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An Open Letter To Debt Collectors

Prior to writing this post, I had already chastised myself knowing I would end up using at least once the most over-used phrase of the past few years:  “In this economy…”  It simply has to be said because the situation has affected nearly everyone in every social class in America.  I did however resign myself to only using it once to spare the reader the groans and eye-rolling the phrase garners from even me.  You see, I too am a debt collector.

Unfortunately, just because I work in the field does not mean I am immune to the phone calls day and night, often far in excess of the number of calls allowed by the FDCPA for consumer collections.  As a commercial debt collector, I too have been hit hard by the fallout of failing businesses across the country, layoffs, bankruptcies – these all affect my net income.  Most commercial debt collectors do their work on a commission basis.  When a debtor doesn’t get paid by their customers, a client doesn’t get paid, therefore the collector can’t get paid.  This puts the collector in a situation of less money coming in which of course means less money available to go out to their own bills.  These economic failings we have been enduring for the past several years have had a ripple effect all the way out to the edges of the American picture.

This brings me to the heart of this post: What I want to tell every bill collector out there who continues to ring my phone from 8:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night sometimes with only minutes between phone calls.  First realize that no, I am not going to answer your call.  Calling me from a number that identifies you as one of my creditors or a collector only to turn around, block your number and redial me as an unidentified caller does not work.  I still know who you are and what you want.  The simple fact of the matter is the more you call, the less likely you are to get even a call back from me.  I don’t want to talk to someone who just keeps harassing me.  Your bill will be paid using any means that does not require I speak to your under-educated and typically rude representative and it will get paid as soon as I have the money to do so.   I know who I owe and I know what I owe.  I know when the bill was due.  Your repeated phone calls (as well as texts, e-mails and form letters) will NOT make my paycheck get into my bank any faster.  You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear again:  You’ll get paid when I get paid.

How bad are the calls?  Out of approximately 30 calls a day, one or two may be personal.  Those personal calls often get missed because your collection departments call so many times a day that I am pushed to the point of having to turn off my phone.  If I leave it on, the battery is dead inside of two hours due to the sheer volume of phone calls from collectors.

Collectors:  Do you think I want to be in this situation?  Do you think I am simply not paying you because I don’t want to?  Or can you for just a moment stop and ask yourselves what might be going on that is causing this situation?  I am a single mother with no support system who has taken a 35% pay cut this year, down from an income that I was just barely scraping by on last year.  I have had to make major sacrifices just to keep a roof.  It is hard for me right now.  Much more so than you ever cared to ask.  When it comes down to putting gas in the car to get to work and being able to feed my child today, those needs are going to come well before your medical billings from 2009 when I broke my leg.  That certainly was not something I planned to do or asked for.  When the water bill gets raised from $16 a month to $45 a month for the same usage without any warning or reason, it’s going to take someone on a very limited income a bit longer to find a way to pay it.

The auto lender that is also a part of the problem will start calling the day before the payment is due then continue relentlessly even after it has been paid, likely due to one of their databases not being updated with another.  Regardless, you of all people DO get paid every month.  It may not always be on time, but you get your money.  Don’t start calling me until I am 30 days past due.  By then I would expect you to start to worry.  Just back off a bit.  Please.  Believe me when I say that my car is my lifeline.  If there is a problem that will put my payment past 30 days, I will call you and ask for an extension or other help.  Your hounding me does not help either of us – and that goes for all of you.

A couple years ago, I received a letter from a person I had been collecting from on my own job.  I’d worked with him over a year and because I would work with him, he did end up paying off his debt in full.  It just took a little longer than anyone would have liked it to, including the customer.  In his letter, he mentioned a documentary he watched that portrayed bill collectors as people who stop at nothing to get the money in, going as far as to make threats on the debtors, corner them into making promises they could not keep then holding that against them, and pushing some people to the point of suicide with the unending demands that could not be met due to a wide variety of personal situations.  His letter was full of accolades giving examples of how I had changed her perception of the “typical” debt collector, how appreciative he was of my willingness to work with him and not harass him while still working the account.  Even slow progress is progress after all and more often than not working with a debtor will get an account paid more fully than would happen if they are beaten into just ignoring the calls.

Collectors:  If you were on the other end of the phone, who would you be more likely to work with – the person who rings your phone at all hours 3, 5, 7 times a day and won’t work with you – or the person who lets you breathe long enough to find a way out of the predicament, the one who offers you solutions over threats, support over arrogance?  Take some advice from these examples.  Back off – just a bit.

Be a part of the solution – NOT the PROBLEM!

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Not hiring? Don’t just blame the economy!

Since late 2008, the media has been feeding the public’s panic on the state of the economy and while analysts abound with their own long columns of numbers and conclusions, the general population is still apt to blame “the economy” as a whole for present situations, including a lack of available jobs. I’d like to bring to light another reason for the lack of “Help Wanted” signage that may well be a valid one: the *quality* of the job candidates.

For the past 4 years, I have been working at a small financial firm. We need a relatively high-caliber person to pass the interview process before making the hiring decision. Not only must they have a clean background, but also a strong work ethic. We deal with highly sensitive financial information and cannot risk bringing someone on board who is anything less than professional. The rules here are straightforward and in place both by law and by our own standards of procedure to protect the clients, the customers, the company and its employees.

Over the past few years in an attempt to expand a bit, we have gone on roughly one good hiring spree per year, looking for qualified and quality candidates to work with us. 99% of them are filtered out during the interview process. The one or two who survive get the opportunity to work with a solid company and gain excellent experience in the credit industry, as well as advance their careers.

Something seems to transform however during the first few weeks to months of the new employee’s time on the job. It’s almost as if they’ve forgotten that during their interview and training, they had us convinced they were intelligent, diligent and professional, trustworthy and ethical. Soon after beginning their employ with us, we find them calling out sick with minor, if not fabricated, ailments, simply not showing up, napping at their desks, surfing the web for personal reasons, acting inappropriately for the workplace to the owner and other employees (one recent employee actually tried to couple up with me and another woman here to get us into a threesome with his wife as well as attempting to kiss me!). There are the ones who backtalk the owner and show blatant disregard for his instruction. One threw a phone at him and stormed out after being told at least six times that morning to stop interfering with another person’s computer. Then we have had a few who have actually attempted to take business off the company for themselves to profit, and one who asked ME to assist with his scheme. Honestly, did that person not stop to think my loyalty would lie with the company that’s taken care of me for four years? There have also been a couple who have left here for something “better” and come straight back asking for another chance. We decline to take them back – like any company, we like loyalty. These are the kind of people we are finding.

Since 2006, we have had well over a dozen hard-screened men and women of all ages, all walks, come through our doors touting the best of intentions only to completely fail in the upkeep of their guise. We’ve since ceased advertising open positions and have turned away those inquiring after work. It’s not because we don’t need someone, it’s because of the experiences we have endured with those we did hire. We simply will not waste any more time and money on the general populace. Our freeze has nothing to do with the economy whatsoever. Instead, it has everything to do with the quality of the workforce available. Like a bad relationship, our ex employees have turned us off of the idea of future ones. Therefore, we continue on looking after what we have, and everyone is happy.

Incidentally, the people I work with have nearly all been with the company since at or near its beginning. We are more than simply employees, we are the backbone of the company – because we know right from wrong, we believe in and uphold the quality of our work and of ourselves, and we look out for each other.

Integrity. The American workforce is in desperate need of some.

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