"I need my money. And I will find your sister, your daughter, whoever this Miss Deborah Gordon is, and I will find her and I will find you. And I will fuck you up. Goodbye."A trope about that most revered and respected of all professions, the debt collector. They have a proud reputation for being nasty, lazy thugs who think the law is a suggestion and will stoop to any low in order to shake some money out of their "customers." Their stereotypical nature is often the butt of many jokes. Note that for the sake of examples, tax collectors are also included. Prone to making the Harassing Phone Call, as mentioned above. Some collectors in Real Life have even tried to get their targets arrested or imprisoned, even in areas where this is technically highly illegal. Threatening criminal charges is actually a great way to get a collection agency sued, as is threatening a lawsuit when you have no intent to file one any time soon. The most common alignment for this trope is Neutral Evil. This is one of the tropes that gave birth to Dastardly Whiplash. When a casual loan from a friend causes the lender to transform into this trope, you have Never Lend to a Friend. Related to Loan Shark and Morally Bankrupt Banker. Older Than Feudalism. A form of Acceptable Professional Targets. Using one of these is a good way for someone trying to Kill the Creditor to be written as sympathetic.
— Typical call from a "nice" debt collector
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Anime & Manga
- In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Kafuka Fuura's father was driven to suicide by debt collectors.
- The prime reason that Allen Walker of D.Gray-Man became so good at cheating at cards was to deal with constant harrasment by debt collectors as the result of being stuck with General Cross' gambling debts.
- In Liar Game, after the end of the first round, debt collectors would come to gather the 100 million yen. And if you didn't have it, well ...
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, a villain's Stand (sort of psychic projection) has the power to "collect debts" by reading the opponent minds to know where they keep any money or valuables. If nothing else is available, it will remove organs to sell on the black market. While collecting, it's invulnerable; you can only get rid of it by beating its master.
- The thuggish debt collector in Stepping on Roses (Hadashi de Bara wo Fume) is a prime example. In his attempt to collect a debt incurred by her older brother from protagonist Sumi, he initially offers to let her Work Off the Debt by paying with her body. When she refuses, he later returns and kidnaps Sumi's younger siblings, threatening to sell them off to a foreign country if he didn't have his money by the following day.
- Averted in Durarara!!. Tom works as a debt collector but is generally a very nice and laid back guy. He hires Shizuo as his bodyguard and enforcer, but he would rather just use Shizuo's fearsome reputation to scare debtors into paying on time and only uses violence as a last resort. Unfortunately, there are still idiots who provoke Shizuo.
- in Desert Punk, Rainspider starts out as this. When collecting debts from a poor old man and a young woman in his debut, upon finding they have no money, his solution is to SELL THE GIRL INTO SLAVERY! At the same time, Desert Punk took a job to collect debt from a loan the man made at the same time with another company with the same plan for repayment (or possibly buying the daughter himself). The rest of the episode is about Desert Punk and Rainspider fighting over whose company gets to collect, until they totally exhaust each other, then the father and daughter beat them both over the head and took the proof of the loan. Turns out both were con artists, who'd planned everything from the beginning and had done so many times before.
- The manga version of Hell Girl uses this trope twice. The 2nd went as far as to burn a debtor's house down to elicit payment. This provokes a contract with Enma Ai in a Mama Bear rage.
- Speed Grapher: Suitengu kills a man for failing to pay his 10,000,000 yen debt in full... over a discrepancy of a single 1,000 yen bill. Turns out that his kid was fiddling with the money after his father got a little too obsessive with paying the debt. This is a serious hint that Suitengu does NOT worship capitalism, as he prevented a relatively reliable debt collector from doing further business.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe examples:
- Never borrow so much as a nickel from Scrooge McDuck! You'd get off easier selling your soul to the devil;
- The usually nameless thugs after Donald Duck. Barks apparently based his portrayal of these on his own experience with debt collectors as a struggling young artist... There was also a story (where this page's image comes from) where Donald is hypnotized into believing he's one. Hilarity Ensues... For real.
