It’s been a rugged few years, and through that time I’ve spent a lot of effort fending off organisations wanting to get money out of me. Being broke and homeless does little for your savings, and the small debts I entered that circumstance with became much greater as time went by. Many of said organisations were reasonable when I came to explain my situation. All of them have provisions for people such as I was then, but not all of them attend to them as honestly as they should.
It was very much a juggling act looking either to appease, rebut or inform the variety of collection agencies on my tail. At the peak of this, I was getting a call every day, and often multiple calls through the day. I became inured to the calls, though they never stopped being annoying. There were occasions when I would bite back aggressively. That’s my nature, to be defiantly independent, but it was lent wings on occasion by some of the behaviours I had to put up with, which ranged from the rank incompetent to the personal and nasty. It never touched me, and in fact, there were many times I would laugh in their face. I enjoyed taking them on, enjoyed ripping their prepared scripts into shreds and tearing holes in their arguments. It might seem a small thing, but it was one way of asserting my individuality in the face of monolithic indifference.
Throughout this period, there were what I came to think as reasonable organisations, and I was happy to work with them towards a resolution. They were the organisations who recognised my situation and gave it due gravity. With those, I was able to defer my debt to a later time by claiming a hardship provision.
There was one organisation particularly unreasonable. They had bought the debt from the primary creditor and despite evidence provided refused any consideration of hardship, or indeed financial reality. They were incessant and their practices dodgy. They would call up to 3-4 times a day, though mostly I wouldn’t answer. The debt which had been stabilised for years at a moderate level suddenly went up as they added fees and charges as well as interest. They listened to none of my arguments and in the end, set a server on my tail. It was only by chance I discovered this – they went to the wrong address (a measure of their incompetence, as I had provided an updated address several times previously). As soon as I cottoned onto to this, the seething anger became fury.
The modus operandi of many of these places is to bully and intimidate. They are nasty and unscrupulous. I’m sure often-times that’s an effective tactic. That’s not my caper, to be bullied, just the opposite. Enough was enough, and so I contacted the ombudsman and with their assistance was able to hold off on the summons.
From there, I went on the offensive, claiming unscrupulous behaviour of the collection agency in direct contravention of the law. Over a period of months, we went backwards and forwards, leading ultimately to the transcripts of the chats being supplied to me. Much of it was redacted. When I demanded the full transcript, they went quiet. In the meantime, the ombudsman had asked me for what I considered a satisfactory settlement.
Fast forward a year, and out of the blue, an email is received by the ombudsman. They’re following up on the case and would be in touch. I was wary of this, uncertain of how it would play out and wondering if it would be better if sleeping dogs lie – but I let it go ahead. That was about a month ago.
Yesterday I got a call from the ombudsman. They had received a settlement offer from the company in my favour. They offered to waive all my debt (which had more than doubled), to stop all legal action, remove any reference to this from my credit record, and finally to provide me with a $4,000 cash settlement.
I was surprised. To say the least. And delighted. It’s up to me to accept it, which likely I will. I don’t want to exploit the situation, though it’s likely I could squeeze more out of them. I want to act with honour, and the dollars, welcome as they are, are secondary to the principle.
I don’t know if you can understand, but this feels like a vindication. I made reference last night on Facebook about how it pays off sometimes being a stubborn prick. I’m not sure I could have done anything different to what I did – it’s just not in my nature to submit. I’m proud nonetheless because I’ve held a faceless, arrogant organisation to account when many would have bowed down before it.
There is great symbolism in this for me. Those times were mighty tough and seemed to go on forever. It would have been easy to give up. The important thing is that I didn’t. I’ve endured a lot, but I’m coming out of it, touch wood, and it actually feels like this might be a harbinger of better times, touch wood. When I chose to stand fast on that day, it was still very hard, and I had little and every day was a challenge. Looking back it was pretty bleak, as had been the years preceding it. I stood firm then though and held the line throughout and then the day came when that tenacity was rewarded in better times, with the promise of more to come. It has been a journey, from hardship to hope. I have survived. I am here. My belief in my self and a better future has paid off.
Nothing is certain. Nothing’s about to fall in my lap. I’ve survived the worst, though, and my time is coming.