Confessions of a Debt Collector

Fred Williams, a reporter for the Buffalo News, worked for three months at a debt-collection agency to see how one operates. Here is his report.

"Ethel, you did this!" Joe barks into the phone, his voice booming through the divider between our desks. Joe is trying to collect a credit-card bill, but Ethel is unaware of the card's existence -- or claims to be. "Stop making excuses!" Joe tells her.

It's my first week on the job as a debt collector, and already I'm learning a lot. Or rather, unlearning a lot. Everything I know about consumer finance is wrong here.

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