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Warning about agency's practice with regard to test translations and payment
Thread poster: Andrew Higgs
Andrew Higgs  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:59
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Dec 12, 2007

Hi everyone!

Okay, I translate from Norwegian, Danish and sometimes Swedish to English and know quite a lot of you. I am now 100% working freelance and have stopped outsourcing. I thought you should all know about this story that I originally posted on another forum here. The company in question is based in the UK.

Any feedback will be appreciated!

Some time ago I was asked to complete a paid test translation for an agency for whom I have worked for many years. I have done many projects for them, most were okay although their rates were - and are - low and payment was always late, but I put that down to a lack of efficiency rather than wilful late payment. Annoying all the same, and unnecessary.

Anyway, the test was highly technical (truck repair manuals) and I pointed this out along with the fact that it was not my main language pair (it was Swedish rather than Norwegian to English) but I gave it my best shot, which is what I told the agency. Time passed and every now and again I asked for a progress report. Finally I heard that the end client was not satisfied with my translation, which was probably as well because evidently I would have struggled with more of the same. The agency contact was very rude in telling me this but I let it go and sent an invoice. I heard nothing more and the due date passed. This is not, as I said, unusual.

Then when the invoice was around 2-3 weeks overdue I asked what was happening (politely) to be told that "there were so many errors I'm surprised you want payment". I wasn't too bothered at this point as the amount was not high, but I would have appreciated being told this before this point and questioned why a paid test was now unpaid. I also think it is normal practice to state that payment will be reduced/refused before the due date, and to send the translated test back with tracked changes for my review. But I am not concerned about thirty quid for this test, it is what happened afterwards...

To make an already long story a little shorter the agency contact became extremely rude, criticized my previous work (although I had never heard any complaints before and he continued to use my services) and said that he would take legal action to reclaim money from me because they did not get the contract for which I provided a test. He since claims that he has a team of translators for this work so why he didn't send their tests I do not know.

This, in my mind, is a ridiculous case and he does not know what he is talking about legally here.

Are we now financially liable for test translations? If so who wants to do them now? I have no written agreement with him, no PO or anything. Surely the point of the test was to ensure that he had the necessary resources for the project, and it turned out that he didn't. Is that MY fault? This is an outrageous idea and I am interested in what everyone else thinks about this.

He is also extremely upset about me posting a comment about his attitude, low rates and delays in payments on the Blue Board, but I am not going to be threatened, bullied and pushed around by arrogant agencies.

What is happening to some people in this industry?

PART TWO:
The agency contact won't let it lie!

Check this and his attitude to Proz.com and our right to post:

"Your hard luck story on ProZ.com is the worst sort of half truth. Again, you just love to be the victim Andy, don't you.

I'll spell my position out in another way, so perhaps you'll understand finally where I am coming from: I could propose to write on a very public forum that 'Andrew Pierre Higgs is an out and out liar. Avoid him at all costs.'

This is perfectly true"..."However what is so obnoxious about this posting and yours is that it is designed purely to damage a reputation, and it really has nothing to do with telling the truth.

This is why I take excpetion to your posting and this is why I am not inclined to treat you leniently when it comes to damages.

I could also make one of my own to all European agencies warning them that ProZ.com is being used by you to hold agencies to ransom over money.
The deal is you make a mistake, they pay or or else you post a load of out of context half truths about them with the sole intention of stopping others from working for them"

Unbelievable...

PART THREE:
And yet more pleasantries:

"Good editing! You really are a liar aren't you Andy, as said, the worst
sort, the one who deals in half truths, for example, what made you leave
out the bit down below I wonder"

because I left out the name of an uninvolved third party (quite clearly you can see that something is missing)

In case anyone thinks I am the one hiding something here is the full text with the company name left out:

"...This is perfectly true, regrettably we all lie once in a while, e.g your claim about xxx. However what..."

Since I do not understand what claim I made about this company and the fact they are not involved in this I left it out.


WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK OF THIS SITUATION?


