Conversations with the OPERATION REPO Team Lou Pizarro “I’m orig inally fro m the Bron x, but was raised in Californ ia in my beautiful San Fernando Valley. I worked two jobs most of my life. I was a Marine and continue to support our military. I’ll be 41 on Ch ristmas Day. I’m a good guy who loves pinball and sushi.” Q: What are three things you al ways bring to a repo? A: A good attitude, a superior state of mind and pepper spray. Q: While on the job, is each repo a hassle, or does anyone ever simply say to you, “Sure, no problem taking the car. Be my guest?” A: Eighty percent of the repos are normal. People just give up the keys and say “Thanks. I couldn’t afford it anymore.” Ten percent get very upset and swear it’s a mistake. And the last 10% get violent. Q: What was the funniest thing you remember happeni ng on the job? A: A couple arguing about who forgot to send the payment. Q: What about the scariest thi ng? A: I had just hooked up to a car, and the owner’s boyfriend came out with five of his gangbanger friends, all with guns. One pointed a shotgun at my head, and another had a semi-auto in my face. One of the guys took my keys and tried to disconnect the car from the tow truck. I started yelling to put the guns away. I left and jumped in another car I had stashed at the end of the street and went to the police station and told the cops what happened. We went back to the scene with half the station. Everyone was still there because they couldn ’t disconnect the car, and pretty soon they were all on the ground with police weapons pointed in their faces. Q: Who was the angriest person? A: It had to be a six-foot-tall redheaded woman in Marina del Rey. She complied, at first, because I had the key to the car. But then after I got behind the wheel, she changed her mind and jumped onto my lap and started slapping me. I was trying to take off, but as I hit the gas she would step on the brake. I just turned the car off, ran down the alley and called the cops. Q: What is the best thing about your job? A: All the different people I get to meet: good or bad, happy or mad. And all the different cars I get to see. Q: How di d you get invol ved in this business? A: In 1994 I moved to Florida and met a guy at a gas station who did repo. He asked me if I wanted a job, and I started working for him that night. Sonia Pizarro “I am fro m the Bron x, but was raised by my Puerto Rican parents in California. Eight years ago my brother helped me get into the repo business.” Q: What are three things you al ways bring to a repo? A: A repossession order, my phone and a Slim J im auto lockout tool. Q: While on the job, is each repo a hassle, or does anyone ever simpl y let you take the car without a problem? A: Hell no! I wish they would just hand me the key with a big s mile. Q: Describe your scariest moment on the job. A: Froylan and I were out trying to repo a truck, but we were unaware that the drunk at the scene was actually a lookout. He started to scream that we were try ing to get into the car, and the reg istered owner ran into the house and pulled a gun. We called the police. Q: What was the funniest thing you ever saw on the job? A: A woman came out of her home and called me a “fat co w” and told us that we were not taking her car. Then she plopped her big butt on the top of the hood. She must have weighed 450 pounds. The woman was so huge that she buckled her own hood…and she was calling me a “fat cow.” Q: What’s the best thing about your job? A: I can wear any type of clothes or have any kind of tattoo. I have lots of flexib ility with my time. And I can be me, without limitation. Matt B urch “Oh, man, I was a total screw-up. I was fired fro m every single job I’ve ever had before I became a repo man eight years ago. And now, at 47, I’ve got my head on straight and I’m also a certified personal trainer. I love both jobs.” Q: What are three things you shoul d never forget while doing a repo? A: Never take anything or anyone for granted, no matter how big or how small. Always remain alert; if you let down your guard, even just for a second, it can co me back to bite you in the end. It’s not about being afraid, it’s about being careful. Q: Is each repo a hassle, or do you have some occasions when things go very smoothly? A: It does happen every once in awh ile. We show up, the guy says , “I knew you were co ming for it . Here are the keys. Let me just get my stuff out.” And those are the ones that are a pleasure. If you’re n ice, you’re calm and you’re understanding about the whole thing, I can take my time, and you can get all of your property out of the vehicle. But if you’re gonna rant and scream, well, then I’m gonna just take your car and stick your