Teacher Tim's TEFL International Blog February 12th, 2011

A Public Service Announcement From Teacher Time

So all right, you’ve had it with teaching in Thailand.

Your students are somnolent. Your co-workers are either dunces or dupes of the school administration. And the school administration . . . well! The proper words to describe those people are to be found in the maws of boot camp sergeants the world over.

You’re going back home, back to the States. You don’t care a hill of beans if there’s nothing but downsizing, crime, homelessness, no more health care, and a sinister, never-ending Tea Party. Your mind is made up, and that’s all she wrote –

So, who’s arguing with you? Not me. In fact, I hope you’ll think of me when you dig into some of that good bread pudding they serve at Bob Evans in French Lick, Indiana, or sink your teeth into a loosey goosey burger at Sloppy Joe’s in New York. More power to you, bro. You go, girl. I wish you good luck back home after your adventures here in Thailand.

But you’ll need more than good luck to find steady work back in the States, my little luftmensch.

And that’s what I’m going to clue you in on right now.

A steady, good-paying job that’s always available to anybody who can manage to talk on the telephone. And that’s about the only qualification.

Interested? Skeptical? Think I’m gonna sell you a bill of goods, a pig in a poke, a Connecticut nutmeg?

Nossir. Out of the goodness of my heart and my patriotic fervor, which cringes at the thought of a fellow American, once a respected pedagogue here in Thailand, now reduced to begging in the streets or running for Congress, I am going to give you the benefit of my experience.

Please take notes – there will be a pop quiz.

As soon as your plane hits the tarmac back home take your resume around to every bill collecting company you find listed in the Yellow Pages. You’ll be hired within two days or I’m a wall gecko.

With the tide of debt sweeping the USA there is now a constant demand for bill collectors – those friendly people who call you while you’re at dinner to remind you your Mastercard has imploded and you need to make full payment right now.

I know whereof I speak, kemo sabe. I spent nearly two years working for a bill collection service we shall call Greenbush. I had no trouble getting the job; in fact after my first 30 days I was given a tidy sign-on bonus. I received paid training for my first two weeks, when my eyes were opened to the rollicking world of bill collectors – a fraternity that makes gobs of money, has to work nights and weekends, and usually dies from a stress related coronary by age forty.

You work on an automated phone system – you never dial a number yourself. You make about 20 calls per hour. Everyone lies and swears at you. But that’s okay – because you have a good-paying job and they are probably one step away from living in a cardboard box.

You think it’s hard work, too embarrassing or repressive for your delicate soul? Well, maybe. But then, you’ll soon be on the receiving end of a bill collecting call while you move your family into that refrigerator box the neighbors left behind.

Let me just take you through a typical collection call. It’s easy peasy.

· Whoever answers the phone, assume it’s the person you want to talk to. Don’t say “Is Mr. Bill Johnson there?” Always start with “Hello, Bill!” If it’s them, they usually say “Yeah, who’s this?” Now you have them trapped!

· Tell them what you want. Short and simple. My name is . . . I work for . . . You owe X amount on your Visa card. I need that payment right now. Then stop. Wait for the explosion of profanity, the shower of tears, or the shocked denial.

· Ignore it. Simply repeat yourself, several times if you have to. At this point about half of them hang up. Legally, you cannot call them a second time in the same day. But you do anyway, and you say “Looks like we got cut off.”

· Hammer away at them with short simple phrases: “Immediate payment.” “Legal action.” “Your credit score.” “Go get your checkbook – I can take a payment over the phone.”

· Well, many will hang up on you again and proceed to screen your number. No prob. Now comes the fun part. You have their address, so you enter it into a nifty little computer program your company is sure to have, and up pops the names and phone numbers of your deadbeat friend’s neighbors – the people who live right next door to him or her. You call the neighbors, and, putting on a worried tone, you inform them that you are trying to reach Bill next door about a business matter but he’s not answering the phone. Gosh, you hate to do this, but could they go over and make sure he’s all right? They say sure, you say thanks, and then you sit back and wait for Bill to call you in a fury, demanding to know what we told his nosey neighbor. Nothing, nothing at all, Bill; we just said we needed to contact you about a business matter. And then you start in again on “Legal Action”, “credit score”, etc.

· But Teacher Tim, I hear you say, people really do have problems and can’t come up with the money. How can you be so cynical & heartless? To which I reply – everybody has got money that they’re not telling you about. Here’s how I know this. When I worked as a publicity agent for the circus I was bombarded by requests for free tickets for families where the father was out of work or the mother had just come through a long illness. Well, I’m not a monster, so I’d give them some Annie Oakleys (as they’re called in the trade.) That night, when I’d see this family I had comped into the show sitting in the bleachers they’d be gobbling 2-dollar hotdogs, holding onto 3-dollar inflated dolls, and buying 5-dollar circus programs. Nobody gave them those items, they bought them with money from piggy banks and grandma’s hope chest. So again, the mantra of all collection agents is – you got it, or you know how to get it.

· Now your boss is going to be on your case to get results, and your monthly bonus is based on how much money you bring in each month. Don’t sweat it, my friend. Here is the Grand Secret to bill-collecting: Nobody will pay you at the end of the month, ever – but if you are the first one in line at the beginning of the month you have a fair chance of getting paid. So you have all your biggest accounts ready to go on the first day of the month, and you call all those people, and, by golly, some of them are going to pay you!

Follow my advice and your return home will be prosperous and comfortable. Ignore it, and you’ll wish you were back here teaching Matayom.

Oh, by the way, don’t let anyone know I’m over here in Thailand, okay? I still owe a couple hundred bucks on the old Visa and don’t want those damn people hounding me night & day!