Attorney Kenneth Hiller of Buffalo, New York, says his client plans to sue Nationwide Collections Inc. based on a letter he received in October 2007. The agency was trying to collect an unpaid Columbia House record club membership fee of $16.96, and despite the low amount the letter began somewhat aggressively by addressing the recipient as "Dear S__t." (The envelope was addressed to a "Mr. S__t Face.")
It is illegal to use profanity or threats to collect a debt, which is what has Mr. Hiller so worked up. "I've never seen anything quite so brazen," he cried, which suggests he has not been paying a lot of attention over the last forty years or so. There's been a fair amount of brazenness since you were frozen during the Eisenhower administration, sir, I'm sorry to say.
But this could only be "brazen" if it had been deliberate, and Nationwide's president, at least, says it wasn't. Phillip McGarvey said that the letter had been generated automatically after the agency bought 350,000 delinquent Columbia House accounts. He explained that the letter was simply sent to "Mr. S__t Face" because that is the name under which the account was opened. "It looks bad to the observer who is not familiar with the industry," McGarvey said, "but anybody who understands the volume [of letters involved] would understand how this could happen. . . . You've also got people filling in famous people's names." McGarvey did not explain why a registration coupon for "Mr. S___ Face" would have been processed in the first place.
Hiller says his client has signed an affidavit stating that he did not sign himself up for a membership posing as any member of the Face family, let alone this one. He said they would be filing a complaint against Nationwide next week.