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The Fatal Attraction Method of Debt Collection
May 1, 2009 11:37 PM   Subscribe

The Fatal Attraction Method of Debt Collection.
posted by Pater Aletheias (51 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
My gawd that is creepy. Most debt collectors are either evil or sadistic or unfulfilled bullies (why else would someone be attracted to that field of work?). They surely have no empathy for their fellow human beings. Don't get me wrong, I know there are deadbeats out there who are completely content to remain deadbeats for the rest of their lives and who make a sport out of getting out of their obligations, but most of the people in debt do not fall under the "deadbeat" umbrella. The kind of vicious stalking that is evidenced in the link is a far worse crime than falling behind on one's bills.
posted by amyms at 12:01 AM on May 2, 2009


Awful stuff tends to happen when a small person gets a little bit of power.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:45 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


They surely have no empathy for their fellow human beings. Don't get me wrong, I know there are deadbeats out there who are completely content to remain deadbeats for the rest of their lives and who make a sport out of getting out of their obligations, but most of the people in debt do not fall under the "deadbeat" umbrella.

One of the major causes of bankruptcy is people defaulting on debt. If you're running a business, often all it takes is for a couple of your debtors not to pay you and you start having to default on your own commitments. Then, the bank and the businesses that you trade with stop extending *you* credit, and before you know it, you're faced with being unable to trade and unable to pay the salaries of your employees -- despite the fact that you've taken care of all your obligations, but somebody else has defaulted on you.

So I don't see much in the way of empathy on the part of the debtor towards the employees who are about to lose their jobs because they refuse are unable to take care of their obligations. Yet it may even be the very reason they are unable to pay in the first place. They're out of work because someone else has failed to pay their debts to the company that used to employ them.

My parents generation had a very smart approach to dealing with this issue. They didn't buy stuff that they couldn't afford. If they couldn't afford something, they'd save the money until they could, and then they'd buy it. Stuff works out cheaper that way, and although it meant doing without say, a car -- something my parents didn't own until they were in their late-30's, and then it was a ten year old clunker -- at least they never had to worry about the bailiffs knocking on their door and humiliating them in this way.

If they used something, they owned it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:03 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


So I don't see much in the way of empathy on the part of the debtor towards the employees who are about to lose their jobs because they refuse are unable to take care of their obligations.
Employees who are still able to afford to purchase the website of the debtor's name titled "Jennifer Dicks isn't paying for her Cavalier" (the content has been changed since the publication of the article). And if they fell off the roof and were unable to work, that goes double. You simply text them with the message "I wish you died when you fell off the roof," and "Do you actually think you get a free car? Are you that fucking retarded. You are just a loser."
Empathy's for suckers, right? That goes double for professional ethics.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 1:16 AM on May 2, 2009


I fell behind on my student loan about 15 years ago. I was, at the time, a software developer, paid directly by my customers. The collector who called me thought he had all the power. At first. The conversation went kinda like this:

Collector: "Sir, you owe us $11,000. You understand we can garnish your paychecks?"

Me: "I don't have paychecks to garnish."

Collector: "Well, we can seize your bank accounts."

Me: "I don't have a bank account."

Collector: "We can seize your car, or your home too."

Me: "I don't have a car, and don't own a home."

Collector: "How do you survive?"

Me: "Nunya."

Collector: ""Nunya?"

Me: "Nunya business. Now let ME tell YOU how this is going to work..."

Then I explained to him what I was willing to pay each month, and he accepted my suggestion. Really, what choice did he have? There was nothing he could threaten me with, and he finally grasped that. Once it was understood that *I* was the one with the power in the situation, then things started to work smoothly. And the loan got paid off.
posted by jamstigator at 1:17 AM on May 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


Employees who are still able to afford to purchase the website of the debtor's name

A domain name runs to about the cost of a packet of smokes.

But I'm guessing this guy isn't an employee, but a very small businessman. Yes, this guy is being completely unprofessional and that's totally unjustified, but my guess is that the energies that he's putting into this is because he's depending on repossessing that car to raise money that he needs to keep things ticking over at the moment. Anyone who was even slightly successful wouldn't have the time to engage in this kind of bullshit. So this is really the fucked harassing the ever-so-slightly-more-fucked.

And presumably, the terms of the debtor's agreement say that when you stop paying, you give the car back? Which part of the agreement that she signed is she struggling with here?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:43 AM on May 2, 2009


It seems JenniferDicks.com now redirects to the story we just read. Huh. Ya think someone's been playing around?

