This one irked me too much and I have to share.

Lily and I are on vacation this week so we’re sleeping late and getting the kids fed and bathed after 8am. Vacation: it’s all good. Around 8:45am today I heard my cell phone ring. I was busy wrestling with my son, so I let it go to voice mail.

15 minutes later I checked the voice mail. It was marked "Urgent". Here’s what I heard.

"Yeah this message is for Jack Someone, my name is the John Doe and it is extremely important that I speak to you as soon as possible regarding your case that I’m handling.

My firm has been retained to have a -fuzzy sounds like- criminal issue for the sheriff to repossess your Name-Brand Car and before any other charges that are pending against you are filed or any subpoenas for depositions issued to family, friends, relatives, or business associates that may be familiar with the current status of this collateral, I’d like to give you the chance to avoid this.

My contact number is 1-800-555-5555 extension 665 and I’ll hold service pending immediate contact. Also it’s purported that John Dembowski may be driving this vehicle."

Names and details changed, in case you don’t realize it.

Gee, that sounded just like a collection agent. I worked with Jack Someone in the past, I have no idea why they were calling me or how my cell phone number came in their possession. I even knew the last part was just to get a rise out of me and call back, even if they did get my first name wrong. The prudent thing would be to just deleted the message; if someone had something real to say to me they’d used registered mail.

Even knowing that, I called.

John: Hello? Me: Is this John Doe?

John: Yes it is.

Me: You just called me, regarding Jack Someone.

John: Yes, yes I did.

Me: I don’t know where you got that information but I am not driving Jack’s car, and I don’t know what this is about.

John: Well, that is what he is putting out there. Have you had any contact with him?

Me: I worked with Jack two years ago at ACME Sprockets.

John: I want you to listen very carefully, I am going to ask-

Me: I want you to listen to me very carefully, I am hanging up now.

And I hung up. He called my cell phone less than a minute later.

John: I want to ask-

Me: John if you call me back again I am going to report you to the authorities.

And promptly hung up again.

I misplaced Jack’s number so I instead called a mutual friend. He conferenced in Jack and we chatted. Jack is a good guy and he was very apologetic. He asked if I could send him the details, so I sent him an e-mail as above and included a MP3 of the message I got.

I wonder what the success rate on using tactics like that are? For some people just sounding authoritative works. If they can get you to lie (what little I said was truthful and accurate), they can work that. They want to get you to do their work for them and if that means annoying some people to get to someone, they do it.

The positive result for them is getting the person dodging them to contact them. So on that score, John Doe did his job well. Jack contacted the original company that sent the job to John Doe.

Next time I will just delete the damn message.

I am sure that there are ethical, effective, collection professionals somewhere. I am equally sure that under the right conditions (say, on an episode of MythBusters) pigs really can fly.