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Differences between translating, proofreading and editing - payment refusal by agency
Thread poster: StefanR

StefanR  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:02
English to German
+ ...
Feb 3, 2003

I\'ve now been in business as a freelancer for well over a year, after having worked over many years and gained experience in-house. So far I was \"lucky\" (successful) and never had any trouble getting paid for my work, but now it seems it has hit me too. Well, there seems to be always a first time!



I\'ve done a rather large job for a new agency (first job with this particular one), involving about 70 h. I delivered the job as usual within the deadline. About two weeks went by and I sent my invoice. A couple days later I received an email confirming its receipt, but also containing a complaint, stating that a lot of proofreading and editing had been necessary to be able to deliver the job to the client. The cost for the proofreading and editing was mentioned as well; an outrageous amount (20 h of proofreading and editing do exceed the price for my 70 h!). The result is that the agency tries to charge \"me\" for their services (instead of charging the client) and they want to pay nil.



Now, as with other agencies I\'m working with, I\'d delivered a very decent translation and taken into account that some proofreading and editing would have to be done, since it was a manual which would go to press. Upon checking their revisions (of which I received a copy) I found that the words of many sentences had been simply switched around. As far as I know, in most languages you can switch words in sentences around without changing significance; particularly in German (the target language in this case) one is quite free in one\'s expression as far as the sequence of words goes, as long as one adheres to grammar and style.



Despite all, there are a lot of \"unedited\" sentences in their revision and I believe they are my copyright for which I\'m owed an exchange, i.e. payment for my services.



Unfortunately, no contract - which would have made clear the terms and conditions - was used and I\'ve learned a lesson on this one and will never do any large job again without clearly stated terms and conditions, signed by both parties. As I could experience in-house, complaints (extensive corrections required) always went back to the translator for fix up, however, this particular agency seems to work on different policies.



Any input on this is welcome, particularly information on the legal aspect of the matter, your experiences with differentiating between the translation, proofreading and editing process. (By the way, in my invoice I charge for translation - not proofreading or editing.)



Thanks in advance,

StefanR



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Andrei Albu  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 00:02
English to Romanian
+ ...
Strange, Feb 3, 2003

The same happened to me quite recently, albeit it was not such a large job. But it also happened to me for the first time, in over ten years of experience. The details are oddly similar, I wonder whether this might be the same agency. It definitely looks as a pattern. The \"agency\" wanted me to do them a 75 percent discount. Of course, I refused, especially that the \"changes\" were merely cosmetic, such as using various synonims (.e.g., instead of \"regarding\", they would write \"with regard to\", and many others like that) plus a couple of spelling mistakes, which in no way could give room to such an absurd claim. Then, they wanted me to make them a 50 percent discount, which I obviously refused again. Payment has already been outstanding for about one month. Even though the amount involved is not that large, i.e. some 100 EUR, I am thinking of making their name known on all payment practices lists, so that at least other colleagues do not get burned by them. What would you say about that?

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Steffen Pollex  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:02
English to German
+ ...
So, what are you waiting for??? Feb 3, 2003

On 2003-02-03 10:42, A.Albu wrote:

The same happened to me quite recently,.... Even though the amount involved is not that large, i.e. some 100 EUR, I am thinking of making their name known on all payment practices lists, so that at least other colleagues do not get burned by them. What would you say about that?



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Egmont
Spain
Local time: 23:02
Afrikaans to Spanish
+ ...
PAYMENT IN ADVANCE Feb 3, 2003

As usual in all the e-businesses (ProZ.com, e-bay, etc.)
[addsig]


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corinne durand  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:02
English to French
+ ...
Hello Feb 3, 2003

Hi!



