Collections war stories – How I did it

I have a some practical experience in collections work. Not a lot, but it’s quality over quantity. I’ll try and share my experiences here.

Out-of-state collections

As an up-market bookkeeper/accounting service, I knew that at any given time, some percentage of small businesses are unhappy with their present accountant or bookkeeper, or are experiencing some business-related stress that they need immediate help with. I told people that my best list of good leads was simply the yellow pages. All I needed to do was to call every electrician in the yellow pages and, guaranteed, at least one would be looking for some bookkeeping or accounting help or a new tax preparer. But I didn’t want to spend the time doing the cold calling.

Now comes a firm in Oregon (I’m in Maine) that promises to do exactly this – make these cold calls on my behalf right from the yellow pages. It’s a great business synergy. This marketing company can hire part-time homeworkers or others who can do the work from a beach chair if they want. They charge $450 for the first 6 months and guarantee at least 2 live leads (customers who have requested a live meeting with me) per month. Perfect. I can break even with 1 new customer! So I get the paperwork which includes a full money back guarantee. I send a check and a signed contract. Then I wait. And wait, and wait. I follow up on the phone and talk with the owner. Promises, promises. I wait some more, because I really want this to work. Finally I decide to pull the plug. I ask for the refund. I get silence, which is what I expected. Stonewalled. What can I do? He and his company are in Oregon. I’m in Maine. This is MY problem. I have to find a way to make it HIS problem! Small claims court is not an option here.

I submit a formal complaint to his local Better Business Bureau complete with full documentation. I send him a full copy of the complaint.

I submit a formal complaint to the state consumer complaint agency complete with full documentation. . I send him a full copy of the complaint.

I find the corporate filing papers on the state web site and identify the corporate clerk, a lawyer (this is common). I search for this lawyer on the internet and discover he is also a state legislator. I send him a very threatening letter accusing “his” company of fraud and interstate fraud and warn him that he is toast if this is publicized and advise him to tell his client to give me my refund. . I send him a full copy of the complaint.

I call the business and leave messages. These are not for the owner, but they are addressed to “whatever assistant is listening to this message.” I describe the facts and ask if they want to work for a crook? I say that this is interstate fraud and they better be prepared to talk to the FBI when they walk through the door.

I search the internet for the name of the owner and find a home address and telephone number. At 6am in Maine, when I start my day, it’s 3am in Oregon. I start calling his home at 3am, leaving a message asking for my refund and promising to call regularly.

I did all this in the space of less than a week. It was retaliation by massive force.

It worked. He sent me a check for the full $450 refund. The check cleared the bank.

Epilogue – the state attorney general’s office called me to follow up on my complaint because there had been many. When I said that I had received my refund, the caller was amazed. She asked if I still had a copy of the check; the attorney said the copy would be very helpful to them. I sent it to the state but never heard back.

Also, this model of providing a cold-calling service is STILL a great business opportunity for the right person.

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