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Agency reduces fee by 50% - feedback needed
Thread poster: earlyesther

earlyesther  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 20:42
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Nov 26, 2013

Hello,

Just want to ask some advice from all of you. What should I say to an agency who replied this line below to my invoice.

"I am sorry to let you know that you have to reduce the fee by 50%, as client only agreed to pay half for this job due to your delay."

I submitted the job one day later than the deadline mentioned in the PO, but there was also a long discussion and finally an agreement that the deadline is prolonged one day due to the complexity of the text. By this later agreement, it means there isn't any delay, I suppose. Besides, that 50% reduction has never been agreed before. Additionally, this time I don't want to "understand" this situation since it was a huge project and I spent 4 days with very little rest just to cope with the 'deadline'. I can't just let those effort to be regarded as half price. I know if the client only pay 50%, then there is nothing I can do since the agency 'wouldn't have sufficient amount to pay me' and the agency has the authority since no matter how hard I try to convince him, the amount that will appear in my account will just 50% if this agency only send 50%. But this just doesn't feel right.

And for the future, should I receive any other project from this agency? If so, what should I do in order to avoid this happen again, since no one can guarantee anything at this stage.

Thank you so much,

Esther


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Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:42
Member (2013)
English to Italian
No way Nov 26, 2013

Esther, I think you shouldn't accept the rate reduction, and it is not acceptable that they didn't communicate that reduction until you invoiced them.

What can you do in this situation?

First, you can tell them that you won't accept 1 more word from them (if you are one of their preferred translators, this may be effective).

Second, I'd post a feedback on the Blue Board. I have never done it before, but it seems this can be effective too, especially if the agency is using Proz to recruit new linguists.

Third, in case the amount is worth the money, you may want to bring the issue to a collection agency/talk to a lawyer.

Of course, many factors have to be taken into account. Is this agency a very important client of yours? Can you afford the risk of losing them?

Anyway, what's important here is that you work with the agency, not with the end client. Whether they accepted the reduction or not, it is none of your business. You have a relationship with them, not with their client.

In the future, though, maybe it would be better to have a look at the document (and negotiate the deadline) before accepting the project.

Good luck!


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Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:42
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Payment Nov 26, 2013

Dear,

Have you signed an NDA? if not, it means you shouldn't accept anything different from what was agreed b4.

Good luck.

Paulinho


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Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:42
German to English
Deadline rules OK Nov 26, 2013

In over 20 years of translating, I have never missed a deadline.

Rule 1: MEET THE DEADLINE

Rule -1: TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT THE JOB BEFORE AGREEING THE DEADLINE

Having said which, I still think a 50% reduction is harsh, unless the client demonstrably incurred considerable expense by the failure to meet the deadline, e.g. waste of professional's time and expenses (solicitor, auditor etc.).

I do hope you come to a satisfactory compromise.

Steve K.


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Michal Fabian  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:42
Member (2012)
Dutch to Slovak
+ ...
Rates are negotiated, not imposed Nov 26, 2013

If you cannot "beat sense" into the agency, stop wasting your time and hire a good debt collector straight away. Easy as that, has never failed me.

In the future, do yourself a favor - lose this client and leave underpaid sweatshop work to others.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
No quality issues, delivered to an agreed deadline = 100% payment Nov 26, 2013

esther tanuadji wrote:
client only agreed to pay half for this job

That is actually totally irrelevant. You had a contract with the agency, not with their client. However, in this case, the context goes on to say
due to your delay.
Now, that could be fair reason for the agency to pay you less than the agreed sum, even if their client paid them in full!. But then there's a second "however":
I submitted the job one day later than the deadline mentioned in the PO, but there was also a long discussion and finally an agreement that the deadline is prolonged one day due to the complexity of the text. By this later agreement, it means there isn't any delay, I suppose.
Absolutely! If they agree to an extension they can't then come back and demand a reduction for missing the earlier deadline. Provided that you met the re-arranged deadline, of course.
I know if the client only pay 50%, then there is nothing I can do since the agency 'wouldn't have sufficient amount to pay me' and the agency has the authority since no matter how hard I try to convince him, the amount that will appear in my account will just 50% if this agency only send 50%.
That really doesn't have to be true, you know. An agency should have sufficient to pay you: an agency shouldn't expect to be paid by every client before paying its suppliers, and insufficient funds are certainly no reason for anything other than a minimal delay in full payment. In a court of law YOU actually have the rights; you have a total right to full payment for your work if you really delivered quality work by the agreed (revised) deadline. Of course, getting your money may not be easy, but that doesn't mean you don't have the right to it.
And for the future, should I receive any other project from this agency? If so, what should I do in order to avoid this happen again, since no one can guarantee anything at this stage.
There have never been any guarantees in business. On the face of it, this isn't an agency I'd care to work for, but that's something for each of us to decide. But you really must insist on 100% for this job before you consider working for them again. Anything else would mean you have totally accepted their domineering (and totally illegal) treatment.

