Buffalo, Where The Debt Collectors Do Roam

Who would’ve guessed that credit card debt and the subprime meltdown would be the saving grace for one of New York’s decaying cities? Buffalo now hosts over 100 collection agencies that employ 5,200 people who spend their days prodding delinquent consumers to pay their bills. The cottage industry relies on the “strong work ethic [and] even-handed temperament” of Western New Yorkers, who once powered long-departed industrial giants like Kodak and General Electric.

“Within the industry, everyone knows about Buffalo,” said Aaron Siegel, chief executive of Franklin Credit Solutions, an investment firm here that buys debt from lenders and farms it out to collection agencies to pursue.

Demand for collectors is so strong, Mr. Siegel said, that good ones “can walk out the door and get another job that afternoon.”


As an added benefit, Mr. Costa and other executives said, people in Buffalo tend to be loyal, so turnover is only 20 percent after the first 90 days, compared with 50 percent or more at agencies in other parts of the country.

On average, experienced collectors in western New York earn $32,000 a year; homes in the region can cost less than $100,000.

The downside, executives say, is that the best collectors — some of whom get performance bonuses that boost their salaries to $150,000 a year — will quit with little notice if they get a better offer.

Collection Agencies Add Scarce Jobs in Hard-Hit Region [NYT]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Shadowfire says:

    $150,000 a year?

    Maybe we should pack our bags… ;)

  2. thirdbase says:

    I though it was so cold in Buffalo that they didn’t have a vermin problem. Guess I was wrong.

  3. Half Beast says:

    There are no cats in Buffalo, NY
    and the streets are paved with cheese…

  4. less_is_best says:

    Jim Kelly worked for one of those companies. He was fired because he couldn’t finish the collection………..

  5. Wheels17 says:

    Interesting article, but Kodak is in Rochester, not Buffalo, and GE’s manufacturing was largely in the Schenectady area.

  6. gqcarrick says:

    My sister worked for collections, student loan collections. It seems Doctors and Lawyers don’t want to pay back school loans, craziness!

  7. Parting says:

    People on the photo look too happy to work in collections.

    People I’ve met that work in the industry are often bitter and disillusioned about their work.

    They say there too many people who abuse the system, and end up in collections; versus people who just went through a difficult situation in their life and cannot pay.

  8. Parting says:

    @Shadowfire: and your soul, too.

  9. thegcnetlife says:

    An overabundance of bill collectors and buttloads of snow. OOOOH sounds like my dream city. Count me in for moving to Buffalo (snicker) Hell no I would never live there and I didn’t even have to hear about all the bill collectors to make that decision LOL

  10. gqcarrick says:

    @ thegcnetlife ,Hate to break it to everyone, but Buffalo doesn’t get that much snow at all. Typically Buffalo gets LESS snow than other big cities in NY. Syracuse is usually the big city in NY with the most snow.

  11. gqcarrick says:

    There isn’t THAT much snow in Buffalo, Syracuse typically gets far more snow, along with Oswego who both see way more snow off of lake Ontario than Buffalo ever gets from Lake Erie. Had it not been for the Blizzard of 77 Buffalo would not have its reputation as such a snowy city.

  12. Amelie says:

    I’ve received a number of calls from a collection agency posing as a law firm in Buffalo. Since they leave a message for a person I’ve never heard of, but has a similar last name – I don’t pick up. Never answer a call from a collection agency. If they have something on you, they should be able to send you their claim.

  13. MotherFury says:

    @gqcarrick: As a WNY resident I’d like to thank you for that clarification regarding the snowfall. Of course, it would have been a whole lot more convincing if it weren’t Easter Sunday and there was still a couple inches of snow on the ground…

    But seriously – I’m really getting annoyed with people saying Buffalo is a “decaying city”. I’ve lived in this area 40+ years, haven’t seen it look better. Sure it has it’s bad spots and problems – what city doesn’t? Buffalo is enjoying a jolt of new life – rebirth – brought on by the young people who chose to stay and those that return. Believe it.

  14. mgy says:

    HSBC Arena. I should have made the connection earlier.

  15. Canerican says:

    Honestly, Buffalo doens’t get that much snow at all.

