Beggar-thy-neighbour open bidding site
Thread poster: Mike (de Oliveira) Brady

Mike (de Oliveira) Brady  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2008)
Portuguese to English
Sep 22, 2010

I put in a quote for a job on Proz.com just over a year ago and was told I hadn't won the contract, but was invited to register with the company's website.

Last month I started receiving emails via that site inviting me to bid for work. And that is exactly how it works: bidding against the lowest price offered, which is displayed, rather than providing a quote as you would through Proz.com.

After receiving a few invitations I tried to unsubscribe, but haven't been able to find out how to do so on the site. I've sent a message asking for my account to be closed, but nothing has been done as yet.

I know this 'beggar-thy-neighbour' approach of open bidding operates in some other industries, such as the coffee industry, where it has forced coffee prices below the cost of production in some years.

The agency is listed on Proz.com and has excellent feedback saying it is a prompt payer etc. But I, for one, have no intention of participating in this abusive approach to gathering quotes. Regardless of whether I would be prepared to work for less than the lowest bid displayed, I object to this approach on principle. It looks, however, that the site is aiming to become a portal to rival Proz.com for job postings.

I wonder what others think of the principle of open bidding?


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 15:29
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Diving price level Sep 22, 2010

I fully support your idea. My language pairs' bidding price becomes lower and lower. I Think it is quite critical to take an immediate measure, including in your web based bidding system.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


 

writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Honest at least Sep 22, 2010

From the way things look from here, this sort of bidding covers nearly all jobs posted on Proz. Agencies/translators/companies are shopping for CHEAP.
"Best rates" says it all. In order to nail a job, your rates have to be the best, ie the lowest offered. And then the job is yours. Often with the added request to use Trados or some CAT tool, so when the job is over, the agency/translator/company can use your TM to enable them to give the next job to someone even cheaper..........
Quality is of no importance at all apparently.
Imo, 'best rates' is the determining factor for awarding jobs, even though most agencies don't come out and say so. So the agency in question here is at least honest enough to admit it.
What do I think of underbid-thy-neighbour bidding? I think it's disgusting but websites open to and protective of anyone who wants to call themselves 'translator' are making this possible and ultimately undermining professional translation and professional translators.


 

Rob Grayson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:29
French to English
"Best" is not defined by price Sep 22, 2010

writeaway wrote:

"Best rates" says it all. In order to nail a job, your rates have to be the best, ie the lowest offered. (...) Quality is of no importance at all apparently.


Yes, and calling it a "best rate" makes it sound as though the agency is getting something good. The reality is the lowest rate is rarely the best rate. I would argue that the "best rate" should be a rate at which a minimum acceptable level of translation quality is achieved.

writeaway wrote:

What do I think of underbid-thy-neighbour bidding? I think it's disgusting but websites open to and protective of anyone who wants to call themselves 'translator' are making this possible and ultimately undermining professional translation and professional translators.


The practice isn't disgusting per se: it's free market economics. Any agency has the right to offer and promote bargain-basement translation services, and any end client has the right to buy them. What IS disgusting is when sites that set themselves up as promoting the interests of serious professional translators actively encourage such behaviour.


 

Simone Linke  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:29
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Some examples Sep 22, 2010

I've tested almost all of the big freelancing sites out there (some of which have open bidding), and from my experience, they do not pose any threat to Proz and they do not resemble Proz at all. The only problem I see is that these openly visible bids may give outsiders the impression that these are realistic prices for translations, which is why I strongly favor having as much educational materials about minimum rates as possible - but that's a different story.

But regarding the potential rivalry for Proz: an example may illustrate it best.

1) A few weeks ago, I got a software translation job via Proz. The client already had parts of it translated and I was also asked to review these terms. They had quite a few errors in them (apparently done by a non-native or by a student or similar) and I informed the client about it and recommended using a professional translator next time. The client was thankful and said himself that this will probably be a wise decision and he'd do so. He paid my offered rate - everything went fine.

