posted: Aug. 19, 2008 @ 11:22a
I figured I would post a cool debt collector story since there seems to be more DC threads popping up here.
Bought some hardwood flooring back in January of 06 from an online merchant in Nevada. For the sake of this post, we will call them ourflooringsucks.com.
Was about $2000 in actual flooring and another $750 in supplies to install the flooring, broken into TWO separate charges. Had it dropped shipped to my house by truck. They delivered over 50 cartons of this stuff to the street curb. Anyways I noticed that mabe 3 or 4 boxes had some wear and damage on them. I pointed this out to the driver and he said let the merchant know. I should have marked that there was some damage on the shipping receipt (my fault), but I didn't.
Anyways... I carry all 50 cartons into my house (this stuff was HEAVY - I easily had over 1000 pounds of this stuff). I got to install the flooring and I notice that a lot of the planks (in the boxes that were damaged) have cracks on the edges (where you lock them together). So I fire off email to merchant telling them I have maybe 10% damaged pieces, resend me 3 cartons. They refuse (even after I send them pictures of damaged product). They said I should go after shipper since I didn't note it on the receipt. I told the guy it was IMPOSSIBLE to inspect every single carton. That would mean I would have to open every box, inspect all four sides of every plank. This would take hours and no delivery guy in their right mind to wait while I did this at the curb (it was all freezing out and there was snow on the ground being in January).
I file BBB complaint against merchant. BBB complaint goes back and fourth, they say I should have noted damage and I could use the broken pieces as "cuttings" for the walls. I say this is a joke and I wasn't asking for much (3 out of 50 cartons). Anyways they still refuse so BBB closes case as administratively closed, customer not happy.
DJ starts to take action:
So after BBB case was closed, I decided to dispute the $2000 charge for the flooring with Chase since this company PISSED ME OFF. Again maybe this was going too far but screw these guys. They could have made a customer happy and they didn't so I am going after them. I send chase pictures of damaged product. I elected to not dispute the other $750 charge for the install supplies since I felt $2000 was enough for my "troubles".
Anyways... Chase takes the $2000 charge off my credit card and I never hear from Chase, or the merchant for a year and a half afterwards. Chase's dispute department scored extra points with me.
18 months later collections start:
So in June of 2007 (18 months later), I get a CALL from a debt collector. Totally caught me off guard as I was wondering who the hell are you. Right when I found out this was a DC I immediately said "Do not call me anymore, put everything in writing to me, bla bla bla". He was like "no no no, just hear me out... bla bla bla". So I said fine what do you have to say?
Long story short DC tells me they are representing ourflooringsucks.com and they want their money. They also said they sent me a letter a few days ago and they are following up (i'll get more into this letter shortly). I tell them that I didn't see any letter and I disputed this charge with my bank and they found in my favor. DC says that doesn't excuse the debt I owe ourflooringsucks.com. He says I owe them $2849. I said no way is this debt amount even accurate because I only disputed $2000 worth of the flooring and explain that this was bought with two separate charges to my credit card. DC was surprised at this and he said "ok let me talk to ourflooringsucks.com about this and i'll get back to you."
Dealing with "profitable" letters from DC:
Anyways I find the letter they sent me in my stack of mail for that week that I didn't open yet. I open letter and looks standard but does NOT include my 30 day right to dispute. (PRO-FIT) They also send me a second letter a day later with pretty much the same wording (again no 30 day right to dispute). Second letter said they are demanding money in "7 days" or else they will take "action" against me. This second letter also says I now owe them $2856 (more than last letter).
So I send in Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested DV letter to them anyways demanding validation. I also decide to fire off PM to codename47 and I gave him the story. He was suggesting I sue them for not giving me my 30 day right to dispute. But I figured let me just see what happens with this DV letter. If they go away i'll just drop this matter. I knew I was already "ahead of the game" by having $2000 worth of flooring that I didn't pay for. I don't hear from them for 3 months. I figured yay... they went away since they didn't get back to me in 30 days. Then they send me another letter and this is where it gets fun.
DC's last letter shoots themselves in the foot:
DC sends me another letter (now this is in Dec of 07 - three months after initial contact and BEYOND the 30 day window they have to prove validation). I'll cut and paste some quotes from what the letter said just so you can see the stupidity of this debt collector.