I suppose that's ethical in some universe.
posted by converge at 1:44 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Me: "Nunya business. Now let ME tell YOU how this is going to work...""

Wow! You are such a bad ass, totally telling off those creditors that lent you money to complete your education. I mean, how dare they, right?
posted by cgomez at 2:12 AM on May 2, 2009 [18 favorites]


Then I explained to him what I was willing to pay each month, and he accepted my suggestion.

This has nothing to do with "power" and everything to do with you agreeing to make payments. If you go to one of those credit counseling places, they do exactly the same thing. They figure out what you are able to pay, then offer to do that to your creditors. They aren't going to turn down reasonable offers because as long as they get your money without having to hire (which is to say "spend money on") kneecappers, what do they care?
posted by DU at 2:19 AM on May 2, 2009


Sorry, the website of the debtor is, of course, http://jenniferdicks.com/.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 2:27 AM on May 2, 2009


I'm curious whether people would prefer the agency to have just repo'd the car. I think the guy is deservedly going to lose the lawsuit, but can't help but think I'd rather get annoying text messages then have my car stolen back.
posted by FuManchu at 2:34 AM on May 2, 2009


§ 805(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (restricting third party disclosure) was written pretty much entirely with the aim of stopping these kind of naming and shaming tactics. If the lawyer Jennifer Dicks has retained is in any way competent, this guy is about to be taken to the cleaners, as he should.

Not only that, but the text messages are clearly abusive and deceptive, in violation of § 807, and if the lawyer is smart, he'll argue that each text is a separate violation. Also, the texts almost certainly violate requirements to meaningfully disclose the identity of the person or organization sending the communication. I'm guessing these texts didn't end with the mini-Miranda disclosure: "This communication is from a debt collector and is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose."

Also, it seems the collector has a habit of using false names, which Arizona law requires be registered by way of submitting a bi-annual Fictitious Names Report. My guess is "AFN President Michael Fischer" isn't on that list, which I'm also guessing he didn't submit. I'm also going to go out on a limb and guess that his collection agency probably isn't even licensed by the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions.

That's just what I can think of off the top of my head just from skimming the article. Even if he's employed by a big company that allowed him to do this, he's still individually liable. In short, I think he just might start finding himself on the receiving end of some nasty calls about missed car payments.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:36 AM on May 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


You are such a bad ass, totally telling off those creditors that lent you money to complete your education.

A debt collector is rarely the same as the creditor, and until you've dealt with a collector you really should reserve your judgments about others actions in dealing with them.

This has nothing to do with "power" and everything to do with you agreeing to make payments.

No. It often is a power trip. You can be more than civil, agreeable, willing to pay the debt and collectors will have no qualms about lying, bullying, and trying to squeeze you for what they can.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:47 AM on May 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


So I don't see much in the way of empathy on the part of the debtor towards the employees who are about to lose their jobs because they refuse are unable to take care of their obligations.

Debt rarely stays in one place very long. Debts are sold off to collection agencies, and those are the folks that decide to pull the kind of crap in this post. No one is losing their job over your debt - there's an entire eco-system of bottom feeders who make a profit out of your misfortune.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:56 AM on May 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


My parents generation had a very smart approach to dealing with this issue. They didn't buy stuff that they couldn't afford.

It's possible that our parent's generation took this entirely reasonable approach of their own volition. It's also possible that they didn't buy stuff they couldn't afford because credit was harder to come by. The regulatory framework was different. There were fewer lenders. The standards were stricter. "Steady income" usually meant a job until retirement. What I'm saying is, it's easy to mistake their lack of opportunity for financial prudence.

I don't have any evidence to support that view, but I'm fairly sure there's no evidence for your argument either, and I prefer my theory because if your theory is correct, our parent's generation simultaneously had sound financial principles and were singularly lacking in the ability to pass those same principles onto their children. That seems weird to me.
posted by Ritchie at 4:33 AM on May 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


My parents generation had a very smart approach to dealing with this issue. They didn't buy stuff that they couldn't afford

This is basically a myth. Certainly I'm sure your parents didn't buy things they couldn't afford (and good for them) but credit was available and was fairly widely used. As exhibit A (because it comes to mind) I'd refer you to The First Four Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder's book about the first years of her marriage -- as young farmers, they need "a note" to buy things like seed and plows and even farm animals, and then get steadily deeper into debt as crops fail and (eventually) their house burns.

