Yesterday we were talking about the factory approach so typical of most debt collectors. We talked about how a few lawyers could gather hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of judgments in an hour or two. And we said that what made that work was that people give up and let them have those judgments one way or another.
Why do people being sued do that?
I’ve talked to a lot of people in this situation and know very well the mix of guilt and helplessness most people being sued feel. But it goes much deeper, as the debt collectors know very well. It starts when the debts start slipping out of control.
Let’s say you had a credit line that was perfectly appropriate, but then something happened to make it harder to keep up. At first you do keep up, then you start making minimum payments, and that is NOT keeping up – you’re losing ground, and you know it. It gets harder to pay close attention to the bill because every time you do you get reminded that you aren’t keeping up. And of course there is a ridiculous amount of interest to pay.
If you miss a payment, it gets much, much worse. Suddenly you have late-payment penalties on top of horrible interest. It’s all you can do to look at the bottom line, decide what, if anything, you can pay, and put it away for another month.
If that happens a few times you stop looking at the bill at all and just shove it into a drawer for “later.” Or you just throw it away. I mean, you can’t do anything about it, so why rub your nose in it, right?
Something like this happens an amazing amount of the time, and before long you have no idea how much you really owe, or how much you borrowed. You may keep a general running tab in your mind of the total, but who could say how much was interest, penalties, or principle? That stops mattering because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.
Then the debt collectors start calling. They don’t want to talk about how the debt piled up, and they don’t want to argue about fees. They want to know how much you can pay and by when.
Before long, all you know is that you owe some money, probably a lot, and if they sell the debt to someone else, you may just figure you probably owe it to the person calling you.
When that happens and then you get sued, a lot of people just think it’s easier to “go with the flow.” They know they owe some money and figure it’s to the person suing them. They figure the company suing them has what it needs to win and knows what it’s doing. So they give up one way or another – this is the day they’ve been expecting for a long time.
It’s ironic, because in reality this could be the easiest way to eliminate the debt altogether.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you why.