stuff in a locker for $40 a day. But I don’t like to have to do that. I go in with a cool and calm attitude, not to be a big bad guy. Q: Describe your scariest moment on the job. A: That would defin itely have to be when I got shot in the groin. Th is young lady was upset I was repossessing her car, and she shot me. The bullet entered my scrotum and just barely missed my testicles. Q: What was the funniest thing you ever saw on the job? A: I was repossessing this car, and the owner offered me sex if I could let it go. I said, “I’m flattered, really I am, but I’ve gotta do my job.” Q: Based on your experience, what kind of person is most likely to get very angry? A: Women, probably. Most ladies are fine, but when they get angry, look out. They take it very personally and just start ranting, screaming and crying. Q: When on a repossession job, is there any pl ace the l aw doesn’t allow you to go? A: If it’s behind a locked gate or a locked garage, somewhere that can ’t be breached, I can’t get to it. That’s breaking and entering, and it’s against the law. But anywhere that’s in public, out in the open, I can legally come and get it. It can be at your workp lace, at your mother’s home o r the White House lawn, and I can co me and take it away. Froyl an Tercero “My name is Froylan Tercero but everyone calls me Froy. I’m 31 years old and I been in the repo business for 10 years straight, but I started repo part-time when I was only 15. I was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and I came to the U.S when I was 14. My mother is Mexican and my father is fro m Puerto Rico. I ’m the kind of guy who loves to smile even when I’m not having a good day. I really love to make people laugh. I don ’t like to fight or argue. I understand that we all have financial problems, but I still have to do my job. So me people deliver pizzas. Other people work in construction. I repos sess cars, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I make my own hours. I don ’t have to drive in traffic. I work with a great crew whom I t rust with my life. And I make good money. I love this job.” Q: What are three things you al ways bring to a repossession? A: First and most important, my picks, to open and start the vehicles. Secondly, a clear state of mind; if I’m calm I can do a much better job. Third is a pair of very co mfortable shoes, because there can be a lot of walking and running on this job. Q: Is each repo a hassle? A: I have to say that about 85% of the time it’s a hassle. Q: Describe your scariest moment on the job. A: In a very bad neighborhood, I went with my new driver to do a repo around 3 a.m. We found ourselves surrounded by 13 armed gang members. My driver got beat up for opening his mouth at the wrong time. I had told him to let me handle the situation. The driver never came back to repo again. Q: What was the funniest thing you ever saw on the job? A: A man in his 50s, naked, pointing his shotgun at me and telling me to get off h is property. Q: Describe the angriest person whose car you had to repossess. A: If I had to pick one, it would have to be a very, very hot female stripper in her early 20s. She o ffered me a free lap dance to leave her the car. Then a cop came rolling down the street, and she began slapping herself and claiming I hit her. It was good I had recorded the whole thing on a digital camera. Q: What’s the best thing about your job? A: The adrenaline rush fro m not knowing what’s going to happen next. Lyndah Pizarro “My father, Luis, got me into the business. I started out with office wo rk as a summer job in high school. I’m going to be 20 in November (a Scorpio). I was born and raised in Southern Californ ia. I’m half Mexican, half Puerto Rican and 100% Latina. I am easy going and open-minded. I live life by my own standards. I love my family. I am always on the go. And like most girls, I live to shop. I love the simple (but nice) th ings in life: stars, mountains...and shoes!” Q: What are the circumstances in which you’re hired to reposes a car? A: We are hired when people become delinquent on their car pay ments. Q: What are three things you al ways bring to a repo? A: I always bring my cell phone and lip gloss; a repo order and some form of defense against anyone who can (and most likely will) beco me vio lent; and the repo truck. You can’t do a repo without a truck. Q: Describe the angriest person whose car you had to repossess. A: They are all angry. The women are the worst, especially ones who go for my hair. That hurts! But when you are in the mo ment, you don’t feel it. Q: What’s the best thing about your job? A: Aside from a paycheck, working with Daddy.
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