I hope you have read my part one of my 3 part series in the life of a Credit Counsellor and the variety of people we must deal with on a regular basis. If anyone deals with the public, you understand all the issues that come up. I am not focusing on the wonderful clients, which there are many and, shall I say, I see most of, but the unique people that can never leave your mind or, in some cases, your senses.
1. PERVS AND CREEP SHOWS- It is inevitable that women will have to deal with these creeps who think they are God's gift to women even though they are missing teeth, wear Ode de Brute aftershave and literally point the finger at you and wink (shudder). I have had more than one client want to buy me coffee to "get to know me better" and one who bought me flowers! There was one man who came into our agency and when I asked him what I can help him with, his eyes locked onto my boobs and refused to look anywhere else. I mean, I know I have bodacious Ta-ta's but they are meant for my hubby alone (well, maybe Hugh Jackman too). I literally bent down to make eye contact with him and motioned with my hands to look at my face. He finally got the hint and actually looked at my face. One of the reasons we don't like to take cash any more are the places people keep their money and I am not talking in weird looking wallets. One man, who had a sweating problem and wore those "wife-beater" shirts, would take out his $840, all in 20's, from inside that shirt...the money had a few black chest hairs still attached plus they were literally soaking wet. The worst perv goes to one of my clients who came in to make a payment wearing mechanic overalls. At that time, the reception desk was literally a desk with no barrier like glass..or barbed wire. He had that overall unbuttoned so low that I thought the fleas would pore out. When I asked for the $425, where do you think he pulled the money from? Take a guess? Yup, with a pervy smile, he leaned his torso forward so it hit the edge of the desk, stuffed his hand down the front and with a smile, pulled out.....the money. What did I do? I looked at him, tilted my head and just said, "Really?" I took the money, counted it, gave him a receipt and mentioned to him that I will be washing my hands with bleach and if he ever pulls a stunt like this again, the police will know. So what does one do...I believe with those 2 big pervs, I did the right thing because I won't stand for any crap.
A. Get a Sharp spoon and do the Bobbit?
B. Put on a hazmat suit before dealing with these creeps?
C. Feel special and think, "My prince has come" and joke and flirt with them?
D. Stand your ground, realize this is harassment, and call them on it or simply tell them to leave and inform your boss. Inform your boss no matter what.
No person should deal with any type of harassment even from people you are sworn to help. They have no right to treat you like an object so, if you don't feel you have the ability to tell them to treat you with respect or leave, you tell your boss about the situation. I have no problem informing any person if they are treating me with disrespect. Yes, we must help people and we are there to help but not to be objectified.
2. DRUNKS/HIGH/TRIPPING-Thankfully, I have not had too many with this issue but it has happened. When it is 9 am and you bring the person into your office only to smell the distinct odour of booze, you know there is an issue. When you ask them how much they spend in alcohol, you must not laugh out loud when they claim to not drink. Now, We are dealing with people who smell quite strongly of that medicinal plant and you must do your best not to float out of the office with them since you are breathing it in from their clothes and pores. I have to admit, maybe I led a sheltered life, but I never knew when someone just took a snort of the white stuff. My friend, who worked at reception, always knew because, unfortunately, her husband's brother and nephews were involved in that stuff. I would tell her how jumpy they were and unsettled and she would just say their nose cavity was probably gone. I never clued in...yup naive on my part. Drunks, on the other hand...well, I had one older man, who looked 110 but was only 61, who routinely came in drunker than a skunk (God I wish I was Foghorn Leghorn right now and come in with one of his quips). He would question what I was doing, fall asleep, fart...ahh the sweet mysteries of life. I told him to leave and opened the door. He refused but I told him I would call security(we had no security but he didn't know that). He finally got up looked at me and, right in my face, said "Boo". Ughhhh So what does one do?
A. Bring out your stash and drink with them?
B. Tell them they have sinned in your best Jerry Falwell voice?
C. Trick them into spinning themselves around until they throw up?
D. Politely, but firmly, ask them to leave your office and come back when they are sober.
Of course, it's D, You may be dreaming about that glass of wine (or beer) that is waiting for you at home but you know better than to walk around like a drunk because those fun days at university or college are part of fond memories. Once again, you never judge the individual because these people once had bright careers and lives only to fall victim to addiction. This does not mean you must deal with these people when they are intoxicated from drink or drugs. We all have the right to ask the person to leave your office as we never deal with something that might do you harm. In fact, once they are in your office and are sober, you could broach the subject of seeking addiction counselling but only if you feel comfortable enough to do this.
