The VOIP phone on my desk rang. It’s the new phone that was installed a month or so ago which utilises the internet to bring down the cost of the calls. It also allows for calls to be recorded. I was asked to road test it for the company. and I primarily use it for calling people that owe us money.

A Chelmsford number flashed up on the display. As I didn’t know who it was, I picked up the phone and deliberately didn’t say the company name, knowing that quite often customers will simply put the phone down.

“Hi you’re through to Danny.”

It’s not the most professional way to answer the phone, especially as my manager was in, but I wasn’t going to risk losing out on speaking to someone I’ve so far not managed to speak to.

“Is that Danny?”

“Yes, Danny speaking.”

“That’s Danny, is it?” The voice was polite and friendly

“Yes, it’s Danny, how can I help?”

“This is WJ”, he said, revealing his full name.

It was a customer that I lent money to 5 weeks ago, and he’d missed his first payment which was due on 5th. I’d spoken to him on 5th when I had tried to put a card payment through for him which had failed. He’d told me that his card had been cloned and that his bank had probably stopped it, and that he’d check with the bank. It’s a common excuse that I hear a lot when people don’t want to pay or don’t have the money to pay.

I’d replied that, if he was speaking to the bank, he could transfer the money over to us and gave him our account details, saying that I would even waive the £12 late fee if he could do that before 3pm so the money reached us the next day.

The next day I’d called him and spoken to him on his mobile and he said that he hadn’t been able to do it the previous day, but was on the way to the bank now to make a payment. That was last Friday.

I’d received nothing in our bank account by Monday, so on Monday, Tuesday and then Thursday morning I had phoned and left messages on the two mobiles we had for him, as well as a landline number. On Tuesday the message had been along the lines of “WJ, this is Danny, I’m getting a little concerned as you’ve twice said you’re going to pay me and we still haven’t received the money, which makes me think you’re now deliberately avoiding me as you’re not answering your phones and that you’re not going to pay. Call me back please, as soon as possible”

After having left messages on the Thursday and speaking to the customers mum on the landline number, who said he was due to pop in later with his kids and that she’d get him to call us. I had no reason to disbelieve her as I’d spoken to her the week before, when I had originally chased up the missing payment and she had revealed that our customer didn’t actually live there, and gave me not only a new address for him but also a new mobile number - which was the basis for my “I don’t think you’re going to pay us” message.

Back to the phone call. Once he had established that it was indeed me that he was speaking to, his voice changed.

“Who are you to assume that I’m not going to pay my loan? Who the fuck are you to leave messages like that? I’m going to come down to that office and I’m going to kick your fat fucking head in and put it through a fucking window!”

I was shocked to the core. I’ve taken abuse on the phones before, but it’s normally after weeks of chasing customers and generally making myself a pain in the arse. This was fairly unprovoked. He continued:

“I’ve got a relative that’s in hospital at the moment and is close to dying so I’ve been a bit fucking busy, and you’re fucking leaving messages saying I’m not going to fucking pay? I’m going to fucking put your head through a window.”

What he had in the way of threats, he lacked in vocabulary, repeating the same threats. I managed to get a word in.

“W, hold on a minute, two things. Firstly - you are NOT going to put my fucking fat head through a window, that’s ridiculous and secondly, I’m not psychic. You haven’t spoken to me in a week, what was I supposed to do, guess that you had a relative in hospital?”

I’d like to think that my response was measured and thought out, but I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins, so it was probably sounding far more garbled than anything.

He wasn’t be disuaded though, and repeated the same threat again before slamming the phone down.

Not even 9am and I’d had a threat of violence, brilliant. I went through the conversation with my boss, grateful that it was on the call-recording phone. I wasn’t overly worried about WJ coming to the branch and carrying out his threat of violence, more so as I took to looking the door when I was in the office alone a few weeks ago. Bizarrely I wondered why he had chosen the insult “fat head” above anything else. Fortunately my fears and self-consciousness were eased when I looked up a photo of him (which we take when a customer comes in to the building) and he was a fat mess.

My manager had a look at the account and simply said “Default him, I’m not having him speak to people like that.” and now a letter is winging its way to WJ telling him that he needs to pay or we’ll be taking his car at the end of the month. That went second class, so I dare say he’ll get that Monday. Could make for an interesting phone call on Monday morning.

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