Some defendants are harder to serve than others. Many people operate under the misapprehension that avoiding the process server will somehow make their legal troubles evaporate. This unfortunate misperception can cause problems for process servers, because it causes defendants to be evasive. Here are some tips for process servers to help get reluctant defendants to answer the door.
Call the person’s name. People are more responsive if their names are called. It also indicates to the person inside that you are probably not a door-to-door salesperson, political campaign worker, or other “random” visitor. Make sure you are calling the person’s nickname, not their legal name. Calling out Elizabeth instead of Beth will be a clear indicator that you do not personally know the individual you are seeking out. Also, if you are trying to serve process at the wrong house, the person inside might open the door to inform you that the person you are looking for no longer resides there.
Use props. Process servers should know their state laws before attempting to use props, but in many cases, it can be an effective and legal way to get the job done. In most states, it is illegal for someone delivering a subpoena to use a disguise. However, props are usually legal. One popular example used by many process servers is to hold a pizza box or, taking this a step further, actually order a pizza to be delivered to the resident and then stand behind the deliveryman. Process servers could also hold flowers or baked goods, causing the person inside to think that he or she is the recipient of a nice surprise instead of the more unpleasant one – a summons.
Talk to a neighbor. While you are standing at the door, announce that you are going to go next door and talk to your defendant’s neighbors if he or she does not answer the door. This could elicit a reaction; the defendant might not want his or her neighbors to know that he or she is avoiding a process server regarding what is likely an uncomfortable and embarrassing problem. Regardless of whether this tactic gets the defendant to answer the door, they can gain valuable information from talking to neighbors.
Dress appropriately. Make sure you have on attire that is clean and professional, but that helps you blend into the surroundings.
Getting people to open the door often requires a mixture of creativity and persistence. If you use the above tips, as well as pick up tricks from your peers and your own experiences, you will find it much easier to successfully serve papers.