3. EVERYONE ELSE'S FAULT/THE GOVERNMENT- Ahh, these wondrous people who have 6 credit cards, all maxed, a car loan for a big ass truck, a credit line, an overdraft, a finance company loan along with a sprinkling of payday loans, only to blame their ex, their kids, their job or, my fav, the government for their debt. I have had plenty of people in my office who have blamed everyone else except the one they see in the mirror. Now, yes, I believe the banks, finance companies and even the Government could make it more difficult for the average person to get 6 cards or that loan for Christmas but then, they would lose out on all the interest they make from the poor slobs trying to pay it back over 78 years (yes, on the credit card statements, I have seen the notice where it will take them 79 years, 9 months to pay the debt off since it is now mandatory, in Canada, to display this on their statements). The "goodies" we all see in the malls, online, stores, etc...make it very difficult to say "No" especially since it is so easy to get the stuff we want for ourselves or for the kids, but this is what we truly need to do and take responsibility for our actions. One client blamed the government for allowing him to get his big ass truck, a Dodge Ram, with all the bells and whistles, that he could not afford since his payment was $728 per month over 7 years. When I mentioned to give the truck up, he looked at me like I was ready to take his baby away. When you give suggestions to get out of debt, they look at you as if you were some squirrely nut because how dare we suggest they need to give up their cards and find a a much cheaper used car that their dad will give them for free. So what should one do?
A. Take them by their shirt and slap them silly?
B. Agree with them and decide to charge the parliament buildings with a stolen tank?
C. Take your rocket launcher(we all have them) and blow up their beloved big ass truck?
D. Listen but politely steer them back to the main issue, their debt and how to fix it?
Yes, after slapping them silly, you blow up their damn big ass truck with a big fat smile on your face. Nope, you can think it but never, ever act on this nor make them feel belittled for their way of thinking. You must do your best to understand their frustration with their current predicament but guide them to the various options they actually do have without laying blame. In the end, blame does no true service, but action does, so they need the help which is why they are in your office. Patience is needed at this time and one must see their dilemma through their eyes even if you want to blow up their precious truck.
4. CRYING....AND CRYING....AND CRYING- I have many people each week who cry due to their sad circumstances and many people have gone through some heart-wrenching times that have led them into financial despair. Every person has times where they just cry but there are people who cry...and cry...and cry....and cry. I have had more than one person come in to my office and start crying and wailing over the loss of their marriage or their job. They tell me all the details as I give them a box of tissues so they can go on crying. After 20 minutes, I might have some basic questions answered but still need to find out their income, debts and expenses. When I ask when they separated from their spouse or lost their job, thinking it was 3 or 6 months ago, I find out it is 20 years ago! They talk as if this happened to them just recently and they refuse to veer towards anything that would make their life better. After trying to retrieve any information I need, an hour has passed and my next client is waiting. I inform them that they must give me some information quicker but, alas, they continue to cry and ask questions delaying my wish to die. OK, I won't die but, by this point, they have been in my office for over an hour and I still need to inform them of their options. Guess what? Yes, any option I give them, they cry and shoot down even though the options would help their cause. what to do?
A. Throw water in their face and tell them to "Snap out of it!" in your best New York, Italian, Cher accent?
B. Cry with them and take Tequila shots?
C. Tell them their spouse is better off without them and kick them out
D. Regardless how frustrating or irritating it may be, they are a human being and deserve your empathic approach.
You know, I had a hard time even writing down option C. I could never, ever think of doing that to someone who is in constant distress. Now slapping them with water and drinking shots is another matter:). Of course, it is D because they truly need our listening ear and our empathy but we still must guide them through all the questions posed to them. I used to let someone cry or give me a sob story for 20 minutes after I asked them how much they spend on groceries, but now, I nicely guide them and, yes, sometimes gently, interrupt them to answer the question so the meeting does not go on for 2 hours. You are there to help but not to be manipulated and, sometimes, this is what they want. You must present the options but you must know it is their choice whether they wish to take it or not. One thing I always ask is if they see a counsellor since there is almost always more to the story. Many do have a counsellor, others have family but some are alone and, if and when possible, you can see if they would be willing to see someone to help them move forward.
This is long winded but I wanted to speak about 4 this time. The last 3 of my top 10 on difficult clients will be here shortly....To be continued.