Cancellation of contract
Thread poster: BenEngFrJap
BenEngFrJap  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:44
English to French
+ ...
Feb 28, 2013

I was offered a translation project by a company. I accepted the contract and 10 minutes later they cancelled on me as they had found someone else for the job. Is this ethically acceptable for a company to cancel on a freelance translator in a short time frame? Does this happen frequently?

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 06:44
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
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Did they confirm Feb 28, 2013

the job after your acceptance? Did they send a PO?

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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:44
German to English
Not unusual Feb 28, 2013

BenEngFrJap wrote:

I was offered a translation project by a company. I accepted the contract and 10 minutes later they cancelled on me as they had found someone else for the job. Is this ethically acceptable for a company to cancel on a freelance translator in a short time frame? Does this happen frequently?


Not infrequently an agency will send out a query to a number of translators at the same time, especially if the turnaround time is short. This is to save time contacting them one-by-one.

The question is whether the agency confirmed the job after you responded, then cancelled. If that's the case, the agency is using a poor business practice.

Cancellation after 10 minutes is no big deal really. Cancelling a few days later, once you've started is a different matter altogether.


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BenEngFrJap  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:44
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Cancellation of contract Feb 28, 2013

They sent me the file. I asked them a couple of technical questions as it was a zipped file and then they sent me an unzipped file....finally I could open the document on Trados and I emailed them and they told me the job had been granted to someone else.

What would you say be the point at which a company cannot ethically cancel your contract anymore? After the PO?

Anyway next time I ll make sure to confirm clearly with the company.


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 07:44
English to Russian
+ ...
Quite usual Mar 1, 2013

It is midly irritating, but I wouldn't call it a violation of business ethics. One client of mine does it all the time, and I know it means they found someone to do it at a lower price. I only take it as a warning not to get suckered into proofreading those cut-price translations for this agency, as they definitely get what they pay for.

[Edited at 2013-03-01 00:34 GMT]


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:44
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
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It happens Mar 1, 2013

Anton Konashenok wrote:

It is midly irritating, but I wouldn't call it a violation of business ethics. One client of mine does it all the time, and I know it means they found someone to do it at a lower price. I only take it as a warning not to get suckered into proofreading those cut-price translations for this agency, as they definitely get what they pay for.

[Edited at 2013-03-01 00:34 GMT]


Agree wholeheartedly! I think I will have to implement a new policy of never proofreading translations for which my translation quote has previously been rejected. We're probably talking about the same agency...

Ben, sometimes the job will be cancelled even after the PO has been issued. In that case, any legitimate agency should be willing to compensate you for any work performed up to that time. Unfortunately for the translator, often that can be considerable prep work like OCR-ing and formatting the file, reviewing reference material, etc,. This can take up considerable time even though you have no partial deliverable to send to the client to prove that you've actually done some work. Still, there's not much point in getting worked up about it. Look at it this way - say the ultimate end client has cancelled the translation project. What would be the point of insisting on completing a translation that nobody wants and nobody will use? Conversely, say you have fallen ill, or suffered some personal emergency, and cannot complete the translation. Would you want the agency to insist on you completing the job, "or else?" Reasonable people make reasonable adjustments to changing circumstances. I know it's frustrating to think about having missed out on the opportunity to earn xxxx amount of income from the job. However, as long as your customer base is reasonably diversified, there's always a better job waiting just around the corner. Trust me on that one


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 07:44
English to Polish
+ ...
The way I see things Apr 19, 2013

Ben, this is complicated contract formation/negotiation stuff but let me try to speak human.

Basically, if you have a clear offer (and agency inquiries are probably appropriately disclaimed from being binding offers, a right granted to translators' replies too by some agencies but not all) and you accept it and the acceptance arrives promptly at the offeror, and the offeror does not promptly reject the contract, then you should have a contract in place. Otherwise not really.

In your example, it seems that the agency was providing information on the job to several translators at the same time and the earliest person to confirm got the job. This is fair in essence, although what might be less fair is wasting time and building up hopes for other potential contractors if not sufficiently clear about the rules of the procedure (but I'd suspect the rules of the procedure are somewhere in the agency's General Terms and Conditions for translators). Annoying but fair.

In such situations, it would be possible for a PM to confirm your job not knowing that another PM had already confirmed it for someone else one minute ago. I'd be inclined to class such situations as prompt withdrawals from offers (or else the translation "industry" could go down crumbling). Bad for you for sure but it'd be more unfair to have the first confirming translator lose the job--and unfair for the agency to have to pay both, of course. A good solution here would be a warm "sorry" and perhaps a good word or two (e.g. "thank you for being understanding" or how they appreciate working with you, anything really to make it lighter on you given they've just disappointed your hope for a job).

Like in all such situations, as much as I love lawyering and litigation (which was my schooling and first job), I'd suggest just sitting down for a talk to exchange perspectives and actually build a solution that works for everybody involved and respects everybody's interests and feelings. I'd encourage you to be understanding but at the same time give agencies feedback and be ready to sit down with them to resolve things. This should be important for any self-respecting agency because it relates to a vital business process. Bottom line: mutual kindness, creating value for both parties, thinking long-term in win-win terms.

Please note that agencies sometimes allow translators to back out of confirmed jobs that they could probably enforce in a court of law or even before an ethical board of some kind (e.g. from a translator association) or claim an additional fee for this or that or get some expenses that should have been included as per the contract etc. So it's not like agencies and PMs don't cut us slack either. You might be surprised to hear a PM's confessions. Thus, I'd be an advocate of allowing agencies to back out of deals if no real harm is done.

To sum up: I'd ask the agency to provide a little clearer or more upfront warning if that wasn't done (check the e-mails, sometimes they warn us but we skim through and ignore the warnings), explaining to them that the disappointed hope kinda stings (but perhaps not dwelling on "wasted time"). A good working relationship is the core of any agency work. And perhaps ask them to send out information to other translators the moment an order stops being available (they might be limiting such notices to avoid spamming).

[Edited at 2013-04-19 15:51 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-04-19 21:57 GMT]


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