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Deductions for errors?
Thread poster: Claudia Vale

Claudia Vale  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
Jun 18, 2007

Is is ever acceptable for an agency to make deductions for each error made on a translation job? I am assuming it's not. I am having problems with an agency over a current job and now they are threatening to deduct money for each mistake they find in a previous job, even though the previous job was accepted with no complaints.
I'm having a bad day! Suggestions, please!


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Helene Martin-Hernandez  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
English to French
+ ...
Difficult question Jun 18, 2007

Dear Claudia,

This is indeed a difficult question.
I think you should discuss the mistakes found, and find out how important they are and see if you can try and reassure your client regarding their seriousness.

However, it is true that we translators are supposed to deliver impeccable files (even if we know that there will always be a mistake that we cannot spot despite our numerous checkings).
I once bought a router which, after a few months, did not work for some reason. I brought it back, and they refunded me. I think it is the same here. You deliver a service, which should be 100% correct, and if there are mistakes, then it can be considered that you did not really deliver.

Therefore, even if it's hard to accept, maybe you could provide a discount to your client, and assure them that next time, you will be more careful. We are humans and therefore not perfect, and it can also be good sometimes to realise that, and try and get better every time.

Good luck!
Hélène


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
Italian to English
+ ...
I don't agree with the analogy Jun 18, 2007

A translation can't break down like a piece of machinery - if it was accepted without any complaints, it's unreasonable for the agency to go back and look for errors now.

Having said that, what you should do depends on how important the client is to you. WRT the current disputed translation, if they can demonstrate your errors I'd say they are certainly entitled to a discount. For the previous translation, you may want to stick to your guns, accepting you'll never work with the client again but striving to get paid in full for that job. Or you may decide it's worth meeting them half way, to attempt to salvage your relationship with them.

[Edited at 2007-06-18 12:06]


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sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:48
English to Russian
+ ...
And still.. Jun 18, 2007

Claudia,

I am afraid translators are not equal partners with outsourcers in this regard. I can give you a vivid recollection of one of my worst nightmares: a huge legal project, apparently reviewed by several lawyers-agency clients, no glossaries provided, translation submitted on time. The agency is in France. The PM as a native speaker praises the quality of my translation. As the payment time comes I receive a message with a list of editing corrections made by these lawyers in my translation. The translation was apparently NOT sent to an editor - great way to cut costs for the agency. Corrections are primarily stylistic. The Work Order is in French and contains a clause about penalties if the agency does not like the quality. Although I submit my arguments against, they still deducted 10% from the total and paid 60 days late explaining the delay in payment by low quality of translation (??) and only after I sent them First Collection Notice in the French language (thanks to a colleague's help). Of course I placed a negative feeback on the Blue Board but the lesson I learned is to never agree to take a job with a Work Order in a language you do not work with, and containing penalties for translators.


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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:48
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Services and products Jun 18, 2007

I think, unlike a product bought in a store, that if they accepted your previous translation without problem then they can't go back on it. You offered a service that they felt was satisfactory. Most products even have a limited guarantee period.

It's actually their fault, because if they thought you made errors why did they come back to you? Makes me question their own ethics, since they're trying to make you pay for their own fault.

As for the current translation, like Hélène said, we have to deliver impeccable files. Even if the errors come from forgetting to run a spell check before sending it, you should take responsibility for it. It's part of our profession.
However, I do not agree with an agency deducting it for you. Show you're a professional and make the decision to discount a percentage yourself. The core issue here is that you make sure they know you're a complete professional, and even if you don't work with them again, you handled the situation in a just and firm manner, and you can be proud of yourself.


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
On top of that... Jun 18, 2007

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

A translation can't break down like a piece of machinery - if it was accepted without any complaints, it's unreasonable for the agency to go back and look for errors now.



The agency makes more money than a freelancer, because it is also supposed to CHECK the work that gets turned in before sending it on to the customer.
If the agency didn't check your work when you first turned it in, the agency alone is responsible.
I really don't understand why they would call an old job into question because they have problems with the current one.
Catherine


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Akoma
English to Russian
+ ...
Deductions for errors? Jun 18, 2007