Personal credit default isn't a new phenomenon, by any means.

posted by anastasiav at 5:03 AM on May 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Hey, I never said I was a bad-ass. Don't put words in my mouth, metaphorically or otherwise, and I won't put words in your mouth either. I was initially polite, as I always am. The collector (who was not the creditor) was immediately threatening to me. When people are threatening to me, yeah, my politeness level drops correspondingly. When they're threatening me, yet have no power to enforce any threats, sure, I'll explain the situation to them, so we can get by the threats and get to solving the problem. Maybe I was a little rude when he started digging for extra information (to use against me), but that was only after he had been threatening me.

What should I have said or done to a threatening collector? Should I have become ass-kissy, to someone on a power trip going out of their way to be threatening to me? Maybe that's how you deal with assholes, but I tend to treat people how they treat me. My experience with that collector did not change my stance there; I will probably always treat threatening assholes worse than I treat people who are polite to me. I guess that's just who I am. If you want to get ass-kissy with douchebags, hey, it's a free country; go to town and get those lips of yours all brown if you like, but don't expect me to do the same.
posted by jamstigator at 6:14 AM on May 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


§ 805(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (restricting third party disclosure) was written pretty much entirely with the aim of stopping these kind of naming and shaming tactics.

One of the interesting elements to FDCPA is that it doesn't apply to creditors, so when the article says: Dicks got a call from an AFN representative named Tiffany it really matters whether Tiffany was a "debt collector" or a "creditor" under FDCPA.

Even more amusing to me was an opinion by Frank Easterbrook, a 7th Circuit judge. The debt collector ignored the creditors no contact letters and and did something like called his neighbors (I don't have the case in front of me, so the facts will be wrong). Frank decided, that since the debt collector is an agent of the creditor, you can't impute knowledge of the no contact letters sent to the creditor to the debt collector. (Fortunately the 2nd Circuit is more rational)

My point is, the FDCPA seems to me to be a political document, not something that effectively eliminates these kind of naming and shaming tactics.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 7:17 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has nothing to do with "power" and everything to do with you agreeing to make payments.

Put me down as another vote for power. Once upon a time I took my wife to one of those quicky doc-in-a-box kind of things because her foot went from bothering her to HELL-STORM-OF-PAIN over night and our regular doctor wasn't around on the weekend. Well, on thing and another, X-rays, "Nope, nothing wrong here."

Prior to us getting the bill, things flared up again so we went to our regular doctor. Punchline - her foot was broken. Punchline 2 - he got copies of her original X-rays and her foot was obviously broken then. I mean like I could diagnose it obviously broken.

The call from the collection people was great. She starts out all full of righteousness and then says something about court. I can't remember exactly what I said, but something like, "Well, if you want to go that route we could get some lawyers and they could work this out. I'm willing to pay every penny that hobbling around on a broken foot for a week thanks to a blatant misdiagnosis is worth. Or maybe you should inform your client that we got zero service and he's going to get zero payment and he ought to be thankful."

I never got another call.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:30 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


The last time a collector threatened me, I sent them a gift basket!

But I sent it to the wrong address! Time for Mr. Icepick!
posted by Kikkoman at 7:31 AM on May 2, 2009


Apparently there is a deadbeat out there that is using my phone number as part of his scams. I know this because I get a lot of calls from different creditors/collection agencies looking for a certain person. I have had this number for over 7 years so I suspect the debt has been incurred since. Many robo-calls, but when I talk to a person they are all polite and quickly take my number off their call list. I feel harrassed by the deadbeat. It is time for him to stop using my number.
posted by pointilist at 7:48 AM on May 2, 2009


This is going to be China in about 2 years. Everyone else is Jennifer.
posted by swift at 7:50 AM on May 2, 2009


No one is losing their job over your debt - there's an entire eco-system of bottom feeders who make a profit out of your misfortune.

How do you think they make that profit? Because they were sold your debt for a fraction of what you owe. By the time debt goes to a collector, the original party has pretty much already been screwed.

That said, I can't say I'm fond of debt collectors. My one experience with them did not create endearment or respect. I called the phone company before moving out of a college dorm, to close the account and tell them where to send the upcoming final month's bill. They mistyped the address. I hadn't bothered to set up a forwarding address with the dorm, so their attempt to send a bill there didn't get to me either. They gave up within a couple months, before I would have been back the next year to find old mail, and they passed the bill (which by this point I'd forgotten) to a collections agency.

