By on May 17, 2009

His cell phone line was dead. A disconnected phone is always the first sign that one my automotive “investments” has gone south. Number two: timing. His payment was due that afternoon. By 2:00 PM I was at the house. My car wasn’t there. Common scents told me his associate, DJ Jazzy Dumbfuck, was inside getting high. Angry rap songs blasted from inside. Knocked on the door . . . doorbell . . . knock . . . doorbell . . .

DJ emerges from his drugged stupor and staggers to the door. His eyes are barely open. Then again, maybe not. “Do you know where Darrin is?” “Um . . . no, sir.” I love it when they call me sir; a buried if totally unrealized respect for authority makes my job easier. Turns out the client had been arrested for theft. The cops led him away in handcuffs. At the nearby McDonalds. I wondered if they let him keep the toy. I knew where he worked. Yes, worked. And there it was. My car.

Unfortunately, so was his highly decorated sister. I informed the seven body piercings surrounding her face that I was repo’ing the car. The police would arrive shortly to inspect the vehicle for any stolen merchandise. She leaves immediately. Then I order the hauler.

I’ll have the police open the trunk tomorrow. If they recover someone else’s belongings, the heat will jerk his chain. Or not. Those TV guys might be able to lift a print from a discarded Tic-Tac, but real life cops are more likely to throw everything into a garbage bag.

I’ve only had two repos this year. Both were referrals. From now on, I’m going to put my faith in ageism. I won’t finance a “referral” under 25. So sue me.

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49 Comments on “Hammer Time: Repo #2: 2009...”

  • avatar

    Almost like Repo Man:

    “Goddamn-dipshit-Rodriguez-gypsy-dildo-punks. I’ll get your ass.”

  • avatar

    “Let’s go do some crimes.” “Yeah, let’s order sushi and not pay for it.”

  • avatar

    @Dynamic88: Yes, that was my other line. I was weighing on that one…

  • avatar

    To bray like the jackass that I am, it sounds like your client lacked both CENTS to pay for the car and SENSE to stay away from crime as well as a strange SCENTS emanated from the house.

  • avatar

    I see reality TV potential here.

  • avatar

    “I see reality TV potential here.”

    Already been done. It was short lived.

  • avatar

    Was there a tree-shaped air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror?

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    So, what make of car?

  • avatar

    Do you have a concealed carry license? I hope so.

  • avatar

    Were there 3rd party chrome added rims on the car?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I don’t pack heat. Never. The person who is in the car with me always does though…. kind of… it’s a fake but a very convincing one.

    I already had chrome wheels on the car. It was a 1990’s Bonneville. The fellow was actually a referral from a lady who drives a bus. She has a Chrysler Town & Country and although she’s sometimes late. She’s always nice and decent. This kid was too though, so go figure.

  • avatar

    Check out “Operation Repo” on A&E. I think it is on Monday nights. It is a reality show about a family in the repo business. Similar in tone to American Chopper, if you remember that one. Family squabbles and interesting comments about the lame customers they are hearing excuses from or being threatened by. We watch it if we happen to see it on.

  • avatar

    RE: Operation Repo

    The worst show on TV.
    That is not the way it is done. I used to repo cars as part of another job and we never carried and we never got confrontational with the owner. Both actions will put you in the wrong light with the cops. Stealth is the rule- the only protection I brought with me was a loyal Doberman who would stand between me and trouble while I figured out my chances between getting the car or getting attacked by an angry owner.
    If anyone actually acted like those bozos on the TV show, they would in jail or dead.

  • avatar

    I would consider recommending you get out of the business before it makes you any more of a misanthrope, but you sound like you really enjoy lording your authority over poor people.

  • avatar

    Steven Lang: “I don’t pack heat. Never. The person who is in the car with me always does though…. kind of… it’s a fake but a very convincing one.”“Hey, blanks get the job done, too.”

    I always thought that movie seemed to approximate reality. Well, except for the aliens. Maybe…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I will admit that there is a sense of justice I feel whenever I get a vehicle back from someone who has lied to me. Having said that, I’ve only needed to do three repos in four years specifically because I don’t finance ‘poor people’.

