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February 2, 2015

Trip + Notary fee = Payment

I have never, repeat never; had a dispute over my notary fees. The key is to make sure in each assignment that the notary fee is fully disclosed when agreeing to perform the service. I write this looking at a check, handed to me for not doing any notarizations. But, that is near the end of my story. Time to back up and present what happened in chronological order.

The caller is an admin assist for a company in midtown needing a notary. Caller does not know the details of what is required, just that a notary is needed. They might need one notarization or several hundred. I quote a fee of $xx for “the trip”, plus the NY State fee of $2 per signature notarized. If five people sign, and there is one notary statement naming them all; to my way of thinking I have done five notarizations with my single signature. I do have to ID check and oath all five of them. For that reason I always use the term “per signature notarized” in any fee agreement. We agree, I leave for the assignment.

Arriving ten minutes early, the receptionist tells me that the work has been already done. They had apparently scheduled a few of us; and to them “the notary race” was on! The ever-present smile behind the counter says “sorry to have troubled you”, “we have no need for your services”. I explained that the issue is not having troubled me, but that I require my fee. The office manager is called. In a calm, polite voice and manner I explain how I perceive the situation. Your admin assist made a verbal contract with me. I was required to arrive prior to a specific time, which I did; for a specific fee of $xx. It was further agreed that I would receive $2 per signature notarized. There was a clear distinction between the trip and notary fees. To earn the trip fee I had to be on time. I was on time.

The office manager initially leaned towards a “you did nothing” rejection. I noticed some signs on the wall. It was time to fire some “big guns”. I repeated there was a fee due, and if not paid I would complain to the Division of Licensing Service, and the Consumer Protection Bureau of NYC. I could tell the office manager did not want that. Two straws broke the last vestiges of resistance. I noticed you have an A+ Better Business Bureau certification. It is my intent to send a very detailed complaint to the BBB as well. Lastly, I intend to file a lawsuit against the President of your firm in Small Claims court. It will include my fee, court costs, and other expenses. We are both aware you will require an attorney to represent your corporation; I on the other hand am retired and have lots of free time to spend in a courtroom.

“Mr. Edelstein, please have a seat, it will only take five minutes to cut you a check”. The check was for the $xx trip fee and in the memo section said “transportation reimbursement”. Did I over react? I don’t think so. We had a very clearly defined two part verbal contract. The fact that, for whatever reason, they had no work for me; ONLY negates paying me the $2 per. Filing complaints and initiating lawsuits might seem extreme, but not to me. It took me a full hour in dense NYC midtown traffic to get to their office. Write it off for “good will” and hope they call me next time? Not realistic considering their tactic of playing “multiple notary race”. Actually, I would have also posted the exact truth on social media, Yelp, etc. If in your heart you feel they don’t have a “shred of a valid point” on their side; do what it takes to receive your rightful pay.

“But, you did nothing” the client replied after the notary wanted a travel fee for a cancelled job.


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November 24, 2014

Is $75 enough to print 2 sets of docs, notarize & do faxbacks?

In this tough economy, many notaries have simply dropped out. The remaining notaries, as tough or as proud as they portrayed themselves to be have simply had to compromise their standards for what they charge. Many signing agents with ten or more years of experience told Carmen (in confidence) that they were forced to accept $60 signings just to stay afloat. So, we won’t mention any names, but you know who you are. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Americans complain about what Indians would regard as a luxury!
Notaries complain endlessly about how unfair it is that they only get $75 for so much work with such high expenses. My take on the situation is quite different because I travel. A policeman in India makes $50 per month (not including bribes.) Can you imagine living on $50 per month? How would you rent a place to live? You would be living on top of each other twenty to a room and eating dahl and rice in small quantities once or twice per day if you were lucky. Can you imagine this type of poverty that hard working Indians endure as a matter of standard procedure? And what about the folks in the countryside who work for 20 rupees per day which is about 40 cents. That is about $12 per month. When you get these $75 assignments, just say to yourself, “I made four months of a Bihari farmworker’s salary in two hours! Yippee!”

