Inflation Conundrum: Should Process Servers Raise Their Prices?
- March 14, 2023
- by Stephanie Irvine
As inflation soars in the United States, recently reaching a 40-year high, businesses across all industries are raising rates to combat the influx in prices; for the process serving industry, the response to rising inflation is mixed as some fear being undercut by the competition and others consider it part of doing business.
Let’s explore some of the costs that process servers face, how inflation is affecting the industry, and whether process servers are raising their rates to deal with it.
Many process servers rely on a vehicle to take them from their office (whether a home office or location outside of the home) to the location for the service attempts. Undoubtedly, this impacts the process server’s profits. For process servers who work in a walkable city, fuel costs aren’t necessarily an issue — until the cost of public transportation is factored in. Certainly, a server could only take on serves that are within a reasonable walking distance, but some cases may require extra help to get from point A to point B in order to make various service attempts. For those driving for every serve, fuel costs become a more significant factor. Ultimately, process servers are faced with whether to raise their prices to account for extra costs resulting from fuel cost increases and other vehicle maintenance items or to absorb those costs and face lower profit margins.
Believe it or not, the cost of paper has also felt the crunch of inflation, which impacts process servers as paper is another overhead cost. For process serving companies, it is necessary to print the summons and complaint that is served as well as a service affidavit or proof of service; those that offer court filing services may feel the effects of rising paper costs further if they are printing (and filing) additional documents. Last fall, paper producers across the globe noted price increases, with one even anticipating a 15-25% rise in costs for 2023, citing an inability to mitigate rising costs on their end. While e-filing does exist (and is required in some states), a notarized service affidavit, which requires a wet signature on a print copy to be stamped with a notary’s seal, will need to be printed on a physical piece of paper. Paper is a necessary part of service of process in most states.
Other Miscellaneous Overhead Costs
Running a process serving business comes with additional overhead costs, from process server insurance and licensing to technology and self-protection costs, such as body cameras, bulletproof vests, or other means of self-protection. Process servers also invest in different software to route their serves, geotag locations, track mileage, store photographs, and more, such as skip tracing databases to locate individuals. Labor shortages across all industries continue to affect business owners. While some aspects of a process serving business may not see a rise due to inflation, prices have been volatile with unexpected increases. For example, new vehicle prices have skyrocketed due to chip shortages. Other industries are still reeling from supply chain shortages due to COVID, despite a more recent return to normalcy. While price increases in this category may or may not have an effect, they are still costs that go into a process serving business and affect how a process server sets their rates.
To Raise or Not to Raise Process Server Rates
This all begs the question of whether or not process servers are currently raising or should raise their rates to maintain profitability as a response to inflation. When we asked the process serving community on Facebook if anyone was raising rates, the responses were mixed. While some reported increasing their prices, others stated that they were not. Some process servers institute a yearly price increase to account for rising costs regardless of the current financial climate, while others only increase when overhead costs begin significantly impacting profitability. Others charge what they believe to be their value and re-evaluate as conditions, such as years of experience, change. Ultimately, this is a choice that each business owner makes for their business, whether as an independent server or as the owner of a larger process serving company.