Repo Man Takes Wrong Car, Now It Won't Start

At 3:45 on the morning of April 9th, Allyn awoke to find his Audi getting towed by a repo man. Thing is, Allyn didn’t owe anyone any money. Rather, his 1999 Audi A4 had the misfortune of being the same color as a 2001 Saab the tow truck driver was looking for. When he got his car back, it wouldn’t start and the bumper was loose. Thus began his series of misadventures in trying to get the towing company to pay for the damage ($5-$8k by dragging an all-wheel-drive car in park for 5 miles) they incurred.

Since the company wouldn’t deal with him honestly, he filed a claim with his insurance company, and they’re going after the towing company.

Moral of the story: Instead of doing the fighting yourself, sometimes it’s better to see if one of the companies you hire (usually an insurance company) would have a vested interested in pursuing your claim (i.e. they get paid). Sic a monster on a monster. — BEN POPKEN

When stealing a car is “legal” [Equal Time Radio]

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  1. nweaver says:

    This is also why you want uninsured motorist coverage.

    It means that your insurance company is responsible if they can’t get the other guy to pay.

  2. What kind of repo man can’t tell a Saab from an Audi?

  3. Oh, yeah. Audi, Saab. Totally the same thing. Made by furriners.

    (Rolls eyes)

  4. r81984 says:

    @nweaver:
    I do not think this would apply under uninsured motorist coverage.
    This would be a claim against the theft portion of you insurance.

  5. As an Audi owner, I noticed this part of the article immediately. Tow truck driver too stupid to tell :

    “My Audi is an all-wheel-drive car. It cannot be towed without damaging the transmission. Not even for a short distance. The car had been towed for about five miles while it was still in park.”

    Dude is looking at about $5-8k in repairs. Transmission – toast. Rear differential and center differential – probably toast. And most Audi shops have a $100/hr. labor rate.

    Too bad the tow truck driver wasn’t a little better at deiscerning the subtle differences between all them furrin cars!

  6. kenposan says:

    Audi vs. Saab. Just the placard on the car should tell you the difference, never mind the styling.

    And wouldn’t the repo guy have an address of where the Saab owner lived? Surely the bank would have provided that information.

    (I’ve watched that repo show on TLC or whatever too many times!)

  7. dwarf74 says:

    I was thinking all along “wow, he should call his insurance company.” Good to know that he did.

    It’s good to have a big company with mean lawyers in your corner. :) It sounds like they are handling this claim very, very well. I’m also glad they’re subrogating & going after the company for their loss.

  8. @kenposan: When people know that the banks are going to pursuing their car, often times people will try to “hide” their car to avoid a repo guy taking them– for instance at a cousin’s house or down the street. (This told to me from an ex-repo guy)

    The repo guy probably assumed it was a situation along those lines.

  9. MeOhMy says:

    How does a tow truck operator, who presumably tows vehicles…oh about…all the time, not know the difference between an Audi and a Saab? You could almost see mixing up say an A4 and Jetta. But an A4 and ANY Saab? They don’t even look remotely similar.

    Also, I thought the creditor would want the car repo’ed in the best condition possible and I also can’t imagine that the same tow truck operator doesn’t know for the most part which cars are AWD, FWD and RWD.

  10. mewyn dyner says:

    If this was my car, which is paid in full, I’d have called the cops. Wouldn’t them taking the wrong car be theft? I’d assume that just being a repo man would not be enough to get you off the hook. I’d want this guy to be put away for grand theft.

  11. Scuba Steve says:

    I would screamed theft as well. I thought repo guys were supposed to get VPNs before they could tow anything?

  12. d0x says:

    @mewyn

    I’d assume it could be considered theft. Its like stealing a car and your defense is your friend let you borrow his car which is the same make but the key wouldnt fit so i broke the window and hotwired it.

    You would think the tow company would offer to just pay for repairs. The fear of having charges pressed and an insurance company with their high paid lawyers doesnt sound too appealing to me.

  13. Scuba Steve says:

    heh Virtual Private Networking aside, A repo guy is supposed to get the car’s VIN when checking for authenticity. But there’s always bad apples out there.

  14. tqbf says:

    You don’t need “Uninsured Motorist Coverage” to get your auto insurer to bludgeon towing companies for you.

    I had an analogous problem 7 years ago: I hired a towing company to haul my convertable from Chicago to San Francisco, and they managed to shear the top off the car against the roof of an overpass. The towing company at first refused to pay, then offered me the top off a convertable of a different model car.

    I argued with that company for several months before I learned the magic words: “I’d like to subrogate a claim”. Once spoken to my auto insurer, I had my car repaired within a week; they subsequently sued the crap out of the auto insurer, presumably by pushing the “execute lawsuit” button mounted under the desk of every insurance company call center rep. Not that I cared; I got my car fixed, didn’t pay a cent, and never thought about it again.

    Moral of the story (I think): if there’s a company to sue, and you know which one it is, you can get your insurance company to do the dirty work. They don’t care; they’re getting paid too.

