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Freelance interpreter stole client
Thread poster: kevin316

kevin316
United States
Mar 28, 2016

I run an agency. I hired this freelance interpreter for a job. The client said he wants to interview the interpreter to make sure he is the right person. I gave the client the interpreter's phone number.

Did job went as expected. A month later, this client calls the interpreter directly, and the interpreter says "I am not available but I have a friend who might be" and gives the client the friend's phone number. The friend goes to the job, and I lose the client forever.

... See more
I run an agency. I hired this freelance interpreter for a job. The client said he wants to interview the interpreter to make sure he is the right person. I gave the client the interpreter's phone number.

Did job went as expected. A month later, this client calls the interpreter directly, and the interpreter says "I am not available but I have a friend who might be" and gives the client the friend's phone number. The friend goes to the job, and I lose the client forever.

I sent the original interpreter an SMS saying "why did you give our client to your friend? That's not fair to us"
he said "I didn't know he was your client. One evening he just called me out of the blue asking if I am available for a job"

What do you guys think? I think a reasonable interpreter in his situation had a duty to ask "who are you? where did you get my number?" to make sure it's not a client of any agencies he works with.

I am thinking of not paying him for the original job that he did, because this is ridiculous. he costs me literally thousands of dollars in future jobs.
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Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Your mistake Mar 29, 2016

I think you made the mistake in allowing the client to contact the interpreter directly. Once you did this, it gave license for the client to bypass you completely and get the same service without paying your middle-man fees.

Own up to your mistake and learn the lesson for next time. Refusing to pay the interpreter is VERY unethical.





[Edited at 2016-03-29 08:28 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:23
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You'll need to sue him Mar 29, 2016

I agree with DJH. It sounds to me as though you could use some training in acceptable business practices, and your local Chamber of Commerce might well be able to provide you with some.

You'll find yourself in big trouble with the courts if you refuse to pay for a job that was perfectly fit for purpose. Anything else that has gone between you is totally irrelevant to that invoice and its payment.

As for giving a client the direct contact details of a service supplier? W
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I agree with DJH. It sounds to me as though you could use some training in acceptable business practices, and your local Chamber of Commerce might well be able to provide you with some.

You'll find yourself in big trouble with the courts if you refuse to pay for a job that was perfectly fit for purpose. Anything else that has gone between you is totally irrelevant to that invoice and its payment.

As for giving a client the direct contact details of a service supplier? Well, I'm sure there are times when it's called for, especially in interpreting circles. But you didn't insist that the client state clearly that he's an existing end client? And you didn't immediately follow up with an alert to the provider, to let him know what to expect, and how to respond? It seems that you've assumed that your interpreter has mind-reading skills. I suspect interpreters DO have a highly developed ability to pick out the nuances of a conversation, but you really can't rely on it.

The fact that this person refused the job himself but suggested an alternative simply proves that he's a "good guy" - trying to help a complete stranger (or so he thought) when there's no gain for him. I imagine that he signed a non-compete clause, so you could try suing him. But in the circumstances, I doubt very much that you would win. In fact you'd probably be told you were wasting the court's time.
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Cristina Bufi Poecksteiner, M.A.
 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:23
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Sounds like the client is the one doing the stealing... Mar 29, 2016

kevin316 wrote:

he said "I didn't know he was your client. One evening he just called me out of the blue asking if I am available for a job"


I'd probably revise the title of your discussion. If the interpreter is telling the truth (certainly their version is plausible - if the interpreter had done the 2nd job themselves and cut you out, their motivation would be marginally understandable, if extremely myopic, but they seem to have little to gain from giving the name of a friend), it's your client who poached your interpreter, not the other way around.


What do you guys think? I think a reasonable interpreter in his situation had a duty to ask "who are you? where did you get my number?"


Most people don't keep their contact info secret - that runs counter to the objective of trying to succeed in business. Generally inquirers do mention where they found me, but I suppose someone trying to poach me would just make up a plausible but unverifiable referral source (ATA directory, etc.).


to make sure it's not a client of any agencies he works with.

You can't prove a negative. What's the interpreter to do, call up every agency he/she has ever worked for and ask if the caller is a client of theirs?