Ironically, if I'd gotten a phone call saying "You owe $20 on this bill, here's where you can send the check," they could even have invented some arbitrary "penalty fees" and made a killing. Instead I got a context-free call in which a lecture about what a deadbeat I must be was intermixed with lies. This was less helpful for either of us - except insofar as the lecturer eventually revealed the bill amount, allowing me to send that to the phone company directly.

No hassles after that - but even though I was square, I'd kind of like to know how the cash flow worked out. Usually collections agencies pay in advance for the right to collect these things, right? So I presume they must have gotten a refund, if not the full $20. Too bad. At least when people who make harassing phone calls become telemarketers, you can easily deny them revenue; with debt collectors the best you can do is what I've done since: avoid ever slipping up on a bill in the first place.
posted by roystgnr at 7:51 AM on May 2, 2009


"My gawd that is creepy. Most debt collectors are either evil or sadistic or unfulfilled bullies (why else would someone be attracted to that field of work?)."

To be fair, a friend of mine used to do debt collection for a bank. She hated it but did it because she had a child to raise. Eventually she was able to move on to something else through education, but she wasn't evil nor a bully. She was just someone who really needed to make a living.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:51 AM on May 2, 2009


anastasiav: Thanks for the longer history. I remember the end of those memoirs as being depressing, but couldn't remember why. (before someone points out that they, like all memoirs, are literary constructs with a hefty amount of fictionalizing, this part reflects reality: all farmers then and now work heavily on credit.)

If I can push the history even farther back, I would remind people that debtors' prison was a reality for many people in the 18th and 19th centuries, and cite the scene from Moll Flanders when her second(?) husband (the tradesman-gentleman) runs away from his debts as a colourful example. (Completely fictional, of course, but reflecting the worries of the time.)
posted by jb at 8:29 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is going to be China in about 2 years. Everyone else is Jennifer.

Well, I sure hope they don't take our Caviler, cause then Biden's family won't be able to go anywhere...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:35 AM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Rakish, you're quite right. I hadn't considered the possibility that this is actually the original creditor. In that case they can basically do whatever they want. Yay!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:00 AM on May 2, 2009


One of the interesting elements to FDCPA is that it doesn't apply to creditors

When I was in the industry (disclaimer: this was 15+ years ago), on the job, going to seminars and conferences, and meeting with trade groups, this was not the opinion of people doing the actual work. It was assumed that the law applied to you, the employee of Acme Inc., the creditor. You were expected to obey the law, and if you referred a debt to an outside agency, you expected them to obey the law.

Breaking regulations or the law was not done. Let's leave moral or ethical ideas aside for a moment--even for a totally amoral person, it was assumed that there were two great big reason not to break the law:

1. You could get caught, which would be a career-ender for you, and damaging to your employer, even if they did keep you on, and
2. IT DOESN'T WORK. The broad assumption in the industry was that using public shame tactics (the example at hand) would not generate extra cash flow.

In a way, you can even compare it to arguments against torture during interrogations. It's an argument against torture to say that it's inhuman. It's also an argument against torture that it doesn't work--you don't get any extra info out of the person being interrogated by using it.

I'll remind you that there is a raft of state legislation that supports FDCPA as well. For people who do run into idiots or assholes in debt collection, one of the best places to report them is supposed to be your state Attorney General's office.

However, all these offers are null and void during periods when businesses are allowed to run amok. Say, the last 8 to 10 years or so. Changes in bankruptcy law, bizarre and insane practices in mortgage lending, the SEC sitting on their hands, you name it...this has been a bad recent period for consumers. I agree with you that there's a political component to all this, but once upon a time the assumption in the industry was that existing law was good enough to keep people clean regardless of whether they're the original creditor or an outside agency. My guess is that the political aspect now might have more to do with the interpretation and enforcement of laws on the books.

Or to put that another way, it wouldn't surprise me if in recent years, enforcement of laws and regulations on businesses had been ignored in this area, like it has in many others.
posted by gimonca at 10:20 AM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Loans are a business transaction and should be handled as such. If AFN can't afford to take the risks of lending to anyone who asks they shouldn't be in the business of loans in the first place. If you hand out loans to people when there is a good chance they can't pay, and proceed to use these tactics, methinks there's some sort of power-fetish behind owning such a business.

