Unfair practices. Deductions for "low quality"
Thread poster: Yassen Tounev

Yassen Tounev  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
Jun 9, 2009

I have recently received the following letter from one of the outsourcers:
Dear All,

Recently we have faced quite a few problems with the quality on our jobs, and we have several clients who are very concerned about our ability to deliver work that is free from mistakes.

Our clients pay for the assignments that we deliver and expect a good quality product, which is error-free and complete.

Most of you do check your work and make sure that it is error-free, but unfortunately some do not.

We have a Quality Commitment towards our clients and therefore we carry out verification on all jobs by a second supplier to ensure documents are error-free, something that it should be in the first place.

In the supplier Forum at www.outsourcer.com we run a Point System that is based on feedback from verifiers. These evaluations of translated assignments give plus and minus points as indicated in the following table. Each page has a bonus of +15 points.
Type of error Penalty
Spelling mistake -16.5
Grammar mistake -33.0
Translation mistake -110.0
Missing text -110.0
Mismatched numbers -66.0
Tag error -16.5

If the quality of a translation is poor with many minus points, this requires someone else to spend time fixing the errors. As a result we will make deductions based on the following table:

Average Error Score for 1 page (260 words source text) Deduction on assignment
-1000 points or more 50% discount
-600 points 30% discount
-400 points 20% discount
-150 points 10% discount
-20 points 5% discount

I think I would never work for them again! It really sounds offensive to me! It is post factum rate renegotiation. What's your opinion about such practices?
Best regards

[Edited at 2009-06-09 16:15 GMT]


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:15
English to French
+ ...
Sounds like an unprofessional agency Jun 9, 2009

Reading through their e-mail, I got the feeling that these people are not making sure that they have serious professional translators. I am wondering how much they pay to their suppliers...

If the agency can't ensure that they have true professionals on board yet sells the finished product to their clients as a true professional product, then I would say that is their problem. Freelancers can't be required to take over their human resources management...

Also, the e-mail says they always get translations checked by a second supplier to ensure that whatever they deliver to their clients is of high quality. Then, why are their clients complaining about quality?

I would take this with a grain of salt. If you truly are a serious professional, then it is obvious you shouldn't be working with these people, because what shines through their message is that they work with a lot of incompetent people who probably charge low rates. I mean, if they have a professional translate and then another one review/correct, then I don't see why the end client would be complaining. I don't think this e-mail is targeting serious professionals - it is most likely targeting the moonlighter/can English/lost-my-job-need-easy-income variety. If this agency mistook you for someone belonging to this category, then maybe you should raise your rates and move on.


Sarah Wood  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:15
French to English
Agreed Jun 9, 2009

I agree with Viktoria,

what this agency is essentially saying is that they will use translators who produce errors, as long as they are cheaper! If a translator makes a lot of errors then surely the answer is not to use them again??

It is a normal part of quality assurance to get everything proofread anyway so I'm not sure where the extra cost for the agency or, as Viktoria said, where the client complaints are coming from.

Obviously you wouldn't ever expect to hit their "error score" so you wouldn't be in a position of being penalised but I think you're right in questoning whether you want to work for this agency or not.


[Edited at 2009-06-09 16:36 GMT]


Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:15
English to Japanese
+ ...
I wouldn't work for them either Jun 9, 2009

I know that it is one the translator's duty to deliver an error-free translation, but hey, we're all humans, and sometimes, translations and written texts need to be proofread by third parties (i.e. objectively) for errors. That's why some agencies hire proofreaders that the product to be delivered is of high quality and error-free.

After reading your post, I get the feeling that this agency is a mere broker; they are just intermediaries between translators and clients where they send out translations received from the translator without even looking at them and delivering them to the client. If they are real pros, they should at least take a look at the finished translations, and if they have any doubts or questions, they should ask the translator before delivering them to the client. They make a profit out of this business too, don't they? If it was just getting jobs and outsourcing them to translators, a five year old errand boy would be enough. My suggestion is don't get involved in these kinds of agencies. They're nothing but trouble. Also, what I really hate most about their point deduction system is regarding "tags". What does misplacing a tag in a text have to do with translations? Twenty years ago when I first started translating, there were no tags involved in translation. I used to get my source text by fax or mail, use a Word Processor or even a typewriter to translate the document, and send it back by fax or post. I cannot agree to translators being held responsible for tags. Of course, under certain circumstances, translators have to move or add some tags in segments of 90% matches or so. But essentially, that's the DTP department's problem.

[Edited at 2009-06-10 03:44 GMT]


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:15
English to French
+ ...
Disagree Jun 9, 2009

Sarah Wood wrote:

Obviously you wouldn't ever expect to hit their "error score" so you wouldn't be in a position of being penalised...

I think that Yassen would actually be in that position, depending on who the reviewer is. If the reviewer is incompetent or zealous (which is bound to happen with this agency), then even a serious professional could be forced into giving rebates on their work. And if you know your work to be of high quality and want to take it up with the PM and the reviewer, be prepared to waste a lot of time (time = money) to sort it out, and be prepared for a lot of resistance (and possibly a fight) on the reviewer's part, as defending your work against unjustified corrections always means that you will be working against the reviewer, who risks losing the working relationship with the agency.

Risking to be penalized by such practices would actually be my main reason not to work for this agency, followed by bad management and bad practices.

[Edited at 2009-06-09 17:04 GMT]


Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:15
French to German
+ ...
Schizophrenia? Jun 9, 2009

ViktoriaG wrote:

Also, the e-mail says they always get translations checked by a second supplier to ensure that whatever they deliver to their clients is of high quality. Then, why are their clients complaining about quality?

