Are your papers ending up in the dumpster?

So far here in Utah the stories of abusive practices are few and far between.   From what I see most reputable companies have a desire to keep their servers honest and pay a fair rate in order to make it worth it so they do not feel a need to lie in order to make enough money.  There are a few cases where we hear of abusive tactics or suspect gutter serves but it is not the standard here in Utah.  Across the nation there are a lot of stories that differ.  New York City changed it’s laws and now requires every server to document each serve with GPS data.  After a year the results were not so positive, see this article:

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/worst_process_server_way_off_mark_8OOiHJCjABVsxm2MRksW3M?utm_medium=rss&utm_content=Local

Is this happening in Utah?  It could be, I’m sure it does happen.  We have experienced clients that pressure for exactly this.  They just want a return stating the individual was served so they can get the default judgement and garnish wages because they know where they work.  The client went elsewhere for his serves but we maintain our reputation, something worth more than a few dollars we could have had in providing returns that weren’t accurate.

Does Utah need the same laws as New York?  How do we ensure that defendants get their due process?  Statewide Process Servers requires it’s servers to follow New York City’s law.  All of our serves are documented with a date time and GPS stamped photo that is stored with a 3rd party on a server we do not have access to.  This data is unable to be altered by us but can be provided on any serve that is questioned.  We are not required to follow the law of New York City however by demanding the strictest standards we can be confident in our results.  I have had two attorneys that had attempts to dismiss our serve where the serve stood due to our reputation and good documentation.  This is what we expect and what we work to ensure for our clients.

 

Price, Quality, Service, can you get all three?

I was reading a post today where a fellow process server made a statement about price, quality, service. Here’s what he said:

“I always throw out the highest bid, and quite often I’ll throw out the lowest.  You can get price, quality, or service.  Pick any 2, as a company can’t stay in business trying to offer all 3.”

Is that true?  As a general rule I would have to say yes, but there are exceptions, there is also balance.  Food can be a great example.  There are a lot of levels of mexican food, Taco Bell can get you price but not the highest quality, personally I love the quality of Cafe Rio but you pay a higher price.  Both have friendly service.  You can go for price and get a $.99 McDouble or quality and go to Five Guys, if you want service you can get a sit down burger at Red Robin.  In some areas we have to make choices, sacrificing something for something else.

Let’s look at these three factors in the process serving industry.

Price:

Nationwide when we have to out source papers we find rates on average run $60-90.  The rates offered at Statewide Process Servers, $35 for a serve and $25 for a posting or garnishment, are considered too low.  Many feel we and people like us are ruining the industry, under valuing our services.  I have seen on many occasions people claim that firms offering our rates rates will be out of business in less than a year, we started in 2002 and this is my career so I do not plan on ever leaving.  It is comical how other companies, because of how they do business, feel that they should be able to dictate what our rates should be or that they know our expenses are more than our costs.  Occasionally there is an individual out there that is less than we are, I wish them the best and we are always looking to stay competitively priced and efficient so we can continue to offer great rates.  An interesting conversation I had yesterday that is relevant: I spoke to a purchasing manager of a item that is sold in retail stores all over, it is also sold in Wal-Mart.  They have some vendors that complain that Wal-Mart is undercutting them and they are loosing sales because customers can go around the corner and get the item for $2.50 less at Wal-Mart.  While this company does have an MSRP of $8.95 they do not say what you can sell the product for.  Wal-Mart has chosen higher volume for a lower price and sells the item for $6.50.  Both stores are buying the product with in $.25 of each other and well below the $6.50 Wal-Mart has decided to sell them for.  One store wants to make several dollars on each sale while the other seeks to sell more and make a few dollars on each sale.  I think this can apply to process serving just as well.  We have our costs, gas, pay to servers, office, supplies ect.  Each company has to look at what their overhead is and decide what they need to charge on a serve to stay profitable.  We understand the more papers we can get in an area the lower the cost per job will be for us, through volume we can offer better rates to clients.

Quality:

What determines quality in process serving?  I think the key areas clients look at are how long it takes to get a paper served, how soon they are aware service has been made, accurate returns received quickly, trained servers that understand the law so they don’t have to fight serves.  While the effort to perfect these areas takes time and is continual we do take steps to control this.  Technology, training and guidelines have helped us.

