Are your Creditors Harassing You?

A Creditor’s Call Center.

I am writing this article with a very painful heart. Certain creditors are really out of this world. If it was only this one incident, I would have given the creditor the benefit of the doubt. But this harassment is repeated time and again. Perhaps someone from the side of the credit grantors would explain this odd behaviour by some creditors. It cannot be a fear of loss that drives a creditor to harass a debtor in the manner that these creditor does.

It so happened that I am indebted to T, a clothing and cellphone store operating in South Africa. In the middle of the covid 19 lockdown in May 2020, all clothing shops and all non-essential businesses were closed for the duration of the level 5 lockdown. So, even though I would have liked to pay my account with T, I couldn’t because T was closed as a result of the lockdown. I was surprised one morning at 7 am when I received a call from a certain guy who claimed to represent T. He said that he noticed that I missed my payments during April and May 2020. I confirmed and told him that the reasons were that:

  1. There is a lockdown and a curfew and no one is allowed to go outside except to buy essential items such as food and medication,
  2. Our company is closed for the duration of the lockdown and we have no income, and I do not have enough money to buy food and to pay clothing accounts,
  3. T is closed for the duration of the lockdown, and even if I had the money to pay, I had nowhere to pay.
A Clothing Store.

His response was that T was going to blacklist me and that I must take the money that I have reserved for food during the lockdown or make a loan from the bank and go and pay T, and that I should go to the bank and pay there or at any supermarket as he also had no clue when T was going to re-open to accept payments at their stores.

I told him that he was asking me to break the lockdown rules and risk contracting covid 19 merely to satisfy T’s love for money. He said that I should apply for a permit at the police station so that I can go to the bank. I told him that the police will not grant me a permit to perform non-essential activities and that if I told them that he is pressurising me to ignore the lockdown regulations, the police are likely to lay a criminal charge against him for inciting a person to commit an offence. He dropped the phone and said that T will call me again until I make the payment.

I swore that I would never buy anything from T again. When the lockdown was relaxed and T was allowed to re-open, I went and settled my account. Unfortunately, my child’s cellphone was broken and T was the only store where I could find a phone. I was forced to buy there again.

Preparing to go to work.

True to its nature, T phones you at odd hours. They phone you before you miss a payment just to remind you that your payment is due in three weeks’ time. They send you the most odd and unsolicited messages. They also threaten you with legal action and blacklisting if you can miss the payment that is due in three weeks’ time. They phone again after you have made payment just to tell you that you have made a short payment . They call you from all over the country. From Johannesburg, Cape Town, Mpumalanga, Durban, Bloemfontein.  After you finish paying them, they call you and send you sms’s to come and make more debt. They offer you ZAR1000 if you make a new debt.

T is the mother of all harassment. I am sure that there are thousands of other people who find themselves in a similar situation. I am writing this article to vent my anger as I do not know what to do with T anymore. The best solution that I have come up with is to no longer buy anything on credit from T. Is that not the best option?

A bank branch

Another irritating experience is from bank S, with whom I have a revolving credit facility. I receive a call on my cellphone very early on a Monday morning at approximately 7 am. The gentleman says that he wants to speak to me, but before he does so he would like to go through some security questions to see if he is speaking to the right person. The first question he asks me is what my cellphone number is. This first question upsets me so much because he just called me on my cellphone, so he has the number, and I am preparing to get to work and I am late. What could be the reason for him to ask me such a stupid question. I try to remain calm and answer all the silly questions he asks, which sounds like they are computerised as every agent from bank S will ask you the same questions. He goes on bubbling about my Id number, landline, physical address, email address. My attempts to prompt him to come to the purpose of the call are ignored, until 15 minutes later when he tells me the reason for the call being that he notices that I am in arrears with payments on my facility. I ask him what the arrears are and he tells me the amount which is less than what I paid via inter-account transfer three days earlier. I calmly ask him whether he can see the payment that I made three days ago to which he says I should hold on while he checks. A few seconds later, he confirms that he can see the payment. I then ask him whether the account is still in arrears and he says no. I then ask him what the reason for the call was and he says that he just wants to know when can he expect the next payment and he carries on a long lecture about credit bureaus, blacklisting and my future creditworthiness being affected by late payments. By this time I have already lost 25 minutes of my precious time which I desperately need to get ready for work and I ask myself from where does bank S recruit these clowns. Not once does he apologise for calling me so early in the morning for payment that was made a few days earlier. I politely ask him to check the statements before he makes a call in future. Without any shame he still asks me to hold on while he transfers me so that I can rate the quality of the call. I hold on and he tries to transfer the call  but fails and it cuts us off while he is trying. It is obvious that the guy has either not received any training at all on the job that he is doing or he absconded from the training if S bank did provide the training. A few years earlier, S bank used to act with such professionalism that you enjoyed doing business with them. That seems to have been thrown out of the window in favour of mass production.

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is the frustrations that we have to endure on a daily basis and I am sure that, that is enough reason to persuade you to do your best to settle your accounts to avoid getting high blood pressure while attending to these calls. This article is not only meant to share with other credit receivers about these harassments, but also directed at credit providers to try and be professional in their dealings with their clients and not unleash these unwarranted attacks on their most precious clients at the risk of alienating them.

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