  15. humphrmi says:

    AFAIK, it’s not “legal stealing”, it’s only legal when you take the intended car, just because it’s a repo company doesn’t mean that they have carte blanche to take any car and then say “oops!”.

    Very good getting the insurance company chasing them down. Insurance companies have lots of high priced lawyers. Those guys know a thing or two about getting paid.

    I would ask them (your insurance company – since you’ve now subrogated to them…) if they mind if you file a police report (if you haven’t already).

  16. Skeptic says:

    One possibility that hasn’t been mentioned is that, perhaps, the tow driver was deliberately stealing the Audi, knowing full well that he could claim mistaken identity if caught. The fact that the sheriff wouldn’t arrest the tow driver is proof that such a strategy could work–and even if it didn’t that wouldn’t mean that the tow driver wasn’t hoping it would.

  17. Techguy1138 says:

    I read the linked article. The guy whos car was stolen was not quite all there.

    He asked the guy who owns the tow truck company to pay for all the damages and admit guilt before knowing and reviewing the facts.

    The he got irate when the owner didn’t immediatly respond. From there he called him a number of times that morning and got offended that the owner was “dodging ” him.

    When the car owner kept up his blustry language he refered him to his companies lawyer.

    Seems like the tow driver was a complete screw up but the manager many not have been. The customer was so irate and unreasonable that passing him to a lawyer was the right thing to do.

    I think that calling the insurance was the right thing to do. It lets the car owner get his car fixed and lets the level headed people work things out.

  18. Bourque77 says:

    @Techguy1138: If someone takes my subaru (awd as well) and screws up the car but not towing it on a flatbed I’ll be irate as well. The towing company stole the mans car and caused a ton of damage to the drivetrain of the car, they should have been kissing his ass to avoid a lawsuit. Stories like this are the reason i have a sticker above my vin # saying “this vehicle is equipped with awd flatbed tow only” If the towing company decides to ignore that, fine they’ll buy me a new drivetrain.

  19. SadSam says:

    I thought it was interesting that the tow-company owner tried to argue thae the company was not responsible for the damages b/c the tow-company employee was negligent. Depending on state law, the tow-company is 100% responsible for damages inflicted by employees who are on the clock and performing services associated with their job. For example, no the tow-company might not be responsible for a bank robbery performed by their employee while on the clock but they would be responsible for damages resulting from a car accident on the clock since driving around in a tow truck is part of the driver’s work responsiblities. Companies have even more responsiblity when they entrust a dangerous instrument (here the tow truck) to an employee and they have not done a complete back ground/driving check.

    My husband’s truck was hit by a a truck that was bought by a used car company while it was being driven by one of their employees. It was a complicated situation b/c the truck was still titled in the old owner’s name, but was owned by the used car company, being driven by one of their employees who was supposed to take it out to be cleaned but may have been somewhere else at the time of the accident. The used car company’s insurance company did not want to pay the damages but they did eventually after we repeatedly followed up, documenting all communication, etc.

  20. Skeptic says:

    @ Techguy1138

    The customer was so irate and unreasonable that passing him to a lawyer was the right thing to do.

    Ahhem. The theft victim is not a “customer” of the repo company.

    In addition to denying responsibility, the repo company allegedly demanded that the car be examined only by their mechanic but when the victim said he’d take it to a dealer the repo company said they’d take the car without permission from the dealer and take it to their mechanic. If true, the repo company threatened to steal his car. That is hardly the action of a reasonable and legal company.

    I this case, the employee was in the act of carrying out his normal duties when the theft occurred. Clearly, the liability lies with the company. They don’t get to take all the credit for when the employee does his job right but dodge any blame for when he does wrong.

  21. Techguy1138 says:

    Sceptic- you are correct in this case. It was an omission on my part. He infact was a victim.

    From the tone of the guys complaint, while valid. Did not give a reasonable amount of time for the owner of the company to understand the facts. Regardless of how badly things went without any information all he has is a very pissed off person telling him that he owes him money.

    I do agree that the dealership should have been an acceptable place to bring the car. Given the tone and pace that the victim set I can see some getting skiddish about any terms.

    I think that both parties in this dispute made mistakes. The company owner did the right thing. When under attack and starting to do crap like deny responsibility he got a lawyer to deal with the situation. It’s not right but, when you get in on Monday morning and somene says that your employee, that you haven’t seen, stole, then returned and damaged a car I’ve never seen or heard of and makes refernce to a police report that I haven’t seen and expects to be fully reimbursed by noon, I’d get defensive to.

    He should have said no comment and gotten the victim to the lawyer right away. The incident was much to big for him to handle.

  22. rekoil says:

    I had a similar situation with a homeowner’s claim – I had a pellet stove malfunction and catch fire a few years back, and my insurance company replaced it and told us they would file a product liability suit against the manufacturer on our behalf. They even paid for a house cleaning – fire extinguisher residue gets *everywhere*.

