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Collection agents from India would live below poverty level in U.S.

April 29, 2008

So you've stocked your closet with designer clothes, outfitted the den with the latest electronics and remodeled the kitchen, all courtesy of the plastic express. Your raise didn't come through like the boss promised, you're behind on your credit card payments and we all know what comes next: The phone calls from the collection department.

We don't like it, but we know it. That's how it works. It's part of the bargain.

But this?

According to the New York Times, there is a chance that when you get those calls from the collection department, they are not originating in the United States. The collection agencies have been outsourced to India.

"In a glass tower on the outskirts of New Delhi, dozens of young Indians are on the telephone, calling America's out of work, forgetful and debt-stricken and asking for cash," the story begins.

New Delhi? How undignified is that? It's bad enough that you're in debt.

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I know India is a modern country and all - but we have visions of Calcutta and Ghandi's begging bowl and antique trains packed with thousands of people hanging off the sides. And then they have that whole cow situation going on. And they're calling us on the phone because we don't have any money and need to be educated on our spending habits?

That's rich. The Times says that the average monthly income in India is $63. Sixty-three clams. That doesn't even fill up the SUV. Do they know how many Americas would kill for a monthly minimum of $63 on just one of their average 23 credit cards?

Forget for the moment that getting a lecture on money from someone in India is like getting a lecture on birth control from your 6-year-old kid. It just doesn't seem right in a nostalgic sense.

I never thought I'd live to see the day when I got all misty eyed for a hired goon named Vito coming around and threatening to break your kneecaps - but apparently he's going the way of the milkman and the door-to-door encyclopedia salesman.

And if the job of being obnoxious on the telephone is no longer safely held by Americans, we can no longer count on any employment whatsoever. Please Mr. Collection Agency Man, being rude and pushy is all we Americans have left. Don't take that away from us.

In fact, agencies say that India is better suited to collections because their people are nicer about it. An example used by the Times was Manju Muddanna, who uses the name of Michelle Green and affects a soft southerny accent.

And if they are nicer, it goes without saying that they work cheaper - and thus gets us to the irony that companies that browbeat us for getting in debt are often in debt themselves.

But a collector in America makes $6,500 a month, while a collector on India gets paid $425. There is some small satisfaction in that, however. In my view, $425 a month is about what they're worth.

I hate to think there are people out there earning $78,000 a year whose sole job qualification is the ability to pick up a phone and be a jerk.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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