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Malicious time-wasting by a PM?
Thread poster: Robert Forstag

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 19, 2016

There is a PM who works for a large agency that I have frequently collaborated with over the past four years. Over the past three months, she has become the PM who most frequently sends me e-mails with purported offers of jobs from this agency, all of which are personally addressed (with the enthusiastic and friendly greeting that is the trademark of this agency).

I have noticed that since this person has become my main contact with the agency in question, the ratio of actual assignments to “offers” I receive has plummeted. The way this plays out in practice is that I get an e-mail informing me that a project is “available immediately” along with (typically) a link to a password-protected ftp site where I can find the file(s) in question to review. At times, the material is in a zip file that takes several minutes to download. I then very quickly skim the material, get back to the PM with my “best offer,” and indicate that I would need to receive confirmation of acceptance within 10 minutes. In something like 85% of instances over the past three months, I typically receive no response at all to my offer: no courtesy message declining the offer, no counteroffer – nothing. In those rare instances in which my offer has been accepted, I have received a response right away – usually well within five minutes.

My simmering frustration with this state of affairs finally boiled over last night when I received two such “offers” (both for fairly large jobs) within the space of a couple of hours. In each instance, I bypassed the review stage (because I knew ahead of time that the documents were convertible txmls that required no formatting of tables, and also to save time and – so I thought – enhance the chances of my offer being accepted). I also proposed my absolute minimum rate (which is in fact a very low rate).

Despite having taken all these measures to increase the probabilities of receiving the assignment, I received no response. And this was in the wake of a similar “quick response with lowball offer” that went unresponded to by the same PM last Thursday.

When I contacted the PM requesting an explanation and warning her that I was not willing to continue to respond to her urgent e-mails if I had no real chance of being assigned a job, her response was that she feels pressured by my 10-minute limit, that she cannot always respond within 10 minutes because she is juggling multiple things, and that she always does her best to respond quickly but can’t always do so.

This from a person who does reliably respond with great alacrity when she actually does assign me work, who hardly ever responds otherwise, and who over the course of more than one year of frequent contact has never complained about the 10-minute limit.

In other words, I do not think the excuses she offered are in the least credible.

What I suspect is the case is that the “personally addressed” offer that I receive is simultaneously received by some dozens of other freelancers in the agency’s database, and that preference is habitually given to translators who offer the very lowest rates (which are always lower than even my lowest rate). The scuttlebutt is that the PMs of this agency receive bonuses for assigning jobs at rates lower than the maximum allowed in any given instance, and this gives rise to my additional suspicion that I find myself in the unfortunate circumstance of dealing with a PM who is particularly avid in pursuing such incentives.

So in the end, this leaves me feeling that the “offers” I receive are not in fact bonafide offers and that, at best, I am regarded by the PM in question as something of a last resort in the event that she cannot assign the jobs in question to the very cheapest translators – or in those instances where she decides not to avidly pursue her bonuses for assigning projects under budget.

I also feel that if quick responses offering to do my work at my minimum rate (indicated in the agency’s database) are simply ignored (as has happened three times within the space of five days) then this constitutes even stronger evidence of bad faith, and in practice is nothing more than a waste of my time.

Personally, I’m ready to cut ties, at least with this PM….


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:02
English to Croatian
+ ...
Juggling multiple "things" or multiple offers? Apr 19, 2016

You sent a law rate offer, but perhaps dozen of others did too? Perhaps she received 5 law rate offers in 5-10 minute time frame? Perhaps someone was 20 seconds faster?

Just tell her that you are a busy freelancer who can't afford PAs or additional staff and that she is eating up your valuable time.


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:02
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Red flag Apr 19, 2016

Robert Forstag wrote:

The scuttlebutt is that the PMs of this agency receive bonuses for assigning jobs at rates lower than the maximum allowed in any given instance...



That is a huge red flag -- and for me, it's a deal-breaker. I'd drop this client as soon as I learned they give bonuses to PMs based on translator prices. They clearly don't care about quality and don't have much respect for their translators.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Sounds like the customer from hell... Apr 19, 2016

... and I'll hope you'll post something on BlueBoard. But I don't think it's reasonable for you to demand a reply within ten minutes.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:02
English to Croatian
+ ...
It's enough if someone wants YOU. Apr 19, 2016

philgoddard wrote:

... and I'll hope you'll post something on BlueBoard. But I don't think it's reasonable for you to demand a reply within ten minutes.


If someone wants you to do the job, it's enough. They know Robert and his work from before, right? He proved his skills and punctuality? So, why waiting, especially if the deadline is short?