    Now, you would think that with all the welfare in NY that we wouldn’t need an economy based on collecting our neighbors bad debt.

    I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, if Democrat policies worked Buffalo would be the best city in America.

  16. Canerican says:

    I should add that I live in Buffalo, but I have taken a job down South. No more Buffalo for me!

  17. Half Beast says:

    @less_is_best: Hahahaha. ZING!

  18. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Jacksonville, Florida, is full of these call centers as well. The Sunday job ads are always full of openings.

  19. hmk says:

    Ok I was born in Buffalo, grew up near Oswego, went to school in Rochester, dating a guy from near Parish, NY and we now live in Chicago. Buffalo does get a lot of snow. I was there when they got hit with seven feet and the whole city shut down (couple years ago). Oswego gets a ton of lake effect snow. The Tug Hill Plateau north of syracuse gets a TON of snow. Last year Parish NY got that seven feet.

    but you know what? it’s not the snow, it’s the damn clouds! Chicago is so much sunnier. On cloudy, drizzly days, my coworker and I say “oh look, it’s Ithacating!” or “It’s Rochestrating!”

    Out of the three, I’d rank them Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse for economy/places to live. The entire state is being hit and no one can find jobs. I take this post as good news for Buffalo. Now if only poor Oswego county can find something to save it.

  20. dweebster says:

    @thirdbase: Laughed my ass off!

    So, how difficult is it for these Buffalo residents to learn the appropriate Indian and Jamaican accents in order to properly perform their collection duties? [consumerist.com]
    And, do they use their real names or names they pull from the University of New Delhi’s yearbook?

  21. ottawa_guy says:

    Yep….agreed Syracuse has alot of snow out there…. but I just came back from vacation driving down the I-81 corridor up to Canada and saw a few billboards for major call centers like Stream that are hiring and that they “guarantee 40 hour work weeks”….. must be getting hit real bad there with the job market that low.

  22. dweebster says:

    “America: We don’t make or save much anymore, but plenty of job opportunities in the security and debt collection fields.” What a beautiful future for the kids…

    This thread seem to have degenerated into a discussion about snow levels across the country. Maybe the collection agencies should also provide weather information just to hold your attention.

  23. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Hm. If a debt collection agency comes into a depressed economy and provides much-needed jobs, won’t their need for more workers decrease after a while — since the economy will improve and more people will be able to pay off their debts?

    I suppose there’s an equilibrium in these things.

  24. pandroid says:

    @MotherFury: While I’m glad you have pride in your city, Buffalo has lost 12,000 jobs since the year 2000, or about 2.2% of it’s job total. It is second in the state for the amount of jobs lost in that period (behind Rochester). As for the loss of young people, I point you here: [www.ppinys.org]

    Those are just the statistics, but I can tell you from personal experience that I know of several people who had lived their entire lives in upstate NY who moved out of state for job opportunities.

  25. gqcarrick says:

    @pandroid: It is true we have lost a lot of yougn people and other jobs in western ny and Buffalo especially. I am one of the lucky ones to have a job, I am 28. Rochester has lost more because it has bigger manufacturers, Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch and Lomb.

  26. thegcnetlife says:

    I live in South Carolina = No Snow. Thank G_d! I’m from RI and I know my snow and I am happy not to live anywhere near snowfall. As for the evenhanded temperament in that area, is that true? Serious question because I have been to different parts of NY and seemed people were impatient.

  27. gqcarrick says:

    Yes it is very true. Buffalo is no where near the uneven tempered people of NYC and down state.

  28. chutch says:

    @chouchou: $150,000 can go a long way. I can think of a lot of people who would love to escape the hardships of their life and move to Buffalo, take a new high paying job, and escape the collection calls… ugh… never mind. :)

  29. ShortBus says:

    @Amelie: Legally they can’t leave you a message regrading collection activity since the message may inadvertently be heard by someone other than the debtor. Disclosing collection activites to a third-party is a FDCPA violation. On the flip side, they also can’t leave a message without specifically saying it’s from a debt collector because that too violates the FDCPA. (This Catch-22 situation despised by collectors came out the precedent set by Foti v. NCO Financial Systems–if you’re sufficiently motivated to read up on it.) The net result is that most collectors won’t leave messages. Period.

