That dreaded knock at the door. It can only be someone else asking for money. Friends have stopped popping around for a brew and it is too early in the day to be my mum stopping off on her way home from work to see the kids for half an hour. Besides, tonight I don’t have the kids, their mum does, so even if it was later on, which it isn’t, mum wouldn’t be stopping off anyway.
Another knock. This one is harder, more assertive. I peep around the kitchen door at the frosted glass giant stood blocking the light coming in from the front door. These are the lengths I have to go to when that knock comes, hiding in my kitchen and waiting for the frosted giant to disappear. What the hell am I doing with my life? Why am I hiding in my own house? It’s ridiculous. I’m being bullied by a faceless shadow at my door, waiting for him to post through another demand letter, which I will ignore, and disappear until the next time.
I’m a grown man, why am I hiding from this representative of a faceless corporation who bought the debt I ran up from another faceless corporation? What is the worst this guy can do? Is he going to barge into my house and start snatching up anything which may have some resale value for himself? No, of course he isn’t. He’s just a guy doing his job which is asking for money from people like me who have spent and have been unable to pay back that which was agreed.
I could argue that these debts piling up weren’t my fault, that it was just dumb luck, but that wouldn’t be true. At the time I was spending just about what I was making and so that I still had money I would finance everything, opting to pay back a little for longer than suck it up, go skint for a month or two and buy things outright.
All my furniture is on credit from Bright Homes, a place where you can buy a fifty-inch flat screen television for £6 a week but the only catch is it’ll cost you double the price you’d pay were you to buy it outright for cash. I have doorstep loans that were used to finance last year’s holiday to Fiji with the kids. Now all that’s left is the happy memories, a few treasured photographs, and once a week me shelling out £20 to Mike, my doorstep loan agent. The two grand I borrowed turned into four I had to pay back as soon as I signed on the dotted line and was handed two hundred ten pound notes, cash. There are the credit card bills, the overdrafts with three different banks, the car finance, and of course the most costly of them all, the kids. Yes, these two mini collectors are always waiting with their hands out for more and more and more, but that, I suppose, comes with the territory.
Another bang on the door.
That’s it, I’m going to answer. I’m going to try and explain to the man why I can’t pay him and see what he says.
Opening the front door I smile, ‘Hi, you alright?’
Dressed in all black and sporting what appears to be some sort of stab vest under his jacket, my bailiff smiles back, stopping writing out the card he was about to post through my door.
‘Hi, I’m looking for a Mr. Deacon?’
‘That’s me, how can I help you,’ I tell him, knowing full well there will be no help coming from me as my bank accounts are all very much in the red.
‘We’ve tried on numerous occasions to contact you, Mr. Deacon…’
’Sorry, who are you?’
‘Nightingale Debt Management,’ he says, taking out an I.D card and flashing it my way.
I frown, ‘I’m sorry I haven’t taken any form of credit out with you.’
He smiles, ’N.D.M took over the debt you…’
‘Sorry,’ I interrupt. Seeing as he’s here and I have nothing better to do, I might as well have a little fun, ‘Who is N.D.M?’
‘What? Err, N.D.M, Nightingale Debt…’
‘Management, yes, alright, go on.’
‘So our company has taken over the debt of £1955.34 owed to Highline Communication Services.’
I shake my head, ‘Never heard of them.’
Mr. Bailiff smiles, checking the sheet of paper in his hand, ‘They’re a mobile network company that owns 5th Gen, Indigo Mobile, and Perfectfone phone networks. Have you had a phone contract with any of these network suppliers?’
All three of them actually, but he won’t be aware of this. He is here for my most recent, the iPhone contract I took out two months ago with Indigo Mobile. It had been a sweet deal and the price was the only reason I had taken Indigo mobile up on the offer. £30 a month for two years, unlimited calls and texts and 20GB of data as well as the new iPhone. During signing me up I had repeatedly asked if there were any charges and the Indigo Mobile sales assistant had repeatedly told me no, that £30 was all I’d ever pay each month. The first month’s bill was £123.50. After a heated discussion with Indigo Mobile head office, I learned that what the sales assistant meant was after paying the initial set up fee.
‘But there had been no mention of this setup fee. The only reason I took out the contract was because it was so cheap.’
‘The setup fee was set out in the terms and conditions which you are urged to read before signing with Indigo Mobile.’ Mr head office explained helpfully.
‘But I asked the store assistant repeatedly and he basically lied to me. Well, I can’t afford this fee. The only reason I signed the contract was because I was under the impression it would cost me only £30 as promised by your staff. I’d like to send the phone back please. There is no way I can pay this.’
‘Certainly sir. We can arrange for a carrier and we will send your final opt-out bill.’
‘No, no, no. I’m not paying for a phone I have had for two months. You lied, you can suck up the cost.’
I’m sorry sir but…’ I then slammed the phone down. And by that I mean pressed the red end call button on screen. I could have argued the toss with him all day and nothing would have been resolved. He was right, I’d signed the contract and been fool enough to believe their lies. A week later the phone was blocked and I added it to the other two seven hundred pound paperweights I keep in a drawer in the kitchen.
‘Yes I’ve had a phone contract with Indigo,’ I tell Mr. Bailiff.
He nods, ‘Well I’m here to collect £1955.34 to satisfy that debt.’
I shrug, ‘Don’t have it funnily enough. Tell me, have you ever knocked on a door where the debtor pulls out close to two grand and pays you instantly? There are reasons these debts are run up, sometimes people face a financial hardship by losing their job, other times a store assistant lied to you and now you have to cop for the debt. Sometimes it’s both.’
‘Would you be able to pay anything towards the bill today Mr. Deacon?’
I shake my head, ‘Not a penny. I was lied to when I took out that…’
Mr. Bailiff puts up his hand, ‘I’m going to stop you there, there is nothing I can do. If you have an issue you need to take it up with Indigo, I am only here to try and resolve the matter.’
‘But surely to be in a position to resolve this matter you need to know what happened?’
He shakes his head, ‘No, I’m here to ask for the total balance of the debt, or try to arrange some sort of repayment plan.’
‘Well, I have no money.’
‘Are you working at the moment?’
‘None of your business.’
'Do you receive benefits?’
‘None of your business,’ I tell him, smiling.
‘Ah,’ he says, nodding and writing something down on the piece of paper on his clipboard, and then leafing through to find an envelope. He unclips the envelope and hands it to me.
‘Please ring the number at the top of the enclosed document and somebody may be able to help sort this out.’
I nod, ‘How am I able to do that when Indigo blocked my phone? I am unable to make any calls. That’s why you haven’t been able to get hold of me.’
Silence. Mr. Bailiff is stumped.
‘Ok, goodbye now,’ I tell him and shut the door in his face.
That was fun.
I’d like to think he’ll go back to his offices and report the issue but I know he won’t, they never do. In a couple of days another of Nightingale’s goons will turn up on my doorstep and I’ll probably hide again. It has reminded me that I do need to get myself a new phone. This was fun though, it’s nice to chat with other adults. For the most part, my life consists of trying to find meaningful conversation from an eight-year-old and an eleven-year-old, or from talking to myself, although the last time I chatted to him we ended up rowing. I can be such a sarcastic arsehole sometimes.