Fear me if you dare!
"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 f—- you up. Goodbye."
— Typical call from a "nice" debt collector
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 no 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. 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
. Older Than Feudalism
. A form of Acceptable Professional Targets
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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 (that is sort of a Game Breaker in the manga, if only you could not unsummon it by beating his 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.
- Never borrow so much as a nickel from Scrooge McDuck! You'd get off easier selling your soul to the devil.
- From the same Verse, 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.
- Batman villain the Tally Man is this trope turned full on psychotic.
Films — Animated
- In the Disney version of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham played this trope by collecting harsh, unnecessary taxes for the greedy Prince John. Despite saying he was just doing his duty, the crooked lawman crossed lines by taking money that was hidden in the cast of a man's broken leg (even beating on it to get the last coin out), stealing a child's birthday gift that was a coin (of the lowest denomination in existence in that time period), robbing a blind beggar (who was really the titular hero in disguise), and even taking the only coin from the church's poor box.
- The one last 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. It was a major political hot topic for centuries.
Films — Live-Action
- 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).
- 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.
- Averted with taxman Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction, who is the hero of the story.
- In Grandma's Boy, the lead character is threatened by debt collecters.
"If you not out in five minute, my frien' here, remove your testicles. Through you' anus."
- The titular Repo men of Repo! The Genetic Opera repossess your organs if you fail to make your payments to Gene co
- I don't remember the exact quote, but from Babe: Pig in the City we had this:
"And then, two men came to the farm. They were men from a place that felt no love or compassion for anyone: the bank."
- 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.
- Jabba the Hutt's main role in Star Wars is as a debt collector (it is his main motive for pursuing Han Solo); his other activities as an organized crime lord go unmentioned but heavily implied.
- 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).
- 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 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.
- In 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 he's "A tax man, not THE tax man") is not evil at all but friendly, reasonable and will not hesitate to give useful tax break info that benefits those who treat him nicely. Which is amazing considering he has to deal all day long with people like Oscar.
- Some of the marks in Leverage are essentially Evil Debt Collectors.
- 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 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 DiBiases Million Dollar Belt, because he wouldn't take a pay-off.
- Parodied in the Animal Crossing series multiple times, including a joke about sending goons if you don't make a payment in a week.
- 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 The Sims 3 you can actually erase the Repo Man just fine.
- Europa Universalis 2 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 the 4th Grand Theft Auto 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.
- 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, who's appearences are punctuated with an Evil Laugh. If you bump into Fleecem during the game, he'll take away some of your money.
- Played for laughs in the Rocko's Modern Life cartoon Who Gives A Buck after Rocko gets a credit card. He picks up the phone and receives the standard collection call.
- Cow and Chicken uses a similar joke to Who Gives A Buck with the red guy as the debt collector.
- 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. One episode of DuckTales 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.
- 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.