Did you have any NDA signed with the end client? If so, you might have a cause of action, though you have to think about how worthwhile it is to pursue.



[Edited at 2016-03-29 09:09 GMT]


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
B-M-S vs. B-S Mar 29, 2016

By analogy, similarly to a question why has your spouse abandoned such a beautiful family, if you’re allegedly really so smart, so rich, so kind, so helpful, so generous, so amorous and so on? Something must be wrong.

No wonder, when Seller and Buyer get rid of Middleman and go direct, yet the problem is not always money...
Anyway, no crying over spilt milk, yet if your ex-client is happIER to work with somebody else directly (without you), then you also should be hap
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By analogy, similarly to a question why has your spouse abandoned such a beautiful family, if you’re allegedly really so smart, so rich, so kind, so helpful, so generous, so amorous and so on? Something must be wrong.

No wonder, when Seller and Buyer get rid of Middleman and go direct, yet the problem is not always money...
Anyway, no crying over spilt milk, yet if your ex-client is happIER to work with somebody else directly (without you), then you also should be happIER they are happy, right? Or revise, improve, and reconsider your attitude, your practicality, your policy and conditions. At least I would just ask politely that client about the specific reasons for leaving.

N.B.: it was very you who made your ex-client to decide the point that way--to go without you!

Cheers.

[Edited at 2016-03-29 14:45 GMT]
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Daryo
 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:23
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Identifying the end client Mar 29, 2016

Translators who work for agencies are not usually told the identity of the end client so, even when we've signed non-compete and NDA documents, we can't know for certain who the end client is, unless the agency has specifically told us, which they don't usually do, precisely because they don't want us to contact them directly.
Perhaps interpreters are more likely to know who the end client is because, by the nature of their work, they have to meet and converse with the client in person.... See more
Translators who work for agencies are not usually told the identity of the end client so, even when we've signed non-compete and NDA documents, we can't know for certain who the end client is, unless the agency has specifically told us, which they don't usually do, precisely because they don't want us to contact them directly.
Perhaps interpreters are more likely to know who the end client is because, by the nature of their work, they have to meet and converse with the client in person.
I agree with others here that in this case the interpreter didn't "poach" your end client. Rather the reverse, the end client "poached" your interpreter (or his friend).
You shouldn't refuse to pay him. I don't think he did anything wrong.
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Daryo
 

Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 23:23
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
You should train, inform and make professionals aware of your company's policies... Mar 29, 2016

...as well as signing an NDA.

I have worked for different companies and though their clients always ask for my business card, I suggest they can contact the Agency directly if they need more services.

You might have missed something when hiring your 'freelancer'.


Good luck.


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:23
German to English
Communication skills lacking Mar 29, 2016

kevin316 wrote:
[snip]
I hired this freelance interpreter for a job. The client said he wants to interview the interpreter to make sure he is the right person. I gave the client the interpreter's phone number.

A month later, this client calls the interpreter directly, and the interpreter says "I am not available but I have a friend who might be" and gives the client the friend's phone number. The friend goes to the job, and I lose the client forever.

I sent the original interpreter an SMS saying "why did you give our client to your friend? That's not fair to us"
he said "I didn't know he was your client. One evening he just called me out of the blue asking if I am available for a job"
[snip]
I think a reasonable interpreter in his situation had a duty to ask "who are you? where did you get my number?" to make sure it's not a client of any agencies he works with.



Although I'm too lazy to steal a customer, there have been times when I've been contacted out of the blue by agency customers who, having seen my name in the metadata of a Word file or who have obtained my name by other means. I also get randomly contacted by other potential clients unrelated to any agency jobs I've had. I've learned to ask how the potential customer got my name to avoid an embarrassing situation.

I've never solicited work from an agency client after ceasing to work for that agency. On the other hand, I have no qualms about accepting unsolicited work from former agency clients several years (4+) after last performing services for the agency.

Your initial mistake was not to inform the interpreter in advance that the client was going to contact him. The second was to remind the client that any future jobs offered to this interpreter should be via the agency.

Ethically the interpreter should have referred the client back to the agency when contacted regarding the subsequent engagement. Since he didn't take the job himself, in my opinion he's under no real obligation to do so. In all likelihood he was trying to help a friend and it didn't occur to him to involve the agency. It was probably not a deliberate attempt to steal business from you.

