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June 30, 2015

Strike Three, Notary is Out – No Pay

Filed under: Ken Edelstein,NSA Pricing, Fees & Income — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:29 pm

Strike Three, Notary is Out – No Pay
It’s your turn at bat. You’re walking from the dugout and glance at the scoreboard. You notice that, even prior to reaching the batter’s box; there is one strike against you. Many notary jobs start exactly the same way. You are going to a new client to notarize “some documents”. But, you did not receive your payment in advance. Yes, there is a “strike” against you; you are in route, burning gas and using time. Perhaps you will receive your Notary fee. Order something on the internet, as most of you have; you had to pay in advance, they did not include an invoice for you to pay. So, starting with one strike against you; let’s continue to pay notary baseball.

Strike two comes when you arrive, and the client(s) are not there (yet?) or unavailable. You probably arrived 10 minutes early to the Starbucks to secure a table. Meeting a “big shot”? Well, their gatekeeper informs you they are “running behind” and offers you some coffee and asks that you “take a seat” while you wait. I once waited, with one strike against me, in the lobby for a “penthouse” person to tell lobby security to admit me. Half an hour later, “Mr. Screwya said your services will not be needed, please use the revolving door on your way out”. Ouch! If he had prepaid I would have charged him trip + waiting time. But, silly me, went on “hope”.

Strike three is the inability to make contact. You have to be careful with this one. Sometimes the client (in New York City) can be in the subway. Or, driving a car and not able to answer their phone. It is a good practice to call the contact number when you are “about” to travel to their location. Call it a confirmation call, the idea is to make sure you can reach the client. It’s also a good idea to inform them you will be making that call when you book the assignment. Let them know that if you are unable to reach them to confirm; you will not be arriving. The confirmation call also limits or eliminates “waiting on site” as you confirmed the time shortly prior to meeting.

Hmmmm, three strikes against you. You have no payment, have tried to make contact to no avail, and waited a reasonable amount of time. What to do? Well, this exact situation happened to me yesterday with a “regular” client. After half an hour (my personal maximum no contact wait time), I just left for my next assignment. I had to. Lateness of one client cannot be allowed to cause my lateness to the next scheduled appointment. My client did arrive almost an hour late and called me to proceed. As he did not call prior to being late, and did not answer the cell phone, I assessed an additional trip fee; if he wished to reschedule for the following day. He agreed.

That “trip fee” went to pay for my parking, fuel for the trip and keeping the engine in the car running to keep warm on a very cold day. Added together, those costs were about 5$, but the major portion was for my time. Yes, my time. Personally, I think my time is more valuable than any other person’s time. If you feel differently, I suggest you reflect a bit on your self image.

On the other hand; if you don’t start with one strike against you; the outlook is brighter. I have had many “cancellations”, for various reasons after receiving my fee. Generally they tell me to “keep it” and are disinterested in a discussion of prorating. I consider this fair. Travel and waiting time is equivalent to travel and processing; timewise. What never happened is a case where the affiant was unable to “make it” and subsequently made a payment. Human nature I guess. Most notaries are gentle creatures, performing a legal and necessary service. However, the loan shark’s expression, when payment is lacking and a limb must be broken; applies to us too. “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.” (The payment, not the limb!).


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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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October 13, 2014

Notary Pricing Structures

Filed under: Ken Edelstein — Tags: , — admin @ 8:52 pm

You won’t find any suggested notary fee dollar amounts in this entry. Rather, what follows will be a (hopefully) intellectual discussion of alternative ways to charge for your services. Sometimes you will have to be flexible and choose a different pricing scheme; one other than your usual choice. I will try to cover the pros and cons of some alternatives that are probably widely used today.

The most basic is “by the piece”. That works great if you have a large client base that “goes to you”. Picture selling newspapers, many are sold with a small markup. Not so practical as a basis for charging for mobile notary services. Here in New York State, the mandated basic notary fee is two dollars. Any travel to do few notarizations would probably not pay for the gas used.

Our callers love “flat rate” pricing. They describe the work to be done, we name a “cast in stone” price to go and do the job. The issue here is that the caller rarely knows how many notarizations are required, must we supply forms, will there be other delays; waiting time, etc. Sometimes flat rate is the only choice; but be sure to get the details, even if they are not available in the initial contact. That too, is a double edged sword. They want “the number” the first time or might move on. Expect to spend a lot of time if all they tell you is that they have “some papers”.

A blend of flat rate and by the piece often works well. Set a fee for what they describe, ie: two people signing a POA. Include in your fee discussion that the quote is for only two signatures being notarized and that the appropriate state mandated fee will apply beyond the two. You will be surprised how quickly those additional fees add up. It’s also music to the caller, to hear a low starting “base fee” and a trivial addition for extras. Some take it a step further, they define the initial fee as for “going there”; and levy a by the piece for each notarization. I like to include a few in the quote.

Really big or lengthy jobs can be based on time and expenses. If a contract is being negotiated and you are asked to wait till the parties agree; go with time and expenses. Quote an hourly rate for waiting, plus your “going there” fee. The idea is to be “open ended”; the more they take of you the more they must pay. It’s fair to you; and seems to “speed up” the process; because it costs.

