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Representing yourself legally

By wrinkledshirt in Culture
Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 07:15:03 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

I'm in a bit of a bind at the moment. I'm in the process of being sued by a collection agency for an amount so small (<$300) that it would probably cost less to pay it off than to get a lawyer and fight it, barring some pro bono miracle. I am considering fighting this myself, since at the moment I have more time than money. I've googled a fair bit on the topic of defending one's self in court but so far I have no idea which information is good and which is just noise, and pretty much everything I know about the law comes from watching those witty D.A.s put people behind bars on Law and Order.

So, I'm curious, what does someone do if they want to get justice without a lawyer? What things (subpoenas, requests for logs, launching a countersuit, etc.) can you do without a lawyer, and what things can't you do? Besides the different kinds of free legal aid, are there other good resources out there to help you defend yourself? Can anyone share any good stories about their own experiences defending themselves in court? Does the practice of defending yourself vary radically depending upon the country and province/state? What can you do if you're physically unable to represent yourself at a proceedings (out of the country, etc.)?


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Ever gone to court by yourself?
o No 59%
o Yes, and won 7%
o Yes, and got it dismissed 7%
o Yes, and lost 5%
o Yes, and the two parties compromised 2%
o No, we settled before it got that far 7%
o The gloves didn't fit so they had to acquit 10%

Votes: 138
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Display: Sort:
Representing yourself legally | 130 comments (119 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
Suggestion: Negotiate (4.25 / 8) (#1)
by iwnbap on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 02:38:49 AM EST

Depending on the validity of their claim, you might want to try calling them and asking if they'll accept some smaller sum.  They probably don't want to take you to court, since it will cost them a lot of time.  

Well back in my day.. (3.62 / 8) (#4)
by lonesmurf on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:16:50 AM EST

Collection agencies didn't bother with suing people.

They took fingers and broke knees.

Ah, the good old days..


I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.

Small claims court? (4.63 / 11) (#5)
by Wateshay on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:24:11 AM EST

Well, if it's in small claims court (which it probably is if it's < $300 -- at least if you're in the U.S.) then representing yourself should be much easier. Small claims court is set up to be much less formal, and much more conducive to people representing themselves. I've done it myself once (I was the plaintiff rather than the defendent, but still similar). Of course, it might have been a more difficult situation if the defendant had bothered to show up for the trial.

"If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for everyone else."

Do nothing. (4.33 / 6) (#6)
by the77x42 on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 04:41:01 AM EST

They probably are making empty threats. Suing for less than $300 is not a viable scenario for a collection agency.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Let's say I'm the collection agency (4.40 / 5) (#14)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:41:56 AM EST

Or their low-rent scumball lawyer. They hand me about a hundred cases, all of whom (allegedly) owe somewhere under $1000. I use my handy-dandy word processor to mass mail demand letters, and then to generate the various lawsuit papers. Court costs and fees get rolled into the amount owed. I file all of these suits locally. They are all scheduled for the same day. It's a batch processing thing. I show up in court. If you don't, I win. Once I win, I record the judgement with the county you live in. This shows up on your credit reports as well. At some point in the future if you try to buy or sell your house, you'll need to pay me to clear the judgement. To get any sort of loan you'll either need to satisfy the judgement or the lender will just absolutely buttfuck you on the interest rate.

So your advice makes sense if you never intend on having a life.

[ Parent ]

not so easy... (4.33 / 3) (#18)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 12:12:56 PM EST

If you sue someone, they have to be served - personally.

So, if they can't find the person, a judgement won't be entered on their behalf, the case will be not be sheduled.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

True enough (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 12:56:00 PM EST

Back in the day, the county sheriff would attempt service for about 11 bucks or so. Gotta be more than that now, of course, but those fees just get folded into the lawsuit. Generally, the deputy would visit the target house at least twice at different times of the day. Figure on about a 75% hit rate on those first two attempts. If that fails, then yeah, you have to go do your own legwork. This assumes that the debtor hasn't just skipped out ... skip tracing is an art form in itself.

There are collections firms that specialize in this kind of thing. For them it's a numbers game. They'll work the percentages, knowing that a lot of these accounts never get paid. At that point, the firm that is actually owed the money has basically sold the paper to the collection firm for pennies on the dollar.

If you drop out of sight, cancel your credit cards, use a friend's address or a P.O. Box for your mail ... they probably won't spend the time to track you down (not for $300). They'll put a black mark on your credit report and hope that eventually you'll want to clear that up.

[ Parent ]

since you know what you're talking about... (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 01:09:59 PM EST

how much creedence do you give to this comment?

I have an old student loan fiasco I'd like to clear up I think... paying 20% would sound good to me!

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

I rated it a five (5.00 / 3) (#23)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 01:50:16 PM EST

Although it depends on the situation. Be prepared to negotiate. If they think they can get more from you, they'll do it. Like if you're a doctor. I would present it like: "Here's all that I can afford. I'm a computer software professional^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hunemployable loafer with limited future earnings prospects, but I'd really like to get rid of this one way or the other. My only other alternative is bankruptcy, in which case you get bupkiss." So basically it would be "found money" for the collection agency ... they've all but written you off and then along comes an opportunity to make some money and clean up an old backlogged item. They won't reject it out of hand, but will almost certainly want more than 20%.

If you've, err, skipped out on this debt and they just don't know where to find you, they will use all the contact info you provide them to track you down. If there's a return address on that envelope, don't be surprised if suddenly a process server shows up at the door. If you have a contact phone number, there are books that cross reference phone numbers to street addresses. Be careful what personal info you offer them until you have a deal in writing ... in the back of their minds, they'll be wondering if it makes more sense to sue you for the full amount (plus interest, fees, etc.) now that you've come forward.

You'd definitely want to make it clear that whatever is agreed on is full and final payment, satisfaction of all debt, clearing up any related credit reports, yadda, yadda. Everything in writing.

Or you can file for bankruptcy and wait 7 years. And then they get bupkiss.

Of course, since my head is so far up my ass as to be able to see out my eyes, none of this is to be taken as legal advice. :)

[ Parent ]

Ok thanks... (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 02:10:24 PM EST

I've been considering paying it all off for a while... it's been a few years where I've been all over the map employement wise, and it would be nice now that I'm getting established to pay this crap off. Not to mention my credit sucks ass.

Stupid thing is... this is the only loan that I've ever had be an issue to me... silly I guess, but that's what happens when you're young.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

who cares about it (2.50 / 2) (#36)
by the77x42 on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:48:52 PM EST

your credit report is only valid for 7 years, after which the report entries get wiped off.

if you are concerned about that, tell them that you can only pay them %20 of the loan or else you will have to file bankruptcy and they will get nothing.

but hey, if the loan happened when you were young, chances are 7 years has already gone by. (is that a burn?)

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]

Careful here ... (5.00 / 2) (#67)
by Bill Melater on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 11:32:44 AM EST

In the US, a bankruptcy filing stays on your credit report for 7 years, after which (AFAIK) you start with a clean slate. You have to declare bankruptcy though. If you have a debt and don't resolve it in one way or another it will just fester on and on.

Friend of mine thought his school loans would just disappear by the time he hit thirty if he just threw the statements away. He was unpleasantly surprised. And then he had to pay, plus interest/penalties/etc.

If you're gonna game the system, be sure you do it right.

[ Parent ]

funny thing is... (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 12:04:46 PM EST

after a little reading, I've found out that here in Canada, Student Loans won't even be written off if you declare bankruptcy unless they're more than ten years old... so it's not even an option for me...

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Bankruptcy won't remove studant loans in the US (5.00 / 1) (#116)
by samiam on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 04:11:08 AM EST

Studant loans, back taxes, and a couple other things are explicitly listed as not being protected from collection after declaring bankruptcy.

In fact, colleges have the right to garnish tax returns to get old bills paid off.

- Sam

[ Parent ]

Do you know? (none / 0) (#120)
by Bill Melater on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 11:59:29 AM EST

Is that only for Federally-insured loans or for any educational loan?

[ Parent ]
That's for federally-backed loans (5.00 / 1) (#124)
by nstenz on Tue Jun 17, 2003 at 02:47:44 PM EST

such as Stafford loans and whatnot.

[ Parent ]
another sneaky way (4.33 / 3) (#38)
by the77x42 on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:53:56 PM EST

send them a check for 15-20% of the loan and in the memo write "P.I.F.--no recourse". (PIF = paid in full).