We have invested in what we feel is the best software in the industry.  It requires the office to input everything correctly but once that is done the servers control everything from the field and smart phones.  We do not have to try and decipher what they wrote down, it’s direct from them.   Each attempt, serve, or non serve is documented with a photo of where they were.  When they take these photos the phones log the date, time, and GPS location.  All of this data is available though clients secure log in.  All of the service info is entered through their phones, when they come into the office they can enter the job numbers and print off all their returns. This ability to utilize technology to allow the servers to input all the data and service information eliminates the potential of human errors when a person in the office tries to transfer information from a work sheet to an affidavit.   It also allows for immediate notifications to clients of jobs served, in real time as the information is uploaded from the smart phones.

Our agents are trained in rule 4 of civil procedure.  They are taught the in’s and outs of a legal serve.  While sub serving a paper on a wife is ok for individual service if the husband is also an owner of a company but the wife is not a part of the business we can not sub serve the business paper at home however can serve the individual paper.  It is situations like this that all agents need to understand.  When a mistake is made the server must correct it (it helps them learn) but also the situation is explained and sent to all servers so they can also learn.   So by monthly trainings, initial training, and continual training we work hard to ensure everyone is well trained and knowledgeable of our profession.

Utilizing guidelines for servers and office is also critical in making sure the paperwork flows quickly where it needs to be.  Internal policies help us ensure servers are picking up and dropping off frequently, that all new papers are entered immediately, that served jobs and affidavits are returned promptly, and that returns are checked for accuracy.  We work hard at maintaining processes that makes us as efficient as possible and meet clients needs for fast accurate returns.

Service:

In an industry where we literally “serve” what type of service are clients looking for?  I think the bottom line is they want their papers handled fast, efficiently, and they want it communicated to them how they like.  Every client likes to communicate in their own preferred way, some want a call when a paper is served, others an e-mail.  We are available when you need us, whether it’s through e-mail, text, or a phone call we try to answer and respond immediately.  We have three office staff that are here 9-5 on weekdays but our cell phones are also listed on our web site and clients are welcome to contact us whenever they have a need.  We also set up auto triggers to e-mail you as your status of jobs assigned to us changes, if it’s a job going from open to completed, or an address change, if skip trace assistance is needed.  There are several triggers we can set up to notify you of changes, or if you don’t like to be bothered we can remove all triggers.  Communication is critical in relationships, personal or business and we want to communicate in a way that our clients like.

These are some of the things that we have learned about in the industry and that we have done at Statewide to improve our clients experience.  We have not always been 100% but we do have a great system in place that helps us get very close.  This has developed over the years since we first started in 2002.  We continue to watch and fine tune what we do.  If we ever fail at any steps along the way or do not meet a customers expectations we will correct the matter and improve our policies.  We sincerely hope that your experience in choosing us as your Utah Process Server is a great one, and if we ever need to improve please just let us know what your needs are and let’s work out a plan to be sure it happens, from custom reports to ensuring your file numbers are on the billing statement we are happy to accommodate your needs.

So Can you get a Cafe Rio burrito on a Taco Bell budget?  We think you can in the process serving industry here in Utah.  Black or pinto beans?  Let us know!

 

 

You’ve been served via FaceBook?

Is this where the industry is heading?  Could you be served via FaceBook?

Facebook has become a go to site for many people, to socialize, network, and even play games.  They are developing better ads, making it a better and better choice for businesses to spend their advertizing dollars.  You likely have a FaceBook account, your business may have a page.  I know I use it and our business has a page.

<a href=”https://www.facebook.com/StatewideProcessServers”>click here to visit and “Like” our page</a>.

How often do you log on, how often do you use it?  For most people it’s several times a day but can a judge see that, do they know for sure that account is yours, that you look at it, that you will get the papers that you were servedvia FaceBook.

“Changes in communication technology have increased exponentially; therefore it is not unreasonable to expect the law to recognise such changes and accommodate it,” said Steyn in a written explanation.

“The present application, in my view, would not have been possible had it not been for a recent amendment to the uniform rules of a court which provides for service by way of electronic mail, registered post and fax,” said the judge.

click here to read more on this.

It brings up a lot to think about, do we really know who is on the other side of that account?  How do you know they received the document?  Is an individual going to take a law suit serious and read it when they do not have a hard copy in hands?  I love technology and there is a place for it, people really do try to hide and it would be easier to find them this way but…

What do you think?

Follow up to: Process Server or Collector?

After hearing about this subject, Process Server or Collector, I heard from another process server, Greg Kellerman.  His company was listed in a law suit however he won his argument and had the suit against him dismissed. He provided the following link on the decision.

click here to read more on his law suit.

