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Translation agencies charge fees for money transfer
Thread poster: MariusV

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 13:08
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Dec 3, 2009

I have a couple of USA translation agencies with their strange requirements (unilateral):
1. They have their "online invoicing" system and have to put all info about my projects into that - seems have to do their accountant's work (esp. when there are NUMEROUS small projects) - for several invoices it took me more time to put info into their invoicing system than doing the actual work (translation);
2. Next to this, I have to issue MY OWN invoices (my country laws demands this), but I even cannot use my invoice numbering system as these USA agencies insist on their own (what to do then and what to tell the accountant if say I have invoice numbering system A001, A002, A003, and then I get payment (as shown in bank slip for incoming payment) for invoice B002-01-0333 (generated by their system)?
3. And the bizarre thing - despite all and any previous agreements that payment shall be received "as in the invoice" (i.e. I invoice for 500 USD and that means I shall get 500 USD, not 460 USD where they sent transfers with transfer costs on my sole behalf), they also charge some mystical fees of 20 USD for some "of their own costs" (even for a small PayPal transfer)...The worst is when small payments end up in a check in my mail box (which was never agreed and told in advance - PLEASE NO CHECKS), where cashing some 120 USD means a trip to a bank, filling piles of papers, then 7-8 weeks of waiting, paying for check cashing some 40-45 USD, then one more trip to the bank to get the cash (120 USD - 45 USD)...

Are such practices normal in the USA? Or this is only me to be "lucky" to cooperate with such agencies? Now I have a project from one agency who sent me a check - for an overdue payment (in a simple letter which could get simply lost), another offers cooperation (and offers subtracting these 20 USD from each and any payment, plus transfer costs on my behalf)...Shall I tell them "you are ugly and your mother dresses you funny" because these things take away soooo much time and energy? Or shall I accept it as a usual practice of the USA translation agencies?


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Overhead Dec 3, 2009

I think you should include it as overhead in the "Yearly business-related costs" field of the rate calculator.

It would also make sense to reflect it in the rates offered to the mentioned agencies.


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Frank Hansen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Member (2006)
English to Danish
+ ...
Problem shifting Dec 3, 2009

Its a business expense. I recommend categorizing you agencies and try to work with the good ones most. Then take the bad ones in low seasons. Update your rates often. I also put on an administration fee for some companies.

As translators we have to learn Problem Shifting: Its your problem, not mine. Lots of agencies are very good at this.

Good luck!
-frank


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David Earl  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:08
Member (2007)
German to English
Redemption Dec 3, 2009

Of that, what seems strange to me is the check redemption process. When I've had checks (which hasn't been recently, admittedly), I took the check to my German bank and told them to put the money into account x, y or z. I didn't have to go back to the bank. They took care of it from there. There would be a processing delay, while the bank confirmed receipt of the amount, and a currency exchange fee, but I could get that information as part of my statement.

What I had to watch out for is the issue of a "warrant" vs. a "check". A check is only worth the face value; a warrant is an interest-bearing document. Government agencies (such as the IRS) may issue warrants. They do that because the money must be secured in an account before/when the warrant is issued. A normal transaction account backs the check, so there's no guarantee that the money will actually be on the account on the redemption day. If the redeeming bank isn't aware of the difference, of course, they try to only credit my account with the face value of the warrant. What they do with the interest, when they receive it...I don't know.

I haven't looked at the banking issues in the US recently. When I last looked at it, US banks charged high fees for wire transfers, along the lines of USD 20 per transaction plus possibly a percentage of the amount. They also charged a flat fee to receive wire transfers. In comparison, a set of 200 checks might costs 120 USD, or 0.60 cents per transaction.

Regarding the invoice number: have you asked them if you could include both number on the invoice? Something like "my file/invoice number", "your file/invoice number"?

HTH,
David.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:08
French to German
+ ...
I have given up... Dec 3, 2009

or, to be more precise and having seen the "complaints" about such agencies here and elsewhere, I have never tried it working with US agencies.

