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Agency refuses to pay because client had to get text re-translated
Thread poster: sarah grosvenor

sarah grosvenor  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:15
Russian to English
+ ...
Jan 5, 2007

Hello everyone! I am in need of some advice. I recently completed a job for a large French agency. I very nearly turned it down as I had a lot of work on, but the project manager put a lot of pressure on me to accept the work. I did accept, but only because the client agreed to allow me an extra 24 hours than what had originally been demanded. Half-way through the translation job, the project manager began ringing me in desperate tones saying that the deadline had been moved forward again and that her client absolutely had to have it 12 hours earlier than agreed. I said there was nothing I could do about it, her client backed down, and the job was sent out sometime just before Christmas.

I got back from holiday today to find a message from the Project manager saying that her client had not been happy with the quality of the translation and had sent it for re-translation with another agency, and therefore she asked me to 'be flexible in my invoicing' (she was effectively telling me not to invoice them) as her agency would not be able to charge the client for the job. I am very displeased because it was such a rush job, and whilst it wasn't a perfect translation, it was, in my opinion, perfectly decent. It was around 5000 words, at a rate of 0.075 € per source word.

There is a clause in the purchase order from the agency that states: "In the interests of quality we would ask you to accept this file only if you consider yourself able to translate it and respect all aspects of the contract. Otherwise, we shall have to refuse the delivery of your translation, return the file to you immediately to be corrected, and to ask you for compensation for the inconvenience caused by the inadequacy of the service provided by you".

What are my rights and what is the best way to respond to the project manager? This has never happened to me before. I should add that I only started doing work for these people in December, but once they got hold of my number they rang me every half hour offering jobs, and everything was always needed for the next day...
Please help!


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:15
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Do not commit yourself to anything Jan 5, 2007

First of all: take your time, and do not commit yourself to any reductions until you are convinced that it is their request is fair.
Check out the Blue Board and payment practices lists, and find out as much as possible about the agency. There are quite a few notorious nonpayers, who will try a lot of tricks to avoid payment.

You write that it was not a perfect translation. What does it mean? Have you yourself found mistakes in it? When a text has to be retranslated instead of edited/proof-read it means that it is really bad: some terminological mistakes, bad grammer or clumsy sentences can be made up by a good editor. Have they substantiated their claim by giving specific examples?

I do not believe that a serious agency accepts not being paid and probably being dumped by a client so easily. They would offer taking a second look, contact you ASAP that there is a problem, and probably also hire a proof-reader to correct the mistakes. And they would probably be more direct: they would not ask you to be flexible with your invoicing.

I would refuse doing any work for them until this issue is sorted out.

Good luck
Attila





[Módosítva: 2007-01-05 20:54]

[Módosítva: 2007-01-05 20:58]


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sarah grosvenor  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:15
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Makes perfect sense...thank you :-) Jan 5, 2007

Thanks very much Attila...

I think what you say makes perfect sense to me. The fact that they have said the client thought it wasn't good enough means that I have started to doubt the worth of my own translation, but I can't find any errors (there had been a sentence missing but that was cleared up by the project manager before it was sent out to the client)... The style is fine and I was as rigorous as I usually am in looking up any technical terms. It certainly doesn't need retranslating and any outstanding errors would be picked up by a proofreader in any case.

Also I checked the blue board, and it seems that this agency does not have a good reputation. The bombard people with offers of work, but then the project managers never bother to get in touch with the translators to see how they are doing, sort out any problems or thank them/confirm receipt of the file.

I'm just wondering now what I should do if they refuse to pay, but I suppose that's a whole different can of worms.

Anyway, your response is so helpful to me! Thanks very much! or Koszonom szepen (this is the little hungarian i know, and I think that's still wrong!!)


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:15
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Rule of thumb Jan 5, 2007

Sarah, the lower the rate you work for, the greater the chance of having problems with the agency. Since you state what you worked for, it appears that the rate is far too low to win you any respect from an agency.

As for terms and conditions, it is much better to send your own to the agency and make them sign them. If they send you terms and conditions, fair enough. What you do is read them carefully and then send back your own, counteracting them and stating at the end that, where there is any difference, yours have priority.

In a nutshell, a very important part of being a freelance translator is asserting yourself and not letting some agency get the upper hand. I somehow doubt that you will get paid at all for this project. However, the correct thing to do is to issue the invoice for the agreed amount, and then send out the reminders, one by one, as the dates for them come round. Fax them, because that is the cheapest way. Eventually you can take up debt collection procedures if you have time and inclination and it seems financially worthwhile.

