BUFFALO, N.Y. - A collection agency tried to collect a $16.96 debt with an letter that addressed its recipient with a four-letter word for excrement. "Dear S---," began the letter attempting to collect from an old record club membership. The word was spelled out in the letter, which arrived in an envelope addressed to "S--- Face."
"I've never seen anything quite so brazen," said attorney Kenneth Hiller.
He said his client plans to sue Nationwide Collections Inc. of Fort Pierce, Florida, next week.
Under U.S. law, debt collectors are not allowed to use profanity to collect a debt, Hiller said, nor are they supposed to threaten legal action over such a small amount.
Nationwide President Phillip McGarvey said the October 2007 letter was automatically generated after his company bought about 350,000 Columbia House accounts. "S--- Face" is the name under which the account was opened and the way the coupon to start the club was filled out, he said.
Hiller's client has signed an affidavit saying he never signed up for the music club membership under that name.
"It looks bad to the observer who is not familiar with the industry," acknowledged McGarvey, "but anybody who understands the volume would understand how this could happen. ...You've also got people filling in famous people's names."