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March 4, 2015

Deceptive Fax Backs: The good ole’ bait and switch tactic

These days notaries are complaining about many things. There is the good old, “They never paid me.” Then there are those who got paid late. Cattle Calls with low-ball offers via email or text are a new source of notary exasperation. But, deceptive fax backs are another source of annoyance and grief.

Did I forget to mention the fax backs?
Notaries have been complaining about fax backs for a long time now. But, the types of issues I have been hearing about have been getting worse. It is common for companies to simply not mention fax backs, or to lie and claim that there are no fax backs. Then, later on, the notary will read the instructions and see that 50 pages of fax backs are required. What should a notary do at this point? Should they demand more money? Even if the signing company agrees, the notary will not likely get the extra cash. Should the notary just cancel the job knowing that they will never get paid for their extra 30 minutes of work? In my opinion, the way you handle this type of situation should be contingent on one fact — do you want to ever work for this company again? If yes, press 1 and do whatever they tell you to. If it is just not worth it in the long run due to bad past experiences, or it is below your well thought out standards then press 2 and tell them to forget about it because they did a bait and switch.

20 pages of fax backs will be necessary!
When negotiating fees, notaries want to know how many pages of documents will be in the package, and how many fax backs. It is typical for a notary to be promised a package of “about” 100 pages with 20 pages of fax backs. When they get the actual package it is 178 pages with 50 pages of fax backs. This happens more than you might think. The key to dealing with this is to have a policy that is well thought out that you create beforehand for how to deal with these types of situations.

If you are flexible, you will just do whatever the companies ask and deal with it.
If you have a lot of other things to do and time is tight, you can have your rate be based on a particular size of package, and then charge an additional rate for each additional page and each additional fax back. If the company signs a contract with you regarding your additional fees (which they will not likely do) then you are in business. However, many companies won’t pay your additional fees after the fact, so incorporate that sad fact into your policy.

Sample Fee Structure for notaries with 1000-3000 loans signed
Signings: $100 (eDocs not included)
eDocuments: $20 for first 100 pages per set; 12 cents for each additional page per set.
If the package is 200 pages, you charge them $32. And refused to work for them again until they pay this.
Fax Backs: $5 for first five, 50 cents for each additional.

Beginners Sample Fee Structure
Signings: $60
eDocuments: $15 for up to 200 pages per set
Fax Backs: Up to 25 included, additionals are 40 cents a page.
Beginners should price themselves low to get at least 500 signings worth of experience, and then consider raising their rates by $5-$10 if the market will tolerate that.

In real life, fax backs are mostly for complete beginners. And for them, I recommend that they just do it without complaining. Signing companies have no other way to ensure that the package was signed correctly. There are many notaries out there who don’t know what they are doing, and they have no way to know that you are the one notary who really does know what they are doing without fax backs, otherwise a half million dollar loan could be ruined which is not worth their risk.

Don’t work for them if they don’t pay the incidentals
If a company won’t pay for incidentals on extras that they didn’t tell you about up front, then don’t work for them again. If you lose too many customers, it is time to increase the number of pages and fax-backs that you will accept for your base fee. There is no right or wrong in rate structures. It is about charging what the market will bear, and not trying to charge based on what you think is fair.

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14 Comments »

  1. No pay and late pay are covered in my policy.
    Un-mentioned fax backs are covered in my policy.
    While you mention written contracts, you overlook verbal ones.
    There is no need for multiple complex fee structures.
    Fax backs are rarely in time (because the affiant is long gone) to protect anything.

    I JUST MADE SOME BIG STATEMENTS; NOW TO PROVE THEM.

    The real problem here is the perceived threat of financial loss by not acquiescing to “secondary demands”. What is lacking here is understanding that a verbal contract exists between the notary and the person they spoke to when accepting the assignment. The notary has every right to assume the caller is empowered to enter into a verbal contract. Anything after that discussion is supplementary, and cannot be assumed to be accepted by either side; without mutual agreement.

    Thus, the issue becomes one of “getting it right the first time”. Fax backs are just one possible addition to the agreement. Sometimes we are absurdly requested to “retain” the affiant and remain “at the table” till fax backs are approved! Getting it right requires just one simple question asked just prior to agreeing on a fee.

    Other than routine processing, printing, travel, confirming appointment, and shipping – is there any other service that I will be asked to provide? “Nope, that’s it” they reply. Log that, who and when. Good, now the limitations of commitment have been discussed. I understand that “Signing Services” know virtually nothing about the real job requirements. THAT IS THEIR – NOT YOUR PROBLEM. Perhaps they should find out, and not just pass along basic information. Whatta concept, they earn their “cut” by giving accurate and complete information to the notary.

    PayPal time! Prepayment means you are “not under their thumb” for a paycheck.

    Now the package arrives with lots of additional requirements THAT YOU DID NOT AGREE TO.

    However, you did receive a PayPal payment for the agreed part. You can offer to accept the additions for a fair non-negotiable amount (the seller of services sets the prices, not the buyer). Or, you can give an appropriate refund, considering the time invested and the newly created hole in your calendar.

    THE BOTTOM LINE: If they agree to your increase, and immediately PayPal it, they get what they want at a mutually agreed updated price; due to increased time and effort on the part of the notary. If they do not agree they suffer a minor loss, of their own making due to not honoring the initial verbal contract. And, of course, the notary is compensated for suffering through this attempted foolishness.

    Risk losing a client? Why would I want to keep a business relationship with someone who tries to “bait and switch” with me? Having them either pay more or forfeit “some” is just and fair.

