Among all consumer protections Given by lawmakers to Americans during the pandemic, debt collection forgiveness has not been one of them. While emergency laws allowed people to put in place certain forms of debt, such as student loans And Mortgages, analysis, people whose debts took other forms — such as credit cards, car loans, and payday loans — had no legal protection. Quietly collecting debts They are all along The pandemic has caused mass death, disease and unemployment.
Not only have the collection companies continued to operate over the past year, but they have also moved work overseas into lower-cost labor markets with high unemployment in the United States. BuzzFeed News spoke to someone who worked in Tijuana, Mexico, an office of a US fundraising company. He requested that his identity be disclosed under a pseudonym to protect his identity. Rick, a 20-year-old Mexican national, said that for 10 hours a day, he logged into an automated call system that moved agents like himself through hundreds of calls in a row. He remembered trying to make money from people who didn’t have it, and even one person who was being treated in hospital for coronavirus. “It feels bad because I also have debts,” he said. Earlier this year, he resigned.
Here’s Rick’s story edited for clarity and length.
I was unemployed In 2020 because I recently moved here in Tijuana. I saw a job ad on Facebook, I had some friends who were working there and they said they were being recruited to serve clients and groups. Advertising makes it sound like it’s a customer service job because you need to get customer service experience. It wasn’t until I started training that they said we’d collect from people who were calling and trying to make the payments. And as we gained more experience, we were making calls to clients. I do not know.
I held back a bit because of that because they weren’t up front though. I’ve worked in call centers before, but for customer service, not groups. So it was scary for me. But I needed the job. So I did my best. We only had two weeks to learn everything in training. Since English is not a first language for some of us (my first is Spanish), we needed to learn new words like “postponement”, “balloon payment” and what is borrower and creditor. So it was fun and challenging at the same time.
I was going at 6 am and working 10 hours a day until 4 pm due to corona virus, we sat with two chairs separated from each other. We always had to wear face masks. There were about 90 agents on the team.
We have a system that always calls itself all day long. The account number will automatically appear on the screen, and we will be able to access the account. But the connection does not take more than 30 seconds, so we will have a minute or less to see their information and the amount they owe. We just have to go in and start the call without knowing much about the account history. Sometimes the system just hooks us up and people will actually say, “Hey? Hello?” I didn’t feel ready to take care of something so important with so little time to prepare. This is definitely something to improve because people are going through tough times.
Usually, the system makes more than 200 calls per day, vice versa. Most of them did not respond. I was talking to about 50 people a day. All clients were based in the United States. They were mostly personal loans and car loans. If I need to go to the restroom or if I need a break, I can put myself in a job to stop taking calls, even though the moderators didn’t quite like it.
We don’t really control how often we contact a customer. We don’t have a system that we know of. Sometimes a person receives 10 calls, and this is aggravated by this. Sometimes we get in touch with the same person in one day, and we have to pretend we don’t know them or apologize to them.
Once, my colleague called someone and she was really angry. She said she had received at least 20 calls that day and that she would not pay, and that she had expired. She was actually in the hospital. She said she had already lost her husband to COVID, and now she’s in the hospital with COVID getting oxygen and is in really bad shape. But in reality, someone else will probably try to call her two hours later, and the next, because, again, there’s not much we can do about the calls.
There are some benchmarks that we have to meet. But it wasn’t about how much money we raised. We obtained the Quality Assurance Agent rated “Customer Service”. They are trained to evaluate our calls. We had our scripts, and there were some scripts we needed to say word for word, literally. So they mostly rated our customer service accordingly; If you miss just one word, for example, you get a zero. I was doing a good job.
In our texts, you first go through the verification process. When it was time to collect, the consumer was explaining the situation, for example because of the corona virus or due to not working, they could not pay. We’ll have to try at least twice to get a boost. We could offer some deferment, for example, or maybe a payment plan. On a typical day, more than half of the people I spoke to couldn’t pay anything. Zero dollars.
It feels bad because I also have debt. I also have things to pay for. So trying to get them to pay wasn’t easy for me. Even without the pandemic, it’s hard to ask for money. But it’s an even bigger challenge when you know that everyone is going through something that has affected so many people. I felt a little guilty asking people for money – but at the same time, we had to keep going. We didn’t get involved trying to help [the consumer]; We were just there to collect it, which is something the moderators reminded us of throughout the entire experience.
My salary was about 3000 Mexican pesos [$150] In the week. We’re really close to San Diego, so we tend to rent quite a bit here. So, I mean, I can handle that. Nothing compared to someone who went to college. But honestly, I know that since it’s an American company, they might pay more.
The job was mostly to get people mad at you because you’re annoying them and trying to raise money. Because of my experience working in call centers since I was 17, I was 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 left a debt collection job in February. I’d like to do something else. I guess the reason I still work in a call center now is because I’m used to it. And they actually pay better than other jobs, because they’re American companies. ●