When you’re a kid and your kindergarten teacher asks you ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, how many of us answered ‘A Bill Collector!’? Nobody. Not a single soul. I’d be willing to bet money that no kid has ever given that answer. Everyone wants to be a princess, an astronaut, a doctor, President of the United States or (if you’re me) a veterinarian or a Disney animator. Nobody sets out on their career journey to be a bill collector. But why is that?
I feel that it has to do with the negative view people have of debt collectors and the collection industry in general. Why would you want a career in an industry that has historically gotten a bad reputation for seeming to ‘bully’ people? I can’t tell you how many times I have told people where I work and what I do and had them say ‘Oh my! That must be AWFUL!’.
It’s All About Perspective…
I have always seen the amount of debt in our country as a huge problem. I was taught about personal finance management at a young age. My parents taught me and I also had a class in school called ‘Home Economics’. I learned how to balance a checkbook, set a budget, file taxes and what a mortgage was. We even learned a bit about credit reporting. But even with all of that education, I still managed to rack up some credit card debt in college. I worked my way out of that and learned a valuable lesson – that most debt collectors are trying to help you solve a problem that you got yourself into. Who else reaches out to you when you have a dilemma like that?
Granted, bill collectors are working to either collect a debt that you owe them directly or they are attempting to collect a bill for another party (Third Party Collections). They have a vested interest in collecting the debt – I’m not trying to paint them as saints. However, they are performing a valuable service and are trying to find an answer to a problem. Consumer debt is a big issue. In the first quarter of 2020, consumer debt sat at over $14 trillion dollars. Service providers perform their jobs and rely on being paid in order to be able to continue providing their services. $14 trillion could go a long way toward keeping these valuable services available. Where would we be if dentists, mechanics, banks or hospitals went out of business because nobody was paying them?
Why Do Collection Agencies Get a Bad Name?
Most people think negatively about bill collectors because they have heard horror stories: someone got their wages garnished, had daily phone calls about past due bills or had their credit ruined by an awful bill collector. It’s the collector’s fault – not the consumer’s for incurring the debt, right?
Usually, you don’t deal with debt collectors unless you are in some kind of financial bind – already an unpleasant situation. On top of that, you have someone calling you and sending you letters bringing up the problem. You might hang up the phone when they tell you the reason for their call or stop answering your phone altogether. Those letters they send you? Those get tossed in the trash. Unfortunately, the bill does not simply go away and it can impact your credit report. Ignoring the problem is not the solution, but many consumers take this route. Sweeping a past due bill under the rug and ignoring it can end up getting you in hot water. When a consumer refuses to communicate with debt collectors, the collectors can and will turn unpaid debts over to attorneys to collect via wage garnishment or property lien. It’s better to face the issue head on and see what options a collector can offer you.
Why Are Debt Collectors Important?
Debt collection agencies are seen as the ‘bad guy’, but they are doing what they can to ensure that owed debts are repaid and businesses that have provided a service are compensated. When consumers avoid contact with debt collectors, they are really doing themselves a disservice. Debt collectors are problem solvers and will work with you to come up with a debt repayment plan that works for the consumer and the creditor.
Consumers are fearful of dealing with debt collectors because of the negative image that collection agencies have gotten over the years. They may think they’ll have to pay a large debt in full immediately, which is not true. The majority of the myths surrounding debt collection are either completely unfounded or they are based in the ‘old way’ of doing things. Times have changed. The debt collection industry is one of the most heavily regulated out there. The Fair Trade Commission enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which protects consumers from unethical and illegal collection practices. Collection agencies must comply with the FDCPA or face stiff penalties.
What DRS is Doing to Change the Negative Image…
Our agency has policies and procedures in place to assure that consumers are treated fairly and we train our agents to communicate with consumers instead of simply talking AT them. We want our collectors to be problem solvers and educate consumers on how to get their debt taken care of. Many times, our agents receive Thank You notes after a consumer has paid their debt. We’ve gotten testimonials from consumers who are grateful for our agents’ ability to listen and find solutions to their debt burden when they thought there was no way out. It’s a good feeling to know that you helped someone out of a situation that they saw no solution to.
More and more collection agencies have embraced this compassionate mindset. Hopefully in the future, the negative stigma attached to collection agencies and debt collectors will be a thing of the past. I’m not saying your 6 yr old will tell their teacher that they want to be a bill collector when they grow up. But maybe, when someone like myself tells someone what they do for a living, they’ll get a more positive response. Here’s hoping!