"No recourse" means that the creditor can take no further actions against you for any disputed amount. The check becomes, in legal terms, an offer to settle the account. Cashing the check is an acceptance of that offer. Since offer and acceptance equals contract, if the creditor cashes your check, the matter has been settled in the amount you decided. You legally owe nothing more.

- http://www.uslaw.com/library/article/straussdandb2options.html

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]

that's american (3.00 / 1) (#43)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 04:49:54 PM EST

so it may not be legally valid here in Canada.

It sounds like it's worth a try though, I'll see what my credit report actually looks like first, but I want to write them a letter as well, to get their negative remarks off of it, if possible.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

You know... (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by Elkor on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:30:59 PM EST

Considering the number of places that probably just rubber stamp checks and have some menial droid entering them into the computer and then depositing them, I wonder how many different debt companies that would work for.

Of course, you might have to go to court over it, and you should make the amount "reasonable." You couldn't pay $100 on a $30,000 loan and expect any court to buy that it was a valid PIF.

But if you owed a $1000 and you send them $400... I wonder if you could get away with it.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Bad idea (none / 0) (#61)
by sigwinch on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 03:32:39 AM EST

I vaguely remember that the Uniform Commercial Code doesn't allow that approach in many jurisdictions. It'd suck for the collection agency to pop across a state line, sign the check, then pop back and stick you with a loss.

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

I don't recall the exact text (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by Bill Melater on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 11:21:44 AM EST

But if the sender had put any sort of "paid in full", "final payment", restrictions on the check, we had a standard bit of legal boilerplate that we'd write on the back of the check prior to depositing it. In English it said something like "We're depositing this check but we don't necessarily agree with whatever this guy wrote on the front". The people opening the day's mail were instructed to watch for this kind of thing.

Not sure how this would actually hold up in court.

[ Parent ]

Read the fine print first (5.00 / 1) (#96)
by protogeek on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 10:15:25 AM EST

send them a check for 15-20% of the loan and in the memo write "P.I.F.--no recourse". (PIF = paid in full).

Many credit card companies now include in their terms that they can accept checks marked "paid in full" without losing their rights to go after you for the rest of the owed amount. I wouldn't be surprised if this is common with other kinds of credit/debt, too. Whether such terms would hold up in court, I don't know, but you might want to check on it before trying this approach.

[ Parent ]

Not a lawyer but here's a question (4.00 / 2) (#44)
by CENGEL3 on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 05:05:09 PM EST

Wouldn't the collection agency have to file suit in either the debtors or debtee's jurisdiction rather then their local jurisdiction since they weren't an actual party to the contract?

Secondly, if the collection agency did file suit in their local jurisdiction couldn't the defendent countersue for legal/travel expenses and loss of work?

If legal/travel expenses aren't applicable to be awarded what would stop him from pulling the same stunt in reverse to the scumbag lawyer? File a suit in small claims court in his locality for harrasment (damage to reputation, etc)... even if he couldn't win, the lawyer would still have to travel to his location to defend himself.

Better yet, send a registered letter to the collection agency asking them to direct all future contact with you to your "legal adviser" (doesn't have to be a lawyer). If they contact you directly after the date they recieve the letter (even 1 day later) then they've violated the law themselves and you have a clear harrasment case against them.

If thier like most companies they are going to take at least a week to process the letter...and thier collectors will probably contact you in the meantime.

Of course, all this assumes that the debt isn't valid. If it is valid you are generaly better off paying it.

In the case of the person who wrote the article it sounds like he would be better off filing a suit in his local jurisdiction against the origional company....since it sounds like they debited his account without permission. This would create an existing case in his local jurisdiction ...if the collection agency filed a subsequent case against him on the same issue the 2 courts would have to work out who had jurisdiction.

I suppose you could even have officers from the collection agency and the origional company served with subpenas forcing them to lose a work day to appear in court.

Of course, I could just be talking out of my arse here..... but that sleaze you just described really got under my skin.... there has to be some sort of counter to it.

[ Parent ]

What if we all simultaneously sue Bill Gates? (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 05:57:34 PM EST

Most contracts have a clause as to the location of any litigation. I think if there isn't an agreement, the venue would be in whatever place the original transaction took place. Any collection action would pretty much have to take place there.

Given a prior agreement about venue, I don't think countersuing for expenses would hold water.

I suppose anyone can sue anyone else anywhere for just about any reason. Not sure what precisely keeps people from being forced to travel around the country at their own expense to defend themselves against wave after wave of bogus, harassing lawsuits. The bar probably has codes of conduct against that kind of behavior. Not sure if an individual (or group of people) couldn't simply sue, say Bill Gates for some imaginary small claims thing and subpeona him to appear all over the country. Maybe we have a lawyer around who could tell us. My guess would be that you could probably contact the court after receiving a subpeona and convince them that your testimony wouldn't be relevant. I'm pretty sure if you sue Microsoft over something in small claims court and subpeona Bill G, he won't actually be making an appearance.

All the work I was involved in was commercial stuff, basically small business equipment. Our interaction with personal credit was limited to cases where a principal had individually guaranteed payment on the account. Consumer harrassment rules didn't apply to us, although we never really tried to call people at 3 in the morning or anything. I've heard that rules are way different for consumer credit/collections.

[ Parent ]

Countersuits (4.50 / 2) (#49)
by ZorbaTHut on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:10:48 PM EST

I suppose anyone can sue anyone else anywhere for just about any reason. Not sure what precisely keeps people from being forced to travel around the country at their own expense to defend themselves against wave after wave of bogus, harassing lawsuits


<sue-happy american> Zorba, I'm sueing you because I'm scared of the letter R, and I keep seeing your name on kuro5hin, and it's giving me nightmares!
<judge> Upon observation of the fact that "kuro5hin" has an R in it also, I'm throwing this case out. Zorba, you have something you want to say?
<me> Yeah. I'm countersuing you for harassment, loss of work, and travel expenses.
<sue-happy american> Ah shit. I hate it when this happens.

And I'd probably win too :P

(Well . . . maybe.)

I think it's the difference between suing over a contract with a prior agreement over venue and some random crazy guy demanding that you give him money - if you've agreed "yes, we'll work it out in this location" then you're stuck with it, if it's somebody making demands on you, you're not.

[ Parent ]

Actually, he probably wouldn't show on purpose.... (4.00 / 2) (#51)
by Elkor on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:35:28 PM EST

And when the judgement was entered against him, he would appeal.

Apparently lawyers are allowed in appeals court. And the appeal can include legal expenses.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
I know what I'm talking about - venue (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by rigorist on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 06:44:04 PM EST

IA_AL and I sue debt collectors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The FDCPA has a venue requirement.  A consumer debtor may only be sued in the judicial district where the debtor resides or where the written contract for the debt was signed.  Fox v. Citicorp.

[ Parent ]

Internet (none / 0) (#121)
by ckaminski on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 04:54:12 PM EST

So how does this work with binding internet agreements?  Or are there such things yet?

[ Parent ]
The author's case (5.00 / 8) (#7)
by wrinkledshirt on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 07:12:52 AM EST

In case you're wondering about my scenario, I have a collection agency getting on my case about overdue payments on an account I went to a branch of the company (that the collection agency is representing) to cancel in person months earlier. Because they lack certain paperwork, they are saying that the account was still technically open, and that I am required to pay. I'm in a different country so I can't check my own paperwork to find out if the proper form was signed, but even if I don't have that form I still feel annoyed because I went in there in person prepared to do whatever it took to cancel the account, so (IMO anyway) the responsibility lies with them because it was their employee's screw up for having told me that the necessary steps to cancel the account were done, when in fact they weren't. If they have archives of security camera footage then they'd know that I was in there to cancel when I've been saying I was, but they might not have it.

I'm also considering a countersuit to recover all funds incorrectly debited from the account since the date of the cancellation. I wasn't all that vigilant with my bank statements and hadn't noticed that they were continuing to deduct even after I went in to cancel. The amounts were so minimal that they looked like any other debited casual purchase, so that was my fault in not noticing it earlier. Now, I've offered a settlement that takes that mistake of mine into account (I disregard what they continued to debit and pay 2 months of fees, which realistically represents the amount of money that would have been involved if I was still in the country), but if they're going to be unreasonable and seek the full amount they think I owe, I'd like to countersue to get back the money I'm owed.

