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Horror experience with new agency
ناشر الموضوع: Hamish Young

Hamish Young  Identity Verified
نيوزيلندا
Local time: 20:26
عضو (2010)
صيني إلى أنجليزي
Jul 31

Hi everyone,

I wanted to share this recent experience I had with a new agency, and see if something similar has happened to anybody else. Certainly it's a first for me in nearly 12 years of translation.

I recently translated a patent for a new client, a large agency based in the UK with a pretty good record on the blue board (not quite 5).

Job negotiation did not go very well, with some communication misunderstandings, pricing disagreements, and a last mi
... See more
Hi everyone,

I wanted to share this recent experience I had with a new agency, and see if something similar has happened to anybody else. Certainly it's a first for me in nearly 12 years of translation.

I recently translated a patent for a new client, a large agency based in the UK with a pretty good record on the blue board (not quite 5).

Job negotiation did not go very well, with some communication misunderstandings, pricing disagreements, and a last minute demand for advance 'partial delivery'. These issues were all resolved. These of course are all signs of a bad agency, but still I did not suspect what was to come.

I submitted my translation on time, and the agency then came back to me at 7:15 pm on Friday evening requesting my feedback within the next two hours (such lovely business practice!). Apparently my translation had been proofread by a native English speaker who had detected some awkward phrasing that needed rework.

I am also a native English speaker. I checked the file and found that the proofreader had made a number of ridiculous edits, including, for example, changing the standard patent phrase "characterized in that" to "is made up of" or "featuring in". Other standard phrases, such as "protective scope of the claims" were flagged as being "unclear".

I explained that the language used in patents is often a bit archaic and convoluted. I told the agency to ignore all edits bar one, and turned off the comp for the evening.

However, the next week I got another email to say that the agency had decided to send the file to a second proofreader for a final check. This second proofreader also gave bad feedback, and therefore the agency was cutting my payment by 70%.

At this point I nearly fell off my chair. I read through the new version. The first thing I noticed was that the file reviewed by the second proofreader was not my original translation, but the version "corrected" by the first proofreader.

Naturally most of the errors introduced by the first proofreader had been edited, but other than this there were only a few arbitrary stylistic edits, such as "middle" instead of "center", or "have become more stringent" instead of "are increasingly stringent". I could not find a single objective error on my part.

Of course I explained this to the agency and added relevant comments to the file to justify my argument. I expected that they would recognize their mistake and immediately remove the unfair deduction.

But... they didn't. Their line was that it was not for them to judge on the disagreement of experts, and it was two against one, actually three against one, because apparently a third proofreader had refused to review the proofread file on account of its poor quality.

I pointed out that the first proofreader was incompetent, and the other proofreaders were not looking at my translation. I pointed out that I have translated hundreds of patents, and am in expert in the field. I pointed out that a small number of stylistic edits cannot possibly form the basis of a payment reduction.

The agency did not address my points, but made a counter-offer of a lower reduction, and eventually we compromised on a 25% "discount".

Suffice to say we won't be cooperating again in the near future!
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Dan Lucas
Christine Andersen
expressisverbis
Thomas T. Frost
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
Michele Fauble
Oriol Vives
 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:26
عضو (2012)
إيطالي إلى أنجليزي
+ ...
Oh my my my!!! Jul 31

I'm terribly sorry for what you went through. You cannot mention the name of the agency here but I do suggest you do not let it stop at this. Do make a BB entry (let them know beforehand you'll be doing so) on Proz explaining all this in brief. I also suggest you find the agency on Payment Practices (or make up an entry for them) and post a response so people will know all this and avoid going through the same experience. Here's hoping for a better outcome for you and for all concerned. You do ... See more
I'm terribly sorry for what you went through. You cannot mention the name of the agency here but I do suggest you do not let it stop at this. Do make a BB entry (let them know beforehand you'll be doing so) on Proz explaining all this in brief. I also suggest you find the agency on Payment Practices (or make up an entry for them) and post a response so people will know all this and avoid going through the same experience. Here's hoping for a better outcome for you and for all concerned. You do have to be 'native' and an 'expert' in the field and tell the agency that. It's just not enough to be native as the field dictates the style used too. I'm not an expert on patent translation but if the style is archaic, it's a different kettle of fish surely so normal wording or sequence wouldn't suffice. Don' t let it go if you're sure. Remain calm and polite but adamant. Do you have any friend who works in the same field so you can show it to him/her? If they showed the proofreading to the last proofreader, be adamant and don't let them deduct that 25% either. good luck.Collapse


