Discrepancy between translator and agency word/page count
Thread poster: Daniela Zambrini

Daniela Zambrini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:12
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Oct 24, 2005

Hello, I am facing a word count problem for the first time. I have read a few similar posts and I would appreciate your advice.
I recently delivered a rather large project
The p.o. stated "approximately" 167 pages (in Italy 1 page/cartella = 1500 keystrokes, including spaces).
I performed all calculations with word (256955/1500=171,30) and with anycount (257625/1500=171,75).
I sent my invoice for 171 pages, as I prefer to round off to a lower value.
I also attached both detailed calculations (there was a total of 6 files, sent on different dates, to be translated).
Now, the agency is saying that the count is wrong (we have never had any disputes before) and that the total amount of pages is 142. The PM asked me to recheck and promised they would be doing the same.
I double-checked, just to make sure, and my calculations are correct. I sent them a copy of my second page count, too.
I later also checked the target word count (ita>eng) and..bingo! the page count figures 141,5.
My problem is that I have always worked on source language count, but there is no statement on source/target on the purchase order (neither on previous jobs, which have been paid on time and without any disputes). The closest indication is that "approximately 167 pages" which, in my opinion, is much closer to 171 than 142.
I am still waiting for them to reply to my second detailed calculation, where I stated that the numbers were related to original source files.
I would not mind if our page count had only 1 or 2 pages discrepancy, but 30 pages is just about 30% of the whole translation!
I feel I should have clearly stated in my acceptance of the p.o. that I would have been referring to source language count, but as this had always been my practice I didn't think I had to state it again.
I feel foolish, and I have learnt a lesson: NEVER NEVER omit any details, even those which seem self-evident and obvious.
In the meantime, could it be that they "accidentally on purpose" calculated the most convenient result?
Thanks for hearing me out, I still don't know what to do should they insist on their 142 total!
DZ


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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
stay firm Oct 24, 2005

Hi Daniela,

IMHO, you should stay firm with your calculation.
You say you've been working with this agency before, you charged them according to source count and they never complained = they accepted that.
Now, if they haven't mentioned the point before you started this job and there hasn't been any written indication that oyu should charge by target, it's perfectly acceptable that you keep charging as you used to.
I don't think it's professional to change the rules after the job has been finished. Let's hope it's just a misunderstanding!

Best,
Grace.


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Russell Gillis  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:12
Spanish to English
Consistency most important Oct 24, 2005

I don't think you have anything to worry about. You have been consistent in your approach with this agency. They seem to be the ones changing the rules.

You needn't feel this is a "blunder" on your part. In my case, target or source word count is established from the beginning of the working relationship, either by myself or the agency. Once it is established, the rules are understood by both parties.

It sounds to me like this agency has a client who wants to pinch pennies and base the invoice on the final word count. I don't think the agency would intentionally pocket the difference (if everything has been fine with them) - they're probably just feeling some heat from the client.

Either way, it is not your fault and is an issue they must deal with. Remind them that you have never changed your methodology, and don't understand why they are.

Best of luck and be firm!


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:12
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
"Cartelle" calculated on the word count of the translation Oct 24, 2005

Hi Daniela,

All of the agencies I work with in Italy calculate the "cartelle" used to pay the translation on the word count of the translation, not the original.
An English translation of an Italian text will be shorter than the original in Italian. 30% shorter is quite unusual though.

It would be interesting to get some feedback as to whether agencies use the original or the translation to bill the client, and if anyone else is applying the word count of the original to Italian->English translations.
Mac


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Daniela Zambrini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:12
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Italian source l. - English target l. Oct 24, 2005

Jo Macdonald wrote:


An English translation of an Italian text will be shorter than the original in Italian. 30% shorter is quite unusual though.



Yes, 30% does seem a lot, but I read and re-read, and proof-read all the segments (I used Trados) and I am sure that nothing is missing.
The original source text was quite long-winded and verbose, and while I didn't chop off anything drastic I did simplify a few tedious and repetitive sentences.
Feed-back on the translation was positive so the quality of my output is not being questioned by the agency or the client, the issue is the keystroke/page count.
I guess maybe the end client (a public institution) imagined that target word count was going to be used for invoicing (but then, that's between them and the agency, anyway). They might just not realise that what is being said in a 10 line sentence with no full-stops in Italian cannot be rendered in the same way in English.
I'll keep you posted.
DZ

----
getting confused with this percentage calculation...yes, more or less 30%...


