Really, Hermès? $2,050 for a belt, but your interpreters only get $40 bucks an hour?

In the run-up to the big Hermès Craftsmanship Fair at Union Square in San Francisco in the third week of September, the Salt Lake City, Utah-based agency, Translation One, has been prowling the membership directories of such organizations as the American Translation Association and its affiliate, the Northern California Translators Association, in the search for interpreters without an ounce of self-respect.

Here’s the offer in full:

Because of the number of interpreters and duration of the event, and because they are doing this throughout the United States, in a lot of different locations, the budget is $40/hr, with a $25 per diem for 5 days (not the first day). Please let me know if you’re available and interested. Please note that the client will not be able to pay for travel or accommodation (some of you maybe live too far or you may your own accommodation near San Francisco ). If you are unavailable for this event, would you have some other interpreters to recommend (we need 7, one for each craftsman)?
September 19: 6:00pm-8:00pm Opening Event September 20-24: 11:00am – 6:00pm FOC open to public (please note, craftsmen will only be given 30 minutes for lunch).

Translation: They’re going to be making an enormous amount of money by hosting these Fairs across the U.S. That means they don’t want to miss out on a single penny of possible profit. As a result, they’re offering a pay rate that is, as one professional interpreter put it, “laughable, degrading, beyond human decency!!!”

Not to mention that, in San Francisco, a $25/day per diem (not the first day) will get you lunch or supper (but not both) and a BART ticket, and precious little else. Let’s not even joke about whether you could get a hotel room for that amount.

Translation One is just the latest of the mega- or “wish-we-could-be-mega” agencies (think TransPerfect and its evil spawn) to expect language professionals to eat … well, apparently they don’t expect us to eat at all.

In this particular case, they’re apparently hoping an awful lot of French>English interpreters live right there in San Fran and are going to be willing to hop on MUNI for the unrivaled pleasure of interpreting for seven hours a day (with a half-hour lunch — though how much do you want to bet interpreters don’t even get that?).

So let’s see. If you worked the entire event, you could take home (after taxes) … um, not quite half what it would cost to buy this lovely leather “Collier di Chien” calfskin belt.

For a company as venal as Hermès, this isn’t exactly a surprise. What is surprising is that they found an agency willing to serve as their stateside representative in their project of sticking it to interpreters.

Translation One, in the person of Isabelle Bastian, ought to be ashamed of itself. Write her and tell her so: isabelle@translationone.com.

As for Hermès and its big-deal Craftsmanship Fair: Why not just take a little stroll out onto Union Square and bring in some of the folks wandering around who don’t have roofs over their heads. They’ll be glad for the $25 per diem, and they’ll probably do better with French than the interpreters you rope in for the insulting amount you’re offering.

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