I’m Here To Collect The Debt You Owe. Please Don’t Kill Me

People don’t like to talk to creditors. People screen their phone calls, and toss out the bills. But it’s harder to ignore someone standing on your doorstep, especially when you don’t know why they’re there until they tell you. That’s me: I’m a debt collector. I’m not authorized to hold you upside down and shake the coins out of your pockets, but I do carry some scary-looking paperwork. And in my travels, I’ve found that …


America Is Full Of Weird, Isolated, Occasionally Creepy Communities

A few years ago, I did a two-day stint in West Virginia. The hills play havoc with GPS signals out there. Plus the maps aren’t all that accurate, and the roads are not maintained. Some aren’t even drivable. They don’t always bother putting up a sign to say so.

traveler1116 /iStock
Google sent a Street View car there. It never came back.

Driving down a road that had degenerated into a dirt track, my Jeep sank right up to its undercarriage in a mud pond, and when I trekked up to a farmhouse, the folks there said, “Why, everyone knows that road’s been out for years!” The farmer got one of his tractors and hauled my Jeep out. Months later, my water pump died. When the mechanics called me, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like it! It’s like your water pump was full of swamp water!”

That’s generally how it goes: Rural areas are the worst to get around in, but anytime I’ve needed help, someone always chipped in — whether it was from me knocking on a farmhouse door, or someone just happening to drive past at the right time.

And not always in a car …

One time I was called to a nudist colony. The office building had a board in place of a door. On the other side of a hill were a couple dozen campers and mobile homes. No people. Several more trailers had their doors kicked in. One was on its side, and another had been on fire at some point. It looked like the apocalypse hit this place. If anyone was left, I didn’t want to meet him or her. “Hey, could you tell me which trailer belongs to this almost certainly dead person? Oh, no, I can’t tell you why I’m looking for them. Hey, could you put down that chainsaw?”

When I checked the web later, Yelp was inconclusive about whether the place was open or closed, but it did specify that it was a “boys’ nudist camp,” which just added to the creep factor.

That’s why they call it “Yelp!”


People Want To Kill You

It was late autumn, and the sun was going down when I arrived at a single-family home in a working-class neighborhood. I heard shouting. A man and a woman. I knocked anyways, and the shouting stopped. An athletic man in his late 20s opened the door, and I could see a woman just leaving the room. Another man around the same age sat on the couch behind a coffee table covered in empty beer bottles.

“Oh, you’re sorting through your recycling? I can come back later.”

I was already apprehensive, but I was new and didn’t really know what to do. So I went into my standard script. I introduced myself and explained that I was there about a late car payment. He nodded and invited me in, usually a good sign. Some clients require that we never enter a debtor’s house for liability reasons, but that wasn’t the case on this job. When someone invites you in, that’s usually an extension of trust. If you refuse, that could be taken as a rejection of their trust.

Once I was inside, he sat down and said: “You know I’m an Army Ranger. I’ve been to Afghanistan. It wouldn’t be anything to me to kill you right now.” Turns out that his friend was an Army Ranger too. After only a few moments, the friend left, which at first I took to be a good thing. Then I realized he was moving his car to block me into the driveway.

One more reason we need flying cars.

Fortunately, I’d spent eight years managing a customer service call center, dealing with the angriest of callers. Those same skills applied here. I emphasized that I was a private contractor and didn’t actually care if he ever made another car payment again. I also pointed out that I wasn’t the repo guy, and me being there was actually a good thing, because the bank was still trying to work with him. And for the only time ever, I pointed out that even if he killed me, his debt wasn’t going anywhere. A risky move, but it seemed to deflate him.

“Plus, how are you going to buy the tools to bury me without credit? Well? Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

That was the first time a customer threatened to kill me. It wasn’t the last. But while I can reason with angry customers, well …


You Can’t Reason With Dogs

I get attacked by dogs a lot. It’s a professional problem, not a personal one. Luckily, I have a defense method that, so far, has had a 100 percent success rating: my clipboard. As the dog rushes toward me, I grab my clipboard with both hands and put it between us, metal clip towards the dog. The dog doesn’t want to bite the metal, so it starts trying to dodge past it. I just keep moving the clipboard around until the dog gets frustrated and retreats a few steps.

All the while battling flashbacks from the vet’s.

