Server Nation, welcome back to the show!
Our guest today is none other than the man, the myth, the legend, and the Sasquatch of the Northwest. The owner of Central Washington Legal Services, he has 10 years of experience serving papers and can bowl his butt off with a regular score of 300. Chris Svelnys, welcome to the show.
Hey. Thanks a lot, brother. I appreciate it.
Chris, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in this industry?
Well, it all started back in 2000 ... I want to say around 2007. I was working at Wal-Mart and I kind of befriended the department manager really quick. That's how I roll, make new friends with the bosses. He's a little ... He's just a couple years older than me and he's a nice guy. He just ... He asked me one day, after working for him for about six months to a year, he's like, "Hey, you want to make some extra money on the side?" I kind of knew what he did on the side and I said, "Oh, doing what?" He's like, "Serving papers," and I'm like, "Oh, man. Okay. I've seen the movie "Pineapple Express," it is kind of like that?" and he's like, "No, no, no. Well, sometimes."He's like, "Tell you what." He's like ...
His mom kind of half-ran the office, It used to be her business 30 years ago. Her and this guy, Junior, was helping out this older lady that was doing it. She only had 10 customers, just barely making a few hundred bucks a month. Well, they took it over and she passed away, so they took it over and they ran it 10 times fold and grew the business exponentially.
Her son, Derek, my boss, he was helping out, and so he was like, "Well, just swing by the office and the guy will take you out for a day. I'll text you and make sure your mind is all cleared and you're not a crazy person, which I know you're not," that's why he was telling me about it, kind of like who you know, not what you know. I said, "Okay."
Took me out for a day and went up North to Oroville, to the border of USA and Canada, and we maybe hit three or four houses, all of which he went out of the car and I didn't get to see any of the dialogue so I'm getting super nervous and wondering how I'm actually going to serve papers if I don't know what the dialogue is like. He comes back and we just ... He asks me about my whole life story, the 12 hours that we drove, and it come back that night. The next day, I guess he told the owner, said, "Hey, yeah, he's a good guy. Hire him." The rest is history.
The first few days, I went ... I started out as an independent contractor for a few months. I was only doing it part-time so it really wasn't worth my time, especially being new to the areas and not knowing where everything was at and new to the business. I ended up going on the books with the company for eight, nine years until last year. We took over the business again, my buddy and his mom, because she shared the business with another owner in Alaska, in the west-side, and he broke off. He's doing his own thing so they took it over last summer, so now I became an independent contractor again. It just ... It's more fortunate for me now, since I know everywhere, all the counties and all the clients and the clientele and the process and everything. That's pretty much how I started it.
Well, that's awesome, Chris. You got a family?
I do, yeah. I have a dad out here, I have a mom ... I'm from Connecticut, born and raised. I moved out here in '05. After 9/11, my dad moved out here and I have a bunch of step-family out here. One of my middle brothers is out here. My oldest brother is back east with my mom, so I got family up and down the east coast and New York and New England area, and then I have a bunch of step-family out here in Washington state, Idaho, and parts of Oregon.
Super blessed. Just awesome people out here in the west coast.
That's awesome, Chris. I've got to tell you that one of the main reasons I wanted you to come on the show is when I heard your story. We may get to that. If you want to share that same story, that's fine, but you got a lot going on. With these kind of stories, you got to be able to share it, man. You can't keep them to yourself!
I know, I know. Really, really quick on that one story, if I do get into it, my boss was actually at a NAPPS
meeting, N-A-P-P-S meeting, a couple states away. After it happened, I was so distraught and I called her up and she just starting busting out laughing. She's like, "Hold on, repeat what you just said to me. You're on speakerphone with about 10 other NAPPS members. Go ahead, Chris. What happened?" I told them and they were all just around a bonfire or something, just dying laughing. They're like, "How does this happen?"
Then, from that point on, just the most bizarre, craziest stuff happens to me, and it's just laughable.
Yeah. Well, we always like to get started ... We don't want to focus on the negative things in life, but there's a reason why you're on this show. You got a lot going on, you got a lot of great stories.
First, we're going to start with your worst experience in the field. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah. My worst experience by far would have to be ... I was going to a house and I'd been there a couple times before. It's a repeater house. Every time I go there, something bad happens.
The first time, I got bit by a dog. Flesh wound, cut the skin. Second time I went there, I locked my keys in my car. The guy I served was the boyfriend of the lady I was serving and he was nice enough to accept the papers and help me get back in my car. I had to break into my car.