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 14:59
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Strange test at least Dec 12, 2007

Did you make an entry at the blueboard already. That's the first thing to do.
Depending on how much money was involved you should either leave it alone or press charges.
Regards
Heinirch


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:59
Member
English to French
What I think: a lot of noise about nothing Dec 12, 2007

You admit you failed the test, goodwillingly offer not to get paid for it, and if you feel the agency is rude/pays late/pays too little, end the relationship. This is another way for not being threatened/bullied/pushed around.

Neither time nor energy wasted.
Philippe


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Haiyang Ai  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:59
English to Chinese
+ ...
Test translation Dec 12, 2007


Did you make an entry at the blueboard already. That's the first thing to do.


Agreed. Make and entry and stop working with them. Be careful when taking test translations. They rarely lead to real jobs.

Kind regards,
Haiyang


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:59
English to German
+ ...
It is getting personal and ridiculous on both sides Dec 12, 2007

it seems to me.

You failed a test and it was not paid. If you have a contract on this, state your terms (e.g. copy of the proofread version and on that basis negotiation of payment). If they do not accept contact a lawyer if its worth it, if not just wipe them off your memory. Everything else is just emotional nonsense and a waste of time and energy.


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Andrew Higgs  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:59
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not about the money or future work Dec 12, 2007

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the feedback (keep it coming!)

I did of course give them a '1' on the Blue Board before this posting, and have dropped them and given up on the money.

It's more the attitude I am amazed over. And that's what I think should be shared with you all - a total lack of respect for us translators.

Business is business and I have tried to keep it that way; when it turns personal (and clearly it was not me that changed the tone) I lose interest in the money and am concerned with protecting my reputation.

Andy



[Edited at 2007-12-12 14:02]


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 14:59
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
I know how it feels Dec 12, 2007

I am for Andrew. Now it even does not matter any longer if he did a good translation or if the agency really found some problems.

Why the agency involves into such insulting emails (as Andrew quoted) instead of simply telling "Dear Andrew, sorry, but our feedback on your test translation is negative. It is negative because (see the list with the mistakes attached - 1st, 2nd, 3rd mistake, etc. what is obvious)...Due to that we cannot pay you for your test job". The agency should do like that as soon as they have an evaluation of the test. End of story.

What we have now? A fire of emotions from both sides. As the agency serious, they would not involve into all that dispute. They'd prove that the translation was of poor quality and that is it (if some obvious remarks are not sufficient to the translator).

I cannot say if Andrew did the job really well, but it is not, at least, ethical from the side of that translation agency, to write such insulting emails with philosophies - they could substantiate the negative outcome of the test and that is it. Let alone, they write all those things AFTER the due payment date.

My personal advice for Andrew - take a deep breath, forget about them, do not waste your time on those things and philosophies with them. Serious and reputable agencies do not work like that - take a red pencil and strike them out from your client list. Better spend your time searching for new clients. That will be more reasonable. There are freaks in any business, and translation business is not an exception. And a BB "1" for such an agency is a must. Maybe they will realize that a good name costs much more than a dozen of non paid euros for a test translation with the claims they never ever managed to substantiate.

There is a good Lithuanian proverb. "Do not fight with a pig - after the fight you will both be all in dirt, and the pig WILL ENJOY IT". Take it easy, relax and forget about them and all that issue.



ALSO. A "real-life" case from today about those "registrations for our database", NDAs, and test translations. In Feb 2006, one agency approached me asking for all that. Seemed serious (good BB records, etc.). Filled in almost 5 pages of their online application form with most meticulous questions, many not quite relevant to translation, then, before sending me the test, they have sent an NDA for my siganture. After that they have sent me 500 words of a test translation that I agreed to do. Did it. Waited for their feedback as they promised it will come in 2 weeks. After a month or so I have asked "how was the test" and the reply was simple - "The test was without a single issue of quality, all is super, but your rate is too high for us" (but the rate was discussed before all those tests). Today, the same person sends a similar proposal (almost copy-pasted probably from their template "Grand proposals") and they offer again cooperation for possible big projects, ask for registration into their database, NDA, test translation, etc. I have reminded them that I did already everything for them, incl. a test with positive feedback.

"Thank you for your e-mail.
I am sorry but we cannot find you in our database. Can you please inform
us when you have registered yourself in our database and under which
name?"