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The 10-minute limit is reasonable because... Apr 19, 2016

philgoddard wrote:

... and I'll hope you'll post something on BlueBoard. But I don't think it's reasonable for you to demand a reply within ten minutes.


I think that the ten-minute limit is reasonable, given the many experiences I have with this agency (across its multiple offices in multiple countries) of the following: 1.) drawn-out exchanges (sometimes over the course of more than two hours; sometimes after I've woke up at 5:00 a.m. to respond to an e-mail; sometimes when I'm out and about and have to interrupt whatever I am doing to awkwardly review a document and compose a message on my cell phone) that in the end lead to no assignments; 2.) waiting for a response to an offer that never arrives, and this after I've taken the time to drop whatever I was doing to review the material on offer and compose a reply; 3.) the fact that, in the majority of cases, the jobs in question involve tight deadlines and time is therefore of the essence in order to meet the deadline; and 4.) the bald fact that, when the PMs of this agency do want to assign a project, they habitually do so very quickly indeed, or at least send an e-mail along the lines of, "let me check with my supervisor if we can do that rate and I'll get back to you quickly" (which I have no problem with - as long as they do indeed get back to me quickly).

The issue isn't especially that I need to have resolution "within 10 minutes." I'd be okay with 15 or 20. But an hour or more of multiple e-mails yammering over rates and putting my life on hold is simply not acceptable.

On a final note, I will add that, even by the rather low standards of this agency, the conduct of the PM whose actions I reference is particularly egregious....

P.S.: And, as Lingua 5B points out, I do indeed have a long history with this agency of good and reliable work, and especially of meeting nearly impossibly tight deadlines on numerous occasions.

[Edited at 2016-04-19 15:43 GMT]


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Does the compay's name begin with... Apr 19, 2016

T?

[Edited at 2016-04-19 16:56 GMT]


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Radian Yazynin  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:02
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Large agencies as a double-edged sword Apr 19, 2016

A typical problem of large agencies further developing their "marketing strategy". The larger they grow (or ...) the more is the distance between freelancers and PMs and your ways part. In this respect the SME sector is the area where interpersonal attitudes have remained stronger.
If you still wish to keep the relations set up an automatic reply with your "best rate" multiplied by their suggested word count or the like. The one which would trigger automatic reply immediately based on your PM's name. Kind of a filter and an adequate response to their advanced communication methods.
At least with a right to "further discuss the details" in case they reply with agreement


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 17:02
Chinese to English
Businesses will be businesses Apr 19, 2016

Robert Forstag wrote:

...The scuttlebutt is that the PMs of this agency receive bonuses for assigning jobs at rates lower than the maximum allowed in any given instance...

I'm sure that's right - that's how I'd run a business. I sympathise a lot, because I've had those same problems. But I think there is a limit to what we can expect from organisations that are run for profit. Of course they're going to seek to widen the gap between customer rate and translator rate. Of course they're going to choose "just good enough" over "really good". Personally, I have always had a horror of the demand for instant answers to electronic communication. To this day I work on a 24 hour rule for email - i.e. I really do try hard to reply within 24 hours, but anything quicker than that is potluck. You can solve your drawn out exchanges problem much more easily by never negotiating on rates (and saying up front that you won't negotiate on rates, and not replying to any emails asking you to negotiate on rates) rather than asking for/engaging in 10 minute-turnaround conversations.

Having said all that, trust your instincts. If this PM isn't working out for you, then end communication with her. There are many, many more fish in the sea.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree, but... Apr 19, 2016

Phil Hand wrote:

You can solve your drawn out exchanges problem much more easily by never negotiating on rates (and saying up front that you won't negotiate on rates, and not replying to any emails asking you to negotiate on rates) rather than asking for/engaging in 10 minute-turnaround conversations.

Having said all that, trust your instincts. If this PM isn't working out for you, then end communication with her. There are many, many more fish in the sea.


Hi Phil:

Thanks for your reply. I of course understand and agree with your general point about the logic of how businesses operate.

Regarding "negotiation": When I am especially pressed (and almost always on weekends) I include a note to the effect that the rate I propose is "non-negotiable" to avoid any back-and-forth.

The problem with doing this all the time with the agency in question is that "negotiation is part of their game" and it sometimes has worked for me to propose a higher rate and then agree to a lower rate."

But it does look like I've reached the end of the line with this particular PM....


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:02
English to Croatian
+ ...
I wouldn't mind it. Apr 19, 2016

Phil Hand wrote:

Robert Forstag wrote:

...The scuttlebutt is that the PMs of this agency receive bonuses for assigning jobs at rates lower than the maximum allowed in any given instance...