Here is some of the discussion on it:
The FDCPA was designed to protect consumers from the “abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices” of debt collectors 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. In the instant case, Plaintiff Rita avers that co-Defendant Grillion’s conduct of serving the arbitration claim notice on Plaintiff in an aggressive manner violates 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a)(1) because Grillion came to Plaintiffs’ home. Further, Plaintiffs argue that Defendant Wolpoff is liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior for co-Defendant Grillion’s conduct of serving the arbitration claim notice to Plaintiff.
In Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. v. Lamar, 2006 WL 2422903, *1 (N.D.Ohio Aug. 22, 2006), the District Court held that the FDCPA does not apply to process severs because process servers are not debt collectors as defined by 15 U.S.C. (a)(6)(D). Id. at *9. The plaintiff in Lamar therefore was unable to hold the debt collection agency liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior, for the actions of the process server. Id.
Section 1692(a)(6) of title 15 defines the term debt collector as follows:

“debt collector” means any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another. Notwithstanding the exclusion provided by clause (F) of the last sentence of this paragraph, the term includes any creditor who, in the process of collecting his own debts, uses any name other than his own which would indicate that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect such debts. For the purpose of section 1692f(6) of this title, such term also includes any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests. The term does not include —
(A) any officer or employee of a creditor while, in the name of the creditor, collecting debts for such creditor;
(B) any person while acting as a debt collector for another person, both of whom are related by common ownership or affiliated by corporate control, if the person acting as a debt collector does so only for persons to whom it is so related or affiliated and if the principal business of such person is not the collection of debts;
(C) any officer or employee of the United States or any State to the extent that collecting or attempting to collect any debt is in the performance of his official duties;
(D) any person while serving or attempting to serve legal process on any other person in connection with the judicial enforcement of any debt;
[ 477 F.Supp.2d 1019 ]

(E) any nonprofit organization which, at the request of consumers, performs bona fide consumer credit counseling and assists consumers in the liquidation of their debts by receiving payments from such consumers and distributing such amounts to creditors; and
(F) any person collecting or attempting to collect any debt owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another to the extent such activity (I) is incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation or a bona fide escrow arrangement; (ii) concerns a debt which was originated by such person; (iii) concerns a debt which was not in default at the time it was obtained by such person; or (iv) concerns a debt obtained by such person as a secured party in a commercial credit transaction involving the creditor.

Subsection D of the FDCPA specifically provides that process servers are not debt collectors, thus the regulations of the FDCPA do not extend to the actions of process servers. Here, there is no genuine issue of matter fact as the interrogatories of Grillion and affidavit of Ronald M. Abramson reveal that Grillion is indeed a process server and not an employee of Wolpoff. Because Grillion is a process server and not a debt collector he is not liable to Plaintiffs under the FDCPA and there is no vicarious liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Therefore, Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment, with respect to this issue, is granted.

I also had a discussion with a PI about this and he made a great point, we are hired all the time to obtain information. We are not trying to get any money from anyone but are only after information. We do this thru many different avenues however if we were at the door serving papers and asked for contact information how would that constitute collecting a debt? We would not accept money if they tried to pay us, we aren’t authorized to collect a dime!! We are interested in obtaining information, as much information as we can get from them or the surroundings.

While this is a subject we will be paying close attention to it sounds like the final verdict is still out, we will continue to update as we hear things.

Sincerely,

Statewide Process servers

www.statewideprocessservers.com

Gutter serves?

Gutter serves?

Have you heard the term “Gutter Serves”?  I had not until I got into this industry, from the time of first hearing about it it is something that I and professional process servers everywhere are always afraid of.  One bad process server lying on his paperwork can taint the entire industry, one bad server within a company can ruin a company’s name.

What is a “Gutter Serve”?  This is when a server does not go out to serve the papers but rather just fills out his affidavit claiming to have served someone, he just chooses a date and time, uses an address give for the defendant and claims he served them.  Since in the collection industry it is in the high 90’s where default judgements are awarded and defendants do not show up for court this is a safe gamble for a server.  An unethical individual can get away with this for a long time, and since most process servers are paid per job they can make more money with no work.  I came across this article today about one instance where this happened to a man in California:

click here to check out some details.

I do not know the details of ABC Legal and how involved this individual was with their company.  More than likely the individual was a contract company that ABC Legal used in that area, they are a large forwarder of process service including a contract with the State of Utah to serve the Office of Recovery Services papers by sending papers from Utah out to Washington state then back to smaller Utah companies.  Most of the time problems like this are one individual that does something like this not a company wide issue.  I have done work for ABC Legal and have never been pressured or felt like they wanted anything less than inaccurate returns of service.  They have never complained about a non serve coming back to them if the address was bad.  On the other hand I have had other clients try to pressure us to just get a return of service, saying that they know where they work and all they need is a judgement and they can garish wages.  Those type of clients are no longer a client of ours.