I left my personal sitch out of the article because I thought the topic would be better if left generic. My situation is related to a particular province in Canada but I didn't want it to be limited to that province, or Canadian law in general.

Let me guess (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:25:12 AM EST

Is that a cell phone account? I see you're trying to keep this as general as possible, but to be of any use, the court of K5 opinion needs details.

I'm not sure how Canadian courts work, but in the US I wouldn't bother counter-suing. Keep it simple. Just document all the money they deducted from your account and bring that to the hearing and make sure the judge gets a look at it.

And make sure you show up at the hearing. In my experience, if you don't bother showing up, the other side pretty much wins by default. If you're out of the country, call in to the clerk of the court and explain your situation. They'll reschedule if you have a good reason.

Look at your original contract and account paperwork. Does it specify how cancellation is to be done? Does it say it has to be in writing? Do you have any of your own records that show that you've cancelled the account? Maybe even just a handwritten note on an invoice saying "Account cancelled"? Did you close the one account and open a new one across town?

[ Parent ]

Um... (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 12:10:43 PM EST

How about not "keeping it so general" and putting some more fricken information in the article...because as it stands, I'm voting -1.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Get it in writing (5.00 / 2) (#29)
by FattMattP on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:06:06 PM EST

I have a collection agency getting on my case about overdue payments on an account I went to a branch of the company (that the collection agency is representing) to cancel in person months earlier
When they closed the account, did you ask for written and signed confirmation on their letter head stating that the account was closed? _Always_ get it in writing. In this situation words are meaningless unless they are written down.

[ Parent ]
Oh, I don't know (4.50 / 2) (#92)
by coljac on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 02:29:37 AM EST

When you cancel your account with the gym, or blockbuster, or the cable company, do you really insist on a letter? I wouldn't. Who has time for those hassles?

Whether or not life is discovered there I think Jupiter should be declared an enemy planet. - Jack Handey
[ Parent ]

Yes, I do. (nt) (none / 0) (#130)
by FattMattP on Mon Nov 17, 2003 at 11:42:57 AM EST

[ Parent ]
That's my problem (4.00 / 1) (#109)
by wrinkledshirt on Thu Jun 12, 2003 at 09:50:41 AM EST

I honestly can't remember if I signed anything (plus, I'm out of the country right now so I don't have access to my personal papers), but I do remember that I gave them my information (name and membership number on the card) and the counterperson said it was taken care of. My bad on that, and I guess what I'm hoping is that I can build a convincing case around the circumstances surrounding my cancellation, which are documented.

Eg: I have is my employment record for the company that I was working at close to the branch of the company I was a member of, as well as a record of the fact that I didn't live anywhere near there, which would explain why I wanted to cancel. Also, they kept track of membership usage electronically, so they would be able to see that I hadn't made use of their facilities since the time that I stopped working close by. There may or may not be security cameras on the front desk, but if there are and they archive the footage, my face will show up as having been in there physically to cancel.

At this point I'm beyond trying to convince them, and hoping that I can convince a judge that I went in there to cancel and that this whole thing is the result of a clerical error.

[ Parent ]

it is worth fighting for to make a sequel on K5 (5.00 / 2) (#78)
by sye on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 03:16:02 PM EST

i'll vote for a countersuit if you have too much time at hand

commentary - For a better sye@K5
ripple me ~~> ~allthingsgo: gateway to Garden of Perfect Brightess in CNY/BTC/LTC/DRK
rubbing u ~~> ~procrasti: getaway to HE'LL
Hey! at least he was in a stable relationship. - procrasti
enter K5 via Blastar.in
[ Parent ]

This 'n that (none / 0) (#83)
by rigorist on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 06:49:56 PM EST

Last time I checked, Canada had no federal law regulating debt collectors.  It is done province by province.  Check the province where you are being sued (although it is not clear you are actually being sued).

Are you being sued?  Have you been served?  If you are out of the country, you must be served pursuant to the Hague Convention.  Have they done so?

Your defense to the claim seems to be you paid and closed the account, but the creditor held the account open and charged you after cancellation and used ACH transfers to extract payments.  Sounds like a good defense to me.

[ Parent ]

Aha! Another victim of the Time-Life record club! (none / 0) (#93)
by coljac on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 02:30:41 AM EST

Or was it one of those book clubs? They keep sending you the damn selection of the month.

Whether or not life is discovered there I think Jupiter should be declared an enemy planet. - Jack Handey
[ Parent ]

Like those before me said (4.42 / 7) (#8)
by silicondecay on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 07:44:35 AM EST

Depends on who you owe money too. Most companies, I.E. Visa and Mastercards will either drop what you owe them all together, or will make a deal with you. The only company that I have seen be a real stickler (read DICK) is SEARS.

I used to work for them. They have the highest APR, no matter what you credit rating. They will take you to court over a dollar.

"You can't make a crabby patty until you understand P.O.O.P" SpongeBob SquarePants

From my experience (4.66 / 3) (#9)
by halo64 on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 09:34:42 AM EST

Don't try it unless you can prove your case without a doubt or it will be heard in a small claims court. If you can't, just pay the money and be done with it.

I've done it several times for various things and the court just looks at you as a guy without a lawyer and courts don't like smart people. In most of my cases it would have been easier and cheaper to just pay the initial amount rather than fighting it.

/* begin sig here
I don't have one because I'm lame
finish sig here */

Ignore them (4.25 / 4) (#10)
by Blah Blah on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 09:51:55 AM EST

No collection agency is going to take you to court for an amount that small.

Then again, the sum is so small that you might as well pay it and keep your nose clean. Why make such a fuss over it? ... unless they're in the wrong and you want to make a point. Is that it?


No, don't ignore it (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:28:37 AM EST

They'll ding your credit report. Doesn't cost much and it can suck even more than having a judgement against you.

Ignoring it is about the worst thing you can do. Pay it, fight it, work it out somehow.

[ Parent ]

Dispute (none / 0) (#31)
by dipierro on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:19:56 PM EST

Can't you dispute it with your credit reporting agencies, and then force them to remove it until they have a court order?

It's unclear here whether this person is actually being sued by the collection agency, or merely harassed.

Ignoring a court summons is most certainly a bad idea. Ignoring a mere notice that you owe something may or may not be.

[ Parent ]
Disputing credit reports is tough (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:43:15 PM EST

It really isn't clear whether the author actually owes the money or not. If he does, and there's a signed contract, and he's in violation of it and just doesn't want to pay ... well, then there's not a lot to dispute. I believe you need a strong case to convince them to remove the bad rating.

From what I remember, the credit agency typically would let you add your own accounting of the case to a disputed record, but they wouldn't remove the bad rating. So we'd see a couple of late payments recorded on someone's report and underneath it would be a little song and dance where they explained that the bills were being sent to the wrong address or whatever. Still visible to anyone who cared to check. This may differ from agency to agency, and may well be different today.

It's a lot easier to talk with the collectors before they file a credit report. Speaking from experience, account collectors are a bitter, disillusioned lot. All day, every day, people lie to them. The checks in the mail. I never got the invoice. Dave's not here. Lying motherfuckers. Collectors don't trust their own mothers. It's a nasty, soul-deadening job that I am soooooo glad to be away from.

All of which means that if you lie to me, I freakin' hate you and will cut you no slack whatsoever. OTOH, if you return my calls, let me know where you stand, what the chances are of me getting paid sometime in the near future, keep me informed and don't lie to me, I'll be much more reasonable. Most people, for whatever reason, don't do that when a bill collector's on the phone.

[ Parent ]

I guess it all depends... (none / 0) (#37)
by dipierro on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:50:58 PM EST

I've certainly ignored letters purporting to be from collection agencies before, and my credit record is (and always has been) flawless. I've also paid some bills even when I had a legitimate (though arguable) dispute. It really depends on the specific situation. I made a post in reply to the article asking a whole lot of questions, so I won't repeat them here.

[ Parent ]
Back in the day (none / 0) (#39)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 04:00:50 PM EST

We'd only file on someone if they were really asking for it. Some companies are more automated, if you go 10 days late on them they file as SOP. You had to push us into the 90+ days late category before we'd bother.

[ Parent ]
off topic, but... (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by dipierro on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 12:18:53 AM EST

We'd only file on someone if they were really asking for it. Some companies are more automated, if you go 10 days late on them they file as SOP.

