Debt Collectors Mess With Your Head To Get You To Pay More

NYTM intros an article on credit cards by watching a debt collector ply his trade:

Santana had actually already sought permission from the bank to settle for as little as $10,000. It’s an open secret that if a debtor is willing to wait long enough, he can probably get away with paying almost nothing, as long as he doesn’t mind hurting his credit score. So Santana knew he should jump at the offer. But as an amateur psychologist, Santana was eager to make his own diagnosis – and presumably boost his own commission.

“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Santana told the man…

Santana’s classes had focused on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a still-popular midcentury theory of human motivation. Santana had initially put this guy on the “love/belonging” level of Maslow’s hierarchy and built his pitch around his relationship with his ex-wife. But Santana was beginning to suspect that the debtor was actually in the “esteem” phase, where respect is a primary driver. So he switched tactics.

“You spent this money,” Santana said. “You made a promise. Now you have to decide what kind of a world you want to live in. Do you want to live around people who break their promises? How are you going to tell your friends or your kids that you can’t honor your word?”

The man mulled it over, and a few days later called back and said he’d pay $12,000.

“Boom, baby!” Santana shouted as he put down the phone. “It’s all about getting inside their heads and understanding what they need to hear,” he told me later. “It really feels great to know I’m helping people in pain.”

The debtor could have gotten away with paying only $10,000 but let his emotions get manipulated by the debt collector.

What Does Your Credit-Card Company Know About You? [NYT]