Thursday, March 5, 2009

Deadbeats -- new meaning

I’m twisted. But I come by it honest. Too much time spent in press, politics, and dark, dingy bars.

Reporters, cops, and EMS people hone a macabre sense of humor as their first line of defense. We’re paid to see stuff that you hope you never will.

But my calluses weren’t thick enough to shield me from this headline:
“You’re Dead? That Won’t Stop the Debt Collector”

It was a gnnnuuuhhhh moment in my gut.

You mean we can’t find serenity in the solitude of the grave? What about the poor bastard who ran up credit card debt of $26,000 in medical bills trying to stay alive? Is it right to go after his survivors?

Debt collection from those left behind is a growth industry. Although the law varies state to state, relatives are rarely liable for the dead guy’s bills. Even when the collectors advise them they are not required to pony up, many pay anyway. Ethics. Morality. Memories. Bummer.

Using training in grief therapy, the debt collectors sneak up on you. The good ones can even make you think they care. But still, it’s a tough job. Burn-out rate is high among the new hires despite on-site yoga. (Note: try vodka)

Collection in the old days was more straight up: “Don’t make me send Guido.” But I’m not sure Guido would approve of today’s tactics.


Ken Martin said...

I wrote a story on debt collectors in the early eighties for Third Coast magazine, with a sidebar called "Confessions of a Debt Collector." He didn't use Vodka, your choice of anesthetic. He said the collectors would sit in a boiler room and drink beer and make calls. The drunker they got the more abusive their language to people they were dunning. After a particularly harsh call they'd slam the phone down and everyone would laugh at the crap they were telling the people they called. It was a slimy business then and it is now...but dunning the dead is a new low.

The South Plainsman said...

The best way to solve that problem, of course, is to get and stay out of debt.

Unfortunately, our whole economy seems to be based upon getting things and having someone else end up having to pay for it.

Max Fischer said...

My will stipulates that funds from life insurance should be used to pay any "community property" debt, provided the other member of my "community" (spouse) is still alive. My will further states that any attempt to collect debts from my hiers, or family members outside of community property laws, should obtain legal consult and ignore the debt collector. I don't plan to have unsecured debt when I pass, however if I do it will be creamated with me

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