  23. Esquire99 says:

    I’m not sure that I agree with the claims that this was theft. While I completely agree that the driver was a screw-up, if he took any sort of reasonable care to make sure it was the right car, and he did not intentionally take the wrong vehicle, it is in no way theft. First off, consider the environment that he works in, it’s night, probably shady neighborhoods, and the guy is likely used to guns and baseball bats from angry “owners”. While the towing company is 100% responsible for the damage, the car was not “stolen” and should not be considered so. Even if the driver was lazy and didn’t check the VIN (or the MAKE in this case), that does not escalate it to theft. It was an accident, and should be treated as such. The tow company should pay any and all damages, as well as rent the victim a similar vehicle for use while his is at a shop of his choice being repaired.

  24. bbbici says:

    “First off, consider the environment that he works in, it’s night, probably shady neighborhoods, and the guy is likely used to guns and baseball bats from angry “owners””.

    I’m not sure where you live, but most people who live in shady neighborhoods don’t drive Saabs and Audis. Even gangstas wouldn’t consider those cool cars.

    In fact, I suspect a lot of repos happen in the suburbs, where a high proportion of people have overextended credit.

  25. AcidReign says:

    …..I have a buddy who did repo and insurance investigation work for a while. His solution for repoing cars (and not getting shot) was to follow them to the grocery store, and take the car while they were inside buying a whole cart full of groceries. It’s a mean business!

    …..He also solved several disability cases by setting a heavy flower-in-dirt basket (complete with pretty bow and card) on the front porch, ringing the doorbell, and videotaping the supposedly disabled person lugging the planter into the house…

  26. Addison says:

    I’d have to agree that technically it is theft in the letter of the law…if not the spirit. It was returned, although not in the condition it was taken. If I were the owner and this person had called me on Monday morning, I would have had that driver in my office in five minutes and found out what the hell was going on before calling the atty, just so that I would have some information to give the attorney. The towing company is completely responsible and should pay for the car to be fixed at the car owner’s choice of places and rent him a comparable vehicle. The driver is human and should be reprimanded and should make necessary apologies to the car owner. What else can you do when you make a mistake but try to come up with a solution that is to the satisfaction of all parties involved? The insurance company handling the claim is probably the best route to go although I would have to question if it would put points on his insurance acct. They do have a nationally shared database on drivers that insurance companies can reference (can’t remember the name of it) to see what their past claims have been. Also, will it increase his premiums? Just a few things I’d want to know before I made a decision.

  27. cde says:

    //bradg33:
    Even if the driver was lazy and didn’t check the VIN (or the MAKE in this case), that does not escalate it to theft.//

    Fine, how about criminal negligence? I’m sure that such carelessness resulting in ~8 thousand dollars in damage qualifies, and is a felony as well in that range.

  28. Buran says:

    @Scuba Steve: I’ll be real impressed if my car can log into my VPN.

  29. Buran says:

    @Skeptic: Threatened to steal his car? They already did that. I would have pressed charges against the driver. Not good to have a felony on your record. Let’s see, trespass + auto theft + destruction of property. Yeah. The judge will look on THAT real nicely.

    And if they took the car from the dealer without permission, yeah, I’d be pressing two different charges.

    Lawyers? Forget lawyers. This is a crime. Treat it as such.

  30. Esquire99 says:

    After reading the whole article, I’ve lost a lot of respect for the “victim” in this case. His expectation that the owner of the tow company would bend over for him before even talking to the driver, or do anything without a police report is ridiculous. And the fact he expected all of this to be taken care of before lunch the day after it happened? Come on. And his assertion that if he got a new transmission that the car would get a salvage title is completely wrong. Having the transmission, or the entire engine replaced for that matter, has absolutely nothing to do with the title. A Title would only be put in “salvage” status after a theft recovery, or after being “totaled” due to flood, etc. and re-purchased. While I do feel for the guy (I had an Audi A4, a 1999 actually), he comes across like a moron. To respond to the criticism (if that’s the right word) of my comment about the “shady” neighborhood comment, I probably could have phrased that better. Perhaps it is not the “shady” neighborhood that they must be afraid of, it is the “shady” people that will do anything to keep the vehicle that they don’t want to pay for. I think the part about repo’ing from the Grocery store is hilarious. I love creative solutions like that.

  31. Esquire99 says:

    @cde: While I’m not entirely certain I would go that far, I would certainly say that Criminal Negligence is closer than outright theft. I still think that a reasonable person would conclude that this is just a huge, though preventable, mistake and as long as the tow company makes good on the repairs, that there was no “crime”.

  32. Buran says:

    @bradg33: He can’t claim he took reasonable care if he can’t even read the badging on the grille/trunk/hatch.

  33. Buran says:

    @bradg33: Given that the company stole the guy’s car and tried to do so with such haste that they dragged the stolen goods through a ditch in an effort to get away from the house (that’s proof that they knew that what they were doing was wrong – if you are afraid of being caught you know you’re doing something wrong) I’d say he’s justified in wanting resolution quickly. Besides. It’s his car, the company committed a crime, and it’s the company who now needs to bend over and ask “how far”?

