Does the Repo Man still exist?
August 23, 2006 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Do consumer goods still get repossessed?

My fiancee and I were talking over a few beers last night, and she asked an interesting question that I didn't have a good answer for.

Say, for example, you buy a big ol' TV from Best Buy, using a newly-opened Best Buy account to do so. Then say that in three months, you stop making payments to that account, for whatever reason (note: this is an entirely hypothetical question. I'm not about to default on a loan). After 90 days of non-payment, when your account is officially Dangerously Past Due and has probably been reported to a credit/collections agency, does Best Buy come out and take back their TV?

I know this used to happen way back when, but as far as either of us could figure repossession only still happens with cars. Is this true? Would Best Buy send someone to get their TV back, or do they consider sending collection agencies after their money and putting big black marks on the buyer's credit sufficiently punishing?
posted by pdb to Shopping (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know about Best Buy, but a friend of a friend was (still is?) a repossessor for a store that sells musical instruments. It does still happen.
posted by penchant at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2006

Yes. I think most consumer places will go down the collection-agency>court>wage garnishment path if the debt is over a certain amount. A plasma TV probably fits that amount. However, I know for a fact that you can be so behind in taxes that the IRS will not only repossess stuff you haven't paid for, but also anything in your home that can be sold for money to pay those back taxes.
posted by mattbucher at 11:22 AM on August 23, 2006

The most certainly do in The Sims.
posted by travis vocino at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2006

I don't know about Best Buy specifically, but there are definitely stores that will repossess a not-paid-for TV or other major purchase. Many of the rent-to-own places that cater to people with poor credit make a ton of money selling people cheap products on installment plans at inflated prices, and then they repossess many of the items when customers can't make their monthly payments.

For most retailers dealing with people with okay credit, repossession is the last resort, because the amount they can resell the repossessed item for is less than the amount the customer owes on the loan. They would rather ding your credit and have you keep making payments and accruing interest if they think there's any chance you'll eventually pay, because that's how they make a profit on the item.
posted by Amy Phillips at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2006

One time I bought a digital camera from Best Buy ($500) and never got a bill for it. I called their credit department multiple times and attempted to deal with it. They searched through all their databases and could not corrolate my information to any payment.

6 months later I got a collections letter. No contact from Best Buy. No repo.

I called up BB and attempted to clear it up, and they still claimed they could not corrolate the information, even with the collections people's information.

I wrote a nastygram to BB Corporate, the collections agency, the BBB, and the credit reporting companies. I paid it off immediately (cost + 10%), and it never showed up on my credit report, but I doubt it was due to my nastygrams.
posted by SirStan at 12:15 PM on August 23, 2006

It appears that "most credit card companies usually don’t take a security interest in the things bought with the credit card." In other words, if you buy something on your Visa and don't pay the bill, the bank can sue you and demand the money, but they can't break into your house and take it back.

Sears is a notable exception; they do maintain a security interest in stuff you buy, so they can repossess it if you don't pay. For Best Buy in particular, you'd have to review their agreement to see if the debt is secured against your purchases.
posted by zachlipton at 12:19 PM on August 23, 2006

What zach says: a lender can only "reposess" stuff they *own* (approximately). With consumer credit, title passes to you on sale, generally, because neither the seller nor the lender retains it.

I wasn't aware Sears did that, but it doesn't surprise me; Sears has been a finance company, rather than a retail vendor, for decades now.

Note that rent-to-own type places *do* retain title, and therefore can also reposses their goods if you don't pay.

But generally, if you have a bill of sale, invoice, or similar document that does *not* inform you that the seller maintains a security interest in the goods until they're paid off, then all you have to worry about is your credit record.
posted by baylink at 1:03 PM on August 23, 2006

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