As you know, this blog proudly endorses the No Peanuts! for Translators movement. We often complain – with good reason – about being exploited by translation agencies, clients, and websites that claim to provide a great service to translators while they actually further and streamline the exploitation process. Sadly, though, the worst problem, the one which is by far the most damaging to our profession, comes from fellow translators. Some of them might just work for peanuts. Others simply have no sense of ethics whatsoever. I’d like to share some excerpts from my correspondence with M.N. (how kind am I?) of the S.L.C. (again…)
Said Mr. N. needed a very short text (342 words) translated from English to Italian, and subcontracted the job to me.
On the 13th of October, I sent my translation, and my invoice, for AUD 85.50. The guy didn’t even bother replying with a ‘thank you’, or anything.
On the 4th of November, I still had not received the money, so I wrote an e-mail to him:
I was wondering when you were expecting to be able to make payment for the XXXXXXX translation. Cheers
He replied with
We expect payment next week. I can assure you we do not run away.
Fair enough. Except that, on the 7th of January, I realised that the guy still hadn’t paid me. So, remembering the Code of Ethics requiring me to be polite and courteous and diplomatic, I wrote another e-mail:
I just noticed that I still haven’t received payment for the XXXXXXX translation. It’s been three months since I did it and two since your reassurance attached below. Please make payment as soon as possible.
He got back to me with a real professional message:
Was not paid as yet. Closed for Xmas. I understand next week
Then, miracle of miracles, on the 19th of January, I noticed the deposit on my account, but it was only $68.00. I took a deep breath, counted to ten, repeated to myself that “translators shall try to resolve any disputes with their colleagues in a cooperative, constructive, and professional manner”, then composed another message:
I finally received your payment for the XXXXXXX translation. The only problem is that I sent you an invoice for $85.50 (please find it attached again) and I only received $68 on my account. Please deposit another $17.50.
Giuseppe M Brescia
Now, it was 17 dollars. It’s half what I charge for a birth certificate. I don’t care. But it’s the principle that makes my blood boil. Especially when my server informed me that M.N. had read the e-mail, but did not reply. I half forgot about it; luckily, I have a life. But then, on the 10th of February, I thought about him again, and sent him yet another e-mail:
Twenty days ago – more than three months after I completed a job for you – I sent you this message:
I have not even received an acknowledgment of receipt. You do realise that even if it is only $17.50, it’s over 20% of
my fee. We did not mention such a discount, I am afraid.
It would be appreciated if you could respect the ethics of our profession and pay me the agreed fee.
Giuseppe Manuel Brescia
To which, finally, he replied with this:
Every now and then we have to compete and reduce prices. This was one of those occassions [sic]. Hope you understand.
Too much, dear M.N. Too much.I really struggled, but I managed to come off polite, although please don’t ask me to be nice.
No, M. I do not understand. And I do not appreciate being taken advantage of.
We agreed on a fee. I invoiced you according to that fee. You have to pay me for what I invoiced you. Then, of course, you are totally free to give the translation to the client at the cost you want. You can give it to them for free, but you still have to pay me. So, I am sorry to say your excuse is irrelevant.
Let me refresh the sequence of events:
You never mentioned this supposed reduction of price to me. You kept pushing the date of the payment and took three months to pay me, during which you didn’t hint to this supposed reduction of price. Finally, after three months, you paid me 20% less than what I was due and even then didn’t bother informing me of that, or of the reason why. Then I sent you two e-mails and twenty days later you still hadn’t made payment, replied to said e-mails, or even acknowledged their receipt. Then I finally send you this last e-mail and you come up with this nonsense.
I am asking you one last time, as it is common courtesy to resolve disputes between us, and in a civilised manner:
do you intend to honour your commitment and pay me my full fee or not?
Should you not answer this, I will consider it a negative answer and take the appropriate steps to defend my interest and the integrity and dignity of our profession.
Giuseppe M Brescia
Now, obviously, he did not reply, and neither did I take any step, because it’s not worth the time and effort to get $17.50. And this is exactly the reason why this guy acts like he acts. I don’t think all this needs many comments. People like M.N. are, in my opinion, even worse than dishonest agencies and clients, because this guy is a NAATI-accredited professional translator, like me. He is exploiting and disrespecting a colleague (although I’m probably neither the first nor the last), all for the hefty sum of AUD17.50. I know that likening him to a kapo sounds a tad harsh, but personally I bet that this is the kind of person who would have become one. Luckily, in this day, age and place, it’s just about peanuts.
Yet, how can we expect people to respect translators if they don’t even respect each other and, therefore, themselves?