Dialing for Dollars

Sometimes I answer the phone for no good reason.

The guy on the other end asks for me, then almost (but not quite) apologetically reads from his cheat-sheet that this telephone call is an attempt to collect a debt, and that the information provided will be blah blah urk urk ooga ooga…….

Hold it, shorty.  I don’t owe anybody any money.  Not even my bookie.

“Yessir.  But by law I need to state a few conditions about this call, and…….”

Hey, I don’t give a goat’s gonads what you have to do by law.  There’s no fucking law that says I have to listen.  So I’m not.  Turn that shit off and tell me waddya really want?

Background:  There was a time when I owed a lot of people money, and I got calls from knobs like this several times daily.  I was in credit card hell years before it was a popular issue.  But I learn a few things: Establish your position before they do, and take every opportunity to belittle them personally and professionally to move them off their script and game plan.

Fuck these people.

I did pretty well.  I beat Chase Manhattan Bank and American Express out of a few thousand dollars, as well as Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania and a handful of local banks.  Then I took on the credit reporting agencies and demanded they prove their data about me, which they couldn’t do — talk about your incompetent bureaucracies. TRW and Equifax make the Department of Motor Vehicles look like NASA.

But I’m most proud of the time I drove one collection agent to tears on the phone so that his supervisor had to take over, and the one I put off for about six months before telling him he was too stupid to understand the papers he threatened to serve me, and besides, the person he wanted wasn’t me anyway: I’m just the landlord, and my tenant — the guy you want — is probably dead because he isn’t here even though all his books, furniture, and clothing are which I’m selling off at a yard sale tomorrow.  Please stop by.

I clean all this up before I put down roots with Guido.  Now I’m a model citizen, have been for years.  So what is this about a debt?

Turns out the City of Fort Lauderdale claims I have an unpaid parking ticket dating back to 2003, and wants $45.  The city hires this collection firm based in Harrisburg, PA to contact scofflaws like me and make deals.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Maybe I’m out of practice, or just getting soft, but the rube on the phone sounds okay, and pretty soon we’re sort of chuckling about the absurdity of his mission.  I tell him I’m from his part of the world — Harrisburg is the decrepit capital of Pennsylvania; as a Philadelphian I’d been back and forth many times — and when I ask him what the deal is with the city filing for bankruptcy he just laughs.

Bottom line is, he’ll note the file that I want to dispute this claim and send me the documentation.  I won’t hold my breath.  I know from my experience that the collection agency gets a big chunk of the proceeds, and when you start with a $45 pot there isn’t much left for the city, so my guess is they’ll write it off.

One time I had a guy tell me to send him $250 on a $2,500 claim — if I paid that directly to him, he’d tell his client the debt was “noncollectable,” and the matter would end.  What a lowlife sleezebucket.  I took the chance and sent him a check.  That was the end of it.

They want you to believe there’s some kind of valor, some moral responsibility to pay what you owe.  Considering the source, this is laughable. It’s all business, and just money.  Every debt is negotiable, and not one cent — not a single farthing — has anything to do with right and wrong.  They are cutthroats and white collar criminals.  There is no honor among thieves.  They can kiss my ass for every nickel they extract from deep between my cheeks.  I wouldn’t pis down their throats if their lungs were on fire.

The whole experience leaves me nostalgic.  I miss those debt-ridden days.  Sort of.

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6 Responses to Dialing for Dollars

  1. Barbara Ganousch says:

    Once I had a visit from a so-called collection agent. He came to my house with a fistful of papers and wanted me to settle on the spot — with cash. It was clearly a shakedown, and served me right for doing business with the disreputable used car lot where this all began. I was young. But not stupid. I stalled him while my boyfriend sneaked out the back, got into his car and took his papers, then let the air out of two tires. I made sure he knew I was behind it all, too. He never came back.

  2. Joe Balls says:

    ll this is jolly good fun — if you don’t care about your credit rating, never intend to lease (let alone own) a car, or apply for a mortgage. Even employers these days check applicant’s credit rating.

  3. Flaming Yon says:

    It’s pathetic that Ft lauderdale is so desperate it would stoop to something like this. I am certain there are more lucrative opportunities and egregious defaults to be found in unpaid local taxes, fines, and even rents from businesses and landlords still active and operating right there in the city. Instead they hire thugs to colect 10-year old parking violations? Whose idea was this?

  4. Yo-Yo Ma says:

    You pay now !!

  5. "Esq." A Lawyer says:

    I did this kind of work one summer between semesters at law school. It may be hard for an outsider to accept this, but the attorneys who practice in this field are not as a rule sadistic vultures. Of course there are some bad apples, too. But for the most part, they’re prefer to negotiate a settlement that satisfies both parties, and move on. There’s actually some satisfaction in closing cases this way.

    The real bad guys are the repo men on the street who delight in evoking despair and humlliating their “marks.” I met some of those guys, too — once when I was an intern, and later, when doing criminal defense work.

  6. Kim Chee says:

    This is inspiring. I will practice to prepare for my default on college loans.

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