When signings go OFF THE RAILS...a cautionary tale

I’m going to try and convey this tale as succinctly as possible, but there are a lot of moving parts, so bear with me. Interested to know how you would have handled it differently, if at all.

I took a signing from a new signing service (new to me, that is) the other day. I won’t name the service because I don’t want to drag them through the mud. They were kind, respectful, helpful, and have had my back the whole way.

A summary of the difficulties:

EVERY instance where the husband’s name appeared was misspelled. So that required a “how do you want me to proceed” phone call. Please strike, correct and initial. Fine. But that was probably 25 corrections at a minimum.

About 50% of the main signer’s signature spaces had HER name misspelled, as well. So more strike-correct-initialing to be done.

Some docs and therefore some dollar amounts were outdated and incorrect. This required the signer to call her lender. She also called 3 more times for documents she didn’t understand despite my explanation. She didn’t understand verbiage. She didn’t understand why they wanted her to fill wire instructions when she wanted a check. And by “didn’t understand,” I mean she was just being obstinate and wanted to know everything about every word in the documents.

She read EVERY. WORD. Deed of Trust? 20 minutes reading. Out loud. Universal Loan Application? She read every box. OUT. LOUD. Mind you, I had already given her the “I have another appointment, please remember you have 3 days to cancel, and you have a copy I have provided so you can read into these details later on” speech. TWICE.

I started emailing my signing service at the 2 hours of table time mark. At the 3 hour mark, I gave her a very stern (but respectful) “I. NEED. TO. LEAVE. You need to finish signing or I will have to take these documents with me and you’ll have to reschedule with your title company.”

She was so frustrated at this point by the errors that she was on her 5th phone call to her lender. I called my service again and declared that I needed to go. I wanted a verbal ok from someone that I could end the signing. Turns out the signer also wanted to end it because of her frustration. So at the 3.5 hour mark, I packed up the incomplete document and left. When I walked out, she was on her 6th phone call, and was actually YELLING at someone. Emailed my service with a written overview of the events for documentation’s / CYA sake. They were flabbergasted, apologized profusely, promised that I would still get paid, and that they would call Title / Escrow to handle it.

I got called 20 mins after I left. “She’s calmed down, ready to complete signing, can you go back?” I had already pushed my next appointment back an hour and had to rush to print and get over there. I ended up going back to this person’s house at 8pm. Service had sent me an amended ALTA with a higher notary cost, so I assume I’ll be getting a higher fee, but no one has actually told me what the increase will be yet. I sat down, and she began reading. Every word. AGAIN.

I took a deep breath and gave her the most diplomatic scolding I could muster: “Can I be brutally honest with you? I CANNOT sit here for 2 hours while you read every word before signing. I’ve already spent 6 hours on this job today. You had time today to read all these things and prepare for me to come back. I was told that you were ready to sign now. If you have further questions, we’re going to have to reschedule, or I’m going to have to ask that you sign as efficiently as you can so I can leave and get your documents out for shipping.”

She saw the higher notary fee on the ALTA and complained that she’d be paying it, and “it better not make my payments go up.”

In the end, I spent 1 hour there and finished up, and got it dropped off at FedEx. Today I get an email from title, cc’d to my service, that 2 signatures were missing. The exact wording was “get it fixed and overnight to me.”

I printed and ran over, got the 2 missing sigs, and once I scanned, I emailed with “I’ll await a FedEx shipping label and get it out as soon as I receive.” Mind you, I KNOW that typically ‘notary error’ means you pay for shipping. HOWEVER, overnight shipping in this case is $100, and, well, not to be crude, but F THAT.

I received another curt reply that said, “this was notary error. I will not be sending a shipping label.” I replied, “This ‘error’ was due to an uncooperative, unprepared signer, DOZENS of time consuming corrections of misspellings in the documents, (the husband’s name was misspelled in literally EVERY place he was required to sign) and the fact that this job took a total of 7 hours of my day, between printing, table time, and multiple trips to the signer’s home. I will not spend $100 of my own money shipping 2 pieces of paper overnight. I documented all of this in emails and phone calls on the day of signing.”

Received an email 30 minutes later: “Sorry you had to deal with that. See attached shipping label.”

Like I said, I will not name the signing agency, but the Title Co was WFG, henceforth to be known as “WTF.”

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Wow…whew. I actually think you just had the worst day of your entire (past & future) Signing Agent career.
When they go wrong…it just keeps getting worse. I think you did a heroic job…and the fact that they did send you a shipping label does tend to mean they realize that fact. I honestly don’t know what you could have done that would have made this mess better.

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I actually felt pretty “bada$$” that afternoon, telling this story to my husband and young-adult daughters. You see, I’m very much of a people-pleaser / sucker, depending on whom you ask. I very rarely ever GET IN a “peeing” match with anyone, much less defend myself to that degree. So I was very pleased with myself to have straightened my back and said, “This is the way it’s going to be, I am not at fault, like it or lump it.” Especially knowing that there could have been repercussions, such as no more jobs with this title co or signing service, or having them come after me legally in some way.

So thanks for the feedback. I was SO hoping someone didn’t see it as me being lazy / selfish / uneducated about the process. That story’s going in the record-books, for sure. LOL!

