I Have No Debt, How Un-American of Me


I recently got off the phone with the debt collectors of the Federal Perkins loan I borrowed for college. I shudder when I think of debt collectors. Sure, developed countries’ attitudes and policies surrounding debt has improved a lot since Charles Dickens’ time when debtors were simply thrown into the slammer, but I still shudder.

The debt collection agency is called Campus Products and Services. They’re a division of Affiliated Computer Services, which is in turn a subsidiary of the Xerox Corporation.

As my nine month grace period of no interest accumulation expired, I received a letter from ACS. The company wrote the letter with all capitals in hard-to-read monospace font. The only logical conclusion I could make was that ACS still uses typewriters and hires switchboard operators. If you have “computer” in your company’s name, you should check if those computers have fonts that don’t make you look like you’re from an authoritarian police state.

ACS’ letter had no information on how to pay during the grace period. It read: “Your grace period will expire February 28, 2011. The amount due with your first monthly payment is $40.00. We will send you your first bill about three to four weeks before the due date.” So where do I mail a check if I abhor paying interest?

I called ACS to ask. The operator worried when she asked if my email address was jlr[some arbitrary numbers]@hotmail.com. Excuse me, but who the fuck is that? “So has ACS sent e-mails to that address?” I asked. “No, all correspondence is done through post,” she said. Good, because I don’t want jlr[some arbitrary numbers]@hotmail.com to get my financial lowdown.

Luckily, the operator told me I could pay early through their website or snail mail. Finding a human being in the ACS automated answering system was circuitous. Why do these telephonic systems make speaking with a real person so hard? The option “press 0 to speak with an operator” hides in some dark telephonic cul-de-sac. “If you would like to speak with an operator, please press 0 and then do 50 push-ups, then press 1, then knock on Cheryl’s door at Utica, NY…”