Agency Not Paying Any Copy Money if the Transcript is a Minimum Transcript

I just found out that I an agency I did a job for -- through here -- does not pay anything to the reporter on any copy orders made if the O+1 is considered a minimum transcript. Please be sure to ask that question before you accept any assignment. (I am in the SF Bay Area market.) I have never heard of anything like this before. This is a new low! So what's the motivation for me to ask if anyone wants a copy on something when it's a short depo when the agency is pocketing 100%? This was a 30-page job, and as far as I'm concerned, outright theft. I will NEVER work with this agency again.

If the people running CRS Nation would like to contact me about which agency this is, please feel free to do so.

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What does "minimum transcript" mean? Are you saying that you have a daily minimum (dollars or page count) and because they paid you the agreed-upon minimum on this 30-page job that they don't pay you the copy sale?
What minimum transcript means is that if the depo falls under what a reporter would receive for payment, let's say, doing a Statement on the Record or Non-Appearance type situation, they get that minimum transcript amount set by the firm automatically. (In my experience, the range is anywhere from $175 to $250.) However, if any attorney orders a copy of that, you get additional payment, and firms generally have a minimum amount they charge on a copy of transcript. Unfortunately, this agency treats a short transcript like a Statement on the Record for the copy attorneys (or at least that's what the owner is telling me.)

I'd also like to add that their minimum was so low on this job that I negotiated a higher amount, but I never imagined that I wasn't going to get the percent on the copy order from it, and when I got my check today, I saw no documentation about a pending copy order. So, when I spoke to the firm owner, I asked her, "Well, you are charging the firm for the copy, so why am I not getting a percentage?"

Her response, "I don't pay when it's a minimum transcript."

I then asked, "What if it was an O+5?"

"No."

Huh?

I'm sorry, I just find this so outrageous.
This was a crap job; wasted your whole day for peanuts. They most likely knew it would be short. And now to make matters worse + insulting, they refuse to pay you on copy orders, which is peanuts, too, but 15 peanuts are better than 10 peanuts.

Learn from this experience and add a line item to your rate sheet as to how you handle short jobs, statements on record, etc, and get agreement before you cover any work. The agency shouldn't be setting the terms but rather, the agency should agree to YOUR terms before you commit yourself to cover work for them.
Marge, I know you will enjoy this...I took a job a year or two back...set up the realtime w/throwdown laptop. Attorney said yes, she wanted the realtime. Ok, so few weeks later somebody from the agency emails me and asks me if I remember the attorney saying they wanted the realtime. Well, I always remember specific people. But what the agency did was forward me the actual invoice to the attorney....When I saw that they billed more than half of what I got for realtime hookup, I was so pissed that I wrote them back and said how disgusted I was to see that they billed more than half of what they paid me for realtime hookup and that they better not even think about not paying me for my fee.
Never did a job again for them --- they paid me though
Arielle,

There's 2 things that jump out at me from this interesting situation:

1. When someone requests RT, whether it be throwdown laptop or not, don't you whip out an order form and have them sign that they are ordering/buying RT? I could never remember later and I want signed proof to throw in a lawyer's face (or rather provide this ammo to the agency to do this) if they, the lawyer, dare to challenge the bill for services they received from the agency, whether it be rough, expedited, or RT.

2. How fortunate that the agency sent you the invoice. You now have the benefit of seeing what at least one agency is charging their client for RT and you can now adjust your rate sheet to reflect this. It's a challenge to keep up with "prevailing rates" but keep up we must. How else to know how to base our rates?

I charge a percentage of what I know to be prevailing rates. I know that some agencies are charging more for copy sales than what I base my rate on but I don't have enough evidence and so I haven't raised my copy rate in several years. When I have enough evidence that any item on my rate sheet has finally inched up, I change my rate sheet to reflect that. Unfortunately, it's been static for too many years now.

This is why it's good for CRs to TAWK!! How else to keep up with this stuff! Wherever we work, we need to know what attorneys are being charged for our services. If you work on a commission (which all of us do; no one should believe the flat rate crap), then we need to know what the agency is charging to know if we're being ripped off or not.

