I can’t afford what you’re selling

12 08 2009

My dad used to say money doesn’t grow on trees, and like most from my generation and older, I am sure this is a familiar phrase. But evidently not to bill collectors. I try to be patient, for each, but patience only extends as far as respect. I have no job, my unemployment leaves me eleven dollars a month after mandatory monthly bills are paid. This doesn’t accommodate for food, toiletries, et cetera. You would think this a simple concept, when I have money, you get money.

I have an outstanding bill for my daughter’s emergency room bill from last spring. I paid my co-payment and still owe my 20% of the bill. It was a matter of life or death, hence the decision to use an emergency room. And Bryan calls me from the selected collection agency to inquire as to when it will be paid. I explain that it won’t be at this time. The first three minutes is typically polite in nature, can anyone help you out, can you put it on a credit card, I can accept a check, how about we settle for 400 something? But when these extensions of consideration have been turned down, Bryan I guess takes it as a personal insult.

It is then that the conversation takes another turn.

Why did I take her to the emergency room if I couldn’t pay the bill? Well gee whiz Beaver, because I would rather my daughter live?

Why don’t I ask my parents for help? Perhaps because they are six feet under?

Do I like being in debt? Does anybody?

Why haven’t I found work? Because I like being broke, what do you think?
I understand that bill collectors have a job to do and I respect that; but I have a fairly strong feeling that when they hang up the phone their pulse isn’t racing, and they don’t feel emotionally berated. Does this actually work for them? Do people suddenly find a tree growing dollar bills on it after being told they are worthless in not so many words? Doubtful.

Now according to the FTC, collectors cannot be abusive, the definition of abuse is vague. As is the definition of harrassment. Bryan, for example, made a point of calling me each day for a week to ask if I had found a job yet. I consider that harrassing, but do I have a case? Not likely. Can I say that it is abusive if the only duress I endure is mental or emotional? Probably not.

So now I have his number identified and leave it for the answering machine to screen.

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