    Most of my clients are in their late 30’s to late 60’s, have stable incomes, and if there’s any volatility in their earnings they either call me up beforehand or ask me to hold a check.

    I’ve had people fall six, eight, or even ten payments and I have yet to find one that wouldn’t catch up once their situation improves. My propensity to find vehicles with good ownership histories and older person’s cars also helps out quite a bit.

    I also do a lot of other things. Putting repair costs (my actual cost) in the back of the loan, offering free tows and basic services when the needs arise, and generally just looking out for folks. I also create a lot of incentives to get people to pay early because truth be told, I don’t like financing cars. I’d rather make $700 less a car by cash than to deal with the economic uncertainty… especially in these times. There’s actually a post I dedicated just to this side of the business which you can find here…

    Back to the repo side…

    Operation Repo is a fake.

    If the owner gets confrontational you…

    1) Walk away
    2) Call the police
    3) Deter any possibility of violence by keeping off their property.

    Let them handle it. 9 times out of 10 they will simply tell you to go. They’ll get them back inside…and twenty minutes later you can get the car… real quick.

    The best repos are ones where you never meet another soul. But if you do, being calm and in control of the situation is far better than being reactionary. Over four years I’ve only had three repos, two of them were during the last three months and the one prior was back in 2005.

  • avatar

    I would consider recommending you get out of the business before it makes you any more of a misanthrope, but you sound like you really enjoy lording your authority over poor people.

    There’s a BIG difference between being poor and being a deadbeat who doesn’t pay his bills. I grew up poor but we never had anyone knocking on our door to repo anything or trying to collect a bill. If we couldn’t afford it, we didn’t buy it. If we bought it, we paid for it even if it meant sacrificing somewhere else.

    It sounds like these deadbeats put more emphasis on getting high than on paying their debts. The phone company repo’d their phone number for not paying that bill, just like Steve repo’d their car for the same reason. And both were justified in their actions.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    A replica gun is of limited value if your client has a real one. Could be a career limiting move.

  • avatar

    I find the psychological impact of a flame-thrower to far outweigh the impact of the typical firearm.

  • avatar

    It seems to me like packing fake heat can get you in WAY more trouble than not packing heat at all. Then again, what do I know? I’m Canadian

    I’ve always thought of guns the same way I think of my dick. If you’re not going to use it, don’t pull it out!

  • avatar

    My dealership takes in a number of voluntary repos (thankfully the storm of them from earlier in the year seems to have subsided) and most of them are fairly congenial given the circumstances.

    Two stick out in my mind as having had to give that last little NSFW-you though – one gentleman who turned over a pickup with a landscape dump bed filled with garbage and rotting vegetation, and another who turned over his car, then proceeded to take out the battery in the parking lot and leave with it (which we didn’t notice till we had to move it at the end of the day).

  • avatar

    I would consider recommending you get out of the business before it makes you any more of a misanthrope, but you sound like you really enjoy lording your authority over poor people.

    This kind of sentiment really pisses me off: the idea that the shitbags who get things repo’d are somehow victims, and the repo guys are villains.

    Repo men NEVER take your car. It’s the banks car. YOU didn’t pay for it, the bank/dealer/financier did. And they are nice enough to let you use it before you even pay them.

    Like was said, the “poor” people aren’t the victims. It’s their own irresponsibility. As far as hitting tough times, once again, be a damn adult. Buy stuff thats appropriate to your budget. CALL your creditor if you have trouble. Banks will work with you. Even if they have to get their money on a longer schedule, they prefer that to repo. Repo usually loses them money and is a last resort after everything else fails.

    We are becoming a culture of children. We are people with no sense of responsibility or self respect, who demand things that we “deserve” automatically with no basis. And when the undeniable laws of the world bite us in the ass we claim to be “victims.”
    Children can be expected to do things at a whim, they don’t/can’t think of larger consequences. That’s why children live under the protection of adults, and with restrictions of their freedom/abilities/behavior. This country’s march toward lesser freedoms and larger restrictions is simply reducing us to children, who can’t be trusted with freedom.