Philippe Etienne
Teresa Borges
expressisverbis
Sheila Wilson
Christophe Delaunay
IanDhu
Yolanda Broad
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
المملكة المتحدة
Local time: 07:26
عضو (2014)
ياباني إلى أنجليزي
You pay peanuts... Jul 31

Hamish Young wrote:
Unfolding of Kafkaesque scenario

It's just farcical. Reminds me of a scene from Catch 22.

I suspect a lot of the problems I see reported here on the forum are caused by the poor quality of staff at the agency. If I were a competent employee, I'd not hang around at a rubbish company. Here the problems began with one of the staff choosing somebody with no experience of patents (!) to check the text.

I must say, unless your agreement with them specifically gave them the right to claw back payment, I would have stuck to my guns. If they had refused to pay I'd have taken them to the small claims court. Because either way I'd not be working for that agency again. A lot depends on the absolute amount, however.

One has to weigh the value of satisfying one's wounded pride against the time and stress likely to be incurred in pursuit of the money. There's no shame in concluding that the latter is probably not worth the former.

Regards,
Dan


Chris S
Philippe Etienne
Teresa Borges
expressisverbis
Zibow Retailleau
Thomas T. Frost
Edward Potter
 

Tom in London
المملكة المتحدة
Local time: 07:26
عضو (2008)
إيطالي إلى أنجليزي
The only explanation Jul 31

Wow Hamish- that's pretty bad. The only explanation I can think of for this hair-raising story is that the agency was doing it all deliberately as an alibi for savagely reducing your fee. Please do put something in their BlueBoard record so that we can all find out who they are.

[Edited at 2020-07-31 07:19 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Christine Andersen
expressisverbis
Walter Landesman
Thomas T. Frost
IrinaN
Edward Potter
 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
ألمانيا
Local time: 08:26
عضو (2005)
ألماني إلى أنجليزي
+ ...
Ridiculous Jul 31

I understand that you are livid - I would be, too. I worked with a few agencies in the past that had "reviewers" to fulfill their ISO standard, but no more. The experience was not as extreme as yours but always aggravating, with one notable exception - an excellent reviewer who made no changes based on personal preferences, only edits that made sense and improved the text. If all were like her, it wouldn't be a problem, but most aren't, unfortunately. My feeling is that a majority of the changes... See more
I understand that you are livid - I would be, too. I worked with a few agencies in the past that had "reviewers" to fulfill their ISO standard, but no more. The experience was not as extreme as yours but always aggravating, with one notable exception - an excellent reviewer who made no changes based on personal preferences, only edits that made sense and improved the text. If all were like her, it wouldn't be a problem, but most aren't, unfortunately. My feeling is that a majority of the changes are made to justify the reviewers' existence and not to improve the texts. Just remembering some of the absurd edits makes my blood pressure rise. Working for a big-name, ISO-rated agency and having to submit to worthless reviews was detrimental to my health!

It doesn't have to be this way, and it's really regrettable you had to go through this experience, but maybe you took away a valuable lesson from it. As others have said, posting a rating for this agency on the Blue Board would be helpful to other translators so that they can be forewarned about what to expect from this client.
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Chris S
Teresa Borges
expressisverbis
IanDhu
Yolanda Broad
Michele Fauble
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
هولندا
Local time: 08:26
عضو (2006)
أنجليزي إلى أفيقاني
+ ...
@Hamish Jul 31

Hamish Young wrote:
The first thing I noticed was that the file reviewed by the second proofreader was not my original translation, but the version "corrected" by the first proofreader.


This has happened to me as well. In my case, agency PMs were able to see the blunder they've made when it was pointed out to them. I know that some agencies believe in stacking proofreaders, i.e. have a second proofreader proofread the first proofreader's proofread version, and this can result in something that differs dramatically from the original, but that is not for evaluation purposes. If you want to evaluate a translator, you have to evaluate his original translation, not a translation that was damaged by another proofreader.

