Agency Needs an Interpreter in 5 Minutes Across Town

An unfortunate reality is the last-minute rush job. It’s a fact of life, at times, unavoidable. It makes sense to prepare for such eventualities. I take pride in handling these matters efficiently for my great clients. These are the direct clients that are happy to pay what we are worth. They pay promptly and are a pleasure with whom to work.

Periodically, I receive a phone call from an agency with whom I have never worked. It is always in a desperate jam and needs me to provide an interpreter across town in five minutes. Of course, the agency also asks me to drop everything for this job at the cheapest price possible, promising plenty of cheap work if I help it out.  The other day, I received a call from such an agency. “Hello, My name is Bill from Top Trans Inc (names have been changed). Do you think you can provide an interpreter in Walhalla at 3:00 p.m.?” When I glanced at my clock, the time was 1:00pm; Walhalla is an hour and a half away, permitting only 30 minutes wiggle room. I could do the job even If I couldn’t find someone else.

At that moment, I paused and asked Bill if we had ever worked with his company before. He answered, “no” (translation: I know nothing about them). I don’t know its reputation, payment policy, history, billing procedures, or pay rate. A perfect stranger calls me, asking me to race across town for him with no information whatsoever.

I replied, “I would be happy to do the job for you at our standard agency rate. However, I suspect you are unwilling to pay that rate.”

“Well how much is it?” he asked. I quoted him somewhere between 50 to 70 percent more than they usually pay interpreters.

“That’s awfully high!” he exclaimed. “Can’t you drop the price?”

“No, that is my agency rate,” I responded.

He asked me if my company was an agency. I said that we were a small language service provider covering the state.  He inquired if I could refer him to an interpreter. My nature is to collaborate.  Quite often, I refer others if I cannot care for a client’s needs. However, my name is always behind a referral, so I don’t give them willy-nilly.  Again, this agency didn’t know me, it wanted coverage at the cheapest price. Bill didn’t even know if we had qualified interpreters. There was no interview, no assessment of language skills, no discussion on ethics. Past experience with these types of companies has taught me that the agency would likely renege on its promise to me and reassigned future work to other cheaper interpreters. They would only call me when desperate. In fact I don’t even know if they would even have paid me.

Agency work is not necessarily out of the question. What I’m saying is that important questions need to be answered and then both parties determine if there is a fit.

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4 thoughts on “Agency Needs an Interpreter in 5 Minutes Across Town”

  1. Pingback: Agency Needs an Interpreter in 5 Minutes Across...

  2. Thanks for sharing this experience that many of us can relate to. What ended up happening? Did you refer someone else to them? How did this situation turn out? 🙂

  3. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Dec 20-26) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

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