    Ah, kinda turned into a social commentary rant…

  • avatar

    AG- misanthrope? Do you even know what a misanthrope is? Does a car dealership fall in this category is they want to be paid for a car? A finance company? GMAC? OK, well maybe GMAC. What does hatred of mankind have to do with getting paid? When you get your paycheck is your employer misanthropic because he has to succumb to your “lordship” as you demand to be paid for your services? This is the kind of mentality that has gotten this country in the mess its in. Be a deadbeat, dont pay your bills, buy things you cant pay for, and then cry poor. Mistreated. Exploited. Sheesh…

  • avatar

    I don’t pack heat. Never.

    As an ex-infantryman and current civilian gun nut, I sympathize. But I have a hard time agreeing with ‘Never’. That said, non-confrontational common sense is the most effective tool in these situations. You seem to have a system that works.

    Although, you may want to consider an unobtrusive kevlar vest.

  • avatar

    I would consider recommending you get out of the business before it makes you any more of a misanthrope, but you sound like you really enjoy lording your authority over poor people.

    What part of getting paid for your work/goods is lording authority? Or do poor people get some kind of special dispensation that allows them to not pay for goods?

    Rather than Mr. Lang being a misanthrope (the fact that he willingly and in a friendly manner offers reliable advice about used cars to near complete strangers puts a lie to that characterization) it’s the folks who hold the “poor” (or any other anointed special interest) to a lower standard of morality that are the real enemies of human values.

  • avatar

    Was going to be the grammar police and correct the common SCENTS to SENSE but I got the play on words.
    I’ve said it before , “The world needs more Steve Lang”

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    @ jckirlan11,

    As the TTAC proofreader, I was in the middle of typing out “sense” when I realized what Mr. Lang had done.

    He’s a chip off RF.

  • avatar


    The part where you call your erstwhile customers “shitbag” and “dumbfuck” is what makes one a misanthrope.

    Yes I know not all debtors are poor, but Mr. Lang’s story, specifically the parts where he shows his distain for someone listening to “angry rap music” and his delight at the guy calling him “sir” left me with a bad impression.

    And MrUnexpected must live in a world where everybody is a bankruptcy attorney and knows exactly how to “negotiate” with their creditors.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    “and their room mate a dumb fuck, when his only crime in this case was… being room mates with the guy whose car lang repossessed. he also turned out to be polite and respectful, but to hell with him anyway, right?”

    Not exactly. It took this fellow over five minutes before he opened the door and when I asked the first few questions he claimed to be completely ignorant.

    When I asked him similar questions with a small twist to them later on in the conversation, he opened up…. a bit. The fellow should have been honest with me in the first place.

    The angry music could have been rap, heavy metal, or some Nazi march from the 1930’s. Personally, I don’t like that crap and I don’t like druggies that listen to that crap. I won’t apologize for that. You’re angry? Fine. The world doesn’t need to hear your crappy music.

    A little additional information…

    Apparently there have been a rash of GPS and radio thefts in the county where this resides and the delinquent apparently admitted to be part of the operation. I’m surprised the car didn’t get impounded but then again, I’m sure this fellow didn’t volunteer any information other than his own personal stupidity.

    On Monday, I’ll find out if the car has any of those items. If this episode can help the police and DA put an end to this behavior I’ll be happy to help.

  • avatar

    Yet another reason why – regardless of your attitude toward them – many of the “buy here, pay here” dealers are starting to plant GPS locator units in their collateral, many with a feature that disables the car.

    After 29 years of working in the banking business, I know better than to assume that all people who don’t pay their debts are (fill in your favorite epithet here). I’ve seen repos where customers have politely turned in their collateral, and more than a few instances where the home or vehicle was turned in clean and well-maintained. The latter tend to be honest, responsible folks who genuinely have fallen on hard times, or realize that they’ve made a mistake on their purchase. When their former property goes up for sale, they’re often pleasantly surprised to find that the proceeds cover a great deal of the debt they’ve defaulted on, and in many of these cases I’ve seen people avoid outright bankruptcy. Amazing how responsible actions can be rewarded.

    On the other hand, there are a minority of people out there who are out-and-out fraudulent, and I must confess that I don’t mind seeing these people suffer consequences.

