Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kohl's Lawsuit: Deadbeat Client or Harassment; Brad Ausmus: Unfunny Joke

A long time ago before I was the sober responsible grownup that I am today I used to use credit irresponsibly and run up bills that were more than I could pay in one month. Doing this a few times and getting dinged with late fees, interest, and other penalties and having the highly irritating experience of having a few paychecks effectively spent on debt service before I even received them was more than enough for me to revert back to my parents' training of not buying something if you couldn't pay cash for it. After all we all must be able to distinguish between a want and a need. Grown ups do that. Children don't. Generally speaking, if you can't or won't pay cash for something, chances are you don't need it. I believe that if you owe money you should pay what you owe. That's what's fair. However just because someone owes money doesn't give the creditor the right to take extra-legal steps that include tactics of harassment or worse in order to get their money back. As a creditor there are a number of laws you must abide by when seeking to get your money back, whether you are doing it yourself or have outsourced it to a legbreaker collection services agency. In Michigan, a woman who owed Kohl's department store felt that the store was being far too aggressive in seeking to recover a particularly small debt. It's unclear as to whether the debt was more than 30 days late. Fed up with the tactics she filed a federal lawsuit. Yes that's correct. A federal lawsuit.

Enough with the calls.That’s what one consumer is telling Kohl’s in a federal lawsuit that claims the department store is stalking her and harassing her by phone over an overdue credit card bill, calling her at all hours of the night over what she calls a measly $20.“They started harassing me over $20 and I was like, ‘Screw it, oh well,’ ” said Lisa Ratliff, the 29-year-old plaintiff from Ypsilanti who got so fed up with the phone calls she sued over them. “It’s really annoying if you’re trying to get things done or you’re trying to sleep or you’re working or spending time with your family …I just want them to stop harassing me.” 
Ratliff said she was going to pay the bill but got so irritated by the repeated calls that she decided against it. Instead, she’s suing over Kohl’s collection practices — tactics that she claims are prohibited under federal law. In a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, Ratliff’s lawyers claim that Kohl’s violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a 1991 law that makes it illegal to call a cell phone using an auto dialer or prerecorded voice without the recipient’s consent. The lawsuit, filed by the Krohn & Moss Consumer Law Center in Chicago, is seeking damages under the act, which allows victims to sue for $500 per violating call — or up to $1,500 per call if they can prove the party knowingly violated the law. Kohl’s officials did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment. No attorney of record is yet listed in court documents for Kohl’s. According to Ratliff’s lawsuit, the Kohl’s phone calls — which included both automated and live operator calls — started in November 2013. Until then, she said, she paid her bill in full every month and that her total credit line was $400. When the calls started, she owed $20. Now it’s up to $100 because of late fees and interest, she said.
The woman may well have a case, at least according to the local attorney giving some analysis in the clip from FOX 2 News.
Fox 2 News Headlines
Also in local news the Detroit Tigers, who had a great start with people talking about the pennant and the World Series have sunk into the toilet since and now have people wondering if rookie manager Brad Ausmus really knows what he's doing. Faced with questions of how he deals with the stress and unpleasantness of losing, Ausmus responded with a wisecrack that wasn't funny. The current political-sociological environment made it even less so. Detroit Tigers rookie manager Brad Ausmus is known to be quick with a quip. But he strayed over the line Wednesday and he knew it. It started when he was asked after the 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals how he has been able to keep his cool during his team’s horrendous streak.“Yeah, it’s not fun,” he said. “Like I said, once I get to the field, I’m always in a good mood, especially if I’m driving and it’s sunny out. Once I’m here, I’m ready to go. I feel like I’m the exact same person that you would have seen on day one of spring training.”And when he goes home? “I beat my wife,” Ausmus said. “I’m just kidding. No, luckily, my wife and kids are fantastic. I do get a little mopey at home, but my wife and kids are good. They’ve seen me be in a bad mood after a loss, so they’ve been great.” His joke drew some hearty laughs and some nervous laughs from the media and, after answering another question, he came back to it. “I didn’t want to make light of battered women,” Ausmus said. “I apologize for that if it offended anyone.”  I think it's pretty obvious that Ausmus did not mean to endorse beating one's wife nor was he making fun of abused women. He apologized almost immediately because he knew the joke wasn't funny or appropriate. I think it should end there. Sometimes we all say things that aren't funny or just don't fit in the environment we happen to be in at the time. Ausmus is a guy who hasn't had this level of scrutiny previously. He still needs to learn that not everything that pops into his mind needs to be shared with the rest of the world. I don't think that MLB or the Tigers need to say or do anything else to Ausmus. Leave it there.

What do you think?

1) Does Ms. Ratliff have a federal case?

2) Does Mr. Ausmus need to attend sensitivity training or pay fines?

3) Did you ever get so irritated with a creditor that you told them off?

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