Spain's Debt Solution: Shame Delinquents Into Paying

Debt collectors aim to embarrass by arriving in lavish costume
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Oct 11, 2008 4:38 PM CDT
A debt-collector searches for records of debtors at a debt collection agency in Madrid on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008.    (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
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(Newser) – As personal debt grows in Spain, debt-collectors are taking the trick-or-treat approach, donning costumes—tuxes, bagpipers’ gear, Pink Panther suits—and knocking on doors. If all goes as planned, neighbors take note and the debtor is embarrassed into paying, the Wall Street Journal reports. “The idea is to make the delinquency public," says one collector. "We have our professional uniform like anyone else.”

This year has been a rough one for the Spanish economy after years of rapid growth and heavy borrowing; bank-loan defaults hit their highest in a decade in July. Debt-collection firms are flourishing as a way around a clogged court system. While some groups have arisen to fight what they call “bullying,” things could be worse. “We've heard of debt collectors using live bears in Russia,” said a consumer advocate in Britain.