  • avatar

    Point taken AG. If I ever was to fall far behind, I would make a phone call or at least return one. Maybe thats how I was raised, but I am responsible with my bills. If someone loses a job in this economy its not a stigma like someone not holding a job when the country was doing great a few years back. When someone is obviously ducking they are a deadbeat. Calling a spade a spade doesnt quite make one a misanthrope. Fed up maybe, not a misanthrope. I havent heard that word since welding school, and it gave me a pause to laugh, however.

  • avatar

    @ the internet tough guys who would “pack heat”, you don’t know what you are talking about. The prime directive of the repo business is not to have a confrontation with anyone. Acting like a thug will get you killed, jailed, sued, or all of the above.

    Why do these stories always turn into Rush Limbaugh versus Ron Kuby? Yes, some debtors are scum who had no intention of paying. It’s also true that some lenders are scum (rent to own stores for example). Until you know all the facts, you can’t draw any conclusions.

    BTW, I can tell you from experience that axes scare the crap out of people. Please don’t ask me how I know that.

  • avatar

    The Anam Cara :
    and that kind of sentiment really pisses me off: the idea that a person who couldn’t make a payment in this economy is somehow automatically a shitbag

    A person who can’t make *A* payment on time is not necessarily a shitbag. Someone who abuses the credit system to buy something they cant afford, then dodges the creditors IS. That’s my point, if you do make a dumb move and get in over your head, and *aren’t* a shitbag, the repo guy isn’t needed. You may have to return the car, but THAT is how an adult deals with it, not head-in-the sand until your ride is forcibly taken from you.

    And MrUnexpected must live in a world where everybody is a bankruptcy attorney and knows exactly how to “negotiate” with their creditors.

    What?! Is everyone 6 years old?! “Ooh, that’s sounds like real-life responsible adult stuff, I can’t possibly do that!”

    You don’t need to be a lawyer to call the creditor and say “Im in over my head, what can we do to minimize the damage?” and go to a free credit counselor and figure SOMETHING out. You just need to stop being a child.

    A friend of mine ran up 6k in credit card debts in college (never taught about money by parents, but I digress). She went to a credit counselor, and they negotiated with the creditors. She has a few years to pay off the debt, at a lower interest, with payments half of before. She makes those payments while working part-time and studying full-time.

    Another, more distant “buddy” did similar, and did head-in-the-sand. He owed less, and yet he got sent to collections, and they yank his wages, and for more than hers, and for a larger total amount. But then, he *is* an actual immature douchebag.

    One grew up, one didn’t. Neither of them are victims, they reap what they sow. One just started sowing something better…

  • avatar

    Personally, I don’t like that crap and I don’t like druggies that listen to that crap. I won’t apologize for that. You’re angry? Fine. The world doesn’t need to hear your crappy music.

    I don’t have anything against druggies, some of my best friends… but I wholeheartedly agree with you about ugly music. Much to my chagrin my son, my only son, whom I love, has become of fan of metal. I keep telling him that there is enough ugliness in the world that we don’t need ugly music too.

    Nothing wrong with some teenage angst or kicking out the jams motherfucker, but like Eric Dolphy’s squonks and squeals, aggressive music works best as counterpoint to more melodic stuff.

  • avatar

    I thought there was a “no flaming” rule on this site.

    I don’t give a rip how Mr Lang expresses himself he doesn’t deserve the asinine attacks.If ever the used car industry needed a representative in proper business practices,it’s right now.There needs to be more Steven Langs in the world and anyone who manages to screw up with this guy is truly a “deadbeat”.

    His columns are some of my favorites and he treats customers a helluva lot better than the slime balls that give the whole used car industry a bad reputation. The next time I need to buy a car I hope it is from a “misanthrope” just like SL.

  • avatar

    Most people are decent…. but there really is an element out there who don’t feel that they have to play by society’s rules.

    I really have a lot of trouble finding sympathy for those who didn’t study in school, or don’t try to pay their bills. I know it’s in fashion to condescendingly say that it’s not their fault… bad schools, bad parents, bad juju – whatever.