As long as those folks will think it is acceptable to offer less than the equivalent of about 0.10 EUR/word -btw, they would have no problem paying such rates if the currency exchange rate was reversed- for (highly) technical texts, I will not even bother thinking about a cooperation.

As per the costs you mention, Marius, I would deduct them from my taxable income as business costs and... look for more suitable clients. And I would nevertheless issue an invoice for the record and mention the agency's invoice number on it.

MariusV wrote:
Are such practices normal in the USA? Or this is only me to be "lucky" to cooperate with such agencies? Now I have a project from one agency who sent me a check - for an overdue payment (in a simple letter which could get simply lost), another offers cooperation (and offers subtracting these 20 USD from each and any payment, plus transfer costs on my behalf)...Shall I tell them "you are ugly and your mother dresses you funny" because these things take away soooo much time and energy? Or shall I accept it as a usual practice of the USA translation agencies?



[Edited at 2009-12-03 05:49 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 06:08
Member (2008)
French to English
Not normal Dec 3, 2009

MariusV wrote:

Are such practices normal in the USA?


In general, no. There is a greater tendency in the US to use online invoicing systems and to use checks as a method of payment, but progressive agencies are usually reasonably flexible. Most agencies will offer other options for payment such as PayPal. I have one client in the US that insists on online billing, but I also send my PDF invoice and copy/paste the terms and conditions from my invoice into the Comments box. I haven't had any problem with it.

Its true that wire transfer into/out of the US is costly, and often has to be done in person, at the bank, so naturally there is a resistance to that method of payment.

The big plus with US clients is that 30 day terms are pretty standard, with a few exceptions, and they are generally pretty reliable for paying on the agreed date.


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 13:08
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Seems countries have different systems Dec 3, 2009

David Earl wrote:

Of that, what seems strange to me is the check redemption process. When I've had checks (which hasn't been recently, admittedly), I took the check to my German bank and told them to put the money into account x, y or z. I didn't have to go back to the bank. They took care of it from there. There would be a processing delay, while the bank confirmed receipt of the amount, and a currency exchange fee, but I could get that information as part of my statement.

What I had to watch out for is the issue of a "warrant" vs. a "check". A check is only worth the face value; a warrant is an interest-bearing document. Government agencies (such as the IRS) may issue warrants. They do that because the money must be secured in an account before/when the warrant is issued. A normal transaction account backs the check, so there's no guarantee that the money will actually be on the account on the redemption day. If the redeeming bank isn't aware of the difference, of course, they try to only credit my account with the face value of the warrant. What they do with the interest, when they receive it...I don't know.

I haven't looked at the banking issues in the US recently. When I last looked at it, US banks charged high fees for wire transfers, along the lines of USD 20 per transaction plus possibly a percentage of the amount. They also charged a flat fee to receive wire transfers. In comparison, a set of 200 checks might costs 120 USD, or 0.60 cents per transaction.

Regarding the invoice number: have you asked them if you could include both number on the invoice? Something like "my file/invoice number", "your file/invoice number"?

HTH,
David.


Hi David,

Thanks for sharing the information.
1. Here with checks - one has to go physically to the bank 2 times to cash them. One is to fill in various forms and check cashing applications at the bank, then they send the check to the issuer's bank, get the confirmation that this check is true, then the check is sent back to my bank, and then I go there for the 2nd time to take the cash (this money cannot be automatically sent to my bank account as I need to sign more papers)...And I can cash the check ONLY as a private person/business interpreneur. And our country laws allow international payments to be received only by bank transfers (i.e. no checks)...
2. Invoice numbers - there are strict requirements here to have a good order of accounting. One of them - numbering of invoices, like A001, A002, A003, and so on. Then payment receipt - by these invoice numbers...I simply cannot have the payment from someone indicating "payment for invoice BB-3052" because I have invoices like A001, A002, A003...And if I have payment for BB-3052, it shall be included into the accounting together with A001, A002, A003 - this makes a total mess.
3. Yes, I know that USA banks (not only USA banks) charge high fees for international money transfer. E.g. to send ANY amount (even 1 USD) by bank to the USD will cost me at least some 30 USD. In my understanding, transfer costs are their costs, not mine...I mean if I did a job for say 500 USD, I shall receive these 500 USD (less what my own bank charges extra directly from me - our banks are inventive).