What I would do is to be very firm and formal, using business-like language in your email demands and resisting descending into insults and anger. Inform others and find out if others have had similar problems with this agency (ProZ.com Blue Board); consult a lawyer (sometimes a little advice comes free); pay a lawyer to send an official letter if not too expensive, otherwise draft a final demand in legal-type language and send it via registered post to their registered address. By that time, the agency will hopefully see that you are not going to be walked over and will decide to pay. They know that no court will support them, and they would have to pay the costs.

Of course, there has to be a limit on how much time and money you can spend chasing this payment but you say it was a huge job, so it must be worth some effort.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:42
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I agree Nov 26, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

.............be very firm and formal, using business-like language in your email demands and resisting descending into insults and anger....(etc).


Write an extremely polite message, in language that makes it look as though you have already consulted a lawyer. At the beginning of the message, write

WITHOUT PREJUDICE

in capitals - just like that. That will scare them.

ALSO: resolve in your own mind that **you are going to get paid in full and will not stop until you are**.

[Edited at 2013-11-26 17:30 GMT]


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
If they agreed to the new date... Nov 26, 2013

esther tanuadji wrote:

I submitted the job one day later than the deadline mentioned in the PO, but there was also a long discussion and finally an agreement that the deadline is prolonged one day due to the complexity of the text. By this later agreement, it means there isn't any delay, I suppose.


If they already agreed to postpone the deadline, then you didn't do anything wrong. Are you working with the same person or is it a separate department that reduced the fee? It might help to forward the email showing the new date, showing that it was the PM who screwed up.

If it's the same person, I would remind them of the agreement and then follow the rest of the advice already given to you by the other commenters.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Tricky - What was in the PO/contract/subsequent agreement? Nov 26, 2013

This is a tricky situation, since normally we are absolutely bound by deadlines stated in a PO and it is our responsibility to meet those deadlines "come hell or high water".

Of course, exceptions prove the rule. As others have stated, if the agency agreed to extend the deadline, on the face of it (as you yourself "supposed") this would imply that the "delay" doesn't actually exist - because according to the "new" agreement, you also have a "new" deadline.

The problem for us is that we don't really know all the facts.

Many agencies have a sort of blanket contract that states that they are entitled to penalize you if you fail to meet a deadline. If this is the case in your situation, whether or not they "agreed" to allow you to turn in the translation at a later date may be irrelevant - they could still have (and enforce) a right to penalize you.

Likewise, the PO may also have had a similar clause, entitling the agency to reduce payment for deadline issues, quality issues, etc. - also not uncommon.

We also don't know everything that was discussed between you and the agency before the agency gave you "permission" to turn the translation in a day later, whether there was any mention of whether the terms of the PO would change, etc.

The "missing information" may have some bearing on what the agency is legally entitled to do.

However, assuming for the moment that there were no clauses in the PO or in any contract or agreement between you and the agency allowing the agency to reduce payment, the agency would not be "entitled" to reduce payment simply because its client refuses to pay the full amount owed to the agency - THAT problem is between the agency and its client, and has nothing to do with YOU.

So IF you are certain that there are no clauses you agreed to like the ones described here, then YOU ARE ENTITLED to full payment, and you should follow the advice of our colleagues here to pursue payment in full.
- - -
As for working with this agency in the future, you will have to honestly assess the pros and cons of that for yourself, especially considering the fact that they may not pay you what they originally agreed without a legal fight.

Once this situation has been resolved, one way or another, you will have to think long and hard about
a) whether and to what extent your relationship with this agency has been permanently damaged (trust on both sides), and
b) whether and to what extent it would actually be beneficial to YOU to continue to work with this agency, given their treatment of you and the way they handled the whole situation.


