In a time when the process service industry is receiving considerable negative media attention it is imperative that those who take the profession seriously present a united front of proper, effective, lawful service. In order to have a legitimate argument against potential upcoming legislature restricting the rights of private process servers or requiring stricter guidelines the process service industry must prove to the public and the judicial system that they are working within the law. Yet despite the best efforts of professional process servers and the National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS) the actions of some of our very best process servers are hindering these labors.
“No service no charge”. These few simple words have a powerful negative effect on the overall quality of work put out by process servers, especially those that work within these parameters. In no other industry do employees willingly give up their time for free. The lack of payment for non-serves puts into play a whole series of events and situations that could be avoided with proper compensation for work performed, regardless of service or non-service.
The first issue with this type of business philosophy is employee motivation and the reliability of a professional process server. When the law was changed here in New Jersey in 2000 allowing private process servers to serve initial process without needing to obtain the signatures of the individuals by acknowledgement of service, this opened a whole new opportunity. Law firms supported this option as the timeline for service was considerably reduced in addition to the fact that process servers were willing to attempt service at all hours, increasing the rate of service.
When a process server is not paid for non-serves there is decreased incentive to return to an address more than once if the individual to be served is not available. It is more likely that instead of continuing to return and attempt service, the server will mark it as a non-serve and move on to the next service and potential source of income. By not returning and making multiple attempts at service the reputation and reliability of a process server is not as strong of an incentive to use private process servers versus the sheriff’s department.
An even worse case scenario caused as a result of not receiving payment for non-serves is sewer service, or service in which the papers are not actually delivered to the appropriate party but it is claimed that service was performed. In an attempt to receive payment and increase revenue servers either drop papers on incorrect addresses, force themselves to improperly serve someone, serve a deceased individual or simply don’t serve the papers at all yet fill out an affidavit affirming service.
Such service is the primary culprit behind the negative image the process service industry currently holds in the eyes of much of the public. As process servers there is a duty to inform individuals of cases against them in order to uphold their legal rights. Without this commitment the unfavorable impression will only continue.
Outside of the above situations, even if a process server does complete their services according to the highest standard and makes multiple attempts, this is not a good business practice in terms of company morale or numbers. Underpaying your employees can give the impression that you don’t value their work. This practice can have an extremely adverse affect on morale, leading to lower productivity, frustration and potential loss of skilled employees.
If the individual process server is indeed getting paid regardless of service or non-services but the company does not receive payment for non-services then the burden of payment falls on the business and its owner. Even if extra work is received the owner is paying directly out of pocket to their servers for non-completed services, which can be extremely detrimental for overall profit.
In order to project a positive image for professional process servers it is crucial that the industry not lower standards or practice procedures for the promise of increased work. In the long run this will only harm the reputation that so many have worked to build. By taking a stand against such practices process servers across the nation can ensure the longevity of the industry, less legislative action against private process servers and ultimately continued opportunities for work and growth.