Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's Your Fault

A recent comment jogged a memory about avoiding responsiblity. I got a phone call late last year from a person who was going to be evicted and, understandably, wasn't all that pleased about it. Such is life. From word go she started screaming so I did my three warnings policy: I tell them three times that, if they keep screaming/swearing, then I'll hang up. After the third I usually hang up anyway because I know where it's going. She had gripes and off she went with them. The first was that we gave her no warning that we were going to evict her.

Wrong. It takes months to evict and in that time the tenant will get several letters inviting them to come into the office and work out an arrangement to avoid the eviction. They'll also have someone visit them, more than once. She'd ignored all the letters and avoided the people visiting. No contact, tough. But that wasn't her fault, she was busy as we didn't try hard enough. A letter a week for three months? Please. Then she said she couldn't understand why she was being evicted because she was a model tenant.

Wrong. Numerous complaints from everyone in the street and people who lived three streets over. She had a problem boyfriend and they liked getting drunk, or stoned, or both and then having great fights in the middle of the road. As is the norm if anyone approached they'd turn on them (including the bastard coppers) and then go right back to biff. Yep, he'd happily beat the living suitcase out of her in full view of her kids, and she'd let him. That didn't take into account the kids themselves who had a tendency to swear, vandalize and, on memorable occasion, smear excrement on some old lady's washing in her back yard. I know I was a wild kid in my day but I didn't run about the place with a handful of my own crap ready to rub it on someone's sheets for fun. The boyfriends mates liked to have drag races in the street and were the kind of yob who like to line people and just miss them, on purpose or just bad aim we'll never know. The first words out of her mouth to anyone from our department who knocked on the door was usually, "Get f*cked you f*cking a*rsehole c*nt." Lovely charmer indeed. Oh, and she'd not paid rent for over a year and a half and had racked up a large repair bill, not her fault mind you, and this is where the abuse started.

Conversation at this stage went like this:
ME: "You've not paid rent for over 18 months."
CUST: "I couldn't afford it. How do I f*cking keep this f*cking dump?"
ME: "You'd have to make a payment of some sorts, but even then that wouldn't guarantee things. You'd have to come in and talk to us, sit down and work something out."
CUST: "A payment?"
ME: "Yep."
CUST: "How does $20 sound?"
ME: "No good. No good at all. You'd have to add at least another two zeroes to that figure before anything could even be looked at."
CUST: "F*ck off! Where am I going to get two grand? Money doesn't sprout out of my a*rse!"
ME: "I have no idea. Look, I'm just trying to give you options and help. The facts are you're being evicted, yeah, it's not good that we're doing it a week before Christmas, but we did try and contact you. Now we'd need you to make a dent in the arrears and maintenance charges."
CUST: "How much is that shit?"
ME: "Exactly $14,500."
CUST: "What a load of f*cking crap!!! You're a f*cking c*nt!!!"
ME: "Don't speak to me like that or I'll hang up."
CUST: "F*ck me. How the f*ck do I pay that then?"
ME: "How much can you lay your hands on then?"
CUST: "F*ck all mate. I just paid the Foxtel, the light bill, the gas bill, the mobile phone, the broadband, the food, the car payment and then there's my smokes and my hobby (meaning drugs). How the f*ck can I pay you guys?"

Now at this stage I felt like screaming, "Yeah, well I hope you can get Foxtel in a tent love, because we're chucking you out!" not that it'd have done any good. I don't have Foxtel - can't afford it. Can barely afford the car. In her world Foxtel and smokes are more important than her rent. Here's a clue for people - pay the rent first. Foxtel is no good without a TV to watch it on, or a house in which to watch it. Then she dropped the first guilt trip:
CUST: "How about I bring my kids in and you can tell them why you're ruining Christmas."
ME: "By all means (by this stage I'd had enough). I'm happy to tell them you didn't pay rent and that's why you're getting evicted."
CUST: "This is your fault!!! My kids will be homeless for Christmas!!!"
ME: "No, this is your fault. I've told you what you can do, you won't do it. We tried to contact you, you've avoided us. You've only rang because a bailiff is there telling you to leave by tomorrow morning. This isn't our fault (well, partially it was, we housed her in the first place) this is your fault. You don't want to do anything about it, that's fine, but this is not our fault."
CUST: "You should be ashamed of yourself. What would your mother say if she knew about this?" That's the lowest form of a guilt trip. I felt like saying, "Well my mum would have paid the rent and not put us in that kind of position". We grew up dirt poor. Indeed we had Christmases where we got no presents, but we always had a roof over our heads which, as I learnt later, is the ultimate material gift. With that I hung up and left early. I'd had enough. Out of interest I told my mother about it and she agreed, the customer was very wrong.

We get loads of people who like to dodge or transfer their responsibilities onto us. Constantly. It's never their fault, it's always ours and why can't we just ignore that huge debt, or the lack of rent, or anything. It's annoying to be honest. Just the other week I wanted to grab a customer by the throat and scream, "Take some responsibility for your f*cking life!!! It's not our fault, it's YOUR fault you're in the sh*t!!!" but I know that such tactics are doomed to fail because the people who've reached that stage will always blame someone else. It's our fault they get evicted because they didn't pay rent. It's the police's fault they get arrested for drugs or stealing. It's societies fault that they're like they are. It's someone else's fault they can't find a job, they're not to blame because they can't get up and go to a job interview. It's our fault they can't find private rental, because we won't find it for them or we won't give them a bond to move into a place where the rent is more than their income. Society is always to blame, not the individual. The world owes them the easiest of all livings.