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earlyesther  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 20:42
English to Indonesian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you very much! Here is my final step Nov 27, 2013

Thank you very much Domenico, Paulinho, Steve, Michal, Sheila, Tom, Triston, and Janet It's nice to meet you all here.

I have thought it over the night:

First, No NDA signed.

Second, This is the same person, the agency owner, who issued the PO and discussed the prolonged deadline via e-mail; no new PO created but email communication should be sufficient to be relied on. That's why I was taken aback when I read his statement.

Third, I can afford losing this agency. The rate he asked is below the normal rate and his projects was always 'urgent', which means the deadline was always tight. This is also the reason why I think his statement is inadmissible, since I have (always) 'reduced' my fee for good faith, for future business with him and now he ask for another 50% reduction.

Fourth, I have consulted another linguist who accepts regular work from this agency, and frankly this linguist simply said 'I use Google Translate to cope with his rate and deadline' :S This statement made me even more surprised. This agency offers legal translation and documents I received from him was always formal, such as: legal contract, certificates, business agreement, company deeds, even lawsuit. That's why I put the extra effort. I (we are all) know those documents are really important for the client and everyone else related to the deal; but Google Translate for a lawsuit? Uh Oh...

Fifth, I'm extremely confident with my translation quality. No additional fees are incurred on the client's side, and comparing the quality to the rate, they should have gotten huge value for their money.

As the final step, I will reply to his email, in a firm, formal, and business-like language, stating that I cannot accept 50% reduction, explaining all that has been discussed here and in his earlier communication. I will also explain that in case he insists and only send half of the payment, sure, there is nothing I can do in terms of amount appearing in my account, but I can and will post feedback in BlueBoard as well as broadcasting this information in my networks. Additionally, I will also emphasize that I'm not interested in any of his future projects. (In case those clients assign this agency other projects, they will see that the quality is different, but that's not my business.)

I will also start to develop strong networks with lawyers around the world and learn the business laws in the corresponding countries. This might be useful.

Once again thank you very much for all of you


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 13:42
English to Polish
+ ...
... Nov 27, 2013

esther tanuadji wrote:

Hello,

Just want to ask some advice from all of you. What should I say to an agency who replied this line below to my invoice.

"I am sorry to let you know that you have to reduce the fee by 50%, as client only agreed to pay half for this job due to your delay."

I submitted the job one day later than the deadline mentioned in the PO, but there was also a long discussion and finally an agreement that the deadline is prolonged one day due to the complexity of the text. By this later agreement, it means there isn't any delay, I suppose. Besides, that 50% reduction has never been agreed before. Additionally, this time I don't want to "understand" this situation since it was a huge project and I spent 4 days with very little rest just to cope with the 'deadline'. I can't just let those effort to be regarded as half price. I know if the client only pay 50%, then there is nothing I can do since the agency 'wouldn't have sufficient amount to pay me' and the agency has the authority since no matter how hard I try to convince him, the amount that will appear in my account will just 50% if this agency only send 50%. But this just doesn't feel right.

And for the future, should I receive any other project from this agency? If so, what should I do in order to avoid this happen again, since no one can guarantee anything at this stage.

Thank you so much,

Esther



Esther. You can 'understand the situation' and put in your extra time without rest etc., which you did. But you don't need to 'understand the situation' and offer this type of backbreaking work with also a 50% discount.

In this situation, it seems like the client just simply wants a discount. Some people are like that. It's understandable that a client in a restaurant would like 50% off on a cold dinner which he ate and filled his stomach with and will mostly forget in a couple of hours but, well, restaurants are largely about service, dinner isn't normally supposed to be cold, the experience was suboptimal.

Not so with translation, which is not supposed to be that kind of service. Translation is a professional service with a professional product, which the client will be using for professional goals.

Also, in your case, the deadline was extended. It is also the responsibility of agencies to set reasonable deadlines and assess the texts. However, we as translators have allowed agencies to become 'outsourcers' and shed professional responsibilities, which means they can now be just another spoiled brat of a consumer charging a 200% markup for its mere existence plus marketing.