The above creditor (the flooring place) reviewed my dispute letter, and they have denied your dispute on the basis that the damage was not reported in a timely matter and that the boards that were damaged should be used for fillins.
Please remit payment as soon as possible as my client has authorized suit action if it is necessary and the suit would be in the state of Nevada.
So now they are threatening to sue me, and sue me out of state. I have to admit this made me nervous. I don't want to have to fly out to Nevada to defend myself. Also this letter now says I owe them $3031 (more than the first two - amount keeps going up). Where are they getting these numbers from?
And they say they are "denying" my dispute. What the hell is this crap? You can't DENY a request for validation. You can only send validation (which they didn't). I was mainly looking for a bill that explains how they came up with this innacurate amount that I owed them. I guess this idiot DC thought my DV letter was a dispute where the letter clearly stated I was not disputing and I was LOOKING FOR VALIDATION.
What a freakin' joke. Time to "go codename47 on them"!
I try to find a lawyer that will help me. I find this great website http://www.naca.net/. I use their attorney search to find a list of attornies in my area with their phone numbers and email addresses. I said to myself, let me fire off a bunch of emails, explain my case, and see if one of these guys will "bite".
I sent about 10 emails, giving a brief description of my story, AND copies of all the DC letters. I talk to a few of them over the phone until I find one guy that says "lets sue them". He says all he does is sue harassing debt collectors and takes the case free of charge as he says "You will not have to pay me anything because I only take cases where I KNOW I will win". He also went on to say that "this will settle quickly".
I pay him a visit in person. He says that "you know you are still ahead of the game here by disputing this entire charge", which I agreed to obviously. He says the letter that "peaked his interest" was the fact that this idiot debt collector threatened the sue me in what he called "a distant forum". He said this is against FDCPA and they are not allowed to do this. He further said he didn't like the "tone" of that last letter.
He decides to file suit in federal court (in MY home state) since he felt it would be best to go on the "offensive". He handles everything. Long story short, lawyer for DC tries to say that they know they screwed up, but I still owe them money for this debt. My lawyer pretty much says to DC's lawyer "it doesn't matter... you violated FDCPA".
Anyways my lawyer calls me a few months later says instead of my $1000 FDCPA violation, he says he can probably negotiate that this debt simply "goes away" in exchange for the $1000. He also says in addition, he will get paid by them for his attorney fees.
So they settle, I get this $3000 debt taken care off. They can never come after me again, nor can another DC come after me for this debt as my lawyer says "doing that would lead to a BIGGER lawsuit". My lawyer gets $1000 in fees. I didn't do a damm bit of work. PRO-FIT FOR ALL!!!!!
Morale of the story + datapoints
- Disputing a charge on your credit card (and winning dispute) doesn't absolve you of the debt. Merchants can still go after you.
- If you get letters from DCs, SAVE THE LETTERS. They may be worth money.
- Find good FDCPA lawyer and show him letters. Since lawyers can sue for their attorney fees under FDCPA, they will take a case for free they feel they can win. Lawyers need the work just as much as we do.
- I thought finding a lawyer would be difficult, until I found http://www.naca.net. Lots of attornies listed in their database "looking for work". It even lists the types of law each lawyer practices. I only emailed the guys local to me specializing in collections. There were other lawyers that specialized in other stuff like Landlord/Tenant, Bankruptcy, etc.
- Fire off emails to a bunch of attornies and include all coorespondence from the DCs (including scanned copies of the DC letters). A lawyer will respond if you have a case. I sent about 10 emails and got 5 responses back.
- Even if you screwed up on some things (like I did by not noting damage on the delivery receipt), it doesn't matter if the DC screws up more. Lesson definitely learned for future deliveries.
- And finally.... PROFIT!
Codename47 was really cool and I definitely thank him because he took the time to answer a lot of my questions over the span of five months. I can't say this will work for everyone as some DCs really know the law and are careful with their letters.
But I must say that "going codename47" on this DC, and sueing the crap out of them, was so invigorating because I realized who I was doing this against. There is nothing more satisfying in life than sticking it to these debt collector creetins and knowing you got the best of them.
ETA: corrected some grammar