Non-payment by the end client: does it justify non-payment by the agency?
Thread poster: Alexandra Goldburt
Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 06:20
English to Russian
+ ...
Dec 17, 2009

It is a rhetorical question, of course. We all know the answer - of course, it doesn't. And yet - and yet, many of you have heard at least once: "We are sorry, but the end client did not pay us, so we are unable to pay you..."

So, if this happens to you, or rather - when this happens to you - how do you deal with it? It's easy to say "just insist on payment", but how do you go about insisting?

Here, very briefly and without naming any names, is the situation I'm having right now: I received an e-mail from an agency, in which they inform me that since the end client refused to pay (on very flimsy grounds), they are unable to pay me. What somewhat complicates the situation is this: the agency in question has been my client for the last two years, and they have always been good about paying on time. I never even had to call them to remind about a payment - something I routinely do with other agencies. I even connected a few colleagues with this agency, and I told my colleagues "this is one agency that always pays on time". Well, things change...

Input from fellow ProZeans will be greatly appreciated.


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 15:20
German to English
+ ...
Why do they not do anything to collect the money? Dec 18, 2009

I don't understand why the agency just lets that stand. Unless there was indeed something wrong with the job they have a legal claim to payment, and they can't simply abandon that claim and pass the loss on to you. I'd at least push them a bit on this aspect.

I'll be honest though, this hasn't ever happened to me so it's easy to talk in the abstract


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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 06:20
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
They are doing something about it... Dec 18, 2009

They say they'll "take legal action". Which means: they'll take the end client to court, and have the issue decided by the judge.

The problem: it takes a considerable amount of time. And sometimes, even if you win in court, you might still have a problem actually collecting the money.

In the meantime, I believe the decent thing to do is to pay the translator anyway. Or am I wrong on this?


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:20
German to English
+ ...
Remind them firmly but politely that your Dec 18, 2009

agreement is with them, and not the end client. Based on your statement that the excuse is flimsy, my suspicion would be that they are having financial/cash-flow problems, as are so many these days with the current economic situation being what it is (which is supposedly improving everywhere now - we'll see). Even if they have been a good customer so far, things change.... as you yourself point out.

You did the work, so you must be paid for it. It's their responsibility to collect from the end client - you know the routine.

What I do find pretty amazing is that you have to remind most of your customers about payments. I don't have that problem - all of my customers pay like clockwork 30 days after receiving the invoice, so I consider myself lucky. But that's how it SHOULD be. Maybe it helps that I live in the country of my main source language, which is where the majority of my customers are. Very sad that the little people (the translators) are so often the ones left holding the bag. Try to find better customers, Alexandra. I know, easier said than done, but ProZ is a great place to start, or start more direct marketing.

[Edited at 2009-12-18 09:34 GMT]


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 15:20
English to Czech
+ ...
No, no, no Dec 18, 2009

The end-client is responsible for paying the agency and the agency is responsible for paying you. If you agree to not getting paid once, you are putting yourself in danger of not getting paid for future jobs. Some lousy reason, or rather excuse, can always be found.
I once had a similar situation, but the difference was that the agency proposed an installment plan which I could accept. Perhaps this could be a way for you to go too.

[Upraveno: 2009-12-18 10:11 GMT]


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Rifraf
Local time: 15:20
end client bankrupt? Dec 18, 2009

Perhaps the client of the agency has gone bankrupt? which BTW still doesn't mean that they agency doesn't have to pay you; it's a risk of an agency.

So you have to demand payment, regardless of your good relationship with the agency.

As an agency owner I dealt with 3 clients going bankrupt this year; but the translators who worked for these clients will never know that, and they've all received payment from us, as it should be! So, it's never a valid reason not to pay you!!!


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 15:20
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Always be polite, but firm Dec 18, 2009

I have tried this once, and I answered my client as politely as I possibly could, that I was very sorry for them that their client would not pay, and I could certainly see their point of view. However, my agreement was with this agency, and I would have to insist on being paid regardless. What I can propose is that the payment be split up in xx instalments, would this be possible?

I would certainly do it this way again, because I ended up getting my money in the course of some months, and my client was rather satisfied, because I eased their financial strain a bit by suggesting instalments instead of insisting on full payment now.

The one thing you should never do is take it lying down.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:20
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
H-ll no! Dec 18, 2009

...as Stanislav and others have pointed out, and as you yourself know.

I have been given the same lame excuse by a number of agencies/clients during the past year. What do you think would happen if I told my leasing manager that I wouldn't be able to pay my monthly rent because I was waiting on a couple of checks for jobs I did?

The one thing has nothing to do with the other. By making such excuses, agencies show two important things: 1.) that they are fundamentally dishonest (since most of them surely do not state upfront to their contractors that payment will be contingent on client's submission of payment--at least I've never seen this; 2.) that they have very serious cash flow issues (especially if the payment in question is fairly modest).

One thing that translators can think about doing to protect themselves in cases involving significant amounts of money (however you define this: >$500, >$1000) is insisting on a statement (preferably a signed statement) explicitly stating that the agreement with the contractor is not contingent on any other agreement that the agency has made with anyone else. If they are not willing to do this, then you can consider yourself warned that there may be trouble ahead--and you can act accordingly.

[Edited at 2009-12-18 15:22 GMT]


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Marcin Rey  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:20
Polish to French
+ ...
payment risk is agency's risk Dec 18, 2009

The agency earns its margin not only for finding jobs, but also for taking charge of the payment risk, doesn’t she? So, let the agency go bankrupt, not the translator. The agency is supposed to be professional and get some guarantees. And have some cash flow to provide for this kind of situation…

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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 06:20
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all for your support. Dec 21, 2009

I certainly new that it has always been the agency's risk, but to hear confirmation from my colleagues is certainly reassuring.

The amount in question is not that big after all. But, as Stanislav pointed out, if I accept not getting paid once, I'll create a bad precedent. A kind of a precedent that I certainly don't want to create. So, I'll insist - politely, but firmly.

Thanks again!


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Non-payment by the end client: does it justify non-payment by the agency?

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