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r_swystun
Member

Utterly disgusted by Upwork's dispute resolution.

After years of working on Upwork, I unfortunately had my first dispute with a client and I am utterly disgusted with the way Upwork handled it in their dispute resolution centre. 

 

The client told me he wanted four or five web pages written and that he had a budget of $350. I said that would be no problem. He hired me on an hourly contract and then as soon as he hired me, he revealed the project was actually more like 30 pages of content. I told him it would take much longer and be more expensive and he said that was ok by him. 

 

After I ended up inevitably logging more hours and charging more than he wanted, he registered a dispute asking for a refund of five hours (which he didn't deserve). In the dispute thread he lied and said I had copy and pasted the website copy I had provided him and he also said he had the entire website planned out and told me the full scope of the project before we began. I spent an hour or more documenting that he was lying, complete with more than a dozen screenshots that proved it. 

 

When the resolution was completed, he ended up getting the full refund he was asking for because I had not inputted any memos while working, which means my hours weren't protected under the Upwork protection guarantee for freelancers. I fully admit that it was my fault for not knowing about the memo thing, but I've been on Upwork for years and have logged thousands of hours and have not had any need for memos in the past (because clients can easily see the screenshots of what you're working on). 

 

My issue is that Upwork didn't even bother to go through the dispute and actually take the provided evidence into account and make a measured decision based on that evidence. I clearly showed my client failed to plan the website he wanted and then lied about me copying and pasting the copy I gave him and yet he got his full refund based on a technicality and I got screwed out of five hours of work. 

 

I used to gladly recommend Upwork to people who were looking to get into freelancing, but now I'm not so ready to do that. Upwork staff appear to be extremely lazy when it comes to dispute resolution. I've learned my lesson now about keeping meticulous memos because Upwork staff approach dispute resolution with the intention of doing it as quickly and easily as possible, which means using whatever technicality they can to avoid actually studying the dispute and seeing who was right and who was wrong. 

23 REPLIES 23
garnorm
Member

Hi Rob,

I'm sorry to hear about your experience with this client. We do have to set some guidlines for payment protection, and including notes with the time being logged is a critical one. I'll ask the team to take another look at your case, but I can't promise a different result. 

I just had the same thing happen. After nearly ten years on the UpWork/oDesk platform. I just scrolled through the forum to see if I'm the only contractor who got stung by this garbage. 

 

Ten hours of work done. Screenshots all along, clearly showing the work was done. Solid activity/keystrokes throughout. A 15 page document delivered to the client on time and below budget. The only thing missing from 10 hours of screenshots pointed at the manuscript I was writing was a note in the log stating the obvious: "Working on the manuscript." 

 

It would add no value to the client in any way. 

This is my first and only dispute filed in ten years. 

 

It boggles the mind how any observer can look at the totality of the information and come to the conclusion that the hours worked were zero. 

 

But that's what UpWork did. UpWork completely rolled over like a puppydog and gave the client a full refund. 

 

Not a partial. They refunded every dime. 

 

 

Like this guy, I never heard of the logging requirement until the dispute, despite having worked on the platform for a decade. It's not mentioned here: https://support.upwork.com/hc/en-us/articles/211062568-Upwork-Payment-Protection 

 

I'm not even asking for a guarantee. It doesn't take any kind of guarantee or formal 'protection' plan to honor payment for provable hours worked. A fair and equitable result would be for payment to be made for all screenshots showing me as obviously on task with solid keystrokes/activity, and refund any time reflected by screenshots showing me to be off task, if the client asserts that I was off task (he doesn't).

 

 It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. 

 

 

 After I've let many profitable clients go when they left UpWork, or kept them on platform after they wanted to submit payments offsite, and after bringing customers and other freelancers to the platform, and after generating thousands of dollars for UpWork, this is how my loyalty is reciprocated? 

 

Garnor, this is garbage. 

 

I've never had a client ask for a note with a screenshot in thousands of hours worked. And they're not mentioned here: https://support.upwork.com/hc/en-us/articles/211062568-Upwork-Payment-Protection. 

 

Know what IS mentioned? This: "It's pretty straightforward—clients should only pay for hours worked, and freelancers should be paid for their time spent working." 

 

 

Yeah. Seems pretty straightforward. 

 

I guess we'll soon find out if UpWork means it, eh? 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Jason V wrote:

> The only thing missing from 10 hours of screenshots pointed at the manuscript I was writing was a note in the log stating the obvious: "Working on the manuscript." 

 

Welcome in the world of fine prints 🙂

 

 

>  It's not mentioned here: https://support.upwork.com/hc/en-us/articles/211062568-Upwork-Payment-Protection 

 

 Actually it is, you need to click on the links.