- There's not one, but two Italian storiesnote where Donald becomes a debt collector—and since Donald, being in Perpetual Poverty, personally knows all the tricks used to dodge debts, he is excellent at his job. Both stories end with Donald being assigned to best the biggest debt dodger in town... namely, himself.
- Invoked in Paperinik New Adventures by Xadhoom: she has godlike powers, and, in her own words, the Evronians, having conquered and razed her homeworld and transformerd her people into Coolflames while she conduced the experiment that gave her the powers, owe her her homeworld and people... So she took the name Xadhoom, meaning "Creditor" in her language, and started exterminating the Evronians. A virtual cookie if you can guess what has just happened when she finally declares "Closed accounts".
- Also from Paperinik New Adventures, there's aliens who will start wars over unpaid debts-a merchant coalition went at war against a planet because they wouldn't pay their debts for too long (then again, they wouldn't pay the Private Military Contractors they hired to defend themselves, so the merchants may have a point), and in the second series the builders of an industrial planet replied to the commissioning mining company refusing to pay when they went overbudget not by suing them but by hiring a mercenary army to take it back.
- Batman villain the Tally Man is this trope turned full on psychotic.
- Jaum of Chewbacca combines this with Screw the Rules, I Have Money! when he buys off an entire planet.
- The first person the four encounter on their return to C'hou in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World is the Magic Taxman (and no, George isn't responsible for him). Initially he's a small, slight, Wally Cox-like man with a briefcase who politely introduces himself and requires an entry tax from the four... that amounts to one-quarter of the magic amongst them. When they scoff and refuse, he employs Penalty Methods and turns into a giant purple monster that grabs John and tries to eat him. Driven off, he promises to return to the four in ten days with much harsher Penalty Methods if they continue to refuse to pay up. This promise is a continual worry to the four, and they never do come up with a way to get rid of him (though after five or six days several of them are so disgusted with what's been going on, and the way their freedom is being abused as a result of their magic, that they're willing to give up their magic to pay the tax).
- Zigzagged in Nepotism Adventure Series: the first tax collector was just too stupid to be evil, didn't collect a single bit, and choked to death on a marble. The second tax collector played this to the hilt, though, taking an entire town to court when they refused to pay taxes. They burn him at the stake in response. Anyway, that's why there's been no taxes collected in Equestria since. Not that that stops Rarity from suggesting Twilight do so.
Films — Animation
- In the Disney version of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham plays this trope by collecting harsh, unnecessary taxes for the greedy Prince John. Despite saying he is just doing his duty, the crooked lawman crosses several lines by taking money that is hidden in the cast of a man's broken leg (even beating on it to get the last coin out), stealing a child's farthing birthday gift (which was the lowest denomination in existence in that time period), robbing a blind beggar (who is really the title hero in disguise), and even taking the only coin from the church's poor box. The last one crosses the line from cruel to outright illegal when you consider the fact that the crown didn't have the authority to tax the church at all at that point in history, being a major political hot topic for centuries. That may explain why Friar Tuck loses his cool and proceeds to give the Sheriff a thumping before he is arrested (something that Sheriffs at that point in history didn't have the legal authority to do either).
Friar Tuck: GET OUTTA MY CHURCH!!!!
Films — Live-Action
- The plot of Babe: Pig in the City begins with the farm being threatened with foreclosure:
Narrator: Before long, two men showed up. Two men in suits. Men with pale faces and soulless eyes. Such men could have come from only one place: the bank.
- The Blues Brothers attempt to put on another show in order to save the orphanage they were raised in from being closed due to back tax debt.
- The villain in Confessions of a Shopaholic is a debt collector who goes as far as to humiliate the hero on national television in order to collect (illegal).
- Any adaptation of A Christmas Carol that shows Scrooge trying to collect money owed to him invariably depicts him as one.
- In Grandma's Boy (2006), the lead character is threatened by debt collectors.
"If you not out in five minute, my frien' here, remove your testicles. Through you' anus."
- Dutch movie Karakter is about a debt collector battling with his illegitimate son. Although the debt collector is hated by all his 'customers' his side of the story is that he is simply following the law and making sure freeloaders get their due. He seems to legitimately love his son and want him to succeed but also believes in though love, very tough love the debt collector commits suicide at the end of the movie, but throughout the movie the viewer was led to believe his son had killed him.
