The CNNMoney website has a fascinating collection of accounts by former debt collectors, describing what they thought of the job (most but not all of them hated it) and why they left it. Here are a few excerpts:
- I was absolutely ruthless when I first started out as a debt collector. I had a black heart. If someone told me they only had $150 to their name this month and needed to feed their entire family of five, I would say, "I don't care, this is your fault and you owe the money. Pay it." I would even use blind threats like, "I know where you work" to intimidate them.
- Collectors I knew regularly held contests to see who could make the most people cry in one day. A co-worker at my office overheard another collecting agent telling a debtor in Spanish that she was going to send someone over to his house to beat him with a tire iron, because she didn't think anyone in the office would understand her. You'd be surprised what goes on behind closed doors. Every day, you were asked to break the law. If you didn't break the law, you were asked what was wrong with you.
- One of the guys in a nearby cubicle called up debtors and posed as a legal counsel. He would tell them to raise their right hand and promise to tell the truth, and then he would drill them with personal questions and badger them, saying throughout the conversation, "Do you still have your right hand raised? You do realize you're under oath, right?" He could get away with things like this because most consumers just don't know their rights.
- Unlike some of the other collectors I knew, I didn't try to scare people or take advantage of peoples' ignorance by threatening things like eviction even though we weren't allowed to evict someone. But it was still tough to deal with people who are struggling so much, and it was even harder knowing that a lot of people aren't telling you the truth.
- When I started my own collection agency and we had our first big customer, I needed to hire 30 collectors. I posted one job opening and had 400 to 500 people apply. As soon as I told them we did drug screening and background checks, the pool went to less than a hundred people. This just shows how much the industry needs to change.