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What discount for mistakes?
Thread poster: MissDobs
MissDobs
France
Local time: 13:51
English to French
+ ...
Feb 6, 2010

Hi,

I was recently contacted by an agency to translate a website from French into English. They contacted me on the Friday stating they needed the 5000 word translation for the following Thursday morning. They seemed to have had problems with their email system which meant that I finally only received the translation on the Tuesday afternoon in spite of several phone calls to say I had not received it. I managed to get it done on time but had very little time for proof reading it.

They sent me their comments and I had made about 40 spelling mistakes which is huge, I know. They also made a lot of other corrections such as replacing "de façon à" by "afin de" or "authentique" by "réel" which is just ridiculous. They then sent the translation on to the customer who pointed out that I had forgotten the end of the following sentence: "it is an internet-based, English language assessment and training programme aimed at going from level 3 to level 4 and level 4 to level 5." and the word "vocabulary" in the next sentence: "each module has 3 units and each unit has 4 parts. Grammar, Listening, Vocabulary, Fluency and Interactions"
The other complaint the client had was that I had changed the fonts and some of the hyperlinks were no longer active on one page.

The agency is now saying that I should not invoice them at all for this translation. The original price was 0.085 per word. There was no written agreement.

I would be really grateful if you could get back to me over this as I am not certain what to do about it.


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:51
Italian to English
Stick to your guns Feb 6, 2010

Frankly, this is an agency you do not want to work for again.

So you can afford to be firm in your response.

I would tell them that if the source text had been sent when promised, you would have had time to eliminate these oversights.
Ask them why their reviewer did not identify these issues before the translation was sent to their client.
And finally, tell them what inconvenience you suffered in receiving the source text late - working antisocial hours for which you normally ask a premium and turning down other work which you could actually have handled while waiting.

If you're feeling generous and conciliatory, you might offer a small discount - say 5% - for not spending the time you had allowed for on final checking.

And a word of advice: quality should be your first prority - reputations are hard earnt and easily lost; explore every option for getting an extension rather than submitting anything less than your best work.


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xxxDesdemone
Local time: 08:51
French to English
Stick to her guns? What guns? Feb 6, 2010

When the text was provided 4 days late, she should have immediately TOLD the client (not asked) that the deadline would be moved accordingly, otherwise she would not accept the job. But she did accept it, and should not now use the short deadline as an excuse for very poor quality: 40 spelling mistakes; missing sentence fragments and terms; changed fonts and deactivated hyperlinks - that is simply unacceptable in a 5,000 word job.

Instead of quibbling about how much you should get paid (and IMO, offering a 5% discount would add insult to injury), call them, apologize profusely, tell them you won't be billing them and assure them that this is not normally how you do business.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:51
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
@ Russell - Feb 6, 2010

All that's left for me to say is that I second all of your comments

Especially this one:
Russell Jones wrote:
quality should be your first prority


Clearly, they have absolutely no right to withhold 100% of the payment, when much of the problem was caused by them.

However, I do think you should have spared the time to put it through a spell-checker, even if you didn't proofread it carefully. 40 spelling mistakes (even one, if it's something that would have been picked up by a spell-checker) naturally going to put them in a belligerent frame of mind.


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:51
Italian to English
Opposite views Feb 6, 2010

There are occasions when I would share your views Paula but are you really suggesting that an agency that changes timescales without discussion, sends unreviewed work to their clients and is not prepared to pay anything, despite giving the translator no opportunity to correct the damage, really deserves an apology???

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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:51
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
I agree that the best course of action was to tell that the deadline must be extended Feb 6, 2010

I also agree that 40 typos in 5000 words is very poor result. But after all the translation agency must have realized that the deadline became practically impossible and should take some responsibility for contributing to this situation.

In my opinion 5% is not a good idea - it's better not to give any discount at all - but something around 15-20 would be absolutely enough and MissDobs should make it clear to the agency that they have contributed to this situation hence she expects that the entire discount is passed on to the client.

