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Agency nibbling at my rate
Thread poster: xxxToon Theuwis
xxxToon Theuwis  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 13:59
English to Dutch
+ ...
Jul 28, 2016

So I was negotiating with an agency about a rate, including fuzzy matches. My initial rate for 'no match' is too high they say, they offer a lower rate, we meet in the middle. Fair deal. I have the agreed rates in a mail.

€XX for New words (No match-84%)
€XX for Fuzzy matches (85-99%)
€XX for Repetitions

Then I get my PO's and notice that the rate for 'no match' is indeed what we agreed, but all of a sudden the fuzzy between 75% and 85% are now counted with the higher range fuzzy's. We originally agreed that everything below a 85% match is considered a 'no match', but now they've (quietly) extended that range to 75%.

I discussed the issue with them and their reply was that this breakdown of fuzzies is what they use for all translators. This is the first time that I have a written agreement for a rate that is not respected by the agency.

It feels like the higher rate at the top is being nibbled at below. Now this only means a loss of 1,5% and the client is good for 4 digit turnover for me. I think they are being unethical, I think it is unheard of and I am professionally hurt. A good slap in the face would be appropriate here, I think, but it might be stupid (given the good income) to play it hard. Any suggestions?


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:59
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
75 % Jul 28, 2016

My clients go down to 75 % too. It may have been a simple mistake from your client.

The way I deal with these discounts is that I have an internal target for hourly payment. For each job, I quickly fill in a small spreadsheet with the counts in the various match categories. For each category, the spreadsheet shows me how much time I should spend on them. I start doing all the discounted segments. That way, I can easily track that I don't spend significantly more time on them than what they pay for. It means recycled segments may not be optimal when finished, but I won't let outright errors pass. It's the same principle as for a used car. If you go to a car dealer and say you're willing to pay half the price of a new car, they won't give you a new car but a used one that still works but isn't as clean and comfortable as a new one. If that’s what the customer wants and can afford, it’s no use trying to force him to buy a new car, as he’ll just go to another dealer instead.

If there are massive problems in recycled segments, I get back to the agency to agree what to do.

I think being pragmatic and just sorting it out by cutting down on the effort for such segments is best for the bottom line.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:59
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Pacta sunt servanda Jul 29, 2016

I'd stand my ground: pacta sunt servanda. Just stay polite and professional, there's no need to deal out face slaps. It may indeed just have been an error on their side. I'd just insist on getting paid what you've agreed upon.

For the future, and if you want (I wouldn't), you can make their life easier by agreeing to their CAT scheme and going down to 75%, just make sure you raise your base rate accordingly, so you don't lose any money.


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:59
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
:-/ Jul 29, 2016

Toon Theuwis wrote:

So I was negotiating with an agency about a rate, including fuzzy matches. My initial rate for 'no match' is too high they say, they offer a lower rate, we meet in the middle. Fair deal. I have the agreed rates in a mail.


Are you absolutely (ICE/101%) sure that what both of you actually agreed on wasn't just the per word rate? Didn't you sign a SLA/NDA with the agreed terms stated in detail?

I discussed the issue with them and their reply was that this breakdown of fuzzies is what they use for all translators.


I've heard that one before
I think a lot of the larger agencies tend to do that. Quite objectionable way of doing business, in my opinion, especially if there are "negotiations", a translation test and all the bureaucratic stuff/agreements signing between your initial offer and their "ultimatum". First they ask for your rate(s) and "discount matrix", then, if those figures are lower than what they were willing to grant you, then all good, otherwise they just say something like what you wrote: "That's what we pay all of our freelancer in the X>Y pair", "That's the standard matrix we apply to blah blah...", etc. which would beg the question: "Then why did you ask for my rates/discount matrix"? You're either willing to accept those terms (or at least negotiate), or you're not. Saying things like "... we use this rate/matrix with all of our translation" sounds like a rather clear negation of that.

A good slap in the face would be appropriate here, I think, but it might be stupid (given the good income) to play it hard. Any suggestions?


That's totally up to you, obviously, but, if you decide to refuse, it probably shouldn't be in order to "slap in the face" the VM for their (apparently) questionable conduct, as I'm quite sure they couldn't care less...


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:59
Russian to English
+ ...
Anything below 100% is a no match. Jul 29, 2016

It would be the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. Anything that is not 100 or 99.9% equivalent is totally wrong. Language is not mathematics, and approximations are often of no value, plus many agencies do not realize that many bilingual, trilingual and other people do not need any approximations or matches because they know 99% of the words and terms off hand.

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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:59
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
OK, but... Jul 29, 2016

LilianNekipelov wrote:

It would be the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. Anything that is not 100 or 99.9% equivalent is totally wrong. Language is not mathematics, and approximations are often of no value, plus many agencies do not realize that many bilingual, trilingual and other people do not need any approximations or matches because they know 99% of the words and terms off hand.