I'm sure that's right - that's how I'd run a business. I sympathise a lot, because I've had those same problems. But I think there is a limit to what we can expect from organisations that are run for profit. Of course they're going to seek to widen the gap between customer rate and translator rate. Of course they're going to choose "just good enough" over "really good". Personally, I have always had a horror of the demand for instant answers to electronic communication. To this day I work on a 24 hour rule for email - i.e. I really do try hard to reply within 24 hours, but anything quicker than that is potluck. You can solve your drawn out exchanges problem much more easily by never negotiating on rates (and saying up front that you won't negotiate on rates, and not replying to any emails asking you to negotiate on rates) rather than asking for/engaging in 10 minute-turnaround conversations.

Having said all that, trust your instincts. If this PM isn't working out for you, then end communication with her. There are many, many more fish in the sea.


If a client sends me an offer and assigns the job to someone else in 30-minute frame, I just know it's not a client who was looking for me. The first translator probably responded in 2 minutes, I responded in 30 minutes. So, I wouldn't mind it as I saw it too many times in this industry.

I had clients waiting for me to be available for 3-4 months to work on their projects, just because they wanted it done by me, not by someone else.

Those are just two different types of clients.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not practical Apr 19, 2016

Radian Yazynin wrote:

A typical problem of large agencies further developing their "marketing strategy". The larger they grow (or ...) the more is the distance between freelancers and PMs and your ways part. In this respect the SME sector is the area where interpersonal attitudes have remained stronger.
If you still wish to keep the relations set up an automatic reply with your "best rate" multiplied by their suggested word count or the like. The one which would trigger automatic reply immediately based on your PM's name. Kind of a filter and an adequate response to their advanced communication methods.
At least with a right to "further discuss the details" in case they reply with agreement


Hi Radian,

The idea you propose is interesting, but simply not practical in my case, given that too many factors come into play in determining what might be an "attractive" or even "minimally acceptable" rate in any given instance. For example, what would be an acceptable rate for completing a 5000-word assignment of no particular difficulty within 4 days is very different from what would be acceptable to complete a 5000-word assignment with heavy formatting requirements and complicated text within 12 hours.....


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Radian Yazynin  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:02
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Of course not practical Apr 19, 2016

Robert Forstag wrote:
The idea you propose is interesting, but simply not practical in my case...

Hi Robert! Nobody argues about that. As you don't have a third option in this case (to cooperate or not to cooperate) and there is no perfect solution as to how to handle such offers you might at least show them you still care but play their game, too. So your triggered automatic reply should be the "first sign" warning about the abnormality.

[Edited at 2016-04-19 16:29 GMT]


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:02
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Amazing response speed Apr 19, 2016

Lingua 5B wrote:
Perhaps she received 5 law rate offers in 5-10 minute time frame? Perhaps someone was 20 seconds faster?


Considering the almost-superhuman speed with which some offers are taken, I'm convinced that certain translators simply have auto-response turned on with the message "Yes, I'm available! I accept the rate!!! Thank you!!!!" going out automatically, or least don't even look at the files before accepting.

I'm pretty sure I know who Robert means - at least I hope I do, as the alternative means accepting that there are many agencies where the same behavior is routine. I found this runaround and the resultant time-wasting (including a pathological need to haggle endlessly over tiny amounts of money) to be so annoying that I simply stopped responding altogether. None of my current clients pull this type of nonsense (at least not systematically), and it's hard to imagine to what would make me go back to that.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:02
English to Croatian
+ ...
Perhaps they are a team? Apr 19, 2016

Rudolf Vedo CT wrote:

Lingua 5B wrote:
Perhaps she received 5 law rate offers in 5-10 minute time frame? Perhaps someone was 20 seconds faster?


Considering the almost-superhuman speed with which some offers are taken, I'm convinced that certain translators simply have auto-response turned on with the message "Yes, I'm available! I accept the rate!!! Thank you!!!!" going out automatically, or least don't even look at the files before accepting.

I'm pretty sure I know who Robert means - at least I hope I do, as the alternative means accepting that there are many agencies where the same behavior is routine. I found this runaround and the resultant time-wasting (including a pathological need to haggle endlessly over tiny amounts of money) to be so annoying that I simply stopped responding altogether. None of my current clients pull this type of nonsense (at least not systematically), and it's hard to imagine to what would make me go back to that.






And one person just quotes, constantly, quickly and aggressively, while the other person does the job, then they share their $0.02 rate between them?

I mean, there are many possible scenarios.

[Edited at 2016-04-19 16:58 GMT]


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