We've regularly chronicled the chilling effect of debt collection practices on U.S. consumer (for examples check here and here). In doing so, consumers have a long list of complaints about scams, aggressive calls, illegal threats, and nasty encounters. But life is a two-way street and debt collections have stories of their own to tell – and here’s where they get their chance.
To begin, we need some perspective. True, on the list of issues you’ll face today, getting a call from a bill collector ranks somewhere between root canal and getting sued after your latest appearance on the Jerry Springer show.
According to a recent study by Scripps Howard, 40% of respondents said they had been threatened by a collections agent or had experienced enough calls from collections agent that they deemed it “harassment.”
But collections agents point out that trying to pry money out of late-paying consumers is no picnic, either. Data from the Association of Credit and Collections Professionals says that collections agents don’t last long – more than half don’t make it past five years before they switch vocations.
Beneath the surface, there’s a lot more to the day-to-day job than meets the eye. Most bill collectors don’t spend all their time on the phone hectoring consumers over their debts. Many write letters, send bills, and conduct "skip tracing" exercises to locate a hard-to-find consumer’s current address. Collection agents usually work in concert with creditors to establish payment terms for clients they’ve reached, and often work with lawyers to go after bigger fish that haven’t paid their bills, and with banks to garnish wages of late payers.