I pointed out that ... the other proofreaders were not looking at my translation.


Sounds to me like they deserve a "1" on the Blue Board, with a comment that they demanded a discount from you due to someone else's mistakes and claiming that they were your mistakes.

Tom in London wrote:
The only explanation I can think of for this hair-raising story is that the agency was doing it all deliberately as an alibi for savagely reducing your fee.


I'm willing to entertain a different explanation: not dishonesty but incompetence.


[Edited at 2020-07-31 08:14 GMT]


Josephine Cassar
expressisverbis
Thomas T. Frost
Edward Potter
Yolanda Broad
Tina Vonhof
Philippe Etienne
 

Tom in London
المملكة المتحدة
Local time: 07:26
عضو (2008)
إيطالي إلى أنجليزي
Reminds me of this little rhyme Jul 31

Samuel Murray wrote:

.... I know that some agencies believe in stacking proofreaders, i.e. have a second proofreader proofread the first proofreader's proofread version, and this can result in something that differs dramatically from the original...



This resembles the story about trying to level up a table with one short leg, or the rhyme

Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum

The more proofreaders, the more "mistakes" will be found. It's particularly absurd that they got the second proofreader to revise the text as it had already been messed up by the first proofreader - and I'll bet that neither proofreader was referring to the original text.


Jan Truper
Josephine Cassar
expressisverbis
Philippe Etienne
Yolanda Broad
IanDhu
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
أسبانيا
Local time: 07:26
عضو (2007)
أنجليزي
+ ...
Oh, shame it ended that way Jul 31

Hamish Young wrote:
The agency did not address my points, but made a counter-offer of a lower reduction, and eventually we compromised on a 25% "discount".

You were sounding so strong and confident throughout the post that I was sure you were going to stand up for your rights and fight them to the end. I'm so sad that you partially caved in. For them, it's yet another excuse to pay less in the future.


Chris S
Christel Zipfel
Zibow Retailleau
Walter Landesman
Josephine Cassar
Thomas T. Frost
Yolanda Broad
 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:26
عضو (2012)
إيطالي إلى أنجليزي
+ ...
Another nail in the coffin but... Jul 31

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Hamish Young wrote:
The agency did not address my points, but made a counter-offer of a lower reduction, and eventually we compromised on a 25% "discount".

You were sounding so strong and confident throughout the post that I was sure you were going to stand up for your rights and fight them to the end. I'm so sad that you partially caved in. For them, it's yet another excuse to pay less in the future.

It's another nail in the coffin but I, for one, wouldn't stand for it and I would raise heaven and earth to fight for it. I would only acquiesce if the second proofreader had been handed my original translation and found mistakes/inaccuracies/wrong style but not if the second proofreader had been handed my proofread translation. If the second proofreader had found mistakes/inaccuracies in my translation, I would learn from it and move on but not if this proofreader had been handed the proofread version of my translation.


Yolanda Broad
Christel Zipfel
Sheila Wilson
Michele Fauble
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
Philip Lees
Alison Jenner
 

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
أسبانيا
Local time: 08:26
عضو (2003)
إسباني إلى أنجليزي
+ ...
Usually the most likely explanation Jul 31

Samuel Murray wrote:
I'm willing to entertain a different explanation: not dishonesty but incompetence.


[Edited at 2020-07-31 08:14 GMT]


Good comment as usual, Samuel.

From the story, it sounds like incompetence to me. There is also the factor that many inexperienced PMs will do anything to deflect blame from him/herself.

If the company has a 4.9 on the Blue Board, I would work to solve the issue and keep the client. I'd give them a second chance and seek a long-term and fruitful relationship with them.


