The Rotten Mango Smell of Spite

I’ll never forget the day that I gripped that phone and said, “Oh yeah? Well, then you’re never gonna see another dime from me again. Ever.”

Imaginary TV camera zooms in on my mouth, “Evvveeeerrrrr.”

That, dear friends, was the day I ruined my credit purely out of spite.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that spite isn’t an addictive and dangerous drug. When I think back on the things I’ve done purely out of spite over the years, I get a noticeable rush of dopamine in my brain. It’s like Romeo seeing Juliet for the first time, but it’s me remembering that time I rubbed rotten mango all over that skank’s car windows under the dark cover of Florida night after she called me a “drunk trailer trash slut”.  I didn’t even live in a trailer!

I was drunk, though, so that part was probably fair.  And also a slut.

It took days to get the smell of rotten mango off my hands.

Worth it!

I grew up in a household that didn’t have access to credit. This meant that any time an unexpected bill, say from an emergency room visit, was overdue and they threatened to turn the account over to a collection agency, the stock answer to them was, “Throw it on the pile!” and then you hung up the phone.

That was how I learned to manage unplanned debt, anyway. Tell them to throw it on the pile.

When I was a kid, all the adults I knew lived without credit cards, drove junkers and didn’t have car loans, and already had mortgages, so what the hell were the bill collectors going to do to them? Nobody checked credit for job applications or anything like that. So screw it. Take that bill that you can’t afford to pay, and tell the collection agency to chuck it onto the pile with all the other bills you can’t pay. What are they going to do? Throw you in debtor’s prison?

This resulted in many attempted deliveries of certified letters to my house when I was growing up, as you may have previously read about in my piece Proof of Deliverance in The New Southern Fugitives earlier this year. That was a fun one to write, and I chuckled my way pretty much through the whole thing when I was writing it.

That being said, it’s a crappy, stressful way to live, dodging bill collectors. When I became an adult and finally managed to get somebody to give me a credit card, I decided that I was going to be really, really good with it.

I was going to break the family cycle of: No Money? No Credit? All problems!

I had a $300 limit and somewhere around 24% interest rate with that first card. A rate that high should be illegal, and it’s basically setting poor people up to fail, by the way.  I used my card responsibly and paid my bill every month on-time for years. They raised my little $300 limit a couple times each year, higher and higher, and my credit score was improving every month. My interest rate stayed at 24%.

Then, years later, it happened. The phone call.

I was sitting at work when my phone rang. It was a customer service rep at my credit card company telling me that I had missed that month’s payment. I knew this was impossible, seeing as I paid it well before it was due every month. I made it my personal policy to pay it the day after I received the bill, even though it wasn’t due for weeks after that.

I told her the date I paid it and the check number. I went online to see if the check had cleared through my bank.

It had not.

I told her I had never made a late payment, not in the eight years that I’d had the card at that point, and it must have gotten lost in the mail. I was a solid customer! I begged her to waive the late fee, waive the now over-the-limit fee, and not jack-up my already insane interest rate.

No dice. She wouldn’t budge. Not only would I have to pay a small fortune in penalties, but now my interest rate would be permanently somewhere around one trillion percent.

I was so angry. Angry that I had worked so hard to keep good credit and to pay my bill on time, and that one single lost payment somehow was going to derail everything.

So I…let’s call it…

…regressed?

All the way back to childhood. Like a cornered, dirty possum.

I gripped the phone and said, “Oh yeah? Well, then you’re never gonna see another dime from me again. Ever. Evvveeerrrr.”

And they never did, either.

I spent the next seven years dodging their calls, refusing to sign for their certified letters, and watching the amount that I owed them multiply over and over with interest and penalties every time they sold it off to another collection agency. I had originally owed them a total of just under $1,500 for everything. Now they claimed I owed them more than $13,000.  I eventually told them I would be willing to pay the damn $1,500 if they would close the case and leave me alone.  Nope!  The lowest amount they would settle for was TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.

What did I do? I waited them out. This is not good financial advice, for the record.

As a fully regressed dirtbag kid, I knew my debt was small potatoes compared to a lot of folks at the time. This was peak recession. It would be extremely unlikely that they would spend the money to come after me in court for it. I also knew that in my state if they hadn’t filed a lawsuit against me after five years, then they would forfeit their ability to do so. I celebrated that day when I passed the five-year mark with a can of Miller High Life the size of my head.

I also knew it could only stay on my credit for seven years and so long as I didn’t send them even $10, that BS $13,000 debt was going to expire whether they liked it or not. (If you make even the tiniest little payment on a debt like that, it starts the clock over from that date, and then it’s a brand new five- and seven-year deal. That’s why bill collectors try to get you to even send them $10.  It resets the clock.  If you want to know everything about debt collection laws in your state, talk to the poorest person you know.)

I was fortunate that, at the time, I already had a car, was renting my house from my mother, and had the same job. What the hell did I need good credit for? You know what they said in my household growing up! Throw it on the pile!

Little did I know that exactly one month after it finally fell off my credit report, at age 35, I would unexpectedly need to rent an apartment for the first time, apply for a new job a month after that, and six months after that, finance a new car. All of which required a credit check. If my life circumstances had changed even a month or two earlier than they did, I would have been completely screwed. I would have been homeless, jobless, and car-less over one stupid credit card.

