Hi Bill. Happy New Year.

Hey Dyane, whazzup?

Everything’s cool here. How about you?

This year got off to a wicked start. Feel like grabbing a cup of coffee?

Sure.

Well, my first assignment consisted of spell checking only the tracked changes in a document for a Dutch customer. The rest of the English had already been approved and was fine, so they said. It’s really commendable that they should ask a professional to check their English, but spell checking only the tracked changes, which also contained their comments? I was also explicitly asked not to change the wording, so all I could do was leave a comment when a sentence made no sense. I didn’t quite get the point of the exercise. Normally, I’d explain to the customer that this is a waste of their money and my time, but this came through an agency and they told me to give the customer what they wanted, so I decided to bite the bullet.

I know exactly what you mean, Bill. I’m not one to take advantage of a customer’s ignorance or false perception of what we do, but sometimes I can’t help thinking that they don’t deserve better. My first assignment wasn’t much better. I received a set of three files with an excellent deadline. A few days later, I received an e-mail asking me not to start yet because the customer was making some changes to the files and would send new ones. A few days after that, I received an e-mail explaining something about new files before the customer contact goes on vacation. When I suggested that I could always start working on the files I’d received and deal with the updates later, I was told that I couldn’t: The “change” consisted of deleting the numbers in the files because the customer wanted to make sure the agency wasn’t charging them for them. I was speechless.

All I can say to that is “new year, new moronic requests” … People really don’t know how this “industry” works. I’m sure it won’t be long before I receive the first request to drop my rates. I’m seriously thinking of raising them, though. I haven’t raised my rates in 12 years. It’s like end clients want everything for free but find it perfectly natural to defend the price of their own products and services tooth and nail.

Yeah, and the machine translation hype isn’t helping any – neither in terms of rates nor in terms of quality. I left the computer industry because I was tired of the empty promises and now here I am listening to people talk about “new, must have services” that are actually nothing more than proven processes that have been repackaged and renamed. Amazing. It’s like So you think you can translate reality TV, only this show never goes off the air. Amateurs as contestants, salesmen as judges. Everywhere I look, nothing but vaporware.

Anything to save money, Dyane, and to devalue what we do. How often have your customers told you that they only hired you because they don’t have the time to do the translation, write the user guide or interpret the focus group themselves? You’d think they never heard the idiom “Penny wise, pound foolish.” Or maybe they think it only applies to the aspects of their business they do understand.

It makes me think they’re only interested in making a quick buck. Or maybe I’m just too critical and it doesn’t matter if a Web site or user instructions are comprehensible.

Possibly. But maybe, and I never thought I’d be saying this, Twitter will save the day. I heard something interesting on the evening news yesterday. A guy bought a jacket from Wehkamp but never received it. He called customer support several times and kept getting silly answers, so he decided to tweet about it. And guess what? He not only received the jacket he had ordered, he received a second one as a form of apology. Calling a company to complain is one thing, broadcasting your annoyance to the world is another. I guess associating dollar signs to masses of consumers makes a big difference.

I’ve been thinking about setting up a twitter account for a while … Hmmm. Na ja, until then, I’ll continue defending the fort with honesty and openness. That’s worked best for me so far and I see no reason why things should change.

Hey, I gotta run. Nice talking to you, Dyane.

Thanks for the coffee, Bill.

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