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When a Bully Calls

February 4, 2010

Cindy Battles

This post was contributed by Cindy Battles, a freelance writer based in Rutland, VT who’s been diagnosed with and managing bipolar disorder for many years.

It wasn’t polite. It wasn’t pleasant. In fact, it was the stuff that nightmares are made of. I’m talking about my run-in with a collection agency a while back.

Here’s how it started: 

I was working full-time, the stress of which led to a breakdown. I had been hospitalized to maintain the bipolar disorder and get me back on my feet. When I left, I discovered that my work insurance did not cover the whole hospital bill. There was an outstanding $400 which would come out of pocket. Of course, this is before I understood the value of financial planning.

At the time, the hospital was very nice. They made a deal with me (as I had no $400 savings) to pay $5 a month. They did warn me that if I missed a month, just one month, they would refer the matter to a collection agency. I apparently did not “get it” as I missed a month. And that’s when my phone started to ring. And ring.

It was “Bob” from a collection agency in Ohio. He had all the sensitivity of an attack dog. He called me in the morning and he called me in the evening. Every single day. 

I lived with my mother and two brothers at the time and no matter how many times I told them I was not home for his call, one of my brothers always handed the phone over with “Cindy, phone call for you!” Nowhere to hide. 

Bob told me that my nonpayment was an illegal offense and he was calling the sheriff to come over to arrest me. No, they couldn’t put me in jail but I could be booked and put on probation at police headquarters. I believed him and lived in fear.

He also called me a “loser” and demanded that my relatives who picked up the phone bail me out. All this at ear-piercing decibels with foul (and I mean foul!) language. I would cry and beg, yes even beg, for more time. Finally, one day I went down to my aunts’ house and they pooled their meager resources and gave me the $400. I hated to bother them but I just couldn’t take any more of “Bob the attack dog.”

One thing I learned: if a company or a hospital or a business of some kind makes you a great deal for paying off your debt, take it and be diligent. Do not fool around with the payments. I should have stuck by the $5 a month agreement like I was drowning and it was my life raft. That way it would have taken a long time, but I could have paid it off in about 6 years or shorter if I upped the payments each month myself.

As for Bob, I almost wish he would call today. I am stronger and would tell him what I found out from Legal Aid and now what I really think of his sheriff coming to the door scenario (can’t happen). I learned you can contact your state Attorney General’s office (ask about consumer assistance) to file a complaint against an agency carrying out these harassment practices.

Priceless lesson learned.

Cindy

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Francis Giguère permalink
    April 10, 2010 2:54 pm

    Hi Cindy,

    I was wondering: are you the Cindy Battles from the Battles family I met at Wells Beach, Maine, when I was a kid (about ten) in the early 70’s?

    If I’m not mistaken, your dad was a doctor (at least, at that time) like mine.

    Well, if it’s you, drop me a line!

    Francis (from Plessisville, Québec when I was a kid, now from Montreal)

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