    The only thing that does is boost the egos of those who say that the poor can’t help themselves. How arrogant.

    Why should those who don’t apply themselves reap benefits that those who work don’t get? Sure, when people fall into bad times, there should be welfare for a while, but not forever…. Is 4 years after Katrina enough time to find a place to live besides a government provided trailer?

    We have to have a society where people take responsiblity for their own actions. Sure some people do have low intelligence, but I’ve met a damn lot of them who work like hell, AND pay their bills. Nothing wrong with that.

    A person who couldn’t didn’t make a payment and didn’t have somebody else contact the car dealership, in any economy is somehow automatically a shitbag. This also applies to people in half-million dollar homes like my (former) neighbor…

  • avatar

    AG :

    I would consider recommending you get out of the business before it makes you any more of a misanthrope, but you sound like you really enjoy lording your authority over poor people.

    Oh give me a break! There are plenty of people that stay with a job they hate or even several at a time because it keeps the kids feed and lights on. There is no excuse in America unless you are truly crippled or about to die from cancer to not paying your bills. I have had NOTHING given to me and I seem to make my two car payments on time EACH month. Get off your idea that poor people should be given an excuse, as we could all be poor by CHOICE. I can tell you voted for Lord Obama. (sigh)

    Back on topic and having a CCW, just on principle that if you pull something, it better be real and ready to go off. :)

  • avatar

    Ronnie – Let’s not badmouth metal entirely. Judas Priest, Sabbath, Iron Maiden, etc, all had some pretty musical stuff. What passes for metal these days, with the incoherent screaming and the thrashing and the epileptic drumming, well, I suppose a lot of that is shit, but I it could also be seen as a reaction to the prevalance of rap/hip-hop as the dominant musical genre amongst the youth, well, at least it was, thankfully all that crap seems to be on the way out.

    Airhen – No reason to bring Obama into it, he never campaigned on a message of getting a free car and house and never having to pay for it. Let’s face it, if you are at the point where you have to go to a buy-here-pay-here to get a car, things have already pretty much hit rock bottom. If you haven’t learned the lesson that you have to honor your commitments by that point, chances are you maybe never will. In any event, seeing as this guy is headed off to prison anyway, not like he needs the car.

  • avatar

    Friend of mine had a repo guy pick up the wrong car, and then the repo guy pulled a gun on him. He shot to kill the repo guy and missed because the guy ducked. Police at a poker game across the street arrested the repo guy for grand theft, LOL. He received a $250 fine.

  • avatar

    for anyone wondering around with a replica firearm, An instructive scene from the movie Snatch which I recomend to anybody

    Bullet Tooth Tony: So, you are obviously the big dick. The men on the side of ya are your balls. Now there are two types of balls. There are big brave balls, and there are little mincey faggot balls.
    Now, dicks have drive and clarity of vision, but they are not clever. They smell pussy and they want a piece of the action. And you thought you smelled some good old pussy, and have brought your two little mincey faggot balls along for a good old time. But you’ve got your parties muddled up. There’s no pussy here, just a dose that’ll make you wish you were born a woman. Like a prick, you are having second thoughts. You are shrinking, and your two little balls are shrinking with you. And the fact that you’ve got “Replica” written down the side of your guns…
    [Zoom in on the side of Sol’s gun, which indeed has “REPLICA” etched on the side; zoom out, as they sneak peeks at the sides of their guns]
    Bullet Tooth Tony: And the fact that I’ve got “Desert Eagle point five O”…
    [Withdraws his gun and puts it on the table]
    Bullet Tooth Tony: Written down the side of mine…
    [They look, zoom in on the side of his gun, which indeed has “DESERT EAGLE .50” etched on the side]
    Bullet Tooth Tony: Should precipitate your balls into shrinking, along with your presence. Now… Fuck off!

  • avatar

    Yeah, I’m with several of the others on this. Carrying a fake gun is not smart.

    Either get the carry permit and get the training so that you (or your muscle) can properly defend yourself/ves, or don’t bother.

