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Agency requesting deductions from invoice
Thread poster: XXXphxxx
XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Mar 3, 2010

I wonder if anyone can offer any advice.

I have been working for a Danish translation agency for the past 4 years. The relationship had until last week been excellent. The vast majority of work I do for them has always been for the same client. Last month I did 2 translations for them which were larger than usual. Total - 23,000 w. +/-. At the end of last week I received an e-mail from them attaching 2 heavily revised files. The story was that the client was not happy with my work and it therefore had to be revised by their in-house translators. Their first objection was my misunderstanding of the French term 'consultation' which I had translated as 'surgery' and was repeated throughout. To the British members of this forum I think you will understand the British meaning of 'surgery'. The client felt this was such a gross error that they rejected the file and it was revised in-house by the agency. There was also a general complaint and suggestion that the translation read like a 'machine translation'. The standard was no different to any previous translations of mine (how come they are saying that two translations in a row were below par?) and this is the first time since I first began working full-time as a translator (in 1998) that I have had such a complaint. Furthermore the 'revisions' were utterly superficial, at no point could I find any revision that genuinely related to an error/omission, grammar or punctuation mistake, they were all purely stylistic and in my opinion, debatable, in fact to make matters worse some revisions were completely ungrammatical e.g. 'The full accept of' (???). The bottom line is that they are suggesting that I deduct 50% from my invoice, which to me seems outrageous. I have no previous experience in this area but I would have assumed that the first course of action should have been to tell me that there was a concern and offer me the chance of either revising the translation myself or giving it to a colleague to do at my own expense. Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?

[Edited at 2010-03-03 13:43 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-03-03 15:04 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:44
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
50% for one repeated word? Mar 3, 2010

Lisa Simpson wrote:
The story was that the client was not happy with my work and it therefore had to be revised by their in-house translators.


So, are they saying that until now they have never proofread any of your texts before delivery to the client, or have they always been passed as OK before and only now have they seen problems at the proofreading stage?

After all, it is one of the stated jobs of an agency, isn't it? We're responsible for the first proofreading, but they need to do at least a quickie QA proofread before sending to the client.

Their first objection was my misunderstanding of the French term 'consultation' which I had translated as 'surgery' and was repeated throughout. To the British members of this forum I think you will understand the British meaning of 'surgery'. The client felt this was such a gross error that they rejected the file and it was revised in-house by the agency.


Very difficult to judge without context. I can certainly imagine instances where I would use the same translation, and many others where it would be totally inappropriate.

However, this would be a 5-minute "search and replace" job, even if it had gone to the client rather than being queried by the in-house proofreader.

There was also a general complaint and suggestion that the translation read like a 'machine translation'. ..... Furthermore the 'revisions' were utterly superficial ..... some revisions were completely ungrammatical e.g. 'The full accept of' (???).


The last shows clearly that this isn't a native proofreader, whilst this post clearly shows you're a native English speaker. Of course, I can't comment on the translation you produced, but I know I'd find it really difficult to produce some of the weird stuff that comes from MT.

The bottom line is that they are suggesting that I deduct 50% from my invoice, which to me seems outrageous.


As was suggested to someone in a similar position recently in this forum, perhaps you should suggest charging them for having done the "final" proofreading of everything that went before, before you accept to negotiate a discount on this one for additional proofreading costs (10%?). I wonder who would end up paying?

first course of action should have been to tell me that there was a concern and offer me the chance of either revising the translation myself or giving it to a colleague to do at my own expense.


That's certainly what I would hope to see in similar circumstances.

I imagine you've spent time (and therefore money) justifying yourself to them regarding the proofreader's comments. All you can do is to stay professional, only negotiate within reasonable limits, then turn the page and make it clear to other agencies that they should proofread your translations BEFORE sending to the client.

Good luck


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:44
French to German
+ ...
Inquisition... Mar 3, 2010

A very interesting and recent post about a similar "problem":

http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/158545-1_error_in_a_4300_word_document_cause_for_a_10_discount_how_would_you_handle_this_situation-page3.html#1337953


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
50% for their time and effort in revision Mar 3, 2010

Thanks Sheila for your contribution.

Sorry if I was unclear. They cited the 'surgery' issue as the first thing that got their goat, their claim is that the whole translation reads like a machine translation so they aren't requesting a 50% deduction for one word but for a revision of the whole of the 2 documents. I absolutely beg to differ and fail to understand how out of 100s of thousands of words translated for them over the past 4 years, all fairly similar applications for funding, it is specifically these last 2 that were a problem. It makes no sense, especially as I am very dubious about the revisions that were made anyway. As one person pointed out to me if they'd sent the document to be revised by another freelance translator/editor they would only have charged 30% of the rate anyway, so how on earth they justify 50% is beyond me (we're talking about roughly €1,100)! Any comments from those of you running agencies are welcome.

