Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Would You Do?

Could a debt collector be described as part sleuth, part psychologist, part counsellor and part vigilante, or what would be your description?

Thanks for the question. Depends on the collector ---- there are a lot of "knuckle draggers" out there that only know how to dial a phone - barely. Because of the "shit roles downhill" atmosphere at many collection agencies, the managers beat up collectors and collectors beat up debtors... definitely not one of those sunshine and lollipop jobs. But you are correct in your choice of words. If you can't get a debtor on the phone you can't ask 'em to pay ---- so sleuth comes first. Once you get 'em on the phone you have to convince them to pay (if they have the resources or the will) that's the psychologist part. And being the bodiless voice on the phone, a collector can become a therapist - that's me most of the time - because I'm not really here for the money anyway. I'll never be an outstanding collector because I have too much of a conscience - I'm a bit of a softy. I have listened to so many people cry - I can't bang those people up. I've talked to people that have had to recently bury their spouses or worse, their children, the siblings of murderers and spouses of child molesters, I've had debtors go into court-appointed drug treatment and I've had a debtor commit suicide a couple days after my last conversation with her ---she was a in her 50's, she had been hospitalized for depression for six months previous and had been out of the hospital a couple months before I called her. I was trying to collect a $10,000 credit card. She and her husband lived in a $500,000 condo in southern California - and they had a second condo that had been sold recently. Big tax liens that had recently been paid off and some other credit cards, $40k worth that had been settled recently. During our couple conversations (which were close to an hour each) she said she had given the money from the condo sale to her husband to pay everything off. She also mentioned her husband spent a lot of money on his "obsession" and she had big issues with the debt load they had. She felt their debt load was part of the cause of her depression. I googled her husband and his obsession is "wreck diving" not just off the California coast but all over the world. the second time I spoke with her a week later was on a Saturday morning and she didn't really say much during our call, she just cried.... and talked about how sad she was and that she wanted to die and that she had thought about taking pills to do it. I asked her if she had talked to her husband about how she felt and she said no, he didn't understand. I told her to do a couple different things - hold your grandchild and tell her you love her, go outside and get some exercise, think of one thing every day that you like to do... shit, I don't have the tools to handle stuff like this.... previous to this I'd only had face-to-face situations where people talked about committing suicide - never on the phone. And fuck, talking to someone that wants to die is not an easy place to be. I'm guessing it would freak out a lot of folks. So I asked her if there was someone she might want me to call or was there something she wanted me to do. She said no and I told her I was worried about her and would call her in a couple days.

The next day there was a voice mail message from her giving the name of an attorney that she asked me to call - said he was taking care of finding out if the credit card I was calling about had been paid along with all the others. I called the attorney and told him about the conversations I had had with the debtor and that I was worried about her. The next week, the account was "recalled" meaning it was either recalled by the original creditor or sold to another collection agency so I was done with it and I moved on to a new batch of accounts....

Sometimes when I'm at work a particular debtor's name pops into my head so I pull up the account. Sometimes closed, sometimes not. Then I throw the social security number into a search engine to see if they've moved.... so I'm thinking about the Saturday morning when I talked to the suicidal woman and I toss her name into mix, there's a red D next to her name. The D means a death has been verified and when you have your cursor over the D the death date appears in a pop-up. I'm sure I spoke to her after the date that appears... so I pull up the collection account and see that I spoke to her a couple days before she died.