In the future you have to make it clear to your linguists that all client contacts have to be through the agency. Don't bury this in your NDA. You should have a clear statement of ethics regarding clients, avoidance of plagiarism (submitting previous translations of documents found on the web), expectations of work quality, etc.


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Did he breach any agreement? Mar 29, 2016

Did he breach any agreement between you? Many agencies require that translators and interpreters accept not to do business directly with their clients for a certain period after the end of the last assignment.

In any case, that's not what he did. He simply referred the client to someone else. He wasn't soliciting business directly from your client.

“where did you get my number?”

Is that how you greet potential clients at your agency? It sounds like a
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Did he breach any agreement between you? Many agencies require that translators and interpreters accept not to do business directly with their clients for a certain period after the end of the last assignment.

In any case, that's not what he did. He simply referred the client to someone else. He wasn't soliciting business directly from your client.

“where did you get my number?”

Is that how you greet potential clients at your agency? It sounds like a non-starter to me. It sounds like an aggressive way to answer the phone.

A freelancer is not an employee of yours, and they are free to do business with whom they like, subject to any agreements to the contrary. You don’t own your clients, and you don’t own the freelancers you subcontract to. Your client is free to use other suppliers. You can reasonably prevent subcontractors from going directly to your clients for certain, limited periods, but you cannot expect that your clients must only buy from you. That's how business is. People are free to choose their suppliers.

It was risky to give your client the interpreter's phone number. Could you not have organised it via a conference call instead?

Withholding payment for services already provided would be breach of contract, though, and it could (and should) land you in court.

It would be more productive to ask yourself how to make your clients want to continue doing business with you.
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Daryo
 

Tom Ellett (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:23
Norwegian to English
+ ...
First job still not paid for after a month? Mar 29, 2016

Has it occurred to you that the reason the interpreter referred the client to his friend rather than back to your agency might be that he is (as I understand it from your post) still waiting for you to pay him for the first job a month later?

 

kevin316
United States
TOPIC STARTER
Whether or not it was deliberate is irrelevant Mar 29, 2016

Guys, I don't think you understand.

I am not saying he did it deliberately. All I am saying is a reasonable interpreter in this situation would have made sure this client is not an agency's client. When an interpreter who works with many agencies picks up the phone, he has a duty to make sure something like this doesn't happen. This is negligence on his part.

It's like me accidentally crashing into someone's car. Deliberate? no. but I still have to pay for the damage
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Guys, I don't think you understand.

I am not saying he did it deliberately. All I am saying is a reasonable interpreter in this situation would have made sure this client is not an agency's client. When an interpreter who works with many agencies picks up the phone, he has a duty to make sure something like this doesn't happen. This is negligence on his part.

It's like me accidentally crashing into someone's car. Deliberate? no. but I still have to pay for the damage because it was negligence on my part.

to address some of your replies:

Yes, I did have a non-solicitation agreement with him.

Yes, I was hesitant to give the client the interpreter's phone number. But I figured when they meet, they can exchange numbers then so it doesn't matter.

No, I didn't tell the client "don't contact my interpreter directly" because I had no reason to believe he would do that.

This could have been much simpler. "where did you get my number?" "I got it from XYZ Translation Company. "ohhhhhhhhh really? sorry, you have to contact them directly."
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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
So what does that agreement say? Mar 30, 2016

kevin316 wrote:

All I am saying is a reasonable interpreter in this situation would have made sure this client is not an agency's client. When an interpreter who works with many agencies picks up the phone, he has a duty to make sure something like this doesn't happen. This is negligence on his part.



Yes, I did have a non-solicitation agreement with him.



So what exactly does that agreement say? May we see it? The concerned paragraph.

Whether or not the interpreter had a duty to do as you wanted depends on what your agreement says. You may think it natural that outsourcers should behave in a particular way, but it's much better to agree such behaviour in writing to avoid such disputes and to make it clear if there is a breach or not.

It sounds like it may be a borderline case.

