Customer Service Q&A: Stanley U.

Stanley UWhen he first became a Consolidated Credit customer service rep, Stanley was answering calls up to 100 times a day. Now he’s a customer service supervisor, so he takes fewer calls ? but the ones he does can be particularly gut-wrenching.

The calls that move him the most are from grandparents, because many of them got into debt by overspending not on themselves, but on their children and grandchildren.

“When I hear the frustration in their voice and see how they’re struggling ? they’re really trying, but they can barely put food in their refrigerator or feed themselves,” he says, “it really touches me.

“I spoke to a lady whose grandkids had run up her credit cards. They refuse to pay the debt, and the grandmother feels obligated to pay it back because the debt is in her name. I feel bad just thinking about that now.”

He recalls a similar call from a grandfather?

“There was this older gentleman who felt it was his duty to feed and entertain his grandkids,” Stanley recalls. “He often threw parties and took them on trips to fulfill what he says were his duties as a grandfather. ‘Somebody has to feed them, somebody has to entertain them,’ he always said. ‘I have to take them on trips; they are my grandkids.'”

According to Stanley, this grandfather was spending $800 to $1,000 every month throwing parties and taking his grandkids on trips. He was at least $40,000 in debt.

There’s always a reason why people fall into debt. What are some other common reasons you’ve heard?

“Poor money management,” for the most part he says. “People are getting in over their head thinking that they have it under control and not really understanding how interest works.”

Stanley explains with a scenario?

“They may spend a couple hundred dollars on sneakers and pay $10 a month on their credit card, which seems reasonable to them. Or they may borrow $100 and pay $10 a month and figure they should be done in 10 months. But, what they aren’t factoring in is the interest that will accrue over that 10-month period.”

This scenario works only if the transaction is at a zero-percent APR. But Stanley says in some cases the interest is 25-30 percent ? and that’s “astronomical.”

It seems straightforward. Why do people get caught up in that trap?

“Primarily, it’s poor management and making minimum payments,” he explains. “I think one of the issues is that we are such an instant gratification society ? we see the commercials for the new Wii, the new X-Box, the new Jordan sneakers, and it’s so easy to fall into that trap. This card can get me this now, I don’t have to wait. So people just go ahead and spend to satisfy that urge.”

Stanley always advises clients to use debit or prepaid cards. That way, they can only spend whatever is on the card.

What’s a unique reason someone has given you for falling into debt?

“There are the Christmas-time ones where all of a sudden, all these bad things happen in December,? he says. ?I need to change the tires on my car and this and that. And there are people who’ll openly call and say I missed a payment because I need to buy Christmas presents.”

What’s the nicest thing a graduate from the program has ever said to you?

“That we saved their life.”

Stanley said he spoke with a client recently who didn’t have sufficient words to express how grateful and satisfied she was with the service Consolidated Credit offers.

“I spoke to a client who didn’t have enough adjectives to describe the company,” he smiles. “She said that we were a God-send and that we literally saved her life because she was in trouble. She also said because of our debt management program she has such a better understanding of how to handle her finances.”

And because the client was so happy with not only paying off her debt but learning how to stay out of it in the future, she confidently said: “You will never see me again. Thanks for helping me and my family. You guys saved my life.”

Has anyone cried upon completion of the program?

“I’m sure they have and with good reason,” Stanley confirms. “I’ve also spoken to clients who are elated that they’ve completed the program, citing how happy and speechless and blessed they are.”

How has your job helped with your personal finances?

“This job has definitely taught me better money management skills, the importance of having a sound budget and prioritizing everything like bills, housing and food. The knowledge that I’ve gained since working here keeps me from drowning in debt.”

While Stanley would love to see a world in which no one ever gets deeply into debt, he realizes companies like Consolidated Credit will always be needed.

“I really didn’t know that people had so much trouble with credit cards,” he says. “But when I started working here it really opened my eyes. People are really drowning in debt and they really need that life preserver. I can only imagine if companies like ours didn’t exist what people would do.”

How do you separate your work life from your personal life?

Sometimes he’s not able to. But he tries.

“There are times when I’m home, and I’ll start thinking about accounts, clients, and so on. If I just spoke to an 80-year-old woman, I definitely think about it for a little while. But for the most part, in order to separate the two, I read, watch TV, go bike riding, or work out.”

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