This comment sheds more light on it:
"I read the complaint and she did try to pay the past due payments for the second delinquency. According to the texts, the scumbag told her it was too late and just kept stalking her. The complaint notes that this was in violation of her loan agreement with AFN."

Yep, if that's the case, lawsuit-up.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:27 AM on May 2, 2009


For a brief moment, I hoped that Glenn Close had gotten into debt collection.

No such luck.
posted by ODiV at 11:05 AM on May 2, 2009


Unethical collection tactics are appalling, and I hope Jennifer wins her lawsuit. That said, I wonder whether any debtor apologists here would be as lenient if they were small business owners or sole practitioners stiffed by yet another long-delinquent account. Many responsible and honest people do get into debt for many legitimate reasons, but the entitled outrage (not necessarily present in this thread) of some debtors toward their creditors baffles and embarrasses me. Not every creditor is a big, mean faceless corporation, and as someone said up-thread, once an account’s gone to collections the original creditor's already been screwed over.
posted by applemeat at 11:13 AM on May 2, 2009


My parents generation had a very smart approach to dealing with this issue. They didn't buy stuff that they couldn't afford.

no, your parents generation bought stuff they couldn't afford on their childrens credit cards. it's the well-established ronald reagan method, continued by everyone since.
posted by krautland at 2:45 PM on May 2, 2009


Http://jenniferdicks.com is no longer up & running, it would seem. I just get the Road Runner "let us help you find another site" page.
posted by PuppyCat at 3:42 PM on May 2, 2009


no, your parents generation bought stuff they couldn't afford on their childrens credit cards. it's the well-established ronald reagan method

My parents were like PeterMcDermott's. They were not Ronald Reagan supporters, and one was a Baby Boomer but the other was from the Silent Generation.

People really did (and do) live within their means. Or at least, my grandparents did, my parents did, and now my sibling and I do. There was a time when getting a 7-year car note was not possible or thinkable, when you put 20% or more down on a house, when you saved up to buy the things you needed, and the greatest percentage of things you purchased were to satisfy needs instead of wants.

And, even in this post-Reagan age, there are still people who live financially responsible lives.
posted by Houstonian at 4:39 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, the sock puppetry in comments over on TPM was a wonder to behold!

I've got a guy giving my number to everybody, too. They call all the time for "Felix Maldonado" and they never speak English. (Debt collectors and long distance switching salespeople never speak English in Puerto Rico.) I always tell them we have no Felix Maldonado here, and sometimes they don't call for a while.

The worst story I've got in debt collection, though, concerns Indiana University and a friend of mine. She paid IU forty dollars -- forty dollars -- with a check that bounced due to an entirely human error. IU notified her in-town address and didn't bother to notify her home address, which happened to be outside the country. And then they referred it to a debt collector. Forty dollars.

So when she returned to the United States, she was arrested. Bloomington's finest neglected to tell her she was arrested until she was actually locked in a cell (it was kind of, "Can you step through here, please?") or to read her her rights, and yelled at her husband for asking why she wasn't coming back to the car (he didn't speak English, probably didn't help.)

But hey -- if she hadn't chosen to be a deadbeat, none of that would have happened, right?
posted by Michael Roberts at 4:45 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


a check that bounced

If this linked page is up-to-date, writing a bad check is a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana. (As opposed to "being a deadbeat", which is a civil matter.)

Yes, it is possible to get arrested for writing a bad check, just like you would for shoplifting.
posted by gimonca at 6:32 PM on May 2, 2009


Now, banks that compound fees on bad checks, that should be illegal. If you're looking for something to get upset about, get Congress to do something about 21% interest rates on credit cards, or "payday loans", or get them to roll back bankruptcy laws to where they were 20 years ago. Get rid of the shady financial practices that push unwary or desperate people into bad debt in the first place.
posted by gimonca at 6:37 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


writing a bad check is a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana

If that page is correct, it's a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana to knowingly or intentionally write a bad check. That's not the same thing as "a check that bounced due to an entirely human error".
posted by Lexica at 7:00 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this linked page is up-to-date, writing a bad check is a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana. (As opposed to "being a deadbeat", which is a civil matter.)