It reminds me of the contradictory to schizophrenic statements made by the head of some agency:

Statement A:
We cannot afford to pay our translators more than X.XX, because our agency has every translation reviewed in full.

Statement B:
We lost a big first-time client because of a faulty/crappy translation.

What would be your (generic) assessment of this agency?

Laurent K.

PS: a similar thread (what a curious coincidence!) can be found here : http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/136714-what_can_i_do_when_my_very_good_translation_is_ruined_by_the_client.html

[Edited at 2009-06-09 17:19 GMT]


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I have no problem in principle Jun 9, 2009

Yassen Tounev wrote:
In the supplier Forum at ... we run a Point System that is based on feedback from verifiers. These evaluations of translated assignments give plus and minus points as indicated in the following table.

I have no problem with being rated like that per se. However, their system seems incredibly complicated.

It is also my experience that attempts to quantify errors are generally not very successful. On the one hand, the types of errors are often classified into too few categories, and on the other hand, if there are too many categories, the reviewer tends to get lost or mentally reduce the categories himself anyway.

So, I have no problem with the idea, but their particular implementation scares me.


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:15
English to French
+ ...
My assessment Jun 9, 2009

ScottishWildCat wrote:

What would be your (generic) assessment of this agency?

My assessment would be that they are full of it, should stop lying to both their clients and their suppliers and clean up the things they are full of.

Unfortunately, there will always be clients and translators gullible enough to help such agencies survive...


Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:15
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
Pah, maths' variables are too stiff Jun 9, 2009


I fully agree with ViktoriaG! You can be the best translator, but if you run into an over-zealous or incompetent reviewer (or worse: a reviewer trying to climb up the internal "stair"), good translations could be rated badly.

And what does an agency have an internal QA for?! That's pre-paid and monthly-paid work. I don't mean that translators can happily make mistakes, but gosh.. we are all human! It can happen that you get mixed up or do not see a typo - like m / n or i / l... It shouldn't happen, OK, but QA is here for that!

I find all those maths thingies, and technical ways of evaluating something, unsuitable and absurd for work which escapes pure math.

Of course, if the whole translation is sub-standard, doesn't "sound" right for the area, well, that's different. in this case, you won't even need a NASA processor to tell that that's no goodicon_biggrin.gif


[Edited at 2009-06-09 17:50 GMT]


Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:15
Spanish to English
IMHO Jun 9, 2009

As they obviously want you to pay for the proofreading of the final product before it is delivered to the final client, if their rates reflect this (i.e. 80% of the price to the final client), I would say it might be acceptable, but otherwise not.

By the way...Why does this agency continue to outsource work to substandard translators?


Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:15
Swedish to English
+ ...
Sorry Yassen Jun 9, 2009

Removed because I didn't read Yassen's original positing carefully enough.

Edited after reading Yassen's response.

[Edited at 2009-06-09 23:01 GMT]


Yassen Tounev  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
Web page is spoof Jun 9, 2009

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote:

"Out Source" and "Out Sourcing"

On their homepage (in case link gets removed before others see it).

Edited to add comment about homepage.

[Edited at 2009-06-09 18:51 GMT]

Hi, Madeleine,
Web page is spoof. I deliberately gave a fake URL, because this company (don't want to mention their real name) pretends to be one of the top translation agencies...in the Worldicon_smile.gificon_smile.gificon_smile.gificon_smile.gif
Moreover, I would like to say some words about their calculation and payment system. They don't tell you the correct source wordcount when you start the job, they give the volume in "pages" (according to them a page is 260 words- I know, that a standard page of 1800 chars w/spaces or 1500 w/o spaces is about 250 words), and then, after translation completion they count the words, using some unknown counting system. I caught them for wrong wordcounts (in their favor of course) three or four times!
This letter sounded so offensive to me, I'm not going to boast I'm No.1 in the World, but I'm a professional, simply for the reason I earn my bread translating and interpreting for over 15 years. Two years ago I started my own agency, and I never used "deduction systems" in case of bad translation. I simply pay this translator in full and never send him or her any jobs again.
Many thanks to all. You helped me to make a decision. I will never work with them again.


Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:15
Japanese to English
I got a letter like this too Jun 10, 2009

One of my Japanese agency clients sent me a letter with wording very similar to this a few years ago. I was sceptical about their motives, and wondered whether I would continue working with them.

However, after a lull during which I got no work from them, I started getting some nice jobs from them at good rates, with very gracious communication. Once I was asked to evaluate another person's translation of a press release which the end client had rejected. It was pretty bad and they asked me to redo it at a rate of my choice. I retranslated it and suggested to the PM that it would have been better for everybody if they had sent it to me first. The PM acknowledged that they had made a mistake in matching the job with a translator.

Whether the first translator was subject to penalty I don't know, but they certainly deserved to be. However, they shouldn't have been allowed to get into the game in the first place. Judging from the way the whole scenario played out, I suspect they were going through a wobbly period during which top managers were introducing a series of corner-cutting innovations that didn't work out. Fortunately they seem to have recovered.


Local time: 15:15
French to Dutch
+ ...
And the proofreader? Jun 11, 2009

Can't imagine that a serious proofreader wants to contribute to such a system, giving points and killing other translators. We're not at school and not competing in a rugby game.

It seems to me that this agency is an overzealous adept of its own system.

And how about the end client? Does he have something to say? How about collaboration, between client and translator, the agency being the middleman, in order to achieve professional results?


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