When I was 18 years old I found myself wanting more than what I had or what was available to me. I had recently been maid redundant from a job flogging West End theatre tickets and had become attuned to a lifestyle of posh coffees from the recent explosion of Starbucks outlets and Asymmetric haircuts from Toni & Guy.
Whilst applying for jobs on Reed I was sucked in by an advert offering me a credit card. £1000 could be mine and I was broke. Could this be my route back into a life of cheap shots and overpriced jeans from Topman? I clicked on.
I was asked questions about my income, assets and hobbies, I lied and thought they would find me out. Before I knew it I was in nightclubs paying for rounds of drinks with a credit card I didn't know how to use and pin number saved in the address book on my Nokia 3210. I quickly became popular.
Soon after I suffered a mental breakdown, I ran away from home and quickly became addicted to alcohol. My credit card ran out and I was left homeless, jobless and poorer than I started. My details where passed on to debt collectors but because I was AWOL nobody could get in touch with me to make me pay back the copious rounds of drinks in central London lesbian bars (don't ask).
Fast forward 10 years and I am well and truly back on my feet. I had blissfully forgotten the fact I owed a grand to a bunch of men in suits, until last month when my real name was published in a Melbourne newspaper.
After a 24 hour flight back to the UK I was greeted by two letters - the first was issued on lovely blue paper, it told me I owed £932.62 and I was to call them straight way or they'd have to tell some nasty men who would probably come to my house and take my Orla Kiely lampshade. The second printed on angry red paper explained that I hadn't contacted the nice blue men in time and the £932.62 had to be paid now! The date on the red letter was earlier than the one on the blue letter.
I did my research and found out that the law of this land states after 6 years of having no contact with people like me who run away from their debts, creditors must write off all debts. With this I Google'd both creditors to find out they run from the same office in West Yorkshire. In fact companies house confirmed they were the same business.
I called the nice blue people first with my NatWest debit card in hand and was immediately asked to give all of my contact information over - I complied and the telephonist asked me how I'd like to pay. I nervously said 'I don't legally have to pay this do I?' her response was '...but you have a moral obligation to pay don't you?', I responded 'let me have a think on that'.
A credit card company who advertise on job seekers websites issue a credit card with no background searches to an 18 year old. They sell this debt on to a company who buys out-dated debt who then send letters to people's homes asking them to fess up. They then orchestrate a good cop / bad cop situation to scare gullible folk into paying a debt that doesn't exist and then inform you about your moral obligations. This is from a company whose slap line is 'ethical, transient and compliant... we like to do things better'.
Now I'm aware some of you will be thinking that I should pay the money back regardless whom its too and I sort of agree. That working class chip on my shoulder is the reason I'm writing this - I don't like owing people money. Yes I did spend that money, I did get pissed and probably do have a moral obligation to pay it back but something about this picture doesn't look right.
I'm being asked to pay back £1000 to a bank that has reportedly contributed to the national, if not global financial crisis, a bank who sold dead debt to profit from it. Who has the moral obligation to payback?
After a short pause I made my decision 'No, I won't be paying'. I was put on hold and as Katy Perry sang '...do you ever feel like a plastic bag?'
The telephonist hastily told me the debt had been written off and I'd receive no more contact from them.
Two weeks later I receive another letter from both the angry reds and the nice blues saying I owe a new sum of money - £352.90. Their ring tone has been engaged since then and I'm left with the dilemma - do I have a moral obligation to pay this debt back?
The decision is yours. Vote now.