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Wrestling with the repo-man image

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.
Les McCook says repossessing cars is heavily regulated. It’s also quite dull.

But you’d never know it, he says, if you watch “Operation Repo,” a so-called reality cable show where bouncer-built tattooed toughs grapple with belligerent customers. The show includes wrestling matches, chase scenes and even guns.

In the real world, McCook says, repossessing cars is rarely that exciting. In fact, he says, “It’s boring 99.9 percent of the time.”

“People say, ‘Give me a minute to get my stuff, and here are the keys.’ That’s about it,” says McCook, who heads the American Recovery Association, the repo man’s professional association.

In real life it’s all pretty respectful; but the ARA worries that ‘Operation Repo’ will teach people to expect a battle royal if the repo man comes calling.

Says McCook: “They think this is the way you treat a repossessor when they get to your door. Or they think that’s how they’re going to be treated. … Trust me, if my guys did what these guys do (on TV) every week, they’d be in jail in about two seconds.”

Few people are ever going to encounter an ice-road trucker, an ax man or a fisherman looking for the deadliest catch. Lots of people are going to meet a repo man.

Try not to get excited.

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