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Repo Man

The Real Poop

You're at home, bag of cheese doodles perched on your lap, watching Gone in 60 Seconds. You're thinking to yourself, "Heck, stealing cars looks like fun. I bet I could do that." After popping another ball of fluorescent-orange processed cheese into your mouth, you think about Big Bubbah and then it dawns, "Going to prison would be sooo not cool."

Well, did you know that there exists a career that would allow you to steal car legally? And—wait for it—you can actually get paid to jack cars, allowing you to reconcile your need for speed with your desire to buy stuff, such as more cheese doodles. Or even a better recliner.

We know, we know—you're thinking, "Wait, this is a career? Seriously?" Go ahead, allow it to sink in: You can legally steal cars and get paid for it.

If you're revving to learn more, you'll want to investigate the possibility of becoming a "repo man." (Or woman—banks and insurance companies don't care if a man or a woman returns their cars…as long as they are returned.) The "repo man" phrase is industry slang for a repossession agent, a person who repossesses (steals) vehicles from debtors (slackers, deadbeats, absconders, and reprobates of various forms) who have defaulted on their car loans. While repo agents can take back just about any item that was bought on credit or used as collateral for a loan, the job primarily and usually involves cars.

This job is not for the faint of heart, and it's not always a joyride. You can be roughed up, shot at, or worse. Most deadbeats aren't thrilled to be called out as deadbeats. You'll pull alley-cat hours. You'll travel into some of the worst neighborhoods in a given area, and pray that Bubba and his friends aren’t lurking around the corner, armed and ready to protect what they feel is rightfully theirs (even if the bank and the law say otherwise). You'll have to deal with crying women who are pleading with you not to take their car because they need it to take their babies to the doctor. It'll be ugly and awful and the scenes will haunt your dreams.

On the flip side, you'll have some really cool stories to tell at Uncle Frank's birthday party—and you'll experience an adrenalin rush like never before.

Regardless, when you're a repo man, your responsibilities include much more than just jacking someone else's ride. You'll spend a good deal of time on the phone and computer, trying to track down a debtor's last-known addresses, relatives, place of employment, and so on. You'll need to meet with car dealerships and banks to secure your assignments. You'll also need to spend some time flirting with the red-headed car saleslady while you're waiting to talk to your point of contact.

There is no doubt that this is typically a young man’s game (hence, the usage of "man" in the slang term "repo man"). However, any self-respecting repossession agent will tell you that if you're tough enough, you can do this job—regardless of your gender. This is, by all accounts, a job for those who crave danger, who don't mind living a more-than-slightly perilous lifestyle, and who are perhaps wifeless or husbandless or childless. After all, you don’t want to have to come home after a repo-gone-wrong and explain to your wife and 2-year-old why you look like Rocky Balboa after Clubber Lang got done with him.

If the prospect of losing your life over the repossession of a 1998 Honda Civic hasn’t dissuaded you from pursuing this career, there are a few things you must know. First, you can't just wake up one day and say, "Hey! I'm going to be a repo man!" and steal your neighbor's minivan because you're sick of him blasting Moves Like Jagger when he leaves for work every morning at 6am. There is a process, people, and it’s different in just about every state. Some states require you to be licensed, some don't. Likewise, every state has different laws regarding what can be repossessed, when it can be repossessed, and by whom.

Regardless of the state you work and live in (euphoria, depression…), mostly all states require repo men to be bonded and insured. Being bonded means that a licensing unit or company has found you trustworthy enough to insure. You need to have access to money should a complaint be filed against you, whether it's your own dough or that of the bonding or insurance agency.

Most repo men work as independent contractors. This means that, unfortunately, you won't be able to stand around the company water cooler and talk with your coworkers about last night’s episode of Teen Mom. Rather, you'll be flying solo, and if you want health and life insurance, you'll have to pay for it yourself (and this is not cheap). You'll also have to remember to set aside money for income taxes, because you won't have an employer deducting them from your weekly paycheck. Even if you're making trunk loads of money, about 30 percent of it will still belong to Uncle Sam. If you're working by yourself, you'll also need to buy your own tow truck. Why? Well, unless you can clone yourself or use super powers to be in two places at once, you'll need a way to take the car back to its rightful owner. If you're just starting out, you could find a used tow truck for around $15,000-$20,000.

There are ways around needing a tow truck, however. One way: spare key. And more often than not, the local dealership who originally sold the car will hook you up with corporate so that you can get them to send you a spare key or key code to the car. You'll still need to take a partner with you, unless you plan on walking to the car’s location. And let's face it; unless you’re Chuck Norris, you're not strutting on foot into a bad neighborhood to steal a car back. It's just not smart.

Many independent repo men get started by working as an employee of a legitimate repossession company. Many credible rep companies belong to the American Recovery Agency, which bills itself as "the world's largest organization of professional finance adjusters, and repossession specialists." There are thousands of certified, insured and bonded repossession companies in this country, and, just like any job, the requirements, pay scale, benefits, and perks are different with each company.

Whether you fly solo or work for someone else, you’ll be interacting on a regular basis with lending institutions—in other words, banks, car, or boat dealerships, and credit unions. These organizations are the key employers of the few, the proud, the repo men.