    If they can commit theft in less than 5 minutes they can surely give the owner the money he needs to fix his car, in a method of THE OWNER’s choosing, at the THIEVES’ expense. Oh, and give him the use of an EQUIVALENT rental (no econocar crap; an Audi A4 is NOT an econocar) for as long as it takes to repair the CRIMINAL DAMAGE correctly.

  34. Bay State Darren says:

    Three words: Small Claims Court

  35. Esquire99 says:

    @Buran: I think we almost completely agree on what needs to happen as far as restitution. I think that he should expect incredibly fast resolution, but to think it will occur before lunch, before the guy writing the check even knows both sides of the story, and before he can confirm what happened is absurd. I think to expect it to occur in less than 48hrs is reasonable, but less than 8 is not. Unfortunately, it takes some time to check things out, and when someone comes to you asking for thousands in damages that you can’t (right at that moment) even confirm beyond his insistence that it happened, it is only reasonable for the owner to be diligent. As for the “dragging it through the ditch” to get away, I imagine thats not totally uncommon in a repossession. I’d think they want to get in, hook up, and get the f**k out before Jimbo comes running out with two barrels of buckshot locked and ready to fire. With regard to the method of the repair, I absolutely agree that it should be done by a shop of the “victims” choosing (he’s right, Audi’s are strange beasts to work on) and the rental should, but in all reality probably won’t, be equivalent. It’s a shame that the insurance companies (I’m sure the tow companies insurance will be footing the bill) are incredibly unwilling to bend with regards to equivalent rental car accommodations. Wreck a mid-sized four door, get a mid sized four door. Makes no difference if my mid-size four door is a semi-luxury Audi and they give me a damned Malibu, it’s still enough to “make me whole”.

  36. Esquire99 says:

    @Bay State Darren: Based on the damage to the car, this will likely exceed the maximum amount allowed in small claims court by at least a few thousand. Most states only allow $2-5000 in small claims. That kind of damage to a AWD Audi will be very expensive, especially if it is done by a reputable shop.

  37. TechnoDestructo says:

    There was a similar story on the SomethingAwful forums a couple years ago where a guy’s Evo got wrongly towed (not repoed, it was a parking enforcement error) and damaged to the tune of 7,000 dollars.

    Sued, won, got the car fixed. That seems to be the pattern with these incidents.

  38. asherchang says:

    @Electoral College Dropout: If he was car-autistic like I am, he could have at least checked the logos/badges whatever they are on the car to see it’s the right one. This was just pure carelessness.

  39. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    All comments about the owner of the Audi aside, the repo guy took the wrong fucking car, which in my book, makes him guilty of negligence and at least theft by unauthorized taking. Not only did he take the vehicle which didn’t belong to him or the bank he was working for, he did thousands of dollars worth of damage to it and then tried to play it off his mistake as a “prank”. I don’t know about any of you, but I woke up one night and I saw some sleazebag ripping my car out of my driveway, I’d be pretty pissed and not at all reasonable about it. The fact that the cop wouldn’t do squat about it didn’t help either.

    The towing company is 100% liable here..clearly, their guy caused the damage and they should make good on it. And if the repo company can’t hire people smart enough to tell the difference between and Audi and a Saab and who can’t be bothered to double-check the address, VIN, and/or plate number of the vehicle, then maybe they shouldn’t be doing repo work. With any luck, the insurance company’s army of lawyer’s will sue WAR into the ground.

    And I know…I know that somebody has to repossess cars, and it’s certainly never pretty, but certainly there has to be some kind of balance between somebody doing a job like that responsibly, and hiring some bozo who goes about yanking random cars from people’s driveways until he finds the right one.

  40. anexkahn says:

    it sounds like the repo man was a tool. I did repo work for awhile in college and you always vin verify. Even if plates matched, as soon as i’d set hooks, i’d do a quick vin verify and then haul ass to get the vehicle off of private property. If i’m on private property and the owner asks me to leave, i have to leave. If i can get the car hooked and dragged onto a public street, it’s mine. Once its on the street, then i’d usually stop and once again vin verify, pop the door, put it in neutral and straighten out the wheels.

    Alot of it depended on the type of repo, most of the time it was people who knew it was comming and just couldn’t make ends meet. I’d generally hook it up and then go knock on the door and trade keys for contents and let people get their stuff out of the vehicle. It was only the people who were obviously avoiding repo who got their rigs just outright snatched.

    The “victim” in this case tho, needs an attitude adjustment. He was definitly demanding too much too fast. He also has some broken views on the repo industry. Most states require that we report the vehicle as repo’d once we have it — that way when the owner calls in the next morning and claims its stolen they don’t have to treat it as a stolen vehicle. He is advocating that anytime a repo guy tries to snatch they should notify the cops and that is quite unrealistic. I’d make probably 25-30+ attempts some nights and end up only actually hooking 5 or 6 vehicles. I’d not want to waste police resources having to document each and every attempt… just the successful ones make sense.

  41. Bay State Darren says:

    @bradg33: Oh yeah. (Sorry, it’s a good Consumerist semi-panacea.)