- The South Korean movie Pietà is about a debt collector who maims and injures debtors so that they can collect insurance to pay off their loans, at the cost of living out their lives crippled or disfigured.
- In the Mickey Rooney movie Quicksand, the appearance of one of these accelerates the downward spiral of the hero, since he threatens to have the young fellow jailed for fraud unless he pays all the money on an installment plan watch within 24 hours.
- The titular Repo Men of both the following films repossess your organs — which is obviously lethal — if you fail to make your payments;
- Repo Men. Even being one yourself won't make other Repo Men shy from repossessing your leased liver.
If you can't pay for your car, the bank takes it back. If you can't pay for your house, the bank takes it back. If you can't pay for your liver, well, that's where I come in.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera. Though the only one we see in action is Nathan, who is more of a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, given that he's forced into the role by Rotti, and appears to be genuinely mentally ill, with a vicious split personality that takes over whenever he's in Repo Man mode.
- Repo Men. Even being one yourself won't make other Repo Men shy from repossessing your leased liver.
- Rocky Balboa's primary occupation at the very beginning of the Rocky series. The 'evil' part is averted when Rocky actually attempts to use reason and compassion in dealing with a debtor (and in keeping Paulie from going into the business).
- Star Wars:
- The Rodian bounty hunter Greedo in A New Hope is an Evil Debt Collector in the employ of criminal kingpin/Loan Shark Jabba the Hutt. He's not above pulling a gun on a recalcitrant debtor like Han Solo, which leads to his Karmic Death when Han shoots him first. Of course, in the Special Edition, George Lucas felt the need to give Han even more obvious moral high ground (possibly to maintain the movie's PG rating), so this scene was edited to have Greedo fire at Han first.
- Several decades later, in The Force Awakens, Han had to put up with another one in the form of a young, outer-space equivalent of a Violent Glaswegian, named Bala-Tik, an agent of a crime cabal called The Guavian Death Gang. However, the appearance of some Rathtar monsters Han was hauling put a stop to that.
- Averted with taxman Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction, who is the hero of the story.
- In Suicide Kings, it is eventually revealed that the two kidnappers are debt collectors for a Loan Shark, and that the kidnapping is simply a means to allow the debtor to get the money from their family. Who that debtor is becomes the film's central mystery.
- The trucker brothers in Think Big has to be on constant lookout on the repo man Sweeney, who tries to steal their truck, which is one payment away from being completely theirs. He succeeds near the end, but gets his karmic comeuppance by getting poisoned from the toxic waste shipment that brothers were hauling.
- The Sheriff of Nottingham is considered by most to be the Trope Codifier. The Disney movie even has him stealing from a church poor box and what he thinks is a blind man.
- More of a Crazy Debt Collector than actually Evil, but in Haruki Murakami's short story Superfrog Saves Tokyo, the titular Superfrog proves his good intentions by extracting a promise to pay from someone the main character had been struggling to collect from. The viewer is never told exactly what the frog did, but the client's lawyer is deeply traumatized.
- The villain of The Red Necklace, Count Kalliovski, lets people borrow large sums of money from him so when they fail to pay him back, he gains control over them.
- In Doctor Who serial "The Sun Makers", far-future Pluto is governed by a monstrous tax collector (literally: he turns into some kind of fungus at the end) and his greedy lackies, who subjugate the human colonists through providing them with access to an artificial sun — for which they are taxed into poverty and starvation.
- In a rare example of the Evil Debt Collector as the protagonist, the Trailer Park Boys were forced into this role to pay off a veterinarian for treating a sick dog Julian was taking care of, along with treating one of Ricky's gunshot wounds. To pay their bill, Ricky and Julian had to steal a riding mower belonging to another one of the vet's customers who owed him a lot of money.
- Subverted in Corner Gas where the tax man (who keeps insisting that he's a tax man, not the tax man) is not evil at all but friendly, reasonable and willing to give useful tax break info. He laments that people always treat him with hostility for no reason, just because they assume all tax men must be evil. Unfortunately, he was sent after Grumpy Old Man Oscar, who is hostile to everybody by default.
