Posted by: patenttranslator | May 12, 2015

I Don’t Sell Hot Dogs Or Pretzels – So Why Are You Calling Me “A Vendor”?

 
I received the following e-mail from an agency in Europe. I translated a few Japanese patents for them a few years ago, but I have not heard from them in quite a while.
This is what the e-mail said:

Dear translator,

I would like to inform you that we are now working with a new Management System for our translation jobs.

This new system allows the interaction with you through our Vendor Portal.
The Vendor Portal is a tool designed for fast and easy cooperation with our Project Management Portal. With it you can:

• Update your personal data
• Receive and accept job offers
• Download and upload files
• Notify about your vacations (days off)
• And much more!

You will receive an email within the next few minutes with your login and password to enter the Portal. Please check you spam folder if you do not receive it.

I would appreciate that you follow the instructions carefully.
If you have any doubt, you can consult the attached Guide, follow this link or see this video for more information.

Best regards,
Ms. So-and- So, Head of Vendor Management

Oh well, so I will not be working for these guys anymore, I thought to myself, as I don’t work for people who want me to only interact with their software through a “portal for vendors”. If they can’t spare a human who can interact with another human, they’re history.

Maybe I should let them know that they are no longer on my list of potential customers, and maybe I should also give them a piece of my mind, I wondered. But then I decided to keep them guessing. After all, if they contact me when and if they actually have a job for me, they will have to accept my conditions anyway, or I am not going to do it.

So I just ignored the e-mail, although it did say that the sender wanted me to acknowledge receipt.

A day later, I received the same e-mail from them again. The only change in it was that instead of “Dear Translator”, it now said “Dear Mr. Vitek“.

Wow, they actually know that I do have a name. That was impressive, but I continued ignoring them. I was busy anyway as I was proofreading a long Japanese patent translation that I finished over the weekend. I started proofreading at 6 AM, and ended at 2 PM, completely exhausted. I could not do any translating for the rest of the day because I always get a headache after many hours of concentration.

This morning I received a different e-mail from them:

Dear translator,

Due to many received emails from your side, I just wanted to clarify that the invoicing section appearing in the Vendor Portal is not updated.

We use another system for invoicing, so please ignore this section in the Portal. The info may not be real.

The invoicing procedure will be as always. Nothing changes.

I also wanted to use this email to tell you that I will try to solve all your doubts as soon as possible, but it will take me some days. Please be patient 

Thanks and best regards,

Ms. So-and-So, Head of Vendor Management

That’s right, nothing changes indeed. I will continue ignoring the invoicing section and all the other sections of your management system called “portal for vendors” as well.

There is a lot you dummies don’t understand about the need for a proper balance in the relationship between translators and a translation agency if you don’t even realize that it make us cringe when you call us “vendors”.

I don’t mind when people who work in the accounting department of a law firm call me “vendor”. Different people provide different services and thus we are all vendors to them. I don’t expect them to really know anything about what it is that I do for a living. In fact, they can call me anything they want because in return, I get to charge them almost twice as much for the same work as what I can get from a translation agency.

But if you are a translation agency, one of the things that you should know about “the translation industry” is that the people who do all of the translating work, you know, the people who do the work that pays all of your bills and then pays for your vacations too, are called translators, not “vendors”.

Otherwise, most of your translators may decide to drop you like a hot potato as I did and you will have to work with “vendors” who may or may not really be translators.

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Responses

  1. I don’t much like being referred to as a “contractor”, either – to me it sounds as though I should be in the building trade. “Supplier” I can just about live with if I have to, but I prefer “translator”, because that way it’s clear that I’m not supplying foodstuffs – or dealing drugs, for that matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Or selling your body.

    Like

  3. Very good article.
    I am certainly not a vendor or supplier. But even if I am a translator, I do not appreciate getting e-mails beginning with “Dear Translator”, just because I have a name, and I do not like, as you said, to “work for people who want me to only interact with their software”.
    Would someone come up with the idea of sending e-mails beginning with “Dear dentist”, “Dear attorney” or similar?!

    Like

    • Chani, Steve and others, you don’t work for translation agencies. You work for the actual clients who stand behind each order. Can you guess why agencies would never allow a direct contact between you and your real clients?

      Like

  4. Dear Chani,

    You are absolutely right!

    Like

  5. I got the same message. Today’s one did make me smile – Vendors’ Rebellion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Translator Power and commented:
    Selling hot-dogs LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Steve!

    I think the issue of agency word choices reveals a lot about how they view translation, calling us “vendors” calling clients “buyers” calling the business an “industry,” etc. It all screams “commodity goods” and what’s worse is that they’re service agreements or NDAs are all phrased accordingly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “It all screams “commodity goods…”

      … of unknown origin!