My dad's last career was a carpet salesman. He worked on commission. How would he know what to bill the manufacturer/factory for his commission if he didn't know the TRUTH about what the factory charged the customer. If the factory would dare try to keep secret what they were selling the goods for, he'd tell them "UP YOURS."

We are commission workers. A flat rate might be an abysmally low percentage of what the agency is charging. We need to do our due diligence.

So was this agency gouging attorneys for RT or were they charging what others charge and you were underbilling for that very valuable service?
It's one of those agencies that pay you what their rate is...
Further proof that these flat rates that some agencies use are a crock and are designed to keep as much money as possible out of the pockets of working stiffs.
I really would like to jump in here. I stopped working from 2002-2007, and since I've been back, I see such a change in the agencies. They don't want to tell you anything. It used to be 25% of what they charged, you received. Then it was 30%. Now, who the hell knows. To get a rate sheet out of an agency is like asking for State secrets. You know why? Because they don't pay their reporters the same, and they don't want us to know it. They will always try to negotiate you at the lowest rate when they first make contact, and hope that you're not smart enough to demand more. And I'm shocked at the # of firms that try to pay $1/page on a copy. That wasn't even the rate in 1996 when I started. There is no way they're charging less than $2/page, so, guess what, they're taking at least 50%. I actually had a firm out of the Redding area (this was a couple of months ago) tell me that they pay .90/page on a copy. I thought I was going to fall over. My response was "No thanks," and I hung up.
Hi, Melanie. An agency keeping all the copy sale money. Imagine that. I say that deadpan (not apparent in writing, unfortunately), because you should talk with a few NYC reporters. Right, Marge? Or agencies taking 50% of realtime fees, when they do absolutely nothing for it (referencing a thread in another forum). "I don't pay when it's a minimum transcript?" Melanie, the people running CSRnation may or may not be interested in who the firm is, but I can assure you that the rest of the reporting world would love to know who it is. You said it yourself, though: Ask the questions, and be SURE of the answers, before accepting any assignment! I'm with Marge all the way.

M.A.
Melanie,

Please email me at kellikellikay@aol.com. I would send you a private message but Ning, the host of this website, has the message center down right now. Pretty frustrating. I take this issue very seriously and I don't want any agency on this website that is not honest.

I would not work with them either.
Can you please e-mail me at bigrotoo@aol. com to let me know which firm this is? I'm still waiting five months for a copy job to be paid on and am curious if it might be the same firm. Thank you in advance. I know it states to contact you, but I am unsure on how to do that.
This has always been my motto when it comes to earning a living: "When people get funny with the money, I'm outta there."

I was informed on another industry forum that it is illegal to tell freelancers, ICs (independent contractors), or subs what the rates are that a company is paying. I found this EXTREMELY ODD, but the other forum said that it is illegal to dictate rates to others, unless they are an employee.

According to the IRS Tax Code and guidelines, if you tell an IC, freelancer, or sub the rates you pay, then you can get in BIG doodoo with the IRS, according to the members of another industry forum

Here is a snippet of what was written:

You, as the IC, are supposed to tell the potential client what you
charge for the job in question. The potential client then decides if
he/she can afford to use your services.

You *can* work as a statutory employee, and they name the rate.
However, in those cases, you usually get a lower rate but get some kind
of bennies to go along with whatever they pay you...

...It does all boil down to what you are charging and whether the company
or individual who needs the work done agrees to your price. It's just
like we, as consumers, shop around for goods and services. If we need a
plumber, we may call around and get prices, then settle on whichever
company we feel will give us the best deal for our $$$.


In the above-referenced snippet, the so-called "client" is the court reporting company.

I must say that this practice is not adhered to in the D.C. area. In the past 30 years I have been in this industry, working in a freelance capacity, independent contractor, or a subcontractor, the court reporting company told me what their rates were. I could not dictate what I thought I should be paid. If I did, they'd say, "Don't call us; we'll call you." LOL

However, after learning this new little tidbit of the IRS guidelines, I now have a new way of handling this if I need to procure the services of a freelancer, IC, or sub, thanks to another member of that industry forum: "My budget for this job is capped at this amount, but let me know what your rates are."

I would love to hear from others in the industry what their thoughts are on this topic.

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