I thought you had to be 30 days late before you could be reported. That's certainly how the credit reports I've read worked. There is a category for 30 days late, 60, and 90+.

Of course, maybe you're talking about collections, which is a different story altogether, I guess.

[ Parent ]
You're right (none / 0) (#58)
by Bill Melater on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 12:57:17 AM EST

I'm not sure where I got 10 days from.

[ Parent ]
Sweet Jesus! (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by Tatarigami on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:49:16 PM EST

Don't ignore it!

Maybe things are different in your neck of the woods, but in this country, debt collectors are legally entitled to break into your home, or work premises registered to you and take stuff that you or any other residents own to sell in order to cover the debt and recovery expenses.

Which is another good reason for checking your flatmates' credit histories...

[ Parent ]

what country are you in? (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by illuzion on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 01:05:47 AM EST

I'd be interested to know. I don't know anything at all about debt colelctin here in Australia or in any othrr country for that matter. It's just that what you said surprised me; I always thought that sort of thing was something that happened in movies only.

[ Parent ]
What country? (3.50 / 2) (#63)
by IEFBR14 on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 08:49:58 AM EST

Judging by his email address & URL, he's in that little country to the right of yours.

[ Parent ]
Even the police are not that dumb (3.50 / 2) (#60)
by dzimmerm on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:15:09 AM EST

Where I live, U.S.A., the police do not enter a home uninvtied because too many of them got their heads blown off by residents defending their life in their own home.


[ Parent ]

BS (none / 0) (#89)
by ghjm on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 12:11:54 AM EST

In the USA the police enter people's homes uninvited every day of the week. Yes, many people are armed and willing to shoot first - which just means that the cops are better armed and their procedures are far more aggressive.

They have to have a warrant, which is easy to get, or probable cause, which is easy to argue after the fact. If they have a reason to want to enter your home, they basically will.

However, debt collectors are not allowed to take your stuff unless they have a contract that states otherwise, e.g. "security" on a loan. And then they can only take the specifically named property.


[ Parent ]

Sweet Jesus indeed! (5.00 / 3) (#69)
by Blah Blah on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 12:41:54 PM EST

Here in Canada, nothing even remotely resembling what you describe is allowed. They have to jump through all kinds of legal paperwork and get a court order to do so much as garnish your wages.

Remind me never to move to New Zealand!

(Then again, it wouldn't matter to me personally because I always pay my debts.)

[ Parent ]

woah. (none / 0) (#75)
by Work on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:10:05 PM EST

any debt collectors? That's nuts. Landlords can do that here for lesees who owe them money (the 'landlord's lien' i think is the term), but not any ole debt collector.

[ Parent ]
Other residents? (none / 0) (#103)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 05:26:52 PM EST

Surly you must be mistakin'. It's the first time I've ever heard of that. Excactly how can our legal system justify taking someone elses property to pay for a persons debt? I don't buy it.

[ Parent ]
Long long ago (5.00 / 15) (#11)
by Bill Melater on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:03:59 AM EST

I used to work on the other side. I worked for the collection department of a finance company, and have sat through quite a few small claims hearings. The dollar value for small claims actions is about 2500. IANAL, but I have sued the crap out of a lot of people who were in violation of their contracts.

Small claims, in my experience, is a pretty common sense type place. The judge interviews both parties and tries to figure out who screwed who. With the right judge it can be a lot of fun to watch. The judge may try and push both parties into settling prior to rendering a verdict. This amounts to sending them out into the hallway to talk it over.

Basically, your legal position boils down to "Do You Owe Them the Money?". Since you haven't provided any details, it's tough to say how you'd do.

Most people in small claims are representing themselves. That's the whole point of it, particularly when it's two individuals. If a corporation is one of the parties, they might have a lawyer, but usually small claims judges are pretty easy going and aren't going to let some shiny-suited slickster lawyer steamroller you. On the contrary, from what I've seen, the judge will cut you a lot of slack because you aren't a lawyer, but at the same time hold the lawyer to a higher standard. It's okay if your paperwork is incomplete or not quite right. If a lawyer's paperwork is not up to par they usually catch a bunch of crap from the judge.

You can subpeona people if you need to. The clerks at the small claims desk of your local county courthouse are usually pretty helpful ... see if they've got a handy brochure explaining how it all works. I think you'd need a lawyer to counter-sue. What exactly would you counter-sue for?

Keep in mind, the judge is simply trying to get the facts. Just present them as simply as possible, stay away from obtuse legal jargon, if you're going up against a large corporation try as much as possible to portray yourself as a victim of a large, disorganized, thoughtless machine.

So, do you owe them the money? Did you sign a contract?

If you owe the money (4.25 / 4) (#16)
by n8f8 on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 10:48:14 AM EST

Then pay it.

IANAL, but I've spent a few days sitting in a court room. Judges tend to be fair. If you owe the money then pay it.

Can't pay it all at once? Start paying it ininstallments. I assume the collection agency owns the debt now. If so, start sending small payments to them.

If they keep harassing you, especially if their harassment is causing you medical problems or emploment problems:

After sending them a few payments give them a call and tell them you are paying them as fast as you can. Record the call (be sure to informen them you are taping if reqd by your state). Tell them their harassment is causing you emploment problems and/or medical problems.

If they still harass you after the taped call then contact a lawyer with certified mail reciepts of attempoted payments and the taped call. You may want to consult with a clinic physician about mental and/or difficulties and/or get a statment from your co-workers if you lose employment over the harassment.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

a letter should be enough. (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by Work on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:06:19 PM EST

they're required by law (at least here in texas) to stop calling you if you send them a certified letter requesting it.

[ Parent ]
I've done this in small claims court (4.80 / 5) (#19)
by pyramid termite on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 12:24:27 PM EST

Basically a landlord was suing me for damages caused to a carpet that was old and threadbare, which we had been told by the first apartment manager would be replaced when we left. Two years later we did and the new management sued us over damages. I wrote up an account in plain English of what happened. At the first hearing in small claims court, the magistrate, I feel, stretched the law a bit, as we were prepared with our side of the case and the lawyer didn't have any documentation with him - it's funny how our service papers required us to be ready with our documentation but he didn't have to be ready with his. (He'd probably expected to be there by himself.) At the second hearing we both presented our case and I pointed out to the judge that the maintenance records pertaining to the date of carpet installation had been erased and changed. Unfortunately, I did not have the prior manager's testimony, as I had no idea where she'd gone, and there wasn't any way I could PROVE he'd tampered with the records with intent to defraud. She ended up granting him a partial judgement, knocking off about 150 bucks from the 400 plus he had asked for.

Was justice done? I don't think so - judging from the disgust on the magistrate's face as she looked at the apartment lawyer I don't think she really liked the outcome either, but had to rule according to the facts and law she had. Was it worth it? It saved me 150 bucks, so yes.

By the way, as part of the small claims process in Michigan, you waive your right to an appeal, so that was that.

In short, in certain civil situations dealing with small claims, it is definitely in your interest to present a well prepared and logical case in court. It can't hurt and can help.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
You can try to settle (4.80 / 5) (#20)
by naomi385 on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 12:51:46 PM EST

Once the lender has turned a debt over to a collection agency (from what I understand) they have lost most of what is owed to them, since the collection agency only pays the lender a small percentage of the debt for "ownership" of the debt. Once the collection agency makes this agreement with the lender, the agent can attempt to collect on this debt, but will usually settle for a fraction of the amount. So, call the agent and ask what it will take to settle. Offer them 15-20% of the debt amount.

Propaganda. Questionable Intelligence. The Visitations.

write-in vote (1.00 / 4) (#24)
by Judas Iscariot on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 02:07:11 PM EST

Yes, and I'm on death-row.

hehe -- yaur faunny - lol [nt] (1.00 / 1) (#54)
by wiremind on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 11:01:01 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Small Claims Court (4.83 / 6) (#26)
by graal on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 02:22:14 PM EST

Your best bet would be to go down there and watch a dozen or so cases to get a feel for what's likely to work and what isn't as far as a defense. Written documentation will usually make or break a case, since the cases tend to be heard and decided in around 15-20 minutes.

And it's never as funny as Night Court.

