A lot of folks, myself included, have success with it. However, you can also find a lot of folks with little to no success with GW.
The potential payoff is high--deletion of adverse info.
The risk is low--41 cents. Do NOT send GW letters CMRRR. They might think you're a nutcase who's planning to sue 'em. Nutcases aren't good candidates for GW. Don't be a nutcase.
The odds are better than Vega$.
But GW ain't guaranteed, there's no statute in FDCPA or FCRA, and there's no caselaw. [Yes, I have been asked for the statute.]
Goodwill is goodwill.
1. friendly disposition; benevolence; kindness.
2. cheerful acquiescence or consent.
3. Commerce. an intangible, salable asset arising from the reputation of a business and its relations with its customers, distinct from the value of its stock and other tangible assets.
GW might be extended for a number of reasons. You manage to make them feel sorry for you. You convince them that although you tried to keep up with your bills, circumstances got the best of you. You make them believe you've seen the error of your ways, learned your lesson, and are ready to move forward as a good consumer and responsible debtor for many years to come.
Lates are good candidates for GW, assuming the account was PIF or settled. A PIF account with lates on it is more likely to succeed than would a settled account with lates. However, I got a settled account with lates removed thru GW. It happens.
If your GW attempt fails on a settled account, you do have some leverage to go back at them for a PFD. Because you still owe money on the settled account, the difference between what you owed and what you paid could be used to negotiate a PFD. Do not start out offering the full difference between what you paid and what you owed. Expect some sort of haggling. If you offer the whole farm up front they might say, OK, pay up and we'll fix you later. Only later never comes.
Some have reported success with GW getting collections and charge offs deleted. I tried with a paid collection. No dice, but it was AMEX. They are a tough one. Very matter of fact and by the book when it comes to adverse reporting. They generally don't budge much, if at all. However, AMEX can be very generous with CLIs, and despite the perception of them as catering only to the wealthy, Green and Delta Skymiles cards get issued to folks with FICOs in the high 500s to low 600s. If you owe them money on a defaulted account, and you pay up, you can get back in their good graces via the Oasis Optima program.
You probably are not going to GW away a car repo, but I won't say never and don't try. In theory, they might change the reporting from repo to 60 days late.
Foreclosure, BK or defaulted student loans are not going away with GW.
GW is cheap and easy, once you get the hang of it. Read all the GW letters you can find. There are some here. Others out there on CIC, CB and other forums. Study GW letters. Get a feel for it. There is both an art and a science to GW. Think about your circumstances. Apply your experience. Do NOT copy a GW letter verbatim. There are probably 4-5 different factlets that won't match your situation, and it will look suspicious. Try to be honest. At least make your story plausible.
Question always comes up of to whom one should send GW letters. I used the address on my CRs and I used the greeting of Dear Madam or Sir. Didn't address the envelope to any specific person. Others say send your GW letters to CEOs and other corporate execs. I still tend to believe you are more likely to get GW from a working stiff than an exec, but more and more folks are reporting success with the exec approach.
Some are even using Email and reporting success with it. With Google or a company website you can probably figure out the name of the CEO. With continued googling you can often start finding Email addresses of people in that company. Find a couple of Email addresses, and you start seeing a sequence of how to construct an Email address for a CEO.
For example, after finding the Email addresses of email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, you might deduce that CEO John Ross "J.R." Wellington has an Email address of email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or some other combo. Watch for bounces. I use a delivery and read receipt to help knowing whether it's been received and read.
Another option for communicating with CEOs is PFB.
Sample GW letters.