It's never their fault, at least in their eyes it isn't. I'd love to see how she's now faring in the private rental market. Eventually she'll come back to us, they always do, and before we'll help she'll have to enter into an arrangement to pay her debt. Then the screaming will start about how we won't help because we're bastards. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


This one was a doozy. Ages ago, when the weather was a lot warmer (although this week is going to be warm as well - the heat draws them out) I was sitting there on front counter watching a one day international, in short, having a very quiet day. Then the day exploded and shattered into a thousand pieces. The lessons it taught me were that the duress alarms aren't really worth a lot.

The day was passing, albeit slowly, but passing all the same when a hurricane thundered through the door. I'm not a small guy but I was dwarfed by this one. He was a good six foot six or seven and about the same across his chest. He wore shorts and shoes and that was about it. Very large and looking very nasty. He stormed to the counter and slammed a card down on the desk and roared,
"Who the f*ck gives you the right to tell me what to f*ckin' do??" I looked blank and behind me I heard the sounds of the door not only closing as my co-worker left the scene but also the tell-tale sounds of the door being locked. Great. He screamed once more,
"I said, 'Who the f*ck'..."
"Yes, I heard you. Please, calm down and let's see what the problem is."
"The problem?? THE F*CKING PROBLEM IS YOU C*NTS!!!" I could see this was going nowhere so I hit the duress buttons.

Now the duress buttons/alarms are connected to police services and once we hit them the police are supposed to roll straight out. Doesn't always happen. If there's a car in the area with only one cop in it they won't arrived. Cop OHS says that two cops need to be there at any given time, one won't cut the mustard. Also you're at the mercy of how far away the cars might be, or if there's another crime going down or if Dunkin Donuts is having a run out sale. For the time being I was on my own and I knew it. No-one was coming to help, I was trapped with no way out. I decided to negotiate.
"I can't help if I don't know what you're talking about."
"This!! I'm talking about this!!" He pointed to a card. Slowly the pieces fell into place. He was a tenant and his lawn needed mowing, nothing more, nothing less. It appears that a HM was in the area on unrelated business and saw the jungle and just put a little card in the letterbox reminding him that, under the rules of his lease with us, he needed to maintain the gardens. As simple as that. He wasn't getting evicted over it, just a reminder, 'Mate, can you please mow your lawn sometime this month?' A declaration of war if ever there was one.
"All that says is that we'd like you to mow your lawn. We can even lend you a lawnmower if you want."
"Technically it's not your house, it's ours. You're only renting it." As soon as I said that I sensed it was the wrong thing to say. He went purple.
"GET THAT F*CKIN' C*NT OUT HERE NOW!" By this time I thought, I'm dead, so who cares?
"What f*ckin' c*nt? We have a few." I thought he'd pop. Then I kept going. "R---, mate. Look, I've pressed the alarms. In about five minutes the cops will be here. Now I'm thinking you've probably got active warrants and as such you don't want to be here when they're here. Just go and we'll forget the whole thing ever happened." He stopped and went quiet as he processed the information.
"You really pressed the alarms?" I pressed them again.
"Yep. I'm pressing them again now mate. Cops are on the way. I can hear the sirens already." I couldn't, but hey, if you're going to bluff then make it good.
"F*ckin' a*sehole."
"Yep." By this time he was moving away. He turned and stormed out the door.
"I'LL BE BACK YOU F*CKIN' C*NT!! JUST WAIT AND SEE!! I'LL F*CKING KNIFE YOU, YOU C*NT!!" Sure, sure, whatever, just leave. He kicked the glass out the door and ranted for a bit more, outside, then he left.

The doors opened and out came some people. The usual 'you alright' was thrown around but I was far from alright. It wasn't the bad guy, it was the fact that my co-workers had locked me out there with him. They knew of him and the minute they saw him they wanted no part of it because he's threatened to kill people previously. Lovely. A bit of warning wouldn't have gone astray.

Eventually the cops arrived and asked what happened. Then they asked who it was.
"Hmmmmm yeah, __________. We know where he lives so we'll go and grab him anyway. You say he threatened to stab you? Did you see a knife?"
"A knife? No. Why?
"Because he has form for stabbing people. That's his trick, he stabs them and leaves them to bleed. In fact he helps them bleed by kicking the crap out of them after he's stabbed them." Oh joy.

I finished my shift and came home. I've not seen the guy since, thankfully, and hopefully he's rotting in gaol where he belongs. The lessons it did teach me were that eventually the cops will arrive and not to depend on your co-workers. There's a few whom I know that, if it started to go down, would be there and help as best they can, but there's a lot more who'll talk the talk but lock the door behind them to save their own bacon.

Oh, and for those keeping count? Nope, I was given absolutely zero counseling for that. I was back out on counter the next day and dealing with it on my own. Counseling wasn't offered and when I spoke about the situation all I got was, "Jeez, you're lucky he didn't jump the counter and deck you. He's done that before." Very reassuring indeed.