In any case, if your client wanted to go direct to some interpreter, there is nothing you can do to prevent it. It's not exactly as if asking your outsourcer is the only way to find another interpreter. Ask yourself: if your client is happy with your services, why would he do this? Is it just about saving money by cutting the middleman out, or are there other reasons?


 

Ilan Rubin (X)  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 05:23
Russian to English
How does your agency add value? Mar 30, 2016

Kevin,

The basic fault is yours in my view.

If you think that your job as an agency consists of owning a DB of clients, a DB of translators and interpreters, and a service of matching jobs to clients, then you are going to fail, and you will get treated like this whenever your 'clients' and translators get the opportunity.

You should have no problem about your clients speaking on the phone with your interpreters - they will meet in person and exchange busin
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Kevin,

The basic fault is yours in my view.

If you think that your job as an agency consists of owning a DB of clients, a DB of translators and interpreters, and a service of matching jobs to clients, then you are going to fail, and you will get treated like this whenever your 'clients' and translators get the opportunity.

You should have no problem about your clients speaking on the phone with your interpreters - they will meet in person and exchange business cards anyway, that comes with the job.

Your job as an agency owner / manager is to add value for both the clients (especially) and translators (preferably).

For the clients, generally this can be managing their large projects, covering all their translation needs, editing the translations, compiling glossaries, testing new translators, managing CAT, formatting, printing, providing interpreting equipment, etc etc: basically doing what would take them far too much time themselves. So they will understand that stealing your translators doesn't make economic sense for them. If your clients don't need such services, and you cannot add value to them, then they are the wrong type of client and you shouldn't waste time working with them. They don't need you - they can find interpreters directly on PROZ and many other websites.

Did the actions of the interpreter cost you $$$? I doubt it very much. Sounds like this 'client' was just waiting for such an opportunity and they would have found another interpreter the same way pretty soon after, by turning over a different agency.

And the next question you have to ask: were you adding value for the interpreter? Was it a one-off job? If so it's not a great relationship for either of you. If you are building a successful business then you need a pool of translators / interpreters who receive regular orders from you so they are incentivized not to deal directly with the clients you bring them, and so that they set aside time in their diary for your orders.

And remember above all - it is adding_value that glues together long-term business relationships, not non-compete clauses.



[Edited at 2016-03-30 20:01 GMT]
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Daryo
 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:23
Member
English to Italian
Doubt Mar 30, 2016

kevin316 wrote:

Yes, I did have a non-solicitation agreement with him.


Maybe this is a stupid question, but how does the non-solicitation agreement apply if it's the end-client who contacts the interpreter, and then they didn't even accept the job?

That is what I would have said, under normal circumstances. However, in this case, and unless I'm missing something, this interpreter already worked for this client, so they had to know it was the OP's end-client, and I kind of doubt someone calls you for a job without telling who they are/what company they work for... so that does sound like negligence, at the very least...


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:23
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Simply not done Mar 30, 2016

kevin316 wrote:

I run an agency. I hired this freelance interpreter for a job. The client said he wants to interview the interpreter to make sure he is the right person. I gave the client the interpreter's phone number.

Did job went as expected. A month later, this client calls the interpreter directly, and the interpreter says "I am not available but I have a friend who might be" and gives the client the friend's phone number. The friend goes to the job, and I lose the client forever.

I sent the original interpreter an SMS saying "why did you give our client to your friend? That's not fair to us"
he said "I didn't know he was your client. One evening he just called me out of the blue asking if I am available for a job"

What do you guys think? I think a reasonable interpreter in his situation had a duty to ask "who are you? where did you get my number?" to make sure it's not a client of any agencies he works with.

I am thinking of not paying him for the original job that he did, because this is ridiculous. he costs me literally thousands of dollars in future jobs.





I do some work for a certain translation agency, and a client of them (years ago) wanted to have direct contact with the translator (=me), or they would go to another agency. At first I refused, but they insisted. To make a long story short, I still work directly with this client. All contacts (personally) go directly by me, where the agency (still their end client) only acts as paying office.

It is a case of trust! I don't BS the agency and they don't BS me (they still give me other jobs).

Is such a "trust" still possible in these times? YES! It all depends on you (and by the way, I am working successfully with "their" end client for the last 5 years, and I have no intent to "steal" him).


 
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