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Non-paying agencies on the rise
Thread poster: aruna yallapragada
aruna yallapragada  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:56
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
Nov 21, 2009

There seem to many posts recently about non-payment by agencies. Is it because their number is increasing or are people reporting it more?

I have often read about how Indian agencies do not pay the translators. I have always been paid by them We automatically assume that agencies from other countries pay on time. My experience tells me otherwise. European agencies, yes. I have done work for a few American (USA) agencies and only one of them has bothered to pay.

The other agencies do reply to my mails, about how their invoices have to go through a particular system, it takes time and so on. This has been going on for the past six months and I have given up. Maybe this is what they want. One cannot accuse them of not answering mails-they just want us to give up on the payment. And as someone has pointed out in another post, the amounts are not worth fighting for. I have learnt my lesson.

Is it only me or have others faced such non-payment from American agencies?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Serious American agencies Nov 21, 2009

aruna yallapragada wrote:
Is it only me or have others faced such non-payment from American agencies?

I have been working for American agencies and companies for almost 15 years, and apart from very rare minor delays all of them have paid on time and have always been very supportive and proactive when I had to remind them of a payment for some reason. I can only say good things about American agencies and companies.

I honestly think that you must have had bad luck and were approached by bad companies. I encourage you to post BlueBoard entries for the companies that are giving you payment troubles.

For us as people who are approached by unknown customers via the Internet, there is a pivotal question we must ask ourselves: If this agency has existed for a number of years, how come they want to hire a new translator in my language pair? Good companies usually stick to their translators unless they have proof of bad work or complaints from end customers. They do so for practical reasons: their usual translators know the end customer and produce better work. Bad agencies might want your services because other people refuse to work for them for price or reliability issues.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 14:26
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
In my opinion... Nov 21, 2009

bad agencies and poor payment practices have always been around and have nothing to do with nationality (American, Indian, Belgian or Portuguese for that matter...). I have probably been very lucky but in 30 years I only had three bad payers!

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aruna yallapragada  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:56
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
My experience .... Nov 21, 2009

In 20 years in the translation business, I have had four non-payments, one of them was due to my fault, in my early years and three recently. I just want to know if this is on the rise? We now not only have to worry about the translation but also whether we will be paid for it. The language pair I deal with non-indian agencies is mainly English-Telugu where they have to contact someone in India, I suppose. Maybe the distance makes them feel they can get away with it.

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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:26
Member (2005)
English to Japanese
+ ...
Agree Nov 21, 2009

Teresa Borges wrote:

bad agencies and poor payment practices have always been around and have nothing to do with nationality (American, Indian, Belgian or Portuguese for that matter...). I have probably been very lucky but in 30 years I only had three bad payers!


Yes, bad payers are everywhere, regardless of they are from.
But like Aruna pointed out in his earlier postings, I too believe that the number of non-payments and stalled payments have increased since the global economic crisis. And I don't know if this is a coincidence or not, but there are 3 other similar threads excluding this one related to non-payment right at this moment.

There was also a few threads a few weeks ago about Chinese disguising to be agencies using freemail accounts to solicit translators to work for them, and as soon as they receive the translations, they vanish in air.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Tomás' point re agencies turning to new translators. Nov 21, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

[For us as people who are approached by unknown customers via the Internet, there is a pivotal question we must ask ourselves: If this agency has existed for a number of years, how come they want to hire a new translator in my language pair? Good companies usually stick to their translators unless they have proof of bad work or complaints from end customers. They do so for practical reasons: their usual translators know the end customer and produce better work. Bad agencies might want your services because other people refuse to work for them for price or reliability issues.


Tomás makes an important point here. I had an experience a couple of months ago that reflects just what he is talking about. I was contacted through this site about urgent translation work. Initially, I was given about 8000 words to translate and, after I finished that, I was offered another two batches of work on the same project. By the time I finished the third round, a bill of over $3000 had accrued and I was gettting very anxious. (I had checked the Blue Board before agreeing to take on work but there were only a few ratings and nothing to cause undue alarm; the agency also had a street address, was a corporate member of the ATA, and their own website).

Anyway, I eventually found out through a member of proz.com that this agency had a recent record of non-payment to some of their contractors. At that point, I stopped doing any further work (they wanted to give me more), told them I knew of their recent "difficulties", and sternly reminded them of their obligation to pay me within 30 days for what I had done.

I received several non-commital messages from them (which alarmed me even more) but was eventually paid. So this story has a happy ending. But I strongly suspect that the main reason I was paid only a couple of weeks late was that I had adopted a hardline stance

[Edited at 2009-11-22 15:36 GMT]


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
German to English
Number of "agencies" on the rise Nov 21, 2009

aruna yallapragada wrote:

There seem to many posts recently about non-payment by agencies. Is it because their number is increasing or are people reporting it more?


Are there crooks in this business? Sure, no doubt there are some.
Is the non-payment problem the result of criminal intent? Probably not. Incompetence is the more likely explanation.

