My name is Arthur Walsh and I am a debt collector working with a debt collection agency. I speak with you as somebody who loves what he does and wants to share his unique perspective. I function as a 3rd party arbitrator on behalf of our clients. My goal is to recover money when a business transaction fails to reach maturity. I remind people or businesses who have received a good or service, but neglected to remit payment, that they must now fulfill their end of the transaction
I was attracted to the debt collection industry at a young age. My parents owned a magazine and often found themselves at the mercy of people who understood how to phrase a promise. When I was in college, I went into business with the owner of a security company. Our biggest problem was delinquent or non-paying accounts. The problem was so pervasive that we had to take out a credit line just to make payroll. The credit line had its own fees and because our customers were consistently paying late, or not at all, the problem snowballed. We were trapped in financial quicksand. The money was going out faster than it was coming in and we were sinking.
The breaking point came when we were hired by a local apartment complex. Their fire alarms stopped working and we were called to walk the complex at night on fire watch. Our invoice amounted to just over $6,000.00. The credit line was maxed out so we pressed the complex for payment, stressing that at least half was needed immediately for us to stay in business. Without skipping a beat, they canceled our contract and brought in another security company. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to collect this debt and we resigned ourselves to the fact that we may be pushed out of business. A year later, the security company owner lost his house and his marriage ended.
I am not a vengeful debt collector. I am motivated by honesty. The debt collection industry is highly regulated and one of the few industries that mandate total honesty and integrity on behalf of the debt collector. For a better idea, read our recent blog article on Ethics in Collections. Everything is logged, and we sit in an open room so the President of the company is just as privy to my conversations as the consumer I’m speaking with# Our Manager sits in the room and if there are any instances where the collector steps over the line, the penalty can be instant termination# I’ve seen it happen#
Debt collection conversations can be intense# There is no way to truly know the situation of the person on the other end of the phone# All I can do is explain the facts, look for a resolution and begin to separate those who are going to pay from those who aren’t#
When I am speaking with a consumer who has just written a $5,000#00 check for a home entertainment system on a closed bank account, I will let them know that their only options are to return the merchandise or pay for the system# I have to be honest about what the options are and what the consequences could be if action is not taken#
Taking a step back, I know the debt collection industry has a reputation# There are more FTC complaints about the debt collection industry than any other industry and the only media attention it seems to receive are 20/20-type shows where a collector is recorded stepping over the ethical line# These types of actions are totally unacceptable and these bad apples need to be removed from our industry# On the other hand, in 2009, according to ACA International, US businesses wrote off $152.5 billion in bad debt. Municipal governments wrote off $40 billion and the federal government $30.9 billion. There is no excuse for a society that craves fiscal responsibility to turn a blind eye to this. That is why the debt collection industry exists.
In that same year, US debt collection agencies recovered $52 billion for business, $6 billion for local tax payers, and $788 million for the federal government. In a practical sense, we battle inflation and every dollar we recapture keeps our world a little cheaper. I love my job and am no longer The Forgotten Patriot.
Good, bad or indifferent, what debt collection experiences can you share with us?