Then, the third time, which was the worst serve ever, I was going ... It just rained out and it was like a single-wide trailer. I walked around the corner and I ended up slipping on the mud and pretty much thought I broke my leg. I did a full half split, right to the ground, screaming bloody murder. I thought I broke my leg. I'm rolling around in the mud, in the grass, yelling for help from anybody. No one's around, so I ended up crawling back to my Chevy Tracker that I had and hoisting myself up. Called my boss, got to my phone, called my boss. Screaming at her, telling her I broke my leg, I broke my leg, I need to go to the hospital, and she's like, "Oh, my God." She's like, "Okay, just call 911 and have the ambulance come there." I'm like, "No, I'm already in the car."
All of a sudden, the people come up and they pull up, the owners of the property, and they're ... I'm screaming at them. Not at them directly, but just in pain.
I was in so much pain. They said, "Did you want us to bring you to the hospital?" I was like, "No, I'm already in here," and they're like, "Oh, my God. I'm sorry." You could see the streak of where my leg came out under me on their property there and I just said, "Yeah, I got to go now. I got to go now." I just ... All I could think about was getting to the hospital. I was going, "Hey, by the way, is so-and-so here?" They're like, "Yeah." I said, "Here you go. You've been served."
I got the papers served, that was all that matters, and I drove to the hospital, which was just five minutes away from there. I couldn't get out of the car. I saw a couple EMTs washing the EMT van, the hospital track, and I yelled at them. They came and got a wheelchair for me. I ended up pulling the worst hammy of all times, from my lower back down to behind my leg and my knee. Just completely black and blue. I couldn't walk for about three weeks, had to go on unemployment for a few weeks and physical therapy and ...Yeah, so I have yet to be back to that property.
I'm prepared to wear all body armor and just go back there again. That was by far the worst, painful experience, serve I've ever had to deal with.
Now, would you say that you fell because of the rain, the mud, or ...
Oh, yeah, that was the rain and the mud.
There was really nothing they could do about it. People say, "Oh, you go after the property owners." I'm like, "Nah, it was pure accident, myself." There's nothing they could have done about it. The way their low land is at, it's just mud and grass everywhere.
That's a pretty terrible experience.
What do you want Server Nation to get from your story?
Oh, with that experience, just to really watch where you're going and tread lightly on all different kinds of terrain and property. That's not the only time I fell in the 10 years I've been doing this. I fell a lot, but that was definitely the worst. It can happen in our line of work. Just to really be careful. Safety is your number one concern, as always. Just to be careful and just watch where you're walking, watch where you're stepping.
No, that's great. I got to tell you, people so often think, "Oh, have you ever had a gun in your face?" No, but I stepped wrong and went down a flight of stairs, and not just any, concrete stairs with the little rocks on them. I think that's worse.
Funny, I've actually had a few guns pulled on me over 10 years, all of which were really respectful once they found out who ... They knew who I was, they disengaged their weapon and put it in their holster or away from me, and they were super nice. I was way out in the country. I wouldn't expect anything less from the owners out there. Nothing still as far as scarier as that. I literally thought I broke my leg bad.
Yeah, that's a terrible experience. Yeah, Server Nation, watch where you're going and be prepared.
I got to tell you, wearing the right shoes, Sometimes, I wear dress shoes if I know I'm serving businesses. If I go up to the mountains, I don't just carry a .38, I carry a cannon
It just depends on each ... Every situation is different.
Being prepared for all those situations ... It's hard to prepare for something like mud. If you slip in the mud, I guess just having your cellphone on you always, because you could've ...
You could've called from the mud if you had to.
Right, yeah. crawling around and getting back into the vehicle, yeah.
Yeah. Chris, that's a good story to start with. Tell us about your greatest experience working in the field.
I serve papers as professionally as I can. I try and treat others the way I want to be treated, respect. This one is a little different than most, I would say. My grandmother passed away ... My last known grandparent ...
My grandmother passed away last ... My last known grandparent passed away last September and I got the news at the start of my day. She lives back East in Connecticut with my other family over there and I was driving, I was heading to my first job, just a couple minutes away my step dad calls me up. Everything was good with her health-wise, but she ended up passing away right then and there that morning. I was just really in shock and I get to my first serve and I try to compose myself and really didn't get emotional. I was still kind of in shock. I get to the door and this older lady who kind of reminded me of my grandmother answered the door and I just bawled right when she came to the porch on the steps.