If you are doing worse than last year, do you get upset?
It is a human tendency to be sad when you are not getting what you want, or what you used to easily get. But, this human tendency needs to be changed. We live in a changing world where what was impossible yesterday might be easy tomorrow, and vice versa. You need to just do the best you can do and not base your life today on whether it is better or worse than last year. Notaries base their fees on 123notary on what they paid last year. If I charge $150 this year, but only $120 last year, they are upset that they are paying more this year than last year. What really matters is not what happened last year, but if your investment is getting you a sufficient return.

Let’s do the math
If you get $75 for a loan signing, how much work and expense is really involved. You might spend 20 minutes on the phone on average including follow up calls, scheduling and making sure the documents arrive through whatever medium is used. You might need to drive thirty to forty-five minutes both ways to the signing. You might go through 350 pages of paper, and some toner or ink printing the documents which is not for free unless you have a gift certificate to office-max.

Your real expenses might be $4 of car expenses including gas, oil changes, and other wear and tear.
If you can purchase paper for a bulk price you might use up $3 in paper, and $2 in ink or toner (just guessing)
You might use up two hours of your time including everything: 1 hour driving; 30 minutes signing; 20 minutes on the phone; 10 minutes doing fax backs. (best case scenario)
After expenses, you get $66 profit and you can deduct your miles at the Federal mileage rate as well!
If you spent two hours total, you got $33 per hour.

On the other hand, if you spent an hour each direction, had to wait four hours for documents, and the signers read every letter of every page and asked a million questions, plus spent an hour on the phone with Fred the lender, then you might have invested seven hours which would leave you with $9 per hour which is still above minimum wage in most states.

$20/hour is not bad for someone who can just walk in off the street.
I would say in all honesty, that the average signing agent probably makes about $20 per hour for their assignments. More seasoned signing agents who command higher rates like $125 or more per signing might make $45 per hour on average. Being a relatively inexperienced signing agent is not a high skilled job like being a nuclear physicist. You do not merit $50 or more per hour unless you are the best 1% of notaries in the business or are an Attorney. All you need to be a notary signing agent is to be a resident of a state (not even a citizen in many states,) fill out an application (most states don’t even have a notary exam,) get bonded, and take a quick class in loan signing; $20 per hour is not bad for someone who can just walk in off the street and start doing loan signings. For a notary with three years of experience, they should be making more like $25-$30 per hour. That is what I made when I was doing signings with that level of experience!

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October 27, 2014

The Joy of Saying NO

A call comes in from SSS (Sleazy Signing Service) asking if I was available to do a notary job. “Yes” I reply; please tell me more. The job is “precisely” 1.3 miles from your location. It has a single “tiny” PDF. There are “about” 12 pages, and we will provide a return account number for making a UPS label, at no cost to you. I am starting to get the feeling that this is a bottom fisher, but am curious as to the location. Where is the signing to be done? They give a location in the middle of Manhattan, the absolutely worst place for traffic. Mass transit also goes there but the service is quite slow and the waits for bus or train are lengthy. The subway train is faster, but the platforms are not air conditioned and it’s like standing next to a pizza oven.

“Shall I send you a confirmation and the docs?” You can, but first you need to understand how I run my business. I am the seller of the service and set both the price and the payment terms. My fee is $150 (much more than I usually charge, but I had a bad feeling and wanted to get rid of this particular SSS); and that is payable within the next 10 minutes on my site, via PayPal, prior to my printing of the documents.

We don’t work that way, we are willing to pay $40, and you will have to include an invoice when you return the completed documents and we will send a check during our next disbursement cycle; are you interested? No. I didn’t hear you, please repeat what you said. No. Dial tone.

Of course this is an extreme example. Their offer of $40 would entail at least 2 hours of effort, and the expenditure of over a gallon of near 5$ fuel. You know the components of doing any notary work. Calls, printing, travel, record keeping, trip to UPS, dunning for peanuts (in this case), etc. What I can’t understand is the (feigned?) surprise at SSS when I declined their offer. Are there notaries out there who will jump for any lowballer offer? I sure hope not.

