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 â€œrejectâ€ 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 â€œanswerâ€ instead.
It was the Collections Agency, which has been trying to get a hold of me for about two months now. Iâ€™ve rejected about 50 of its calls, and deleted the same amount of its messages. The messages sometimes arenâ€™t even from humans. I once found myself cursing this robot for leaving me so many messages.
Donâ€™t do that, you feel dirty afterward.
When I answered, the woman sounded surprised. It took about three â€œhellosâ€ and one long â€œheeeellllooooâ€ before she even replied, with a stunned questioning tone, â€œAh, Mr. Rohleder?â€
â€œYeah this is Mr. Rohâ€™. You can call me big Rohâ€™ or, by my Christian name, Shane,â€ I said.
She laughed like somebody had just made a racist joke at a multicultural conference.
â€œMr. Rohleder this is First Financial Bank Credit Services. Weâ€™re calling because youâ€™ve missed a payment on your credit card, are you aware of that?â€
â€œOh yes. Completely aware. But I donâ€™t want to talk with you about that until you tell me how your day is going.â€
Awkward silence ensues. Then a quick, â€œJust fine.â€ And back to business.
â€œMr. Rohleder weâ€™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?â€
â€œWell, you could,â€ I said, â€œbut the only problem with that is I donâ€™t have any money to make the payment.â€
At this, she began reading from a script, letting me know that there are government programs in place to help â€œpeople like me.â€
â€œSo, 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?â€
â€œIt does sound interesting,â€ I said, â€œIt does sound like it would help me out, but I just have one problem.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the problem?â€
â€œWell, I think you and I hit it off pretty smooth today and I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll hear from you again if you put me on this program. I was beginning to look forward to your calls.â€
â€œWell thatâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve heard it put that way,â€ she said, â€œbut Shane, you should take advantage of this program.â€
I listened to the rest of her spiel and was set up on the program.
If youâ€™re like me, reader, you probably have some debt that youâ€™re struggling to pay on a credit card you didnâ€™t want, to a company that hikes up interest rates and only wants your money and calls you repeatedly if theyâ€™re not getting it. If not, congratulations. If so, donâ€™t stress.
According to Bob Sullivan, a journalist for MSNBC, the law is on our side. â€œThe Fair Debt Collection Act has clear rules about what debt collectors can and canâ€™t do.â€
If you find yourself being harassed by debt collection calls (and you donâ€™t enjoy it) you have a lot of power. The law typically defends us peasants, within reason of course. Iâ€™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 youâ€™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: Donâ€™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 firstname.lastname@example.org