For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)

sure it is (4.00 / 3) (#27)
by eht on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 02:56:51 PM EST

I was in court for a minor traffic matter, watching some of the other cases was hilarious, one woman was shop lifting from walmart and she even had made a spcial coat for it (inner pockets for dvds and such), another was a couple of kids that broke the window of a liquor store in front of a cop.

[ Parent ]
heh... (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:10:57 PM EST

I actually used to write parking tickets in Toronto, Canada.

I went to court often because there are always doorknobs out there that think they know the law better that the magistrate does...

Once, the trial before mine was for a guy who had been driving drunk. The Crown had a tape of the damn guy falling all over the place in the cop shop - pretty funny stuff. It got even more hilarious though when the guy's lawyer tried to insist he was sober the whole time, and "just nervous". I don't know how the judge did it, because I would have told him to pay double for trying to make such a stupid argument, but she kept a straight face the entire time...

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

I used to do that (none / 0) (#114)
by samiam on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 03:59:39 AM EST

I have been to court three times. The first two times was to contest parking tickets; the community college I went to at the time was nortorious for writing parking tickets. Both times, my parking permit was clearly visible and I still got a ticket.

The first time I went to court, the judge was very entertaining. At one point, a boy starts to cry. The judge stopped the proceedings, looks at the boy's mother, and says. "What is the boy's name?" The mother replies "Johnny". The judge looks at the boy and says "Be quiet Johnny, or your mother will get in trouble". The boy did not make a peep again. I explained what happened, and the judge dismissed the ticket. I was not the only one contesting a ticket from that college on that day; all of the contested tickets were dismissed.

I also once went to small claims court to get a deposit a landlord was refusing to give me back; I lost that case, alas. To this day, I do not trust a landlord which asks for a large deposit, or asks for anything besides first and last month's rent to rent a room.

- Sam

[ Parent ]

settle with the collection agency. (5.00 / 5) (#28)
by Suppafly on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 03:04:06 PM EST

Basically the collection agency bought your debt from whomever you originally owed the money to. The collection agency probably paid 50% or something of the total debt. That way the original person you owed money to got some money back and the collection agency got the right to make the extra money by doing the dirty work and collecting from you.

Just call the collection agency and ask what they minimum is that they will settle the debt for, generally as long as they make some money they don't really care about enforcing the whole amount since its easier to just solve it over the phone than to hunt you down and take you to court.

Playstation Sucks.
Negotiation (none / 0) (#117)
by Paul Johnson on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 06:28:02 AM EST

Just call the collection agency and ask what they minimum is that they will settle the debt for

And get a lie.

By all means negotiate, but bear in mind that they will be negotiating too. Rule 1 in negotiation is to start with an opening offer some distance from what you will accept and then not budge an inch unless you get something in return.

Most negotiation is about exploring options, so you make statements of the form "If you want better X from me, can you give me something on Y". Both sides try different combinations of X and Y, and eventually discover a settlement point they can both accept.

In this case they want to maximise money and minimise time and hassle. You want to minimise hassle, risk of legal action, credit blacking and money.

So you say something like "I haven't got that much money now, but I could pay it off at $10/month". They will say "No way. Its got to be at least $100/month". You say "If I pay $50 now and $50 next month, could you accept that as full and final payment, and note full payment with the credit agencies". And so on. Early on, make it plain that a bad credit record is your biggest worry (as it should be), but since you can't pay the full amount now you don't see the point of paying anything unless it gets rid of the credit blacklist problem.

You will need the nerve to call their bluff on legal action. I don't know the law where you are, but over here a settlement against you means you pay their legal costs unless its in the Small Claims Court, in which case they can only claim a small court filing cost. Find out the law where you are.

You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

You're not a fool. (4.40 / 5) (#40)
by The Devil on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 04:25:03 PM EST

You know what they say about the guy who has himself as a lawyer...

Here's what I would do. Ask the collection agency if they want to cut you a deal if you pay upfront right away in cash. See what kind of bargain you can get.

I was in collections a while back and they shaved 40% of the ammount off if I paid in full cash within  72 hours. I went for it and came out on top, plus my name isn't mud anymore. If you do this, they will absolve you from credit history or put a note up saying you came good on it.

So for $300 you should only have to pay about $180, or you might talk them down to a hundred bucks. These credit agencies make loads of money anyway because they only assume a small fraction of the debt to begin with, usually only 20% of the total ammount. Try to work magic and be charismatic to them. Call them by name, and be polite and always look to resolve it. If you do this, you'll get off with a great deal and no court, no bad credit!

If you find they won't do this, ask for the manager and say you want to come good for it but you want a better deal because the reason it went into collections is that you were unsatisfied with the original service in the first place and you decided not to pay in protest. Assure them if they agree to lowering the rate, you'll pay, and then make sure you come good on it.

Don't settle; some good pro se legal links (4.88 / 9) (#42)
by Jonathan Walther on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 04:32:24 PM EST

Check out the website of Mark Perkel, a pro se litigant who has taken his various cases all the way up to the Supreme Court.  His website.

Read the Weidner Method, about doing things pro se and winning.

Pro se, in terms of the law, means you are representing yourself.  So a pro se litigant is someone who is his own lawyer.

Mark Perkel goes into the pros and cons of doing things pro se very well.

Finally, if you are in Washington state, I can hook you up with a paralegal who is very good; he won't charge you to describe your case, and he will tell you with 98% accuracy if you can win it or not.  He bills $20/hour for actual work done, such as writing up papers, filing papers, and the like.

Email me if you'd like more information.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

winning? (none / 0) (#94)
by ceejayoz on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 03:53:52 AM EST

Read the Weidner Method, about doing things pro se and winning. If the Weidner Method is "winning", then I'd like to lose. Did you actually read the guy's site? He's been chucked in jail every time he's been to court! He's a conspiracy nut, too - thinks every judge is in on the "New World Order" etc.

[ Parent ]
Settle. (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by Kasreyn on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 07:06:47 PM EST

Even if you feel it's a screw job, settle. Credit & collections agencies can ruin your future if you piss them off (like taking them to court, which costs them money), by putting a big, slimy black stain on your credit report. This is just 300. Make a payment plan, if you're having hard times, tell them so. In their view, getting SOMEthing is better than getting nothing. Taking them to court will only get them mad and sadly, they have the power to fuck you over if they want. I've been through it before.

Here's hoping it works out well. Good luck!


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Credit reports (none / 0) (#64)
by squigly on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 09:07:59 AM EST

How much information do these have?  I'd assume that a single mark against your name wouldn't be a problem, as long as there were a lot of positive scores.  

Does a large debt count for more points than a small one?

[ Parent ]

credit reports (5.00 / 2) (#65)
by dipierro on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 10:48:07 AM EST

How much information do these have?

These credit card companies? Here's a sample credit report. You can get a copy of yours online once a year for free from this company. The other two require you to send them a written request for the freebie.

You probably should be doing this. Just a little bit of education about what goes into your credit report can go a long way. For one thing, you'll be better able to judge who's bluffing about ruining your life, and who isn't.

I'd assume that a single mark against your name wouldn't be a problem, as long as there were a lot of positive scores.

Depends on what you're using your credit for. If you just want a credit card, then a single mark probably isn't going to kill you, just put you into a higher interest rate card.

If you're trying to get a house, on the other hand, chances are you will not get the house until your outstanding debts are satisfied. Satisfied doesn't necessarily mean that you've paid for it, but that's by far the easiest way.

[ Parent ]
don't be so sure. (4.66 / 3) (#70)
by Work on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:02:00 PM EST

any blemishes WILL cause you problems getting sizeable loans.

At the very least, you'll probably be forced to higher payments or some other deal thats less than favorable to you.

$300 isn't worth the trouble. Pay it off. If you indeed have more time than money, I suggest using the time to gather that money through work rather than fighting it legally.

[ Parent ]

You hiring? (none / 0) (#71)
by dipierro on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:04:42 PM EST

If you indeed have more time than money, I suggest using the time to gather that money through work rather than fighting it legally.

You mean get a job? Are you hiring? Employers don't seem to like wiseasses any more than judges :).

[ Parent ]
i'm serious... (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by Work on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:07:49 PM EST

$300 isn't a whole lot of cash to gather through odd jobs if you must. hell, take a job at taco bell for a couple weeks and then quit.

[ Parent ]
Can I have $300? (4.50 / 2) (#76)
by dipierro on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:30:03 PM EST

$300 isn't a whole lot of cash to gather through odd jobs if you must.

