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.
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!
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