It is up to you now whether you want to 1) take the 50% hit (in the light of not wanting to lose access to future projects from the same agency), 2) work with that agency at all. I can't tell you what to decide here, as this is basically a matter of 1) individual preference and 2) individual risk tolerance/appetite kind of thing. I could only give you some pros and cons here, but you know your own situation and your own market better than I do. However, if you do decide to work with that agency again, you'll need to make some clear arrangements:

– you will never again ratify and take part in any exorbitant discounts that they decide to give to their clients, including not having the backbone to demand payment from a client who 'gives himself' that discount (i.e. pays less than agreed and owed),
– they need to assess deadlines properly,
– they need to assess the clients and work with responsible people,
– and show you more respect.

One possible solution to allow both you and agency to save face would be to make you issue your invoice for the full amount and tell the agency that you believe they should pay the whole thing, but you won't sue them if they pay less. But it's on their conscience. However, in doing so you may need to pay income tax (and possibly sales tax) on the entire invoiced price, not only the part which you receive.

In any case, stop working with them if they become rude or aggressive unless most of your other clients are little better in this regard, in which case I guess you'd need to live with that.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Great, but please demand 100%, not 50% Nov 27, 2013

esther tanuadji wrote:
As the final step, I will reply to his email, in a firm, formal, and business-like language, stating that I cannot accept 50% reduction, explaining all that has been discussed here and in his earlier communication.

That's the way to go! Especially as there really doesn't seem much doubt that this person is just trying to get every translation as cheaply as possible. Make the explaining as short as possible - just a few bullet points - to avoid diverting his attention from the main issue: payment!
I will also explain that in case he insists and only send half of the payment, sure, there is nothing I can do in terms of amount appearing in my account, but I can and will post feedback in BlueBoard as well as broadcasting this information in my networks.

But why say that cannot accept 50% and then say you'll accept it if he sends 50%? Sure, he won't like the bad review here on ProZ.com if that's where he gets the majority of suppliers, but this is someone who looks for maximum profit today, and doesn't think too much about the future. I suggest something along the lines of "I expect to receive full payment of $nnn for this job by nn/nn/nn. Failing this, I will have to escalate this issue, including but not restricted to taking legal action, initiating a debt recovery service, posting feedback on the ProZ.com Blue Board and broadcasting this information in my networks".
Additionally, I will also emphasize that I'm not interested in any of his future projects.

I can understand that, but it might be better not to state that decision in your letter for two reasons, (1) you want to keep his attention on THIS job, PAYMENT, and (2) he will have even less incentive to pay if he sees in black and white that you're already an ex-supplier.

Edited to add that you should post that bad review on the BB whatever the outcome (maybe slightly less damning if he pays in full). We should all know what this client is like.


[Edited at 2013-11-27 10:24 GMT]


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Agnes Lenkey  Identity Verified
German to Spanish
+ ...
Yes, don't mention at this stage that you won't work for him again Nov 27, 2013

Hi Esther,

I agree with Sheila. Try to keep your letter short, concentrating on the main point. Me too I think that the fact that you don't want to work for this client again is not the issue right now. According to what you say, this is something you already decided and know, but there is no need to tell anything about it to the client. It will be more than enough to simply decline any other future job. There is no need to talk about it right now. On the contrary, ironically I think it is even better if he thinks that you will be available in the future - in this case he has more interest in paying you the initially agreed rate. Naturally posting in public means that anybody has access to all the information you publish...

Regards,

Agnes

[Edited at 2013-11-27 12:45 GMT]


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Chiara Sodi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:42
English to Italian
Communication Nov 27, 2013

Funny how many managers/business owners expect excellent and prompt communication from staff or free-lancers, but fail to remember that they have to do exactly the same with their clients.
They seem to "forget" that their behaviour could cause a significant damage to their business and then they expect someone else to take responsibility for it.

You are not at fault here. You communicated and reached a new agreement, which amends the previous one you had with this agency and you can prove it.

You have the right to expect and demand (in a very polite and business like way) 100% of the amount agreed.

If the agent/business owner really failed (for any reason) to communicate the new deadline to his client, then that is his problem to solve (and not at your expenses).

If the agent has agreed to give the client a significant discount (whatever the reason), then this should be his loss. He might be able to afford giving the client such a discount, but the agent is probably trying to recoup that money by penalising you. I wouldn't agree to that.

Try to be business-like, assertive and to the point. Don't show this person any feeling, because chances are, he will try to take advantage of that too.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Paulinho Nov 27, 2013

Paulinho Fonseca wrote:
Have you signed an NDA? if not, it means you shouldn't accept anything different from what was agreed before.


I don't understand this statement.


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