So what can the industry do to correct this, what can the courts do, private process serving companies?  We have seen the city of New York put in place laws that require a date and time stamped photo to be taken at each serve.  From the law maker standpoint this is what they felt was needed, I hope here in Utah that we do not need the state managing our industry, that we can do it from with in.  Here at Statewide Process Servers we have tried to stay ahead of the trends.  While I hire only guys I trust, I also verify.  We want to have an overwhelming amount of evidence that our servers did what they swore to on their returns of service.  All of our servers are utilizing the latest in technology.  They use smart phones with software that allows them to take a photo at each attempt, bad address, serve, and non serve, that logs the date and time they took it and the gps location they were at when they did.  Clients can log in and look at this information.  On our end we can pull up logs of each individual and it will flag any inaccuracies,  if a server claims to have served two papers at the exact same time or if they served a paper and 5 min later served another but the distance between them was 30 miles it will flag it.  Despite what we do with in our own company and with our servers, we at times also have to hire other companies to serve for us out of state and we have to trust that they will do what they agree to do and not perform gutter serves.

In every industry you will have people looking to make a dollar in the easiest way possible, I hope that professionals in the industry will push for high ethics from their servers and that attorneys will demand the same.  We need to be aware of the problems and do what we can to eliminate those willing to put their own interest ahead of ethics.

 

Process Server or Collector?

Many of our servers have a background in the collection industry.  Many of the papers we serve are collection papers but how can we be careful to not cross the line and become a collector yet still collect valuable information for the clients?

Here is a summary of some resent legal activity where process servers have crossed the line and are being caught in litigation over it.

FDCPA Lawsuits Against Process Servers in regard to Defendant Place of Employment Information

We have heard of a number of recent FDCPA lawsuits against process servers. The majority of these are in regard to process servers asking defendants for place of employment information on behalf of their debt collector clients. The FDCPA specifically excludes process servers when they act solely as process servers. Where the problem comes in is when a process server crosses the line and becomes a collector. By asking defendants for place of employment information and passing that along to their debt collector clients they are acting as a collector. When acting as a collector, the FDCPA requires the “mini-Miranda” to be read to the defendant so that they know that the disclosure of information may be used against them. FDCPA judgments can be very very expensive, particularly if they are class action situations. An added dimension for process servers who have been doing this sort of thing for their clients without the “mini-Miranda” is that they are typically being paid a bonus by their client for providing employment information further worsening the situation in the eyes of the court.

At Statewide we train our servers to collect visible data but not to ask any questions.  If John Doe is wearing a Chevron shirt with his name on it and appears as if he just got home from work we will note that, if ABC Heating and Air has a van in the driveway that will be noted.  In order to protect our servers, our company, and our clients we can not ask for information from the people we serve, just deliver papers and observe.

Thank you for trusting Statewide to handle your legal papers.

 

Why choose Statewide as your Utah Process Server?

Statewide Process Servers was formed with a goal of streamline the process serving experience through technology and professionalism. Statewide Process Servers is your premier choice for process serving all document types anywhere in Utah.  Through our unique model we are able to bring you the best coverage at the best rates.  While others may offer their lower rates in a county or two we are offering ours in 11 counties!  That is over 72% of the population in the state of Utah covered at some of the best prices you can find.

We have a large network of Process Servers, Private Investigators, and Constables through out the state of Utah. This allows us to provide statewide coverage at affordable rates. As members of the National Association of Professional Process Servers we can assist in handling the servicing of your documents across the nation.

Statewide Process Servers will provide you with the tools to streamline the tracking of your documents. We understand that access to a status on your serves when you need it is critical, we have the top of the line online data base giving you 24-7 access to the current status of your papers.  These features also include the ability to send messages to us on specific services through the online system, printable court calanders, automatic e-mail notifications, and real time updates.  Our process servers are also kept up to date with the latest in technology in order to maintain high standards of efficiency.  Their tools include GPS technology and route planners, their attempts and the result of them are entered directly into our online system via their smart phones, updating you in real time.

We offer many of our services at no additional charge while our competition charges for each thing they do.  Understanding that defendants tend to move around a lot, our Private Investigators provide a free investigations in an extra effort to track down and get your defendants served.  If we find another address in our coverage area you will not be charged for that.  We have also trained them to look for clues that will assist you in satisfying your judgments after they have been served, company vehicles, company shirts, any visible sign of where they work or bank will be recorded.

Thank you for visiting. We look forward to providing you with the prompt, friendly and efficient service our clients expect and deserve.

Sincerely,

Statewide Process Servers