      The agencies wrongly claim they produce all kinds of “goods” (translations from/into lots of languages). Wrongly, because only if translators were working under employment contracts for one or more agencies, which is not needed as they may work as freelancers, could then these agencies rightfully claim they themselves produce translations using their own translators (workers).

      Don’t you have laws (acts) against fraudulent business practices? Or do you all here have small agencies that benefit from the same fraudulent practices, so you only scream against the “fat cats” that advertise “their” services better than you? Allegedly their services? Allegedly yours?

      Like

  8. Any email that doesn’t call me by name (or some other epithet clearly intended to mean just me!) gets ignored. I don’t distinguish between supplier, provider, vendor, valued translator or any other version the industry dreams up when it comes to emails. (Neither, in truth, would I relish the prospect of working with the kind of system your email implies.)

    Vendor seems to have become a popular term in recent years; I haven’t previously objected when the context justifies it, such as referring to interpreters and translators collectively that supply services to an agency or the industry as a whole, although I’d probably prefer supplier or service provider. I do see the point that vendors usually sell physical goods (it’s also the word used here in the UK for a person selling their house, FWIW). It’s just part of the needless churn in vocabulary that some people seem to get off on (see also “TEnT”).

    Possibly because it seems the standard shorthand for any “sector of economic activity” over here, I don’t object to “industry” either. So, perhaps perversely to some, I would be happy for instance with the term “the bespoke hand-woven basket industry”. I feel as though I digress. So yeah, use my name or do one, basically 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting Charlie. I’ve often wondered about the objection to the term “industry”. Indeed, we have the “advertising industry” for example; “translation industry” strikes me as somewhat harmless. Is it only used in a manufacturing context t’other side o’ the pond?

      Liked by 1 person

      • ‘“translation industry” strikes me as somewhat harmless.”

        Harmless, indeed! It has ONLY destroyed a creative, intellectual profession.

        Liked by 1 person

    • So, perhaps perversely to some, I would be happy for instance with the term “the bespoke hand-woven basket industry”.

      Nothing much perverse on condition you get orders from people who need your “hand-woven baskets”. However, when agencies stand between you and the people who need your services and shout at the top of their voices, “Bespoke hand-woven baskets, all kinds of!”, then what? They simply steal your clients, don’t they? They rather act as racketeers, don’t they? They might be useful only if they took their place of logistic support to translators. High time they stopped playing the role of the big boss. Who’s going to expose their fraudulent practices? Not small agencies with a human face, anyway (Steve, this is for you, dear colleague 🙂 )!

      Like

  9. (Steve, this is for you, dear colleague 🙂 )!

    I have a very different approach to the concept of “translation agencies” and “translation industry” from you, Rennie. You know that, right?

    I happen to think that not all agencies are the same and that the good ones play a very important and very useful role. I also happen to be about 30% agency and 70% translator myself. (I seem to be a person who is full of contradictions; for example, I am at this point about 60% American and 40% Czech).

    Why don’t you come to the IAPTI conference at the beginning of September in Bordeaux, France and we can discuss our different concepts at leisure over a cup of coffee (or a bottle of Pliska), without being exposed to a bunch of ruthless trolls eager to attack either of us?

    I will be there, barring a heart attack or something like that.

    Like

    • “not all agencies are the same and that the good ones play a very important and very useful role.”

      Couldn’t agree more. We only need to clarify, is it a good agency one that doesn’t allow a direct contact between clients and translators and claims it has done all translation, editing, etc. I think, it’s the same as if a publishing house claimed it had written/translated, edited, etc. all books that come out under its logo.

      “I also happen to be about 30% agency and 70% translator myself.”

      I also come from a registered firm. I work under employment contract. It’s a family firm. We are only translators. At some time tried to expand business, but encountered this funny difficulty: whenever you urgently need a translator, they’re will be at work (teachers mostly). Other agencies have found a simple solution to this problem: they “hire”, that is make lists of translators, students, unemployed, women on maternity leave… The competition between agencies in this country is fierce, so fierce as nowhere in the world For some reasons, there are thousands of firms here. About 140 of them certified by EN 15038. They can’t find qualified translators, for qualified Bulgarian translators prefer to be on the databases of West European and American companies, so-called global companies. So it goes.

      Like

    • “not all agencies are the same and that the good ones play a very important and very useful role.”

      Couldn’t agree more. We only need to clarify, is it a good agency one that doesn’t allow a direct contact between clients and translators and claims it has done all translation, editing, etc. I think, it’s the same as if a publishing house claimed it had written/translated, edited, etc. all books that come out under its logo.