 

IanDhu  Identity Verified
فرنسا
Local time: 08:26
عضو (2005)
فرنسي إلى أنجليزي
Client who cancels late invoices Jul 31

I work occasionally for an agency which takes over assignments when a long-standing agency client of mine can't handle them herself. I lately received from the episodic client a set of terms I was required to approve. Among those terms was a clause cancelling supplier inviices that were handed in after the calendar year-end. This practice is blatantly unacceptable, so instead of acquiescing electronically, I intend to print the terms out, and strike through the offending clause before signing an... See more
I work occasionally for an agency which takes over assignments when a long-standing agency client of mine can't handle them herself. I lately received from the episodic client a set of terms I was required to approve. Among those terms was a clause cancelling supplier inviices that were handed in after the calendar year-end. This practice is blatantly unacceptable, so instead of acquiescing electronically, I intend to print the terms out, and strike through the offending clause before signing and e-mailing this amended version. Do contact me directly if you wish to know "names & pack-drill". We elders must de-pollute practices that younger practitioners may well be overawed into accepting.

With kind regards, and good health despite the coronavirus,

Adam Warren (IanDhu - translator 41189)
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Christine Andersen
Philippe Etienne
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
Julie Barber
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
أسبانيا
Local time: 07:26
عضو (2007)
أنجليزي
+ ...
Education via forum posts Jul 31

IanDhu wrote:
This practice is blatantly unacceptable, so instead of acquiescing electronically, I intend to print the terms out, and strike through the offending clause before signing and e-mailing this amended version. Do contact me directly if you wish to know "names & pack-drill". We elders must de-pollute practices that younger practitioners may well be overawed into accepting.

They wouldn't get far with that one in a court of law, unless the invoices were very, very late. As you say though, younger freelancers may be tempted to just accept whatever the agency says as gospel.

I can tell you from experience that even if you've signed a contract containing an abusive clause, the judge may well dismiss the client's right to reject full payment. That's what happened to me in a similar situation, and while I ended up with everything that was owed to me plus interest, the client (a language school owner in France) ended up paying rather a large sum to the court for his education .


Tom in London
Thomas T. Frost
Christel Zipfel
Philip Lees
 

Tom in London
المملكة المتحدة
Local time: 07:26
عضو (2008)
إيطالي إلى أنجليزي
I agree Jul 31

Just because something is written into a contract doesn't necessarily mean it will stand up in court.

Sheila Wilson
Josephine Cassar
Daryo
 

Hamish Young  Identity Verified
نيوزيلندا
Local time: 20:26
عضو (2010)
صيني إلى أنجليزي
بادئ الموضوع
Thanks for feedback Jul 31

I suppose I should have kept fighting, but I was just happy to cut my losses and run. It was an easy repetitive job and in other circumstances I might have offered a discount on my usual rate anyway.

The funny thing with the Blue Board is that rule 2 specifically says that entries are allowed only when ... "there have not been complaints related to quality shortly after delivery". Since this case involved some serious quality-related complaints I'd be in gross violation of the rul
... See more
I suppose I should have kept fighting, but I was just happy to cut my losses and run. It was an easy repetitive job and in other circumstances I might have offered a discount on my usual rate anyway.

The funny thing with the Blue Board is that rule 2 specifically says that entries are allowed only when ... "there have not been complaints related to quality shortly after delivery". Since this case involved some serious quality-related complaints I'd be in gross violation of the rules to make a post, as much as I would love to do it.

I've worked with some pretty dreadful agencies over the years, but usually the problem is getting them to pay up or dealing with unreasonable demands. Unilaterally imposing a payment reduction on trumped up charges is definitely a new low, can't let it go without some sort of complaint
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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
عضو (2014)
دانماركي إلى أنجليزي
+ ...
BB Jul 31

Hamish Young wrote:
The funny thing with the Blue Board is that rule 2 specifically says that entries are allowed only when ... "there have not been complaints related to quality shortly after delivery". Since this case involved some serious quality-related complaints I'd be in gross violation of the rules to make a post, as much as I would love to do it.


I too wouldn't have capitulated that easily.

About the Blue Board rule, the worst that can happen is that the outsourcer gets it taken down, so I wouldn't hold back in your situation.

Paymentpractices.net does not have such a restriction and if the client gets your BB entry taken down, you can report that too at Paymentpractices.net to warn others. The Blue Board is seriously flawed because of the rule you referred to and also because you are not allowed to report bad experiences before you have worked for an outsourcer, such as abusive contractual clauses. Paymentpractices.net allows that too.


Josephine Cassar
B D Finch
conejo
Didi18
 
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