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Do I deserve an apology?
Thread poster: Alex Wang
Alex Wang
Local time: 05:48
English to Chinese
+ ...
Aug 26

As a translator myself, I certainly understand the frustration that everyone experiences when you are not paid after doing your work, which has happened to me a couple times. Therefore, as a rule, I always pay my translators very promptly, sometimes within an hour.

However, today I have a unique case I would like to share with you and hear your opinions as a translation agency. I hope that this also sheds some light on the payment issue from the perspective of a translation agency.

I outsourced a project to a German translator who failed to follow the instructions and failed to deliver the requested bilingual translation file and the clean Word file file. When he failed to use the specified CAT tool, there was also a formatting error in the delivered Word file. I understand that everyone makes mistakes, so I told him so and wanted him to make the correction and deliver the bilingual translation file together with the corrected Word file, which is something that I would assume that every professional translator would and should do.

Instead, I received several long emails from him in response to my repeated requests for the corrected files giving me different excuses and and his life stories even used abusive language and threatened to give my agency a one star rating at proz.com. I was really surprised because the project was so small with only 300 words. Had he had the time to write these long emails, he could have retranslated the entire file in that time. Eventually he obliged and delivered the corrected files after over a dozen email exchanges.

After this was over, I asked him to give me an apology because I told him that his behavior was simply unprofessional and unacceptable. He refused and questioned whether I am from Asia, even trying to bring race into the whole discussion and indicating that an American would have let it go. Today, I sent him another email asking for his apology and told him that I will not send his payment until I have his apology. Here is his response:

Do not make things more complicated. If you do not pay I forbid your client to use my translation and put the case with his text in the internet. In my jurisdiction a work belongs to me until it is paid. Pay me for my work and do not try to educate me. I am not your son or emplayee. Pay your debt and stop blackmailing me please. Fact is I have done my job before deadline and all you do here make things worse. You are doing wrong and everybody will tell you the same. You cannot force people doing what you want. That is not how the world works.

I’m wondering:
1. Do I deserve an apology from him for his unprofessional and unacceptable behavior after suffering through his abusive emails and the waste of more than half an hour of my time for something that he should have done in the first place?
2. Is it reasonable for me to hold his payment until I have that apology?
3. Do I have the right to hold his payment until he apologizes?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I guess that it is a little hard for me to think clearly since I am now involved in this case with him.


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 13:48
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Don't expect an apology, no matter how much you deserve it Aug 26

Sorry to learn about your experience. The translator sounds very rude indeed. However, I don't think you should expect or much less demand an apology. It would just be a waste of time.
You most certainly don't have any right to withhold the payment just because you want an apology. I understand the translator delivered the corrected work eventually, so he's entitled to the payment. A nice and professional translator would probably offer a discount and an apology, at least if you had to wait a long time for the corrections, but that won't happen in this case.

So I'm afraid the only thing for you to do is to just pay and make a note to yourself to never ever use that translator again.

[Edited at 2017-08-27 18:17 GMT]


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Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 21:48
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
How rude! Aug 26

Dear Alex,

You are right - this person is incredibly rude, and their behaviour is absolutely unprofessional.

I have a couple of questions. The first one, did you agree on immediate payment? Secondly, did he eventually correct the formatting and fixed other issues? If yes, then I would recommend paying.

Btw, what is their language pair? English is really poor. I hope they do not translate from English.

I would advise contacting Proz.com - as far as I know translators can't blackmail outsources with unfavourable BlueBoard entries. And, of course, racial hints are absolutely unacceptable. I really hope the staff will respond accordingly.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:48
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
There's common courtesey, and then there's the law Aug 26

Alex Wang wrote:
1. Do I deserve an apology from him for his unprofessional and unacceptable behavior after suffering through his abusive emails and the waste of more than half an hour of my time for something that he should have done in the first place?

If you're sure that the instructions were perfectly clear, etc then, yes, I would say that an apology would be good to have. But an apology can't be forced - you can only hope for one.
2. Is it reasonable for me to hold his payment until I have that apology?

Absolutely not, I'm afraid. Payment for labour is an unalienable rights in every legislation I know of. It has nothing to do with the niceties of politeness.

3. Do I have the right to hold his payment until he apologizes?

You have every right to withhold payment until the payment due date, as always - not a day longer.

Sorry to hear you had this problem, but I'm afraid it does happen from time to time in business. To be honest, you're mixing up contractual obligations and common courtesey, and they don't necessarily go hand in hand. They should, but ... Iin the end, you got what you wanted, and now you need to pay for it. Obviously, you won't be working together again.


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 05:48
German to English
+ ...
Something I'm curious about Aug 27

It may be a bit off topic - but why would you want a CAT tool of any kind used for a file of only 300 words? The purpose of CAT tools is to help with very lengthy texts of a technical nature that has terms which must always be translated the same way.

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Meta Arkadia
Local time: 18:48
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Not really Aug 27

Maxi Schwarz wrote:
The purpose of CAT tools is to help with very lengthy texts of a technical nature that has terms which must always be translated the same way.


