Sep 222010
 
Authors: Shane Rohlender

Lying in the sun outside the Lory Student Center my phone began to ring, again.

The same number, starting with a 215 area code, popped up and my thumb naturally gravitated to the “reject” button. It was the third time today this number had graced the screen of my Nokia, so, before my thumb could fulfill its habitual task, I stopped, took a breath and pressed “answer” instead.

It was the Collections Agency, which has been trying to get a hold of me for about two months now. I’ve rejected about 50 of its calls, and deleted the same amount of its messages. The messages sometimes aren’t even from humans. I once found myself cursing this robot for leaving me so many messages.

Don’t do that, you feel dirty afterward.

When I answered, the woman sounded surprised. It took about three “hellos” and one long “heeeelllloooo” before she even replied, with a stunned questioning tone, “Ah, Mr. Rohleder?”

“Yeah this is Mr. Roh’. You can call me big Roh’ or, by my Christian name, Shane,” I said.

She laughed like somebody had just made a racist joke at a multicultural conference.

“Mr. Rohleder this is First Financial Bank Credit Services. We’re calling because you’ve missed a payment on your credit card, are you aware of that?”

“Oh yes. Completely aware. But I don’t want to talk with you about that until you tell me how your day is going.”

Awkward silence ensues. Then a quick, “Just fine.” And back to business.

“Mr. Rohleder we’re calling to find out how you want to take care of this payment. Can I set up a payment with you today over the phone?”

“Well, you could,” I said, “but the only problem with that is I don’t have any money to make the payment.”

At this, she began reading from a script, letting me know that there are government programs in place to help “people like me.”

“So, on this program we could lower your minimum payment requirements to $100 a month. This would also stop the collection calls, and the late fees of $35 being assessed to the account. Would you be interested in that?”

“It does sound interesting,” I said, “It does sound like it would help me out, but I just have one problem.”

“What’s the problem?”

“Well, I think you and I hit it off pretty smooth today and I don’t think I’ll hear from you again if you put me on this program. I was beginning to look forward to your calls.”
She laughed.

“Well that’s the first time I’ve heard it put that way,” she said, “but Shane, you should take advantage of this program.”

I listened to the rest of her spiel and was set up on the program.

If you’re like me, reader, you probably have some debt that you’re struggling to pay on a credit card you didn’t want, to a company that hikes up interest rates and only wants your money and calls you repeatedly if they’re not getting it. If not, congratulations. If so, don’t stress.

According to Bob Sullivan, a journalist for MSNBC, the law is on our side. “The Fair Debt Collection Act has clear rules about what debt collectors can and can’t do.”

If you find yourself being harassed by debt collection calls (and you don’t enjoy it) you have a lot of power. The law typically defends us peasants, within reason of course. I’d recommend reading some of the literature at www.redtape.msnbc.com for some helpful hints at dealing with debt collection.

My advice, have fun. If you’re not in the position (or the mood) to take care of your mountain of debt, then try and get them to hang up on you. I once pissed off a man from Wells Fargo so badly that he actually hung up on me. It was so satisfying.

Remember: Don’t sweat the petty, pet the sweaty.

Shane Rohleder is a senior communication studies major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to news@collegian.com

 Posted by at 2:56 pm

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