[Edited at 2010-03-03 18:28 GMT]


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 17:44
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Comment on the changes Mar 3, 2010

and justify your choices over the client's as best you can and, if you feel this is justified given any errors on your part actually in the translation, refuse the discount requested as a first remedy and ask for an independent proofreader to check who's in the right here.

Then based on this independent proofreaders findings, you may negotiate further.


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Bastin Berenice  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 17:44
English to French
+ ...
Hey! Conds and terms Mar 3, 2010

Hi there,

Personnally, I have conds and terms which are supposed to shield me from outrageous requests.
I was recommanded to create some by a great professionnal who have been working in the field of translation for years.
I have never regretted to have those.

They are in French, so, of course, should be adapted in EN, DE, ...
If you are interested in them, just feel free (all of you really) to go on my Internet site (see bottom of the page), copy and paste them and adapt them.
I also have an insurance for translation mistakes which could cause major problems to clients (think about medical or law stuff); it's not necessarily expensive, get info, and you feel safe.

I can tell you that I would not accept 50% off! That's too much for just a few mistakes (nobody is perfect). My conds and terms are extremely precise about this point. And, of course, they should have given you a chance to correct the mistakes yourself.
By the way, if you are not sure which term to use (sometimes, that's true, it can be difficult to choose between terms), I am certain many colleagues here could help you, including myself (my mother tongue is French).

I hope you'll go through this without too many problems.
Courage!

Sincerely
Berenice Bastin (Bastin Berenice Traductions)
www.bastinberenicetraductions.com


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I've commented on their changes Mar 3, 2010

PCovs wrote:

and justify your choices over the client's as best you can and, if you feel this is justified given any errors on your part actually in the translation.


I began by inserting comments on each change but they were simply too numerous to go through. I thus made the point to them that I felt the changes were largely unnecessary and purely stylistic and listed a few:

- deleting 'awareness-raising campaigns' in favour of ‘campaigns to raise awareness and then using 'awareness-raising campaigns’ only a few paragraphs later.

- 'allow us to inform’ changed to ‘enable us to inform’

- ‘based on the initial order' changed to 'on the basis of the initial order'

- all numbers written as digits (as per source file and left as such for ease of reference) have ALL been rewritten as numbers in words

These are only a few of literally thousands of revisions made. I have asked them a couple of times to point out genuine errors. They haven't got back to me with any. Now, as someone who proofreads other people's work regularly I know not to make subjective judgements on someone else's choice of wording (i.e. style), unless I've specifically been requested to do so (e.g. a document for publication to be used for marketing purposes), otherwise I stick to errors, omissions, grammar and punctuation mistakes - that's it. Apart from anything else you don't rip a colleague's work apart unnecessarily, that's just poor practice. I somehow don't feel that the issue here is the quality of my translation. It doesn't make sense that after several years of working for them they should suddenly be unhappy about precisely the last 2 jobs I've done for them. It may be a coincidence but this is certainly the largest invoice I've ever submitted to them.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
IMHO Mar 3, 2010

You certainly sound like you have a sound, logical case against agreeing to a 50% discount, although your "one word" error could conceivably be a reason to voluntarily concede a (rather smaller) discount, and depending on how serious the result is, eating some humble pie in that regard might be very appropriate. But by the way you've described the situation, that alone would definitely not justify a 50% discount.

One thing I'm not certain of from reading your posts - who exactly made the changes, the (end) client or the agency? Because (on second reading), it seems you are saying that the agency used their own people to "rewrite" this - but actually, isn't it the agency's job to proofread and catch mistakes (or to find another linguist to do this)? And if that's what they were doing, shouldn't they have come to you *during* the process and expressed their concern at that point if they felt there were "too many mistakes"? (I guess that's rhetorical)

The major factor here, assuming you have a contract with or at least a PO from your client (the agency), is what terms are listed there for resolving disputes/correcting erroneous translations? Most agency contracts specify how these situations are handled, potentially including a review by a neutral party.

A messy situation to say the least, but if it were me and I felt sure that my translation was in essence correct, I would definitely go the extra mile to show them why I absolutely reject a 50% discount.

Wish you luck!


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:44
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
You better get used to it Mar 3, 2010

Basically it is not your business to "explain the edits". That's the editor's job. At least that's the reasonable and normal "documentation" procedure in all other industries, except the translation industry (which has no standards, it only has "habits" or "procedures that we' re used to but nobody knows why").
Good thing that you did though...

The "unexplained edits" is a weapon in the hands of the malicious editor who wants to steal the client from the translator. My language pair could be the champion in malicious editors, but maybe I'm wrong.

