Accept discounted payment?
Thread poster: Whitney Bryan

Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:26
Italian to English
May 15, 2009

Hello, everyone!

I have a problem for which I hope you can provide some advice. A couple of months ago, I was contacted by an agency for which I had completed some translations. They needed assistance with the proofreading of a document with which their client was unhappy. I accepted the job at half my translation rate with the company; this was already a bit lower than my usual rate, but I had worked with the company before and understood that they had been "taken aback" by the client's complaints. I completed the proofreading and found that the original translation was quite messy; I "cleaned it up" and returned it.

The client complained again and pointed out some areas they disagreed with. A couple of places were, in fact, minor errors I had missed, but other complaints were simply word choice (the client preferred one word over another with the same meaning). I apologized for the two errors I had missed and explained that the meanings of what I (or the original translator) had written were the same as the client's preferred words, I did not hear anything more.

Now the agency is paying me for some of the translations and this proofreading. I have just received a message that the agency will only be able to pay me half of the agreed amount for the proofreading (not the translations, which will be paid in full) because the client withheld payment from the agency. I am unsure what to do. The difference is "only" 20 euros, but I feel that my agreement was with the agency, not the client. Of course, I also understand that the agency is in a difficult position and is still willing to pay half even if they didn't receive payment for the job, and they aren't trying to reduce any of my other payments.

If you were in the same situation, what would you do?

Thank you!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:26
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
There are many answers to your question May 15, 2009

Whitney Bryan wrote:
* ...but I had worked with the company before.
* the difference is "only" 20 euros...


There are many ways of tackling this issue, so let's try to find a new angle. What are your marketing costs? You know that 90% of your marketing costs are wasted (but you don't know which 90%), so when you do get a repeat client, that client is worth a lot of money for you (in terms of marketing budget spent). Your question to answer is whether the amount you'll have to spend to get a replacement client (whe you lose this one) will be more than EUR 20 or less than EUR 20.


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Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:26
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank You May 15, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:

Whitney Bryan wrote:
* ...but I had worked with the company before.
* the difference is "only" 20 euros...


There are many ways of tackling this issue, so let's try to find a new angle. What are your marketing costs? You know that 90% of your marketing costs are wasted (but you don't know which 90%), so when you do get a repeat client, that client is worth a lot of money for you (in terms of marketing budget spent). Your question to answer is whether the amount you'll have to spend to get a replacement client (whe you lose this one) will be more than EUR 20 or less than EUR 20.



Thank you, Samuel. I think you make a very good point.


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Lany Chabot-Laroche  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:26
Member (2009)
English to French
20 Euros, seriously? May 15, 2009

Apparently, in that situation, they did not find quite the right translator for the job, the client was unhappy, they sent the text back to you to salvage it, you did what you could and the client is still unhappy and will not pay them in full, the deal between the company and the agency does not concern you, you should be paid for what you did.

I would be very vary of this agency. Like you said, this is only 20 Euro, what kind of agency cannot afford to have an extra 20 Euro in bank in case such situations happen?

Your deal what with the agency, not the client, any agency must know that there are some situations that come up that can cost them a little more than they thought, this is clearly one of them. They way they try to salvage costs on you is just bad business practice, and I wouldn't be surprised that they try this again.

That said, I do agree with Samuel, let it slide and hope it doesn't happen again, not worth picking a fight for 20 euros.


Just for fun, let's apply this situation in another area.

You got to a restaurant and ask for lunch. When you get your meal, you find that is does not taste the way you would like it to, so you refuse to pay in full. The restaurant then calls its caterer and says that they refuse to pay them entirely since you didn't like the food.

Should the caterer pay the difference even though they provided good food or should the restaurant pay the difference because they didn't cook it right?


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Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:26
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Lany! May 15, 2009

Thank you, Lany. You, too, make a very good point. I guess it's easy to see why I am so torn about this.

I just wrote a polite e-mail to the company and explained that I understand their situation and realize that they are in a difficult position, especially as a new company. They have agreements with clients and agreements with translators, and when one doesn't fulfill the agreement, to be professional and not risk their reputation, they must still fulfill their obligations to the other. I also explained that I am in a difficult position because I had an agreement with the agency and fulfilled my agreement. I offered to accept 75% of the originally agreed-upon rate. I realize that it is a small amount, but I don't want to seem as if I will take whatever they decide to give me when we had originally agreed on another amount. While it is a small amount now, I don't want it to happen again on a larger project.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:26
Member
English to French
No more "favours" for a while May 15, 2009

I would clearly state my disagreement, forget about the 20 euros and turn down any further two-figured "favours" for a while to the customer (like proofreading 500 words, translate 2 words urgently and other small, albeit paid, assignments), pretexting unavailability, so that it sinks in. It happens that one gets into disproportionate trouble with those 20€-assignments, and it really is not worth the bother.

