Superchibi Chibisid! (kailan) wrote in bad_service,
Superchibi Chibisid!

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Collection woes

Okay, I admit it: I'm in a financial tight spot right now. On top of college expenses, I'm currently injured and between jobs, and have not been able to pay any my creditors for a long time because of my situation. Long story that would just make this tl;dr material. More than it already is. Anyway, at the moment I owe money to a couple of people. And by couple, I mean... a couple. Two. Chase and JCPenney. Since the debt to Chase is nearly a year past due, they told me they had had to turn it over to third-party. But they were reasonably upfront about it, and that third-party's been really nice about it too and is willing to work with me to deal with it a bit at a time.

Then we have the New Jersey-based MRS Associates, bestowed upon me by JCPenney in order to obtain a back payment of roughly $500. The lovely ladies and gents of this charming company aren't really a collections agency as much as they are a Mafia extortion racket.

Or that's the way one of their reps behaved. I'm not sure exactly what I said to set him off, but the guy was pleasant for all of two or three minutes before he went from reasonable human being to abusive asshat. Total personality change. Enough to leave me silently gaping at him over the phone and going "WTF?"

Now I should note that I know lots of people who have worked collections. All of them are nice people, but knew when they had to be tough. To the best of my knowledge, absolutely none of them would agree that what this person did could be construed as professional. Quite the opposite.

Hell of it is, I had no idea these people were collectors when I called, as they had left nothing on their numerous voicemails indicating that they had any association with a creditor whatsoever. (Before anyone says it - yeah, it is against the law to state that you're collecting a debt on a voicemail. It is not, however, against the law to indicate, say, that you are calling regarding an account with so-and-so and you need to speak to [insert name here] about it. That is permissible AFAIK.) So what I assumed would be an innocent "please stop calling this number" request turned into a carousel of verbal abuse, intimidation, and a very unpleasant ending to my Friday.

For the last five months or so, I have been receiving unmarked calls on my cellphone. I make it a policy not to answer unmarked calls on my phone as those sorts of things in my experience are customarily telemarketing or scams.

About three months ago I began getting some strange messages. The first set was from a tired-sounding lady with a heavy Jersey accent telling me to call such-and-such number for important information and that it was not a sales call. The second set was from a brusque man with the same regional accent saying more or less the same thing, with only a very slight alteration in the phone number.

Today, around 11am CST, the tone of the phone calls I had been receiving took a nasty turn. A different gentleman, same accent, was snapping into the phone that "several representatives" (if by several you mean, like, two?) had tried repeatedly to reach "a person at this number" and that "if you are an ADULT, please call back, if this is a wrong number we need to know. Again, I want to speak to an adult. The number is 877-774-7990." I might also mention that the phone number was delivered in this insultingly slow voice, as if the caller was dictating to a toddler.

That got my hackles up before the fun even started.

Curious by now - and more than a little annoyed by what I perceived as harassment - I decided to call the number and see who it was, and then request that they stop calling me permanently. The man on the other end introduced himself as a Richard of MRS Associates, and when I told him why I had called, he transferred me to a man who called himself "Bobby Morgan."

The first thing this man did was request my social security number. By that point I was honestly wondering if I had unwittingly walked into some kind of scam. I have been raised by my parents to NEVER give out such sensitive information over the phone, so I remained silent.

He then requested my phone number. Since they obviously already had that or they couldn't have called me, I gave it to him. He went on to tell me that this was in regards to my JCPenney account and asked me why I had not answered all the calls they had made (which I wish I had archived because these people sent me on average two or three of these calls a day if not more). I proceeded to explain to him that I had had no idea they were a collection agency as the number was totally unmarked.

At this point the conversation took a 180-degree turn as "Bobby Morgan" went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in about five seconds flat. He started berating me loudly, telling me that JCPenney and MRS Associates had made repeated attempts to send me literature and that I had simply ignored them, and he demanded to know why.

I told him I was telling the truth, and that I was at this moment in time unemployed. He immediately jumped on this. "We have your social security number, Miss -----. We have access to all your activity in the last five months, and you've been employed since then, yet you made no attempt to pay on this debt."

I tried my best to explain that other, more immediate obligations (such as rent and food) had seen that money gone by the wayside fairly quickly, but he was having none of that. He proceeded to throw line after line of thinly veiled threats at me. The main one he seemed to stick to was this: "When you used your card, you were borrowing money from JCPenney's lender. What you're doing, what you're doing, you know what that is, that's stealing."