- Some of the marks in Leverage are essentially Evil Debt Collectors.
- In Justified a bookie employed a part time debt collector to collect from gamblers who failed to pay the money they owed. The debt collector's regular job was as a gardener so he liked to threaten to cut of people's toes with garden shears if they did not pay up. However, the bookie was a relatively nice guy so the debt collector was not supposed to actually seriously hurt people. This changed when one of the gamblers makes a business suggestion to the collector and they embark on A Simple Plan of kidnapping the bookie and stealing all of his money. We then see that the debt collector really was a tad Axe-Crazy and he decides to shoot it out in a duel with US Marshal Raylan Givens.
- Several marks in Hustle fall into this. The woman who runs the Do$h4You loan service and the thugs she sends out as her repo agents in "Old Sparks Come New" are perhaps the purest examples.
- In El Chavo del ocho, Sr. Barriga (the landlord of "La Vecindad") isn't evil necessarily, but he may as well be one as far as Don Ramón is concerned...
- A CSI: Miami episode (Season 5, Episode 4: "Bang, Bang, Your Debt") involved a web of debauchery, murder and suicide which revolved around a spectacularly Jerkass bundle of these (who's preferred way to create "customers" was by swindling college kids into a Darker and Edgier Credit Card Plot). The Victim of the Week was a girl that was dragged into debt bad enough to be kicked out of college, had to do sexual favours to the collectors' leader try to reduce the debt (and him deciding to not do anything after having his way with her), and who decided to commit suicide alongside a friend of hers that was on the same wagon (and when he managed to survive, he decided to kill the collector in revenge).
- Las Vegas: Subverted in an episode where Sam Marquez is teamed up with a debt collector to track down several gamblers who are evading their debts to the casino. She asks him if he's gonna hurt anyone to force them to pay up, but he points out that this would quickly land him in jail if the debtor decides to call the authorities; according to him it's more about appearance and intimidation than actually roughing people up. This doesn't stop Sam from playing the "violent collector" part herself later on.
- In Game of Thrones the Iron Bank of Braavos essentially plays the titular game of thrones by using would-be royal claimants as these, although said claimants ''have'' to be evil... the catch is that any royal claimant that actually succeeds promptly becomes the new debtor!
- Often averted in TV reality shows about debt collectors. The loveable semi-incompetents of Lizard Lick Towing are hard to take seriously, although the serious nature of their job is clearly illustrated. Meanwhile, British reality shows such as Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away! which follow court bailiffs and debt collectors about their work, portray thoughtful, intelligent, men who will pursue a deliberate defaulter without mercy. People capable of payment get short shrift. But the bailiffs can often bend over backwards to help somebody who is in hardship or genuinely struggling, and view actual eviction or distraint as an absolutely last resort.
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver once did an episode on debt buyers who specialized in debt past the Statute of Limitations (thus, not collectable through the courts). Part of the episode focused on the debt collectors they use, which often are virtually unregulated and use tactics such as harassment, threats and name-calling.
- "Taxman", by The Beatles.
- I'll tax your tropes!
- "Repo Man" by The Coup.
- "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt...
St Peter, don't you call me, for I can't go—
I owe my soul to the company store!
Myths & Religion
- The Bible:
- Jesus redeems a tax collector named Matthew, also known as Levi, who up to that point is portrayed as a very sinful and evil man. He even makes him one of His Apostles.
- Adding in for the Bible entry, it would seem that being a Debt Collector is the Always Chaotic Evil and Designated Villain version of jobs, as Jesus often uses them as the bad guys in the metaphors (and then subverts that these bad guys still pale in the faces of the haughty).
- There was at least one subversion in one of Jesus' parables, a Pharisees was harassing a collector over the fact his career choice will land him in hell, the collector, showing both wit and humility, drops to his knees and begs God for forgiveness, showing more faith that the Pharisees probably ever would and establish the (alien in that time thought) that one's career choice didn't dictate their religious or moral compass.