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 13:08
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
"symptoms" of USA agencies Dec 3, 2009

I fully agree with Laurent - I was also considering a "go away" with the USA agencies. And with this post I wanted to get to know better if USA agencies are all (the majority) like in my case, or I just had a bad luck to deal with the wrong people (never had a chance to cooperate with a serious USA agency).

The main "symptoms" are:

- strange enquiry system - the majority of them has that "grab it asap" system when they send the same proposal to several translators at the same time - then you analyze the project (it takes time), you respond in 15-20 minutes, and then they respond "Sorry, but this was already assigned to someone else" (so WHY then send it to me?);
- always in a rush or crazy deadlines/projects - seems that everything is "burning" for them - like a request to do a very highly technical project of 10 000 words in 2 days;
- LONG or very long payment terms - I disagree with John - the majority of the USA agencies imposed 60 or even 90 day payment terms; let alone that they are late payers as a rule (even after these 60 or 90 days), let alone they need many reminders - actually it is a lot of "extra work" to make them pay what is long overdue, and with a need to really be stubborn to demand your money (even had to prove to some agencies that I DID the job - had to resend POs issued by them for them to believe);
- small rates down to peanuts - not a good combination with the points already mentioned...Europeans pay more;
- a VERY MESSY management - "Susy" assigns the project, "Anthony" accepts it, "Peter" sends for a review after some source updates from the client, "Kathy" is responsible for POs, "Mary" is the accountant, and at the end they ask a question "Marius...Well, who are you and what you want from us? Payment, what payment? You did a job for us? What job?"
- lack of professionalism - they send several sheets of their Quality Requirements, but they do not even know the difference between Lithuanian and Latvian (once had to prove that I am a Lithuanian translator and to calm down a rather rude PM of the agency explaining that I cannot be responsible for the claims of the client regarding LATVIAN translation because I do not know the language);
- and all the remaining issues - already mentioned...

Makes it very hard or even impssible to work. Let alone the stress and a lot of time wasted.




[Edited at 2009-12-03 20:44 GMT]


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Claudio Porcellana  Identity Verified
Italy
you respond in 15-20 minutes, and they respond "Sorry, this was already assigned Dec 4, 2009

hàhà
I know another US company that use a similar lottery:
often I lost a job just answering 1 minute after (the time to login and read the infos)
I don't think it's the same as they pay me with paypal and let me use my invoice number, but who knows?
write me privately their name, if you like

Claudio



[Modificato alle 2009-12-04 13:53 GMT]


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
No worries Dec 4, 2009

From the descriptions above I believe I know which global agency you are talking about.

If I am right, then you don't have to worry about charges for money transfer. This is because no money is likely to be transferred - ever.

Please check the Blueboard!


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:08
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
I generally don't bother with the Americans any more Dec 6, 2009

Marius, your description of project management styles fits what I've seen from larger organizations in the US all too well. Add to that things like their perpetual, idiotic confusion over W8 & W9 forms, backward banking practices and rates that are usually not worth considering on one's worst day given the euro/USD exchange rate, there are really other, better waters to fish in. The only exceptions I can recall off-hand are small operations run by Europeans who migrated there for personal reasons (usually marriage).

But if you have compelling reasons to deal with US customers like that, factor all those additional expenses (estimate them based on your experience) into the fees you charge them. Or tell them to go vacation with Lucifer.