      “I also happen to be about 30% agency and 70% translator myself.”

      I also come from a registered firm. I work under employment contract. It’s a family firm. We are only translators. At some time tried to expand business, but encountered this funny difficulty: whenever you urgently need a translator, they will be at work (teachers mostly). Other agencies have found a simple solution to this problem: they “hire”, that is make lists of translators, students, unemployed, women on maternity leave… The competition between agencies in this country is fierce, so fierce as nowhere in the world For some reasons, there are thousands of firms here. About 140 of them certified by EN 15038. They can’t find qualified translators, for qualified Bulgarian translators prefer to be on the databases of West European and American companies, so-called global companies. So it goes.

      Like

  10. “Why don’t you come to the IAPTI conference at the beginning of September in Bordeaux, France”

    Thanks for invitin me, so to say, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to come to France even I were in perfect health, simply because I don’t have money. I can’t even afford a journey to my home town here in Bulgaria, some 300 km away from Varna where I’ve been since 1984. Haven’t enjoyed a real holiday for 20 years, either. Sad, but true. Surprised?

    Like

  11. Surprised, yes, a little.

    Well, maybe I’ll make it to Varna one day. Haven’t been there since 1979.

    Like

  12. “Haven’t been there since 1979.”

    You’re always welcome. But not over coffer or brandy, nor the famous local hard alcoholic drink, rakia. Harry doesn’t drink any. Well, I do, if need be to forge a friendship in this way. But we can offer something more original, sort of eco-activities. There are wonderful mini-mountain-like surroundings behind Varna whose beauty few people are aware of. The Black sea is in front, you know. The lowest branches of a large mountain range, giving the name of the Balkan peninsula, reach the sea coast. As we are keen hikers, we can take you for a walk, if you don’t mind. Or on a picnic … You won’t be sorry, I promise!

    Like

  13. Thank you, I will keep it in mind.

    (The word “rakia” brought back memories of a horrible, horrible hangover many years. After that, I switched to pliska).

    Like

    • Ah, forget about rakia then! Better back to translation agencies dispute. Since I read yours “my beloved money makers” I’ve been haunted by the image of a poor Chinese or East European guy sweating over a long piece of translation for you. Then he or she emails it, you proofread it and hand it over to a thankful client at a price five or ten-fold the one you pay your wretched anonymous “workers”. The client believes it was you that did it all… No?

      Like

  14. You’ve got it all wrong.

    The people who work for me, and there are not that many of them, all live in US or Western Europe, I pay the them the rate that they ask, the clients pay more or less the double of that to me, and the clients know which translations were done by me and which ones were done by other translators because they know which languages I translate and also because I generally charge higher rates for languages that I don’t translate myself (so that I could pay the translator and still make a nice profit).

    I think that many translators operate based on the same principle, and that perhaps more of them should.

    And let’s leave it at that.

    Like

  15. I wrote about this issue a while ago, and it may be of some use in this discussion: http://doubledutchtranslations.com/2013/07/01/to-define-oneself-or-to-be-defined-by-others/
    In many ways, we are our own worst enemies.

    Like

  16. As you have said many times, Louis, language is important.

    That is why “the translation industry” prefers to call us “vendors” instead of translators.

    If all we are is just “vendors”, then we are interchangeable and relatively unimportant cog in the gears of the industry, not really creators of anything. And just like vendors who sell hot dogs, or pretzels and soda, who need a permission called concession from the City Hall to park their food truck in the office district, we too need a concession from “the translation industry” to sell our translations. Which will be graciously granted to us, provided that we understands that at any moment we can be replaced by edited or unedited machine pseudo-translation and that we must compete with hungry masses of “translators” in Chindia and elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I have long observed the practice of ‘doffing of one’s cap’ and ‘pulling one’s forelock’ to impress and influence the ‘job creators’. It doesn’t work.
    All it does is facilitate and reinforce a perception of inequality and hence exploitation of the weaker party.
    In business, as in poker, the confidence to negotiate better terms is inspired by the perception that you have the better hand.
    It is up to us to improve the perception of our skills and worth, and use of the right terminology is an important start to the process.

    Like

  18. I think that it may be a mistake for translators to use, and thereby entrench, the term free-lancer for an independent translator. Even in its original meaning, the only thing ‘free’, was to decide whether and whom to carry your lance (fight) for, i.e. a mercenary. However, once that decision or choice was made, the warlord who offered the wage, or ‘wonderful opportunity’, took charge (of you) and determined pretty much everything else, even when and where you were going to die.