BR
S


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xxxDesdemone
Local time: 08:51
French to English
No.... Feb 6, 2010

Russell Jones wrote:

There are occasions when I would share your views Paula but are you really suggesting that an agency that changes timescales without discussion, sends unreviewed work to their clients and is not prepared to pay anything, despite giving the translator no opportunity to correct the damage, really deserves an apology???


I'm saying that the asker should have flatly refused the job without an extension. Once she agreed to complete it she became responsible for providing the same level of quality required for any job. And according to the asker, it was the agency that found the spelling mistakes, although it appears they did not check further and find the other mistakes. The asker is not an employee, she is running her own business as a freelance, and is responsible for the quality of her work.
If I hired an accountant to do my books and he made mistakes that ended up costing me money (and perhaps her mistakes cost the agency money - the end client may have refused to pay), you bet I'd refuse to pay him.

But I'm glad to hear you occasionally agree with me


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MissDobs
France
Local time: 13:51
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Help Feb 6, 2010

I seem to have started a debate here.

Thanks for all your comments. I am still not certain what to do about this as I agree with all of you.

Russell, I did refuse jobs because of this translation. I also agree that I should have asked for extra time and made the mistake of not doing so because I thought that I would be able to manage it. I ended up with a splitting headache and not mentally capable of checking it correctly in the short time frame I had. Lesson learnt. It is the first and last time I return work in that way.

Paula, I have already apologised. I have not however received any apologies for having received it late ...

Sheila, I should have said grammatical mistakes and not spelling mistakes.


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xxxDesdemone
Local time: 08:51
French to English
Errr. Feb 6, 2010

Stanislaw Czech wrote:

I also agree that 40 typos in 5000 words is very poor result. But after all the translation agency must have realized that the deadline became practically impossible and should take some responsibility for contributing to this situation.

In my opinion 5% is not a good idea - it's better not to give any discount at all - but something around 15-20 would be absolutely enough and MissDobs should make it clear to the agency that they have contributed to this situation hence she expects that the entire discount is passed on to the client.

BR
S


To try and make the agency partly responsible for imposing a short deadline is missing the point. The asker is not their employee - she was free to refuse the job without an extension to reflect their delay. And whether or not the agency pays the client, or gives them a discount, or loses their business, is not the translator's concern. Her dealings are with the agency, period. Remember, everyone bleats when an agency doesn't pay them because their client hasn't paid, and what's the response? The agency is the translator's client, not the end user. The same goes here.

[Edited at 2010-02-06 15:11 GMT]


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Hildegard Klein-Bodenheimer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:51
English to German
+ ...
Does the client want this or the agency? Feb 6, 2010

We all agree that the translation was of poor quality and this shouldn't have happened but...

If I understand this correctly, the client found only part of the mistakes.
1. The agency found the 40 spelling mistakes and made the corrections and the client "only" complaint about the 2 missing sentence parts and the fonts and hyperlinks.
2. The AGENCY now wants to get your job free of charge not the client.

First, I would check the file that you sent to the agency and see if the hyperlinks were actually missing in your file too or if they maybe were deleted in the correction process.

After that, I would politely remind the agency that THEY had messed up the time schedule and didn't give you enough time to finish the job correctly and THEY had the text proofread before they send it to the client and THEIR proofreader didn't find the mistakes in question. I would say this is clearly a case were as much blame should go to the agency as to the translator.

Price reduction - If it is an agency you are working with on a regular bases I would maybe consider a reduction (maybe 25%) but certainly not a free translation. If the client asks for a price reduction I would suggest the agency should take part of it on their bill.

My advice to you - if you get into a situation like this again, make sure that you negotiate an extended deadline BEFORE you even start on the job. Tell the agency you need more time as the conditions have changed and tell them that you can only start the job after you have a new delivery date in writing.

[Edited at 2010-02-06 15:12 GMT]


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MissDobs
France
Local time: 13:51
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Lesson learnt Feb 6, 2010

In future, I will extend the deadline ... I do feel terrible about this translation.

