Confessions of an Ex-Debt Collector

mobilehome

While my current job is in the IT realm it isn’t where I got my start in the corporate world. I was once in a profession considered by many to be the lowest of the low, I was a debt collector. I spent around three years collecting on delinquent mobile home loans for a company that financed only C and D grade paper. What this means is the loans we serviced were the bottom of the barrell, I once saw a home financed at a 12%+ interest rate.

We were a unique shop because 1.) we serviced our own paper and 2.) mobile homes are treated like a car unless property was included in the deal. Most mobile homes are purchased and then stored on leased lots in a mobile home park. The process for taking back a mobile home is kind of like a repoclosure. You have to get the sherrif involved to evict the owners but then you just hook up the house and tow it away, literally they tow it away. This is preface for things to come.

I was what could only be considered a ruthless collector. I was rutheless by necessity though, we were encouraged to collect on the loans to make our goals. If you made your goals you get a bonus, if you were the best in your group you got even more money. The groups were split into the following collection organizations, 0-30 days, 30-60 days, and 90+ days. Each group was responsible for collecting on the delinquent loans that fell within their day spread. The only goal for each group was to roll the account down to the next category. Collecting the account or making arrangements to get the account up to date was preferred but not a necessity.

I started out as a customer service representative where my sole purpose in life was issuing payoff’s and taking over the phone payments. As a customer service representative you could not talk to anyone who was past due, when an overdue account would call in you had to transfer them directly to collections.

From customer service I moved up to 1-29 day collections. This group was where I started to perfect the art of belittling my fellow man and guilting people into making payments. I have never admitted it like that before but it is what it amounts to. I wasn’t the most polite person because I couldn’t understand why people couldn’t pay. I would try to understand, and I would try to help people out but in most cases delinquency was a direct result of stupidity and made sure the people on the phone knew how I felt. We would start calling on loans somewhere around day 3 or 4, keep in mind most of our accounts had 15 day grace periods. Collecting on these loans was a true art, technically they weren’t late and even though they were there was nothing we could do other than call and bother them, hell it doesn’t even report on your credit until the next month. It was still possible and I did a good job at so they moved me up to 30-60 day collections.

In 30-60 day collections I became a certifiable ass, seriously I look back and am amazed at some of the things we did or said. I was usually the one who had people calling back and complaining to the manager. At this point I was the guy Dave Ramsey talks about on his radio show. I was all talk and no bite. That is all collectors really are. The collector themselves has little to no control over the outcome of your loan. At the end of the month, when you are close to goal, you start getting crazy to try and meet that goal. This is when the empty threats really start. It was common to hear references to trucks backing up to your house and other empty threats. I never said we would do something, only that we could if they didn’t pay. You can not tell someone you are going to do something that you do not actually intend to do.

The one thing I took away from my years as a collector is that it really does take all kinds of people. There were definitely times where I felt like I was helping people. When I called to collect on an account and I got an honest reason for delinquency and a willing customer I would try to look for ways to help them. Things I considered to be reasons to help were deaths, illness, and recent job loss. It was great when a customer was willing to take the time to go through all of their expenses and agree to where they can trim the fat to make ends meet in a pinch. I mentioned recent job loss because I frequently ran into the, “I am holding out for a management position” types. I was famous for the statement, “Walmart is always hiring.”

The worst conversation I ever had was with a gentleman in California who was pushing 60 days past due on his loan. When I asked him why he was behind he gave some lame excuse and I agreed to start looking at extending a payment to the end of the loan. The process we would go through was to go through all of their expenses and income and determine if they were even capable of affording their home. We couldn’t help you if you couldn’t actually afford your home. This guy had a $500.00 car payment and he was paying over $100.00 a month for public transit. Keep in mind this guy is living in a single wide mobile home. Further digging found he had a brand new Mercedes but refused to drive it to work because he didn’t want put miles on it. Not driving to work meant he had to take public transit over a high toll bridge resulting in his transit costs. I believe what I told him was if he can’t get his priorities straight he deserves to lose his house and I hung up.

Photo: (aka_Kath)

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Happy Rock August 20, 2009 at 11:18 am

Is this true? I had no idea.

It makes for an interesting read. No let’s see the lessons I learned from being a debt collector post!

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2 Kyle August 20, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Completely true. I spent three years convincing people dinner wasn’t as important if you don’t have a home to eat it in. Or even better, “well why don’t you just sleep in your car then.”

I think I will work on a things I learned as a debt collector post, maybe a guest post somewhere… thanks for the suggestion.

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3 SalemanisanITthatStinksExcuse August 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Yeah, good read – reminds me of when I sold cars . . . lots of pressure with words . . .

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4 Roshawn @ Watson Inc August 20, 2009 at 3:10 pm

This is actually kind of sad although I guess it is a necessary evil. I think I agree with the statement in many cases, the main reason why people get behind is stupidity/ignorance (or denial).

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5 TheDebtHawk.com August 20, 2009 at 4:06 pm

That was very interesting. I always loving finding out how different jobs work.

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6 Jason Wier August 20, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Now you can draw on your history and truly help others like you do with your BLOG and the wisdom that you share in them. We all go through stages in our life for a reason.

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7 Wojciech August 20, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Funny (and sad) all at the same time. Never had to deal with debt collectors, so I definitely enjoyed learning about what you had to do!

The guy with the Mercedes is just classic…geez.

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8 Ashley August 21, 2009 at 3:54 pm

I agree that it definitely takes all types. Although it’s not a pleasant job, someone has to do it. Also, I can’t fathom how someone could pay over $600 in monthly transportation cost (think gas and insurance too) and not see a need to cover housing. Scary!

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9 Rose McBride August 25, 2009 at 7:21 am

I worked collection for an ambulance company. Some insurance companies would send reimbursement to the patient who (80% of the time) would not forward it to us but make small payments after prompting phone calls. One excuse I heard for keeping insurance money was “but I needed the $ to pay for my plane ticket”. After 13 years of this BS I finally was able to quit and retire. Whoa

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