Sometimes I have signed agreements to speak on behalf of my client, so I’m allowed to call on their behalf and make financial decisions. But it’s often better to pretend to be my client. Even if it means, say, faking an accent.
You see, most debt collectors, banks, etc., are willing to forgive certain things if you’ve got extenuating life circumstances and are willing to call them about it. So right away, I try and get a feel for my client’s circumstances — if they’ve got a pregnant wife or a sudden death in the family, that’s a great start. But if they don’t give me anything to go on, well, I’ll just have to make up a more sympathetic life for them. This involves some acting.
My mentor’s strategy was to use a big, fake Hollywood-African accent whenever he got on the phones. He just stayed jovial and friendly and sounding sorta like Eddie Murphy’s character in Coming to America. It worked, because people respond to friendliness, and they naturally assume that no good-natured foreigner has the cunning to lie to them.
Me, I started acting like a dumb hick over the phone, and found that people really wanted to help me as long as I was high-spirited. It was the same basic idea: We have this image in our head of the naive foreigner, dazzled by American city life, just as we have a very clear picture of the good-hearted, honest-to-a-fault hillbilly, bamboozled by our e-lect-ricity and Internets and not cunning enough to trick a squirrel. As my skill with mimicry improved, my strategy morphed into being whatever person of whichever accent and age could help my case.
I’ve done pretty much everything under the sun to get stuff removed from a record. The aforementioned pregnant wife is always good to try. I’ve also claimed my for-real disabled (in peacetime) veteran client lost his foot on a landmine to protect his squad-mates, and that’s why sometimes he’s late mailing in his bills. I’m not so good at faking a woman’s voice, but when no one is around, I will try an old Jewish woman, or an older Hispanic lady. When I don’t have the guts to call as a woman, I have female friends call in and help out by pretending, say, that their husband abused them and the kids, and her credit’s only shitty because they had to live off of cards for a while until they got out of that situation, and now they’re stable again won’t you please help them? Sometimes I cry over the phone.
And if that isn’t enough …