Here’s another interesting “professional ethics” question, that came up in a different forum. The NNA produced an article on Notaries who accept “gratuities” for their work, and whether or not they should. In other words, “tipping.” And by tipping, I mean an additional amount over and above the standard fees plus things like travel costs, etc. The NNA points out that while some states may not have a specific position or regulation on tipping, one should never accept tips as it might create a “conflict of interest” when the client, in future transactions, attempts to solicit “extra special treatment” based on their previous tips. The NNA doesn’t believe one should ever accept more in terms of a cash payment than is permitted under your state’s law. In any case, one should never accept “non-cash” gifts as tips, either.
All of that makes perfect sense. One never wants to be “compromised” when it comes to to receiving additional cash when not appropriate. But here’s an interesting question that came up. Say you have a client come to you in person with a single signing. You do the signing and charge them the standard fee in your state for the signing (in FL, $10.00 per stamp). But they claim the smallest bill they have is a $20.00 bill and you can’t make change for it! They tell you to keep the $20.00 bill anyway. And they don’t want to pay with credit cards or anything like that.
Yesterday Saturday I got a phone call from a Gentleman at 7:30 pm, He needs an important document to be Notarized ASAP, to be sent to Spain, His address is in the affluent side of town about a mile from my office, I let him know it is $10:00 per one signature and $ 20:00 fee to travel to his residence, he agrees, so I go, do the signing, then let him know my fee is $30:00 dollars, he pulls his wallet and gave me a $100:00 dollar bill telling me to keep it, he said thanks, I said thanks, that’s it! go on with my life always expecting the best for tomorrow…
I get and accept tips for GNW all the time. Especially when they call me and I’m there at their front door in less than an hour. I had a client that gave me double my fee and travel fee because he thought it was unfair that the state limits the amount that we as a professional can charge. He even referred me to others and has called me back a few times.
That is what he said, but I just took a fast look at it, made sure it was full redacted, no blanks, the wording in the Acknowledgement was correct, identified him, notarized HIS signature, whatever he was going to do with such document was his business…
I think what @mag3_notary was alluding to was the additional stream of income by offering apostille services. A notary alone is insufficient for a document being shipped to a Hague member country (i.e. Spain). Your credentials need to be apostilled by your SOS when presented internationally. Which means that $100 was a bargain basement fee if your client expected that included apostille. The amount charged is significantly higher (by several hundred dollars), depending on how the apostille is handled (e.g. through shipping service or by counter service). I did one as a counter service (guaranteed 48 hr turnaround) last week and noticed that WA SOS handling fees (which are in addition to my charge for handling apostille services) are going up two and three-fold as of 9/1. So, apostille (especially if it is a counter service request) can approach $1,000 rather rapidly.
P.S. you don’t need any special credential to provide apostille services - but you do need to know the ins-and-outs.
In all honesty, @mannie1950 - once you heard it was going to Spain, IMO you owed it to this person to explain your role and that you weren’t doing an apostille. Then give him the courtesy of telling him what he has to do or offering to help him process the apostille.
Honestly sounds like you took advantage of someone - you say he said he expected you to “apostille it”. And you didn’t. This guy has a doc that may not be accepted in the destination country.
I don’t think that’s what @mannie1950 said. I was the one who asked him if his client expected him to “apostille it” for the price the client was paying. I wasn’t able to discern precisely whether or not the client expected apostille services. I don’t think his client did.
That said, if I had known the document was going to Spain, I would have offered my apostille services for the appropriate fee. The client doesn’t have to accept them. They can do it on their own. if they know how to navigate their state’s “Dept of State” webpages on apostille handling and how to send it to the right place, etc. etc. I suspect that Mannie’s client may have wanted to do it on his own. I actually did a notarization where the client had to send it to a Foreign country and he wanted to do the apostille himself… I gather to save a little money.
Well, I addressed what he said. You asked if the client wanted him to apostille it, to which he replied '“That is what he said” - then he proceeded to just look it over and perform a regular notarization - IMO knowing the guy wanted the apostille. At least that’s how I read his post and, if I’m wrong, I apologize to Mannie. But read your question and read his response again. Maybe that’s what he meant but that’s not what he said.
No, he never mentioned “Apostille” when he called me, he clearly stated he wanted a late evening document Notarized, and that’s what I did, when he said it was going to Spain, he never stated the Country, are you Notaries aware in this Country just per example, there are: Peru IL, Peru IN, Mexico MO, Mexico IN? just a few, I wasn’t going to engage offering services not required for him at the moment, I did what I was asked to perform, NOTARIZE a document! and Linda, I NEVER SAID he expected me to “APOSTILLE” such document, so please do not jump on fast conclusions about my work. Taking advantage of someone? Really? in this blog, some Notaries boast their experience, But some Notaries also have Wit.
I personally would never follow any advice from the NNA without researching what they “recommend” with other trusted sources. Like my state laws. They are just a business out to make money like any other business. Which is perfectly fine. Because my business is out to make money also!
The only time I really, really tried not to accept a $20 cash tip was when I was finished doing a refi. I had been hired by a SS and insisted, multiple times, I did not need a tip. I told this to both husband and wife. I left, walked down their driveway and got into my car. Out comes running their young son holding a $20 and said my parents said I had to give this to you. I accepted because to reject it again would have embarrassed him. That said I have accepted non-cash gifts many times. Especially bottles of wine!
For GNW I graciously and gratefully accept cash tips! They are blessing me and I welcome it as such. I always report it as income on my taxes so I don’t see any conflict.
The NNA doesn’t consider it best practice to accept tips. I think it is wrong to expect them because we are serving the public however, if the tip is after the service and not before and it is a gesture of kindness I think it is proper to tell the customer that tips are not expected. If they still would like to give me a few snacks for the road, a bottle of wine, fresh eggs from their ranch, I think it is only polite to accept. Cash tips are reported as non-notary income.
I helped a gentlemen with a HELOC about a month or so ago. He was very appreciative of my service through out the signing. He told me to wait a minute after the signing was done. He came back and gave me a .999 silver one dollar mint condition coin. He would not let me leave without it. Cool gift!
In all states, a notary is considered a public official/officer. So, while prescribed fees are absolutely collectible by the notary, collection of excess ‘fees’ could be considered and prosecuted as public corruption.
This can be ‘worked around’ simply by classifying the excess fee/payment as travel, convenience fee or something similar.
It’s a picayune matter of semantics, but those subtle differentiations are how the law works.
Unfortunately, a quick Lexis search doesn’t show any on-point case law.
“To Ensure Prompt Service.” The acronym T-I-P-S is a valuable reminder to treat your server with respect and courtesy and to reward people who provide services to you with a proper gratuity for their efforts.
When was the last time you tipped a public official? DMV, county recorder’s office, the cop that just handed you a ticket? Surely don’t expect a tip from the borrower who has been staring at that $300 NOTARY fee on his closing disclosure for the last three days.
You’re much more likely to be tipped for your services when you’re performing general notary work. Sometimes there’s a lot more involved than just checking an ID and witnessing a signature. Clients should be overwhelmed by your promptness, kindness, and professionalism.
Keep your tip money and give me a good Yelp review.