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Change of scope from edit to unethical
Thread poster: Kristi Hyllekve
Kristi Hyllekve
United States
Local time: 15:23
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Jan 27, 2012

I was contacted by an agency to edit a translation—to spruce up a translated text, which, to me, meant to tidy up the English, correct sentence structures, punctuation, etc. I have been editing for decades and have never had a complaint about my work.

After a week or so, I was told by the agency that the client was not pleased with the edit because he wanted more enthusiastic words of praise for the musician and wanted me to EXPAND the text beyond what was written. The agency admitted the client had changed the scope of his request.

The texts are from newspaper clippings; I never saw the original, although I asked several times to see the source documents.

The documents are for a Visa application. I explained that I cannot expand on text, that I cannot add anything that was not in source. It is unethical. And, to alter documents so that a Visa applicant fares better in the decision-making process could be seen as tampering with documentation.

I have been told that I will not be paid because I refuse to fix the edit. It is not longer about the money—although it has all been a waste of my time—but it's about asking someone to do something unorthodox —> unethical and punishing that me for refusing.

Also, should other people know that this company deals in "shade of gray"?

My contact quoted part of his text: "I'm picturing at least a good solid paragraph or more for each translation. Ranting & raving about what a superior, accomplished, amazing musician XXXX is."

She then continued, "I did not read the entire document [!] but he is trying to say that he does not like that they are short statements. He wants each paragraph to be stretched out in order for the government to understand that this musician deserves to get there visa papers. .....It s like rephrasing each statement to sound more better."

(I'm surprised she admitted to not reading her clients explanation -- if she doesn't bother reading what the client wants, how can she tell anyone else?)

I see that she has now posted the job on ProZ -- any person bidding should know that this is for a Visa application. Maybe I'm taking things too seriously, but when the scope changes from edit-->expand-->unethical, it's unacceptable.

[Edited at 2012-01-27 18:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-01-27 22:20 GMT]


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SC Nova
Local time: 15:23
French to English
+ ...
Support for our craft Jan 27, 2012

Dear Kristi,

I am sorry for all the frustration and foul-hand you have been dealt with this. Unfortunately, this kind of thing, and worse, happens all the time! And it is not isolated to ProZ clients, although, it seems to be more rampant here.

That said, you have demonstrated your integrity and professionalism by voicing your concerns about this client. I would have taken the extra step of notifying ProZ, and even naming the outsourcer, but I understand and respect that you have withheld this as a personal decision.

When the client finds someone to do this job for them, they will likely put the editor through the same unsavoury ordeal. So, yes, it is important to be forewarned so that we can avoid dealing with clients who want to manipulate legal documents and who ask others to become complicit in their unethical (read: practically illegal) practices.

You may have lost money -- an issue that I would continue to pursue with your client -- but you could have ended up losing your reputation, or worse, the trust and confidence of other clients who appreciate and respect the good work we do for them.

Clients who bully and don't understand the difference between copyeditng and copy writing, need to be educated gently. However, when they continue to be mean and uncouth by holding back payments and soiling our workspace (ProZ), they do not deserve to come back for more of the same.

So, thank you for your courage to speak up, and all the best in the future. I feel your pain.


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Kristi Hyllekve
United States
Local time: 15:23
Member (2007)
English
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TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your support and agreement Jan 27, 2012

Hi Saro,

Thank you for your reply and your support. I wonder if many others have had the same challenges?


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F Scott Ophof  Identity Verified
Belize
Local time: 14:23
Dutch to English
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Take it higher and/or put it on the Blue Board Jan 27, 2012

Kristi,
What's wrong with explaining the whole thing to the head of the agency? If the head is your contact, then see the next step.

And if that doesn't help, tell your contact and/or the agency's head that you're posting it on the Blue Board. Something like "Am not being paid because of my refusal to do unethical work".
Personally I wouldn't even wait for them to correct their ways. I'd post to BB right afterwards.
This is precisely what the BB is for!
Because I'd hate to maybe run into the same situation at the same agency, and find out too late that the same contact was still doing the same kind of thing, maybe unknown to their management.
Especially if the reputation of that agency could have been upheld by contacting its management.

I have not been asked to do unethical stuff. Please help us all to reduce the chance of it happening.


[Edited at 2012-01-27 22:05 GMT]


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Kristi Hyllekve
United States
Local time: 15:23
Member (2007)
English
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TOPIC STARTER
You're probably right, Scott Jan 27, 2012

You're probably right, Scott.

I did tell the PM that I would contact her manager. She didn't seem to care. I probably will contact her manager; however, there is so much wasted negative energy. The fee wasn't high. For me, it was the principle.

Also, she posted the request for a "rewrite" on ProZ this afternoon. I am not certain that all the details will be given to the person who bids. However, for legal documents, one can't "rewrite" the text. That's a no brainer!

It does get tiresome. Perhaps we should have a little footnote after our name & profession stating that we maintain the highest ethical standards. Large companies have their Code of Business Conduct -- it is no different for us.


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F Scott Ophof  Identity Verified
Belize
Local time: 14:23
Dutch to English
+ ...
Then help ProZ to not post unethical jobs Jan 27, 2012

Kristi Hyllekve wrote:
Also, she posted the request for a "rewrite" on ProZ this afternoon. I am not certain that all the details will be given to the person who bids. However, for legal documents, one can't "rewrite" the text. That's a no brainer!

