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Stop check fees are a part of doing business March 2, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

I am currently in the process of deciding if I ever want to work for this client again, and it is all over a $31 stop payment fee. The long and short of the story is an agency that I worked for twice in 2010 owes me about $1400 for a job I did for them in early December. The payment was overdue by 30 days, so I sent them a reminder. They informed me that they had mailed the payment on December 31st. Turns out they mailed it to my old address since that is the address they had for me on file. I haven’t lived there since June 1, 2010. My former landlady had contacted me in early January to tell me that I had received some mail at the old address (including what looked like a check) and asked for my address to forward it to me. Needless to say she didn’t and when I called her again two weeks ago she told me she would, but still hasn’t.

I contacted the client for them to reissue the check. They told me they would have to stop payment on the check, and they would be charging me the stop payment fee. Even though the problem happened through absolutely no fault of my own. They claim it’s my fault because they say I didn’t notify them when I moved. My correct address was on the invoice, and oddly enough none of my other clients have had problems updating my address or sending payments and 1099-MISCs to the correct address.

Legally I am correct, but in order to get paid I am going to have to eat the stop payment fee. What is up with agencies feeling they can pass on fees like this onto the little guy? If I have to stop payment on a check it’s not like I can pass the fee on. I would never charge the Illuminating Company or even one of my subcontractors a fee to stop payment on a check I wrote them. It’s part of doing business and should be written off by the company. Am I wrong in feeling this way? Agency owners, what say you? The opinion on the Business Practices listserv was either that it was silly of the agency to charge me the fee or just write it off and not quibble about $31 in the grand scheme of things.

I can tell you this though… there are some major negative feelings on my end towards this client, and I will not be working with such a petty, nickle-and-dime agency in the future. Since I only translated this job at the end of 2011, two jobs for them in 2010 and several in 2008, this won’t be that big of a loss. There are plenty of other good agencies out there that value their translators. All over a stupid $31 fee that they could have easily written off as a business expense. I hope it was worth it to them.

Update: I received the replacement check (for the full amount) today and in response to my e-mail letting them know and thanking them I received this e-mail:

Accounting told me that your old check came back to us, I guess your landlady never sent it to you, but to us. So we have re-sent it to the new address. Therefore, don’t worry about extra charges 🙂

All’s well that ends well.



1. patenttranslator - March 2, 2012

It was clearly their fault if they sent the check to the wrong address. It is their job to pay attention to what is on the invoice.

Subcontractors can’t possibly notify every agency about a new address, we can usually let know major repeat customers that we have a new address, but that’s about it because most of us work for dozens of all kinds of customers, and these are often different customers every year.

Making you pay for their negligence, after they let you wait for such a long time for the money, clearly shows who they.

I would never work for them again. And once I got paid, I would let everybody know the name of the company.

Things like this are one reason why I basically stopped working for agencies.

Incidentally, last month I got 2 new customers who found me through my website. I charged one over eighteen hundred dollars, and the other one over fifteen hundred dollars for 2 long Japanese patents,

One paid me in 7 days, and the other one in 3 days.

Things like that are another reason why I don’t want to work for agencies.

2. Amenel - March 3, 2012

Yes, let their name slip.

If you are still on good terms with your old landlady, you should wait for your old landlord to send you the check.

As to “I am currently in the process of deciding if I ever want to work for this client again”, well, don’t work for them again.

I know some intermediairies (not necessarily translation agencies) want to win on all sides of each scenario but life isn’t “win-always” for some and “loss-always” for others. They can’t win If you don’t play their game so I recommend you get what you want (the money) without letting them have anything. That’s including the satisfaction of retaining $31, thereby adding insult to the injury of insinuating that you are untrustworthy – why would they have to stop payment on the first check?

I would have also given that same advice if the $31 had been a cent.

Amenel - March 3, 2012

“If you are still on good terms with your old landlady, you should wait for your old landlord to send you the check.”

I hope it’s obvious that I have expressed the same idea twice and forgot to edit the sentence properly. Actually, I didn’t know there was a feminine counterpart to “landlord”.

3. Carolyn Y. - March 3, 2012

I agree, don’t think about it any more! There’s no reason for a client to be so petty when you provide them a valuable, high-quality service. That’s the great part about working for yourself– you choose who you work with. And who you don’t work with.

4. Mike Bailey - March 4, 2012

31 dollars represents some 2% of the overall fee – factor in how much your time is worth to protest against the 31 dollars and you’ll probably realise that you might as well take the hit. Sure it is not good practice by the agency but you can always choose not to work for them.

5. Judy Jenner (@language_news) - March 5, 2012

Great food for thought here. Nice discussing this topic with you. You already know my opinion — you are right, they are wrong. I’d let it go and not work for them again. It’s very unfortunate that they are willing to lose you as a contractor over $31, but unfortunately, you can’t control what they do. You can control what you do: take your awesome skills somewhere else.

6. Lilly - March 6, 2012

I would absolutely let it go, but absolutely never work with them again. No two ways about it. They should be concerned about retaining you as a good translator and they’re not, so just politely decline any future offers from them.

7. Jeff - March 14, 2012

Individually we have to decide what our bottom line is. Although generally speaking our company has moved past most agencies, we still work with a few. Is the headache worth it?

8. transubstantiation - March 16, 2012

God, haven’t we all been there. Never work with them again. People, really DO have to learn not to treat translators like this. I get the impression that often translators get a bad ride.

9. Jenny - March 30, 2017

This may not even get to you, but what law did you find that prohibited them from charging you the fee? My husband is a trucking contractor and his main employer has twice failed to get us his weekly pay in a timely manner, so they want to charge us the $35 stop payment fee and the $20 overnight fee for his new check. The first time, we allowed them to do it because we needed the money, but this time we aren’t in dire straights, but still need his pay and I am willing to fight them over it. I know that we can deduct it on his Schedule C, but that isn’t the point. This company, like many with contraced drivers, are basically his employer, but don’t pay the employment payroll taxes, so he needs this job. He doesn’t have the freedom to just jump to another company to fill in the holes in his pay.

Jill (@bonnjill) - March 30, 2017

I didn’t look into it. I have the luxury of just not working with them again. I am not a lawyer, but I suggest you contact one.

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