The guys end the week by discussing the harsh employment standards surrounding reality shows. They then answer the question, "My friend has a file with over 10,000 pieces of debt that he received from a collection agency that went under. What legal steps do I have to take to just be able to sit in my house and call these people up and have them send me money?"
Full Podcast Transcript
NASIR: Welcome to Legally Sound Smart Business.
This is Nasir Pasha.
MATT: And this is Matt Staub.
NASIR: Welcome to our Friday episode of Legally Sound Smart Business – once again, I’m telling you the name so you don’t forget – where we cover business in the news and answer some of the business legal questions that you, the listener, can send in at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @askbizlaw and, also, you can now participate in our weekly AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit on various sub-Reddits. Just search for “Legally Sound Smart Business”. You should be able to find us and participate.
MATT: If there’s anything this podcast is good for, it is repetition because the intro comes in before we talk, saying what the show is, and our names, and then we instantly say our names and the show multiple times.
MATT: So, the first thirty seconds someone’s listened to this podcast, they should know who we are and what it is, hopefully. If not, then we’re just going to randomly shout it out during the middle of the show.
NASIR: Well, I agree. I think we should play the intro just in the middle of the show just so people know what’s going on but you are against that.
MATT: We do have a little sound break between the story and question but there’s no one speaking during that time.
NASIR: Yeah, we just need someone saying, “You are listening to Legally Sound Smart Business with Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha.”
MATT: Or some cool question of the day cut that we get someone to tell us.
All right, I’m just going to get into the story. Going nowhere with this.
NASIR: All right.
MATT: So, I don’t really watch reality shows but I’m familiar with them. I’ve heard of Temptation Island. This story is about the real heroes of these reality shows – the crew that has to film. This is something I’ve always wondered, too. You’ll see all these crazy things and all this stuff but, as bad as it can get for the actual people on the show, it has to be ten times worse for the people filming it. This particular story with Temptation Island kind of evidences that. We’ll get into the legal side but I’ll give a little background. This person is saying, when they worked on the show, they worked in 90-plus degree heat for three weeks straight with no days off, “18-hour days and, every third night, I was required to pull an overnight shift. So, a 36-hour shift every third day.” I mean, there’s some issues with that, kind of – there definitely is – but they’re saying they were only paid $600 a week. They’re complaining about that. It breaks down to I guess $600 a week isn’t going to be enough if they’re working that many hours. I didn’t do the math in my head. It sounds like there’s some minimum wage issues just with all the overtime that they would be required to pay.
NASIR: But these guys are in Belize, right? It doesn’t even matter. These guys aren’t protected by anything. That’s the problem.
MATT: Oh, was this filmed out of the country? Yeah, that makes more sense then.
NASIR: Yeah, that’s the issue.
MATT: So, that was the financial issue. I guess they flew all the important people home first – the cast and all that – and then, I guess, a hurricane hit before the crew could fly back so they were stuck there for days.
The summary of this is shows are really cheap with the actual crew and it’s pretty unfortunate for them but the problem is they can find other people to do it if these people that are complaining are going to continue to not want to do it.
NASIR: Yeah, and I’m just reading some of these comments because there are other people that are sharing their experiences but, most importantly, we’re talking about the crew here but also the actual competitors are said to be treated very horrible.
Let me just read this. I think this is pretty interesting. This is someone that worked at a cooking competition show and they said that they treated contestants like prisoners.
“Whenever we’d transport them in vans, we weren’t allowed to play any music and they weren’t allowed to talk. Every single day, starting around 5:00 AM with an hour-long dead silent van ride from the house to the kitchen, they usually wouldn’t get back to the house until midnight if they were lucky. Those judge tables took a minimum of four hours and sometimes took up to six where they’d be given cheap beer and not allowed to go to sleep until 2:00 or so. Ever since working on that show, I just feel sorry for anybody on reality TV.”
It goes on a little bit but I think that’s kind of demonstrative of the actual industry but I’ve heard the same stories. The problem is these contestants, there has been some objections to consider these reality show contestants as actors and maybe employees even but it’s kind of a fine line there.
MATT: Do you have a problem with the things that these shows are doing then from a legal perspective?
NASIR: Well, I think so, especially with this Temptation Island, right? You’re filming in Belize. Earlier this week, we talked about control over employee. When you have an employee – especially away from home, I assume they’re away from home – yeah, exactly, they’re away from home – literally on an island, if they say they’re in Belize, I don’t know if they’re actually on an island but I digress but if they have them away from home and supposedly kind of away from everything, working long-hour days in a country where they don’t have those employment law protections, there’s some inherent unfairness there. Even if they quit, they need the job, this person was being paid $600 a week which is not a lot but, you know, they probably needed the job.
MATT: Yeah. You know, different story I guess if this is happening in the US but I would think that this probably does happen with reality shows in the US.
NASIR: Yeah, I think so. I mean, they may be within the bounds of the law but I think, with the contestants, I think they can easily do that because they’re producing a show and, when you’re being filmed 24/7 or even if it’s not 24/7, having those long days, you’ve seen these reality shows. Honestly, I think that’s what makes good television because – well, in other people’s eyes – if you have people constantly being watched and kind of sleep-deprived and working all day, they’re going to be very stressed and start acting the way they do on TV and I think otherwise normal people start acting out in a way that’s good for television.
MATT: Yeah. I mean, that’s how they get their footage. It’s basically sleep-depriving these people and then just giving them unlimited alcohol and then that’s how you get all the chaotic things on the reality shows.