Are you accusing this woman of intentionally writing a bad check?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:14 PM on May 2, 2009


My parents generation had a very smart approach to dealing with this issue. They didn't buy stuff that they couldn't afford

That's probably because they could afford a lot more.
posted by stammer at 12:54 AM on May 3, 2009


Being arrested does not mean a person is guilty. I'm not accusing, I'm not proclaiming innocence either. But anyone who's surprised that someone could be arrested for an NSF check is, frankly, naive. It happens every day.
posted by gimonca at 1:00 AM on May 3, 2009


Oh, and I'm going to leave "knowingly and intentionally" up to anyone who's been admitted to the Indiana bar.
posted by gimonca at 1:02 AM on May 3, 2009


If you're looking for something to get upset about, get Congress to do something about 21% interest rates on credit cards, or "payday loans"

My credit card interest rate went up (with everyone else's apparently) a couple weeks ago to 24.99% on purchases and 29.99% on cash advances. So I don't know where you are getting this great 21% interest rate from!

/snark

I feel obligated to point out that I've never run up the balance over the credit limit and for the last 5 years only made only payment late and that was by one day.
posted by aetg at 6:30 AM on May 3, 2009


Bit of history: in the early 80s, Minnesota-based banks started moving their credit card operations over the border into South Dakota, because SD had no limit on credit card interest. The rationale given by the banks at the time was that inflation was running so high that they had to move in order to keep making a profit. Minnesota's previous limit on credit card interest was 12%. At the time, I remember credit card interest rates typically going up to 21% as a top rate--and at the time, that was considered unheard of.

Of course, inflation came back down, but credit card interest rates never did. More. Abstract of old article in the Economist. Those were the days.
posted by gimonca at 7:40 AM on May 3, 2009


Most debt collectors are either evil or sadistic or unfulfilled bullies (why else would someone be attracted to that field of work?). They surely have no empathy for their fellow human beings. Don't get me wrong, I know there are deadbeats out there who are completely content to remain deadbeats for the rest of their lives and who make a sport out of getting out of their obligations, but most of the people in debt do not fall under the "deadbeat" umbrella. The kind of vicious stalking that is evidenced in the link is a far worse crime than falling behind on one's bills.
*ahem* I'm a bill collector. I've been doing it for about 6 years now. I started in credit cards, moved to mortgages, and am currently working car loans. I'm not evil, sadistic, or a bully. Nobody is 'attracted' to collections, I think. It's one of those things you end up doing and then just... get stuck. The pay is very good when you factor in the monthly bonuses, especially for somebody without a college education.
I'm a very successful collector BECAUSE of my empathy. I listen to all of my customers. I educate them about the credit reports and credit score, their interest rates, the different types of loans that are out there, and so on. If there's a program that the company I'm working for has available for people in trouble, such as a re-ages, extensions, deferrals, and refinancing. I start out every call by asking my customer is they have a moment to talk. I let them know my direct line and extension along with my last name so they know they can always call me back if they need anything. I don't threaten or harass or break the FDCPA in any way ever, but there are definitely customers who feel like my very existance harasses them.
People despise me just for existing. They hate being reminded of their debts. Some people have had bad experiences with other collectors so they immediately are up in arms when I call. Other people are, frankly, just dicks. People who have religious answering machines but then have their children screen their calls and teach their kids to lie. That's awesome. People who buy something, make one payment, and then default on it and game the system so they can keep the collatoral for sometimes years without any penalty beyond negative marks on their credit report. People who scream at me for calling on a Sunday because it's the 'Lord's day!', but won't pick up their phones any other day of the week. People who threaten my life. People who call me evil, sadistic, a bully, and much, much worse. I read the article and the texts that the collector purportedly sent the debtor, and, if it's true, the guy and his company are both up shits creek with a turd for a paddle, but I'll tell you this - I've heard worse things directed towards me from the customer on a nearly daily basis since I started doing this. If I could maintain my lifestyle as it is now and do something else, nearly aaaaaaaaaaaaaanything else, I would.
There are days where I get to genuinely help someone who deserves it. Give a recent widower a 2 month extension so they can get to grieving without worrying about bills or help someone understand what they're doing to themselves when they fall 30 days behind on a simple interest loan. I've had customers who've sent me thank you cards and called me in tears, grateful that they finally found someone who really wanted to help them. I've also had to call the police when a customer showed up to my place of work and stood out front of our building, knife in handing, screaming his head off. There's way more sides to this story than 'Most debt collectors are evil and would not hesitate to kill your babies'.
posted by Bageena at 11:52 AM on May 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've had customers who've sent me thank you cards and called me in tears, grateful that they finally found someone who really wanted to help them.

