1. Smile & be courteous.
This was the top comment made by other process servers. As Tressy Capps of T Capps Process Service (CA) said “Serve as you would be served”. Having a smile ready as well as being calm and professional will help to not inflame an already emotional situation, as the news being received generally isn’t good – unless of course someone has been waiting on those divorce papers!
Being sympathetic to the individual’s situation doesn’t hurt either. Dave Luce of Love To Serve Them, LLC (CA) makes a good point, saying “I try to be understanding of their situation, answer as many of their questions as I can without giving legal advice, and try to let them know I am just the bearer of bad news, not the bad guys”.
2. Be prepared.
Do your homework seems to be the general consensus of the group. Whether it’s researching the neighborhood, doing a quick background check or even making a list of potential circumstances and planning out a response ahead of time, some sort of preparation is needed. It’s always better to be overly prepared than to go into a situation not knowing what to expect. As Timothy Sullivan of Tri County Process Service(WA) said, ” Always expect the unexpected!”
3. Call the police as backup if you need to.
While we try to limit this as we know the police have plenty of other things to handle, there are simply times when it was necessary. For example, when we had to return to serve a co-owner of a company whose partner told us when we served him that if we came back we’d better come prepared with a gun. That was certainly a good time to get the police to go with us when we had to return to the location.
Calling ahead of time to give a heads up always helps too, particularly if you will be doing any stake outs. This way the bases are covered and the police have been notified. The last thing you want is the neighborhood watch calling and the police showing up, letting the subject know exactly where you have been waiting for the past two hours.
4. Treat every serve as a potentially dangerous serve.
This last piece of advice seems to be one that can sometimes be the most difficult to follow. When serve after serve goes relatively smoothly, one can fall into a false sense of security. But the truth about process service is that you just never know when something is going to go wrong. J.B. Cook of Golden State Municipal Services (CA) provides a great example of this, telling the group “I’ve had gang members in BAD areas shake my hand and say thank you one day and have little old ladies in upscale areas let their dogs on me the next.”
Going into each service alert and ready for anything increases the likelihood of picking up on a situation where something may be about to go amiss.