Blue Board confusion
Thread poster: xxxLucyPatterso
xxxLucyPatterso
English
Oct 10, 2012

I have been working with an agency for two years now. The PMs are lovely and professional and keep sending me work ... but their accounting department is not the best. In fact, of the 7 agencies I work for, this is the only one where I have to chase up invoices almost every month.

Usually they instantly arrange the payment and I receive it a couple of days later - but they do not bother to respond to my email or apologies. Well, who cares as long as I am paid. I wish they had a decent system which did not waste my time but you can't have everything.

This month, I did not get paid as usual on the "due date". I sent the usual inquiry, but this time it has been ignored. I am going to have to step this up a gear to receive my payment of almost EUR 3000 - I would rather be translating to be honest!!

Out of curiosity I checked their Blue Board score to see if others have had the ongoing problems with this time-wasting accounting department. The agency has a long list of top scores! When I check other agencies I work for which I NEVER have payment issues with, they have much worse scores!

I find it very confusing.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:59
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Two possibilities Oct 10, 2012

One possibility is that others working with this agency haven't experienced the same problems that you have (unlikely, but possible).

A more likely possibility is that others have experienced problems, but have not vented their ire on the Blue Board because they feel the benefits of collaboration with this agency outweigh the inconveniences and frustrations of the late payment issues you mention. My guess is that the tardiness of the late payments is not extreme (for otherwise there would surely be a number of negative ratings).

One need only look at your own behavior to see the logic of this inference, for you have endured two years of regularly late payments without posting a negative BB rating.

This is but one more illustration of the limitations of the Blue Board, and a cautionary reminder that things have to really get bad for most translators to consider posting a negative rating and comment. This is because doing so pretty much guarantees that the agency thus rated will never again offer work to the poster of such comments, and most translators prefer to avoid burning their bridges.


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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:59
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Third possibility Oct 11, 2012

The BB is by no mean an absolute measure, it can (and is) relatively easily abused by translators and agencies alike.
For instance, although it is against the rules, some agencies try to get away with late (or non) payments out of the assumption that not many translators will take the time to enter a BB entry. When a translator eventually add a less than positive comment on the BB, they quick to contact him/her and "politely" (or not) condition the receipt of payment by editing the entry into a positive one. A Win-Win situation for them (mostly getting away with the late payment, and then, even when not, they turn a bad experience into a positive entry). This is against the rules but hard to enforce unless the translators will report these issues. The translators doing so are also to "blame" because they neglect their responsibility to alert colleagues about a potential payment ethics issue, but to some degree it is understandable (wanting to get their money).

Another way by which an agency can skew the results is soliciting positive entries. They can do that by directly asking a first time or occasional translator working on a small project to add a positive entry after paying them (the small amount) on time. Sometimes they even offer a trade, give us positive entry on the BB and we will give you a positive WWA entry.

Not that I claim that the agency you are dealing with is using such methods, I just gave examples to some methods used to skew the BB record in favor of the agency.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I tend to agree with Shai Oct 11, 2012

Shai's points are all valid.

The Blue Board can be an extremely useful tool, but any agency that has a string of totally positive entries is bound to arouse suspicion.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Par for the course over here Oct 11, 2012

LucyPatterson wrote:

This month, I did not get paid as usual on the "due date". I sent the usual inquiry,


I don't where you live and work, but here in Spain late payment seems to be more or less standard operational procedure. In fact, I only have two or three clients who pay promptly. As I have mentioned in other forums, I have come to regard the "due date" on my bills as mere wishful thinking and over the years have become resigned to the fact that it is usually better to wait until the clients are ready, willing and able to stump up, rather than getting into a state and fretting about it.

Things have become worse with the current economic crisis; I have already had a couple of clients making tentative enquiries about the possibility of having translation work done without billing at all, for cash payments. Also, last week one research department - from an otherwise august institution - asked me to split my last invoice into two so that they would be able to pay at least the first half within a reasonable timeframe, leaving the rest pending until their budget allows them to come up with the rest. At first I wasn't keen on the idea and drafted them a stroppy letter (they made the suggestion first thing in the morning, which isn't usually my best moment) but as the day wore on I thought about it and eventually decided to be more circumspect and agreed to the request. However, I just hope all my clients don't start doing it, because then it would really become a problem.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:59
English to Portuguese
+ ...
BB reliability Oct 11, 2012

Tom in London wrote:

Shai's points are all valid.

The Blue Board can be an extremely useful tool, but any agency that has a string of totally positive entries is bound to arouse suspicion.


While I second the endorsement to Shai's points, I tend to disagree on suspicion arousal.

There are some thoroughly honest translation outsourcers around, who will not tolerate anything they do wrong remaining uncorrected for longer than a couple of days, if that much. I have the privilege of working for some of them, and they truly deserve the long string of WWA=5s they have.

On the other hand, I have worked now and then for some outsourcers having an even longer string of WWA=5s, who don't deserve it. As Robert pointed out, burning bridges with them could be detrimental to a translator's business. Some of their 5s may have been secured via blackmail, i.e. Give us a 5 on the BB, and you'll get paid immediately taking place one month after the agreed payday.

And yet there are many outsourcers that I'd definitely work for if only they paid me cash in advance, but not otherwise. This is a WWA=5 with a restriction, but nevertheless a WWA=5.

Bottom line is that the BB system is inaccurate, as it asks the wrong question, takes the wrong stance: "Would you work for..."

I guess any translator would work for anyone who paid them cash in advance, as long as the bills were not counterfeit.


I've said this over and over again, that Proz should benchmark the Blue Board with one of its competitors, and use objective, factual questions. Regarding payment, if the question were:
  • Did you get paid as mutually agreed, in terms of timeliness, amount, and method?
    ... there wouldn't be room for any answer other than yes or no. Mitigating circumstances on default or delay would become a separate issue.

    Other questions on communications, support, PM knowledgeability, etc. should take the same factual standpoint.

    This might be a bit more complex to build, however it should render the BB much more reliable.

    [Edited at 2012-10-11 12:51 GMT]

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  • Schtroumpf
    Local time: 11:59
    German to French
    + ...
    It is useful to read "between the lines" Oct 11, 2012

    I agree with my colleagues and the statement that a top BB ranking would not guarantee you timely payment.

    You may get aware that a customer is not very punctual when reading the full BB comments. Some colleagues would not dare to go below number 5 but drop some hint like: "although rates are farely low", "payments are not always on time" and so on.

    As far as I am concerned, I prefer to enter a lower rating (4 or even 3) as long as I don't consider the situation as normal and satisfying. IMHO, as long as there is no 6 rating, a suboptimal customer behaviour deserves no 5


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    Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
    Germany
    Local time: 11:59
    Member (2011)
    English to German
    + ...
    Seconded Oct 11, 2012

    I completely agree with José on this matter. That would be a very, very useful change!

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