Dear Crabby,

I work at a mid-size company of about 150 employees and I’m part of a team of four collectors. I’ve been working at my company for over fifteen years and I have the title, Senior Collector.

Over the past few months I’ve noticed that I’m getting more annoyed with some of the small and unnecessary “fabrications” that debtors say to me on the phone. A few weeks ago, I was told that the reason one customer’s payment was delayed was due to their president being in the hospital for an extended period of time. I know that was flat out false because before I called, I looked over the president’s Facebook page and saw that he was recently on a vacation in Europe.

Why make up this kind of story and say he was in the hospital? I’m not superstitious but I feel that when a health related issue is used to excuse a late payment, I think it actually encourages something bad to happen. Although the customer promised to pay during the call and the payment arrived as promised, the “white lie” bothered me for a few days. And as other customers subject me to their white lies, I find myself not being able to let them go. Do you think I’m getting too bent out of shape over these white lies or should I confront the customer letting them know that I know the truth?

Signed: Sweating the White Lies

 

Dear Sweating,

Many years ago when I read Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” I read something that was a turning point for me in collections. Sometimes even when we know that what is being said to us is completely untrue, we let it go because it’s not doing any real harm, and in the long term, as long as the primary goal is still being accomplished, there’s no point in embarrassing the individual. Especially in collections, pointing out the white lie will probably impede the negotiation process.

I’m not saying there aren’t occasions when you need to put the brakes on and say, “Sorry but that’s not true.” but part of being a professional collector is trying to effectively move past all of the excuses being used to delay payment.

After 15 years in collections, I’m not sure why you’ve started getting annoyed with these “white lies,” but it may be time for something within your job to change so that these things don’t bother you. I would suggest you speak with your manager or human resources professional in order to see what might be causing this sudden feeling of annoyance.

Please let me know what happens.

Crabby

Dear Crabby is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd, President, CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts (nseiverd@cmiweb.com) on what to advise are most welcome, and with your permission, we’ll reprint your comments in the next issue of our newsletter.

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