It would be easy to say that dodging that debt all worked out in the end, but I lived in a house of cards for seven years waiting it out. It was constantly hanging over my head – and lord knows, they called me every single day. They sent letters several times a week. They still call me all these years later and threaten me with legal action at least once a month, even though the debt is legally non-collectable. I figure that even if I live to be 150 years old, my last words will be to some damn collection agency over that damn credit card.

I rebuilt my credit over the last eight years, and now, finally, I have good credit again.  I pay off both of my cards every month and make sure my payment clears every time.

The biggest lesson I learned? If one of my credit card companies calls me to tell me that my payment is late, I’ll either fight my way up the chain until I can make someone fix it, or suck it up and pay the initial penalties, even though it’s total bullshit.

But, oh, the spite opportunities. When I think of the spite, I can almost smell the rotten mango on my hands.  Capital One’s car windows would be SO jacked up right now.

22 thoughts on “The Rotten Mango Smell of Spite

  1. Damn. How does a $1,500 debt balloon to $13,000? That’s insane!!
    The entire credit card industry is evil, and as you say… sets up poor people to fail. The interest is outrageously high and guarantees you’ll never pay it off in full. We did what we thought was the right thing years ago and paid off all our cards and cut them up. Totally debt free and it felt great. Until all our credit scores started dropping. We were 2 points away from absolutely perfect and within a few years dropped 60 points…. because we didn’t owe anyone anything. How wrong is that? I had to get another credit card and stick it in the drawer unused just to raise our scores again. That’s nuts!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. They really do have it set up so that you have to have credit cards to have a good score. It’s such total BS. The only ding I have on my current credit report is from not having a mortgage. So they want me to have credit cards, a car loan, AND a mortgage if I want perfect credit? What total crap!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, we must be related somehow! My parents were good with money, so I thought. They never showed me how to take care of money or credit for that matter. So as an adult I found myself in the same situation as yours, only it got so bad that I had to file for bankruptcy. Which is a double edged sword when it comes to credit, and I filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which meant that I would pay off the debt I owed and not just have everything wiped clean like a Chapter 7. It’s taken me five year to get my credit shit together and my credit is beginning to start to look half way decent.

    And like you, I got a credit card (yes just one) because going through all the financial responsibility classes I had to take for bankruptcy I learned that one was all I needed. I pay it off every month to build better credit. But then realized through the home buying disaster that you have to be in debt to your eyeballs to have good credit but then you have too much debt on your hands to be able to qualify for certain things. It’s a scam I’m telling you a fucking scam!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Tears have worked for me if I missed a payment. That and the standard ‘I’m so busy with 6 kids’ line. I would have puked if someone did not respond with the necessary: we will give you a one time pass, just be on time next time. I once missed a car onsurance payment. We had moved and they did not send me the bill to my new address. I drove around for like 8 mos. without insurance. That could have been totally disastrous.

    Love the rotten mangos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tears! Why didn’t I think of that? I probably should have tried tears before I hit the gas and went 80mph towards rage! This is what I get for trying to act like a tough guy all the time. I blame Jo from Facts of Life for this particular problem of mine. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. OMG – I can totally see you as Jo! With a bad ass attitude. Loved that damn show. I hated Blair. I was no where near pretty and I wanted to scratch her eyes out for being so beautiful and knowing it! Did you see they are making a reunion show or something. Saw a blurb about it on my morning news program.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sometimes you can put off a payment (using old fashioned checks) by mailing them to the wrong recipients. Just an “honest mistake” that can buy you as much as 2 weeks before they come looking for you. Credit cards are too immediate for my taste and interest rates are obscene. In the old days, people who charged that kind of interest were usually organized criminals playing on weaknesses. The difference then was that if you didn’t pay up it didn’t hurt your credit rating. Then again, it’s hard to walk with broken knees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good one – mailing it to the “technically wrong” address!

      It’s nuts the kind of interest rates they get away with – and the kind of crazy stuff they try to get people to finance these days. I bought a $40 item on eBay and Paypal asked me if I wanted to finance it!

      Like

  5. I think my parents were actually good with money, but it was one of those subjects we never really talked about. I’m still trying to make up for my many, many credit mistakes, but more than that, I’m trying to make sure my daughter understands the hell out of money and credit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad that parents are teaching their kids this stuff now! We were all just sort of left to our own devices when we turned 18, and subsequently screwed everything up along the way! It’s too bad they don’t teach this stuff in high school. It would have been a huge help!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Are there laws capping interest rates now? I seem to recall hearing that. I get cash back on my credit card, but it’s still not worth using it unless I have the money to pay it off right away. I hate being in debt of any kind–financially, favours, people saving my life, you know….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When we were kids we used to pull that whole “I saved your life, so now you have to do anything I say from now on!” like we had learned from The Brady Bunch. It didn’t usually last more than an hour before we would decide it wasn’t worth the trade-off!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh lord, if this isn’t enough to make you want to burn the whole thing down then nothing is. I just don’t think I’d have the balls to play that particular game of chicken — yes, you were lucky but you were also BRAVE. Because $13,000 is just crap.

    Liked by 1 person

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