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Payment for a terrible translation?
Thread poster: Laura Daly

Laura Daly  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:35
Member (2012)
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 30, 2013

Hello,

I have a bit of a dilemma and hoped I might get some insight from other colleagues.

This week I received a very large project for a brand new client, which I knew I could not handle by myself. I found a translator here on Proz, and sent him part of the project. He was to deliver on Wednesday at 10am.

At 10am nothing arrived.
At 11am I wrote to him to ask if everything was on track for prompt delivery, "yes of course".
At 4pm the project was now overdue for my client. I told the translator to send me whatever amount he had done, immediately.

It took literally five emails to convince the translator to send me the file. There must have been smoke coming from his keyboard from trying to translate so fast...
I was told to "relax, first of all", and that eventually I would receive the file. That evening, perhaps.

When I insisted, I received approximately a third of the total file translated, and translated extremely poorly. I had to start from zero and do it myself while apologizing profusely to the end client.

Now the translator has told me that they "expect payment" of the amount they translated, and I promptly received an invoice.

The translation was 8 hours late, of poor quality, incomplete, and on top of it all the translator was quite rude. (Relax? You're 8 hours late!) In fact, late that night I received another version of the translation that I "would like better", so the translator was aware of the blatant errors in the work I received.

I think it's understandable not to pay the invoice I received, since the work was of no use to me and has probably cost me a new client. Can I legitimately refuse payment?

Thanks in advance for your opinions!


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:35
German to English
+ ...
I would think so May 30, 2013

Do you have at least an e-mail outlining the terms of the project that the translator agreed to? If so, I would think you can withhold payment for non-performance.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:35
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Perhaps a case of "you reap what you sow"? May 30, 2013

First of all, I am sorry this happened to you. You must feel very frustrated.

Let me try to understand the situation better:
- You found a translator here on ProZ - have you tested his skills before entrusting him with actual work for a brand new client of yours?
- You set his deadline only 6 hours before your deadline to the client - is that enough time for an editor to go thorough the translation, and for you to allow for solving any legitimate problems (technical, etc.)?
- Have you signed an agreement with this translator including a clause about quality issues?

If the answer for any of these questions is "no", then I say you may try negotiating with the translator, but it is likely that you would have to chalk it up to experience and pay. Education is not free.

I know this sounds harsh, but this is an unregulated market with plenty of amateurs - you just had first-hand experience of doing business with one.

Anybody who decides to outsource work, should be very careful about it, and not only take protective measures, but also have the resources and cushioning (time-wise and financially) in case the proverbial excreta hits the fan. Otherwise they are putting themselves into the amateur category, too.

Wishing you the best
Katalin


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Laura Daly  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:35
Member (2012)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes May 30, 2013

Yes, I have the email stating the deadline, and all of the following from the translator recognizing that it was late and that the quality was poor.

He wasn't aware that it was late because, "I read my emails very quickly".


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:35
German to English
+ ...
Katalin's points are all good May 30, 2013

to remember for the future. Live and learn.

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Laura Daly  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:35
Member (2012)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Katalin May 30, 2013

Hi Katalin,

Thanks for your reply.

I did not test his skills beforehand, but his profile has a lot of verified experience and positive customer feedback.

6 hours would have been plenty of time to go through the work, it wasn't a huge quantity.

No, no signed agreement. I have outsourced on Proz several times and it has always worked perfectly, so I'm not sure what to do now that it has all gone pear-shaped!


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 18:05
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Some ethical issues are involved here May 30, 2013

Did you tell your client that you will be outsourcing part of the job to another untested translator?

Normally outsourcing your work to another translator without your client's knowledge is a big no-no in our business for various reasons, and many client agreements clearly state that this is not to be done. The reason is clients select you for a job after evaluating your experience, education, training and a number of other criteria and take the decision to hand over the job to you on that basis. If instead of doing it yourself, you get it done from some untried translator, then it defeats the basic premises of translator selection and moreover it is a clear breach of faith. Confidentiality issues are also involved.

I am not sure of all the facts of your case, but if your client was not informed that you have outsourced their work, then you have not been quite ethical in what you have done.

This is separate from the predicament you find yourself because of the unprofessional behaviour of the translator you chose. Your client is likely to find himself/herself in an even worse position involving legal complications if something unforseen happens because of the faulty translation.

May be you should learn something from this experience that outsourcing your work to another translator can only be done with the explicit concurrence of your client.


[2013-05-30 15:07 GMT पर संपादन हुआ]


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Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Germany
Local time: 14:35
Member (2012)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Do you have a lawyer? May 30, 2013

Laura Daly wrote:

No, no signed agreement. I have outsourced on Proz several times and it has always worked perfectly, so I'm not sure what to do now that it has all gone pear-shaped!



It might be good to get a lawyers point of view on the matter - you obviously have proof that the translation was sub-standard and can have that verified.

Also, make it very clear to the translator that you are considering this option (i.e. non-payment - I assume you already have, but you don't state so explicitly).


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:35
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
There is always a first time - you have to be prepared May 30, 2013

Laura Daly wrote:

No, no signed agreement. I have outsourced on Proz several times and it has always worked perfectly, so I'm not sure what to do now that it has all gone pear-shaped!



I came home from the grocery store and realized the chicken I just bought stinks. I have bought chicken at that grocery store several times and it was always perfect, so I am not sure what to do now that is is all rotten.
Maybe I should sniff next time, before buying?
Katalin


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Laure Rose
France
Local time: 14:35
English to French
It's useful to build a network May 30, 2013

I think that it's absolutely necessary to collaborate with several colleagues in my own pair of languages and other pairs, for this sort of situation.