    In the case where there really was only the one side to join, because the enemy was far away and probably xenophobic, there was usually only a choice between accepting an offer or going hungry, i.e. a ‘take-it-or-leave-it contract (known a contract of adhesion). Not unlike the relationship between many corporate agencies and their free-lance translators today.

    Therefore, the use of the term free-lancer reinforces the skewed/asymmetric professional/commercial relationship between translators and agencies.
    In a perfect world, an agency would be representing the skills and interests of the translators on their books. Surely what is good for film stars is good enough for translators 🙂
    I think we need to invent a better term for independent translators, even if they are stup.., sorry willing enough to work for corporate intermediaries/entrepreneurs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “even if they are stup.., sorry willing enough to work for corporate intermediaries/entrepreneurs.”

      Agency-owners are also stup.., sorry, … willing enough to work for corporate intermediaries/entrepreneurs. Steve is a good example. Another is you:

      “We are a small professional practice where the partners do the work and take full responsibility for quality and timely delivery.”
      http://www.doubledutch.com.au/index.php
      Comment: 1st person plural? invisible partners!

      On the next page the person is 3rd singular. It’s you again:
      “FREELANCE technical translator Dutch/Flemish>English.”
      http://www.doubledutch.com.au/About-us.php

      Then, on your Testimonials page http://www.doubledutch.com.au/Testimonials.php
      one can read how happy Dewachter Vertaalbureau – Belgium was with your service (“I was very happy with your service, absolutely!!!”) and how Yamagata-Europe approached you: “Are you available for translation? That would be great!“

      Who are Dewachter Vertaalbureau – Belgium?
      http://dewachter.biz/start_en.html
      We offer you a solution for any and all European languages, as well as for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Turkish en Arabic. 
      (translation: http://www.peticiq.com/forum/32093/start/15075#15084)

      Being a typical agency, Dewachter Vertaalbureau – Belgium call the translators from its database “our staff”: “OUR STAFF, all of them professionals and specialised in one or more languages and subjects, have been specifically selected to fulfil the most stringent requirements our customers might have.”

      As a rule, an agency is always looking for “staff” of freelancers. So is Yamagata-Europe: “Freelance translators: We’re always looking for highly qualified translators “
      http://www.yamagata-europe.com/en-gb/page/31/jobs

      In short: The core problem is legal ignorance of both translators and agencies and lack of control, which has lead to widespread fraudulent practices in the field of translation service provision clients to the great detriment of translator’s clients.

      And I’d like you to reconsider the idea of agencies as “lords”. They aren’t. They wrongly claim lordship. I think the true Lords are Clients. Don’t you? I also think it’s perfectly right for translators to offer their “lances” to the real Clients, while it’s awfully wrong for both translators and real clients to be deprived of direct contact only to be ripped off by impostors masked as miraculous polyglots.
       

      Like

    • “even if they are stup.., sorry willing enough to work for corporate intermediaries/entrepreneurs.”

      Agency-owners are also stup.., sorry, … willing enough to work for corporate intermediaries/entrepreneurs. Steve is a good example. Another is you:

      “We are a small professional practice where the partners do the work and take full responsibility for quality and timely delivery.”
      http://www.doubledutch.com.au/index.php
      Comment: 1st person plural? agency-like presentation, invisible partners!

      On the next page the person is 3rd singular. It’s you again:
      “FREELANCE technical translator Dutch/Flemish>English.”
      http://www.doubledutch.com.au/About-us.php

      Then, on your Testimonials page http://www.doubledutch.com.au/Testimonials.php
      one can read how happy Dewachter Vertaalbureau – Belgium was with your service (“I was very happy with your service, absolutely!!!”) and how Yamagata-Europe approached you: “Are you available for translation? That would be great!“

      Who are Dewachter Vertaalbureau – Belgium?
      http://dewachter.biz/start_en.html
      We offer you a solution for any and all European languages, as well as for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Turkish en Arabic. 
      (translation: http://www.peticiq.com/forum/32093/start/15075#15084)

      Being a typical agency, Dewachter Vertaalbureau – Belgium call the translators from its database “our staff”: “OUR STAFF, all of them professionals and specialised in one or more languages and subjects, have been specifically selected to fulfil the most stringent requirements our customers might have.”

      As a rule, an agency is always looking for “staff” of freelancers. So is Yamagata-Europe: “Freelance translators: We’re always looking for highly qualified translators “
      http://www.yamagata-europe.com/en-gb/page/31/jobs

      In short: The core problem is legal ignorance of both translators and agencies and lack of control, which has lead to widespread fraudulent practices in the field of translation service provision to the great detriment of translator’s clients.