 


 

 

 

-----------
"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless

Oh, my God.

 

RobS, no matter what you "should" have read, no matter what explanations are given, no matter what...period, I feel very, very bad for you.

 

So very sorry this happened.

 

I don't have anything solid to offer except...call me crazy but I'm pretty sure I'd be at least a tad upset about this myself. I guess this is a lesson learned but I don't blame you one bit for your feelings on this. At least you and all of us have learned something today (though I was already inputting the memo just because that's what it asks for when hours are opened on the contract...it's not like I looked ahead and realized something like this could happen if I didn't, so there but for the grace, etc.).


@Rene K wrote:

@jason V wrote:

> The only thing missing from 10 hours of screenshots pointed at the manuscript I was writing was a note in the log stating the obvious: "Working on the manuscript." 

 

Welcome in the world of fine prints 🙂

 

Yep, it's very clear that this requirement exists for no reason other than to ensure that most freelancers don't qualify for payment protection. 

Do you know what "browser wrapping" is in contracts law and why courts frown on it? 


@jason V wrote:

Do you know what "browser wrapping" is in contracts law and why courts frown on it? 


 This I don't think is relevant. If I recall correctly, freelancers signing up for Upwork are required to affirmatively accept the terms.

I'll see your "fine prints" and raise you "plain language." 

 

 


@jason V wrote:

I'll see your "fine prints" and raise you "plain language." 

 

 Yep, you're right. Whatever the user agreement says, showing this plain-language guarantee with no reference to there being other criteria required to qualify for the guarantee puts Upwork on very shaky legal ground. 

 

All freelancers have, of course, agreed that they have read and agreed to the full terms set forth in the user agreement, but whether or not that would suffice given that they've affirmatively provided contradictory information in a more prominently-displayed location is at best an open question. 

 

If they're smart, they'll modify that pop-up asap, though of course that wouldn't affect any claims that might already have arisen.


 

It's not the pop-up that's the problem. It's the useless requirement in the first place. 

 

Every screenshot is automatically annotated with the URL, or the name of the file being worked on. If these are self-explanatory, and adequately explain the work being done, along with the screenshot, and clearly and unambiguously demonstrate that the hours worked were on task and productive, with adequate activity, then the pop-up isn't a problem. The failure of UpWork to abide by its common sense agreement with its freelancers is the problem. 

 

At any rate, the user agreement itself is vague. The only mention of it is in section 6.5 of the UA: 

  1. Freelancer must have provided adequate comments for the screenshots documented by Work Diaries prior to submitting its invoice.

Well, what does 'adequate' mean? I provided the name of the file I was working on. I provided the URL of any websites in the foreground at the time of the snap. These are more than adequate annotations for the stated purpose. 

 

For me to have provided an additional annotation, "writing manuscript" adds zero value for the client, and ads zero value for anyone reviewing the time log to see if the hours worked were genuine. 

 

So no. Don't 'fix' the pop-up. The pop-up is fine. And it's consistent with other plain language assurances elsewhere on the site. E.g., "it's pretty straightforward: An hour paid is an hour worked."

 

Fix the procedures. 

 

 

I'm currently involved in a dispute and while I filled in my memo, in a vague way, I didn't update it although I would say it was an accurate description of what the client asked for and what basically I was doing. I'm still waiting to see the resolution.

 

In any case, it is possible to log time without a memo at all, or to write anything in the memo. I have clients I have worked for for years and I don't update my memo for months, and never encountered a dispute until this new client. But if I had known this was going to happen, I would have been more diligent about the memo because now I am worried that might hurt me. 

 

But even then the client could still claim that isn't what he told you to do (mine is trying to pull this on me) and therefore dispute your memo on this ground. 

 

If the memo is required for payment protection, then there should be a step, before you can even start tracking time, that forces you to fill it in or update it.

Jason,

 

We understand your frustration. However, to comply with Upwork ToS, an hourly payment may be reversed if it doesn't meet all the requirements for Upwork Hourly Protection. Adequate memos is one of the requirements for Upwork Hourly Protection as described in this help article and in Upwork ToS (article 6.10).

~ Valeria
Upwork

Here's what UpWork posts on my work diary. Every. Day. 

 

The useless exercise of adding totally redundant "notes" is not listed among the conditions for the guarantee. 

 

Oh, and that word "guaranteed." 

 

It's a doozy. 

What's not "adequate" about the automatically generated notes describing the file being worked on and the screenshot showing the work performed? 

Why are the notes "critical" when the screenshot and the automatically generated annotation clearly demonstrate the work performed? 