Then I back off of the property and get in my car. If I can, I photograph the dog. Most of the clients that hire me to collect on the debt end up paying me anyways, and then blacklisting the property from future field-service reps.

About halfway to one house, I heard barking and saw a pit bull tear out of the woods. Now, I know it can be an unfairly maligned breed, and I’ve known some real sweetheart pit bulls. This was not one of them. Still, I had my clipboard and I thought to myself, “another day in paradise.” Then I saw the second one. And the third, and the fourth.

“Your dick. This could be your dick.”

They surrounded me, and started lunging. I kept spinning, trying to keep them from a clear shot, clipboarding whichever was closest. Somehow I got out and got home. I kissed my wife, and then immediately got blackout drunk.


No One Likes A Debt Collector

Sometimes, the bank sends out paperwork, and all the homeowner has to do is fill it out, then the bank lowers their monthly payment instead of foreclosing. But most people still won’t do it. Filling out the paperwork means acknowledging the problem, and people would rather just not deal with it.

The bank mails “deal with it” memes but to no avail.

So the bank sends me. I spoke with one woman who said that she hadn’t made a house payment in seven years. She was retired, unexpected expenses had depleted her savings, and she couldn’t afford her home on her Social Security. I was gathering info to lower her payments, but she was so ashamed of her situation that I had to drag everything out of her.

Now, I know predatory loans exist. I know some banks are eager to foreclose, to the point that they’ll do it prematurely, or even go after the wrong property. But those ones rarely hire me — my clients would rather have the payment than the collateral. You don’t hire someone like me if you just want to foreclose.

When they roll out the milking machine, they’re not interested in making hamburger meat of you.

I talk to middle-class people who have never had serious financial trouble before. The emotions involved are so strong, that even when the bank wants to work with them, they’ll dodge phone calls and ignore letters. One guy took one look at the paperwork and said: “You can get the fuck out of my house.”

“You know I’m here to help, right?”

“I know. Now get the fuck out.”

About this time, you’re probably wondering, “What do you carry for protection?”

Man evolved past its primal fear of clipboards years ago.

The answer is: Nothing.

When I first started this job, I thought about getting a concealed carry permit. But most clients specifically forbid me from carrying a weapon of any kind, even mace. The reason: I’m there to collect a debt. If the debtor sees any weapon, that can be an attempt at coercion, an implied threat. You can’t threaten or coerce with physical violence as part of debt collection.

As scary as that sounds …


Every Weird Encounter Just Increases My Sympathy For People

Every once in a while, I’ll be talking to someone and see the newest Call Of Duty game paused on their new PS4 on their new giant-ass TV. I don’t say it, but I can’t help but think I know where at least some of that car payment went. “Comfort” purchases go up during recessions. And honestly, I don’t blame them.

Besides, nothing I say can be more hurtful than what some 13-year-old is yelling at them during multiplayer.

I used to work for little more than minimum wage, so I’ve had to play the “which bill can I let slide this month” game. When you’ve been chronically behind on bills for a while, you can’t just cut out all recreation. You’d kill yourself or go mad. Anyone who hears about debtors going out on a Friday and thinks, “they shouldn’t be spending money if they’re behind on the house” — well, they should be spending less money, perhaps, but they also need to keep themselves sane. I’d like to say I’ve learned a lot about people from looking into their homes. But the real thing I’ve learned is that you can’t truly know what’s going on in other people’s lives just from appearances, so it’s best not to judge.

And that good running shoes are always a sound investment.

Please help JSH Placie get attacked by fewer dogs. Check out his short fiction here and here. Fair warning, it’s not comedy, but it is good. Ryan Menezes is on Twitter for stuff cut from this article and other things no one should see.

Also check out 5 Disturbing New Ways Debt Collectors Are Getting Your Money and 6 Creepy Schemes Companies Use To Bury You In Debt.

Hey Cracked Podcast fans: Join Alex Schmidt, Daniel O’Brien, Katie Goldin, and our favorite LA comedians for a deep dive into which animals could conquer the world if they tried. Get your tickets here.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Why Credit Cards Are A Scam, and other videos you won’t see on the site!

Follow us on Facebook, and we’ll follow you everywhere.

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2458-im-debt-collector.-yes-sometimes-people-try-to-kill-me.html