One more and almost a final reason not to register into the "databases", nor to do the tests. I have wasted at least half a working day for those tests, NDAs, database filling. Now a simple question - for what. Take a hourly rate one can spend on some proofing job, or estimate how much you can get doing a real translation job instead of all that stuff, and...And if there is no job at the moment, better to watch a TV or have some other rest...




[Edited at 2007-12-12 15:14]


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Capesha  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:59
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Agree with Marius Dec 12, 2007

It's a bad story which you are telling, Andrew.

But you are not the only one who suffers from such practices. I had a similar case some months ago, where I worked for a GB agency (5 jobs at all) and then wondered about payment.

The look to the blueboard was a big shock - they never exceeded a "2".

After the 2nd reminder I added a "1" to the blueboard and that was the moment where they started to inform me about the poor, poor quality of the job that I did.
I kept tough and asked them if that was the reason to gimme five of those jobs?

Ok, finally they paid and I changed 1 into 3.

Little joke at the end: 3 weeks ago I got an email from them, saying that I am one of their favorite translators and I should tell them, if I were willing to work during Christmas holidays.

Co-operations are like marriages: you get married in heaven and divorced in hell.
Just forget it, take a deep breath and go on.


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:59
English to German
+ ...
Other ways towards a good reputation Dec 12, 2007

Okay, you say it is not about payment but about your reputation. This is exactly the point your contact makes, too.

I cannot understand the harsh way they reacted and why they insist on harassing you. Have you contacted the head of the company about this? Or is your contact the head of the company?

If you think they are actively trying to damage your reputation you should contact Proz.com about this, for there are rules for members here on both sides. Your contact obviously thinks you are actively trying to damage their reputation. As already discussed before, the BlueBoard is a place to state ones likelihood to work again for some company and if you feel treated badly by them, then you can always let everybody know that you would not like to work for them again, as you did. They still have a number of 5s in their BlueBoard record so why bother? And tehy can comment on you comment so it is your words against their words.

But I cannot see how it helps protecting your reputation posting pieces of personal communication with your client here. If you wish to ensure a good reputation, work on it. It is far better to put your energy into positive action than into trying to keep confused people from barking at you. You also have one bad entry in your old BB record and answered it quite business like. You could also answer some more KudoZ questions so people know you are interested in team work and ask your business partners to comment on your work in your Proz.com profile.

The truth is: Mistakes happen and misunderstandings happen. And sometimes people get extremely emotional and personal about nothing. Once you find this out, stay far away from them. If they do not leave you alone in most cases simply ignoring them helps, because in the end they also have far more important things to do than to ruin your reputation.

(If it gets psychopathic at some stage, then ignoring won't help, but this is a completely different story ... )










[Bearbeitet am 2007-12-12 15:00]


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Andrew Higgs  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:59
Norwegian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reputation intact, principle in question Dec 12, 2007

Thanks Claudia.

Yes I am in contact with the manager/owner as far as I am aware which makes it all the more absurd.

In terms of my own reputation, I have built up a very large stable of clients and agencies and have far more work than I can handle, and am not genuinely expecting work to dry up because of this incident.

And as I said, I take full responsibility for not passing the test.

BUT, what I am trying to make clear is that this kind of harrassment and threatening behaviour should not take place. It is our right to post on the BB and the agency's right to respond. As you point out I have been in this position myself.

What I don't like is the insinuation that we should just walk away from this kind of behaviour and forget about it. Recourse to reply is essential to keep us small people from being steamrollered by arrogant agencies.

Just my opinion, but I doubt that I am alone in that.

Best regards,
Andy


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 14:59
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
you don't have to prove you are not a donkey Dec 12, 2007

Andrew Higgs wrote:

Thanks Claudia.

Yes I am in contact with the manager/owner as far as I am aware which makes it all the more absurd.

In terms of my own reputation, I have built up a very large stable of clients and agencies and have far more work than I can handle, and am not genuinely expecting work to dry up because of this incident.

And as I said, I take full responsibility for not passing the test.

BUT, what I am trying to make clear is that this kind of harrassment and threatening behaviour should not take place. It is our right to post on the BB and the agency's right to respond. As you point out I have been in this position myself.