- This even goes back to the Old Testament. Leviticus and Deuteronomy list very specific ways in which debts are to be collected, and loans and collateral accepted.
- In the Bible example, tax collectors tended to be Jews who were collecting taxes for the Romans who conquered them. So a double whammy there.
- Especially since Jesus frequently mentions tax collectors and prostitutes in the same sentence in his parables.
- In those days, it wasn't uncommon for them to demand more than was really owed, and skim off the top. John the Baptist even calls out the tax collectors for this very practice, saying they should collect no more than they are legally entitled to collect.
- When the Ten Tribes of Israel started breaking off, Rehoboam tried collecting taxes from them by sending Adoniram, who's been doing that since before Solomon. The guy never returned.
- A professional wrestling example of an evil tax collector was Irwin R. Schyster (IRS) from the WWE (early-mid 1990s, back when it was known as the WWF). He was a heel. Part of the famous tag team Money Incorporated with "The Million-Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. This team was known for its prowess as technical wrestlers.
- About the same time, in WWE there also was the Repo Man (Barry Darsow).
- Inverted in 1990, when the Big Boss Man (Ray Traylor) refused to reposess Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Belt, because he wouldn't take a pay-off.
- Parodied in the Animal Crossing series multiple times. While Tom Nook may occasionally make a joke about sending "the raccoon goons" if you don't pay him back for your house upgrades, you can Take Your Time paying him back. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer reveals that he knows about this trope and uses the fear of it to teach life lessons about debt.
- The plot line of Pikmin 2 involves the president of Olimar's company running from debt collectors after taking a loan from the wrong bank — the All-Devouring Black Hole Loan Sharks. He sends emails about it.
I just took a call from my loan agent! He has the scariest voice I've ever heard. While you two are dawdling about, my life hangs by a thread! Get to work, slackers!
Olimar! You're my hero! You've erased half of our debt. Still, things have become a bit dangerous, so I'm going into hiding. Focus on work... and don't slack off!
I found some tasty grass today. It was the first time in a while that I could eat until I was full.
I have a regrettable message. I have been caught. If I don't pay off the company debt right away, I'm to be buried in Hocotate Swamp. It's bleak here... Hurry!
- One of the early-mid game books (Timid Teacher book 2, I think) in Persona 4 involves a man trying to deal with psycho debt collectors.
- The Sims 2 has the Repo Man, who comes if you blow off paying the bills too long. He's the one character you can't even cheat code your way around. He shows up with a vacuum that sucks up all your stuff and his appearance is an automatic bad memory for your Sims. On The Sims 3, you can actually erase the Repo Man just fine.
- Europa Universalis features an opportunity for a player to be this. Give the AI a short-term loan. Wait until AI refuses to repay. You get a free casus belli.
- Niko in Grand Theft Auto IV is sold out to debt collectors.
- The Big Bad of Axel's story in Disgaea 2 is an evil repo man out to destroy an orphanage. This scumbag even holds Axel's little brother hostage. This leads to a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Axel.
- This happens to O'aka in Final Fantasy X-2, after he ends up heavily in debt to some Al Bhed. Yuna and the Gullwings can help him by buying enough of his merchandise so he has the money to pay off his loans.
- Turned Up to Eleven in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Word of God reveals that it was Lord Gordain who created the original Nonary Game as away of both getting rid of his debtors in a ridiculously brutal manner and to provide entertainment to other billionares.
- World of Warcraft has several quest lines where you are asked to go collect debts from a series of deadbeats who refuse to repay their dues to the quest giver. A few of those deadbeats are actually dead and you have to beat up their ghosts for the money. There is no escaping your credit record in Azeroth.
- A daily quest for the Tillers in Pandaria has you playing the role once again for four of the villagers, but two of them at random will always say they don't have enough, you can either threaten them to get them to pay in full or offer to cover a little bit for you. The money you make back from completing the quest more than compensates helping them out, so threatening them is something done out of malice.
- The 'plot' of The Three Stooges video game is that the Stooges have 30 days to raise enough money to save an orphanage from being closed down by I. Fleecem, whose appearences are punctuated with an Evil Laugh. If you bump into Fleecem during the game, he'll take away some of your money.