She had no idea why I was there and I just bawl for about five, ten minutes and she just hugged me and held me. Told her that I ... Finally, it took me about 10, 15 minutes to tell her who I am, why I'm there, and why I'm bawling like a baby. I served the papers. She was super nice, super friendly, one of the nicest people that I ever served. To show that kind of compassion, you know, being served papers from one human being to another, she just knew that I needed a hug and a shoulder to cry on. I tell people about her all the time. Well, I just went and served her again a few weeks ago and I pull up, and as soon as I get out of my car and turn around to face her house, she's already outside with her arms wide open to give me huge.
I just ... You know, of course I was more composed this time and I just told her, I said, "I tell people about you all the time, this lady who I served who was there for me when I needed somebody, just a human interaction." That's definitely one of my best serves that I can ever think. After that, after I served her, and composed myself, I had one of the best serving days ever. It's almost like my grandma was like, "You know what? It's okay, Chris. I'm gone, but I'm going to make sure everybody's home today," and I knocked out over 35 jobs that day.
It was just like she was with me. I could have went home and took the day off. I said, "No, this job needs to get done. Clients need attempts and statuses and everything, so I'm going for it." It was like one of the best serving days I've ever had.
That's the part of this job that we don't talk about a whole lot that ... I think in both of your experiences that you've shared today, what I've taken from it is that we're people too. The people who we're serving are people; like the guys that pulled up in the car, imagine if they were what everybody else portrays people that we're serving to be. They pull up in their car and they're like, "What the hell are you doing on my property?"
"I'm injured." "I don't care. Get off my property."
"Get injured somewhere else."
"Yeah, not on my property." "Are you so and so?" "No." You're like having to deal with all that. You know, I think you were fortunate, blessed, lucky, whatever you want to call it. I call it blessed. But, the elderly lady, I have a lot of respect for elderly people and the wisdom that they can share with us.
That's good. What do you want Server Nation to take from your story?
Again, back to the beginning of that story, I just try and serve everybody with respect. A lot of times when I serve people that have not been served in the past by other servers, and I'm not trying to put down other Process Server companies and any other independent contract servers, but a lot of them tell me that a lot of them just get the papers served and the server is super rude, sometimes nasty, and throw the papers in their face. I never do that. I'm always professional with every serve. I take it ... I don't know where everybody else serves if there's like no cell service or connection, but when I'm serving people up in the mountains and I'm super nice to them like I am with everybody, if your car breaks down and you were nice to that person, you can go back to that house and say, "Hey."
It's happened to me before. They gave me shelter, and they gave me a phone, they gave me water, they let me use their restroom. They remembered me serving them as a professional and it goes a lot way by treating people with respect. Treating people ... You're serving, no matter what the paperwork with the utmost respect that you wanted to be treated with.
That's awesome. I love that story and I love that perspective. I like to say, "Treat others the way that you want to be treated." They're a human. When you're out there serving papers, of course, be prepared, be respectful, number one things. Chris, what are you working on right now that has you most fired up?
Getting to jobs that are way up in the mountains that there's just no way, again, to the jobs, and keeping the clients happy, keeping the clients as customers, and trying my hardest to get to properties that I can get to with all the snow up here in the Pacific Northwest and the terrain of the mountains the way they are. Every winter I look forward to this. It's really tough to try and get to these. I've had jobs, I'm not going to lie, that I've had since middle of November and beginning of December that I just cannot get to. With the three, four feet of snow, I don't own a snowmobile so I can't park up and get a truck, and get up and get my snowmobile onto the terrain and get up there. Now with the snow melt, it's ... Spring's right around the corner, everything's melting, so now clients are getting happy where I can finally get to these jobs that I haven't been able to get to just because of the terrain that we have jobs for.
Right. Well, that's awesome. I've got to tell you, there's a guy up in Alaska who, on most of his jobs, he was telling me that he goes up to the mountain on-
Helicopter. No, he did say that. He said that on some of them he does have to go wait until the ice is actually frozen so that he can go on a snowmobile over the ice.