Sure, but if you already are doing odd jobs, an extra $300 isn't bad.

hell, take a job at taco bell for a couple weeks and then quit.

Well, there are problems with that. It'll look bad on your resume. You gotta pay taxes on it. You probably have to lie (about whether you're going to quit in a couple weeks). You bring profits to the fast food meat industry. And it's a lot of work (around 60 hours, for which you're left with nothing except the $300). Actually, it'd probably be more than a couple weeks.

Learning about the law is something that'll be useful in the future, and it's doubtful that you'll spend 60 hours in a courtroom.

$300 may not be worth it to you, but to some of us it is. Of course, it depends a lot on how much evidence there is against you. If you have a good chance of losing anyway, your expected value is a lot less than $300.

I'd gladly sit around in a courtroom for half a day for $300. Actually, I've done it a few times (for traffic violations) for less than that.

[ Parent ]
Bollocks (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by towerssotall on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 08:27:08 PM EST

there are problems with that. It'll look bad on your resume.

Actually, as an employer, I'll give a job to a taco bell / macdonalds / KFC alumnus ahead of a "dedicated student" any and every day of the week. You have no idea how much real work counts on a potential employers mind.

"the fate of Charles the First, hath only made kings more subtle
- not more just."

- - Thomas Paine
[ Parent ]

4 out of 5 (3.00 / 1) (#86)
by dipierro on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 10:19:35 PM EST

Actually, as an employer, I'll give a job to a taco bell / macdonalds / KFC alumnus ahead of a "dedicated student" any and every day of the week.

Even if they worked at TB for 2 weeks, then quit?

You have no idea how much real work counts on a potential employers mind.

I've hired people before. None of them listed Taco Bell as their last employer, though.

[ Parent ]
Why put it on your resume? (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by ghjm on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 12:02:27 AM EST

If you worked at Taco Bell for two weeks and then quit, why does anyone have to know that? There are obviously ethical problems with adding jobs to your resume, but I don't see what's wrong with subtracting.


[ Parent ]

it's lying (5.00 / 2) (#90)
by dipierro on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 12:14:35 AM EST

If you worked at Taco Bell for two weeks and then quit, why does anyone have to know that?

Whenever I've applied for a job, I've been asked about all my jobs in the last X years. Sure, I could lie, but I'd rather not.

Anyway, that was only one objection of many.

[ Parent ]
Ask for clarification... (4.00 / 1) (#105)
by Elkor on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 10:18:43 PM EST

Ask the HR person if they want all jobs, or all relevant jobs.

If they ask what you mean, mention that you had an odd job for 2 weeks. See what they say.

Worst case, they ask you to put it down, then you are in no worse position that otherwise.

Best case, they say "nah, we don't care about that." and you win out.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Depends on the employer (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by squigly on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 05:12:28 AM EST

If it was clear that you worked for exactly the amount of time you needed to get a certain amount of money, it shows a very goal oriented well organised mind.  

Or it shows someone who can't show commitment.

The thing is, virtually nobody works for a fast food joint because they want to.  They just want the money.  Lack of commitment to that job will not imply a lack of commitment to an actual career.

[ Parent ]

Maybe... (none / 0) (#98)
by dipierro on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 11:01:06 AM EST

Of course, the other reasons are enough. Especially the 60 hours thing. Taco Bell doesn't pay enough. At least, not until my savings runs out.

[ Parent ]
A single collection from the phone company ... (none / 0) (#127)
by HypoLuxa on Thu Jun 19, 2003 at 11:54:12 AM EST

... increased the interest rate I was eligible for when refinancing my house by 1.5%. Luckily, I found a way around that, but a collection or judgment on your credit report is a big deal. A black mark won't prevent you from getting a credit card or a car loan, but if you are trying to mortgage debt, then it will greatly affect the amount of money you will pay.

I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen
[ Parent ]
what? (none / 0) (#47)
by livus on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 08:15:21 PM EST

I get the feeling it totally depends on where you are, where the origin of the debt was, whether the debt company had been sold the debt or was working "on behalf of", etc.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

Okay, here's what you need to do. (2.00 / 2) (#48)
by Hide The Hamster on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 09:24:53 PM EST

1. Hire a lawyer.

Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

consider studying them, rather then yourself (none / 0) (#62)
by dimaq on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 05:40:25 AM EST

if they do that sortof stuff often you might argue they earn money through unfair claims :)

My advice (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by krek on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:08:04 PM EST

Is to ignore it, if it is likely to cost you too much to bother defending yourself, then it will probably cost the company you owe even more to collect it. Th ereason you got the letter was because an interns time and a couple sheets of paper are super cheap, especially if it scares the guy who owes into paying the debt.

I have, over the past nine and a half years, ignored well over three thousand dollars worth of collection notices, all from utilities, and I still seem to have a good enough credit rating to get credit cards with reasonable interest rates.

In many cases you are not even getting a letter from an actual collection agency, but from a "division" of the company's collections department. It costs a very large sum of money (in comparaison to 300 bucks) to hire a collection agency, and such services tend to be reserved for mortgages, car loans and such debts with high monthly payments.

I am not advocating debt fraud but merely pointing out that you are probably not in any real danger.

After reading the comments... (4.00 / 2) (#77)
by krek on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 02:36:19 PM EST

I would like to add that as long as you only get collection notices then it is best to fully ignore the agency, there is a reason that court summons nead to be delivered by hand, to assure that the defendant is aware of their situation, as long as it remains a simple postal delivery they can never be sure that you even received the notice, maybe you moved or died or something. As long as they are not sure whether they have succesfully contacted you, you remain uncontacted, and, therefore, somewhat protected.

And, from reading your comments below, I gather that this 'company' that you speak of may be a bank. Never fuck with banks! They own you! You fuck with a bank and you will wish you had been born in the dark ages.

[ Parent ]
Just pay off the money (4.25 / 4) (#80)
by Jack McCoy on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 04:19:15 PM EST

Get ajob if you don't have one and make the $300.  Or borrow it if you have to.  But really, with the amount of time you're wasting, you could get a minimum-wage job and make that much and more.

Not too mention that being sued by a collection agency is not a very positive indicator of your financial stability and credit-worthiness.

So give up on playing lawyer, and just pay the money already.  If it's a valid debt, imagine how you would feel if some jerk owed you money and refused to pay by dragging you into court and trying to play junior DA.
-- Jack

I don't understand (3.00 / 1) (#81)
by the on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 05:33:17 PM EST

Do you owe this money or not? If you do then pay it. If you don't, then why didn't you say so?

This should be a diary entry.

The Definite Article

How long did you take to write this? (3.00 / 11) (#85)
by jjayson on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 08:29:14 PM EST

Can't people be bothered to spend some time making stories that have the quality to be posted to the site. Why are people voting up submissions that only fit for the diary section.

If wrinkledshirt is this lazy, he probably shouldn't be trying to represent himself (even his username implies laziness).
"Fuck off, preferably with a bullet, if you can find one that's willing to defile itself by being in your head for a split second." -

objection noted (nt) (none / 0) (#87)
by wrinkledshirt on Tue Jun 10, 2003 at 11:27:06 PM EST

[ Parent ]
the same could be said (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by asad on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 05:03:31 PM EST

of your baseball story, this was discussion worthy and I guess most people felt that way.

[ Parent ]
not even close (1.50 / 2) (#107)
by jjayson on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 10:48:20 PM EST

You can't seriously compare the amount of effort I put into the baseball story to this 15 minute hack. Just because you did't like the topic doesn't mean I didn't put effort into it.

Just because something is discussion worthy doesn't mean it should be voted up. There should be a minimum level of writing quality that is required to get something posted. If that level isn't met, the author needs to make some edits so we can then vote it up.

"Fuck off, preferably with a bullet, if you can find one that's willing to defile itself by being in your head for a split second." - Parent ]

ok so I looked again (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by asad on Thu Jun 12, 2003 at 04:44:35 PM EST

and to be fair you did put a lot more effort into your article. But his 15min hack was discussion worthy and I think if something is discussion worthy it should be voted up. IMO discussion worthiness wins over writing style in voting. And in either case he's simply asking a question how much effort does he need to put in to ask a question ? the real meat of the story is in the posts not in his story.