It's important than whenever a client has a request, you should have a solution to offer. They'll know that you're a really useful contact.

Sending a client -not outsourcing, mind you- to another collegue is not a problem, I find that exchanges often work both ways.


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 14:35
English to Czech
+ ...
That's not the issue May 30, 2013

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

Did you tell your client that you will be outsourcing part of the job to another untested translator?

Normally outsourcing your work to another translator without your client's knowledge is a big no-no in our business for various reasons, and many client agreements clearly state that this is not to be done. The reason is clients select you for a job after evaluating your experience, education, training and a number of other criteria and take the decision to hand over the job to you on that basis. If instead of doing it yourself, you get it done from some untried translator, then it defeats the basic premises of translator selection and moreover it is a clear breach of faith. Confidentiality issues are also involved.

I am not sure of all the facts of your case, but if your client was not informed that you have outsourced their work, then you have not been quite ethical in what you have done


While I agree that the client should have known (if he cares at all), that is not the main point here.

The issue is that Laura hired a translator who delivered crap and he delivered it late. I may then be willing to pay perhaps 1/3 of the invoice amount, but not a penny more.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Was this the job you posted on the open board? May 30, 2013

I see that you posted a job on the evening of Saturday 25th May, for 10k words of technical telecomms text for Wednesday 29th May at 10am. Is that the one? If it is, I'd personally say that you were expecting far, far too much from a totally untried translator, particularly by leaving only 6 hours to check those 10,000 words before your client's deadline.

Nevertheless, I think it's despicable for any translator to
a) take on a job where there's any reasonable doubt that it will be ready in time;
b) take on a job without seeming to bother when it's due;
c) fail to advise their client that there are problems;
d) be dismissive of the client's concerns regarding deadlines and/or quality;
e) expect full payment for a translation that they acknowledge as either below-standard or late, let alone the two.

I'm no lawyer, but I doubt that any court would uphold zero payment for this work, particularly if we are talking about the job mentioned above. OTOH, I doubt they'd accept the translator's claim for 100% payment for the part completed by the deadline, when the translator admits that this was only part of the job and acknowledges that there were quality issues. They would expect blame to be shared between you.

Unless you can come to an agreement with this translator, I think you may be looking at the possibility of much bigger problems ahead.


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Laura Daly  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:35
Member (2012)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Trying to respond to everyone! May 30, 2013

First of all, with regards to the long post about ethics, I'd rather not move on to a tangent! The client was fully aware, so that really isn't related to the point.

Secondly, it is the same job that was posted, but the translator was not assigned the full 10k, only about half. From Saturday to Wednesday there was plenty of time to complete it.

I completely agree with you Sheila, my frustration arose from exactly the points you have listed!

I see suggestions for no payment, some payment, or payment of a third...

I haven't yet responded to the translator because I wanted to be sure of my options before then, I'll send him an email shortly and let him know the issues, to see what he says.


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Laura Daly  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:35
Member (2012)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Update May 30, 2013

I wrote to the translator to voice my concerns:

"Hi XXX,

I am currently considering not paying your invoice due to a number of reasons. At best, I will pay a percentage of it. The reasons are:

a) Your translation was of very poor quality, with errors and spelling mistakes, which you are obviously aware of as you sent me a revised version hours later. I had to repeat the entire translation.
b) Your translation was many hours late, and only received after I insisted repeatedly. It is not professional practice to "read your emails quickly" and not be aware of the deadline.
c) The file was not complete.
d) You were dismissive of my quality concerns. I was amazed to be told to relax, 8 hours after the work was due.

I am consulting the matter with translation professionals and my "gestor". I'm sure that you will understand the situation.

Regards,
Laura Daly"

Forgive my use of "gestor", I'm too stressed today to think of the proper word in English! His response seems quite aggressive to me:

"I made an error which anyone can make. I have a reputation and I have it for a reason. I expect to get paid for the work I did. Given the fact that I didn't have a chance to proofread the job properly what quality do you expect? Either way I need a file with track changes and of course given the circumstances I will agree on a partial payment. I can offer you a 50% discount on the job. I will not accept a nonpayment under any circumstances. I will leave it at €XXX.

Regards,"

He didn't have time to proofread because he didn't read the deadline!

"I will not accept nonpayment under any circumstances" - so, basically, I have to accept his poor quality and manners?

At a loss here, is there some way I can explain the situation to Proz staff and get their opinion?


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 14:35
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Absolutely unacceptable behaviour May 30, 2013


"I made an error which anyone can make. I have a reputation and I have it for a reason. I expect to get paid for the work I did. Given the fact that I didn't have a chance to proofread the job properly what quality do you expect? Either way I need a file with track changes and of course given the circumstances I will agree on a partial payment. I can offer you a 50% discount on the job. I will not accept a nonpayment under any circumstances. I will leave it at €XXX.

Regards,"


If I made such a mistake, I would be ashamed to charge anything for a job delivered late. It is my duty as a professional to be aware of when a job is due and it is totally unacceptable of the translator to react in such a way.

Legally, I don't know what rights you have. Professionally, I am shocked to hear how some people run their business.

I would feel rather uncomfortable to outsource, especially when dealing with new clients, very technical topics and short deadlines and also would prefer the networking solution - being able to point to a colleague that might be able to help without getting involved myself if I have not the capacities.

Or deal with the client to extend the deadline - if they wanted good quality they should have been able to give you a few days more for the project.

Best regards,
Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro


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