Credit fear: Why are we at their mercy?

I was late paying an unexpectedly large bill for my son's birth; I'd wrangled a bit with the insurance company over one of the charges, and before you know it, I was getting calls. I finally connected with someone over it and the kindly-but-scripted collections woman started in with the fearmongering.

"If you don't send a payment today we're going to have to report you to the credit agency!" she said with urgency. "We haven't reported yet, but we will." She wanted one payment that minute, another at the end of the month, only six days away. Talk about your high pressure.

I was calm, because honestly? I don't care. Let me rephrase: I certainly want to pay all my bills, and I do plan to schedule those payments when I can afford them. But I don't care if my credit suffers.