Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Notaries: Pick Your Battles Wisely

As a Notary Signing Agent I am asked to notarize a variety of documents on a moment's notice. Recently, I received a call from a company that needed a multi-page application form signed, witnessed and notarized by an applicant. The company emailed me the applicant's contact information and a 13-page Application Form. I printed everything, including an extra copy of the application form to leave with the applicant. Only one form needed my notary stamp.

When I called the applicant to confirm the appointment I was informed that he had changed his mind. He no longer wanted the services. I relayed that message to the company who had hired me for the assignment; and was told that they would contact me should the appointment be rescheduled.

That was it. I lost out on a decent signing fee for an appointment that was right around the corner from my office. I was left holding two copies of a document that would be invalid (due to it being dated) by the next day. Do I request a print fee? Technically speaking, I lost money. There were hidden costs: paper, toner, time, phone calls. However, the company made no mention about paying a small fee to cover those costs. Had this transaction been a real estate transaction (purchase/refinance, etc.) print fees are expected and usually paid. This was different. In making my decision whether to invoice the company for a print fee I took the following under consideration:

First, I checked the company's rating on a popular notary public website (NotaryRotary.com). They have a section called Signing Central where notaries across the U.S. rate a company's pay practices. The company in question received four out of five stars with lots of positive comments from notaries. This was a company I wanted to do business with in the future.

Second, I considered just how much paper/toner/time I had really used. Actually it was less than thirty sheets of paper and less than ten minutes of phone time. How much is that really in dollars & cents? I would estimate, less than $15.00. Did it make sense to bill this company $12-$15 especially when there was no agreement that a print fee was part of the contract? What if they didn't pay me? They could argue that I should not have printed the application form until after I had confirmed the appointment. How far was I willing to go?

Third, I asked myself what did I have to gain or lose? This was my first contact with this client. They may have future business in my territory. Did I want to increase my chances of working with a reputable company or decrease those chances? Again, did I want $15 dollars or more business that would pay hundreds of dollars?

I made my decision. I sent an email to the company the following day thanking them for contacting me for the assignment, and asking them to contact me should another opportunity arise. I also informed them about other notary services I provide.

If larger dollars had been at stake my decision may have been different. The possibility of starting a dispute over $15 did not seem worth it to me. A smart business owner, regardless of the industry, knows how to pick his/her battles. I think I made the right choice for me.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Alabama Notary Public Conference

Well, it's official! On last Friday, I received a letter from the Alabama Secretary of State office notifying me of an upcoming Notary Public Conference on Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 9:00 a.m., in Montgomery, AL at the State Capitol. Hundreds, if not thousands, of letters were sent to other Alabama Notaries with active commissions.

Since that time I have been doing everything I can to get the word out to my fellow notaries in Northern Alabama. I am posting information on various notary networking websites. I have put the word out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This coming week I will send PSA's to local radio and television statioins. Why? Two reasons.

First, I want to make sure that every Alabama Notary is aware that a Conference has been scheduled, and has every opportunity to attend. I became a notary in 2005 and was shocked to learn that there was no handbook (or if there was one it was outdated and no longer available), and more importantly there was no required notary training. That means a new notary had to endure "on the job training," or seek out training on his or her own. As for me I signed up for no less than five online notary training courses, and one training course conducted here in Huntsville. Next month's Notary Conference in Montgomery will include information regarding "state notary laws and standards of reasonable care for every notary act...".

Second, I want Northern Alabama represented at that Conference. However, Montgomery is 191 miles from Huntsville. That's about a three hour drive for a 3 1/2 hour meeting. That distance is enough to discourage some well-intentioned notaries from making the the drive there and back. A group of us is looking into chartering a bus from Huntsville to Montgomery (with a possible stop in Birmingham). Seats are limited, so if you are interested contact me immediately.

I am thrilled that Alabama's Secretary of State office has made its Notaries Public a priority for 2009. We have questions. They have the answers.

If you are an Alabama Notary public, or know someone who is, make sure he or she is aware of next month's meeting. If you are an Alabama employer and some of your employees are notaries, you should encourage them to attend. For more information about the Conference, contact Alabama's Secretary of State office. For information about group travel, via a charter bus, to the Conference, contact me at Huntsville Mobile Notary.

I hope to see you in Montgomery on October 1st!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

When a Notary Public Is Asked To Do the Unthinkable

Last week, I was asked to notarize a form knowing full well that one person’s signature would be forged. I repeated the person’s request back to her thinking that it would be enough for her to realize what she was asking me to do – and would lead her to retract her request. She did but she didn’t. She realized what she was asking me to do but she didn’t retract her request. According to her, she had forged her husband’s signature in the past and she was willing to do it again. Because she is a family friend, I inserted an apology in my refusal to notarize her form.

When a Notary Public stamp on a form loses its integrity, it’s a sad state of affairs. Like most notaries, I take my commission seriously; and I’m not about to put my business and livelihood in jeopardy by being dishonest. Let’s play by the rules we’ve set for ourselves. When those rules stop making sense then we should use the legislative process to make changes.

“Underlying the whole scheme of civilization is the confidence men have in each other, confidence in their integrity, confidence in their honesty, confidence in their future” (Bourke Cockran, The Quotation Page).

For more information about Huntsville Mobile Notary and its services in Northern Alabama, visit the website at www.huntsvillemobilenotary.com.