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Making the best of a bad situation
Thread poster: Stephen Rifkind

Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 19:12
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Sep 7, 2006

Dear colleagues:

I find myself in a bit of a bad situation. I started working for an agency who pays very respectably. I was given the exciting but difficult job of translating a supreme court decision. It was over 40 pages long.

During the time I did it, I felt that it was somewhat difficult, but that I could cope with it. I produced what I honestly felt was a good translation.

Some two months later, I received a heavily marked up copy, with polite instructions on introducing the changes into the final draft. After initially feeling quite angry, I am forced to admit that my job was far from professional. Some 80 percent of the changes were justified.

I have prepared a list of clarifications to pass where I felt the change was unjustified or wrong (and I am very sure about it).

However, the fact remains that I am due a lot of money for work that is not so well done.

How should I handle the client?

1) Ignore the issue.
2) Apologize profusely
3) Offer to take a discount on the price
4) Other

I do not sense any anger from the client.

TIA

Stephen Rifkind


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:12
Finnish to English
Do the changes Sep 7, 2006

Hi

I would implement the changes which I think are justified and say nothing. If the client/agent mentions payment, admit that the job was more challenging than you had thought, and offer a 10-20% reduction.
You'll probably get a lot of varying opinions about this one!


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
Offer to take a discount on the price Sep 7, 2006

Because all the other options have nothing to do with you being paid,I figure this is all you can do.

Furthermore, let it be a lesson, that you do not attempt work that you do not know how to do. Never.

[Editado a las 2006-09-07 06:23]


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Joost Elshoff  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Discount and apology Sep 7, 2006

For one thing, it doesnt pay to go about discussing the justification of changes imposed on your work, I think it will even cause you to receive less work from that agency.

I'd apologise to the agency, offer a discount and add the changes to the TM you're using (cause you never know when you might be needing some of those fragments).


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Mary Lalevee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:12
French to English
Offer a discount Sep 7, 2006

Yes, I agree. Offer a discount.

Court decisions are extremely difficult to translate and if your translation contained a significant number of mistakes I think you should reduce your fee. I mean by between 10-20%, not more as there are actually very few F/E translators capable of doing a perfect job on a translation like that!

Good luck.

Mary


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Marina Varouta  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:12
Ignore the issue Sep 7, 2006

Dear Stephen,

If the client is satisfied and "not angry" (you said it yourself), you should NOT make a discount and you should NOT apologize or make a list of "unjustified changes".

You do not have the right to judge your client's needs and satisfaction level. If he seems satisfied (instead of the changes he asked you to do), don't try to convince them they are not satisfied! Unless of course he starts a discussion and asks for a discount.

Making a discount or apologizing means you are not sure about your qualifications, and the client will never return.

It can sometimes happen that we accept a job that is a bit more difficult than what we thought. I do not agree with Henry Hinds "do not attempt work that you do not know how to do" because this way you will never be able to improve your services and gain experience in new translation fields.

Perhaps you have lost a client, but you have learned a lot, so see it positive and show the client you are POSITIVE about the collaboration! Be collaborative and make the changes they asked. Don't be ashamed and take the money they offered - making a "last minute discount" is unprofessional, in my opinion.

Good luck!
Marina


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Trevor Butcher
Local time: 18:12
English
Discount? Sep 7, 2006

Hi,

I would offer a discount if you believe this would help maintain good relations with them, but if they were used to having to edit texts then it may seem strange and may give the wrong message. It might help to learn a little more about what the procedures the agency uses as standard.

The agency where I work, for example, expects that translators who are new to the agency will have a few bumpy texts at the beginning until we both learn each others processes, strengths and weaknesses.

Trevor


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
Italian to English
+ ...
Apologise and offer a discount Sep 7, 2006

If you have a *very* good relationship with the client, you may even find that they refuse it (this has happened to me), but they will certainly appreciate you having offered it.

Basically, if this agency is a good payer, you want to keep it. And so you need to engage in damage limitation. Offering a discount is not weakness but a sign of professionalism.


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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
Italian to English
+ ...
Thank them for pointing out the changes Sep 7, 2006

...and leave it at that.