- The Federation in Gratuitous Space Battles, being a corporate conglomerate, offers loans on an intergalactic level to entire races and governments, so obviously they'd need to ramp up their debt collection department to scale. "Up to scale" in this case meaning they have a whole armada exclusively dedicated to mucking up late payers (which is just about everyone).
- A handful of side quests in Sleeping Dogs involve Wei taking on some work as a collector, until he becomes thoroughly disgusted with the job after a debtor commits suicide in public, and Wei's boss just shrugs and says to move on to the dead man's wife instead.
- In the Thieves Guild questline for Skyrim, one quest has you remove a pest problem for Sabjorn, the owner of the Honningbrew Meadery. If you talk to Sabjorn about his assistant, you find he falls under this trope. Sabjorn loaned his assistant a sum of money that he knew his assistant could never pay back, then using said assistant as unpaid labor.
- In the Dragonborn DLC for Skyrim, if you find a new steward for the Telvanni mage-lord Neloth, an Orc loan shark (complete with an intimidating/"intimidating" bodyguard) will use Insane Troll Logic to justify trying to collect the steward's debt from you . Your options are: pay the debt, negotiate and pay a reduced amount, intimidating him into forgiving the debt, or violently ending his existence. All are viable, but violence in the presence of the guards will turn them hostile.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, you get to step into the shoes of one in the "Debt Collector" sidequest, where you collect debts for the Garrett Twins of the Atomic Wrangler. While you're encouraged not to kill the targets since you can't recollect on a corpse, you still primarily rely on threats and intimidation. Of course, you can have two of them try to work off the debt as a gigolo as part of another sidequest or have them point you to a cave filled with loot as compensation.
- In Cuphead you become one of these to the Devil himself! In order to pay for a gambling debt where the protagonists bet their souls, they have to run around Inkwell Isle to find the Devil's runaway debtors and recover the Soul Contracts out of them. Of course, they are not happy to see you and thus you have to fight them. It can be subverted at the end, however, if you chose to fight the devil and beat him, Cuphead and Mugman will proceed to burn the soul contracts, freeing the bosses from their debts and they will throw a party in your honor.
- In The Word Weary, Stan Becks is a debt collector with a fictional company. He calls Elly and tells her (wrongly) she has pay beck her recently deceased mother's credit card debt, crippling her financially. This trope is played with in that Stan himself doesn't really appear to be evil, just forced into it to save his job.
- Rocko's Modern Life:
- Played for laughs in the episode "Who Gives a Buck", after Rocko gets carried away with his new credit card. He picks up the phone and receives the standard angry collection call.
- In "Junk Junkies", Rocko ends up owing $500 to a pizza place. Their debt collection practices start off with phone calls, but quickly escalate to breaking windows and dropping flaming pizza bombs from a plane. Their final method involves a visit from a massive thug named Wallace.
- Cow and Chicken uses a similar joke in an episode where Chicken gets a credit card, with the Red Guy as the debt collector being rather overzealous at making Chicken pay back a twenty-five-cent charge.
- Pete plays one in the Classic Disney Short "Moving Day" (1936), playing the bullying sheriff planning to evict Mickey and Donald and sell all their furniture.
- The Vreedle Brothers are Repo Men on Ben 10: Alien Force, sent to get Ship.
- Even Scrooge McDuck isn't immune to this trope. "Nothing to Fear" from DuckTales (1987) had the protagonists suffering from their worst nightmares. Scrooge's worst fear is debt collectors taking away everything he owns, even to the point of trying to take away Huey, Dewey and Louie.
- In the Wakfu special "Nox", the future villain is harassed by one of these. The debt collector actually goes out of his way to intimidate Nox's children for no reason. Indeed, much of Nox's obsession with the Eliacube ties in with his desire to make sufficient money to get rid of his debt. This ends...poorly for just about everyone involved.
- Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In a "Magnificent Muttley" segment episode, Muttley found a treasure chest and Dick Dastardly disguised himself as a tax collector to "seize" the treasure as payment for back taxes. The joke was on him as the chest contained nothing but dog biscuits.