How often do you hear someone say, “When I grow up I want to be a bill collector?”
I assume not too often. I know I never said that. Yet, that is exactly what I grew up to be.
Nobody tells you that after becoming a bill collector, you learn that most of the folks you have to call have no education about budgeting, credit or debt, and some are in big trouble with their finances. I did not realize that as a collector I might also have to be a counselor to debtors or a mediator for my client.
Nobody tells you how emotionally draining being a bill collector can be.
Nobody tells you that you may sometimes tell people you work in the credit industry when asked what you do for a living. When you say you are a bill collector, people cringe and start telling you what jerks bill collectors are. Some may even ask, “Does your mother know what you do for a living?”
Nobody told me that those stories in the news about bill collectors harassing debtors is really a lopsided view of debt collection and that debtors will call you names, swear at you, scream at you, threaten you and your children and even show up at your office and be threatening to the extent that you have to call the police. Debtors will call you repeatedly and hang up, send horrible emails and repeatedly send you faxes telling you what a low life you and your family are.
Nobody told me that my clients or the business owners would not get enough (or any) information on a customer before they became past due, which only makes it difficult for me to collect and do my job effectively and efficiently.
Nobody told me I needed to have great organizational skills, strong negotiating skills, be good with people, have thick skin, be a team player and be firm and follow the rules — or how hard all of that would be.
Nobody told me how rude debtors can be whether they owe the money or not if they don’t want to pay. Many debtors are no longer ashamed to be in debt and are actually proud if they can weasel their way out of paying.
Nobody told me that not all collection agencies follow the law and are compliant, making it harder for those of us who do follow the law and try to help debtors pay off bad debt.
Michelle Dunn is an award-winning author and columnist frequently featured in the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Forbes. Look for her newest book, The Guide to Getting Paid: Weed Out Bad Paying Customers, Collect on Past Due Balances, and Avoid Bad Debt, being released in May by Wiley Publishing and available now everywhere.