I have joined the ranks of the unemployed once again. Let me regale you with the tale of my most recent escapade into the frightening and confusing world of work.
It started the same way most of my jobs begin: with sheer desperation. I went over to a friend’s house one Friday night about a month ago and his girlfriend was talking about her new job and how much she liked it. She ran through everything that she did at work and said that they were hiring and that I should come apply.
What is this mystery job, you ask?
Medical bill collecting.
I know, I know. Trust me, my red flag went up too. But the thought of a paycheck was so enticing and the fact that I could allay the calls from my own bill collectors (although I would miss talking to Sanjeev on a regular basis) pretty much sealed the deal.
So that Tuesday morning, I went in for my interview. The lobby was small and sparsely decorated save for a few back issues of “Collector” magazine (who knew?). As I waited, I magically concocted a desire to be a collector, and after a nerve wracking half-hour interview, I landed the job.
I started training the following Monday, and by the end of the week, I was out on the floor. I even took my first payment of a whopping $54.45! My manager announced it over the loud speaker and everyone clapped and cheered. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all, I thought.
Over the next two weeks that feeling quickly waned. The job consists of sitting in front of a computer all day that has a smart dialer that automatically pops up with an account as it calls the person. The call will usually not be picked up and with a few quick key strokes, you leave a message. Easy. But then comes the fun part: someone picks up the phone. The first thing you do is ask for the debtor. “May I please speak with John Doe?”
Some of my personal favorite responses include:
- “OOOHH EM GEEEEE!!! WRONG FUCKING NUMBER!!!” Click.
- “Who are you and what do you want?”
- “Who dat be on my phone?!”
But then you get the not-so fun responses such as:
- “He’s sick in bed; he has terminal cancer.”
In the event that you do actually speak with a debtor, once you get through the formalities, the conversation always tends to go downhill.
Me: “So you can’t pay $13,460 in full today? How much can you pay?”
Debtor: “Not much, I’m on social security income and I just had a stroke.”
Me: “I’m sorry to hear that. Could you afford $25 a month?”
Debtor: “Maybe, I can’t move the right side of my body, so I can’t write you a check.”
Me: [What I’m supposed to say] “That’s O.K. if you go grab your checkbook, you can just read me off the numbers and we can do a check over the phone!”
Me: [What I actually say] “I’m so sorry. I will note the account. I hope you have a speedy recovery, have a nice day.”
I just couldn’t do it. I can’t call an 86-year-old woman in her nursing home and badger her for money. Or call people at their jobs and bother them every day. I just don’t have it.
But let me say this, I do realize that hospital bills have to get paid in order for their doors to stay open and to keep serving their communities. Bill collectors serve a very necessary purpose. I, however, was not cut out for that line of work.
Back to the drawing board, eh?