However, NO is not always the best answer and you can’t say that “perhaps” or “maybe” you will take the assignment. But you CAN tell them you will be accepting the assignment – AND – will be checking their reputation. If you find they have a negative or no reputation, you will be requiring that they pay “up front”. Some might never mention that process, and will choose to do their “credit checking” as soon as they can get to a computer. If they have a good history, just do the job. But, if they have a bunch of negatives – call and “require” payment in advance.

Back to the fee amount. You know what you must charge to earn a living. Isn’t it about time that you put your foot down and declined lowball offers. Some notaries are out there taking the low fees; and the SSSs in this world have endless phone time to find them. Are you fed up with finding on the HUD that the SSS received $250 and your share is $75? I work with several very honorable Signing Services that take 25$ to 50$ “off the top”. But I always receive the majority of the fee. The reason you don’t is that you have trouble saying NO. Practice, look in the mirror and repeat NO NO NO – I refuse to allow anyone to take advantage of me.

I’m sitting at my PC typing this for you. I am exceedingly happy that I do NOT have a toxic receivable of $40 to chase after putting in 2+ hours in midtown traffic. I prefer to try to influence my fellow notaries to just say NO to the lowballers. You can do it, think: NO NO NO. After you decline the first lowballer you will feel great, and will be ready to “dump” the ones that follow.


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September 22, 2014

Cattle call Notary offers

Cattle Call Notary Offers
Do you Moo? Actually it’s more of a sheep call than a cattle call. Cattle are rather large and both genders can be a handful when riled, ask any cowhand. I would have preferred to title this blog “Sheep Call Notary Offers”, but the commonly used term will suffice, and it worked to get your attention; as you can’t deny that you are indeed reading this. Sheep are wonderful animals, so gentle and trusting. They baaahh a bit when you shear their wool, but that’s the extent of their complaining. Unlike cattle that like to roam individually, the sheep tend to herd together; they are so easy to manage! I’m sure some are aware of “leg of lamb” and “mutton chops”, but they choose to ignore their ultimate fate.

I just received still another of the Sheep Call notary offers. It has the usual “we pay xx$”; really? I love our free market democratic form of government. There is nothing wrong with some firm sending me a solicitation to buy their product for xx$. But the reverse offends me. By reverse I am referring to solicitation for my services that try to price set for me. They got it back asswards. It is the seller who sets the price and the payment terms. With my notary services I, not they, am the seller. I set the price and payment terms. To put it bluntly, it’s my way or the highway.

My name is http://kenneth-a-edelstein.com not “Undisclosed Recipients”. My self image, regular readers already know this; is more like a Lion than a Lamb. Many prefer to deal with docile manipulateable sheep. I know, when the rent is due you are against the wall and tend to shed your Lion’s attire for a cloak of wool. The callers are very astute at voice reading and want to be able to control their notary. Sometimes to a level of detail that goes beyond the offensive. If you absolutely must “play lamb” for a while, so be it. But work quickly at formulating a plan that allows you to shed the wool and return to Lion attire.

Back to the offensive solicitations. My general response is to state my fee and that I am available for the assignment. I add that PayPal payment is required prior to printing the edoc. That is a real “turn off” to the bottom fisher. Actually I find my response much more efficient than asking for an “unsubscribe”. I don’t want to be bothered, or offended by receiving such tripe. Truth to tell, sometimes I step a bit “over the line” in my response. I have a cute cartoon graphic called KMA.JPG. Sometimes I send it as a response to cattle calls. The acronym’s first letter stands for the word “kiss”. If you want a copy just send me an email. It would be great if all notaries sent the soon to be infamous kma.jpg in response to these lowballers.

Sure we are all notaries. But, poise, character, image, and deportment differentiate us. Your feeling of self worth, backed by your training and skills are what sets you apart. The fact that you are a member of 123notary.com is a strong indication that you, unlike most notaries; really know what you are doing. There is a good chance that your 123notary.com listing is the reason that you were included in the email directed to the flock of sheep. But, show them wrong!

