Debt Collector: Not a Job for the Faint of Heart


Image by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

While talking to some colleagues today, conversation turned to one of my former jobs. Believe it or not, I used to be a debt collector at the local credit bureau.

Not the go-drag-your-truck-out-of-the-yard-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-hoping-not-to-be-shot-while-you-are-sleeping kind of debt collector, but the sanitized call-you-on-the-phone kind of debt collector.

I don’t even know how I ended up with this job. Probably from an ad in the paper. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up at that point in my life. I do know it was in the ’80s because I remember that everyone there had frizzy, over-permed hair, including me.

My mentor there was a hard-looking woman named Dinah. She smoked about four packs of cigarettes a day, and had a voice to match the habit. Nice thing about phone collecting, which is what we did, is that they can’t see you.

She was a seasoned veteran in the world of bad credit collecting, and her paycheck reflected that. You see, we were paid on a percentage commission based on the amount of money we could convince debtors to send in.

I listened to her and learned.

I was okay at the job, but not great. My main concern was not being dog-cussed by the deadbeat on the other end of the line. Happily, my eardrums were never pierced by profanity. I did have a guy throw a couple of mild four-letter words my way one day, and my reaction was, “Don’t CUSS ME!” He immediately apologized and said he didn’t know he had said any bad words. I thought that was pretty funny. After the apology, he promised to send in some money that day. Maybe he did. I don’t really remember.

Sadly, this job led to my cynicism and unwillingness to believe plausible-sounding lies fed to me by these debtors and others in my professional life in the future.

I mean really. How many people in a given day in a small geographical area could have a grandma/grandpa/aunt/uncle die? Generally they didn’t kill off mothers, fathers, or children, probably being afraid that it might just happen. It is dangerous to be a grandparent at collection time, I noticed.

So back to debt collecting. I got pretty good at it. I made a few decent paychecks pulling in more than I had in any previous jobs. There was just one problem–I HATED every day of sitting in a cubicle calling debtors, listening to lies, and trying to convince the next “client” to pay up.

As with all other jobs in my life to that point, I mastered it in six months and boredom set in. Now what to do?

I know–I’ll be a DJ at a radio station! No wait. That’s another blog for another day.


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