NASIR: There you go.
MATT: I don’t even know the last reality show I watched. I think I watched Season 1 of Survivor but I don’t even know how long ago that was. That was a long time ago.
NASIR: Yeah, I watched Season 1 of Survivor. That was pretty fun. I think that was pretty much – besides The Real World – that was kind of the start of the whole thing, right?
MATT: I think that was the first really big reality show that was on one of the major networks.
NASIR: And everyone watched.
MATT: Yeah, unless I’m forgetting something.
NASIR: The finale and all that.
MATT: I probably am forgetting something but that’s fine.
(You are listening to the Legally Sound Smart Business Podcast with Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.)
MATT: Question of the day.
NASIR: Question of the day.
MATT: “My friend has a file with over 10,000 pieces of debt that he received from a collection agency that went under. What legal steps do I have to take to just be able to sit in my house and call these people up and have them send me money?”
This question’s kind of funny.
NASIR: Yeah, it is kind of funny. Someone posted this on Reddit for us and one of the responses was, “I would hate some random person that would buy my debt,” but, in reality, that’s what happens every day. If you own debt – whether it’s a mortgage or some other credit card that’s gone into collections or whatever, you debt gets transferred multiple times – sometimes, in the same month even – because, how it works is these debts are packaged and graded depending upon its predictability of how it’s going to be collected and they’re packaged into groups and people buy them in bulk.
MATT: Yeah, and I think this guy’s answer might be in the question – I guess not his answer – but there’s a clue in here. He bought it from an agency that went under. This company wasn’t successful in collecting debt from these people so I have a feeling that he’s probably not going to be successful either. I would assume, trying to get people to pay back their debt is pretty difficult unless you, even if you win some sort of lawsuit, it still can be pretty difficult to actually get a collection from someone.
NASIR: Yeah, but I think what people do is, you know, you have 10,000 pieces of debt – you know, assuming that’s at least a couple of hundred dollars each maybe, I don’t know, probably more – making the call every day, people paying partial payments or whatever. You know, people do want to pay their debts most of the time. A lot of times, they just can’t.
Anyway, get to the question, “What are the legal steps to do that?” There are a lot of issues when it comes to debt collection, especially if they’re consumer debt. Most of the time, there are. It’s unlikely that you came across some kind of commercial debt but let’s assume it’s consumer debt for this moment because you have the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which governs when you can call, how you can collect, and all these different various rules. You know, this is the law that protects us from getting calls or door-knocks in the middle of the night from debt collectors, right? That’s an important aspect.
MATT: We assume that he legitimately has the rights to collect it, too.
MATT: That’s an assumption that’s made in the question. That’s kind of step one.
NASIR: That’s actually a huge point because, actually, one of the best ways – and this is kind of a tidbit for those that owe money – one of the best ways to challenge a debt collector, especially in the court of law and not over the phone, it might be a different issue – is proving whether or not they actually own the debt because you can assign debt through a promissory note so long as the documentation is done properly over and over again but you have to have a change of title so to speak when it comes to assigning debt.
For example, just as an analogy, just when you buy a house and sell it to another person and that person sells it to the other person, there’s a change of title that’s in paper record. You need the same kind of paper record for this debt.
NASIR: Oh, there’s one more issue, too, I just thought of – licensing. There are some states in the country, I don’t believe California, Texas, and New York – the states that our firm practices law – has those kind of requirements for licenses but I know many of the other states in the country do. Honestly, I think it’s pretty much all the other states besides those three that has those licensing requirements. So, you may have some work to do.
MATT: I think we answered this question.
NASIR: Yeah, I think so. I think we pretty much gave him a step-by-step thing. I think those are all the issues. Besides the legal issues of running a business, you might want to have an entity and all that, but those are the general concepts.
NASIR: Well, I think that’s it.
MATT: Yeah, have fun trying to collect debt from people. Good luck!
NASIR: Yeah, I just think it’s funny that this random guy has the ownership, supposedly, of all these people’s debts. It’s kind of just funny how the world works like that.
MATT: Most likely someone who was a crew member on Temptation Island but…
NASIR: Nice tie-in. You’re always good at that.
MATT: Yeah, I always try to tie in on Friday.
MATT: So, we can tell people we can leave iTunes reviews. I don’t know if we mentioned that this week. I always try to do the loose ends on Friday, too.
NASIR: Yeah, you can definitely do some reviews on iTunes, going back to Monday’s episodes. Also, ratemyprofessors.com which, although we’re not professors, we’d appreciate a positive review. Any kind of positive reviews, we’d appreciate.
MATT: It’s actually funny. Since we’ve been recording, I went to the website and was looking. For whatever reason, I went to my law school and was just reading some of the professors I had. It was pretty funny. They were pretty accurate, too. I enjoyed that.
NASIR: Yeah, and I’m sure these professors read their own reviews which must be frustrating, I’m sure.
MATT: Well, that’s the thing. The only reviews on there are going to be people that really like you or people that really hate you, most likely. You don’t see a lot of middle of the road reviews.
NASIR: Well, I think that’s reviews in general – at least they say so. But Yelp has done studies because, look, Yelp is always doing studies to justify what they’re doing but they’ve said that that’s not the case because there’s a lot of mediocre reviews or three or four-star reviews anyway but that’s a different issue.
MATT: All right. Always have to mention Yelp – every episode.
NASIR: All right. Well, thanks for listening, everyone!
MATT: Keep it sound and keep it smart!