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January 7, 2022

The Joy of Saying NO

This was published originally many years ago.

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.


You might also like:

The art of the decline — to new Notary jobs



  1. You are great and I do the same. I have never asked for paypal but had one company wanting to pay me immediately and they asked for my pay pal and it was there that day. I refuse to do signing for their stupid fee of $40.00 not worth answering the phone for. Great all of the above.

    Comment by Carol J. Walden — November 2, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

  2. I recently did a $40 loan signing. The signers came to my house with all their docs. They had read them. I just flipped through and notarized the four required notarizations, pointed out the initials and other sigs and collected the cash for a half hours work. They took their package to drop off at the bank. No stress or any middleman to deal with. They are out there and too bad we have all the rigamarole to deal with in SSS’s.

    Comment by alan — November 3, 2014 @ 6:25 am

  3. my husband often asks “why did you turn down $43.00 when all you do is flip some pages and stamp them? You don’t really have to do anything, so why not!” My standard answer, I’m worth more than that. My time, gas, wear and tear on my vehicle, insurance, etc. Granted he is making $20.00 an hour digging ditches sometimes, however I just can’t do that low ball fee. There are others in my area who do take those fees, you are worth more than that!

    Comment by Debbie — March 13, 2015 @ 8:32 pm

  4. Being new I appreciate all the information.

    Comment by Meagan — March 14, 2015 @ 11:40 pm

  5. It is not just flipping pages and placing a stamp and signature, it’s about the accuracy and professionalism of what we do as notaries. We are worth more because our clients rely on us.

    Comment by Cheryl — March 15, 2015 @ 11:49 pm

  6. I loves me some Kenneth Edelstein! Whenever I get into a tough spot, I sing myself a song to the tune of South Park’s “What would Brian Boitano do?” but I insert Kenneth’s name. Just that has kept me out of a few nasty situations. Thanks Kenneth!!

    Comment by Angela — March 16, 2015 @ 5:37 am

  7. THANK YOU!!! It’s about time someone stands up and says this is NOT OK!!! I live in a pretty small town so there are only a few notaries available. We have the leverage here!! Three out of the five total notaries available have all discussed this and agreed that we will NOT do these lowball signings. If they want to pay someone to drive 3 hours to get here and do it, they can go right ahead. I’m so glad to see that I am not the only one that feels this way. It’s almost an insult when they offer to pay us such an insignificant amount. What I would really like to know is what is the average amount a reputable signing agent makes off of these deals? You say $25-$50 off the top, but what does that mean exactly? Is that all they make per transaction? Is that about average?

    Comment by Misy Elam — March 16, 2015 @ 10:49 pm

  8. With just over 8 years in this business as a PROFESSIONAL mobile notary, I understand exactly where you are coming from. We are one of the key steps in a loan closing, if we make errors it can delay funding, it can cause a rate lock to expire and cost the borrowers 1000’s of dollars. We are worth more that $10 per hour which is what many of the SSS’s try to pay, I have signed over 5000 doc sets over the last 8 years and NOT once have I taken anything less than what I am worth. I have tested it many times with SSS’s and they all seem to fail at providing a reason why they expect my services to be cheaper than any other professional service provider IE Plumber, Electrician, Appraiser, Escrow Officer, Mechanic, Carpet Cleaner, Landscaper etc…

    I hope that eventually these SSS’s realize that “You Get What You Pay For” and when the title companies or lenders realize they are not paying enough or they are contracting with greedy middle men, this will all come to an end and we can stop fielding dozen of low ball offers a week.

    I dislike unions for many many reasons, but maybe its time to form a Mobile Notary Union so that we can take a united stand against what seems to be becoming a common practice of taking advantage of by the middle man.

    I highly suggest cutting the middle man out as often as possible. Over 50% of my work load last month was Middle Man Removed.

    Comment by Dustin Caldwell — July 6, 2015 @ 8:35 pm

  9. I have a whitepaper about \Its OK to Say No. Contact me if you want a copy

    Comment by Ina — June 23, 2016 @ 9:05 pm

  10. Agreed w/ everybody!!! ***hugs*** Every title company/lender or anybody else thinks that it is easy to be thorough and that their loan package is identical to everyone else’s, WE take the heat for any errors. I do NOT trust any of my printers to not make an error. This is my 1st check of the package, along with typing up a Notepad file on the notarized documents (# of pages and page__/Total.) THAT is for =my journal And if I need to find it quickly. I print this out to take to the signing table. I also flag at this time, and then, if I am asked to bring a 2nd copy, I go through IT at the computer, page by page. After the individual(s) sign I go through the package aGAIN to make sure that they didn’t miss anything, and sometimes I will go through it one last time to be sure that I didn’t miss any of my signatures/dates/certification expiration, stamps, etc. ANYBODY who doesn’t check their work will make errors and whoEVER hires you is more than happy to knock off of your fee for it, and, I think some of them are looking for a reason. I have only done ~1,600 signings, not the 5K in the post above me, but I am the best NSA in my area bc I take the time to be precise. I am worth the higher fees that I ask for, and I am quite willing to let them lowball my competition. Better to get 2x their fee for only one signing. Btw, I am GLAD to see an NSA write about having the signers go to them! I work at home AND at the 3 room suite where my DH’s law office is and where I have access to 3 conference rooms, which I reserve when I have a signing there. I can reprint, scan, (fax, if anybody does that anymore), and no pets or other family bc they can sit in the office and watch our cable instead of interfering with the signing.

    Comment by betty — May 13, 2019 @ 1:56 am

  11. Is it legal (CFPB Legal) for a title company to collect $250 for a Signing and only actually pay $75 to the Notary? On the Mortgage side of things it is not Okay for a Mortgage Company to Charge $750 for an appraisal when it only cost $500. The CFPB does not allow Mortgage Companies to profit on the difference, they must charge the actual amount of appraisal or less. I have seen some big title companies that on the estimate have a substantially higher fee for the Signing than what I am receiving as the Signing Agent. Seems the CFPB would be interested in this practice.

    Comment by Rob Arsenault — May 13, 2019 @ 6:50 pm

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