Frankie Valie and the Four Seasons recorded “Walk Like A Man” (or Woman) and that is what you should be doing. Cattle / Sheep call emails are mass attempts to demean notaries. They are an offer for bottom dollar, collection grief, late docs and an extended lesson in being micro managed. The only thing these people deserve is what the herd leaves behind when it passes.

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September 15, 2014

How much is a notary?

How much is a Notary?
If I had a buck for every time asked that question; I wouldn’t be writing this. Rather, I would be on the beach in Acapulco admiring the views. Unfortunately, silly questions are not combined with revenue. I often give the “plumber” example. If you called a plumber and said that you had a water leak, with water on the floor; and asked how much to fix the leak – he, as I, would require more information to give you a reasonable answer. There are many notary services that are available. Some are relatively simple and quick to perform. Others involve complex and time consuming procedures with lengthy travel.

The question seems to come from two distinct groups. The major group is the unknowing, who for the first time require notary services. They are often unaware that a mobile notary fee will be greater than when they go to the bank. Perhaps they are not unaware, choosing to ignore that you will be expending time and resources to go to them. They have a mental image of the notary processing whatever they have, for a very modest fee. After all, they are getting “just a notary”.

The other group is magicians, expert at sleight of hand. They have used mobile notaries often; and are well aware of the components that add to a notary fee. They define one document as all the pages of the same loan. When needing 3 notarizations, they fail to mention that the signers are in separate and often distant locations. Despite my best efforts at not being conned, yours truly is often sucker punched. I give my lowest base rate for a single notarization at a not too far address. They gave me the street address. Unspoken was that the address turned out to be the UN building with a very extensive security procedure, much more so for my large bag of notary supplies – almost an hour to get past the long line and inspection. Ouch. You get the picture.

The absolute best defense is to get the specifications via email, along with the location. On the phone they had “a document” but the email says “documents”; get clarification. I make it very clear when I confirm receipt of the PayPal payment that it is for the work previously agreed. Any additions, extra “copies” or extensive (over 15min) wait time will be billed separately in cash. A small increase is to be “absorbed”, being petty sours the client. What often works is a base fee for travel plus a per notarization fee. This works best when told there will be “many” documents to notarize. Fine, my fee for going to you is, and my per signature notarized fee is. Please PayPal me a retainer based on a dozen notarizations; that can be augmented with cash later.

Oh, and add to my order a henway. The usual response is: What’s a henway? About 2 pounds. I know it’s an old joke. But has an analogy to “How much is a Notary?”. There is a delicate balance between protecting yourself and “turning off” the prospective client. It’s a difficult, almost impossible situation when the admin assistant calls for their boss. My boss needs some documents notarized are you available? A question or two yields nothing, they were just asked to have a notary “show up”. There is danger here. Unless you have fee agreement prior to travel; you risk a wasted trip and a very angry client. Better to not book at the moment and ask for a follow up call with the necessary details.
Turn “How much is a Notary” into your image of being a competent professional, well equipped to meet their needs for a fair fee. When “pay up” time comes, neither side should be surprised.

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September 1, 2014

$30 loan signings. Is it worth it even in the best of circumstances?

Believe it or not, there are companies out there offering signings for $30 and $35. Can you believe this? The nerve of some people to offer a notary such a small amount of money for such a huge headache. Even if you are signing only one document, the headache of trying to send documents back, invoice, get paid, and schedule is simply not worth it.

I remember that when I was a notary I did an assignment for $30. It was a single document. I actually got a few assignments like this. When I did regular mobile notary work for offices, I would charge about $35, but they would pay me cash on the spot. There was no waiting for payment or wondering if I would get paid. It was immediate gratification.

Back when I was first starting out in 1999, Nation’s Direct gave me signings for $30. But, I was not expected to walk the borrowers through the loan. One of their staff members did it over the phone. All I had to do was notarize a few signatures and wait for their phone call to end. It was not the best pay, but this is how I got started in the business, so I don’t regret it. But, if I was offered this type of pay now, I would have a fit!