[Edited at 2005-10-24 19:34]

[Edited at 2005-10-24 19:45]

[Edited at 2005-10-24 19:49]


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:12
German to English
+ ...
Course of dealing Oct 24, 2005

The following might not help you all that much, seeing as how you are in Italy, but the concept should be about the same everywhere (ask your lawyer):

"U.C.C. - ARTICLE 1- GENERAL PROVISIONS
PART 2

§ 1-205. Course of Dealing and Usage of Trade.
(1) A course of dealing is a sequence of previous conduct between the parties to a particular transaction which is fairly to be regarded as establishing a common basis of understanding for interpreting their expressions and other conduct.

(2) A usage of trade is any practice or method of dealing having such regularity of observance in a place, vocation or trade as to justify an expectation that it will be observed with respect to the transaction in question.

[...]

(4) The express terms of an agreement and an applicable course of dealing or usage of trade shall be construed wherever reasonable as consistent with each other; but when such construction is unreasonable express terms control both course of dealing and usage of trade and course of dealing controls usage of trade.

[...]" (cf. http://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc/1/1-205.html ).

In the absence of an express agreement, payment based on the target could probably be considered a usage of trade (see all of Subsection 2 at the link above). But, as is mentioned in Subsection 4, "...course of dealing controls usage of trade."

-Derek

[Edited at 2005-10-24 20:06]


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:12
German to English
+ ...
Winning and losing? Or customer relationship management? Oct 24, 2005

Hi Daniela,

Seems that you may have lost a game of "Word rate roulette", cf. http://www.proz.com/post/259767#259767

The fact that the agency apparently previously accepted your source word count could possibly speak in your favour, but are you prepared to go to court to prove that?

But to look at things from a different perspective:
Is this agency a good customer (otherwise reliable, good projects, friendly manner)? If so, it is probably worth trying to reach some sort of friendly agreement (perhaps by phone rather than e-mail). Perhaps they can meet you half way, and you can agree on the procedure for future jobs. If they can't (or won't) pay more on this job, they may try to help you in other ways (e.g. giving you an extra job or two, giving you a job where they can pay you some form of bonus or pay full rate for repetitions etc.).

If the agency is not a good customer, it may be time to cut the ropes and free yourself of this customer.


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:12
German to English
+ ...
Oh so true... Oct 24, 2005

Victor Dewsbery wrote:
This would be a glorious gold mine for lawyers, except that translators can't afford lawyers, so even the lawyers don't make a fortune out of this game.


I've seldom laughed so hard (or was that crying?).


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:12
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Consider a mid-point Oct 24, 2005

You might consider trying to work out a mid-point between your two counts. It was a lot of work and often translators give discounts when there is such a high volume.

That said, the agency was unprofessional by not clearly establishing a price for such a big project beforehand. You also bear some of the blame for not making sure yourself. The bigger the project, the clearer your agreement should be.

If I were in your position I would try to meet the client halfway on this particular project. They do have a lot of work and you might want to give them a discount.

On the other hand, if they play games like this all the time, get out before they rip you off after you've translated a book.

Also, do post your experiences with them on the Blue Board, please.


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:12
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
What's wrong with this agency?? Oct 25, 2005

You have previously worked for these people, right? A lot? A little?

Daniela Zambrini wrote:

My problem is that I have always worked on source language count, but there is no statement on source/target on the purchase order (neither on previous jobs, which have been paid on time and without any disputes). The closest indication is that "approximately 167 pages" which, in my opinion, is much closer to 171 than 142.



If you've always worked on source, then there was no reason for you to think otherwise on this job. I would have done the same thing. If I were you, I would get out the old invoices and go over them with the agency. If they refuse to budge, then at MOST I'd settle for the count of 167. They can hardly change their minds to suit their wallets. If this is the case, you're better off losing them.
And RE Italian agencies, it's not true that they ALL count on target. About half of the ones I work for count on source and the number is growing. It's more transparent for all concerned.
Catherine


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Daniela Zambrini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:12
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Time to write the agency off my list! Oct 25, 2005

Well, here we go: after receiving an e-mail from the PM stating that their final count was 142 I called the agency.
I went straight to the point, politely, asking if by any chance they had calculated the target text.
"Well, yes, OF COURSE! We always calculate target text. All your colleagues do so, even the AITI rate indications state this is how you calculate your text!". I am quite sure she means translators INTO Italian and not vice versa.
Needless to say, I was annoyed, but I kept calm. I explained that I had always used source text (I even reminded her that during our first phone call months ago I had mentioned SOURCE WORDS and then accepted the Italian keystroke/cartelle count). I explained that even though the result was a lower number I had processed and translated 170 pages, but to no avail. She even had the cheek to tell me that the translation of the same documents into French (by another translator) was going to be paid more because the target count was 15% higher.
I could hear she was embarassed but she didn't budge from her point of view.
The fact that previous translations had been calculated differently didn't matter, she said she had believed that I had always invoiced on target text, or maybe in those specific projects there was not such a big difference in the word total.
I will not be paying a lawyer for the couple of hundred euros I believe they owe me. So I said "Very well, I am sending you my invoice and I will be reconsidering my cooperation with you in the future".
Oh boy, do I feel enraged! With myself, for not having clearly stated in each new purchase order that I was referring to source text. With myself again for having already posted a positive blueboard message a few months ago. I am also upset because I had got many jobs from them, and I considered them one of my major clients.
I have learnt my lesson, and it has been expensive in terms of time and money. I hope, at least, someone will profit from my experience and not make the same mistake.
Thanks for your support, everyone. At least I know someone else out there understands how I feel.
It's time to find new clients, definitely. DZ

