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Collection options for a non-payer?
Thread poster: Mark Berelekhis

Mark Berelekhis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
Mar 9, 2009

Hello all,

I did two simultaneous interpreting assignments for a Texas-based outsourcer (a small agency): one in April 08, the other in July 08. Both times the client (it was for the same client) was ecstatic, so quality is not the issue here. The agency paid for the April assignment, albeit a month late, but have yet to cover the July invoice. E-mailing and calling have yielded little result: excuses over tax issues, problems with clients paying late on account of the recession, promises to pay that never materialize. The other interpreters from the assignment (my partner, who is my spouse, and two Mandarin interpreters) never got paid either. The outstanding amount for just the two of us is over $3000.

Two months ago I finally posted a BB entry. Soon after that I was contacted by two translators who also had major payment issues with this outsourcer. One of them got paid only after contacting the client directly and telling them everything. The other translator said that she and others have contracted collection agencies to get their money, but to no avail. The best she got was a bounced check. Now she is in the process of bringing together other translators/interpreters whom this agency has swindled (of which apparently there are many) so as to file a class action lawsuit.

Interestingly enough, a few days ago there was another LWA 1 non-payment entry at BB from another translator, but the very next day the entry was changed to a textless LWA 3, which suggests that the agency contacted her and made payment arrangements.

I've had the unfortunate experience of dealing with non-payers twice before, but not on this scale and over far smaller amounts. Now that BB and collection agency options are seemingly out, what else can be done? Have any of you ever gone straight to the client? Would you, in a situation like this?

Thanks in advance.


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Sandra& Kenneth  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 14:29
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Why can't you sue them in small-claims court or equivalent? Mar 9, 2009

Hi Mark,
It may sound like a stupid question, but with both of you in the same country, it seems like the obvious solution...
"Class action" may be expensive and lengthy, if it ever leaves the ground.
Sandra


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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
German to English
+ ...
I have never contacted the client directly, Mar 9, 2009

but once threatened to do so. It worked like a charm!

Why not join the class-action suit?

Keep us posted!

Trudy


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The Misha
Local time: 07:29
Russian to English
+ ...
I hate to be the bearer of bad news Mar 9, 2009

Mark,

There's very little you can do here, all the more so since this was a business-to-business transaction. If you were a mere consumer defrauded by a vendor, you could have at least filed a complaint with BBB and the office of Attorney General of the appropriate state. However, they won't touch business disputes.

Forget about the class action: traditional litigation is ridiculously expensive, and there's simply not enough money to go around here. Nor will the number of potential victims be sufficient for a lawyer to get interested in a contingency-based case. And you do not want to pay for it out of pocket, believe me. If they are just out of money, they'll declare bankruptcy, and you will be just another creditor lining up for non-existing assets. In any case, run it by Angela, she's a lawyer, maybe she'll come up with something better.

Your only reasonable recourse is in the small claims court in Texas, but that would mean you'll have to travel there at your own expense, and even if you win the case - which you will - collection will not be easy.

If we were in the old country, I would have said send in the gorillas, but we do not really want to do that here.

In the absence of anything else, send them a certified mail return requested letter explaining exactly how much stink and where you will raise if they do not pay within, say the next two weeks. Then follow through. Feel free to contact me in person for some ideas.

Good luck, I know it sucks

MK


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xxxmercury
United States
Local time: 04:29
English to Russian
+ ...
Collection Mar 9, 2009

Let us all know the name of this company so we avoid it in the future.

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Mark Berelekhis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Pretty sure that's against forum rules... Mar 9, 2009

mercury wrote:

Let us all know the name of this company so we avoid it in the future.


If that's not the case, please correct me and I gladly will.

And thanks for your comments and suggestions. Misha summarized my situation rather well :/


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:29
English to German
+ ...
No discussion of specific outsourcers in the forums, please Mar 9, 2009

mercury wrote:

Let us all know the name of this company so we avoid it in the future.

Mark is right - please take a moment to review the forum rules - specifically, rule no. 8:

Outsourcers may not be discussed specifically.
Posts or comments regarding a specific outsourcer (identified by name, reference, link or other means), whether positive or negative, are not permitted. (To indicate their likelihood of working again with a given outsourcer, site users should use the ProZ.com Blue Board.)

Thank you.

Best regards,
Ralf


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Mark Berelekhis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thought so Mar 9, 2009

But feel free to e-mail me privately and I'll gladly share the name of the agency.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Another option Mar 9, 2009

Have a look at:
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/125653-an_attorney_called_me_response_from_customer_to_complaint_regarding_non_payment-page3.html#1073804

As they used "taxes" as an excuse, this may be particularly effective in your case.

Good luck!


