One of my best mates used to work for a small finance company, It was very handy for me because you could actually speak to the Boss there, and they used to underwrite business that other companies wouldn’t take on.
There was no way of overriding the computer If someone failed on our mainstream finance lenders credit scoring system, but if they were marginal fails, or they had a reasonable excuse my friends Boss would way up the situation and make a decision based on Human Logic and not Computer Binary Code.
Their Finance company was an invaluable asset to me and In return for them lending my customers money, I would lend them a hand if they had to repossess any cars in my area, it always took at least 2 people and the person who usually accompanied my mate was suffering from the car repossessor’s the equivalent of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So as not to waste the Police’s time when we were snatching a car we would always call at the local Station and warn them that we were going to get a car from a certain person at a certain address, just in case they reported the car stolen and the Police went on a wild goose chase, we would also put a repossession notice through the owner’s door.
I have to say that my friend was a very nice guy and if the person who was in arrears had a genuine reason or even a semi-plausible story we would always give them more time to pay, once the customer was so skint they couldn’t afford to put fuel in the car so we gave them a lift to work in ours, in some cases even though we were under strict orders to get the vehicle, he would give the owner more time and tell his boss that we couldn’t find them.
The guy I was standing in for was a very inoffensive guy, he was never antagonistic or threatening in any way if things looked like they were going to get rough they called in another specialised “firm” so he should never have been in harm’s way, but he had had a couple of very close calls, the first being when they had recovered a car from the end of a long driveway, they had pushed it down the drive without starting the engine, and then he sneaked back up the drive to post the termination notice.
The letterbox was about a foot from the bottom of the door, he pushed the flap in very carefully trying not to make a noise and alert the occupants, when all of a sudden the door flew open, and a woman hit him over the head with a hand brush, almost losing consciousness he collapsed to the floor, then she slammed the door in his face.
That was pretty much all in a day’s work, but a few weeks later he was on a fairly routine call to an address in a rather rough part of Manchester, he knocked on the door to talk to the owner and try and get either cash or a cheque for the customer’s finance arrears, the door opened about 3 inches which was as wide as the safety chain would let it, the rep was satisfied that this meant that the Cyclops who was peering through the gap couldn’t suddenly swing the door open and hit him with a brush.
He felt relatively safe as he politely and apologetically explained that if the customer missed any more payments he would be in “danger” of having his car repossessed, unfortunately for the rep the gap in the door was just wide enough to fit the barrel of a shotgun through and now there was one pointing right between his eyes, Cyclops said “Really, well you’re in “Danger” of getting your head blown off so what are you going to do now ? “ the rep put his hands in the air and inched backward down the garden path, when he was level with the concrete wall he dropped to the ground and crawled back to his car like he was on an Army Assault course.
We had called several times to try and collect a payment from this particular customer, but he made it clear that he had no intention of paying, and as nice as my mate was, he was losing his patience and so was I, arrears calls had to be made when the customer was at home and that usually meant it was after office hours, and trying to find where this customer was hiding his car at night was seriously interfering with our social life.
The customers who knew their car was about to be repossessed would often park them away from their homes so as they couldn’t be located, but what they mostly forgot was that when they applied for finance they would have to give the name and address of their employers so we knew where he worked, we were sat across the road and could see his car was parked in the first employee space right next to the office block, there were 2 visitors spaces but there were no cars in them to shield us from view.
The front of the office overlooked the car park and it was made completely of glass, no bricks, no waist-high windows, all glass and all the desks were facing forwards towards the car park, it wasn’t going to be easy to get the car without being seen and lynched by his fellow workers, who would probably think that we were trying to steal it.
When the dealers filled in the finance document under the vehicle details section was a space for the Key Number, dealers by definition are very lazy and aren’t very imaginative so most of them just made up a number, invariable it was AB1234, but this one looked like an authentic Mazda number so we may just be in luck. The local Mazda Dealer didn’t have the correct blank in so we had to resort to the hit or miss Acme key cutting stall on Blackburn Market, It needed to be a slick operation as we would only get one chance to snatch the car and I would have to be very quick.
Our main worry was that the key wouldn’t fit properly and we would be spotted struggling to try to open the door, so we drove onto the car park into the visitor’s space next to the Mazda, the receptionist was only a few feet away from us on the other side and was naturally curious as to who we were. My mate held his briefcase up and obscured her view while he pretended to be looking for something, I wound my window down and reached over inserting our freshly cut key into the driver’s lock of the Mazda, it was a miracle that the market cut key worked but it did and I saw the button inside flick up.
I jumped into the driver’s seat and my mate reversed his car off the car park, the key fit perfectly in the door but the car must have had a new ignition lock fitted at some time, although the key went in easy enough there was no way I could get it to turn, I had about 30 seconds to switch the ignition on before the alarm would go off, I should have aborted our mission and jumped out straight away but I persevered with the key until the klaxon of the alarm sounded and alerted everyone in the building to my presence, all the women rushed to the window and were staring at me, while all the men in the glass-fronted office was running for the exit and to get me. I didn’t think the Lynch Mob would give me time enough to explain, so I took a bow towards my female audience, then I legged it like Billy Whiz.
I wasn’t there a few weeks later when Shotgun Charlie’s car was repossessed so let’s just say that this isn’t true, I can’t swear it happened like this and I am not sure that I should even be repeating it if it did, but this was “The Good Old Days” and it also makes for a good end to my story.
For the tough cases when there was likely to be some “Barney Rubble” the cockney specialist repossessor’s from “The Smoke” were called in, this was long time before privacy glass became de rigueur but they turned up in a black car with blacked-out windows, a gentleman dressed in a very expensive suit, and who I think Vinny Jones must have taken acting lessons from got out of the Jaguar XJ 6 walked down the path with his clipboard looking like he was there to do a survey, he knocked on the door then took a step back, as soon as it opened on the safety chain and Cyclops peered through the gap, he kicked the door in, ripping the chain out of the frame and flooring the guy who was standing behind it, stepping into the hallway he picked up the shotgun, ejected the cartridges and said “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way!”