it!

It's another question whether or not your client authorised you to outsource the work. If they contracted you to provide the translation and you outsourced it without their knowledge, they may have grounds other than quality to raise with you.

I hope you can resolve the situation to everyone's satisfaction and that you can learn from this for future projects.

Irene


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:38
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Two very good points Mar 23, 2016

Irene McClure wrote:
in my view you are 'directly responsible' for the quality of the translation. Your client contracted you to provide a translation and the client's dissatisfaction is with the quality of the translation you submitted.

It's another question whether or not your client authorised you to outsource the work. If they contracted you to provide the translation and you outsourced it without their knowledge, they may have grounds other than quality to raise with you.

I would be thankful they aren't wanting to sue you for breach of confidentiality, if indeed that applies in your case. It IS possible to outsource work; but not necessarily without telling the client in advance.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:38
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Permission first Mar 23, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:
It IS possible to outsource work; but not necessarily without telling the client in advance.

Irene and Sheila are quite right: you can't just send possibly confidential documents to others without a client's explicit permission.

I mean, perhaps in strict legal terms it might be defensible in some situations, but as a question of business ethics, not obtaining permission is unacceptable. The client expects you to be the one who does the work.

I advise the OP to confess to the client, with the expectation that the client will be upset and possibly never work with the OP again. Then for all future jobs, gain each client's explicit approval for outsourcing.

Regards
Dan


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 15:38
German to English
+ ...
prevention is the key Mar 23, 2016

If you outsource a translation then you are acting like an agency, and you should proofread what your colleague has done for you. Then if the client is dissatisfied you will also know whether the complaint has merit - and there should be no cause for dissatisfaction in the first place. If that wasn't done, then the horses are already out of the barn door. Do what you would do if you yourself had done a poor translation: fix it, give a discount, etc. Whether you then propose a discount from the translator you hired is a second maybe tricky matter.

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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:38
Member (2005)
English to Japanese
+ ...
Agree with Irene Mar 23, 2016

Irene McClure wrote:

It's an unfortunate situation, but in my view you are 'directly responsible' for the quality of the translation. Your client contracted you to provide a translation and the client's dissatisfaction is with the quality of the translation you submitted. Whether or not you sub-contracted the work out to another translator is neither here nor there and you are responsible for taking the necessary action to correct the translation or take the financial hit if the client doesn't pay due to lack of quality.

In future, you need to build in enough time to proofread and correct translations that you are submitting, or else put the translator in direct contact with the end client, dissolving you of any responsibility. You can't have your cake and eat it!

It's another question whether or not your client authorised you to outsource the work. If they contracted you to provide the translation and you outsourced it without their knowledge, they may have grounds other than quality to raise with you.

I hope you can resolve the situation to everyone's satisfaction and that you can learn from this for future projects.

Irene


And if the client refuses to pay you, you are still responsible to pay the translator you outsourced to. You did not do your homework, i.e. check/proofread/edit if necessary the translation before delivery to your client, regardless of whether you are getting a cut or not from the rate you agreed with the client.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:38
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Agree Mar 23, 2016

I agree with Irene, Sheila, Dan and Yasutomo, except for

Yasutomo Kanazawa wrote:

And if the client refuses to pay you, you are still responsible to pay the translator you outsourced to.


If the translator it was outsourced to delivered a good translation, then “helloworld” (I wouldn’t deal with anyone who hides behind an anonymous pseudonym) would be obliged to pay regardless of whether “helloworld’s” client paid or not.

However, that does not seem to be the situation here. Depending on how bad the translation was, and what was agreed, it may be possible to withhold a part of the payment because of a flawed translation. The question simply isn’t related to whether “helloworld’s” (yuk!) client pays or not.

In any case, “helloworld” is absolutely responsible for delivering what his or her client paid for and for doing whatever is necessary to correct the poor translation at his or her own cost. The end client had a contract with “helloworld”, nobody else. “helloworld’s” subcontractors are not their concern.