    Should go to real court.

  42. DJ Allyn says:

    Hello,

    I am the guy who had his Audi swiped from my carport early last Monday Morning. I was a little surprised by the incoming traffic about my post, so I came here to see what others were saying. I would like to respond to a few of the comments.

    He asked the guy who owns the tow truck company to pay for all the damages and admit guilt before knowing and reviewing the facts.

    Yes, I was upset when I called the manager/agent of the tow company. He had already been contacted by the police and had a copy of the police report in his hand by the time I got in touch with him, so he knew all of the details. He admitted that if his driver had taken my car by mistake, he would be liable for any damages incurred. He told me that he was eager to settle this as soon as possible and made it a point to tell me that his company wasn’t “like all the others out there”.

    He told me that this was his highest priority and that he would call me in an hour. I waited a couple of hours and called him back. He told me he was just waiting for his driver to come back in and he would call me in another hour. He never called me.

    I since found out that his “high priority” was to immediately cancel his bond and have a new one re-issued. His only intention was to protect his bond, not try to deal with this by at least trying to see what was wrong with the car.

    By the next day, his attitude changed, and he was trying to say that he could not be held responsible since he never sent his driver to tow my car.

    Try to understand that I wasn’t expecting immediate resolution, just the steps taken in the right direction.

    By the second day, he knew exactly what had happened, and that his driver had taken my car and damaged it. He also knew by then that the driver had forged a driving abstract to mask a terrible driving record when he got hired, and that this driver had been fired from numerous other tow companies over the past four years because of his record.

    From the tone of the guys complaint, while valid. Did not give a reasonable amount of time for the owner of the company to understand the facts.

    How much time should I have given. It was quite obvious from the start that the manager/agent was deliberately trying to cover his tracks — even to the point of once saying his driver hadn’t even been in the area at the time.

    He also tried to tell me that nobody had actually seen my car attached to his truck. (never mind that a State Trooper had witnessed the truck and my car five miles away from the house)

    I felt I gave the manager/agent enough time to at least take steps to try and resolve this thing. I gave him 48 hours before calling my insurance company.

    Why didn’t I do that to begin with?

    For TWO reasons.

    1. I wanted to give this company the first oportunity to make things right without causing a lot of additional financial problems for them. I am not out to punish anyone, or make life difficult for anyone. I recognize that mistakes can be made, and I hold no bad will towards the auto repossession industry at all. Call me an idealist, but if I were the company, I would want to be given the opportunity to make things right.

    2. I was initially concerned about involving my insurance company because I didn’t want my rates to go up, or end up with a “salvage title” on my car. But after talking to my insurance company, I was assured that neither would be the case.

  43. Buran says:

    @bradg33: Then they should have known “both sides of the story” before trespassing on someone’s property and taking something that they had no right to take and committing several felonies in the process. If you do that to me I will be demanding what’s coming to me on my timetable, not yours, and if you don’t make amends for what you did, you’ll be dragged into court, and then hit with punitive damages to teach you a lesson for failiing to make it right.

    If they want to get “in and out before Jimbo comes out with two barreks of buckshot” they know they’re committing a crime.

    As for the rental probably not being equivalent? If that were my A4 I’d want equivalent or better, and you CAN rent luxury cars. I don’t care if it costs the towing company a ton of money — THEY STOLE. They lost the chance to dictate terms as soon as the tow truck driver stepped a single foot on private property — ILLEGALLY.

    A few hours to make things right is fine in my book considering this asshole took less than 5 minutes to trespass, steal, do property damage, threaten to steal again, refuse to take responsibility, leave the scene of an accident, leave the scene of a crime, the list goes on and on.

    The towing company’s position is indefensible.

    And what’s with the cop who tried to excuse auto theft as “just doing his job”? A citizen reports a crime, it’s your duty to arrest the perpetrator. This idiot’s negligence allowed a criminal to get away, and I hope the victim here files a formal complaint and goes public if the complaint isn’t acted upon promptly.

  44. dandd says:

    Wow, bad situation all around. My best friend is was a repo man for quite a few years and I had the priviledge(?) to go along on many repos.

    First, the repo man probably already knows the cop who pulled him over, he isn’t getting arrested. You have to understand tow-truck companies and their drivers work with the police all the time. They know the cops and the cops know them or at least know their employer.

    I’m sure that in the end he will have his problem resolved, but he probably still isn’t going to be happy. I understand how upset he is, but this is just like a car accident, there are no winners.

    The insurance company will pay for the damages, but unless his transmission is totally screwed or dies very very quickly, it isn’t going to be covered. The transmission might not shift like it did before the incident, but as long as it works, how do you prove anything changed?

    Just let the insurance companies work it out and in the mean time drive the hell out of it! You really need that transmission to die before any settlement.

  45. matt1978 says:

    bradg33: The tow driver never came back to work. That should be enough to figure out that something’s wrong. Quit being on the bad guy’s side.

  46. DJ Allyn says:

    I did give the manager/agent enough time to get the facts. He had the police report, photos, CCTV video within hours of the incident. He knew his driver had already ditched the truck by the time I called him the first time at 8:45 AM that morning.

