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Just learned a hard lesson

Active Member
Arnold C Member Since: May 9, 2016
1 of 11

My freelancer filed a dispute to me for a work I just commissioned.


I received a message from Upwork on Jun 16 saying that they would follow up with me via email within 5 days. If we couldn't resolve the issue then the issue might go to Arbitration.


On Jun 16, I replied on the Upwork dispute centre on its web site saying that I would be willing for this dispute to go to arbitration.


On Jun 21, I received email saying that my money held in escrow account had been released to the freelancer because i had made no response.


I inquired with Upwork and was told the dispute handling team only dealt with disputes via email. I further found out that the dispute handling person from upwork knew my message post on the web site, but ignored it simply because it's not in the email.


I feel helpless. There is no message nor any instruction on the web site saying that you can only communicate/reponse to a dispute through email. To a user, leaving reponses in upwork Dispute message centre seems a perfectly legitimate way to reponse. I don't understand the logic which some arbitrary rule about using email trumps common sense. Since the person knew my reponse on the web site, how can he conclude I made no response. 


Vladimir G Moderator Member Since: Oct 31, 2014
2 of 11

Hi Arnold,


I'm sorry that you're not satisfied with the outcome of this dispute. I've checked your ticket and see our team notified you twice regarding the dispute your freelancer initiated, and after not receiving a response from you neither on your ticket nor in the Dispute Resolution Center, closed the dispute in line with our dispute process.


I see our agent followed up on the reply you posted after the dispute closure notification, and explained our dispute process in detail. Please make sure not to share incorrect information regarding your communication with our team or the closed dispute case, in order to avoid creating a confusion in the Community.

Active Member
Arnold C Member Since: May 9, 2016
3 of 11

Dear Vladimir,

With due respect, can you point out which part of message is misleading?

Jun 9: I was notified of the dispute on Dispute center

June 16: I replied.

June 16: I got your acknowledgment of my rejection of the dispute. I was told my money will be in Escrow until a resolution is reached. I was also informed that the next steps will be:


"The Dispute team will contact both parties via email within 5 business days to assist in reaching a mutual agreement. Most disputes can be resolved within 30 days.

In the event a mutual resolution cannot be reached, third party arbitration is available. We will attempt to schedule a meeting with both you and the freelancer. If an agreement cannot be reached within five business days, the dispute can be escalated to an independent arbitrator."


Jun 21: I was informed both that I was unresponsive and hence the case was closed and the money transfered to the freelancer.


First of all, there is anywhere saying we can't respond via dispute center on your web site. Your dispute mediator told me he repeatedly he would only consider responses in email to be valid responses. Now it seems you are agreeing with me that responding through the web page is valid. You are contradicting your own agent. But I think you are right because I was acknowledge by your web site.


Second, it says the matter will be escalated to an independent arbitrator if agreement cannot be reached within 5 business days. It says nothing that if I don't resposne within 5 business days, then the case will be closed and my money transfered.


Third, it says 5 business days to resolve the issue.  I don't know if it is the custom in your country that Sunday is considered a business day. Even you treat Sunday as a business day. I made two responses on Jun 16. My last response time stamp is Jun 16, 2016 7:31am UTC. If we really follows the time, it should be Jun 21 7:31am UTC before it is 5 business days. Jun 21 7:31am UTC is Jun 21 3:31pm Hong Kong time. I discover the email saying the case was closed at Jun 21 1:01am, which means technically 5 business days still haven't passed. 


So please give facts, not just opinions how my message was inaccurate. I don't know if you are employed by Upwork or not.


I am sure your words carry weight as a moderator. But lets talk about facts.




Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
4 of 11

I am NOT going to comment on the original poster's specific situation, but address general themes.


A client commissioned a job. A contractor filed a dispute.


The only reason a contractor could have had to file a dispute is because the client decided to not pay the contractor.




Disputes take time and money. They are not guaranteed to turn out in your favor.


It is not good a good business practice to enter into disputes on Upwork.


As a client, hire people on smaller projects or just the beginning phase of a project, to get to know the kind of work they do.


If they do a bad job, they don't continue working with them. But pay them. It's only a small amount of money. Much less than the value of the time and money I would expend if I tried to NOT pay them for their work.


A small percentage of the time this means I pay for work I can not use, but that is a cost of doing business, and that is a very small percentage of the work I pay for. Most of all the work contractors submit to me is great and I find hiring here to be very cost effective.


If I want to pay really low costs to more entry-level people, I just make sure I hire four to five of them, to ensure getting something useable. Other times I hire just one high-end professional.


But I don't do disputes.

Active Member
Arnold C Member Since: May 9, 2016
5 of 11

Hi Preston,

Thanks for your advice. I am new to Upwork and still learning how to manage different kind of issues.

I agree with you in general principle.


I have read about discussions from others about whether client should pay freelancers regardless of the outcome of the work. Both sides seem to have good points.


