Friday, September 25, 2009

Handling Ms Brown

Since we have started on the Debt Snowball, we have started to receive calls from debt collectors and one in particular has not been pleasant. Her name is Ms. Brown and she keeps calling about Felicia's court reporting bill. A little background on this bill: Felicia was going to CRID, the Court Reporting Institute, and she decided to leave early because she was in her last trimester of pregnancy and it was difficult to get around with her steno machine. Before the quarter started she told them that she was taking a leave of absence and would return after the baby was born, but they talked her into signing up for the quarter and told her it would be okay if she did not finish the quarter. It turns out they wanted her to attend until her student loan paid them and then allow her to drop, but the student loan did not pay them and now they want to collect from Felicia.

Ms. Brown called Felicia one day and started to tell Felicia that she was in "breach of contract" and needed to make this debt a priority. Now, I do this for a living and I have told Felicia before that a lot of collectors want to make you mad so you will show them by writing a check to them. So she stayed calm and asked Ms. Brown to mail something stating that she owes the debt. Ms. Brown began telling Felicia that she had already sent something in the mail. She then started trying to collect from Felicia and Felicia continued to tell her that right now she would not make arrangements until the proof came in the mail. Ms. Brown continued to tell Felicia that she was in "breach of contract" and how it was a priority. Felicia gave Ms. Brown permission to speak with me about it and Ms. Brown asked why Felicia couldn't handle this on her own. Felicia, again, gave her permission to discuss the matter with me and Ms. Brown continued to say things to Felicia like "you can't handle this, " "you need to handle your debt," and "you're not strong enough to handle this on your own." Felicia stayed calmed and kept letting her know she had permission to talk to me about it. Ms. Brown, finally, said to have me call her.

When Felicia gave me her number, I called right away. Ms. Brown wanted to begin the conversation by letting me know her version of the conversation with Felicia. I stopped her immediately and told her I knew about the conversation and to talk about the business at hand. Ms. Brown started to tell me that Felicia was in "breach of contract", that this was a priority and wanted me to make payments now. I advise her that at this time, we were not able to but in a couple of months would be able to make arrangements and she said that I was refusing to pay. I advised her that I was not refusing to pay, and that we would pay any debt that we owed. I advised her that I would need the proof of the debt in order to begin making payment arragements. Again, she told me that we were refusing to pay and she would notify her client. She told me that we had a chance to voluntarily pay and so naturally I asked what were the involuntary ways to pay. Again, I do this for a living and knew she couldn't tell me unless they were ready to do them. She did not answer the question and just kept saying this was a priority and we were in "breach of contract." At the time of this conversation, I knew nothing about what kind of debt this was. I did not know if this debt was secured by a promissory note or not. But I did know that when a collector uses "breach of contract" they are trying to scare you. The goal is to throw out a legal term to make you feel like you broke the law. I was not getting upset but Ms. Brown sure was. She kept trying everything in the book to make me mad and it was not working. She finally said that she would let her client know we were refusing to pay and would verify our employment and then she hung up.

A few minutes later, I called her back. I wanted to make sure that she knew that we wanted the promissory note or the contract that we were, supposedly, in breach of. This is where I got wise. She said that she would contact the school for the original documents but if they did not have it, Felicia still owed it. Then she said she was not going to send it and she was not going to help us out unless we help her out. I just kept asking her to send us the original contract and she kept saying she was not. Finally, after she was mad enough, I said that I was simply asking her to send the original contract that Felicia was in breach of and she stated that she was not going to and for me not to call back unless I was making arrangements and she hung up again.

After we got off the phone with Ms. Brown, Felicia called CRID and found out that there was no promissory note and we were not in breach of contract. Felicia wanted to call back and let Ms. Brown know and give her a hard time. I told Felicia not to and if she called back to let her know then. Well, a week later she called back and told Felicia that she had a contract and Felicia let her know that there was no contract. The wind was taken out of her sail and again Ms. Brown hung up. The best defense against the creditors is to know the law, FDCPA. For work, I have to take a training module on it every year. Dave Ramsey has good advice for dealing with debt collector and you can check it out here. My advice is to not lose your cool; they know if they make you mad enough you will pay them.

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