I'd translate a single sentence with my CAT tool, and I rarely do lengthy texts of a technical nature. And not only for archiving purposes, but also because you'll have all your resources - translation memories, termbases, web resources, local dictionaries - at hand with a single click/keyboard shortcut.

Cheers,

Hans


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 12:48
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Same format Aug 27

Pay him with a 30-euro bill hand-drawn on a piece of paper. If he sent his work in the wrong format, he has earned his wrong-formatted money.

Optionally, you may also apologize for assuming that he was skilled enough to do the job right.

[Edited at 2017-08-27 05:40 GMT]


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Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 08:48
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
Nope Aug 27

1. No
2. No
3. No

Trying to coerce what you think is the appropriate behavior in this instance is pointless; either you just want him to admit that he was wrong and you were right, which is puerile, or your feelings have been hurt and you think pursuing this will make you whole (hint: it won't, plus this avenue of leveraging payment to get satisfaction would also be unprofessional on your part).

I understand the frustration, but let it go, pay up when the bill is due, and simply never work with that translator again. If you usually recommend suppliers to other agencies, guess what? You can also warn them who not to work with...


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 12:48
French to English
+ ...
This Aug 27

Rossana Triaca wrote:
I understand the frustration, but let it go, pay up when the bill is due, and simply never work with that translator again.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:48
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Agreed Aug 27

I agree with Rossana. At last, someone talking sense. Stop being a klutz. Pay the guy and move on. And don't be so wordy.

[Edited at 2017-08-27 07:47 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 12:48
French to English
Forced apologies are insincere Aug 27

I still remember very clearly being made to apologise to my bully in infants school. I wasn't sorry in the least for what I had done even though I know the bully was mortified by my behaviour. I'm pretty sure he could tell I wasn't sorry from the way I spoke. And I then got my friends to gang up on him and mortify him even more so he would finally leave me alone.

So not only do you have no right to an apology, it wouldn't even make you feel better. Just write this translator off and find someone better next time.

I'm curious to know what the translator's justification was for not following instructions...


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:48
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You do not pay for politeness, but translations Aug 27

I completely sympathise with you and think that the translator had a very bad day... or simply has bad manners. Yes, apologizing is what most translators would have done when proven a non-compliance or mistake in the deliverables. A practical translator would have apologized and would have corrected any deficiencies promptly. A translator with some business acumen would have apologized and given you this tiny translation for free in order to keep you as a customer in the future. One cannot help wonder whether this person in particular finds delight in confrontation.

Just for the sake of business efficiency, my approach would be to pay (it is not such a big sum, I reckon), let it go, free your mind from it to concentrate on things that really matter... and rip the translator's CV to tiny pieces for any future work.


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:48
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
rudeness Aug 27

Rudeness can come from agencies as well. I few weeks ago I was working on a project for an agency in Australia due on a Monday morning. Saturday night, my system crashed and I lost the document. I immediately contacted the agency in Australia, told him the bad news, apologized to him and said the earliest I could get a repair technician would be Monday morning. I received a number of e-mails demanding that I rent a computer or find another computer. This was easier said than done. The FedEx/Kinkos internet cafes in Boston have very limited hours on weekends. Buying new equipment was also out of the question. What can you do in the middle of the weekend??!! Since he placed the ad on proz.com, I suggested that contact one of the other translators who I assumed answered his ad. I also suggested that he place a new ad on proz.com. Japanese translators are used to working Asian hours/odd hours and I figured this would be a remedy. I received some abusive and insulting e-mails from accusing me of lack of professionalism and laziness. I told him he was being abusive and insulting and to stop contacting me. I received more e-mails from him which I deleted without opening. This was indeed an unfortunate situation. I did apologize to him and made several suggestions for remedying the situation. During my whole career as a translator I have never experienced such abusiveness. However, I decided to put the experience behind me. As it turned out, I got the system up and running early Monday morning, ready for new jobs.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 12:48
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The more you deserve an apology, the less likely you are to get one! Aug 27

At least in some cases.

However, an apology is a bit like band-aid. It covers the wound, but does not actively help it to heal much. Leave the wound alone, and it will heal by itself anyway.

As for CATS and short texts - I have used mine for an 8-word job, because the client wanted the phrase in the CAT for next time, and for coordinating with all the other languages in the portfolio... It was in a declaration of a new product to be sold all round the EU!

That client regularly sent declarations, safety warnings, marketing and instruction manuals for the same product range. Most of the texts were very short, but the CAT was indispensable for keeping track of the terminology over time in any language. The agency was coordinating more than a dozen languages, so it could cause real trouble for them too, if translators refused to comply.

I can certainly see your point of view. I hope you find another translator who is more cooperative!


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:48
Russian to English
+ ...
Yeah, I think it should be illegal to request any CAT tools unless it is some long project Aug 27

and the company provides them. He may have been rude, which is bad, but many less professional agencies get on your nerves, too, since they expect the text corrected this minute, and the corrections sent exactly the away they want them submitted, or processed, which sometimes does not make much sense. I do not think you should expect any apology, Alex, and even if the subcontractor is extremely rude, which is bad, of course, but he did the job, you still have to pay them without dely. No vendettas allowed.

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