Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Scrooge The Bus Driver And The Debt Collecting

I felt like Scrooge.

I had to ask someone for money. A customer asked earlier in the day if they could pay later. That was fine, until on the last bus there was no money forthcoming. I had to go and chase the person up the street. After a scowl and some muttered curses of dubious festive cheer, I got the fare.

At first I felt guilty. As if I had ruined someone's Christmas. As time went on I hardened and felt no pity whatsoever. Why should anyone go without paying when everyone else did?

I've been debt collecting in a past life. Several times. Plodding up the stairs to a flat at the top of a tower block in South London, when the lift was out of order was not fun. Standing at someone's gate waiting for some money and hearing the jangling of coins as various family members searched their purses to come up with some offering, was not fun either. Sitting next to the Credit Controller of a company I used to work for was educational, but not fun. He was talking to a debtor in his hospital bed on his way to theatre for an operation. The Credit Controller had managed to secure the debt somewhere between the pre med and the general anaesthetic.

The only one who used to enjoy debt collecting was a friend who came up with a sysytem where two people went collecting; a tall one and a small one, preferably a girl. The tall person knocked at the front door and when the debtor answered he would say nothing but point over to the little person who was standing by the car ripping telephone directories in half. What the debtor never realised was that the middle pages had been cut with scissors, meaning that any old fool could have torn them.

It is difficult to carry telephone directories on the bus. They would inevitably fall down from the roof racks and there would be multiple claims from the passengers for head injuries.

I think I shall continue to be like Scrooge.


  1. Delightful image of a little girl tearing-up telephone directories!
    But, seriously, why should you feel bad about asking people for the fare? People know they have to pay to travel, and should not impose on your good nature.

  2. You are quite right, Stuart. However when you do come across someone who you feel, rightly or wrongly may be struggling or have an inability to pay, I find it a momentary 'crise de conscience'. It is momentary and I never lose any sleep.

    Another debt collecting technique used to be, when the person answered the doorbell, you would walk straight past and sit down in the nearest armchair, refusing to move until payment was received. Surprisingly this used to work and it must have been due to the sensitivity of people's personal space being invaded.