Loud, long, and often I have advocated payment in advance. Far too many feel that if for any reason you are unable to notarize “you didn’t do anything”. You should never go to an assignment without both sides having a very clear understanding of how your fee is calculated. If the bottom line can fluctuate, receive via PayPal, etc.; a retainer. That’s what my attorney does, shortly to be followed by a bill for more. The retainer ends “price shopping” while you are in route to the caller; and a possible call advising you that the job is cancelled.

There are as many ways to charge as there are different situations to charge for. I never go anywhere without fee agreement. I rarely go out of the immediate neighborhood without a retainer for my travel fee. On site any overage “but they’re just copies” is paid with cash. There is a real epidemic of people playing “beat the notary”. Some are coached to represent a full loan package as “it’s just one document”; despite the 187 pages requiring 28 notarizations!


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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


November 7, 2013

Rich man poor man: Market Yourself to the Wealthy

Rich Man Poor Man

Here is some shocking news – wealthy people have an easier time paying a higher notary fee compared to poor people. Wow! Whatta surprise. Pardon my obvious statement. But I do wonder why so many notaries are struggling with signing service fees – fees paid by little entities with balance sheets that are awash in red ink. Do you have a signing service in your town? Probably not, but you do have many wealthy people whose time is very valuable. Now you know the secret of collecting those higher and much easier to earn fees. Market yourself to the wealthy. It’s that simple. It’s the opposite of going, as a notary to the poorhouse seeking clients. Who are the wealthy? You already know – but might not know just why they need you. Let’s take some time out from the signing rat race, step out of the maze and let me show you the shortcut to the cheese.

I had a fellow who gave me over 17 Apostille assignments for an adoption. He needed various doctor statements to be notarized and receive an Apostille. My fee for each, no discounting; was on the high side for an edoc job. However, the work was much quicker and cleaner. He was a –big shot – stockbroker. He worried about missing an important call and losing a commission that would have been over 6 months of earning – for me. But, not for him; he makes that much money in the course of a 15 minute phone call. I know this for a fact as he told me – while paying me – how he just made several thousand dollars. He even gave me a Franklyn for a tip!

Attorneys often receive Power of Attorney; to sign papers for their clients. The high profile client does not want to hunt for a notary. The Attorney of record, as involved in the transaction cannot notarize the client giving him the power – so an outside notary is needed. Enter the mobile notary, me, to their office. Of course they have others who usually handle this, but sometimes they are on vacation or out sick – I get the call. Doctors, will not go hunting for a notary – they like to have a card on file of a reliable notary who will go to them.

Everyday shopkeepers, who must –mind the store- often have legal documents that must be notarized. The needs vary greatly – the common thread is that their time is worth more than your time. They can pay me XX which is very much worth my while to go to them – and that XX is less than the revenue they would lose by going to find a notary. Clearly, this works best with people whose time is one of their most valuable assets. As a I probably have more rich people here in Manhattan compared to most places. But the concept is applicable in your home town too. Give a card to the general manager of the large Big Box stores in the local shopping centers. I sure don’t have many WalMarts in Manhattan. That person is busy, very busy – and is likely to need a notary now and then but do they have your card? That person pays to save time using company money – it’s not out of the managers’ pocket – does that matter to you.

To harp on the point. Seek out the wealthy who have little time to spare and more money to spend. When you run out of wealthy prospects seek out those who can pay using –company money- to save their personal time. Trust me on this – it is very pleasant to work with these people. They are very appreciative of your services, and are willing to pay fair rates. Now compare what I have written above to a discussion with El Cheepo signing as you beg for an additional ten dollars for faxing 50 pages. Are you marketing yourself wisely to the right prospects?

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September 23, 2013

Where do you document Notary Fees?

Filed under: Notary Fees & Pricing — Tags: , — admin @ 8:27 am

Notary fees vary from state to state. Although there are many similar types of notary laws across state lines, the requirement to keep a journal varies from state to state as do Notary Public fees. Some states have minimum or maximum Notary fees set by their state’s notary division. Other states have no specified Notary fee and leave it to the notary (I want to move to THAT state!). But, where are the notary fees actually charged for particular transactions documented?

Your Notary Journal
Most notary journals have a section to the right of each entry where you can enter the Notary Public fee that you charged the client. You can also indicate how the client paid you, i.e. check, cash, isquare, or for notaries in the Vatican City, they sometimes get paid via!

But, not all states require a Notary Journal
Yes, but there is no penalty for keeping a Notary Journal. After all, you could be held legally responsible for what you notarize, especially if fraud is suspected, so it behooves you to keep a Notary Journal EVEN if your state’s notary division is too foolish to require the use of one! Remember — think “above and beyond” if you want to stay alive in this game!

What are my state’s Notary Public fees?
Look them up at:

What if a Notary charges more than the state appointed maximum notary fee?
You can report them to your state’s Secretary of State or Notary Division.

Good luck!