In all consumer protection measures Legislators have extended the scope to Americans during the pandemic, but debt recovery is not one of them.Although emergency laws allow people to assume certain forms of debt, such as Student Loans with MortgageOut of tolerance, those who have debts in other forms (such as credit cards, cars, and payday loans) have no legal protection.Collect debt quietly Hum along Because the pandemic has caused massive deaths, diseases, and unemployment.
Not only were collection companies still operating last year, but as the unemployment rate in the United States soared, they also outsourced work to the lower-cost labor market. BuzzFeed News interviewed a person who works in the office of a third-party American collection company in Tijuana, Mexico. In order to protect his identity, he asked to use a pseudonym. “Rick” is 20 years old and is a Mexican citizen. He said that he has 10 hours a day to log in to an automated call system that continuously agitates agents like him through hundreds of calls. He remembered trying to extract money from people who had no money at all, and there was even a person who was treated for coronavirus in a hospital. “It feels bad because I also have debts,” he said. Earlier this year, he resigned.
This is Rick’s story, edited for clarity and length.
I lost my job In 2020, because I recently moved to Tijuana. I saw a job advertisement on Facebook, and some of my friends who work there said they are hiring for customer service and collections. Advertising makes it look like a customer service job, because you need to have customer service experience. It was not until I started training that they said that we would collect fees from people who called and tried to pay. When we have more experience, we will call customers. I do not know.
I’m a little disappointed about this because they didn’t really do it. I used to work in a call center, but served customers instead of collecting money. So this is a bit scary for me. But I need this job. So I tried my best. We only have two weeks to learn all the content in the training. Since English is not the first language of some of us (my first language is Spanish), we need to learn new words such as “delay” and “balloon payment” and what are borrowers and creditors. So it is both fun and challenging.
I go in at 6 in the morning and work 10 hours a day to 4 in the afternoon. Due to the new coronary pneumonia, we took two seats apart from each other. We always have to wear masks. There are about 90 agents in the team.
We have a system that dials by itself all day long. The account number will automatically pop up on the screen, and we will be able to access the account. But the dialing time is no more than 30 seconds, so we only have one minute or less to check their information and how much money they owe. We just need to enter and start the call without having to know too much about the history of the account. Sometimes the system just connects us, and people are already saying, “Hello? How are you?” I am not ready to deal with such important things in so little time. This is definitely something they should improve, because people are going through difficult times.
Usually, the system makes more than 200 consecutive calls every day. Most of them did not answer. I have to talk to about 50 people a day. All customers are located in the United States. Mainly personal loans and auto loans. If I need to go to the bathroom or need to take a break, I can put myself in the function of stopping answering the phone, even if the supervisor doesn’t like that.
We actually have no control over the number of times we actually call customers. We do not have a system to know. Sometimes a person will receive 10 calls and they will be annoyed by it. Sometimes we will re-establish contact with the same person one day, and we have to pretend not to know or apologize to them.
Once, my colleague called someone and she was really angry. She said that she received at least 20 calls that day, she didn’t plan to pay, she was over. It turned out that she was in the hospital. She said that she had actually lost her husband due to the new crown virus, and now she is receiving oxygen from the new crown virus in the hospital, and the situation is very bad. But in fact, other people may try to get in touch with her two hours later and the day after tomorrow, because once again, we really can’t do anything with these calls.
We need to meet some indicators. But it’s not about how much money we collected. The quality assurance agent rated our “customer service”. They were trained to evaluate our phones. We have our own scripts, and some scripts we need to say verbatim. So they mainly evaluate the customer service we provide based on this; for example, if you only miss a word, then you will get a zero. I did a great job.
In our script, you first need to complete the verification process. When it’s time to pick up the goods, consumers will explain the situation, for example, because of COVID or because they are not working, they cannot pay. We must try at least two times to get paid. For example, we can provide some extension or payment plans. On normal days, more than half of the people I talk to cannot pay anything. Zero dollars.
It feels bad because I also have debts. I also have something to pay. So trying to get them to pay is not easy for me. Even if there is no pandemic, it is difficult to ask for money. But when you know that everyone is experiencing things that affect a lot of people, this will be a bigger challenge. I feel a little guilty about asking people for money-but at the same time, we have to continue our work.We are not involved in trying to help [the consumer]; We are just collecting things there, this is what our supervisor reminds us throughout the experience.
My salary is about 3,000 Mexican Pesos [$150] every week. We are very close to San Diego, so our rents tend to be higher here. So, I mean, I can survive. Compared to people who have gone to college, this is nothing. But honestly, I know that because it is an American company, they might pay more.
This job is mainly because people are angry with you because you are bothering them and trying to collect. Since I have been working in a call center since I was 17, I am a little used to people yelling at me. But it’s hard at the end of the day; it’s hard for someone to yell at you and tell you mean things. I quit my job as a debt collector in February. I want to do something else. I think the reason I am still working in a call center is that I am used to it. And its salary is actually better than other jobs because they are American companies. ●