    Comment by Kenneth Edelstein — March 4, 2015 @ 5:21 am

  2. My problem is not so much the fax backs. My problem is when they tell you that it must be faxed back within two hours after the closing. For some or most of us, we’re usually off to or getting ready for another closing.then they tell you that your fee will be reduced if you don’t comply. Simply unfair. I find these fax backs on mostly secondary properties.

    Comment by clClarke — March 5, 2015 @ 10:37 am

  3. Kenneth, you really do know how to express and explain details. I thoroughly enjoy all that you have written.

    Comment by Dave Nixon — March 5, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

  4. When faxbacks suddenly appear after the fact, I tell the company to send me a new confirmation with the adjusted fee for the faxbacks. Tell them you will faxback as soon as you receive that.

    Comment by Gaylynn Minnigerode — March 22, 2015 @ 5:49 pm

  5. I deal with a standard list of companies. They all know that I never do Fax Backs.If I get a call from a new Company and they do not mention Fax Backs,then my rule is NO FAX BACKS. Pure and simple.

    Comment by Farok Ardesher — March 22, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

  6. Beginners don’t take those low fees. That’s insane! You start out there you will stay there. You are paying them for the work if you do that. Faxbacks,JUST SAY NO! They lie they die, DNA.

    Comment by Anne McBride — March 25, 2015 @ 10:49 pm

  7. I don’t enjoy fax backs any more than the next notary; but, I don’t understand the reason why anyone would go through the trouble of separating out the pages to fax just those pages, then have to put those pages back in the exact order they were received. It’s a lot of trouble, work and time. Time I don’t have to waste. I have a full size printer that prints 55 pages/minute and can scan an entire refinance packet in a matter of minutes. I can then upload the entire packet to their website or as a pdf and be done. Everything is still in its original stacking order and the lender or signing service is the one who has to make the effort to find the pages they want to see.

    I also charge flat fees – no guessing from job to job. Nickel-and-dime charging is, again, wasting my time.

    Comment by Shari — May 5, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

  8. Some companies like ServiceLink says right in the confirmation that they do not pay for faxbacks and the schedulers have no clue how large the package is. Experience is all you have to go by, I’m afraid.

    Comment by Mary Ann Schrum — May 5, 2015 @ 7:06 pm

  9. I don’t mind fax backs but my office is generally an hour from my closings. So they may not get them within 2 hours. Sometimes if they insist on FB’s they won’t get docs dropped same day because we are rural and not many places to ship. I also do not restack the package. That takes too much time. I paper clip the stack I fax back and then the title company can re-stack. My feeder tray doesn’t hold a 100 plus page package so I have to find the docs they want. It’s up to them to put the package back in order.

    Comment by Sharon H — August 1, 2015 @ 8:11 pm

  10. I also write down with whom I spoke, when and what was discussed. If I was told 20 pages of Fax Backs and then I find out it’s about 50, I simply call them up and ask “OK, so which 20 pages do you want Faxed back?” I also charge Servicelink $12 more than I charge other signing companies because of potential Fax Backs. Sometimes there aren’t any, and sometimes there are a lot. It all comes out in the wash. I, too, cover a very rural area in which one zip code covers up to 75 miles one-way, so have a prepared Fees list which I refer to as soon as I know the location. I don’t budge from those fees because I’ve pre-calculated extra time and mileage. I also tell the scheduler on the phone (most calls are recorded) that I cannot commit to a Fax back window of time. I often travel 300 miles in a day and cannot be running back to my office to fax, nor can I always get a cell signal to use my smartphone to do so. If a signing company does not agree to all of these terms, I decline the assignment. That way I can weed out potential “no pay” or “low pay” companies.

    Comment by Lauren Wells — December 22, 2015 @ 3:29 pm

  11. P.S. I also have a “same day” surcharge of $25 because unless the docs are ready right then, there will almost surely be an issue getting them in time to fit into my schedule.

    Comment by Lauren Wells — December 22, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

  12. I charge an extra $25 for faxbacks and tell them upfront that it will not be within the 2 hours, as I too work rural areas. Additionally, I will stack the docs in the order on the faxback list, but then I clip them together and place them on top of the package, I do not sort them back into the docs in the order they came out. That’s their problem. I have had companies take two days to call me to drop the package and I have had companies never call me to give me an okay to drop the package, on the second day I just ship it back. I know my work is good, I don’t need someone telling me it’s okay to send documents back.

    The problem with faxbacks is we are at their mercy, they write the checks, if we don’t follow their rules we don’t get paid. There are more and more companies going this way, not necessarily to check our work, but they are funding the loans on the faxes. I have been in the lending industry for 35 years and have worked with the FDIC. Lenders are trying to find faster ways to service their clients so they are going off faxes. You say well the Deed of Trust or Mortgage hasn’t been recorded, they are taking that chance that during the next 2-3 days when the real package arrives the deed of trust or mortgage will be recorded properly.

    Comment by Jeffrey A Thorne — December 23, 2015 @ 6:08 am

  13. Super article. True, the scheduler never seems to know how many pages & gives a low number guess. I often email the company back before I print docs and request a fee adjustment with confirmation provided via email. If they can’t adjust, I can’t do the work. It’s my time and my supplies. Great tips on the fees

    Comment by Lydia Paton — March 16, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

  14. I run a signing service. I was a full time notary for years and offer 24/7 support for all my notaries, even on jobs they get through other companies after hours. I often get docs late from title (2-3 hours before a signing), I rarely have faxbacks (less than 2%), I’m fair in my pricing (I make $25 per package), I use Snapdocs because it allows me to do more in less time which allows me to keep my margins low, I hire both experienced and new notaries, and I absolutely love what I do. Other signing services give services like me a bad reputation for their deceiving practices.

    Comment by Jennifer Glover — September 17, 2016 @ 8:27 am

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