In business, there's a concept, "barrier to entry." Businesses with a low barrier to entry experience a greater risk of failure. Translation is a business with low barriers to entry. All someone needs is a computer and an Internet connection. Judging by the Kudoz questions, owning a good dictionary is apparently not a a requirement to function as a translator.

Some enterprising individuals, aware that they can pay n for a translation and sell it for 2*n, think they can make a 100% profit -- without even getting out of their pajamas! However, they are not aware that profit is what remains after other *business-related* expenses are paid. The costs of editing, QA, etc. are not included in the expense calculation, nor is cash flow considered. So what happens? The translator of job A gets paid by the revenue from the "agency's" job B (if he/she is lucky) or, more likely, job C. The result is that both the "agency" and the unfortunate translator are like hamsters on a treadmill, working hard but not getting anywhere.

Even normally well-run agencies are feeling the pinch and paying less promptly. Credit lines, usually employed to maintain cash flow, are being scaled back by banks (in the US at least), while large-scale translation buyers (automakers, for example) are taking longer to pay.


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sarandor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
English to Russian
+ ...
First non-payment Nov 21, 2009

One agency approached me in July to translate about 1200 words. Since I never dealt with them before, I checked the Blue Board and their website. The website looked OK, but the Blue Board contained only one entry - a 5. I contacted the poster, and she said that she had no problems with them. So I decided to give them a try. And here I am now, still waiting for the payment. The amount is around $150.00, so it's not something I would email everyday for, demanding payment. I called the project manager about a month ago, and he said (looks like this is a one-person agency) that he had heart surgery and was having some problems. He also said that he was going to pay all his translators (I guess I am not the only one). The translation I did is now on the web - the end client is a major municipal transportation entity. Lesson learned.

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Celine H  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
English to French
+ ...
indeed they're everywhere Nov 21, 2009

If you're a member, you can see blue board entries in details. Some brave people have sumitted negative feedback but it's not anonymous.
If you look at the blue board by the country, you will see that each country has agencies that pay late or not at all. In my 2 years of experience, I have had plenty of late payers, who paid like a month after the agreed deadline. However, there is one Italian agent I dealt with 2 years ago and she paid me on time for the 1st project, but for the 2nd, which thank god was not too big, I am still waiting for the payment. I tried to contact her but had no reply. I heard back from her 6 months later she said she had moved to Germany. I reminded her that she owed me 75 euros but she said she would pay and never did. Since then, I have given up and stopped working with her.
However, I guess that the agencies who are more likely not to pay an invoice are the agencies who pay a ridiculous rate. Of course rates in the UK have nothing to do with rates in India or in Eastern Europe or Portugal. However, there are agencies in the UK who offer 0.04EUR which is nowhere near viable in this country. I have avoided them from the beginning, always refusing that kind of rate and so far I have never had problems with the over 15 agencies that I still work with and pay me more.


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Simon Cole  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:26
Member (2008)
French to English
End customer issue Nov 21, 2009

I work in France, mostly for French agencies. None of them pay earlier than 60 days from invoice/end of month. One or two are very reliable, others less so. I think the problem arises from cash flow. They don't have any, and their end customers are slow in paying. French law includes provision for small businesses to charge interest on late paid invoices, but if you try and implement it on your next invoice it just gets substracted from the total (in my experience). Late payment of invoices is endemic in Fraance and causes numerous small businesses to go to the wall - the same small businesses that are generating all the new jobs in the economy!
By contrast, English and German customers pay at 30 days - Germans often earlier! What nice people.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:26
French to German
+ ...
Same experience as Simon Nov 21, 2009

I stopped working for French agencies paying at 60 days and concentrated on those paying at 30 days or 30 days EOM. And even then (and depending on aleatoric factors) I may be paid at 50 days or more. The same applies to Belgian agencies...
This to the contrary, German, Austrian and Czech agencies pay within 14 (!) to 30 days, this being 21 days as an average.

In my experience, there is no use charging last payment interests, at least not in France - most agencies ignore them purely and simply.

[Edited at 2009-11-21 19:28 GMT]


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Salman Rostami  Identity Verified
Iran
Local time: 16:56
Member (2009)
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
Thank you, all! Nov 22, 2009

Thank you very much for your helpful points to mention.

Kindest regards,
Salman ROstami


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Samuel Hunt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:26
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
What is it with France? Nov 22, 2009

How can French agencies compete with agencies from Germany, the UK, or wherever, when the conditions they offer are so far below average?

I, for one, have only worked for French agencies a handful of times in the past five years, because the 60-day payment terms and generally low rates nearly always force me to refuse flat-out.

And, judging by the great number of posters expressing views similar to those of Simon and Laurent, these problems are hardly a secret.

How can French agencies find good people to work with them in spite of this enormous competetive disadvantage?


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aruna yallapragada  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:56
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
My experience Nov 22, 2009

My single experience with a French agency was a very nice one. They said 60 days but then was paid within 30 days.

Those who do not like the long wait for payment will not take up such jobs. But my contention is, having accepted their terms of 60, 45 or whatever number of days and having delivered the translation to their deadline, why don't they stick to their end of the bargain? I for one, am willing to wait for payment, if they tell me when it will be made and it is done by then.


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