This is interesting to read from your perspective. My parents both work in creditor’s rights (debt collection) as attorneys and specialize in smaller debts owed to local companies. As a result, I’ve been working in the industry since I could creep under tables to collect paperclips. More recently, I prepared files to be sent out of state and made calls to set up payment plans (similar to what you described above).
It is an emotionally fraught job to interrupt people’s lives to request they pay their debts. They experience (and express!) a wide range of negative emotions and often take it out on callers.
There are many attorneys and debt collection agencies that employ less than honorable systems to get money. If your debts are managed by these organizations, I would encourage you to review your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Act. Different states have different standards on what methods they can employ- garnishments, repossessions, etc.
That said, I’ve worked directly with the National Association for Retail Collection Attorneys on financial literacy projects aimed at teens and young adults- to be presented in schools and churches by debt collection attorneys! Honest debt collectors do not encourage or promote debt and actively work to inform the public about the negative consequences. Most collection agencies and firms allow you to set up reasonable payment plans and want to help you get out of a bad situation. You can often settle your debts for less than their sticker price, if you can pay in larger lump sums. The primary take away is communication. You want to get out of debt and they want to get you out of debt. They are willing to work with you. If you need to take a month off the payment plan- call, if you can up your payment plan- call, if you came into a larger sum of money (refund/raise/inheritance) and don’t know which debt it would best be applied to- call and ask for assistance.
Hope this didn’t come off too preachy or like some sort of ad for the industry. It’s a tough industry to work in and it’s easy to be lumped in with poor representations. In general, many people in the industry- like the author- have good intentions and aren’t sitting behind a desk cackling at your misfortune. It’s not for everyone, but there is a great need for moral, honest, and kind debt collectors.