Some felt hiring freelancers like hiring employees. Employer has to pay employees regardless of their performance. I can see the logic in this. As for me, I have the following question: is the contract we enter in Upwork really an employee contract? Or if our contract should be based on the value we provide to each other, meaning both sides should be entitled to benefit from the transaction?


When I hire an employee, I entrust the employee's supervisor to direct how the employee work on a daily basis. Therefore the supervisor should be reponsible for the final outcome. In a world of freelancers, we are hiring experts who promise to deliver the work to a certain standard. We do not and it is not possible for us to have daily oversight over their work. So where to draw the line and when should we stand by to defend our interest?   


Once again, I speak for myself. I can accommodate people who can't deliver the work, but showed good effort. I may not feel the same way for people who doesn't even seem to bother to try. I have had other failed job, I paid for the freelancer's effort although I have to find someone else to redo.  I seem to contradict myself and I still ponder my decision all the time.


Sorry to digress for so long. The reason I make this post is to hope that I can gain the attention of some higher authroity in Upwork to look into this case. I am no body in front of Upwork, who has tens of thousands of clients, hundreds of thousands of freelancers, and hundreds if not thousands full time employees dedicated to its cause. I have no resource and its not my intention to challenge Upwork.


I want Upwork to be a better place for all, but I can't help but feeling let down by the way this thing unfolds. Professional dispute mediators only willing to follow procedures without putting their heart in people's issues and feelings. They knew full well I had problems with the dispute and I was willing to go with the dispute process, but they ignored it simply because it is not conveyed in email or a ticket. There is a dispute center on the web page, yet they don't think it is an accepted channel to communicate. There is also moderators (I dont' know if they are hired or independent) who talked with their heart rather than facts, saying I shared incorrect messages.


Thank you all for reading. You all are intelligent people capable of making up your own minds. I don't expect anything to happen and will leave you all in peace if there is no other posting or follow ups on this topic. 






Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
6 of 11

re: "is the contract we enter in Upwork really an employee contract?"



Clients use Upwork to hire freelance contractors.


These contractors are not employees.


But I don't want there to be any confusion about where I stand:


I think that "contractors" who get jobs and then fail to deliver what they promised have done a terrible thing. If a contractor does this intentionally, and tries to get paid anyway, then that's about the worst thing anybody can do on Upwork, in my opinion.


I think that contractors who try to scam money from clients are worst than anything scammers or bad clients do on Upwork.


I have personally been invited to take on jobs and failed to decline them when I was busy, but though I could handle the additional workload. But if I was unable to deliver work on time, I made sure the client didn't pay for anything I didn't do. That's still a pretty bad thing to do, in my opinion, but mistakes happen. Sometimes one's schedule isn't what one thinks it will be. I can understand that as both a client and a contractor.


But I definitely would never cause a client to pay for work I did not actually deliver.


It still doesn't mean I would ever participate in a dispute, though.

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
7 of 11

re: "I want Upwork to be a better place for all, but I can't help but feeling let down by the way this thing unfolds."



You are asking the wrong person these questions. Maybe somebody else will answer them.


Your questions seem to be philosophical and you use the word "should" many times.


As with many Community Forum regulars have an extensive understanding of how Upwork actually functions, both in technological terms and also in human terms... how the clients, contractors, and Upwork representatives work, what they do, etc.


I use that information to acquire significant sums of money and to succeed as a client in getting work done that benefits me and my interests.


I sometimes offer suggestions about things that should be changed, and sometimes those things are changed, and sometimes they are not.


But most of the time my advice to people in the Forum is based on how Upwork currently functions, and I separate that advice from wondering about how Upwork "should" be.


Community Guru
Jennifer M Member Since: May 17, 2015
8 of 11

You waited a week to respond? They tell you how important it is to respond.


Personally, I'm glad they did. When someone raised a dispute with me on Elance, the client milked the clock on purpose. When he went past the deadline on the first response request, Elance told me that they were going to contact him to give him a second chance. It was bs because had I done that, I would have automatically lost and had my account suspended.


You should have responded in 5 days. You didn't respond for a week.

Active Member
Arnold C Member Since: May 9, 2016
9 of 11

Hi Jennifer,


Not sure I followed your logic. Just because someone milked you, then they should teach me a lesson that I need to respond?


If you care to read my account of the event, I have responded and within 5 business day even if you count Sunday as a business day.


Since you say you are glad they do what they did to me. So you think it is right to ignore one's response on the dispute center and simply follow the trails in email? I even got a confirmation I disputed the claim in the message center.


I may be naive that I still expect upwork and I can both improve from this instance. I appreciate the different views that people have on the same issue. May be after a few years, I will have the views exactly like Preston.


I certainly won't equate my experince to jutisfy the unfair treatment of others.


All the best.

Active Member
Nivas S Member Since: Aug 23, 2019
10 of 11

Hello Vladimir, 

I have a different question - Who is the 3rd independent party who deal with Arbitration services for Upwork in these escalate dispute situations?