Thursday, July 7, 2011

Creditor Hell

This afternoon I learned that my not having the financial where-with-all to pay off a debt is comparable to refusing to pay said debt, even when you offer salary from guaranteed future employment.

Last month I had received a notice from a debt collector; the notice included a website such that one could set up monthly payments. How lovely, I thought; once school starts up at the end of summer I can actually afford to make these payments. I was not able to set up future payments, so I called the company directly and explained the situation. This was my first mistake. I should have sat upon the notice until the end of summer and then proceeded to attempt to make regular payments.

Instead, I talked to Brooke, who escalated me to my actual account manager, Sharon (beware the account managers who always introduce themselves with a salutation); I explained the situation again, noting that I had actual regular employment beginning at the end of August, and beginning in September I could easily - and happily - make a $200 per month payment. This was not satisfactory; they wanted their money now. I explained that I would like to give them all their money, but I could not do so until I got an actual paycheck, which I was not likely to be able to do until, you know, my jobs actually begin.

Sharon pushed; she offered various options that were not viable, such as asking someone else for the money. Since at the time of this initial phone call we were unsure of Ed's employment status, I was not going to offer up a salary he may or may not have, and certainly not without discussing the possibility with him first. If I couldn't ask my husband for $500, I sure as hell am not asking my friends or family. This did not sit well. Sharon asked us how we were planning on living if we had no income. I said, yes, that's quite a problem, isn't it. And that's all I said; clearly she was waiting for another response, but I refused to give her anything else to work with. Sharon tried to tempt me with the potential - not even guaranteed - offer of getting another AmEx if I paid off the account. At a time when I'm trying to decrease my debt, I'm disinterested in getting another credit card.

We negotiated that I could pay $100 that day, but I reiterated several times that I would not have an available source of income until September. Sharon took my $100 and said we'd talk next month. Which, you know, would be fine, although I did not see how the situation would change. I was told to call back on July 26th.

Yesterday Sharon called and left a voicemail; today she called and left another. She called my parents and left a voicemail today as well.

I returned her call and once again was put through to Brooke. I explained the situation again, noting that I would be happy to make payments once my employment began. Brooke put me on hold and came back with the offer that if I could pay half of the amount owed, AmEx would consider the account settled. Again, though, the lack of a money in my checking account would negate that possibility.

Apparently, though, it was possible to see that I have credit cards, which could be used to pay off the proposed settlement. Yes, I have two credit cards; they both have $300 limits, and one is close to maxed out, while the other also has a small balance on it. But their system showed that I have a credit card with a $10,000 limit on it.

I most certainly do not.

But I am an authorized user. However, it is imperative to note that it is not, in fact, my credit card; it is Ed's. I use it for things like groceries and putting gas in the car. And sometimes tea. I am certainly not going to put over $1,000 worth of charges on it, and I told Brooke so. She wondered why I wouldn't even ask him. Because of our financial situation being what it is, I am really, really not comfortable doing that. I told them what I could reasonably do, and if that's not good enough, there's really nothing else I can do.

Brooke "guessed she didn't understand" why I wouldn't even discuss it with Ed, to which my reply was simply, things are complicated sometimes, aren't they. She reiterated that I would not be given another chance to set up a payment plan later this summer, if I were to call them back.

Oh wait, that will magically make a lot of money appear! I did not say that, of course; I restated what I was able to do.

Brooke then got a bit snippy, told me she'd have to tell AmEx I was refusing to pay my debt, and to have a good day.

During both phone calls I was polite; I thanked them for their kindness generosity; I did not budge. I couldn't; there was simply nothing I could do until I school starts up again. If that's not good enough, then, really, what other options are there?

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