You could inform ProZ of the background of that "rewrite". Methinks ProZ would not want any part of such a thing. And help prevent someone else being stinkered into a nasty situation.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:23
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
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You are not alone Jan 28, 2012

A few months ago I found myself in a situation where I decided to turn down a job for ethical reasons. It was also document translation for a visa application, and I suspected that at least one of the documents was a forgery.
Here is another "ethics" discussion where I wrote about it:
http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/209861-translating_for_an_ethically_dubious_end_client-page2.html#1824155


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Kristi Hyllekve
United States
Local time: 15:23
Member (2007)
English
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Unethical request first time for me Jan 28, 2012

I hadn't come across unethical requests before. Besides doing something unethical is "just plain wrong", why would anyone risk one's professional life for the sake of some stranger and a few bucks?

In your case, how bizarre that the PM should wash his/her hands of ethical responsibility.

Going back to my initial post, the only directions the PM gave me was to spruce up the translated text (my requests to see source were ignored). I did that -- nice, clean English. I delivered what was requested. When the client asked for better, more flattering words and expansive text to enhance the person's possibilities to get a Visa, I refused.(Again, no source forthcoming.) And now I am paid nothing.

Back to what Scott mentioned, giving the vendor a smudge on its reputation, did you do that or raise any red flag?


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:23
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
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You should be paid, IMHO Jan 28, 2012

Kristi Hyllekve wrote:

Going back to my initial post, the only directions the PM gave me was to spruce up the translated text (my requests to see source were ignored). I did that -- nice, clean English. I delivered what was requested. When the client asked for better, more flattering words and expansive text to enhance the person's possibilities to get a Visa, I refused.(Again, no source forthcoming.) And now I am paid nothing.


The key is this previous statement of yours:
The agency admitted the client had changed the scope of his request.


Do you have this in an email, or was it over the phone?
I think the "enhancement" is a second job, a copywriting job. You did the edit, and the agency admitted that this new request is different than the first one.
You delivered the first job, you should get paid.
They asked you to do the second job, but you had every right to refuse it (on whatever basis - what if you were busy with other jobs, or on vacation)?


Back to what Scott mentioned, giving the vendor a smudge on its reputation, did you do that or raise any red flag?


If you mean to comment on the BB, no, because I did not work for them. I refused taking the job, and in order to post a comment, you must have worked for the company. So, I am not eligible to make a comment.

I did explain to the PM why I was suspicious, in detail, and why I felt uncomfortable assisting in this process. She said she understood my position, and explained hers (which is pretty much laissez-faire). We left it at that.
I was trying to find the correspondence, but I don't remember the name of the company, and I have too many emails in my archives. Contact me in a private email, I am curious if it is the same company.

Katalin

[Edited at 2012-01-28 04:44 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:23
Member (2005)
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You should get paid for the original order Jan 28, 2012

You did the job you had accepted and should be paid for that. Full stop. No other consideration is acceptable.

Any additional work requested by the customer, whatever its nature, should be considered a separate job, which you can take care of or refuse, and not only for ethical reasons, but for any other business or personal reasons.

So issue your invoice for the original job as originally described by the agency and make a firm request to have your invoice paid. Make sure to make printed copies of the communications from/to the customer in case you need them in the long run for any action you may start if they do not pay.

AND... make sure you post a Blueboard entry within the next few days if the agency do not admit that you have performed as originally requested and pay your invoice (or admit that they will pay according to the agreed payment terms). The Blueboard helps the community pinpoint unreliable business partners.


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F Scott Ophof  Identity Verified
Belize
Local time: 14:23
Dutch to English
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And the posted "rewrite" & its consequences? Jan 28, 2012

Kristi Hyllekve wrote:
Also, she posted the request for a "rewrite" on ProZ this afternoon. I am not certain that all the details will be given to the person who bids. However, for legal documents, one can't "rewrite" the text. That's a no brainer!

It's obvious that Kristi is due the payment for the original job. The path to get that is clear.

But now that her contact at the agency has put out a request for a "rewrite", what's going to happen to the person who gets sucked into that? Is it ethical to let that someone get stinkered? Shouldn't we do something to prevent that? What are the options here?
Putting a note on the BB in a few days will not help the person sucked into the "rewrite".

[Edited at 2012-01-28 06:30 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:23
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
None Jan 28, 2012

F Scott Ophof wrote:
But now that her contact at the agency has put out a request for a "rewrite", what's going to happen to the person who gets sucked into that? Is it ethical to let that someone get stinkered? Shouldn't we do something to prevent that? What are the options here?

Unfortunately --well, maybe fortunately-- each person has a different threshold when it comes to ethics. Whilst I entirely agree with you in this situation, I think you cannot impose your ethics to other people.


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F Scott Ophof  Identity Verified
Belize
Local time: 14:23
Dutch to English
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Repeating request for info Jan 28, 2012

My apologies to anyone who felt or feel I was imposing my ethics on anyone else.
I was--and still am--requesting information.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:23
French to German
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Why do YOU deal with it? Jan 28, 2012

Why do YOU deal with it?

If the agency is unable to keep the end client within the initial agreement and accepts that goalposts be shifted, it is obviously their problem.

This is why I fear to enter a "business relationship" with agencies: because they don't seem to have any guts!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:23
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Not a personal comment - My apologies Jan 28, 2012

F Scott Ophof wrote:
My apologies to anyone who felt or feel I was imposing my ethics on anyone else.

Actually it is me who should apologise. I think the way I expressed it was a bit blunt this morning. What I meant to say is that unfortunately we cannot expect everyone to have our own understanding of ethics in business. I did not mean to make it a personal comment!


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