... are you able to work with a lot of agencies with this "<100% = full rate" matrix (and in what fields)?

[Edited at 2016-07-29 08:15 GMT]


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xxxToon Theuwis  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 13:59
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
not about fuzzies Jul 29, 2016

I so much wanted this discussion not to be about using fuzzy matches or not. There are other topics where this is discussed. This is a digression from the initial topic. The initial discussion was about an agency changing a rate by error or on purpose, given the fact that they supply a good amount of work and given that rather minimal loss.

Thanks for the replies and the advice to far.



[Edited at 2016-07-29 08:28 GMT]


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
There are those, yes Jul 29, 2016

[quote]Mirko Mainardi wrote:

LilianNekipelov wrote:

It would be the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. Anything that is not 100 or 99.9% equivalent is totally wrong. Language is not mathematics, and approximations are often of no value, plus many agencies do not realize that many bilingual, trilingual and other people do not need any approximations or matches because they know 99% of the words and terms off hand.


... are you able to work with a lot of agencies with this "


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:59
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Have you actually done any work for them yet? Jul 29, 2016

I'm wondering how much of your time is going to be spent on their admin and "QA" exercises that do nothing to improve or even check on quality and everything to waste your time.

I've found that these agencies who simply don't listen to the translator's side of the negotiation often want us to spend our time on things other than the translation itself. Every word of complaint is met with stock phrases such as "All our other translators..." or "It's required by our ISO accreditation" or "It's in our T&C. Didn't you see the link at the bottom of the contact screen? This bit is on page 7".

So, yes, I've come across an agency that did a similar thing - agreed to my terms but then tried to apply their own. They clearly hadn't taken any notice of that stage at all. They were only interested in getting me on the hook and assumed that once I'd invested a lot of time I'd be prepared to make the "small adjustments" to fit in with them. My promise of legal action if the contract wasn't upheld was met with evident surprise and that first job was paid at the negotiated rate in the end, of course. They could hardly have fought that one successfully. But neither party would have considered a second job.

It's up to you how you handle it Toon, but I don't think you'll ever get this agency to accept you as anything more than a pieceworker. You aren't a "valued collaborator" or even an "individual" to them; just a "resource".


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xxxToon Theuwis  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 13:59
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good news Jul 29, 2016

So I took all of your suggestions and thoughts into consideration, mailed the PM giving him my POV, supported by simple facts. Always in a polite way (no 'slap in the face' as I figuratively mentioned before). The PM replied that is was indeed an error and they'd change all PO's (about 5) that were already issued to the agreed rate and that all future work will be with the agreed rate.

Me like! Good weekend Yoda will have, hmmm yes!


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:59
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
Contradiction... Jul 29, 2016

Toon Theuwis wrote:

So I took all of your suggestions and thoughts into consideration, mailed the PM giving him my POV, supported by simple facts. Always in a polite way (no 'slap in the face' as I figuratively mentioned before). The PM replied that is was indeed an error and they'd change all PO's (about 5) that were already issued to the agreed rate and that all future work will be with the agreed rate.


So, they've basically contradicted themselves, since they gave you a different answer the first time you asked... Maybe they just took at stab at it?

Anyway, glad you sorted it out


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xxxToon Theuwis  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 13:59
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Unethical Jul 29, 2016

I added the word 'unethical' in a friendly way in my mail and the agency replied it didn't want me to think it was 'unethical'. Maybe that did it? Well, and lets first see if they really do change the PO's....

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:59
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Higher level decision? Jul 29, 2016

Mirko Mainardi wrote:
Toon Theuwis wrote:
he PM replied that is was indeed an error and they'd change all PO's (about 5) that were already issued to the agreed rate and that all future work will be with the agreed rate.

So, they've basically contradicted themselves, since they gave you a different answer the first time you asked... Maybe they just took at stab at it?

I suspect that the PM wasn't empowered to do anything other than insist on the normal grid. The email was probably seen by his boss, who saw the need to do the right thing.

Anyway, glad you sorted it out

Yes, good news indeed! Maybe they'll turn out to be your dream client.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 12:59
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Congratulations! Jul 29, 2016

Sometimes wonders happen by standing your ground, remaining calm and composed under pressure and using a healthy dose of good old diplomacy…

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:59
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It is important Jul 29, 2016

Every time we just go along with an agency 'nibbling away' at rates, we reinforce a precedent.
'That is the way we always do it,' says the PM glibly 'And all the other translators agree to it.'

Every time someone stands up and says 'Sorry, but I'm not all the others, and you agreed on something else with me.' - they are claiming back freelancers' right to set their own terms. That is also a precedent to be reinforced!


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