“helloworld” then had a contract with a subcontractor, but that needs to be sorted out separately.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:38
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
No right to unilaterally withhold moneys due Mar 23, 2016

Thomas T. Frost wrote:
Depending on how bad the translation was, and what was agreed, it may be possible to withhold a part of the payment because of a flawed translation.

I don't believe there is ever a right to do that. Only the courts can determine that a product or service is unsuitable for purpose and reduce or cancel the invoice - based on expert advice, of course. On the other hand, any client who receives a poor product or service can request - and even demand, FWIW - that the supplier acknowledge fault by reducing or cancelling the invoice. But that's down to negotiation between the parties.

Normally, translators must be given the chance to rectify quality issues themselves before any actual money is lost, so you may find that this translator regards the text as having been accepted, and therefore 100% of the invoiced amount would be due. To some extent, it depends on how much time has passed.


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:38
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Withholding Mar 23, 2016

May or may one not withhold payment for incomplete services? It's a complex question, and I only said "may … depending on …".

It depends on what the contract law in the relevant jurisdiction says, what was agreed between the parties and a lot more.

We don't know exactly how bad the translation was, and I didn't intend to say that payment should be withheld unless the translation was really bad.

It's a complex subject. It could also depend on the agreed rate and what one can reasonably expect for the price. It could depend on what the translator claimed in terms of skills and qualifications.

In practice, one would just avoid the translator in the future, but if it was really bad, and if the translator didn't fix it, there could be a case for reducing payment and then letting the translator sue if he or she wanted. It's more effective than first paying in full and then taking legal action to get the money back, not least in countries where simple litigation regularly drags out for years only to end in nonsense.

I occasionally outsourced (with the clients' permission) some years back but stopped due to too many quality problems, too many translators' exaggerating their skills, and late delivery. Let the agencies deal with that; I don't envy them.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 23:38
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Send an apology Mar 23, 2016

---and tell them you won't charge them. Don't pay the translator either.

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 22:38
English to Polish
+ ...
... Mar 29, 2016

Re: withholding: Withholding payment, as in deferring it until such time as the service conforms to the agreement, is one thing, unilaterally changing the agreed-upon compensation is a different kettle of fish. Gotta avoid confusing the one with the other. The client certainly can't avoid the whole payment simply because of minor issues that have actually been corrected, making the translation usable. There is no such right to such punitive damages or compensation for moral suffering or whatever else it's supposed to be. (Probably a master-servant kind of feudal-like relationship, for which there's obviously no basis in a modern world.)

Re: your outsourcing fail: Admit if you can, otherwise suck it up and remain silent and satisfy the client's financial demands as long as they aren't particularly excessive in the light of the situation. In future, either avoid outsourcing or explicitly become an agency/hybrid.

Not charging them could be a reasonable face-saving solution probably also satisfying their own sense of injustice. However, you can't just elect to not pay the translator you subcontracted the job to, because we no longer live in mediaeval society. You aren't a renaissance prince and benefactor feeding and clothing the courtiers and handing out discretional gratuities if particularly satisfied with them, you're a contractual party in an exchange of goods (a service for a sum of money). For better or worse, Bonaparte made sure of that 200 years ago.

More explanation: To avoid charging the client is your own business decision, not a legally necessary step, hence you don't have a firm right to a refund from the translator, you can only ask. The extent of your firm right stops at what you had to give, not the full extent of what you actually gave because you wanted to give (more than was legally required).

This said, nothing stops you from assessing your claims above the translator's compensation if they really are worth that much. Just don't go overboard because nobody's a good judge in his own case, so you're at a risk of overestimating the value of your rep/goodwill damage and conconcting a claim that doesn't hold water.

Besides, things will proceed more smoothly if you get the translator to agree with the solution. People comply more easily if they get a share in the decision-making (which is one of the more important rules of alternative dispute resolution).

[Edited at 2016-03-29 15:51 GMT]


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