Yeah, and then also he'll ride quads and things like that. Most of the serves that he does is on quad or snowmobile. I'm just like, wow. What I wanted to ask you is, how bad do these clients want these people served? Because one time I had a situation where I had to serve a pot grower and they wanted me to get pictures and I said, "Well, there's gates and I might be able to serve them, but as far as the pictures go, you know, you're probably not going to get very good pictures because they have these big, old fences with tarps up and stuff," and they wanted to get pictures of the pot. I was like, "You know, I could get a drone and fly it over and take pictures." They said, "Okay, yeah, do that." I said, "Well, I'm going to have to charge the expense for the drone to you." I was able to do that $750 drone.
Wow, I'm actually really impressed.
Yeah, so maybe you want to call your client and go, "Look, between you and this guy, we could get ourselves a snowmobile up here and then we'll be in operation."
No, that's correct. For the most part, all clients ... We've had the same clients for years, and years, and years, they know us, they trust us, and as long as they know that I am trying at least every few days or once a week to go to these impossible areas ... I mean, every time I get a little bit closer, a little bit closer, I'll take a picture of the road, the street sign, "Okay, I'm getting this close or this close." They see that we're working and they're really good with that. Clients are really relaxed with that and they're like, "Okay, this company, they're trying. Chris is trying." They just sit on the paperwork and know that I'll get it done when I can get up there.
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Welcome back to the show.
Chris, are you ready for the rapid fire round?
I'm ready now. Sasquatch of the Northwest is ready.
Yes. That's what I'm talking about. That's awesome. What is your favorite tool for defense?
My mind and my mouth. I've gotten into many, many altercations that could have ended up being physical. If I was talked my way out of them because of a couple things of advice I was always taught by the veteran server who trained me for that day was that, one, no paper is worth getting punched, stabbed, shot, or killed over, and no paper is worth spending a night in jail with Bubba. That's for you and the person you're serving. I mean, if they start to get angry say, "Hey, you know what? I'm a legal courier. I'm just trying to do my job." When I worked for the old owner, for the good eight years right there, we weren't even allowed to have a weapon on us. We weren't even allowed to have bug spray. We weren't allowed to have any weapons.
Now that I'm an IC, I've always had my concealed weapons permit, but I never really brought it with me because I learned to not have to use weapons. I just use my mind, and my quick talking, and talk my way out of every possible physical confrontation. I've never been swung at. I've been, of course, yelled at and pretty close to being spit at, and people in my face to get me off the property. I just put my hands up and say, "Okay, sorry to bother you. Just trying to do my job."
Yeah. I've got to tell you, situational awareness and being able to look at a situation and come at it from a perspective of, "I'm just trying to do a job." Just yesterday I was down in Yuba City and I had a situation where I pulled up to a property and everyone's outside, everyone and their mother's outside. I think they were even cooking on an actual stove in the front yard. There's a car parked sideways and another one, a car parked out of the window. It's just insane. It was an insane ...
You're walking up there thinking, "I shouldn't be walking up here." Because I'm a little bit stubborn and I have like 40 serves to do, I don't want to come back.
In this situation, I just walk up. Before I could even get out of my car though, one guy's like peeking over my shoulder in the car to see what I'm doing-
One guy is like peeking over my shoulder in the car to see what I'm doing. Am I getting out? Am I an officer? I don't do anything to make people think that I am a cop for multiple reasons, but this situation I got out, and I just said, "Hey, guys. How's it going guys?" And you just be like that nice guy that's like, "Hey, what's going on? Do you know the people that live in that house?" This guy yesterday was like, "No, nobody by that name lives in there. Some lady named Tina lives in there," and I said, "Oh, okay and what's your name?" And he just walked away.
He walks inside the house that I was talking about, but then there's this young kid like 16 something, somewhere around there, and he's like, "No, that girl moved out. She's my age. She moved out a long time ago," and he seemed a little bit more ...
It's crazy situation awareness being able to see a situation where there's like five guys, and you see they're carrying guns, don't stop, just keep going, like it's not worth your life.
Chris, what is the greatest advice you have ever received?
On top of no paper is worth getting killed over or spending a night in jail with over, but the greatest advice, everybody talked about it before is just to treat people the way you want to be treated, and it goes so far with everything, you know, not just this job, but in your in period, in general, but that is definitely. You want to definitely be sociable, be friendly, be professional, and that will just go a long way.
This next question, it trips up a lot of people when they come on here. They're not sure how to go about it, but I know that with your awesome skills, the man, the myth, the legend, the Sasquatch of the North.
What would you do if you woke up today, had all the same skills and knowledge, had no clients, a smartphone, a car, and only $100, what would you do in the next week?