This sounds familiar, the same happened to me from what used to be known as a \"reputable agency\" (that obviously have changed for the worse) for whom I had peviously translated tens of thousands of words for about a year. On the last project they first asked for a free test. Then, 6 months later, the first small translation on this project arrived and they asked for a 25% discount bcause the volume was going to be \"high\" over the next months. I had a few hours to do the translation (not even 24hours) and got interrupted by a frantic PM while proofreading it because she had got the time wrong and thought my translation was supposed to be back at 1 (we had agreed on 2). About two weeks later she phoned saying that during proofreading they had found \"many\" mistakes and asked for a 30% discount (on an amount even lower than 100 euros!). While discussing the mistakes with the PM (who was not even a speaker of the target language), I realised I had made about 2 genuine spelling mistakes which I acknowledged and apologised for. All the other ones were highly disputable and sentences that were perfectly correct had been changed for other ones that were not better, sometimes worse. I still am very angry at the way I was treated by this agency. As I said, I already had translated the test for free, lowered my usual rates and had been a regular translator for them in the past. They went ahead and took 30% of the invoice (which for an agency like them must be a ridiculous amount, believe me). They showed a total lack of professionalism and acted like the sort of agency they say they are not. It would be \"funny\" to find it is the same people we are talking about...


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Aliseo Japan  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:02
Member
Italian to Japanese
+ ...
Please teach us how to do! Feb 3, 2003

Hi Albertov,



this is the second time you recommend others to pretend advance payments from new agencies. Of course we all would like to do that, but can you please tell us your secrets? How can you convince them if they do not know you either? Please share your experience.



Thank you



Mario Cerutti



Quote:


On 2003-02-03 11:39, albertov wrote:

As usual in all the e-businesses (ProZ.com, e-bay, etc.)





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Andrei Albu  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 00:02
English to Romanian
+ ...
Hello again, Feb 3, 2003

What I had forgot to tell you in my previous post was that my \"case\" is a paid translation test. As a (small) agency owner, I know that if I decide to send out a paid test, then I pay the translators, regardless of whether they pass or fail. This is an assumed business risk, which any responsible and honest business owner must be aware of. But as I said, the whole issue is rather spooky, with all those synonims and unnecessary twistings. As for the advance payment trick, yes, I will buy you a beer Albertov if you could share it with us

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Egmont
Spain
Local time: 23:02
Afrikaans to Spanish
+ ...
Payment in advance as a 'filter' Feb 3, 2003

That is my trick so I can discard the bad payers...in advance...Cheers!
[addsig]


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vixen  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 00:02
Member (2002)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Does it work? Feb 3, 2003

Hi Albertov,

What we would all like to know is if any (new) agency is willing to pay you up front if they don\'t know you yet. Do they?



Besides, an agency that refuses to pay a new translator in advance need not be a bad agency.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:02
German to English
+ ...
Jurisdiction Feb 3, 2003

Stefan,



Where are you located?



If you and your customer are both located in Germany, your customer is obliged to inform you of the errors and give you the opportunity to correct them before withholding payment. I\'m not sure how many attempts you get in total - three, I think. (Ask the German network for details.) This basic principle applies in the absence of a written contract.



The cost of revising a text is not necessarily indicative of the quality of the translation - even checking a perfect text costs money. 20 h is not necessarily a lot for a job that took 70 h, but that is not the point.



Any agency that simply deducts the cost of revision is acting dishonestly, in my opinion. These practices are not new. I have heard of an agency deducting an amount as \"punitive damages\" because a poor translation \"might have cost us the customer\" (even though it didn\'t).



Fortunately, I\'ve been spared these experiences personally. Written terms of business are a good thing, but the best protection is a good working relationship with an agency. A good agency will value such a relationship equally highly.



It is debatable whether you can argue that your translation does not include editing. I\'m sure that most agencies will tell you that they expect a final-quality product. Only a minority, I suspect, undertake proper revision. I would also be reluctant to criticize agencies who conduct no form of checking. (You didn\'t, but by implication you obviously expect it.) I know some excellent agencies who have openly told me that they check new translators\' work particularly carefully and spot-check other work. This honesty should be commended. I would be more critical of agencies who tell their translators that they don\'t revise, whilst at the same time claiming to their customers that they do, and selling this as \"added value\".



