I’ve been using my good friends’ wedding as a “soft” excuse to not get a job for the last six weeks. Sure, if somebody walked into my apartment and said, “Hey you! Yeah, you in the sweat pants! We got a job for you. You are going to be the official team manager and water boy for our professional lesbian softball team. Put on this polo shirt. I’ll be in the Subaru Outback out front. Chop, chop!” I’d have come running. When opportunity kicks open your door and gives you a free uniform, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and tell me it’s fertilizer. Or wait. That’s not how it goes. I’ll let somebody a little more articulate express what I’m trying to say:
So the time has come to get off the bench and find a job in LA. Which reminded me of my first job in San Diego in 03′. Back in the days when I worked in international finance. That’s right, I was moving and shaking. Spit-balling and leveraging. Value-adding and grabbing the low hanging fruit. I was like Kramer at Brandt-Leland. I was TCB’ing…except I actually worked there. I showed up. They paid me. And I had actual papers in my briefcase, not crackers. The papers were blank and the briefcase was a backpack but I was getting involved. Moving up the ladder in the world of finance. For 4 weeks.
The company was called Monterey Financial Services. If you click on that link, you’ll be taken to slick financial themed website. You can tell it’s financial themed because that’s really the only pictures on the site. Pictures of money. A dollar bill is being put together like a puzzle which I imagine is the designer’s attempt at a metaphor for debt collection. MFS pieces together each and every dollar giving your company the $100 bills that twist and turn and dance gracefully on the right side of the banner. Or something. A more appropriate picture would have shown a six month pregnant woman who is screaming so vehemently into her headset that she is forced to stand and angle her head down at the ground so that the words she is shrieking will get to mouthpiece slightly faster due to the sound waves receiving a gravitational boost. (If you want to shout best, shout downwards).
At MONTEREY FINANCIAL SERVICES, we know your financial needs don’t look like everyone else’s.
That is the company slogan. But I worked in a specialized section of the company. Debt Recovery. Don’t ask. They had a listing in the paper (this is pre-Craigslist or at least pre-Craigslist for me. I don’t even think I had a cellphone at this point) and somebody told me debt collectors earn bonuses. When you have an English degree and you’ve paid your last 4 months of rent with credit cards, a job with bonuses is like seeing Sasquatch. You chase that fucker down.
We collect what others don’t…
This is the tagline on the debt recovery page. It shows a picture of a hand yanking a $100 bill out of an ant’s pincers (which gives you an idea of what the company thinks of the debtors it’s collecting from). There’s the standard bullshit about how MFS is the best thing to ever come down the debt recovery pipeline:
“Given that Monterey’s collection agency associates are the most experienced in the company, a typical Monterey collection agency associate has, on average, more than six years of experience with Monterey. Collection agency associates have graduated, in most cases, from Monterey’s loan servicing or consumer finance call centers with proven and consistent performance.”
Literally all of this is a lie. I was hired off the street and given three days of training and then given my own cubicle in a low ceiling room that looks exactly like the godforsaken cubicle farm you’re picturing. Yes, the walls were white. For decoration: Dry erase boards. The most senior person working the phones was the supervisor who had been there for a little over three years and seemed to have learned learned everything about business from Ben Affleck’s character in Boiler Room. Except the supervisor cleared $39,267. Oh and he yelled more. He never met a delinquent that wasn’t either stupid or a criminal. He’d hear one of the other “associates” screaming at a deadbeat over the phone and he’d look across the aisle and give me huge smile and eyebrow raise that’s usually reserved for when a hot chick walks by. Debt collection gave him a financial boner which is the same thing as a boner. Which is far less motivating than you might think. Or at least it was for me. It was downright distracting and pretty unprofessional. Dockers all tented in the crotchal…I’ll stop there. There were pleats involved too.
The rest of the staff seemed vacillated between homicidal rage and despondence with a dusting of paranoia (Everybody is ranked according to collection percentages and accounts settled so not only is the job itself utter shit but it’s a competition too. Worst three each month are counseled. Bottom three for a quarter and you’re canned.). I was taking the bus at the time which dropped me off at the bottom of a winding road up the hill that MFS sat on top of. It was 3/4 of a mile. After a 35 minute bus ride. And I was one of the more chipper people when I arrived each morning. One morning, the only semi-attractive girl at the company came driving by as I got off the bus. She offered me a ride up the hill. I jumped in as she took a massive rip of ganja. She then offered it to me and ominously said, “You were going to be late.”
I waved off the weed. “Oh yeah, maybe by five minutes or so. I missed my connection.”
She took another hit, steering with one hand up the hill. She blew out a huge cloud of smoke. I rolled my window down but she gestured me to roll it back up. “Hotbox,” She sputtered. After some more hacking she gave me a serious look, “Seriously, you can’t be late. First week, they’ll fire you.” I nodded and tried to figure out what sort of place is severely concerned about tardiness but showing up smelling like Snoop Dogg vomited on them? Totally kosher.
The near non-stop screaming was partly due to the fact that we were collecting from the destitute and the gullible. People that took empowerment courses online at $1500 a pop. Or $7500 trucking courses that they financed. The excuses were often bizarrely logical:
“How am I going to pay $450 a month for trucking lessons when my rent is $300?”
“Ah, pfft, can you hold please?” Turn to supervisor and hand the headset to him, “He says he’ll only talk to someone sporting half a chub.”
After two weeks, I was utterly and completely over it. I hit none of my goals. I did far more eavesdropping than I did calling. I would sometimes call people I knew were not home multiple times just so that I looked like I was on the phone. I’d leave names of people that didn’t work at MFS. If I got somebody that was nice, I’d start to chat them up. After fifteen minutes I’d make a face at the supervisor like, “She won’t stop jabbering.” He’d point at his now limp member.
They paid on Fridays. I made it to the second one. On the following Monday, I was on the way to work (we had friends in town and I got a ride) and right before I was bout to be dropped off, I said don’t bother. Thirty minutes later I was eating breakfast. I never went back. I never called. They called once.
As far as jobs go it was one of the worst I ever had. And yet I read a story about one of Bank of America’s debt collection servicers the other day that made this place seem like Google.
Come back Friday and we’ll talk about it.