Nevertheless, you are a victim of the financial crisis.

As you say

"all numbers written as digits (as per source file and left as such for ease of reference) have ALL been rewritten as numbers in words"

Therefore it's not an issue of quality. It's an issue of the client or the agency trying to get a big discount by "discovering" errors, even if they don't exist.
What they do is that they hire proofreaders to rephrase the sentences and present your version as wrong.

Here's what you could do:

a) You could give them the discount and stop working with them (they'll do it again, because by giving them the dscount, you effectively motivate them to do it again - why would they pay you full price if you accept to take 50% down every time they rephrase your sentences by paying an editor 50 bucks to "find errors"?). They invest 50 bucks and they earn thousands from your discounts.

b) You could ask them their response to your comments and wait forever. It'll only prolong your bad feelings. Most likely you'll get a coldly polite reply "we understand that you disagree" etc etc, which is the standard response of low level employees in the business world.

c) You could take the case to Court, bring two experts on your language pair, prove to them that they' re wrong, win the case, get your money and shake the translation industry to its core (such Court cases are public record). If you do that and you win the case, I will personally send you a check for $1,000.
(in the meantime you will probably spend a lot more money for this, but it will improve your future, boost your self-confidence as a person, and it will also change the inustry forever and for the better).



[Edited at 2010-03-03 23:05 GMT]


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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 17:44
English to Polish
+ ...
other side of the coin Mar 4, 2010

Sometimes I get to verify translations done almost word-by-word. While theoretically in Polish, the target text has typically English syntax, lots of passive voice, vocabulary you would hardly use in Polish, etc. The grammar may be formally correct. The meaning may be accurate. So what... Can you post a few isolated sentences of what you've sent them?

[Edited at 2010-03-04 07:19 GMT]


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
They made the changes Mar 4, 2010

Thanks for yours. Yes, indeed they made the changes, roughly 10 days elapsed between submission and them notifying me of the issues, upon which they attached the 2 heavily revised files as a 'fait accompli'. Furthermore, since the job was revised in-house I hardly consider that to be independent. They certainly won't be paying for an outside proofreader at this stage.

No PO unfortunately. Never have had a PO with these people. As I say, the relationship had been 100% smooth until now.

I would love to post some chunks of my translation but as I matter of course I never do so, I treat all translations as confidential. What I can say is that these are applications for funding, i.e. factual, dry documents, not much room for mistakes with syntax. English is after all my mother tongue so how on earth they can claim that it reads like a machine translation (and we all know what those look like!) is frankly beyond me.


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Perhaps a new contact at the agency's client Mar 4, 2010

From your description of the problem it sounds to me like the agency's contact in the client company has recently changed. A new person has taken over a post and wants to stamp his mark on the work. It may well be that all the changes were suggested by the client - although the agency is saying that their proofreaders made these changes.

If this is the case, then the agency is simply agreeing to offer a discount to the client for the 'errors' and passing this cost back to you. They have may have already decided to use another translator for future work - if they retain the client.

You have little to lose by fighting. Suggest arbitration - or no discount.


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I'm inclined to agree Mar 4, 2010

John Rawlins wrote:

From your description of the problem it sounds to me like the agency's contact in the client company has recently changed.



Thanks John. My gut feeling is indeed that something has changed either at the agency or at the client, this change of attitude and criticism of both of my last 2 jobs simply doesn't make sense otherwise. I agree I have nothing to lose and this behaviour has made me lose faith in any relationship. Bottom line is that if I knew this was the way this agency operated (not checking work and then slashing 50% from an invoice without even consulting me first) I would never have accepted the work in the first place. I have no previous experience of such problems and don't know how arbitration works, presumably this would take place in Copenhagen, who pays what?, etc etc. Furthermore, the other 50% would in the interim also be held back (?), something I can ill afford.


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 17:44
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Make an agreement as to independent proofreading Mar 4, 2010

It is really not your concern whether or not the Danish company would like to pay for an independent proofreader or not - they should have to settle on some kind of agreement on this since they must proof to you how the alleged mistakes in the translation could in any way warrant such a heavy price reduction.

I would repeat the refusal to accept the reduction as a first remedy - in Denmark the supplier must always be given the chance to remedy a flawed delivery before any other cause of action can be taken.

Secondly, I would suggest to the company that an independent proofreader be hired to check up on your translation, and perhaps this expense could be covered by both parties by 50% each or whatever you can agree on.


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:44
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Chance to remedy Mar 4, 2010

PCovs wrote:
in Denmark the supplier must always be given the chance to remedy a flawed delivery before any other cause of action can be taken.


Thanks for yours. Is this just accepted practice or is there a written guideline/legislation on this? If so then please do let me know where.


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