Since the customer is an agency, I suggest you propose to the agency that a professional translators\' association act as arbitrator in the dispute.



Marc


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Daniel Meier  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:02
English to German
+ ...
No complaint Feb 3, 2003

This is indeed an old, cheap and dirty trick and no complaint at all. To me it happened only one time and luckily there was not much money involved. But it went almost exactly the same way.



\"I received an email confirming its receipt, but also containing a complaint, stating that a lot of proofreading and editing had been necessary to be able to deliver the job to the client.\"



Mind that this statement is a contradiction in itself. If the agency wanted to complain about the quality of your translation, they could and should have done as you state below:

\"As I could experience in-house, complaints (extensive corrections required) always went back to the translator for fix up...\"



So if the agency really had any complaint, they were obliged to contact you first and ask you to make the necessary corrections, being specific about the nature of these corrections. If they decided to do proofreading/editing by themselves, that´s their decision, for which they have to pay. In German this is called \"Rügepflicht\" and it means, that a client has a certain period of time, in which he can but also has to ask for obvious defects/faults to be corrected - and failing to do so means, that the client does accept the product or service including those defects/faults.



Obviously there is almost nothing as easy as to complain about the quality of a translation. Using Word and tracking changes you can make every translation look like it was made by an analphabet.



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Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:02
Member
French to English
Sometimes valid Feb 3, 2003

Quote:


So if the agency really had any complaint, they were obliged to contact you first and ask you to make the necessary corrections, being specific about the nature of these corrections. If they decided to do proofreading/editing by themselves, that´s their decision, for which they have to pay.





When used as a trick to avoid paying the translator\'s invoice, it is indeed a dirty trick, but I have seen work that really did require extensive revision to make it acceptable. Before I go any further, I always paid in full or, if the translator offered a discount, I always paid the agreed amount.



Also, I did check resumes, requested short tests and did whatever else I could to check ability.



When a translator *does* produce sub-standard work, you certainly don\'t have any confidence in their ability to correct the problems. Deadlines are almost always an issue and you don\'t often have the luxury of having the translator fix the problems, especially since you will have to check the corrections too.



I have also received sub-standard work from translators who had produced beautiful work before.



In one case, the translator kept insisting he would meet the deadline, but never worked on the material and only sent about 200 words that had been generated by DejaVu after I insisted because I was getting worried. In this case, it meant many days and nights of extra work for me.



The most recent case was a disaster of a translation from someone who obviously had other things on his mind. He had worked on many projects for me in the past and the work was always impeccable. It was not a case of having sent the wrong file -- I asked several times. He did offer a discount and I have accepted it.



As for outrageous charges and time for editing -- haven\'t we all said that correcting a bad translation takes longer than translating from scratch?



When I revise a translation, I usually like to have a third opinion, especially when the revision is extensive. I want to be sure that I did not over-correct, something which is very easy to do when you already have a lot of changes to make. This involves my time and paying someone to double-check everything. My time is already tight (which is why I sub-contract) so this affects my other work and means I have to work extra long hours to meet all my deadlines.



FWIW,

Karin Adamczyk

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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:02
French to English
Fishy... Feb 3, 2003

Hi Stefan,



Quote:


I\'ve done a rather large job for a new agency (first job with this particular one), involving about 70 h. I delivered the job as usual within the deadline. About two weeks went by and I sent my invoice. A couple days later I received an email confirming its receipt, but also containing a complaint, stating that a lot of proofreading and editing had been necessary to be able to deliver the job to the client. The cost for the proofreading and editing was mentioned as well; an outrageous amount (20 h of proofreading and editing do exceed the price for my 70 h!). The result is that the agency tries to charge \"me\" for their services (instead of charging the client) and they want to pay nil.





What I don\'t like is they complained to you 2 weeks after delivering the document. IMO, it\'s a bit late. If there were truly major errors in your translation, they should have let you know right away.