    His first action was to cancel his bond and have a new one re-issued.

    Some of you might think that I was being “unreasonable” expecting some kind of action by the second day, but you are making the assumption I expected resolution by that time.

    No.

    I expected steps to be made towards that resolution. Even so much as a returned phone call throughout the day to keep me informed would have been enough.

    Sure, I could have immediately called my insurance company, but I was trying to give the manager/agent a chance to make things right before blind siding him with a bigger financial burden.

    I’m not out to punish anyone. I know that mistakes are made, and if I had been the manager/agent of this company I would have appreciated the chance to deal with this without having to involve lawsuits and the added cost of subrogation.

    Instead, this company chose to try and cover their tracks and weasle out of the obvious responsibility.

    I gave them 48 hours to get the ball rolling, and when that wasn’t going to happen, I then contacted my insurance company.

    My car is still broken, and the process with my insurance company will take a week, but I am okay with that. I would have been just as okay with the towing company taking a week, but they indicated fairly quickly that they were trying to distance themselves.

  47. Esquire99 says:

    @Buran: You seem to be a bit too impatient to let justice take its course. “A citizen reports a crime, it’s your duty to arrest the perpetrator.” This kind of attitude it why innocent people end up in prison. The Officers duty is to investigate, determine if a crime truly was committed, and proceed from there. You cannot expect cops to just go around arresting everyone who supposedly committed a crime just because someone said so. Come on, have at least a little respect for the process. And the impatience with the tow company is unnecessary. Again, how can you expect any rational business owner to not investigate before reaching a conclusion? Again, i’m not advocating for a lengthy process, but 5 hours is a bit too short in my book, and I’d imagine in the eyes of the law as well. And to your response regarding my comment about Jimbo and his gun, they REPOSSESS CARS for a living, which is not a crime by nature, but many people are willing to resort to violence to protect the vehicle they have not paid for. You certainly do seem to have a bias against the Repo industry, or perhaps just a distorted view of it.

  48. Esquire99 says:

    @matt1978: I’m not “on the bad guys side”. I think the situation sucks and they screwed up horribly, but I’m not a fan of impatience. People get upset and emotions get the best of them, but even in this situation, you can’t expect split second resolutions.

  49. Esquire99 says:

    @DJ_Allyn: While I understand everything that you’ve said on here, it certainly isn’t the idea that is conveyed in your post on the other site. Perhaps the original was written in haste, or while you were still very upset, but my comments are/were solely based on what you originally wrote on your blog. What you have written here clarifies lots of things, and certainly is more rational than your previous statements. I can respect you giving them a chance to make it right, and I certainly do feel your pain. I LOVED my 99 A4, and I’m sure if I was in your situation that I would be unbelievably pissed off. I apologize if any of my comments were contradictory to your intentions, but again, based solely off your blog, I feel my comments and opinion are/were justified. Good luck getting everything straightened out, and make sure you have either a Dealer do the repair work, or a VW/Audi shop with a certified Master Mechanic do the work.

  50. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Ok so everyone needs to Give DJ Allyn a break. if I had my car stolen and yes I fully belive it was stolen and not a “simple” mistake I would be pissing fire and ready to kick some ass too. I can’t blame him and I think he actually showed restraint by giving the towing company time to at least start the process. Obviously the driver was a world class asshat and deserves some jail time for the series of errors he made begining with falsifying his driving record.

    I think the towing co. should have done whatever was necessary to appease him once they had the police report and the details of the incident. I spent several years in law Enforcement and theres a huge difference between an accident where the driver took the wrong car for a few feet or minutes and taking it many miles away. if he is so stupid to not verify the info on the car he was assigned to pick up then he is criminally negligent at a minimum. They need to fix the car for him at his delaership and give him at least a written apology for his trouble.

    And before anyone goes off on me for being harsh, I have had dealings with Repo men from both a personal and law enforcement point. I have never had a car repo’d but my room mate did and the Repo man was a total ass..he tried to tow my car out of the driveway because I was parked behind my roomie’s truck. Needless to say that didn’t happen. The best part was my room mate was surrendering the truck and had called the bank to set up a time for them to pick up the car that afternoon. Joe Dumbass shows up at 3am doesen’t knock on the door or anything and just starts hooking up my car to drag it out of the driveway. I hear my car alarm and haul ass outside with my trusty Glock to ask just wat he thinks he is doing? Dude was like I am here to get the truck…I looked at my car with the hooks on it and asked him what part of 2 door coupe is similar to 4 door SUV? needless to say after a little “friendly” conversation I advised him to come back at the appointed time and my friend would have the car ready as per the agreement.

    Fast forward to about 7:30am I leave to go to work and who do I see lurking around the corner? You guessed it this dumbass. He shoots past me and hauls ass into our driveway and yanks my friends truck out of the driveway onto the street and totally destroys our mailbox and drags the truck for at least 100ft before stoping to put it on the truck correctly. The bank tried to charge my friend extra for the damages this numbnut did to the truck, luckily I had it on my cell phone video.

