Bad things that Notaries do
Some notaries do bad things. They do bad things mostly to themselves, but also to others. With the assumption that the notary is not doing illegal things; the major causative factor in “notary failure and discontent” might be the lack of a business plan. Unless you are a “hobby notary” whose chief aim is to be popular and useful to others; it’s likely your desire is to earn a profit. The fancy term is “cost benefit analysis” but plain old “is it worth it to me” works too. There are many things you can do to increase not only revenue (which is certainly important) but also profits (which is much more important). You make revenue doing a 25$ “deed only” job, but the gasoline, tolls, cell calls, paper, etc. determine if you are making a profit. A business plan should be very through, factoring in overhead costs including, but not limited to business cards, obtaining certifications, advertising, and many other unavoidable costs. Unavoidable? Yup, those and many others which have been hashed out in gory detail on this forum many times. You need real numbers to know how much it costs you to do an assignment. Such an analysis will take time and a real look at your expenses.
You probably don’t answer the phone with “Yeah, what is it”. But it has often been pointed out that many notaries seem to score less than professional when using their phones. Before any other phone consideration is always using a hands free device when driving, typically Bluetooth. If you don’t have one, buy it tomorrow, no excuses. I have a “BlueAnt model Super Tooth 3), others are fine too. I answer with Good Morning / Afternoon / Evening, Ken Edelstein, how may I help you. Variations are fine but at least state your name. Most callers are reasonably polite, few are not. “You don’t have an office that I can go to – what the good are you” is an extreme example of a rude caller. I’m sorry but I don’t think I will be able to help you, thank you for calling; is perhaps laying it on a bit thick; but better than lowering yourself to their level. Cell phones are not perfect connections. It drives me nuts when someone leaves a message and one of the digits of their phone number is garbled. Always repeat your number twice – so they can call you.
http://kenneth-a-edelstein does not swing at lowball pitches. Some do, but are they following their business plan, I doubt it. Dunning for payment can take much more time than doing the actual job. Avoid this by checking the payment history, prior to accepting is better; after is OK too. If you accepted an assignment from a company with a poor payment history, call and give them a choice: PayPal now or take the job back.
It’s bad to over schedule, not accounting for an assignment proceeding slowly. Plan for traffic delays. Do you allow enough time for POA signing, especially if one signer is signing for two people. Some notaries “get lost” on the way to an assignment. That is easily avoided. It costs nothing to printout a Google map and staple it to the signing confirmation. Investing in a GPS device is money well spent. The modern ones take voice commands and talk you through the turns, much safer than looking at the GPS. Did you ask the borrower what color their house is? Not every house has a prominent building number. Here in Manhattan the actual entrance to an avenue office building is frequently on the side street. Asking where the entrance is located can save a lengthy trip around the block in dense Manhattan traffic.
Incorrect processing of emailed documents marks you as an amateur. Sometimes there are many PDF attachments, how do you keep track of the ones you printed. I print out the incoming email and check off each PDF when sending it to the printer. If you don’t have a dual bin Laserjet type printer consider buying one. It is not acceptable to “shrink” legal size documents to letter size – ever. Don’t buy “junk” paper, those documents last a long time, if you print on good paper. Never omit giving the borrower a copy of the complete set of documents you are asking them to sign. I never print a “subset” even if furnished separately. It’s tempting to use the smaller often supplied borrower subset, but IMHO it’s unethical.
Lots of bad things can be done by notaries at the signing table. The two worst are lying to the borrower to induce them to sign a document and “pressuring” them to sign. I have had LOs tell me they want a bulldog that will do “what it takes” to get the documents signed, overcoming any borrower resistance. Really? Are you eager to go to jail? You are there to give the borrower the “opportunity” to sign – not to make them sign.
Would a professional police officer go on duty with a water pistol in place of the standard duty sidearm? Of course not. So why would you even consider conducting a signing in cramped quarters, with lots of noise and poor lighting? I have been “shown to” inappropriate “signing tables” and decline; informing the borrower that proper conditions are required for me to be able to assure all involved of accurate processing. Try telling the Escrow people you missed a few signatures because you accepted a work area with bad lighting.
Some notaries fail to say the magic words. “Signed and Shipped” in an email reply to the email sent to you with the signing confirmation are indeed magic words. Of course you still have to call if requested. The three magic word email is in addition to their requirements. Bad communications will quickly mark you as a dud to be avoided. While some signing services can drive you nuts with their calls; sending a few appropriate emails are always welcome to keep others informed about progress or problems. Duplicate any urgent calls with emails, to have a record of communications.
Bad notaries forget to mention at the table for borrowers to be sure to “stay within the margins” – I make light of it by reminding them they were told the same thing by Mrs. Grimble when they were in the fourth grade. I follow up with informing that many documents to be recorded are scanned. If the scanner can’t capture the complete entry because it is outside of the scanner’s capture area, the document must be redone. They are cautioned that this most often occurs with dates on the right hand portion of the page.
After the job is complete you must must must report in. I like to call, email, and complete any web based form that is mentioned on the confirmation. Sure you ship the package promptly. But did you get a drop off receipt? That causes a scan of the bar code and enters the package into the shipper’s system with a timestamp of when they received it. A great notary will scan the drop off receipt and email it back.
I know, this has been a long one. However I did save the really naughty notary behavior for last. Some notaries commit really bad actions to collect their hard earned fees. Not realizing that the entity that hired them is well within their published payment schedule; some choose to give them an inappropriate push to speed up the payment process. Among the more obnoxious actions that notaries can take include: Sending a way too early demand letter, complete with late fees for a payment that is not technically late. Faxing their bill, and the confirmation, HUD, etc – frequently; as in several times a day. A really naughty notary, learning after accepting the job of the payment history, returned the docs COD!
Everyone knows the maxim “It takes a lot to land a new customer; but just a moment to lose them”. Cherish your clients. One way bad notaries lose clients is to relate their quality of work to the fee they are receiving. Can’t think of something that will more quickly damage a notary reputation. Your signature and honor are part of every package you send out. It’s foolish to give less care and attention to lower paying jobs. Really bad notaries do not double check each page. Checking your own work is a very hard skill to master. If you missed a signature area on the first pass, seeing it on the second pass is not likely. Unless, you devote much more concentration to that double check pass. Be gracious with the borrower and tell them you are proud of your record of perfection. Ask them to “stand by” while you make a second flip through the pages “just to be sure”. You don’t have the distraction of guiding them and can devote your full attention to the “final review”. And, they are “at hand” in case you spot that sig line cunningly hidden in the middle of that VA form.
Thus, you can see that bad notaries make a lot of mistakes; some accidental; worse, some do awful things deliberately. A philosophy of doing the least effort for the maximum returns; is a formula for failure. Failure, not just as a notary, but also as a person. We bring our “emotional baggage” with us everywhere we go. Notaries who are just fed up due to low fees, rude callers, not getting paid, etc.; will continue to sink in a pool of quicksand – mainly of their own making. They are not aware of how to run a business; but rather are being “run” by everyone else. Some “bad” notaries can turn their situation around with training, certifications, and learning how to manage their affairs. Some need a course in interpersonal relations too!