[ Parent ]
Counter point... How much time did you.... (none / 0) (#104)
by Elkor on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 09:47:01 PM EST

take when writing your comment.

Your comment should have been an Editorial Remark, as it does not directly relate to the topic of the message.

Even if it was out of voting, editorial comments are still visible for people that turn them on.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
After a story is out of voting... (none / 0) (#106)
by jjayson on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 10:34:28 PM EST

there is no way to post an editorial comment that I know of.
"Fuck off, preferably with a bullet, if you can find one that's willing to defile itself by being in your head for a split second." - Parent ]
You are right, I am wrong. (5.00 / 1) (#110)
by Elkor on Thu Jun 12, 2003 at 10:38:54 AM EST

I know in the past it was possible.

However it does not appear to be possible any more.

I apologize for my criticism.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
In the US anyway... (4.66 / 3) (#91)
by wierdo on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 01:56:36 AM EST

If you have an old debt on a closed account that you haven't been sued over, do not pay! Items age off your credit report after somewhere between 5 and 7 years (I am not quite sure of the exact number) of inactivity. If you are close to it dropping off your report, and you pay the debt, the collection agency will report that to the credit bureau and you will be stuck with the black mark longer. That's another 5-7 years, if you weren't paying attention above. From a pure credit score standpoint, paying small debts gone into collection is almost always a net loss for you.

As a matter of prior personal experience, I have found that collection agencies will not sue over a $300 debt. The legal/travel costs simply exceed any possible collection. They will always threaten to sue, and sometimes even send you "pre-trial settlement offers" when there is no such pending legal action. If you really are trying to do the right thing and don't care about lengthening your stay in credit hell, offer to pay them 20 cents on the dollar. That is most likely more than the collection agency paid for the debt.

Speaking karmically, however, YMMV.

BTW, all my experience in this regard is several years old, so if the collection agencies have begun using such tactics


The quick way to get rid of collection agencies. (4.75 / 4) (#97)
by illustro1a4 on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 10:31:23 AM EST

BTW, I'm not a lawyer so the below comments should not be construed as legal advice in any way, shape or form. It is just the musings of a layman.

When the CA (collection agency) calls tell them something like the following: "I am disputing the debt in question and this matter can only be resolved between myself and the original creditor"1. At this point the CA must provide you proof of the debt before continuing the collection of said debt. 95% of the time they just toss the case back to the original creditor. At that point, by law [in the US], the CA can only call you once more stating that they will no long be contacting you. The original company now has to deal with it. [If you really do owe them something] make an offer like you'll pay 40% of the debt to have the matter resolved.

Here's the part you really need to research: when you pay the creditor place a note in the endorsement part of the check stating something like: "Endorsement of this instrument constitutes payment in full of the debt in question, reference number X", "X" being the number the creditor as assigned to this charge. While placing contractional agreements as a condition of payment is legal you really need to do further research on it. This also gives you proof [with their endorsement] that the creditor is agreeing with the above statement. IMO call up a lawyer and buy a .5 hours worth of it's time and get it's opinion.

Never give CAs a dime! They are the scum of the earth feeding off the ignorant. I should say its important to pay off legitimate debts.

When the matter is resolved wait about eight weeks before getting a copy of your credit report to confirm it is accurate. A number of US states allow you to get one free report a year.

Bonne Chance,

1. This needs to be done within thirty days of the first contact from the CA.
Get the facts about marijuana and the true cost of prohibition.

watch out (4.00 / 3) (#100)
by mattw on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 02:26:56 PM EST

IANAL either, and this is also not legal advice, but be careful with Payment in Full notices. At the least, there are a number of restrictions on such a notice -- Good Faith, Conspicuous Placement, and, perhaps most importantly, you can only offer a Payment in Full when there is a 'bona fide dispute', meaning if you buy $1000 is stuff on a Visa, then offer $500 as payment in full, it cannot be binding unless you are disputing $500 of the charges. There are also precautions your creditor may have taken which restrict your ability to use a payment-in-full check. First, they may have a notice in correspondance with you that notes that all dispute communications, including paid in full checks, must be sent to a specific person/place/address. If you then send one elsewhere, it is not binding AND they can still cash it. Also, the creditor has 90 days to just send you back the money if they don't want to agree to the payment-in-full terms. Because of the complex terms, if they want to sue you, a payment-in-full check might be more trouble than it is worth anyhow. And there are actually exceptions to the exceptions for this, so it is fairly complicated.

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]
Don't bother (none / 0) (#125)
by duffbeer703 on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 01:18:42 PM EST

Generally when you accept a credit agreement, you also agree that any notionations like "Paid in Full" or "Without Recourse" are null and void.

If you are disputing a debt that is in default, your best bet is to offer the collections attorney anywhere between 10-20% of the amount owed. Collections attorneys "buy" debt for $0.5-$0.10 on the dollar, and are usually willing to negotiate. The person you are talking to most likely receives a commission on whatever he or she collects, so it usually takes persistance.

[ Parent ]

Get your Nolo Press on (5.00 / 1) (#99)
by grandenonfatlatte on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 12:20:11 PM EST

I went through more or less the reverse situation a couple of years back when my ex-landlord never returned us our deposit. We wanted to take him to small claims, but the process was something we had no idea about. A lawyer friend of ours turned us on to the Nolo Press books (http://www.nolo.com.) Thanks to Nolo, the process became clear. I would recommend checking them out even if you grok the steps, as there are a billion little i's to dot and t's to cross along the way!

My experience with a CA (5.00 / 2) (#101)
by IAmNos on Wed Jun 11, 2003 at 03:36:34 PM EST

This from being in Saskatchewan, Canada (where Collection Agency Laws are provincial).

I was contacted by a Collection Agency out of Ontario (they have to follow the laws of the province they are trying to collect from). They informed my I owed ~$300 for a magazine subscrption. After the first phone call, I did some digging to get the laws governing collection agencies.

When they called again, I asked for all the information they had to provide (collection agency name & address, who the debt was from name & address, as well as proof of the debt, etc). They gave me everthing except proof of the debt. The CA told me the did not have to provide proof of the debt. After I got off the phone with them, I called Sask Justice to confirm that they did have to provide proof of the debt, they do!

As such, when they called back again, I immediately asked to speak to a supervisor. When she got on the phone, I informed her that I had asked for proof of the debt and that the CA did not have to provide it to me. I also mentioned that since they had begun contacting me, I had begun recording all coversations (this may or may not be admissable in court btw). At that point she backed off and said she would immediately mail out proof of the debt. I told her that was not good enough. I told her that the collection agency had broken the law. If they proceeded with collection of the debt or putting anything on my credit report, I would immediately begin legal action against the CA.

Haven't heard from them since. Now I will justify that I never did sign up for the magazine subscription. They did send out a proof of the debt, and the signature at the bottom was NOT mine. At the time all of this happened, I was a single guy living alone and two of the three or four magazines where women's magazines.

Collection Agencies (at least in Canada) need a license to operate. Any laws that are not followed can result in very large fines, jail time, and loss of license. A CA without a license is done. They can't operate. They're not going to risk something like that for $300.

So, my advice is as follows. If you really do owe the money, work with the CA to pay it back. If you don't, find out the laws governing CAs in your area. Get all the information you can. In some areas you can force the CA to hand the debt back to the company that sold it to them. Record you conversations with them. Check local laws, you may need to inform them during each call that you are recording it.

you have more options, be like the borg (4.00 / 1) (#108)
by esaul on Thu Jun 12, 2003 at 02:46:41 AM EST

kudos to the guy from Saskatchewan. this seems to be a pretty well informed post by an intelligent person. This is the way you should go about it: keep your cool, don't get mad or upset. Collection agency people deal with many many people. They have a standard pitch, and they tend to exaggerate your problem. Keep in mind that the CA people are just poor suckers working for just above the minimum wage. Have some pity on them. You might have received a letter with a fancy header from a lawyer or something, but wake up, - it is bullshit. They probably have just *one* lawyer, who will not even show up if you actually do go to court, which you shouldn't.

It sounds from your post that you don't actually owe the money, and a similar thing has happened to me a few years ago with Sprint Canada. If you do dispute what they are saying, then:

- request that they only communicate with you in writing. This means that they have to send you registered letters, and they are not allowed to call you anymore, ever. If they do, they break your payment agreement, which you have to make first.

