Dealing with client who refuses payment changing terms after the fact
Thread poster: Joab Eichenberg-Eilon

Joab Eichenberg-Eilon  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Jul 3, 2017

In December, 2016, an outsourcer in a different state in the US approached me for collaboration for a specific client, requiring immediate response around the clock and agreed (in writing) to a price per word and to a minimum charge. The collaboration was based on oral agreements and assignments were given by email. From January to April, all went well and invoices based on these terms were paid. At some point, when several minimum charges appeared in one invoice, the outsourcer claimed that we had agreed to combine several small jobs (subject to minimum charge) and price them by the word. While we had never discussed this before, I chose to go along with this. In June 2017 there were many jobs and the amount of my invoice was unusually high. Now the outsourcer claims never to have agreed to the price, saying she would pay that invoice at a price 11% lower. Unhappily, I complied again. In response to my reduced invoice, I received (for the first time) a so-called "PO" - an excel file - based on a price was 16% lower than what we had agreed. Repeatedly changing the terms after work has been submitted and invoiced seems to me highly unethical. I would appreciate your thoughts on the best way to proceed with this issue.

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Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Stop and renegotiate Jul 3, 2017

If you don't agree to the proposed terms, you should (immediately) stop working for the client and renegotiate. I would bring up your concern as you describe it here in the forum, including the "unethical" comment, and put any future pricing in writing. You could also stick with your agreed price as you see it, send an invoice, and then pursue the issue for non-payment if that feels right to you based on your verbal agreements.

Even after putting things in writing, I frequently see issues arise when accepting work without PO's or without assessing jobs individually for regular clients. Typically, I gradually get different (more difficult) kind of jobs or additional requests and added requirements. Or the quality of work that I need to review gets worse. Or a lower rate is proposed in exchange for more volume.

It is sometimes hard to bring these (small) things up at the first occurrence, and, like you did, you grudgingly accepted it (twice). But before you know it you're a push-over: you have taught them to take advantage of you. You need to set your limits and stick to them.


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Changing payment terms Jul 3, 2017

The first problem is "I chose to go along" and "I complied again". Once you present yourself as a doormat, the client will walk all over you.
The various e-mails as you have described them are in fact purchase orders and these can stand up in court. You should immediately stop working for this client and tell her you are angry (not disappointed) at the changes. If the end-client is a business, you could go to Small Claims Court. If a large amount of money is involved, you may wish to hire an attorney. In any case, it's time to show some "chutzpah".


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:54
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Stop all work and put it all black on white! Jul 3, 2017

If you ask me, I would say that what you describe are not the doings of a reliable outsourcer. You might want to use the Blueboard to show your likeliness of working again for this outsourcer under the current conditions.

If you want to keep working with this person, I reckon it would not harm to put all conditions clearly black on white on a paper to be signed by both parties and which can only amended in writing and with the signature of both parties. This would protect you from further fiddling around with your dues.


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:54
Member
French to English
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Stand up for yourself Jul 3, 2017

Michael Newton wrote:

The first problem is "I chose to go along" and "I complied again". Once you present yourself as a doormat, the client will walk all over you.


Yes. Since you agreed (albeit reluctantly) to the reductions, I doubt she would accept that she has been unethical here. Manipulative is more the word.

Was the outsourcer lying when she said she never agreed to the price of the invoice that was eventually paid at an 11% discount? If she was, then that dishonesty was a warning sign. You need to stand firm when someone does that. Don't let her dishonesty make you doubt your own memory of what was agreed. She sounds like one of those people who will keep trying it on when they sense a willingness to cave in, and so far, your behaviour has given her the green light to go on pushing. You see the pattern that's emerging here - 11% off, then 16%... If you let her, it will eventually increase to 100%!

The way to stop this is to insist on ALL of the terms being confirmed in writing, and then refuse to budge if she tries to push you to accept less than you agreed to. Without a confirmed price in writing, you won't have much of a leg to stand on if she tries any more of her chicanery. But if you do have everything in writing and she tries anything dishonest, at least you'll have proof of what was agreed, and supposing the matter ever went to court (which I think is highly unlikely as she doesn't sound stupid), you would then have a much stronger case.

Be prepared for the possibility that she may be unwilling to agree things in writing and may insist on discussing it over the phone. If I were you, I would refuse to deal with her on the phone. And be prepared for the fact that she may be very persistent! If you stand firm for long enough, she'll get the message.

[Edited at 2017-07-03 18:23 GMT]


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
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I agree with everyone else here Jul 3, 2017

Lianne's comments and suggestions seem especially on point.

This is a person who is not to be trusted.

בהצלחה יואב

חזק ואמץ


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Joab Eichenberg-Eilon  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
English to Hebrew
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jul 7, 2017

Thank you all for the moral support.

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