  51. Buran says:

    @something_amazing: Which justifies illegal trespass and theft how exactly?

  52. Buran says:

    @bradg33: No, I have a bias against THIEVING TRESPASSERS who have no right to expect to be able to fix things on THEIR schedule. It’s the VICTIM who gets to choose here.

    As for the cop who didn’t do his job? There were multiple witnesses, the guy had the papers to prove the car was his, the citizen said he wanted to press charges, and the cop’s answer was “He’s just doing his job”??? JUST DOING HIS JOB??? You cannot have a job that requires you to steal. The guy’s a crook. No ifs, ands, or buts, and no matter how much you might want to weasel away from that fact, it remains true.

  53. DJ Allyn says:

    @bradg33 : Yes, I was a bit emotional at the time I wrote that post. I think it pretty much captured the frustration and anger I felt at the time.

    I didn’t write the post until that evening, almost 24 hours after the incident. By that time, I had already been through several calls to the manager/agent, and had found out about what this guy had been doing in the background.

    He was stalling, and trying to come up with a defense, where there was none. He hoped to convince me that his company couldn’t be responsible because of his “negligent” driver. At one time he tried to tell me there was no “proof” his driver had even taken my car (besides the police seeing it, and the police car video.)

    I think he might have assumed that I didn’t have insurance, because I had chosen to talk to him directly. And thinking that, he might have thought he could bluff his way out of it, hoping I would just go away.

    I did go away — to my insurance company.

  54. Buran says:

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: Did you sue him for destruction of property or at least report him to the postmaster? I’m pretty sure destroying mailboxes is a federal crime.

  55. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @Buran: Yepper I reported him to the Police and filed a police report. I went to their office and the manager had me a check in about 2 days from their insurance to cover the costs of getting a new mailbox.

  56. velocipenguin says:

    @bradg33:

    Repossessing a car involves intent, on the part of the repossessor, to permanently deprive the owner of his or her vehicle. This is permissible when it is done as a lawful repossession; when it is done to a car that has no reason to be repossessed (especially when gross negligence is involved), it damn well is theft.

  57. GearheadGeek says:

    So, here’s a great case for bad apples spoiling the so-so reputation of an entire industry. Repo companies are an unfortunate necessity in our credit-driven society, since many people don’t pay either out of sheer disregard for the obligation they undertook when they borrowed the money, or because they have run into financial difficulties they may not have foreseen at the time they made the purchase. Some people actually are smart enough to protect their credit by arranging to turn over the property to their creditor (not a perfect solution but it looks better than a repo) but most just ignore the problem or worse, try to hide from it.

    So you have here an industry tasked with recovering property from people who aren’t interested in giving it back to its rightful owner (their creditor, after they’ve defaulted.) This is not going to be a popular business with anyone except the creditors (even though its existence indirectly helps keep costs lower for those of us who pay off our loans.) Then you have the bottom-feeders in a bottom-feeding industry like the driver who illegally towed and damaged the Audi, making it look like the entire industry is operating at the level of the sleaziest bozo. The tow driver in this case shouldn’t have been in the truck at all, because he obtained his job fraudulently (per the report that he’d forged his driving record and had actually been fired by several similar businesses.) The owner of the company should have behaved more honestly, and deserves the significantly costs to his bank account and his reputation for not doing due diligence before sending the driver out as his agent, and for not owning up to that mistake with the owner of the Audi.

  58. DJ Allyn says:

    @GearheadGeek: I agree fully with everything you said. I am NOT down on the industry itself — they are a necessary ‘evil’ that makes it easier for the rest of us to obtain credit at a fairly reasonable rate.

    Since this has happened, I have done a little checking into this industry, and towing companies in general. I am surprised by what I have found:

    You would expect that any employer offering jobs that required driving would do a records check to see what a person’s driving record was like prior to hiring. Tow companies typically do not, only asking that their prospective drivers obtain their own driving abstract.

    Since it is a requirement in every state to have drivers’ insurance, you would expect that the company would obtain such insurance prior to sending a person out in one of their vehicles. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case either. A company isn’t required to obtain insurance for their drivers until sixty days after their hiring — at which time the tow companies will find out whether their drivers have a license, and/or a bad driving record.

    Most don’t check to see if their drivers have a criminal record or not. What better ‘front’ for a car thief than to have a job repossessing cars? It’s like hiring an embezzler to work as a teller in a bank.

    I asked a question in my original post that nobody seemed to have an answer for:

    Assuming this was a ‘mistake’, and the driver had not been followed and caught up with several miles down the road, what do you think he would have done once he ‘discovered’ his ‘mistake’?

    a) Would he have dumped the car down some dimly lit road and make everyone think that this was just a theft?

    b) Would he have snuck the car back to where he got it and left it there for the owner to deal with all of the damage?

    c) Would he have notified the owner and his boss of his ‘mistake’?

    How many of you would have picked “C”?