- request that they cut your payment in half or more. You have to realize that they will be happy with *any* amount of money they get from you. Most people take a looong time to pay (and some never pay), but the CA people have to get paid for harassing you.

- it is a good idea to mention to them that you have recorded the phone calls with other CA people that called you.

Now, I wouldn't totally advise this, but it worked for me. I got the CA bitch to curse at me, and say that my relatives should die sooner, so that I could inherit some money to pay them, after which I said that I would sue her company and herself personally for much more, and that the phone call was recorded. They never called me back. That was a few years ago. I had to get an account with Sprint a couple of years later, and to my surprise - my name was clean.

besides that, if you could wait five years, your credit will be cleared.

N.B. i was thinking of starting a CA myself. come on, it should be fun. the creditor companies sell ypu other people's debts at like 30%, and everything above that is yours. Just watch out for people like me.

[ Parent ]

waiting five years (none / 0) (#113)
by cyclopatra on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 02:10:12 AM EST

only works if they stop trying to collect. My bf tried this route on a bullshit debt an ex-landlord smacked him with. He figured all he had to do was wait the five years or seven years or whatever and he was home free. Unfortunately, the CA who bought the loan didn't give up, and when we just checked his credit a few months ago, it's listed as a current debt (last collection attempt: 2002, on a 7-year-old debt). So we're trying to work out a payment plan with them, but he won't start moving towards blemish-free credit until that debt is listed as either defaulted or 'pays as agreed'.

All your .sigs are belong to us.
remove mypants to email
[ Parent ]

Details (none / 0) (#123)
by hbw on Mon Jun 16, 2003 at 04:58:33 PM EST

Ok, this made me curious. How did you get this formal CA type to say all that stuff? Details, man!

I have discovered a truly marvelous signature, which unfortunately the margin is not large enough to contain.
[ Parent ]

no subject (none / 0) (#129)
by esaul on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 01:21:32 AM EST

it just came up. first i told her that i am a poor student, but i am expecting to get a job, that i am a linux programmer, which is an os built by hackers, etc. she said that i am a "worthless scum", and that i will never get a job, and that i am probably drunk or crazy. i went along, she then asked me that maybe my folks would pay. i said that i am not expecting any money, except that maybe i could inherit something.

i guess i was just lucky that the bitch was having a bad day or smth.


[ Parent ]

The short answer is "don't" (4.00 / 2) (#112)
by bigbtommy on Thu Jun 12, 2003 at 07:14:53 PM EST

IANAL, but hope to become one. This is not legal advice, blah.

Having experienced a few months ago watching a babbling incompetent fool trying to defend himself in front of the local magistrates (here in the UK). And it was not a pretty sight. He couldn't get his papers straight, couldn't present the evidence required of him, and what's more made a complete fool out of himself - which is one way not to impress a judge or magistrates.

You need preparation, guides to civil/criminal procedure, access to a law library or system like LEXIS. Plus the answers to a hell of a lot of difficult questions they may ask you.

Whether you hire an advocate or not, good luck.
-- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up

Small claims court advice (5.00 / 2) (#115)
by RandomPeon on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 04:08:59 AM EST

My father ended his legal career as a small claims court judge. I used to carpool with him, so I've spent more time watching small claims court than is healthy. It can very entertaining if you're not involved. Here are my observations:
  • Pro se litigants with no legal training always lose truly contested questions of law. They just don't know enough. People bring in articles by experts, try to admit them as evidence, and are shocked when the judge refuses to read them. They file lawsuits too late or against the wrong parties or in the wrong juridstiction or fail to cite the proper statue. Unless you're a law student or a paralegal (or a real lawyer), you always run the risk of losing on an argument you couldn't conceive of. That said, do any applicable research on the appropriate laws in your state.
  • On the other hand, judges in these cases tend to give little guys the dispute on questions of fact. If it's a "he said, she said" dispute about whether you owe money you stand a reasonable chance of being believed over the agency. Since the vast majority of these cases are defaults for the plaintiff, the guy who actually shows up is already doing well. I saw my dad decide 60 cases in favor of the same collection agency in less than hour - all were defaults. Then a respondent did appear and said he never received the merchandise in question and refused to pay. Plaintiff says he did. Respondent wins.
  • If you can't get into a small claims court with very informal procedures you're screwed. You will mess something up in a full-up district court.
  • Some juridstictions allow you to appear by telephone in small claims court if you are a resident of another state. I have no idea what the procedures are. In general if you maintian a residence in a state you're a resident there, even if you are away from that resident for an extended period. You may be out of luck here.
  • DO NOT LIE. In particular, DO NOT ALTER ANY PAPERS you intend to submit as exhibits. You can be charged with perjury for acts that occur in small claims courts. Sadly, there are people this stupid.

Additional thought (none / 0) (#118)
by Paul Johnson on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 06:37:38 AM EST

You may be able to pay the whole lot now, but don't let on. Offer installments. Then offer to speed up payments in return for movement on something else.

Above all, don't conceed anything for free. Any time they ask for X, say "I might be able to do X if you could do Y for me".

You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

A few suggestions... (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by slykens on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 11:50:29 AM EST

First, www.creditnet.com, look at the discussion boards... There is a lot of good information hidden there.

Second, get familiar with 15 USC 1692, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It is usually very easy to find violations of this act that are actionable at $1,000 per, the information at the above site will explain it very clearly. File a countersuit against the CA so that you are now in a position of power to negotiate to have anything negative removed from your credit report and to have the suit dropped upon your payment of the $300.

They are in a position of power over you right now. By filing a countersuit you place yourself in the position of power.

It is very important that you don't let them get a judgement on you that will eventually appear on your credit. It is not as bad as a bankruptcy but it will screw you nonetheless.

Someone once filed on me, no notice, they didn't even call or send a letter asking to be paid. I filed a countersuit for three times what they asked for. In the end I paid them what they could have simply asked for to begin with but I did it in such as a way as to prevent any judgements or negative public records. It was *very* easy to negotiate with them when they were looking down the barrel of a lawsuit too.

The lawyre who represents himself... (none / 0) (#122)
by SocratesGhost on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 06:16:33 PM EST

has a fool for a client.

I drank what?

Legal Insurance (none / 0) (#126)
by Uhlek on Wed Jun 18, 2003 at 05:48:49 PM EST

One thing that is often overlooked by individuals is the concept of legal insurance.

The idea is pretty simple. You pay a montly premium, and in exchange you are afforded a certain level of access to a law firm and its varying lawyers.

The one I use, Pre-Paid Legal, allows me to call any type of lawyer I wish that the firm has (tax, criminal, corporate, etc. etc.) and ask any questions I want. There are limits on the time that can be spent and the number of calls that can be made on any particular issue per month, but like most people, my legal needs are relatively simple. It can help stave off the minor legal hassles like the one you're dealing with now, as well as soften the blow if anything big comes up later down the line.

They will also handle on your behalf any issues that may involve a laywer, do you will for you, and defend you in court up to a certain number of courtroom hours (the rest of the time is on your bill, but at a greatly reduced rate from a normal lawyer).

To give you an example of how I've used them in the past, last year I got a letter in the mail from a collection agency saying I owed them $25. No explaination as to why or how, just that it was owed and they wanted their money. A quick call to my law firm sent me into a lawyer who's specialty was collections, and she sent a nice little letter to the collection agency on my behalf (I recieved a copy) demanding proof of the charge.

You know what, the mere fact I had a lawyer do it scared them away to the point I haven't heard back from them since.

PPL will run you around $16 a month for the basic service, and more if you want more coverage (more courtroom time, etc.). I also pay an additional fee ($1/month, I believe) for access to a 24-hour call center where they have people on staff to represent your interests if you happen to get into a pickle when you're not in business hours.


[No, I'm not someone selling it, I just use the service]
-- Uhlek "Be safe...sleep with a Marine."

Law in Germany (none / 0) (#128)
by busfahrer on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 04:21:07 AM EST

Here in Germany, if you refuse to take a lawyer, I think you get assigned one by the state. That one is also for free as far as I know, but of course they may not defend your law as well as an overpaid one.
GCS d s:+ a19 C++ UL P+>P++ L+>L++ E- W++ N+ o? K? w+>w++ O! M- V? PS+ PE-- Y+ PGP t 5? X+ R(R+) tv b- DI D++ G e h! y
Representing yourself legally | 130 comments (119 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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