 

 

tlsanders
Member

It seems like you don't understand the dispute resolution process.

 

First, Upwork can't make a ruling in your favor--that's what arbitration is for. All Upwork can do is attempt to broker a resolution.

 

Second, the client didn't get a refund because of the memos; the memo requirement is for Upwork's payment protection, which would have allowed Upwork itself to pay you for those hours if you'd followed the prescribed procedures.

 

It sounds like this was a bad client and I sympathize with your frustration, but none of the detailed information you're providing here is really relevant to the way the dispute played out, because Upwork isn't a decision-maker in the dispute process.

Rob, I think you are right to be disgusted. I hope that things will turn in your favour, if not - remember that you are top rated and you can use the top-rated perk to get any adverse ratings removed (completely) from your profile.

re: "to avoid actually studying the dispute and seeing who was right and who was wrong"

 

Unfortunately, it is a common misperception that Upwork does this.

 

If you actually read Upwork's Help documents and intructional documentation, you will find that Upwork does not claim to study conflicts between clients and freelancers and make a determination about who was right or wrong.

 

Now you know that this is NOT a service that Upwork offers.

 

Now you know that when you do hourly contract work, you should record appropriate memos.

 

And now you know that the best way to handle disputes is to never get into disputes.


@Preston H wrote:

re: "to avoid actually studying the dispute and seeing who was right and who was wrong"

 

Unfortunately, it is a common misperception that Upwork does this.

 

If you actually read Upwork's Help documents and intructional documentation, you will find that Upwork does not claim to study conflicts between clients and freelancers and make a determination about who was right or wrong.

 

Now you know that this is NOT a service that Upwork offers.

 

Now you know that when you do hourly contract work, you should record appropriate memos.

 

And now you know that the best way to handle disputes is to never get into disputes.


?
Whatever the outcome and the wrongs and rights, the OP can use his top rated perk.

 

I think the system is flawed.

 

"An hour worked is an hour paid" - that's what UW advertises.

 

On the one hand, memos are optional but on the other hand, without them, you are not protected.

The OP is not the first and won't be the last person to underestimate the relevance of memos. The general payment protection overview article doesn't mention them.

 

It would be so simple: since they are that important make them a mandatory field.

I don't think it's an oversight that they are not.

Agreed. Most freelancers don't learn of the memo requirement until they are refused payment protection. I learned about it here on the forums after reading of some other freelancer's misfortunes. 

I hear you Rob. I've had thankfully just a couple of disputes, not just here on UW but other sites. It seems they always take the client's side and ignore what you say and show that proves your point.

But something that Tiffany said made things suddenly clear for me. They are there to mediate, not make a ruling on who's right or wrong. Unfortunately, I've been on a mediation session in the off-line world and the only thing they can do (a government agency mind you) is listen with no power to make the guilty party change in any way. This means they can continue doing so with you or with the next person.

In UW's case, same thing. Both parties can stubbornly dig in. The problem is that the client already has the work done while the worker has nothing to show for it. What happens is that the worker eventually reluctantly agrees to only a portion of what they are owed just to get it over with while the client is laughing having had work done at a fraction of the cost.

There are bad clients out there who will do anything to get work done for nothing or next to nothing. It's part of doing business and you just hope you don't get many of them.

Let me share some of my experiences, if I may. Generally I have been very happy for UW resolution process. Luckily, though, I have not had to use it many times (knock-knock). This is what happened during my very first projects some years ago. 

 

Customer ordered something, and I worked like 5-6 days to do it and then submitted as a milestone. They got furious, however, for some reason. I kindly told them that yes, that is what I did and i think that it is completely to the description of the work, and on top of that at least decent one. However, that ended up into dispute. 

 

I know disputes do hurt and I dont want them, and I never did start one either. In my case, I think UW dispute was very fair. They resolved the issue in a way that made both parties happy. Ultimately, that is what the Court tries to do also. Court, or Dispute, can not be a mechanism for anyone to earn anything. It needs to be a mechanism to make sure everyone suffers equally and in a balanced fashion. In that case, they did it, and I think everyone was happy, including UW themselves. I hope so.

 

 

However, I have met a few customers recently who try to do their best in not to incur any costs that could be disputed. One of them asked that they could pay only via bonus payments. Yeah, that is nice, but that invalidates the right for dispute completely. Some others try to not to give enough information in the job offer. Then the freelancer, if they want to be covered by the scheme can not do anything, because if they do, they would not defend against "extra hours logged". On the other hand, if they close the contract, that will hurt also, perhaps more. That feels, in a way, like blackmailing – but that is a common scheme in employment in real life too. I think UW has been and should be very good in protecting against that, though.

 

Have a good day!