Dear Mr. H,
I got some e-mail from you today! Oh, I know it was a mass mailing sent out to all of your translation vendors, but rest assured I felt a very real personal connection. It immediately prompted a question, but I’ll get to that a little later. Let me give a little bit of context first.
The subject line alone (“Subject: Urgent and Important — Your Immediate Support Required”) was quite impressive. Perhaps you were in trouble? Perhaps you needed a couch to crash on. Or maybe you needed help moving! I’m always eager to support my friends.
Forgive me. I may be presumptuous; after all, we aren’t close. You’re the Vice President of something or the other at your company, and I’m some guy who did a bunch of translation for your Finnish office. It’s been, oh, probably about three years since the last time I did a job for you guys, but I’m still on your vendor list. Remember? Your company still sends me regular e-mails about your awesome new translation tool that you now apparently require all vendors to use. You know, the one they have to subscribe to! That was a nice one. I definitely think it’s very reasonable that the people you contract to do a job have to pay you for the privilege.
Anyway, I would send this to you directly, but it turns out that for some reason, you neglected to include your e-mail address in your sensitive and very touching e-mail. It’s almost as if you didn’t want to hear any feedback! Believe me, I thought long and hard about whether I should say this in public like this, and in the end I chickened out and removed your name and the name of your company. I don’t really care about burning bridges, but even so, I don’t want a rep as a guy who makes a public spectacle out of every little grievance. And yet this felt like something that I should say.
So, in that spirit, let me quote some of your words, just in case you forgot what you were saying. I’ll skip the boring parts — the dollar is weak, the economy is in a bad shape, blah blah — and cut to the chase:
In today’s uncertain economic environment customers expect all of us to deliver “more for less”. To remain competitive, we are all demanding more from ourselves to meet these challenges.
Against the backdrop of this negative economic context, effective November 1, 2010 through January 1, 2011 we require all our partners to provide a 5% discount on all [company] projects. This discount is independent of any other agreements we may have in place with you.
Oh! Okay. Just between the two of us, I think that if I was still sending invoices your way, I might find this just a little teeny tiny bit horribly offensive and unreasonable. Not just because of the 5%, although that would certainly be a part of it, but because I have a sneaking suspicion that if I were to inform you that I require a 5% bonus on all projects, you would not be inclined to agree, no matter how well I explained how the global economic realities affect me.
You would most likely point out that we have an agreed-on rate for translation projects, and that I cannot just unilaterally increase it. At the very least, we would have to sit down and agree on a new rate, because, you know, that’s how things are done. I mean, I can’t go to my current employer and just inform them about my new salary. I’m probably going to have to ask for a raise. (If things work differently at your company, are you hiring? Because I think I could make that work for me — but then, that might explain why you feel like saving some money. Just saying.)
In any case, I fully understand that you really want to improve your profits for the last quarter of 2010, but demanding that your “translation vendors” — and just to be clear here, to a great extent, this euphemism actually refers to individual freelance translators — suddenly provide more for less seems kind of unreasonable. Call me crazy, but I don’t think you’re going to make it up to them later on. You’re not going to provide any job security, or bonuses, or stock options, or anything of the sort. After all, these are freelancers, right? The best they can hope for is that you do not stop providing them with new translation work. It’s kind of hard to not get the feeling that instead of a request for support, this is just plain old extortion. I mean, either people agree to this, or you just drop them. It’s not like you’re going to be providing them with any kind of severance pay, right?
My dear Mr. H, it seems to me that what you’re really saying here is, “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”
Are… are you Darth Vader?
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