Why should you give them a discount if they aren't asking for one? They are obviously a serious, professional agency (although two months is too long to give you feedback) so they would have no problems about asking for discounts/refusing to pay if the quality was unacceptable. If the client had kicked up a fuss about the quality they would have been on the phone straight after delivery, not two months later. They are just giving you feedback for information. You say you sense no anger on their part - so just accept the changes in the good faith in which they were given. Next time you won't make the same mistakes.


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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
Italian to English
+ ...
Disagree Sep 7, 2006

Offering a discount is not weakness but a sign of professionalism. - not in this case.

The agency needed the translation of a Supreme Court decision. As Mary rightly said, there are only a handful of people on the planet who can actually do this, in any language. Presumably all these people were busy, otherwise the agency would not have asked Stephen. Stephen, did they ask you if you had done this before? Did you say yes even though you hadn't? Or did you say "haven't done it before but I'd be happy to". Or maybe the agency didn't ask at all because they needed the translation urgently. Unless Stephen lied about his experience (doesn't seem the type otherwise he wouldn't be posting this thread), then he was quite entitled to accept a request from an agency who considered him capable of doing it. He did his best with his current level of experience, and in good faith. Why, then, should he offer a discount if the agency haven't asked for one?? Just because somebody else (who wasn't asked) could have done it better doesn't mean that Stephen is not entitled to full payment for his time and effort.

Are we or are we not in business???? I will never understand why some people believe different rules apply to translation compared to any other branch of commerce, why we should hold our hands out for a caning like naughty schoolchildren. We are professional business people. Just ask any lawyer, accountant, mechanic, plumber etc. etc. if they have ever given a discount when the customer didn't ask for one! The answer will be a big fat no.

Give clients exactly what they ask for.


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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
2 months later... Sep 7, 2006

and you haven't received full payment??
Unless you agreed otherwise, you should have received payment already no matter the changes suggested at this later date.
Two months is too long to be waiting for your money, especially if it was a long job (I always ask for part monthly payments if the job extends for more than a month).


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
with Marina + Claire on this one Sep 7, 2006

Thye have both given good arguments why not to offer a discount.

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Babelfischli  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:12
French to German
+ ...
Agree with Claire Sep 7, 2006

Offering a discount would convey that your translation was so bad it doesn't even deserve full payment. Plus, imagine if it were common practice, if all agencies deducted 5% for 5-10 mistakes, 10% for 10-20 and so forth... If you have had a good working relationship with the agency so far, they will keep you in their database.

Bad feedback, for one reason or another, is something we have to deal with in our job. And unless it's completely unjustified, the best you can do is eat humble pie and say you appreciate the remarks and will learn from them. Making a list of the corrections that were not justified will make them think that the criticism hurt (which I'm sure it did but they need not know) and will look petty.

Hth,
Claudia


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 18:12
French to Dutch
+ ...
With Claire Sep 7, 2006

Claire Titchmarsh wrote:

...and leave it at that.

Why should you give them a discount if they aren't asking for one? They are obviously a serious, professional agency (although two months is too long to give you feedback) so they would have no problems about asking for discounts/refusing to pay if the quality was unacceptable. If the client had kicked up a fuss about the quality they would have been on the phone straight after delivery, not two months later. They are just giving you feedback for information. You say you sense no anger on their part - so just accept the changes in the good faith in which they were given. Next time you won't make the same mistakes.


Thank them and say them that next time you'll take into account their remarks. Don't create discussions.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:12
French to English
Don't forget... Sep 7, 2006

... that they will presumably have factored in the proofreader's time and effort into what they charge the end client.

How many times do we read on here postings along the lines of: "I took on a proofing job and the translation was awful and it took 3 times the amount of time, what should I do?"
The answer is always - charge what was agreed (and next time read the text before estimating).

So, one could argue that ultimately, it's the proofer who has to bear this cost. Of course, if the proofing is done in house, the agency may try to recoup that cost, and if they do, well, at least you've already resigned yourself to that possibility and can take it on the chin.

But while you're at it, as regards "unjustified" changes, depends what they are, but I'd be inclined to bite my tongue in this case about (unjustified?) stylistic changes (synomyms etc.) and only comment on things that you are 100% sure are utterly wrong. The proofer, more or less on your own admission, seems to know more about the subject than you. As NMR said, you probably need to avoid too much discussion about this job - least said, soonest mended


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