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 13:08
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
yes, "be quick or be dead" Dec 6, 2009

Claudio Porcellana wrote:

hàhà
I know another US company that use a similar lottery:
often I lost a job just answering 1 minute after (the time to login and read the infos)
I don't think it's the same as they pay me with paypal and let me use my invoice number, but who knows?
write me privately their name, if you like

Claudio



[Modificato alle 2009-12-04 13:53 GMT]


LOL This "lottery system" is implemented and used by several USA agencies (at least I worked, better to say - tried to work - with several of them). So far, it is the most stupid system - like throwing one bone to several dogs. Let alone, when they respond that "this job has been already assigned to someone else", then they send one more "urgent enquiry" - "can you revise this translation" (even when it is not done yet - how one can accept a revision job without seeing the text?)...This is simply stupid. In one sentence - this is a waste of time. I decided to give up.


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 13:08
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
this is soooo true Dec 6, 2009

Kevin Lossner wrote:

Marius, your description of project management styles fits what I've seen from larger organizations in the US all too well. Add to that things like their perpetual, idiotic confusion over W8 & W9 forms, backward banking practices and rates that are usually not worth considering on one's worst day given the euro/USD exchange rate, there are really other, better waters to fish in. The only exceptions I can recall off-hand are small operations run by Europeans who migrated there for personal reasons (usually marriage).

But if you have compelling reasons to deal with US customers like that, factor all those additional expenses (estimate them based on your experience) into the fees you charge them. Or tell them to go vacation with Lucifer.



Yes, these larger organizations seem to be like big Soviet "collective farms". What regards the rates - they have their 8 page online application forms in their databases with all info, but they offer different rates (PMs seem not to even know about the existance of their own "database of translators" and the information there)...I fully agree that it is much better to spend the time for other purposes - to spend time, energy and effort on clients who are really worth that, or finding new clients. And yes, I fully agree with you about the fees/rates. Especially what regards banking transfer costs - these costs make no big difference when no one is even going to pay In the best case, when they pay after 7-10 email reminders after 3-4 months of delay, and after several phonecalls after these reminders when they wonder asking questions "Who are you? Do we really owe money to you? Can you send us a proof" (their OWN Purchase Order)...They'd better use google translate - it will cost them nothing and no translator will send them payment reminders, let alone the quality which would be in many cases much better than the "manual translation" sent for proofreading or revision done into "Litvanian", "Latvonian", "Lithunian", "Lituanina" (or even Lappercaunian) by someone from their "selected team of professional trampslators"



[Edited at 2009-12-06 15:33 GMT]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:08
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Good analogy Dec 6, 2009

MariusV wrote:
... it is the most stupid system - like throwing one bone to several dogs.... a waste of time. I decided to give up.


Having three jealous dogs in one house, I see how a system like that works all too often.

You are right to avoid agencies like that. Even if they make it into the top ten list for volume worldwide, I think that they are not the sort of business one should aim to work with unless perhaps the only alternative is to hang out a red light and buy a mattress for work. Even then I'm not sure.

I think on the whole most people will find their agency relations more satisfactory if they strive to work with the smaller companies. PMs from some of these are active in these forums; I haven't worked with all of them, but I have communicated with quite a few in recent years, and I don't recall any of them engaging in impersonal cattle call practices like this. They are serious individuals with whom a reasonable business relationship founded on mutual respect is possible. Finding the right match for language pairs, rates, etc. may take more work than dealing with the megashops that presumably cover everything, but I think the effort is worth it. (This is, of course, a theoretical consideration for me, because my pair often has different realities than those with less demand.)

If I were translating an "exotic" pair like yours I would probably start thinking about a long-term strategy to avoid bozos like you mention here. Perhaps organized collaboration to pursue EU contracts. Maybe increasing visibility to attract more direct customer business or premium agencies. Good luck finding the right approach. You probably deserve much better than the unserious actions you've described in this thread.


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Libero_Lang_Lab  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:08
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
The moral of the story Dec 6, 2009

Kevin Lossner wrote:

MariusV wrote:
... it is the most stupid system - like throwing one bone to several dogs.... a waste of time. I decided to give up.


Having three jealous dogs in one house, I see how a system like that works all too often.

You are right to avoid agencies like that.




So, to summarise, the moral of the story is: Let cheapskate dogs lie. There are plenty of other bones in the sea.


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