Repossessing cars is what Jim Ford does for a living. Getting shot at while hooking up tow chains and being threatened with tire irons might have hardened another man, but Ford, 41, who owns Illini Recovery in Belleville, Illinois, isn’t that other man. He understands what the people whose cars he takes are going through and tries to make it a little easier. Instead of sneaking away with their ride, he knocks on doors, tells the debtors what’s going on and gives them a chance to retrieve personal items.
As Ford told the Belleville News-Democrat, “I may be getting soft in my old age but you get more done with kindness.”
Ford ended up doing a lot more than just letting Stanford and Patty Kipping, of Red Bud, get their personal items from their car. Kipping is 82 and his wife is 70 and recent increases in the cost of their prescriptions and other bills put a dent in their fixed income, causing them to skip several $95 monthly payments on their used 1998 Buick. After speaking with them, Ford contacted their bank and tried to work out a revised payment schedule on their $2,501 debt for them, but the financial institution said no, so on the hook the car went.
Many people rely on title loans when money is tight, regardless of their infamous predatory nature and high interest rates. However, getting that loan is much like playing Russian Roulette — and with similar odds. According to a recent PEW study, one out of every nine title loans results in a repossession, with the titled vehicle eventually heading to auction.
Recently, I received a notice that a large title loan vendor was to auction off over 500 vehicles. My curiosity got the better of me. Armed with the auction run list and a VIN history tool, I decided to take a look at what ends up at these auctions and how they get there.
“Aaahh Steve? My rig caught on fire.”
At first I thought about oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico engulfed in an endless torch of black smoke and molten metal.
Then I realized that the repo driver was talking about his own truck. In all my years of dealing with repo companies, I had never known an auto recovery company, big or small, that was neglectful enough to turn their money maker into an ashen shell.
Before noon I would be awakened by another surprise.
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