There should also be a clause in your own terms and conditions of business, stating that all complaints have to be made in writing, with substantiation, within 48 hours, otherwise the translation is deemed to have been accepted. In addition, you should state in your terms and conditions that you require to be given the opportunity to correct any real errors prior to the job of doing so being given to someone else. That is, the agency first has to prove what errors (if any) exist in the translation, and then give you the opportunity and a reasonable time limit to correct them. After that, they still owe you the full amount of money.

There are some agencies, as well as other customers, who do not pay, or find "excuses" not to pay. It is to deal with these that you need to create terms and conditions for them to sign, to give yourself the best chances in any subsequent debt collection procedures.

Astrid


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 05:15
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Just be persistent Jan 5, 2007

I had a similar experience last year. The agency was new to me and had both good and bad LWAs, but I accepted the job. There were no problems with the schedule, however.

About a month after the delivery (and my invoice) I got an e-mail from the agency. Their client had not been happy with my translation and "had spent a lot of time and money trying to fix the files". They sent me one file with comments, and I did not agree with any of the changes. The quality was not at all bad, and so I told the agency as I asked them for all the files. They told me their client refused to send them.

I kept emailing them several times explaining my views (in a businesslike manner, of course). First they did not reply. I also told them that I was willing to give my translations to a professional proofreader to prove my point.

After a couple of emails the agency seemed to "soften" a bit. They explained their situation: their client demanded a 50% discount but still refused to send the commented files I had asked. The agency asked me if I could give them a discount. In the end I agreed on a 15% discount just to get my money. I was paid three weeks after I sent them the new invoice.

In this case I think it was simply my persistence that did the trick.

I hope you get your money, Sarah!





[Edited at 2007-01-05 22:49]


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
A time-consuming solution Jan 6, 2007

If a client is going to refuse payment, they had darned well better document their objections sentence by sentence. If they're willing to share their "fixed" version, I usually do the following:

I make a grid (one line per changed sentence) showing the source text, my version, their version, and a comment (which as often as not reads "stylistic change" or explains why my version is right and theirs isn't).

If it turns out they found substantial errors, I'll own up to it and we can talk about discounts proportional to how much really needed retranslating. (This has yet to occur in my case.)

Once it's over, if you think they haven't acted in good faith, by all means document it in Blueboard and other payment practices forums. If they cheat you out of a substantial sum of money, you might try to find out what government agency handles consumer protection and fraud cases in their jurisdiction. Here in the States, it's often the State Attorney General's office. Not sure about France.


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DianaMoore  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 21:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
ask to see the new translation Jan 6, 2007

Hi Sarah,

Maybe you can ask to see the new translation in order to check how much of yours they used. During a placement, a company refused to pay a translation because one of their employees read it and made changes. But they re-used more than 60% of the original translation. I think both the translator and the proofreader got paid because of something on their contracts.

Hope you get it sorted soon.


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:15
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
So what's the agency's role in the first place?? Jan 6, 2007

Hi Sarah,
You did NOT work for a direct customer but an agency. You said the PM picked up a missing sentence BEFORE sending the job to the end customer, so it seems evident that s/he must have reread your work before it was sent out. THAT is when the agency should have noticed if the translation was good or bad. Obviously, the agency had no complaints at the time. To boot, in the meantime you have clearly taken another look at your work and stand by your translation.
The problem is the agency's, not yours, so don't let yourself be intimidated. And do NOT give them a "discount" of any kind!
Keep us posted!
Catherine


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xxxcmwilliams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:15
French to English
+ ...
good point Jan 6, 2007

cbolton wrote:

You did NOT work for a direct customer but an agency. You said the PM picked up a missing sentence BEFORE sending the job to the end customer, so it seems evident that s/he must have reread your work before it was sent out. THAT is when the agency should have noticed if the translation was good or bad. Obviously, the agency had no complaints at the time.
Catherine


As Catherine points out, this is not your problem as the agency apparently accepted the translation. Their terms state that they can refuse your translation and send it back IMMEDIATELY for correction, which doesn't seem to be the case here. I wouldn't give them a discount either, and I would be very suspicious of an agency who constantly offers rush jobs.


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sarah grosvenor  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:15
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
time to be persistent, then... Jan 6, 2007

Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment. They have all been really useful, and it's certainly true that I don't think the agency would have waited this long to get in touch were it a genuine problem - well, they might have, but like you say, it's their problem, not mine. I'm definitely going to try and ask them to substantiate the objections of the client, and in future I will set my own terms and conditions so that I am not eating out of the hand of some dubious agency, as Astrid suggests.