In the next week, with just that I would immediately start making friends with all the local attorney offices, all the local courthouses, the clerks are your best friends at all the courts, the district courts, superior court, clerks offices. I can't tell you how much I love all of them over here in the six counties that I cover. They are a huge resource for you. So, definitely befriend them. Most of them are good people. A lot of them can get a little frustrated with the people they deal with, and even the service they deal with, but definitely with making revenue, generate a lot of business for you.
They turn a lot of people your way, because they get a bunch of walk-ins everyday, all different counties. Different, you know, I said district or superior court. So, that would be like your first step is just to befriend the clerks offices, and then make your way into the attorney's offices, and just be very professional, very sociable, and have just a good persona of what you're doing and what you plan to do with your business, and you'll see it grow, just exponentially.
That's awesome, Chris. That's great advice. I have a question. So, when you talk about going to clerks and things like that, what is the best way? Because in many counties they don't allow you to, they're not allowed to promote any individual, independent contractors, or any companies, they usually just send people to the sheriff. Do you find it's different in your county or is there something you're doing that I'm not doing?
You know, some of the courts, they actually have business card slots there.
You put your business cards next to the window of the clerk's office windows. Their rules is they can't give any legal advice to people, that's their biggest rule, but as far as referring to people to process servers, I haven't had a problem in any of the counties here in Washington state. They say, "Hey, check out the servers here." There's a list of business cards here, and if you develop more of a better relationship with them, a more personal relationship with them by seeing them every week, day in and day out, they kind of know you personally, and they'll say, "Hey, this guy, he's a good guy, a good server. Go send the business that way."
Yeah, and I've said this a 1,000 times. I'll say it again. The court clerks have all the power.
If you go there, if you make an enemy out of a court clerk ...
Oh, yeah. No. We've had our run ins with some of the clerk's offices and even our clerk's offices, there might be one or two, they're having a bad day and you step on the wrong toe, and man it's no help at all.
Yeah, you'll show up to their window, and they'll take a lunch.
Yeah, oh yeah. Most of them do here, like from 12:00 to 1:00, you can't get help, but even if I'm running a little bit late, I can just call a direct number here and there, and I'll talk to my favorite person, and they'll wait for me and file my paperwork before they go to lunch.
It helps if you're just really friendly with the clerk's offices.
That's a really good tip.
So, what I take most from your story, like we talked about before, you treat others the way you want to be treated, get out there and make friends with people. You just find situations to be able to grow your network. They say your network is your network. You know, if you don't know anybody, nobody knows you, you're probably working a minimum wage job. It's just usually how it works.
So, that's what I get most from your story. Chris, we're going to go ahead and wrap it up.
What is your parting piece of advice for Server Nation?
Is just to network, treat people with respect, treat your affiliates with respect, your neighboring partners in businesses. We do so much work for neighboring county affiliates of ours, and they really, without them, you know, we wouldn't see quite a bit of business that we do see, and I'm so grateful to just have that kind of connection and networking capabilities with the neighboring affiliates and other serving companies in this state and surrounding counties, and just to draw out there everyday and there's no sick days in this job.
Isn't that the truth?
You're in your car for most the day, so it's fine, and just go out there and be safe, and just everyday is a new day. Every paper is a new paper. Every person is a new person, and that's one of the reasons that I love this job is because you meet all different kinds of characters. Mostly good. Some bad. Some interesting, but enjoy what you do.
Chris, what is the best that we can connect with you, and then we'll say good-bye.
The best way to connect with me is my email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is 509-770-3336 and call me day or night, I will always be around. If anybody has any questions or needs advice, I'm here, and I'm located here Mosaic, Washington, and another email would be A2Zlegalcouriers@gmail.com
That's awesome. Is that your web domain as well? Legal Couriers?
Yeah, A to Z Legal Couriers, yeah, that's where I'm contracted for.
Chris, I want to personally thank you for coming on the show. I have been so impressed with your story, and I'm excited to share it with the world.
Thank you for the opportunity.
Until next time, Server Nation. You have been served up some awesomeness by the man, the myth, the legend, the Sasquatch of the northwest, and Mighty Mike the Podcast Server.
Server Nation, I want to personally thank you for listening to that episode, and I want to invite you to visit the website. ProcessServerDaily.Com/Podcast
. Check out the episodes, you can even ask a question. I will air your voice clip on my podcast so that my guests can answer your question directly.