Reserving reporters far in advance - and then the job cancels!

Am I the only one who has been suffering from this syndrome?  Certain agencies reserve you a week or even two weeks beforehand.  They tell you just enough about the job to get you to take it, like, it's supposed to be a full day, this lawyer "usually" orders a rough at the end, etc.   So you turn down jobs, sometimes better jobs, that are offered to you as late as the day before.  Then, Bam!   At 3:30 or four p.m. on the day before, they tell you it's canceled, and they're "sorry."  

Does it strike you that there's something unfair about this?  When it happens, the agency has no obligation to the reporter at all.  They're "sorry," and that's all you'll get from them.  Meanwhile the reporter is left with no work and no recourse.  But if you turned the job back to them because you got offered something better, there's hell to pay!  They'll never use you again, etc., etc.  I think there's something lopsided about this.  Why  is all the onus on the reporter?  If they've tied you up for a week and required you to turn down other work, and then when the day comes, they have nothing to offer you, shouldn't they have some obligation to you?  How do others handle this?  I'm really getting tired of it.

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Try not scheduling so far ahead and see if it works out better for you. The agency has no obligation to you, but at the same time, your only obligation is to stick to the jobs you agreed to take. You have no obligation to say yes originally, if you're freelance. And yes, it is a very hard part of the job.

With no obligation to the reporters, the attorneys and agencies will have no hesitation about booking freelance reporters far in advance for the most "iffy" jobs.  They certainly wouldn't waste their staff reporters' time with things like this.  And when work is scarce (as it has been in my area for years) you tend to want to grab what jobs are offered, when they're offered, because you don't know if you'll get anything else for that day.

There should be some nationwide standard for how to compensate a reporter who has been tied up like this for nothing.

It costs the agency nothing at all when your job cancels after you've been tied up for two weeks.  An "I'm sorry" costs them nothing.  You're the one who loses out on the job that cancelled and on the jobs you had to turn down!   This is wrong!


If I get a really good offer (realtime/rush/multicopy) for the same day I've booked a depo more than a week or two out, I will ask the original firm if they can check to see if it's still going because someone has just contacted me about a job that same day.  I tell them I will still take the job if they need me because they were first in line.  Sometimes they'll say, oh, we've had a lot of cancellations that day, we can cover it so go ahead and take it or they say we're slammed so we still need you.  Still other times they'll say, oh, we forgot to call you, that's off.  
I would not suggest doing this with new-to-you firms or doing it every week with your regular firms, but I've been pretty lucky that most calendar people understand and will try to help you out if possible.   

You should have an after 5 pm late cancellation fee that's a bit less than what you'd charge for a same-day cancel too.  Both CR firms and attorneys will try harder to let the office/reporter know something went off if they have to pay for cancellations.  Interpreters and videographers both charge - with much earlier cutoffs than 5 pm - but we're apparently not as good business people as they are. 

Interpreters were smart enough to get a 24 hour cancellation policy written into the Workers' Compensation Regulations in California which then spilled over to just about every other proceeding in California.

Unfortunately, Workers Compensation Regulations do not apply to self-employed freelancers.  We're at everyone's mercy!

There used to be a practice in NY, when we had the Federation, that if a job cancels after 5:30 p.m. on the day before, the reporter was entitled to a bust fee (which is little enough) for the lost day coming up.  If you were fortunate enough to be able to get a job for that day to replace the one that canceled, then the bust fee was waived.

Well, a few years ago I tried that one out on a national firm which had assigned me two days, and they cancelled the second day late in the afternoon of the first day.  I spoke to one of the executives at the agency.  I told him that was the prevailing practice in NY and NJ.  He said he understood that was the practice, but they do not do that. And that was the end of the conversation.  (This is a firm that wants the reporter to take out a liablilty policy naming the agency as beneficiary!)  I haven't worked for them since.

Shouldn't the client be charged something if he cancels you when it's too late to get something else?  Your plumber charges you if you're not home when he comes.  Your doctor will bill you if you cancel your office visit less than 24 hours before.  But reporters are supposed to eat this.

On some of the Facebook groups I belong to they're encouraging everyone to be the business owners they should be. They should have the attitude that they're their own business, not an independent contractor who has to accept whatever the firm says they pay.   Make up your own rate sheet with all the different possibilities.  Including, of course, a same day cancellation charge and a late cancellation charge (after 5 pm the day before).  Make sure to put in no free rough with realtime and that if they order realtime or a rough, that means they automatically order (and pay for) a regular transcript as well.

When a new firm emails you a job, ask their rates.  If they're not acceptable, you respond with a copy of your rate sheet attached and say I'd be happy to take this assignment.  These are the rates I charge.  Please verify with me that you will pay these rates.  You then get it in writing (via email) that they accept those rates or they negotiate with you on the rate.   Of course, it's perfectly acceptable to negotiate with them as long as you're not shortchanging yourself.  Usually it's an exchange on the order of if you lower your per diem, we'll up the page rate. 

Brilliant!!!!   all new reporters should be hearing this!!!

now to get busy on my rate sheet....

yup, more heavy lifting....

Yeah, Kellie!!  that is the way it should be!  Agencies should work WITH reporters when trying to cover jobs.

Yes, I've done that too on occasion, and it has worked well for me.  Glad to hear it has for you too. :-)

I am on your side, David, and it is only one of the reasons I am very leery about working for agencies.  It seems that they are not considerate of the reporter, EVERYTHING is at the expense of the reporter.  Who's doing the heavy lifting here? 

I don't mean to be talking "out of line," I just wanted to let off some steam with you.  I would be very upset if that happened to me, too!  And I would probably never book in advance with that agency again!



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