[Edited at 2005-10-25 10:06]


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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 04:12
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Contact a jobs moderator Oct 25, 2005

Daniela Zambrini wrote:

Oh boy, do I feel enraged! With myself, for not having clearly stated in each new purchase order that I was referring to source text. With myself again for having already posted a positive blueboard message a few months ago. I am also upset because I had got many jobs from them, and I considered them one of my major clients.


Daniela - I'm not quite sure about exactly what powers jobs moderators have with regard to changing entries (I know that they can certainly change (or even remove?) entries in cases of verified non-payment). Perhaps you could contact a jobs moderator here at proz to find out exactly what options are open to you regarding your rating.

Kind regards,

Alison

[Edited at 2005-10-25 16:43]


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:12
German to English
+ ...
Make a stink Oct 25, 2005

Daniela, this is really an unfortunate situation and I'm sorry you have to go through it. That said, in your case I would do the following:

1) Bite the bullet and invoice for 142 cartella (which they have essentially agreed to pay; no point in sending a bill for 171 and then fighting over it for years)
2) Write a completely separate letter, preferably sent via email and registered mail, to the absolute top manager of this agency (I assume it is someone different than your contact) or to more than one manager, detailing your complaint and how badly you feel you have been treated
3) Threaten to cut off the relationship if you do not have a response by XX date. I find this is a smart move because it gives your respondent a deadline. Explain also that you will be rating them in the proz.com Blue Board as well as other translation lists (maybe you know some in Italy; in Germany the yahoo group zahlungspraxis is popular)
4) My guess is either that the manager will contact you and be apologetic, i.e. you will reach some kind of agreement, or they will ignore it, in which case I would proceed as described in 3)
5) In which case I would cut my losses, terminate the cooperation, give them an appropriate rating at proz.com and anywhere else you can think, and chalk this one up to experience


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:12
German to English
+ ...
Tread carefully with threats (they may backfire) Oct 25, 2005

Michele Johnson wrote:
3) Threaten to cut off the relationship if you do not have a response by XX date. I find this is a smart move because it gives your respondent a deadline. Explain also that you will be rating them in the proz.com Blue Board as well as other translation lists


There are agencies that threaten to sue translators for slander in such circumstances (and one agency even closed down a translator forum for a while by taking legal action against allegations that had been made by a translator there). It's best not to write anything in anger, and not to go beyond the bare facts of the case. Be careful to state only the facts that you have experienced and not to say anything that they could construe as an insult or slander. It may also be worth checking whether you have signed a confidentiality agreement and what it contains. If in doubt ask a lawyer (I am not one).

Michele's suggestion of writing to the senior management of the agency is more promising IMHO (at least for the moment). Although it is probably best to sleep on it first so that you don't write in anger. If you manage to hit a friendly tone, they may try to find some way to make things up to you if they feel that your services are worth keeping so that you will be happy to continue working for them .

As for BlueBoard / Zahlungspraxis / Payment Practices and similar lists, I would not threaten to report the agency there - that would merely mean that yet another agency is looking to see what we do among ourselves. If you want to report the agency and/or change the BB rating, I would suggest just doing it, without threatening it first.
BTW, as far as I know Zahlungspraxis and Payment Practices are focused on whether the money is received on time, late or never. They tend to pay less attention to whether agencies are fair or friendly, and they do not easily accept prose descriptions of the way the agency has treated you.


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:12
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Daniela, Oct 25, 2005

Look on the bright side. I wish I'd been getting paid on source. Been targeted for years.


cbolton wrote:

RE Italian agencies, it's not true that they ALL count on target. About half of the ones I work for count on source and the number is growing. It's more transparent for all concerned.
Catherine


Catherine
Thanks for that, this community is great. It's really starting to open my eyes to what I though was going on in the sector and what actually is.

As I'm a bit of a cheeky bugger. Some time in the near future I may grill ya a bit about book translations as I've been thinking of getting into that for a while.
If you're up for it of course.
Thanks again.
Mac


[Edited at 2005-10-25 21:20]


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