In this case, I would ask for a copy of their version (unless you already have it) and say that you\'ll address each change. I would certainly not fall for this \"we had to edit your document and we\'re not paying you\" excuse. They have to justify deducting your invoice, and if you didn\'t make major errors (just stylistic changes), then they\'re not justified in doing so.



And by all means, post a report on the Payment Practices, the TCR and any other payment list (on the Blue Board too if they\'re listed). You never know whether you\'ll find others who have had the same problem.



Good luck,



Erika



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Daniel Meier  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:02
English to German
+ ...
Some points Feb 3, 2003

To Karin and Marc



Besides of business ethics, the core of the problem IMO is the definition of the \"standard\" or \"quality\" or \"final quality\" of a translation and also the practical aspects of the translation business.

Of course the translator is entitled and obliged to correct errors on his own and it is certainly not good business practice to say: \"we had to correct your erros, so we will not pay or deduct our costs\". On the other hand, given the tight deadlines, it would be almost impracticable to give the translator three tries to correct his mistakes (not even to mention the wide range from typos or grammatical errors to matters of style and taste).

Since I am also subcontracting a considerable amount of my workload, I have experienced similar situations mentioned by Karin. In almost every translation I have to make at least some small changes and I do most of these revisions by \"tracking changes\" and send them back to the translators, so they can decide, which version is better and how to avoid possible mistakes in the future.

Given this, I am always wondering how some translation agencies market their services by claiming to deliver translations made by expert translators and proofread by expert proofreaders (how do they handle the issue of \"necessary changes\" vs. \"price deduction\"?), whilst other agencies expect \"final quality\" from one and the same person. Either those expert proofreaders are expendable, or the latter agencies do have unreasonable expectations.

The only solution I can think of in the moment is to set up standards and quality parameters for translation work and possible rules for price deductions in case a translations does not fulfill these standards. Could this work?



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María del Carmen Cerda
Local time: 16:02
English to Spanish
Abusive agencies Feb 3, 2003

When I go to the store and buy a pair of shoes or anything else for that matter I am responsible for my decision to buy. If the shoes that I buy pinch me or do not fit properly or give me calluses or whatever happens after the purchase is my responsibility. Also, I can do whatever I want to with those shoes because they are now merchandise I own. What translators sell is not a merchandise that can be measured or weighed. In fact, what translators sell is a service. There is one person who does not understand something and there is another person who will kindly explain. If at the end of the service the first person now understands what he did not understand before the service,the service has been rendered and the translator should be paid for his services. After the service is rendered the person receiving it may decide many things, that it was not what he expected, that it is not what he needed after all or whatever just as I can have many after-thoughts after I buy a pair of shoes. In the case of merchandise, if the shoes were poorly manufactured, I can take them back and ask for a reimbursement. In the case of a service, it cannot be given back. The service of a translator is more like the service of a masseur. Maybe you didn\'t like the massage after all but you did receive the service and you must pay. Or it is like a doctor giving a prescription. Maybe you don\'t get well but you still have to pay for the service. There is only one case where translators are liable like a doctor or the masseur and that is when (and if) they do harm. It is very unlikely that a translator can do harm but the only time he is responsible is when he translates something to mean exactly the opposite of what the source said. A translator is not getting paid to write a work of art. He is not getting paid to format. He is not getting paid even to type or edit or publish. A translator is getting paid to explain what something in another language says. To convey the meaning he may use his own words, he may use sign language he may use pictures or whatever he deems best. If the other person understands, the service is rendered. Now if the other person wants to write a brochure he should hire a writer. If the other person wants to format the text, he should hire a computer expert. If the other person wants to prepare a publicity campaign, hire an expert. A translator translates, that\'s all, he conveys meaning. Of course it would be advisable as in the case of doctors that translators pass some sort of test and receive licenses. Agencies oppose this because in all justice translators should be paid as well as doctors because it is true anyone can translate but to make translation an art you have to be gifted. Agencies want John Doe to translate for them in order to pay them pennies aaah but they want John Doe to be the Caruso of the translation world. I call this blatant dishonesty and thievery. This kind of abuse is going on in many other fields of life, of course.

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