      And I’d like you to reconsider the idea of agencies as “lords”. They aren’t. They wrongly claim lordship. I think the true Lords are Clients. Don’t you? I also think it’s perfectly right for translators to offer their “lances” to the real Clients, while it’s awfully wrong for both translators and real clients to be deprived of direct contact only to be ripped off by impostors masked as miraculous polyglots.
       

      Like

      • My partner is my proof reader, Rennie, and I DeWachter is also a professional practice operated by a translator. I have worked for large intermediaries/corporate agencies in the past, and learned about the ‘industry’ as most of us do, i.e. through personal experience.

        I would not be able to write about it unless I had the experience. I still have a few ‘agency’ clients, but they are mostly professional practices, i.e. owned and managed by professional colleagues like DeWachter, Steve and myself.

        However, pricing and (payment) terms upon which I undertake any project are set by me after evaluating the source documents, and are for my colleague to accept or reject. Since most of them are looking for reliability and quality rather than the cheapest possible price, that does not often cause a problem.

        I clearly need to discuss my internet site details with the head of my IT department (my eldest son :-). Thanks for your hints, Rennie.

        Like

      • I highly appreciate your ideas, Louis. I have even cited some of them here or there (always referring to the source of citation), such as:

        “We are not businessmen any more than your doctor, dentist or lawyer would regard themselves as businessmen. We do not buy and sell products or services. We practise a professional skill based on knowledge, training and experience acquired through education, work experience and professional development“, or

        “A dysfunctional system favours the strong and ruthless.”, or

        “When it comes to providing intellectual, personal services, close consultation between the professional and the client is an essential part of ensuring quality outcomes.

        I cannot think of an intellectual, personal service other than in translation, where for commercial reasons, an intermediary ensures that such consultation does not occur.

        Surely, one of the defining characteristics of a ‘professional’, is that he or she takes PERSONAL responsibility for the quality of the service or advice provided.

        Agencies do not (and obviously cannot).” etc.

        However, I don’t think you’re right to call Steve’s or your company professional practices. A randomly taken practice of, say, legal professionals, looks like this: http://www.blg.com/en/ourpeople/search?k= As you can see, there’s information about the partners’ and associates’ names, their expertise and contact details. Perhaps you could put the names of your partners, expertise and contact details, too. This would mean you should forget about the commissions you get from their work FOR you, but a professional practice is NOT a multi-level marketing; it’s a union of equals. Don’t you agree?

        Like

  19. A professional practice is a commercial/legal entity for the delivery of the professional services of either a single professional, or more than one in partnership with others. Most professional practices have support staff (say proof readers in our case), and have collegial relationships with other outside professionals where in-house capacity falls short.

    Such collegial, outside support is usually charged to the client at cost plus a margin to cover overheads and the time spent on arranging, managing, supervising and checking the work delivered (because responsibility for quality and accuracy stays with the owners of the practice delivering it).

    When providing a translation for a colleague or a professional agency (practice), I quote my normal (direct to client) fee and discount it by 20%.
    I expect (and suggest where necessary) the same in reverse.

    The notion of commissions does not fit our situation, it generally applies to the sale of goods by intermediaries.

    Like

  20. A professional practice is a commercial/legal entity for the delivery of the professional services of either a single professional, or more than one in partnership with others. Most professional practices have support staff (say proof readers in our case), and have collegial relationships with other outside professionals where in-house capacity falls short.

    Such collegial, outside support is usually charged to the client at cost plus a margin to cover overheads and the time spent on arranging, managing, supervising and checking the work delivered (because responsibility for quality and accuracy stays with the owners of the practice delivering it).

    When providing a translation for a colleague or a professional agency (practice), I quote my normal (direct to client) fee and discount it by 20%.
    I expect (and suggest where necessary) the same in reverse.

    The notion of commissions does not fit our situation, it generally applies to the sale of goods by intermediaries.

    Like

  21. […] Understanding what translation is from a legal point of view is key to exercising your rights as a professional translator. So, wherever you are in the world, try to find out what system you’re in. Take a look at your applicable law. Talk to a lawyer in your area, some of us are actually pretty decent human beings and happy to help. But whatever you do, don’t believe people that equate translation to selling hot dogs, no matter how many times agencies refer to you as a “vendor.” And while we’re on the subject of vending, why not check out Steve Vitek’s post (which inspired my post) here? […]

    Like

  22. I also prefer to just ignore any communication that doesn’t address me by name. Even if a company does a mass mailing, it is so easy to include fields with the name and/or last name.
    In addition to “vendor management” and “supplier management”, couple of time I came across “talent management”. Just pretty words, nothing more.

    Liked by 1 person


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