Sometimes it just seems unbelievable that people can behave so stupidly. I mean, it is their job to coordinate the thing from start to finish, and half of the PMs clearly don't negotiate properly with their clients and just dump all the work on the translator. AND i had to do this translation from a pdf! Grrr!

I will endeavour to get my money and will keep you posted...

Many thanks again

Sarah


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María Leonor Acevedo-Miranda  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:15
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I second cmwilliams of course Jan 6, 2007

cmwilliams wrote:

cbolton wrote:

You did NOT work for a direct customer but an agency. You said the PM picked up a missing sentence BEFORE sending the job to the end customer, so it seems evident that s/he must have reread your work before it was sent out. THAT is when the agency should have noticed if the translation was good or bad. Obviously, the agency had no complaints at the time.
Catherine


As Catherine points out, this is not your problem as the agency apparently accepted the translation. Their terms state that they can refuse your translation and send it back IMMEDIATELY for correction, which doesn't seem to be the case here. I wouldn't give them a discount either, and I would be very suspicious of an agency who constantly offers rush jobs.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:15
Italian to English
+ ...
Agree with everyone here... Jan 6, 2007

... and would just like to add that the only agency which has ever subjected me to a constant bombardment of urgent must-be-done-by-yesterday jobs is also the only agency with which I have ever had a dispute over quality. I too hope you get paid, but I'd say whatever happens don't ever work with them again - agencies of this kind can't be trusted, whereas in my experience the vast majority out there are reputable, decent and honest.

[Edited at 2007-01-06 21:34]


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Patricia Baldwin
United States
Local time: 19:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Demand payment ASAP! Jan 8, 2007

If the agency read your material and sent it to the client, the agency is responsible of your work as well as you are, they should honor their payment with you.

Do not feel discouraged, they are not acting correctly. Your translation has not been retranslated at all, they are using classic tactics ( perhaps they will talk of legal problems too in the future) to beat about the bush, to dilly dally, to defer
payment.

If I were you, after 2 or 3 petitions of payment, should they still not honor your payment, I would notify them that you will report the fact on several translator forums and take matters to a court, demand payment on your terms only.

They will pay then.

I believe they are a sleazy agency used to scaring translators away form their rights with the typical "client asked for retranslation...your translation was not good" repartee. You know your value, do not let them deceive you. Demand payment only and state that you know your translation is faultless.

Good luck,
God Bless,
Patricia

[Edited at 2007-01-08 04:09]


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misscaboo4
Local time: 03:15
Spanish to English
Project Manager's point of view Jan 9, 2007

Hi

I work for an agency as a Project Manager and think that your best approach is to go back to the agency and ask them to get any feedback they have from the client. Customers do not simply refuse to pay, or go out and get text retranslated unless, as I have found, an in country (in company) checker is involved. I am 100% certain that the client will be paying this agency and that if any discounts have been agreed it will be on futre projects-not this one! If we have issues of this sort we send the text back to the translator, with feedback and ask for their comments. Then we go back to the client and discuss anything raised. At that point discounts etc may be offered, although I can honestly say that this has never actually happened. When a PM chooses a translator for a job they have to be 100% confident that the translator can and will deliver and I am certain that this is the case here (as you did).

I agree with Patricia, demand payment, say you will report them on forums and best of luck!

Catherine


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shstephaniepark
South Korea
English to Korean
+ ...
Get revised text and try to see direct client if you can Jan 15, 2007

If you are sure of the quality of texts and of not commiting substantial erros at all, you should go to see the agency instead of calling.

Once I heard from my client that a proofreader corrected a lot my translation. But I was quite sure of the accuracy and perfectioness of my translation. So I went to say to the agency I wanted to read the revised text because I have never had such things before and want to check the corrections.

The revised text I saw was messy and full of personal supplementary translations not corresponding to the original text. And apparently, the proofreader/revisionist didn't read the instructions offered by direct client. So I explained the situation in the agency.

The problem is the agency sent the text already to direct client at the moment. So I said if I could talk to the direct client. And we called together and I suggested to the client I would come to their office to make the revision.

So I went there and did remove all the messy and unrelevant sentences. The direct client appreciated my work because they saw the way I am working and listened my comments. Further they called the agency to thank for all this. Thus I saved my reputation and my invoice.

I think sometimes you should be aggressive in protecting your translation and in negociating with clients before and after.


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