60 minutes | CBC | 1999


Economically speaking, times have never been worse for many of us. Millions of people owe billions of dollars; bankruptcies and foreclosures are at all-time highs and unemployment is steadily rising. But there is one group that always does well in desperate times: collection agents

COLLECTION takes us inside the world of people who spend their days hassling the rest of us.

Meet Jason, a young ambitious collector who went into the business because he is eager to make his way up the corporate ladder and knows that, in collections, “turn over is fairly high”. For him, as for most of the collectors we meet, every day requires walking a tightrope between efficiency and brutality. “You gotta do what you gotta do to get the dollars in,” he says, “Hopefully without stepping on too many people’s toes.”

Then there is Deanna, a pleasant young woman who is starting to burn out after seven years of collecting. “I like helping people,” she says, improbably, adding that if she can help one client figure out a way to pay off debt, that makes up for the rest of the day, which is “95 per cent negative.”

On the other side of the calls – or, rather, hiding behind the answering machine – are people like Terry. She has three collection agencies harassing her for the $12,000 she owes in student loans which, unemployed, she has no hope of paying. To her, collection agents “must be fairly disturbed people”.

Funny, sad and sometimes infuriating, COLLECTION is an inside look at the toll that our credit society extracts from people on both sides of the ledger.