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In my world this would be a redraw.

Who was the lender?

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You deserve an Oscar for your performance. The follow-through is heroic, and I don’t understand why they did not redraw the documents from the beginning. If I were you I would never accept a job from whoever made the decision not to redraw the documents from the get-go.
Never underestimate your worth, you are worth your fee 10-fold.

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I would have been gone as soon as I saw the corrections. Title’s mistakes don’t become my problems. As far as the signer wanting to read it all, I hand them their copy and say give me a call when you are done reading and I will let you know if I have time to come back.

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Bank of England, which I thought was weird for a house in Oceanside CA. LOL!

Thanks, notaryenrouteca. It was quite the lesson for me, both in what I feel I did right and what I SHOULD have done instead. I will never let someone take that much of my day ever again.

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That’s what I said to myself when “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” this thing. But in the moment, I am such a wuss and I HATE that.

Thanks for your feedback though. I’ll think twice when I see that title company’s name again.

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What could have possibly cost $100 to ship two pages overnight? Where were you shipping it to…Timbuktu?
If I was in that situation and got treated like that, I would have told them to go F themselves, put the two pieces of paper in an envelope, put a first class stamp on it and sent it snail mail back to them.

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Very difficult. I spent 4 hours once with an elderly person that had been taken advantage of before. I feel that sometimes you have to spend more time. However there has to be a limit. I think after I noticed so many errors I would have asked that new docs be prepared and when rescheduled I wouldn’t take the job. I commend you for the way you handled it.

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This is how I would of handled it. I just did this last night. I moved my next signing earlier, and the customer called me back to complete the signing, and I got an extra trip fee to boot.

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Again, in the future. Leave their copy of the docs and tell them to call you when all their questions are answered and their ready to sign. Your the professional, you need to control meeting, not a customer, that wants to give speeches. Also the mis-spellings in their names did give the customer confidence that the rest of the document would be correct, thanks Mr. Lender and Title.
You should of got $350-400 for this job.
Thanks for sharing you story.

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I am so sorry to hear of your harrowing notary experience! I am not sure that I would have stayed as calm as you did. Please know if the signing co asks you to go back to borrower after a very difficult signing experience you must tell them your new fee! I would have doubled it at the very least, considering the amount of time you spent on this one appointment. Think of all the other signings that you may have missed/turned down because you were spending so much time with this one client. Please remember your time as a professional signer is valuable to all parties and should be respected and paid fairly!!

It was FedEx Priority Overnight from CA to MD. I went on the FedEx website and checked, to see if I was gonna get screwed on the shipping fee. When I saw that it was over $100, my blood started boiling. No way. LOL!

In my opinion, when the name is incorrect, it demands a redraw. A title company told a customer to correct their name one time, but it would be nearly impossible to find every single iteration of the name in all the documents. There is no excuse for the name to be wrong - EVER! The customer called the title company back, and said they wanted new papers, and the title company said they would do that.

Great job! At some point I might explain to the reader (1) If you see something you do not like, the lender will not change it to your liking. (2) Same documents you signed when you purchased the house you are now living in, only the lender and dollars have changed. But I also like, here is a copy, call me when you are satisfied and I will come back, maybe.

KUDOS to you. Herculean effort on your part to get the job done. Don’t understand “readers”. Usually they get a copy of the critical docs ahead of our appearing. Actually, the docs should have been rerun by the title company to fix the errors and the meeting rescheduled. I think we’ve all encountered some version of your situation. I’ve called the title company and told them that there are “inconsistencies in the document” and/or that “the customer is unhappy with their name being incorrectly spelled and would like a corrected set of documents before proceeding”. I’ve also told slow signers at the 1.5 hr mark that “I have a 2 hr window for completion with only a 30 minute grace for reporting”, at which time I ask if we can pick up the speed a bit. Most of the time it works. But there is that rare occasion when you meet a contrarian. I try to remain polite and courteous despite my agitation. However, it sounds to me like the signer’s behavior was bordering on abuse, especially when she started reading again at the return visit. At that point it’s time to ask the service to “reassign”. You both probably would have benefitted from fresh perspective. But, KUDOS to you. I couldn’t have done it!

In two years of doing signings (more than 100 in the past year) I’ve only had to cancel 2 signings because of inconsistencies and they both happened in the past 3 weeks. The first one had wrong escrow numbers which the borrower agreed to cancel and the other, just last week, the borrowers name had an Z instead of an S in the last name. I called the closing agent and he told me to cancel. No corrections allowed.
BTW the borrowers wanted to go ahead with the misspelled name but I told them that it was not possible. The signing company backed me all the way and at least paid me half of the original fee which I thought was fair.

Also, is it appropriate to leave the borrower his/her copy if the signing was not completed?

Normally no, you don’t leave a copy if the signing is not completed; however, in the event of incorrect numbers as you cited, I would leave a copy of the CD for their reference when speaking to their LO (which, btw, what happened to the CD being delivered 3 days in advance? Isn’t anyone paying attention to that rule any more???)

Misspelled names? I’d leave a copy of the face page of the DoT or Mortgage and the signature page of the note (signature space lined through) for their own proof that their names were spelled wrong. But take the rest with you.