Hildegard, your assessment is 100% correct. I will check the hyperlinks again. I don't really want to work for this agency again... I don't trust them.

Stanislaw, I think your suggestion is sensible, how can I check that they pass the discount on to the customer? They certainly have not mentionned any price change following my translation.


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Mariela Diaz-Butler
United States
Local time: 07:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
I seem to be in the minority here... Feb 6, 2010

BUT, I'm all for taking personal responsibility here. I would not even have waited for them to ask me not to bill them, I would have told them immediately that I was not going to bill them of my own account.

For whatever is worth, I find that 5000 words in 2 days is actually enough time to do a decent job and proofread it too, if, like the asker said, she refused other work to dedicate herself only to this particular job. Of course, I cannot be so arrogant as to pretend to know what life circumstances inflkuence a person's work schedule, so I'm just speaking based on my own experince (my normal output is 4500 words per day). However, if a person knows that they cannot do an excellent job in the amount of time given, they should not take it. Trying to pass on the blame on to the agency is just bad manners. She says she doesn't want to work with this agency again, and that she doesn't trust the agency. Well, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for another job from this agency anyway.

Mariela


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Bilbo Baggins
Catalan to English
+ ...
Reptations ... and spellchecking Feb 7, 2010

Russell Jones wrote:

And a word of advice: quality should be your first prority - reputations are hard earnt and easily lost; explore every option for getting an extension rather than submitting anything less than your best work.


Absolutely; this is among the best advice you can get.

My only other Q would be about the spelling errors; a spellcheck takes seconds and is fundamental, and is SO BASIC to pro writing - why didn't you run it? IOW, I appreciate the difficulties, but fail to comprehend not doing this. Maybe I'm commenting it becuase I've revised enough translations where this most basic quality component is overlooked - and simply fail to understand this omission.

[Edited at 2010-02-07 00:44 GMT]


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Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Duplicated post

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:51
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Translator is at fault - I vote for no billing Feb 7, 2010

I agree with Mariela and Paula.
MissDobs should have refused the job if she thought the deadline was too tight.
She didn't, she accepted it with the same conditions as if she got it earlier. The agency has the right to expect good quality.
I also think 5000 words for two days is not an unusually large volume, it does not justify the amount of mistakes by any means.
In this case it doesn't matter who found the mistakes, they were there, and they are the translator's responsibility. It could have been an external editor finding the errors, it is all the same. The agency raised a complaint about the quality right away, and they corrected many of them, so it is not that they just passed the translation along without checking it. (They may be held responsible for leaving the omission errors in, and for not fixing the links and the fonts, but there were plenty of other errors they had to fix.)
It is also irrelevant whether the client pays the agency or not, and how much. The contract is between the agency and the translator. ***(See note at the end.)

Standard agreements/contracts usually have a clause about quality issues, most of them require the translator to correct the mistakes free of charge, but some contracts may specify other ways of handling quality issues, such as price discounts or non-payment for the work. It seems in this case there was no such contract, no detailed agreement whatsoever. So, there is no legal base to say the agency should pay the full price, or a reduced price or whatever. The argument could be continued for a while, but I vote for taking the humble approach and not billing the agency for this work at all. And I agree with those saying it is unlikely that any further work would come from this agency.

I think it was a cheap lesson. It could have been much worse, had it been a larger project.

***Note:
Interesting to note that whenever somebody writes in these fora about an agency that had accepted the translation with no quality complaints but later refused to pay based on their clients complaints and refusal of payment to them, hundreds start screaming: "Subcontracting 101!!! Your contract is with the agency, not with the end client. You should be payed, even if the end client did not pay the agency." Well, I think Subcontracting 101 applies here, too. The agency is the client of the translator, they raised complaints about the quality, and that is what matters. It is irrelevant what happened or will happen between the end client and the agency, including whether any discounts etc. would be passed onto the end client.

Katalin

P.S: The initial post says the translation was from French to English, but from the examples I think it was the other way around, I mean into French - correct?

[Módosítva: 2010-02-07 01:27 GMT]


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