2) A few days ago, I was offered a software translation via one of those bidding sites. Same scenario: the client already had parts of his text translated and, aside from the translation, he also wanted me to review them.
Again, the translated parts had errors in them.
I informed the client about it and gave him my rate (which was still low compared to the average rate for this kind of job).
He declined and said that he was sure I'd probably do a good job but his budget was limited. He asked if I would work for his original budget. I politely told him that this price was way too low and would only result in more bad translations.
Yesterday, he posted his job offer again and lowered his budget yet again by 20%.


So, if someone wants to work for such clients for sub-standard prices, the open-bidding sites will be a great place to be.
But I'd rather work for decent clients like the one I worked with via Proz.
I think as long as Proz continues to be a site dedicated to translators, with educational materials, etc., the threat posed by such open-bidding sites will remain low. And I think we don't need the type of clients found there to come here.icon_smile.gif


And yes, we do find some of these clients on here in the public job posting area. But if you try some of the freelancing sites out there, you'll realize that Proz is actually a rather decent place to be (at least for my language pair etc.).icon_smile.gif
Proz only needs to make sure to avoid the errors these freelancing sites make.


 

Enrique Cavalitto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 05:29
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
There are no reverse-auctions in ProZ.com Sep 22, 2010

This is explained in the following FAQ:



ProZ.com staff members believe that the translator is in the best position to determine what he or she needs to charge to deliver the quality required on any given job.

Regards,
Enrique


 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:29
English to Polish
+ ...
on principle or on common sense? Sep 22, 2010

Mike (de Oliveira) Brady wrote:

The agency is listed on Proz.com and has excellent feedback saying it is a prompt payer etc. But I, for one, have no intention of participating in this abusive approach to gathering quotes. Regardless of whether I would be prepared to work for less than the lowest bid displayed, I object to this approach on principle.


What if, hypothetically, you knew your (winning) bid would still be above your normal rate for a similar text? Would you be willing to lose money on principle?

Not that it's likely to happen. I think the auctioning approach is ridiculous because translations are not a commodity like rice or natural gas, or a near-commodity like mortgage loans. As long as the services offered by different translators are hardly comparable, this won't fly.

From my point of view, participation would be a waste of time because I can't achieve the superlow quality probably offered by the winner.

[Edited at 2010-09-22 18:00 GMT]


 

Mike (de Oliveira) Brady  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2008)
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
I'm boycotting the site Sep 22, 2010

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz wrote:

Mike (de Oliveira) Brady wrote:

The agency is listed on Proz.com and has excellent feedback saying it is a prompt payer etc. But I, for one, have no intention of participating in this abusive approach to gathering quotes. Regardless of whether I would be prepared to work for less than the lowest bid displayed, I object to this approach on principle.


What if, hypothetically, you knew your (winning) bid would still be above your normal rate for a similar text? Would you be willing to lose money on principle?

[snip]


Yes. Once I saw how the site was operating I tried to unsubscribe from it and have sent a message asking for my account to be cancelled. So basically, I'm boycotting the site.

If I could undercut someone and still make more than my usual rate, that would just prompt someone else to bid lower still. I'm not playing that game.


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:29
English to Russian
+ ...
Just forget them Sep 23, 2010

There is no point in participating in these price wars, but don't worry - they by no means indicate a decline of our profession. These are just totally different segments of the market, just like freshly squeezed juice vs. juice from concentrate vs. a drink containing 30% juice. For every glass of a fresh squeeze, the world market sells 100 glasses of the watery mix, but it does not mean the latter is displacing the former.

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Best rate defined Sep 23, 2010

My best rate considers that I offer high quality at average market rates for my language pair. That's how Toyota won leadership over many leading auto manufacturers. (If they've been having quality problems lately, it's another issue.)

My best rate is my standard rate for payment in two weeks. Why? Because while I am a good professional translator, I'm terrible as an amateur moneylender. My financial services suck! I made a one-sided deal with my bank: as long as they don't offer translation services, I won't lend money for less than twice their interest rate on overdrafts (10% monthly).

Good clients have taken that well. Bottom feeders understand that I'm not the vendor they are looking for. If a colleague offers the same service I do for a lower price, that's fair competition.


 


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