As valuable assets in any translation agency, it is good to remember (and remind) that we are entitled to choose our assignments, depending on our willingness to be helpful to the customer, and depending on how the customer recognises our helpfulness.
If we can afford it, of course, because business comes first.

Bon week-end,
Philippe


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Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:26
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Philippe! May 15, 2009

Thank you, Philippe. I definitely have to rethink my relationship with this agency, and, although I truly sympathize with their problem, I work hard to fulfill my obligations for every job I receive.

I did offer to accept 75% (instead of their offer of 50%) of the originally agreed-upon amount, but recieved a reply that the client had been unhappy with my revision and had refused to pay. I understand that this was a very difficult client who would not have been happy with anything, and, for 20 euros, I am certainly not going to cause problems. I am happy that I requested more (and stood up for the fact that I fulfilled my part of the agreement), even though now I am accepting the discounted amount originally offered.

Now I just have to decide if I will work for this agency again.

Thank you, again, for all the insight and advice you all have given me!


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Craig O'Manion
Local time: 01:26
Swedish to English
A close call May 15, 2009

It's always a close call because if the agcy. is telling you the truth then indeed, they are having problems with the end client also. On the other hand, it's impossible to verify. Often you have to go on instinct when the whole story is impossible to untangle.

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:26
French to English
Miscellaneous points May 15, 2009

As you are doubtless aware, your contract with the agency is not dependent on the contract the agency has with the end-client, especially not as regards payment. If the agency is happy with the work, they should pay for it. If the end-client is unhappy, and therefore considers that the agency has not provided the service it paid for, then the agency either shares that view, in which case it has to demonstrate that YOU have not provided the service the agency paid for, or it does not, in which case it should pay in full. This situation smacks of half-arsedness to me.

I bet both you and the agency could have earned 20 euros in the time you have spent batting this issue around. Time is money.
(These are just miscellaneous points. You could infer that I think the agency is wasting its time, or I think you are wasting yours, or both!)

Re: the marketing angle. An interesting point. But is there not a line to be drawn? If every client decides to knock off 20 euros for some reason or other, do you accept that, for the reason Samuel gave. And what if they do it every month? And if after 3 months it goes up to 30 euros, then 50? All small sums, individually not worth pursuing, but cumulatively? And what if you discover the agency is finding an excuse to knock 20 euros off every invoice for every translator? Does that change your perception?

As for what I would do? Would depend on the full circumstances (including how right or wrong I thought they were and their general attitude) but I would probably take the 20 euro hit, not waste time discussing it, and not work for them again for a while, if ever.

[Edited at 2009-05-15 15:16 GMT]


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
nothing-something-everything May 15, 2009

Hi Whitney.

It makes me sad to hear that some agency is trying to offend a nice girl and elude settling an account. It has nothing to do with gender discrimination but my finding shows that both clients and agencies 'prefer' present fake and real claims to women, not men. Well, that makes good sense because women always try to solve problems in an amicable way.

But -
1) who did breach the contract? (=why did they underpay for your job)
2) why does 'splitting the difference' seem fair? (neither 50%, nor 100%)
3) what mutual concessions and benefits could you have working with the agency? (when it even cannot pay some €20)
. . .
So, I would take the money and say goodbye for I want logical results (=payment), not excuse. Like this.

But as far as you're pretty smart and not without talent I think you deserve a reasonable fee

Cheers


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 00:26
Spanish to English
My humble opinion May 15, 2009

I agree with Charlie in the sense that this could be an agency that repeatedly pulls this stunt, in which case we are not talking about 20 euro.

So you could let the agency withhold the money and keep them as a client for a probation period to see if you have any similar problems with them again. Meanwhile seek to broaden your customer base and if this agency turns out to be a repeat offender you can then cease to be available for them.

Good luck


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xxxtazdog
Spain
Local time: 07:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
agree with Charlie May 16, 2009

Charlie Bavington wrote:

As for what I would do? Would depend on the full circumstances (including how right or wrong I thought they were and their general attitude) but I would probably take the 20 euro hit, not waste time discussing it, and not work for them again for a while, if ever.


I would probably do the same thing.


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Whitney Bryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:26
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! May 18, 2009

Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to comment and advise. I really appreciate your help.

I have taken the advice that most of you gave/supported and have accepted the 50% reduction (after a failed attempt to negotiate for 75% of the original) because I truly do not have the time nor the inclination to fight for 20 euro. However, because I have had to do this, and I do consider it a breach of contract on their part, I have decided to cease collaboration with this company, at least for the time being.

Thank you, again, for your help.


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