Even if a $30 signing is within a mile and is only a single document, is it worth it? Maybe if you are really hungry. Maybe it is better than not getting any offers at all, but most notaries would rather that the phone just doesn’t ring.

(1) Believe it or not, there are companies out there offering signings for $30!
(2) The nerve of people to offer a notary $30 for a signing!
(3) Most notaries would rather that the phone just didn’t ring

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August 2, 2014

Signing Services take a portion of the notary fee

It is a well known fact that signing services take a portion of the notary fee. Some take most of it, while others only take a fraction. It is very bizarre how so many companies work on such different margins. I remember when I was in the game back in 2004. One company charged $250 and paid $75. Another company did business based on volume and charged $90, but paid only $50. This was in the days before e-documents were popular. Once in a while you can read the HUD and find that a company is charging a whopping $400 for signing fees. They might claim that part of that is for Attorney or processing fees, but I don’t buy that.

One borrower saw some outrageous notary fee on the HUD, and asked the notary how much he got from it. The notary replied that he got enough to get something on the value menu at McDonalds. The borrower didn’t like that crack much.

Notaries feel that it is not fair that they get such a small percentage of the fee. In business, there is no “fair.” You take it or leave it. If you are taking it, then that is your non-verbal way of saying that is the best you can do, and it is therefor fair. Take it or leave it. To be able to leave it, you need to have a steady stream of better offers.

Notaries always complain about bad offers. But, it is like a girl at a dancehall. If she gets 19 bad offers, but 1 good one, the good one is all she needs. On the other hand, if another girl got three bad offers and complains about them, the problem is not the bad offers, but the lack of good offers.

If you are not an experienced notary with excellent skills, you don’t merit high pay! Become an expert, pay your dues, master the art of communication, and then you might get better offers. Only 2% of the notaries on 123notary are top notch, and they are getting most of the good offers!

(1) It is bizarre to see how signing companies work on such varied margins ranging from modest to highway robbery!
(2) Notaries feel that it is not fair that they get such a small percentage of the notary fee on the HUD


October 24, 2013

He made $35,000 a month his first year in business?

He what? He made how much? Am I dreaming? Who is this guy?

I just got off the phone with him. I will not disclose his location or name for his privacy. I just talked with a gentleman who has multiple listings on 123notary.com. He says these listings bring him so much business that the phone is ringing off the hook and he is reeling in the business. But, $35,000 a month? He says this is his first year in business. He hires people on salary to drive around and do signings. He pays for the car and other expenses himself and pays them an hourly salary (not big bucks, so don’t get your hopes up). The sheer volume of business this guy is getting is amazing.

Honestly, from talking to him, he sounds like a very cool guy, and very motivated. He fits the profile of a winner in my book. But, still, this type of success is unprecedented in someone’s first year. I understand that the market is picking up for notaries, but still. We have another gentleman who is running a very similar type of operation and very successfully. He has notaries in four or five states and pays them on salary. He gets business right and left and has a huge staff in the office and in the field.

So, if your business is not all it can be, think about what the personality traits of a success story are. There are many successes on 123notary, and you can be one of them. Be an up beat person who gets the job done and doesn’t create obstacles for others. If others create obstacles for you, then create systematic policies for dealing with these problems instead of complaining. Remember — winners find solutions. My idea is to try to adopt the mind-set of someone whose business is off the hook, and that will help you be one of the notaries who is on your way to a huge success!

(1) He bought 8 listings on 123notary.com, hired people to do signings for him & made $35000/month!
(2) If your business could be better, think about what the personality traits of a success story are.
(3) Be an upbeat person who gets the job done and doesn’t create obstacles for others.
(4) If others create obstacles for you, then create policies for dealing with these problems instead of complaining. Winners find solutions.

