The Drama Of Auto Repossession

Before reading, please know that I am not sharing this story as a solicitation for sympathy. I hesitate when deciding on whether or not to share things of such a personal nature for fear of being perceived as a pity party thrower, but in my heart I believe that stories like this need to be told.

In an era of controlled online content and people wanting to be perceived as having a good life, I recently went through an experience that was not flashy or gaudy, and will not draw followers to my Instagram page or have anyone itching to do a retweet.

The key you see in this picture belongs to my car. However, I didn’t ask that it be made. It was the result of an arduous week long repossession process, and yes, it is a process.

There is something indescribably unsettling about walking outside in the morning and not seeing your car. Even when you know the payments are behind and having your car taken is a possibility, it doesn’t sink in until it happens.

After I stood looking at the empty space for a few moments, I went back in the house and made the call to GM Financial who held my car loan. The agent that answered asked a few asinine questions including “Did you get to speak to the agent before he took the vehicle?” (If I had gotten to speak to him, I would still have had my car). My response was a more succinct, “Of course not”.

She then went through the amount owed and the procedure of getting the car back. The car had been taken to a storage location in Acworth, Georgia and stripped of everything including the tag. Somehow I was supposed to get to that location (about 45 minutes north of where I live) and drop off the key to the car. If I did not claim the car from that location within a week, the car would be moved to auction, but my personal belongings that were in the car, including the tag, would remain at the storage location. Also, if GM Financial felt I was not going to reclaim the car, they would let auction cut a key for the car. If I decided to claim the car after a key was cut, I would be responsible for the cost of cutting the key. The amounts owed were three fold. There was the amount I owed GM Financial, $75 cash that I would have to pay the storage facility for holding my personal items, and the amount I would owe the auction if my car was sent there, plus their cost to cut a key if it got that far.

This was a Tuesday. Resolution on how to pay GM Financial came that Friday. I called GM Financial and told them I would send them the money on Monday to catch up the payments. I also sent over my proof of insurance as required and as a confirmation that I was going to get the car.

By Monday the car had been moved to Manheim Auto Auction, 45 minutes south of where I live. Also, though my source of money to pay for the car had come through, the money had to be acquired over a two day period meaning I was not able to pay GM Financial until that Tuesday.

Tuesday I paid GM Financial, and was then faced with the daunting task of getting to Acworth to get my personal items, most importantly the tag, because auction will not release a car without a tag, then getting to Manheim to get the car.

I called Manheim and asked about the pick up procedure and spoke to Jessica. Unfortunately their next appointment to pick up a car was not until Thursday. I made an appointment for Thursday at 12pm.

Wednesday I called Manheim to double check their release amount. Jessica gave me one price, then told me a key had been cut. I was of course bothered because I had paid GM Financial Tuesday which was a clear indication that I was coming to claim the car, which meant that no key needed to be cut.

Jessica said GM Financial gave them permission to cut a key. I told her that could not have been true because I had paid GM Financial the day before. I then called GM Financial, and that representative said they had no discretion over whether or not auction cut a key. I explained to her what the first representative told me, which was that a key would not be cut unless I was not coming to get the car, and since GM Financial had been paid, there was no need for a key to have been cut. Following where apologies and excuses and blame pushing all of which led to me having to pay an extra $200 for a key to a car that I had already paid to be released.

Wednesday I collected the additional money for the cut key and devised transportation plans for picking up the car on Thursday. A dear friend said that I could use his car Thursday for what ever I needed.

My closest friend and I drive to Acworth to an off the beaten path location to pick up all my personal items and my tag. All kinds of cars were there. I immediately felt the energy of sadness for the people that were going through the same ordeal to get their car back, if they even had that option (sometimes repossession is final). We left there at 10:30am and drove a little over an hour to Manheim to pick up the car.

I arrived at Manheim at 11:50am and gave all the paperwork to security. Behind the security area where I was standing was a sea of cars all within the distance of walking or a golf cart.

A security guard told me that he had seen people waiting 2 hours to get their car. When I asked why he said he wasn’t sure, and maybe it wouldn’t be that long. I couldn’t see why it would take so long to get a car that was somewhere within eye shot behind me.

Surely enough, I stood and sat and waited for an hour and a half for my car to be driven up. A car that I could have walked to myself and drove away.

An over enthusiastic Manheim employee got out of the car pointing at me claiming I was about to cry from happiness to get my car back. He confused watery-eyed happiness with anger and a severe desire to fulminate at having to wait for an hour and a half for a car that was a few yards away.

When I got in the car, the key pictured here was sticking out of the ignition. I pulled it out, used my key-less feature to start the car, and drive to work.

I of course hold myself responsible for not taking action sooner. I could have asked for help, but asking for help is something I admit to not being good at, partially out of embarrassment and partially because I want to challenge myself to find solutions on my own.

My hesitation in asking for assistance though in no way takes from the fact that the financial system in this country is slighted against people like me who work extremely hard but just can not find financial footing.

The arrogance of this entire process was infuriating. There is no plausible reason that the tag had to be separated from the car at any point causing a two pronged effort to claim the vehicle.

The total disregard at Manheim Auto Auction was so disconcerting I was internally reeling to the point of tears, and there have been only a handful of times in my life that I have been so angry I almost cried. For Manheim to have made me make wait for over an hour and a half just because they could was decidedly insolent and pointedly insulting.

After my anger subsided I was able to totally assess the situation, and there are a few takeaways.

One, financial injustice in this country is real, and it hurts. To be at the mercy of two different heartless entities (GM Financial and Manheim Auto Auction) crossed the line from humbling to dehumanizing. While I never support bragging, I will say that anyone that is financially stable should be extremely thankful, and I am working tirelessly to get to that place.

The second, and larger lesson is that bad things happen. I initially had such a hard time with this ordeal because for the life of me I try to be a good, kind person. From that I could not figure out why someone like me, someone who has worked extremely hard all of my adult life and has tried to be good to people, had to go through something so ugly. It comes down to the fact that just because you’re a good person does not mean you get to avoid bad things happening to you. If you’re alive, a little rain must fall, simply because you’re alive.

I can tell you first hand that in situations like this, you won’t always want to hear something positive. People telling me that everything was going to work out and everything would be OK just didn’t sink in. I was hurt and upset, and I just needed to be in that space.

Feelings are what are they, and sometimes they just need to be felt instead of trying to push them away.

From this though, I pray for any and everyone that is going through financial difficulty. From credit card debt, to extreme car repair costs, seemingly insurmountable hospital bills, repossession, eviction, what ever your situation is, I pray your strength, speedy recovery and restoration of everything that you may have lost.

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