Claudia, I think the answer to your question depends a lot on the kind of agreement you've signed with the agency (if you have), or what is written in the purchase order.
Some agency contracts provide for quality penalties; others don't.
If your contract or PO has such provisions, then I guess there is little that can be done.
If they don't, well, try offering to correct your mistakes. (They can tell you that it's too late though.) I would go even as far as tell them that if they deduct, say, 10 percent from the pay, they are entitled to only 90 percent of the translation.
As for our professional obligations, well, call me a dissident but I disagree with the previous posters in that we translators are expected to deliver impeccable translations. May the world not impose such expectations on us. They are unrealistic (has anyone really seen an "impeccable translation" produced by just single translator, no "second-pair-of-eyes" proofing, no editing?). As a professional community I think we should take a defensive stance against unrealistic expectations.
Impeccability is ensured by a good quality control -- two or even three pairs of eyes to proof and edit the translation -- and not by holding a financial whip over the translator.
I almost never sign contracts that contain fines for "poor quality" -- simply because such provisions are usually so vaguely termed that they basically give the client the right not to pay you at will.
That said, I do not advocate sloppy work of course.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:48
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Is there any professional paradigm for this? Jun 18, 2007

I always wonder where this idea of charging back for mistakes came from. The only example I see of it is in school tests. The student writes an essay, and the teacher takes off, say, so many points or fractions thereof for each mistake found.

Why have translators been sent back to grammar school?

Let's see some other professional examples.

To match an urgent translation job, let's take the case of a wedding photographer. S/he charges a certain preset amount for the job, knowing that the situation cannot be repeated. From the 243 photos taken, 62 had one of more of these: bride's father blinked, glare from chandeliers/mirrors, nephew snee[z|r]ed, under/overexposure, uncle was picking his nose, out of focus, waiter stepped in, flash failed, grandpa had fly open... How much would be deducted from the amount, assuming that - like in most translations - nothing had been agreed to this regard beforehand?

After plastic surgery, the patient's nipples are kinda "cross-eyed". Should the surgeon have his pay deducted, or a chance to fix the job?

After a fine lunch, the crème brulée the restaurant serves is sour, rancid, or distasteful in any other way. Do you eat it all for free, or do you pay for it and get it replaced by any other dessert of your choice "on the house", plus a courtesy liqueur for the inconvenience?

All these situations are fraught with an element of questionability, as there was no previous agreement in advance for the worst case.

So, after the translator was single-handedly careless to deliver a less-than-perfect job, the agency decides to level down with him/her and unilaterally cut their pay by an arbitrary amount.

If the photographer crossed the line in shots missed, it's unlikely the newlyweds' families will ever hire this vendor again. If the doctor is successful in realigning the boobs, s/he will be placed in the question-mark zone. And patrons might be likely to give that restaurant another shot.

However everything points back to refining the vendor selection process, and not moneywise penalizing them. So why do it to translators alone?


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Claudia Vale  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Lots to think about Jun 18, 2007

Thank you all for your comments and support. Sadly, I don't have a written agreement with the agency but as I said, there was never a problem until now so I felt no need to be wary.
I will have a good think about everything you have said and as always, it's nice to know I am not the only one in this situation!


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Member (2004)
English to Italian
How long ago did you deliver your previous job? Jun 18, 2007

I think a reasonable timeframe for contesting a translation is one week and, even if errors are found, the agency should give you the opportunity to rectify the mistakes. I'm afraid they are shifting all the blame onto you. What are agencies there for?

Giovanni


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Claudia Vale  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
They had enough time to warn me of problems Jun 18, 2007

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

I think a reasonable timeframe for contesting a translation is one week and, even if errors are found, the agency should give you the opportunity to rectify the mistakes.
Giovanni


Good point, Giovanni. I delivered the job concerned over a month ago and completed corrections on it ten days ago. That's why I think it's unfair to start nit-picking and looking for ways to punish me. Hand on heart, I did the best job I could do and I feel so aggrieved.

Why is there no trade union???


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Helene Martin-Hernandez  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
English to French
+ ...
Timeframe Jun 18, 2007

This is strange: you say "I delivered the job concerned over a month ago and completed corrections on it ten days ago."

Did your client ask you to make these corrections 10 days ago? If so, why was that? Or did you realise there was something wrong and you sent a corrected file?


[Edited at 2007-06-18 15:39]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Flemish to English
+ ...
Translator= EGO SUM, hence not TU. Jun 18, 2007

Why is there no trade union???


Because translation is an egocentric profession of people spread around the globe sitting behind their pc-screens.
Besides, if I get your posting right, they deduce money they owe you from a previous translation from the translation you are making right now. Aren't those two separate deals? It is the first time, I 've heard such a "joke".


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Claudia Vale  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Corrections Jun 18, 2007

Helene Martin-Hernandez wrote:

Did your client ask you to make these corrections 10 days ago? If so, why was that? Or did you realise there was something wrong and you sent a corrected file?


[Edited at 2007-06-18 15:39]


It took that long for the agency to come back to me, requesting a few changes and asking me to check my work again (for an agreed fee).


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