What I don't like is the insinuation that we should just walk away from this kind of behaviour and forget about it. Recourse to reply is essential to keep us small people from being steamrollered by arrogant agencies.

Just my opinion, but I doubt that I am alone in that.

Best regards,
Andy


Andrew, it is just vice versa - it is now the issue of THEIR reputation, not your reputation. If they did not manage to substantiate anything for what they claimed (even after the due payment date), how can your reputation be damaged? Speaking in legal terms - "defamation/slander" is such a thing when one spreads facts or has claims to someone else without being able to prove them. Why in translation area things should be just the opposite? They claim for something, OK, please claim, but they will have to be responsible for your words. Same would be if I say in public "Andrew is a very poor quality translator, he does total scrap and also he is a terrorist". Can I prove that? Nope (and even if you are a terrorist, and I cannot give/do not have evidence, I will be liable for my words)...

AND FORGET ABOUT THEM. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME AND POSITIVE ENERGY ON SUCH CROOKS I think many of us already went through such agencies, and many of us will have to undergo that. As a natural thing.









[Edited at 2007-12-12 16:10]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:59
English to French
+ ...
A test is a test Dec 12, 2007

No matter how bad your translation might have been, a test is a test. It is not at all the same as a translation contract. When a client pays for a test, they are not paying for well-done work, they are paying to compensate for your time - after all, most contracts are assigned without a test, and if we had to do these tests every time someone wants to assign a contract to us, then we would charge higher rates. In your case in particular, you have worked with this client for a while and they know the quality of your work, so they probably didn't even ask for the test to ensure you provide high quality work, but rather because their client asked for it.

Whether this test is eventually paid or not shouldn't be based on the quality of your work, but simply on the fact that you did the test and sent it to them. If they are unhappy with the quality of the test, then they should simply not work with you for that project - but a paid test is still a paid test.

I am wondering if it is possible whether your client wanted to have you do a "paid" test as part of a real translation project that they wanted to get done at no cost. The purpose of a test being to judge of the quality of a translator's work and not to use the translation, I don't see why they wouldn't pay for the time you took to do something that is not really part of the process. You were good enough for them for a while, and now all of a sudden you make too many mistakes? Sounds fishy...

THIS IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE OF WHY WE SHOULDN'T DO ANY TEST TRANSLATIONS

[Edited at 2007-12-12 16:15]


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 06:59
Spanish to English
Thank you for sharing this Dec 12, 2007

I agree with Viktoria, you do not have to pass a paid test to be paid. And disagree with Claudia, I do not see how your reputation is in anyway affected by sharing this with us.

It can be a lonely old world out there as a freelance translator and experiencing a situation like that can be very distressing. I personally am grateful for your warning and should such a thing happen to me will not be quite so upset as I would have been otherwise.


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:59
English to German
+ ...
Sorry, Lesley Dec 12, 2007

but I did not say that:

Lesley Clarke wrote:

And disagree with Claudia, I do not see how your reputation is in anyway affected by sharing this with us.


What I said, is that it does not protect his reputation. I did not say that it affects it in any way.


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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:59
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
The ABCs of Business Dec 12, 2007

Hi Andrew,
I agree with Claudia when she says:
The truth is: Mistakes happen and misunderstandings happen. And sometimes people get extremely emotional and personal about nothing. Once you find this out, stay far away from them.


Your concern is about the principle, and I agree that, in principle, no self-respecting business should sacrifice their own integrity by getting personal.

The very moment a business resorts to pettiness, you might as well pity them because they won't be doing business much longer. This is Business 101.
As Mr T so aptly says, "I pity the fool!"


This also applies to other areas in life because you can be sure that if a person is being negative to you, then they are being negative to others.
It's a kind of subconscious self-destruction.

It's also in the agency's best interest to rein in this PM quickly before his 'bed-side' manner creates even more problems on many levels, not just with their translators. Maybe a class in tact would help... or anger management.

So, if someone "gets personal" unnecessarily, I can only just shake my head and hope they get their act together before it comes back and shoots them in the face.



And Marius, I do believe I will be spouting your pig proverb at least three times a week!
What a pearl!


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