    If you are suddenly confronted with a need to draw a gun, then it stands to reason that the potential is very great that you’ll need that gun to do what it was designed to do. That means it must be loaded, usable, and reliable, with a trained operator (you or your hired security) at the back end of it.

    Carrying a handgun is not for everybody; no shame in that if it’s not for you. Too many people are not properly trained, or they don’t have the mental discipline and emotional control to handle one correctly.

    Besides, you do seem to have a system that works. It’s best to avoid doing business with that element that will raise your risk. And yes, violent music is often a good cue to your risk level, especially if you add up other factors.

    I think political correctness is killing us all, in any number of various ways. It’s good that you’re not worried about how you look to others. By making note of (and taking due precautions of) dilapidated neighborhoods, cars on blocks, pot or “other” smells wafting from the windows, you raise your odds of surviving the day, even if you don’t carry a gun.

    By extension, not doing business with certain types (having nothing to do with race or religion) will raise your odds of surviving the terms of the finance period.

    Keep on with all that; it’s smart to do.

    But please don’t carry a fake gun that will give no real protection, but only offer a false sense of confidence. If you are “found out,” or if a situation gets out of control and you are unable to make a safe retreat, a fake firearm could be more harmful than helpful.

  • avatar

    I wish there was more empathy and compassion for the all persons involved. People definitely get lost and confused facing life. Its not anyone’s fault or anything to be ashamed of, imo. Love thyself and do onto others.

  • avatar

    No, there are people who can shake your hand (looking you in the eyes), after they made the down payment, take the car, and then just blow you off to the party of the day, the crime of the day, the chick of the day. The debt that they owe you is a very low priority in such a busy life, and when caught, they will play the victim very convincingly.
    You have to know your customer, and when you’re in certain parts of town, the percentage goes up.
    Just a fact that you have to accept.

  • avatar

    I personally think with 42% of people not paying fed taxes here, people here enjoy playing the victim & not taking responsibility for themselves. I think this goes all the way up the chain to large businesses (who maybe do pay taxes but receive bailouts for their irresponsibility).

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    ZoomZoom, I don’t carry the faux piece. I have a fellow who carries it. The intention behind it is to enable me to walk away and have it drawn from a distance… if need be. That need thankfully hasn’t come as of yet.

    After mulling it over, I’m more than likely going to hire an off duty cop for the next repo… which hopefully won’t be until 2010 or so.

  • avatar

    Countryboy: A little detour here, and side note. What red-blooded guy doesn’t secretly dig a girl with multiple piercings?

    One who isn’t in desperate need of corrective laser-vision surgery.

    Countryboy: IMHO, the person who suggested carrying a firearm to reposses worthless junk (stuff) should have his 2nd amendment rights revoked immediately.

    Except that this “junk” is not worthless – the people who have it are taking steps to avoid giving it up (i.e., by hiding it, or using force to prevent its collection).

    If it’s really worthless, they should voluntarily surrender it (or not buy it in the first place).

    If they don’t want to, then they can suffer the consequences. And if they need to learn that point at the wrong end of a loaded firearm, then that is their problem. Borrowers can avoid this scenario by paying their bills on time, or not buying stuff they can’t afford in the first place.

  • avatar

    I’m just going to put my two cents in about the fake gun thing too. If you don’t want to carry a gun, that’s fine. Then don’t carry a gun. Not even a fake gun. Pulling a fake gun on a scumbag only works if the scumbag falls for it, and if it doesn’t work then said scumbag can get away with killing you because he acted in self defense.

  • avatar

    I enjoy reading Hammer Time, and must applaud you; Sir Lang for providing what sounds like in general good service for customers looking for a low cost ride.

    This post had me scratching my head though. Why on earth would you risk your life and that of your partner over a 1990’s Bonneville, a car that presumably sold for 2K or less?

    You must have had reason to question this customer and your general safety dealing with him, otherwise you would not have been armed on his door step in a crime plagued neighborhood the moment his payment was due.

    Just like you would hire a bomb expert if you were to find an unexploded ordnance on you sales lot, hiring a professional repo man to handle a risky repo job seems warranted.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    You have a good point. Although I never carry a piece with me (have two in a safe at home) I’m going to hire a professional repo firm from now on.

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