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:29
English to German
+ ...
Thanks for posting this one again, José! Mar 10, 2009

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Have a look at:
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/125653-an_attorney_called_me_response_from_customer_to_complaint_regarding_non_payment-page3.html#1073804

As they used "taxes" as an excuse, this may be particularly effective in your case.

Good luck!


I would have loved to quote this one from your previous posts, but couldn't find the right link.

A note to the Bearers of Bad News: Have you offered payment options in terms of installments?

Courts are more likely to work with you if you tried to imply proactive measures first. It's not their job to help you getting back at someone.

The place of jurisdiction is your state, BTW (where your business is located). There is no need to travel. This is not Judge Judy or The Peoples Court.

HTH


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
More trouble? Mar 10, 2009

Nicole Schnell wrote:



I would have loved to quote this one from your previous posts, but couldn't find the right link. [/quote]

Amazingly, Nicole, I had trouble finding it on Proz. I had to search for the link in my e-mail trash can.

Nicole Schnell wrote:
A note to the Bearers of Bad News: Have you offered payment options in terms of installments?
Courts are more likely to work with you if you tried to imply proactive measures first. It's not their job to help you getting back at someone.


I'm not so sure, at least in Brazil.

There is a well-known (specifically for this reason) outsourcer here who hires a "new" translator for a small job, and pays them generously and quickly. Then they give this iinnocent translator a BIG job, which they'll only pay in so many installments after a judge has ordered them to do so or go to jail.

If you agree off court with the defaulting outsourcer that they'll make, say, 10 monthly payments, they might make the first one, and then forget about the others. There won't be a court order to nail them down if they only pay a small part of what they owe you.

So if the judge rules on installments, it's okay. They won't be defaulting your payments any longer, but disobeying a court order. That's the way I see it.

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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:29
English to German
+ ...
In the US, that's how you win a law suit Mar 10, 2009

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

If you agree off court with the defaulting outsourcer that they'll make, say, 10 monthly payments, they might make the first one, and then forget about the others. There won't be a court order to nail them down if they only pay a small part of what they owe you.

So if the judge rules on installments, it's okay. They won't be defaulting your payments any longer, but disobeying a court order. That's the way I see it.


Because - by making the first payment - the defaulter has AGREED THAT HE OWES. There is no way out any longer in terms of "unsatisfactory quality" or similar excuses and the courts will rule accordingly.


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Mark Berelekhis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:29
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
depends on who you're dealing with... Mar 10, 2009

Nicole Schnell wrote:

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

If you agree off court with the defaulting outsourcer that they'll make, say, 10 monthly payments, they might make the first one, and then forget about the others. There won't be a court order to nail them down if they only pay a small part of what they owe you.

So if the judge rules on installments, it's okay. They won't be defaulting your payments any longer, but disobeying a court order. That's the way I see it.


Because - by making the first payment - the defaulter has AGREED THAT HE OWES. There is no way out any longer in terms of "unsatisfactory quality" or similar excuses and the courts will rule accordingly.


Nicole,

This is good advice for outsourcers who have issues but have shown genuine desire to settle accounts amicably. As I said, this particular outsourcer has made it regular business practice to stiff his translators.

By the way, a short update: a mere hour after posting here, I got a job notification from Translators Cafe, and the job poster was none other than our friend. I checked his agency feedback (BB equivalent) and it had 5 or 6 negative (non-payment) entries. One of those mentioned that the agency was banned from posting jobs on Proz. I proceeded to add my own entry, and very soon after that his post was yanked by the TC mods. Nor can I find the agency's name in their database.

So, at least we don't have to worry about him scamming any more of us. Unless he shuts down and starts a new company, that is...

[Edited at 2009-03-10 02:23 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:29
English to German
+ ...
Do not underestimate your possibilities, Mark. Mar 10, 2009

Even before I founded our company, I used to call lawyers like crazy. At times even for translation issues (!).

You will find attorneys that are specializing in freelancer issues (graphic artists, translators, writers, whatever). They may charge $25 for a 10 minute phone call. You learn a lot. Priceless.

Have you done the same?


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:29
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
An unannounced visit to their office could work, but ... Mar 10, 2009

An unannounced visit to their office could work - I did it myself once, to a defaulting client in France when I was passing through the city concerned on vacation. A - shall we say - stimulating experience. As a result, they paid up *part" of what they owed me. They were declared bankrupt a few months later.
I've described exactly what happened in other forums here and don't want to bore everyone to death describing it all over again, but please contact me personally if you'd like more details.
I note from your profile that you live in New York state, a long way from Texas, so unless you are planning a trip to Texas anyway, it might not be worth your while. If you do go, take a witness and all the evidence with you.
Best of luck,
Jenny.


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