Let me preface this by saying that we have never (as an absolute term) had this problem before. We have never (as an absolute term) had a car repossessed nor have we ever had to deal with a collection agency before. We have always paid our bills on time. We have never taken out a loan we couldn't afford. We have always worked hard to earn every penny of our income and paid taxes. We were smart and saved in case of an emergency. All that changed over the course of about three years.
About three years ago we wanted to share our blessings with our loved ones. So, we co-signed an auto loan for a family member. Everything was fine for about a year. Then, the payments started coming in later and later. This put stress on our family and damaged our relationships. But we knew that we had financial obligations, and as difficult as it was, we repossessed the vehicle. Upon repossession we came to find out that the vehicle was in need of repairs, the interior was horribly damaged as well as the exterior. In the span of one year, the vehicle was damaged so badly that is lost over $10,000 in value. Still we could not ignore the problem, so we went to the dealership of purchase to discuss our options. Our options were to pay off the loan and scrap the vehicle or trade it in for a new vehicle for ourselves and finance the debt into a new loan. We opted for a new vehicle since we had enough to pay off our existing loan. This was not a happy car shopping trip. But we took our best option. All was fine for a while.
Less than a year later, all overtime was cut. That meant that our income dropped by nearly half. We began running through our savings to keep up with our bills. We were eating less so that our children could eat well. We even fell behind on our mortgage, but never the auto loan. Still we pushed forward. When we realized we could not keep going like that, we called the auto financer to see if they would lower the payments. No one could help us. A multibillion dollar company did not have the power to help one of it's faithful customers. We wrote letters, went in person to the dealership to talk with the financial representatives there, and called almost every day. Yet we were met with the same answer, "Sorry, we can't help you. But you could trade your car in and save about $58 a month".
Over the course of the following and most recent year we knew we could not keep living the way we were. We were late with our bills. Our Autistic son was missing therapy appointments due to lack of money for gas. Our children could not enjoy any of the activities they were used to in the years prior, such as, dance lessons and gymnastics. All because again, we were trying to be good customers and pay our auto loan in full and on time. So, after no one would help us (and yes, I mean would, not could) we decided our only option was to return the vehicle. Calls were made because we wanted to be honorable and return the car ourselves. After all the necessary papers were signed for the voluntary return, the car was returned to the dealership of purchase.
A few short months later, my husband was laid off. That was it, we had no income. The car was auctioned off at a fair price, and please take into consideration that the car was in excellent condition, and the deficit was and is still over $7,000. Immediately following the auction, the collection calls started. "How do you plan on taking care of this bill?" We explained that we are looking for work and as soon as we can we would start pay- "That's not good enough!" is what was so rudely interjected. I said "We were very good customers" only to have "Oh no you weren't!" retorted back at me. I had never been so rudely addressed by someone in what I thought was to be a professional phone call. I know the woman that was so ghastly to me was only doing her job, but if I were a company, I'd be embarrassed to be associated with a firm that would put such a woman on the phone.
I didn't understand. What had we done wrong? I thought we did everything right. We worked, paid taxes, went to church, gave to the church, no drugs, no alcohol, healthy happy children, multiple therapies for our special needs child. Weren't we making the right choice to forego the luxury of a second car in order to keep our home and utilities and adequate nutrition? Didn't we take all the necessary steps by calling, mailing letters, and going in person? Were we not honorable by returning the car instead of forcing a repo man to show up only to play find the car? We did everything right only to be punished for being exactly the kind of consumer a large company wants to keep. But that's not what happened at all. So here I am at 4 AM unable to sleep because I'm playing that horrid conversation with the collection agency's rep, wondering if I should call her and apologize. No, I should not. I may have lost my temper, but I refuse to be bullied.
Let me explain a little bit about my beautiful son. His name is AJ, he will be 5 in December, he does not speak, he is still in diapers, and he does not eat solid food. His baby food costs are over $600 per month. That does not include his soy milk (he is allergic to dairy and all nuts) which he drinks nearly a quart a day. That also does not include his diapers which cost over $100 per month because he has a 5 year old body with a five year old bladder and therefore uses many diapers in a day. The gasoline to take him to therapy is close to $200 per month which was less in the other vehicle because our van doesn't get great gas mileage. AJ is not a burden, he is not a debt, he is my life as are his sisters. My eyes well up with pride as I type these words because I know that I am making the right choice by investing in him and not the debt. And I will not be bullied into thinking otherwise.
I have put my faith and money into a company that refused to do the same for me and my family. I am personally hurt and disappointed in the company. Not only have they dishonored themselves by not helping the very people that made them into a thriving company, but they have chosen to associate themselves with a collection agency that bullied it's way into my life. The auto finance company should be embarrassed to be associated with the collection agency and the collection agency should be ashamed for their rep's behavior.
I know that once my husband and I secure employment and we clear our debts and start to save again we will never give another large company our business ever again. We are a large Latino family and we are spreading the word in our families and communities about large companies like this, not caring one bit. All the sweet talk is out the window once the signatures are on the loan contracts. In our culture, there is no greater form of advertising than word of mouth. As my story, and others like mine, spreads, in the community, online, in our family, the largest growing population will also become the most difficult to do business with. I am sending this letter or story or what ever it is to anyone that will take it. Newspapers, english and spanish, online forums of all sorts, emails to be forwarded to all contacts and their contacts, consumer alert sites, local community bulletins, and anywhere else I can think of.
We will pay our debt, we want to do what is right for our own peace of mind, because that's the kind of people we are. But we will do it when we can, after we pay our utilities, take our son to therapy, take our daughters to karate, and feed our children. We refuse to be slaves to our debts any longer. And again, we will not be bullied anymore. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Vehicle Purchased: Honda Accord
Place of purchase: Gwinnett Place Honda on Satellite Blvd. Duluth GA
Financer: Honda Financial
Collection Agency: Law Offices of Ross Gelfand LLC, Roswell GA