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September 24, 2013

4 reasons the Notary Industry will pick up in the next 18 months

4 reasons the Notary Industry will pick up in the next 18 months

Many notaries are upset, depressed, afraid, and just plain distraught because the notary industry is so slow. The thing that most notaries don’t understand is that the industry is cyclical. It has always gone up and down. What goes up must come down, and what goes down must come back up. Notaries typically think that good times will last forever when times are good. But, when things are bad, they also assume it is forever. The economy is changing and several things are in the horizon that will pick the loan industry right up again.

(1) The Real Estate market is due to rise
Real Estate prices typically rise over time. They fluctuate in cycles just like everything else, but in the long haul, the price always goes up. The worst low in American Real Estate happened during World War 1. That continued throughout the Depression, and WW2. But, eventually, the market came back up again in the mid-forties. Inflation also results in higher housing values. With the uncertain state of the economy, inflation is a distinct possibility. Even if inflation remains low, in the long run, it results in higher housing prices. The problem is that we do not know exactly when housing values will rise, exactly which metros they will rise in, or by how much! It is likely that there will be a significant change in the Real Estate market in the next 18 months!

(2) The general economy is coming around
Although the economy is not perfect, we are not in a recession. A better economy can result in more loan transactions and higher real estate prices. The economy could really pick up. You never know.

(3) Banks are slowly liberalizing loan terms
Banks become very reactive after the Real Estate and loan crash in 2008. It became almost impossible to get a loan unless you had perfect credit. As we get farther and farther from 2008, it becomes easier to get a loan. Banks are loosening their restrictions little by little. Less restrictions = more loans.

(4) Interest rates could fall
Interest rates rose a bit recently. But, they could also fall. America will either go broke, or sell huge chunks of land to China in exchange for pardoning our debt. We will all be eating xiao-leng-bao with chopsticks soon (some of us are already). But, whenever interest rates dip, there is a huge surge in signings.

(?) Even if interest rates go up
Americans were born to borrow. Personally, I believe that living on credit is a bad idea, and the Bible suggests against usury as it has bad consequences. Little did the ancients realize that usury could cause a global economic collapse. Even if interest rates go up, as long as Americans are offered loans, they will take it. I remember notarizing loans for people with bad credit back in 2003. They agreed to pay 10-12% interest on second loans. Can you believe it?

In the mean time
The market these days is heavily oriented towards Purchases, Reverse Mortgages, Hospital Signings, and what Carmen calls “General” notary work. Learn to do these other types of things. Also, notaries who offer 24 hour service and understand all notary procedures and common documents tend to do better than those who only do loan signings from 8am to 8pm. Become an expert at your field, get certified by all agencies who you are associated with. Also, do what Sally suggests — Sell your car and get a top placement on 123notary.com!

(1) Many notaries are upset, depressed, afraid, and just plain distraught because the notary industry is so slow.
(2) The thing most notaries don’t understand is that the industry is cyclical. It has always gone up &down.
(3) Banks have liberalized loan terms, so it is easier to get a loan = more biz for notaries!

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September 21, 2013

$10,000 per month on a bad month

I just got off the phone with a notary who is doing really well who advertises on our site. Business has been better for most notaries recently, but not as good as for this husband and wife team. I will not mention their names or locations to protect their identity.

I talked to them about their renewal. Since our prices can go up or down for a particular position at any point in time, some notaries complain about their new price. If the price goes up, they argue and try to reason with me about how it was less last year. If the price goes down, then they think I was cheating them last year. Either way they get upset and criticize me.

This husband and wife team had a different approach. He said something to the tune of — You doubled my rate, but that is okay! Your site is amazing. We get almost all of our business from your site. I don’t know how you do it. We are making more than $10,000 a month in our notary business.

I was flabbergasted. I had heard the story of the new notary company making $35,000 per month which was an amazing story. But, now another notary making six digits. Unbelievable! So, my faith is renewed in a mobile notary public’s ability to make the type of living that makes other people drool.

Please take this blog entry as an opportunity to take a leap in faith that YOU can make six digits in your notary business. Yes, you have to do everything right, but you can do a bang up job, right?

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