See the original post along with reader commentary on on Miguel Llorens’ Financial Translation blog.
A Personal Response to Lionbridge VP Didier Helin’s Unilateral Demand of a 5% Discount
Lionbridge’s Trick or Treat Massacre: Give Us a 5% Discount or We’ll Shave Your Cat!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a translation company of a goodly size must be in want of a discount from its freelance workforce.
Another truth is that the bigger they are, the less you want to work for them.
As if to confirm the wisdom of the classics, last Friday afternoon, as I was wrapping up my work week, I abruptly received the following email from someone called Didier Hélin, Vice President of World Wide Vendor & Supply Chain Management at Lionbridge, a rather large translation company (although not as large, perhaps, as that title). I transcribe it in its entirety:
Dear Miguel Llorens,The global economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 affected all of us. Together, as translation partners, we weathered this challenging and uncertain economic environment and demonstrated our value to clients worldwide. Today, while some economies are showing some signs of improvement, the overall demand environment remains fragile and volatile:· This week, The Economist commented that “industrial production in the USA fell by 0.2% in September, the first decline in more than a year”;· In October alone, the US Dollar lost 6% of its value against the Euro. Year-to-date the US Dollar also lost 6% of its value against the Japanese Yen;· Most economists predict little or no growth in Europe and Japan for 2011.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 Lionbridge projects. This discount is independent of any other agreements we may have in place with you.Lionbridge is not taking this step lightly and understands the effort it represents. Please keep in mind the following points:· In most markets, Lionbridge bears the full burden and risk associated with exchange-rate fluctuations; as a USD denominated company this means we have effectively seen our outsourcing costs rise by approximately 6% in the last month alone;· Lionbridge continues to put tremendous effort into securing new and existing customers and markets, effectively providing for our and YOUR future revenue streams;· To meet customer demands, Lionbridge has taken extraordinary steps to reduce its fixed costs and we will continue to do so. We ask our partners to do the same.In closing, I want to reiterate Lionbridge’s commitment to increasing market demand for translation services by providing the industry’s most innovative, efficient and high-quality services that enable clients to extend their global reach. As our translation partner, your success is tightly aligned with our success. I want to personally thank you for the services you are providing to Lionbridge during these challenging times and I look forward to extending our partnership in 2011 and beyond.Thank you,Didier________________________________
World Wide Vendor & Supply Chain ManagementLionbridge
1050 Winter Street
Waltham, MA 02451
Wow, right? The first thing I must highlight is the fact that Monsieur Hélin was classy enough to send this mass email from a dummy address that shows upon my sender tab as: “IMPORTANT – DO NOT REPLY” firstname.lastname@example.org. His actual, real email is absent from this flaming pile of dung he deposited in my inbox, which I thought was odd, given that our “translation partnership” has weathered the uncertainty of 2008 and 2009 and that he is looking after my-“OUR” revenue streams. Since I’m not able to respond to “my partner’s” indecent proposal personally, let me take the opportunity to reply publicly through this medium.(The absence of Didier Hélin’s personal email address is indeed odd, since we are apparently on a first name and last name basis and “our success is tightly aligned.” However, a little googling allowed me to dig up Didier Hélin’s email:Didier.Helin@lionbridge.com. And his telephone number: 1 781 434 6000. Obviously, it is not a direct line, but I’m sure someone will patch you through. So if you want to reply to him personally, I am sure he is just waiting for your feedback.)
Dear Didier Hélin,
First of all, let me compliment you on the detail of addressing me as “Dear Miguel Llorens.” This in no way connotes that you simply made a mail merge from a database of thousands of people. It seems you were unable to figure out how to include just first names. So in addition to thrifty, you are really skillful with them newfangled contraptions, Didier Hélin.
Second of all, I must inform you that I do not work for Lionbridge. I was an infrequent and reluctant accomplice of your agency until some years ago, when I discontinued collaboration after coming to the conclusion that your project managers and I simply spoke different languages/lived on different planets/were not drinking the same Kool-Aid/were addicted to different hallucinogens. I distinctly remember the experience of getting a project request with twelve of thirteen pages of incomprehensible instructions. I subsequently opened the accompanying Excel file and was faced with an impenetrable wall of characters that did not resemble any human language I speak.
Seriously, Didier Hélin, I’m a smart dude. I went to college. I read a lot. And I’m experienced. But I swear to God that getting that Excel file from your project manager was a little like getting a message from aliens. On one hand, you are glad that there is non-human intelligence out there, but, on the other, since you can’t crack the code, you don’t know if it’s a Christmas card or an ultimatum prior to an invasion by the pod people.
So that was the end of my cooperation with Lionbridge. The hilarious thing is that your company is so… alternatively enabled, shall we say, is that I still get these absurd project proposals periodically from Lionbridge PMs asking me to test-drive a rhinoceros for an hour or measure the acidity of my running water. I ignore them, the same way a creationist paleontologist ignores the fossils that periodically fall on his head.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that your company exists. Indeed, I believe that you exist, Didier Hélin, in all your Euro-American glory, your Boston red Sox cap and can-do, gung-ho, go get’em attitude.
No, I ignore Lionbridge not because I doubt your existence. I ignore you because I simply do not want to work for you. And it’s not just low rates. It is mostly the robotic nature of your company. Your project managers appear to speak English, but, regardless of nationality, they just behave in an incomprehensible manner.
They still pitch me projects years after I informed the company I didn’t want to work for it. They send me purchase orders I never open for projects I never accepted, and then email frantically several days afterward screaming: “Where are the files!!!?” The amazing thing is no one ever picks up a phone to confirm whether I died. It’s like the 21st century version of the final scene of Is Paris Burning?
You email is indicative of this same, inimitable Lionbridge style. It’s not just the robo-email. Not just the dummy address. It’s the entire drive-by nature of your message: “Welcome to Losertown! Population: You! And if you want a rebuttal, I’ll see you in the funnies!”
Although it is a little more than that. The content of your email, as another unfortunate recipient of your flaming bag of dog refuse has very calmly explained, is just as flawed (see the response here).
You see, Didier Hélin, in addition to being the front man for a not-very-efficient and not-well-liked corporate hierarchy, you’re also not very smart. And transparently, almost delightfully, so.
You cite, in the scintillating prose of the douchy middle manager, the fragility of the “overall demand environment”.
And to support your claim, you proceed to cite the following factoid:
This week, The Economist commented that “industrial production in the USA fell by 0.2% in September, the first decline in more than a year”;
Oh… MY… GOD!!!! Industrial production fell 0.2% in September! “I think we’re going to have to wake up the president for this one, Didier Hélin.”
I mean, Jesus Christ, industrial production fell 0.2%! Do you know what that means?
It means that if this goes on, within 500 months there will be no industrial production at all!!!!
But that is 41.6 years from now, Didier Hélin.
If we’re both still around by then, by all means, I will be more than glad to give Lionbridge a 5% discount as we scavenge around the ruins of civilization for a can of sardines and a non-radioactive reservoir of fresh water.
In the mean time, however, please refrain from sending me any further messages.
Your translation partner,