Bageena, you are clearly the exception, and I'm happy to know that there are people like you in the field. Notice I said "most" not "all" -- and I didn't say any of them would 'kill your babies.' :P
posted by amyms at 1:23 PM on May 3, 2009


There's plenty of blame for bad debtors, especially if you're talking about small businesses getting shafted.

That said, the whole business of selling off debt/collections seems ripe for exploitation. When my dad died, my mom had 1000s of dollars of his (medical) debt caused by the fact that he was laid off and could not get self-insured due to a preexisting heart condition. They owned their own business, and she had a good income and attempted to work out payment plans with each creditor, but was told *by them* repeatedly that they preferred her to declare bankruptcy. So she had no choice but to default completely, and take a credit ratings hit, despite her ability and intention to pay.

Bageena, you may indeed be a kind and compassionate sort, but that only points out the lack of same almost everyone has experienced from other debt collectors.

I do not suggest that we let debtors run rampant, but I do think that the party with the most power and information..which is usually big lenders, like credit cards and mortgage companies--has the most responsibility. If they constantly loan to bad risks or hand out cards willy nilly because they get commissions that way, then it's more than disingenuous for them to be shocked...shocked! that many of their debtors can't pay.
posted by emjaybee at 2:44 PM on May 3, 2009


Debt existed in previous generations, but was harder to get. My parents (Dad was a public servant) had to put 40% down on their first mortgage circa 1970.
posted by bystander at 6:55 PM on May 3, 2009


Ambulance companies, especially American Medical Response, have a habit of not bothering to invoice the patient or even attempt to file an insurance claim but instead just sell the debt to the likes of Bay Area Credit and Superior Asset Management. Unfortunately, they don't set any of the collections into motion until the one-year "timely filing" period for insurance has expired.
posted by bz at 9:15 AM on May 4, 2009


My parents generation had a very smart approach to dealing with this issue. They didn't buy stuff that they couldn't afford. If they couldn't afford something, they'd save the money until they could, and then they'd buy it.

So, for example, if they found out they had cancer, they would save up for the chemo treatments?
posted by turaho at 1:16 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is why it's so important for people to actually READ the FDCPA so they know what collectors can and can't do. They also need to understand the difference between first party collections and third party collections, because the FDCPA doesn't actually apply to first party. All businesses follow it anyways because it's good business practice and nobody wants their company to have situations like this FPP describes. For instance, I work for a very big bank doing auto collections now, so I'm collecting on 'paper' that's ours. We didn't buy our loans from anyone else. We collect only on money we lent out. I coooooould call and threaten and say mean things and reveal personal information to people other than the debtor, but then I'd be a huge jerk, still wouldn't get the customer to pay, and I'd also get fired because, even though we don't have to, we follow the FDCPA to the letter. It's just good practice.
I think there are other collectors out there who are like me, empathetic and willing to help good people. I think too that there are others who started out like that and got sick of working account after account where the people they're talking to or trying to contact are really effed up people who have no idea how to be responsible about their bills or never had any intention of paying back money they borrowed. Interest rates are ridiculously way, way too high, but man, I wish people would stop getting new cards at those rates because that just let's the bank know they can get away with that crap. I wish people would stop buying houses with little to no down payment. I wish they wouldn't buy mortgages with interest-only or simple interest loans because they're essentially banking that the house is going to go up in value before the loan inevitably gets out of their control. I wish people would just be honest about their situation, their pay dates, and what they can honestly do so I can NOT call them every single day to try and get answers. I wish that my salary wasn't based on me getting people to do things they sometimes can't. There's a LOT of pressure to hit goals in collections - every company I've worked for thus far will give you 3 months of missing goal before you get your walking papers. When it's tax season or around the holidays, good luck. Oh yeah - I wish people would stop spending their mortgage payments on presents for their children. I realize your a parent and you want to make sure your kids have a christmas, but think outside the box and be creative. A good parent makes sure they provide a roof over their childrens heads, not a PS3. Seriously. I blame the companies for lending money with absurd interest rates or deals that trap people into a life of debt and I blame people for not educating themselves about potentially life-altering decisions before making them.
And yes Virginia, there are some people who are in collections because they delight in it. They thrive on making people upset. I have a feeling there are people in all walks of life, from politicians to policemen, who get into their line of work for similar reasons. I hate all of those people. They make my life infinitely harder.
posted by Bageena at 1:59 PM on May 4, 2009


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