  59. GearheadGeek says:

    @DJ Allyn: I’m sure the most likely option is “a”, since it poses the least risk to the driver. Especially considering the fact that your alarm went off as he towed off your car, you’re likely to be outside talking to cops when he shows up with the car so there’s no way he’s going to choose b, even though it’s slightly less sleazy than a. The only way he’s going to pick c is if his brother or dad is the owner of the company, and then only to tell them to help him cover it up.

    I also think it’s interesting that the requirements in the industry are as lax as you described for qualifying and insuring drivers. My partner is a paramedic, and he had to obtain an official, certified copy of his driving record from the state before he was allowed to drive an ambulance for the county service where he works. This may be their requirement, rather than a state requirement, but you’d think for liability purposes a tow company would want to be sure that people acting as their agents (and these drivers definitely seem to fall under agency law) are insurable and have a fairly clean driving record.

    Then again, it may be hard to find people who are willing to take the kinds of risks these guys do even when they’re operating legally, at least in Texas you can shoot someone taking your property at night and get away with it most of the time, and I’m guessing lots of their repos are done at night.

  60. Esquire99 says:

    @velocipenguin: I still do not think this act, without some other form of proof or substantiation. I still feel that it lacks any form of intent to actually take the wrong vehicle. I agree that there was negligence involved, but I do not think theft is the right word. According to law.com’s legal dictionary, “the generic term for all crimes in which a person intentionally and fraudulently takes personal property of another without permission or consent and with the intent to convert it to the taker’s use (including potential sale)”. The only part of that definition that this case meets is “without permission”, but there was no intent to convert the Audi for his use or sale. He took the wrong car because he was a lazy screwup, but that does not make the man a thief.

  61. DJ Allyn says:

    @bradg33: I have an update on this. Tonight the sheriff’s deputy came to my house to inform me that the driver is being charged with First Degree Malicious Mischief, Taking and Riding Motor Vehicle without Owner’s Permission, and First Degree Theft.

    The driver is on the run, but he is being charged with stealing the GPS unit out of the truck, and some expense money the towing company had given him.

    The company itself is now saying that this driver had never been assigned to repossess a Saab, nor was there any records of me or my address in their system. The manager/agent is trying to tell the police that this is some kind of a scam perpetrated by ME, and that there is no way they can be responsible because THEY don’t have any record in their system linking me or my car to their work orders.

    I have contacted the bank who issued the repossession order, and they are faxing me the copy tomorrow.

    Talk about a slime bucket. There are seven witnesses, four of them cops, and a CCTV video and photographs showing the truck taking off with my car and returning it.

  62. Esquire99 says:

    If he was never sent out to repo a Saab, or anything in that area, that changes the situation quite a bit. The really bad thing is, though your insurance is picking up the tab now, that if in fact the tow driver was operating outside of his “job”, or “off the reservation” for lack of a better term, there is a reasonable chance the tow company will not be liable.

  63. celyn says:

    @DJ_Allyn: Since it sounds like you’re in the Seattle area, you might want to get in touch with Bob Branham at KIRO TV News. They might be interested in this story for their consumer reports segment.

  64. GearheadGeek says:

    @bradg33: Actually it doesn’t change anything, even if the guy was sent out to repo a purple F350 SuperDuty with yellow polkadots. The owner of the repo company sent this nimrod out as his agent in a company truck, and he proved to be a bad risk. If the guy had stolen the company truck, the owner of the company might be able to get out of it and leave DJ_Allyn’s insurance company holding the bag, but this employee of the repo company was acting as an agent of said company, so the repo company is liable for this action, even if they didn’t specifically send him to DJ_Allyn’s address or tell him to tow and damage the A4.

    Nice that the driver’s theft of the GPS unit and petty cash probably carry a higher penalty than his actions that caused $8k of damage to the A4.

  65. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    If someone “accidentally” repos my toyota or my mom’s lexus, I’m gonna call Allstate and Allstate can sue them out of business. I’ll tell Allstate legal counsel to MAKE SURE the two-timing lowlife towing company goes out of business and then owes me money.

  66. amuze381 says:

    I have worked in the vehicle recovery industry for 5 years now. The company I work for has very strict standards as far as the drivers they hire which includes stringent background checks and driving records before you are hired. Not all companys do this for the simple fact that they just need some one in a truck to do their work. I have seen our drivers damage vehicles and the companys repo insurance is required to repair it and the driver is responsible for the $1000 deductible on the repairs. A company is required to carry insurance on any vehicle they pick up, wether it be the correct vehicle or not. An instance like this could cause a company to loose thier insurance on the cars they recover, which will cost them clients. Alot of recovery agents are shady and often times take the wrong vehicle, often fords because of the repeated use of the last 8 digits of a vin on various years. In my 5 yrs with this company I have seen only 2 of the wrong vehicles repossesd. One was because of the vin issue with fords, and the other was a bank mistake when a vehicle was traded in and not transferred over to the new owner through the same finance company. Alot of recovery companys make a driver sign a waiver holding the company harmless if a driver damages a vehicle in the process of repossesion and makes the driver responsible.