  30. tvallie says:

    A few clarifications regarding Buffalo and western NY:

    1. Buffalo is not the home to Kodak or GE, as mentioned above. Where Buffalo is largely a blue-collar town, Rochester (where Kodak is) is mainly a white-collar town. The cities are 90 miles away, and are quite different. The cities boomed at different times, with different industries booming. Buffalo was the only steel town in western NY, and decayed with the rest of the steel towns in the east. While Buffalo was in dire straits, Rochester was booming with Kodak, Xerox and Bauch and Lomb. That created a different workforce and therefore Rochester isn’t appealing to debt collectors. Most people lump everything in western NY state together, but it isn’t like that.

    2. Snow. Yeah, western NY gets snow, but the reputation for snow is based on exaggeration. WNY doesn’t get much more snow than Cleveland or Chicago. The winter temperatures average about the same.

    3. Western New York is better compared to the Midwest than the east coast. The temperament of the people is way different, and nicely so.

    4. Western NY is actually a good place to live in terms of cost-of-living, housing costs, schools, etc.

    5. It is friggin gray during the winter all the time. Ugh.

    6. The Bills and Sabres need to win a championship already. I’m tired of waiting.

  31. Ghede says:

    I’ll have to tell my dad his old town now has an infestation.

  32. Roycester says:

    When you want to see the sugar coating stripped off this Buffalo industry, take a look at http://www.budhibbs.com and see how the majority of debt collectors are undertrained on the law – FDCPA and how drugs seem to be as permissible as coffee and sodas.

  33. JustAGuy2 says:


    Buffalo, according to the NOAA, gets 94″ of snow a year
    that compares only 28″ for New York City and only 39″ for Chicago. While Syracuse does get more (116″), Buffalo is the #2 snowfall location in New York, and one of the top 10 non-Alaska, non-top-of-a-mountain locations in the US. It gets a lot of snow.

  34. JustAGuy2 says:

    Buffalo gets nearly 4x the snow of Chicago.

  35. gqcarrick says:

    @JustAGuy2: Does that take into consideration other SMALL towns in NY? I am guessing no because smaller towns at the end of Lake Ontario like Oswego get more than Syracuse does every year, but thanks for the information.

  36. gqcarrick says:

    @JustAGuy2: Does that include smaller towns or just major cities? There are towns at the edge of Lake Ontario who get way more snow than Syracuse and Buffalo.

  37. lockdog says:

    Well, since it really does seem to be a thread about snow at this point, I’ll throw my .02 in. I’ve lived all over western NY and you could often tell by the height of the snow on the roof of someone’s car what specific suburb they were commuting from. The most snow I’ve ever seen was six feet of hard pack near Sacketts Harbor probably in the early 90s. Most ice was 1.5 inches in Rochester in ’91, and latest snow was a few flakes in the air in late July in the Tupper Lake area. I’ve actually seen that a couple of times, and know of a few places in the mountains that stay cold enough that very small patches of snow on the ground can survive year round.

    As for debt collectors calling at work (only for coworkers, I’m clean), well, they suck. One of my bosses kept getting calls at one job, it was great leverage as an employee. “Oh sure, let me connect you to his extension” or “I’ll page him for you over the PA system” (a few dozen times each day)vs “Oh, he’s not in today.” He probably would have gotten out of debt sooner if he hadn’t kept ordering all of us junior staff pizza in order to stay in our graces!

  38. gqcarrick says:

    @lockdog: That would suck getting called at work. I went through this when I was out of school and employed full time but not making enough to pay rent AND all my loans at the same time. It was rough, I am a lot better off now and have been credit card free for 6 months now and I love it. Now if I could only pay off my school loan debt as quickly.

  39. JustAGuy2 says:


    The NOAA website I pulled that data from didn’t include Oswego, but did include Rochester, which gets marginally (92 vs 93″) less snow than Buffalo, on average.

  40. lincolnparadox says:

    Sadly, unless the US starts rebuilding its manufacturing sector, these clerical jobs are going to be the mainstay of employment in the States.

    The good news is, with over 60% of Americans deeply in debt, these people in Buffalo will have good jobs for 20 years.