He couldn't seem to keep his story straight, either. MRS Associates was mentioned to me exactly once, and that was by the person that picked up the phone when I had initially called. Though at the beginning I was told that the account had been turned over to them by JCPenney, most of the time he kept saying that he was representing a bank and that if I didn't pay them within the next half-hour, in full (though he later changed this to minus interest), then he would "be recommending that we take action against you."

I asked him on at least four different moments throughout the conversation what he meant by this. At no point when I asked did he ever answer the question directly.

When I told him I had never received a single piece of literature warning me that they had picked up my account from JCPenney and that I didn't want them to call me anymore, he threw a fit. "How are we supposed to get in touch with you if this is the only number you have?" You now have the correct address for me. It's called the post office. Send me a letter. "We don't have to do that. This is the last stop before I recommend action. I'm sticking my neck out just talking to you like this right now, we can't send you anything else. This is the only way we can contact you."

I also told him I had heard that one cannot collect a debt on a cell phone line? "That's not true, whoever told you that is wrong, we are collecting a debt here and we have the right to call you as often as it takes until you pay us."

He went on that line for several minutes, telling me that he would "do whatever is necessary to collect on this debt."

I was ticked off to the point where I had lost patience and was starting to get snarky with him, and he was only getting more and more intolerable. After nearly an hour of listening to his pointless tirade, I finally told him outright that this was just getting tiresome and really wasn't going anywhere. Some more roundabout crap and "I'm just doing my job" mantras (which I realize, and if he hadn't decided to treat me the way he did I'd have been far more receptive) to demanding that I get someone to pay the debt for me. Who? Anyone. Relative. Friend. You live alone? No. Who do you live with. My roommate, so? So get him to pay the amount for you.

Uh? What? I am not going to ask my poor roommate, who is currently footing the entirety of rent and utilities while I am (a) unemployed and (b) recovering from a back injury sustained in a recent automobile accident, to pay my debts for me. He's done more than enough to help me even if he weren't totally strapped. Same with the boyfriend.

He then told me that I had better find some way to come up with the money or "action" would be taken. Again, no specification as to what, though litigation was specifically mentioned twice in the course of conversation, so I can only assume that is what he intended to imply.

We had reached either an impasse or an agreement. I wasn't sure which. I was fed up with dealing with someone who adamantly refused to listen to me, so I called the only other person I knew to call - my mother - and we had a little three-way chat. He changed his tune when she started talking, but he came onto the line ready to do battle when my mother mentioned I had been contacted by "a rude collector." Which I had, but he immediately assumed I was referring to him.

In the interim we have agreed to come up with half of a "settlement," in his words, which is basically the amount owed minus interest, due by 12 noon on Monday the 6th - despite his repeated attempts to persuade my mother to send money immediately by giving out her debit card number. And some "concession": the nasty little ultimatum was still present; if my mother does not call them before or by that time, they claim, then the matter will be sent to court and I will be sent a "summons." Which is laughable, since as far as I know the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act says you cannot sue someone who is not in your home state. That doesn't make this matter any less infuriating.

Any "concessions" they may have granted do not in any way excuse the treatment to which I was subjected. I was called a thief, accused of lying (even about the accident I was in!), and threatened with various legal actions should I not pay them on the spot. People who owe money are still people. Debtors, like it or not, are protected under federal law. The fact that they owe money does not give collection agencies like MRS Associates carte blanche to harass and intimidate just so they can get their commission. If these people want my money, they can use honest means to get it - and I don't mean "bend the law every which way but loose," either.

I fully plan on contacting the FTC about this, among other people. I mean... just... in what universe would anyone who claims to be a professional would think this kind of behavior is in any way appropriate?


Also, hi.

edit: It's been brought to my attention (thank you, sayonara_snot) that this might or might not technically count as a "bad service" post, but I'm kind of unsure where I would put it if not here, since financial services are AFAIK considered a service. The closest I can see otherwise is solicitors_suck, but that falls more in line with phone scams and telemarketers than collectors...

Anyway, please let me know if this is off-topic, and I will remove it. (Or failing that, the mods are obviously free to do so as well.) Thanks.

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