Where is the Reliable List of Deadbeat Firms ?

One of the questions that comes up often wherever notaries gather online is, “Where can I find a list of deadbeat (low pay/ slow pay/ no pay) firms to avoid?”

There are lists, but they’re almost always based on reports from one or two people who had an issue. The few I’ve seen not based on this very small sample were unsourced (no one is saying where the list came from or why the firms are on it.) 

Speaking just for me, I don’t consider those reliable lists for the following reasons. 

Maybe, the problem is the notary didn’t follow instructions, including notifying them when the signing closed or sending an invoice by their deadline. 

Sometimes,  the notary didn’t understand that the signing service pays on a 1st and 15th basis, which may mean it’s almost 60 days before they get paid. 

Perhaps, the firm tells people they will be closed for a period to move to a new location & will re-open on x date and the notary gets impatient. 

I have seen people claim that a firm was deadbeat because they did the work “almost a month ago,” which just shows they don’t know that most signing services pay at the 30 day mark and then you have to wait a few more days for the check to arrive in the mail. 

Tip: You should always confirm what the firm’s payment schedule is when you take them on as a client. Write it on your printed copy of the work order so you know when to expect payment. 

I have also seen many posts where someone reported payment issues with a firm whose work and payment history with me stretches back several years and there are no blemishes on that history. 

So, their “deadbeat” firm may be my A-List client. Your Mileage May Vary — their experience doesn’t match mine, so is the problem with the firm or the notary? Or has something changed at the firm recently?  It’s difficult to tell. 

For all these reasons, you need to see why the firm is being labelled a deadbeat. Any list not backed up by a forum where notaries report what happened (so you can evaluate their claim that it’s a deadbeat firm) should be taken with a huge grain of salt. 

Brenda Dey recently started a new group on Facebook called Deadbeat Signing Companies. Perhaps, she will be able to do what many others before her were unable to do and produce an updated, fact-based list. (Even if she does, it’s still subject to the limitations mentioned in this article.) Her group has received enthusiastic support in its first few weeks & it is getting a good bit of participation. You can find it here  (Deadbeat Signing Companies) if you’re on Facebook. 

One reason that you don’t see any commercial sites offering a list of deadbeat firms is the very real legal concern about “restraint of commerce” that’s involved when people advise others to not provide services to a company. 

As various people  have pointed out, there’s a line between reporting your experience or adding your ranking to such a report and telling people to refuse to do business with the firm you’re reporting on. Somewhere in there, it becomes restraint of trade or interference with commerce or other things that may be a crime. 

Then there’s the question of libel that may arise if a firm believes you’ve gone too far in your online report. 

You will find lists where notaries can rank firms on NotaryRotary and 123notary, but that’s the notaries doing the ranking and it’s just as unreliable as any other list. 

What all this amounts to is this: 

There is currently no reliable-without-issues list of deadbeat firms

NotaryBeware tried to create one, but they have never been as big as NotaryRotary,  123notary, or NotaryCafe and they don’t seem to care about advertising or SEO,  so most notaries and NSAs have never heard of them.

Bottom line: you need to know how to do your own research on your potential clients.  

If you Google the signing service or title company, forum posts from NotaryRotary, 123notary, notarycafe, and such will often come up, although sometimes they show on the second or third page of the Google results. You can read those forum posts without joining the forums,  generally. 

Posts and groups on Facebook only show up when you search on Facebook (not on Google)  and posts within groups may not show up even in Facebook search if it’s not a public group and you’re not a member of the group. 

Files in groups on Facebook only show up when they’re first uploaded, so it is worth taking the time to look at the files area of every group you’re in at least once a month to see if you missed anything useful or educational. 

As with most things having to do with your small business, you should not expect to have the answers simply handed to you in a free list. You have to do your own research and put any prospective clients through your own qualifying process, just like other businesses do. 

Every time you take on an assignment,  you’re extending credit to your client (unless you get paid in advance, which almost never happens). So, you will want to know how credit-worthy your clients are when you accept assignments from them. And it’s a good idea to limit how much work you accept from a new client who does not yet have a payment history with you. 

Sometimes, you will get burned. There’s no way to extend credit without that happening. But you can minimize how often that happens by doing your own research on your clients. 

Reports from other notaries can & should be part of that research. And, if you find a properly-sourced list that matches up with your experience, there’s value in using that list. Just don’t assume your experience will be the same as other notaries. Your business is your own. 

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About Tim Gatewood

55+, male, widowed (May 2016). Mobile notary public and signing agent, freelance writer, and ordained minister. Science fiction and fantasy fan, willing servant to cats, avid reader and collector of books and other stuff. Please see my websites (including this blog and others) for more info on me and what I think about the issues of the day.
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