I am a hardworking 49 year old father of four ages 15 to 21. I wish to remain anonymous but will be free to answer any and all questions anyone may have about my experience. I have worked to provide a quality education for my children (Catholic schools K-12) and provide a stable home for my wife (stay at home Mom). I annually earn approx.$80,000 (AGI) and have three working cars for the five drivers within the family. In order to pay high school and college tuitions fees, living expenses etc. I sometimes have a challenge making ends meet. On month / year I took out a personal loan for $5000 with American General Financial Services. The majority of these funds went to pay for high school tuition which has been approx. $15,000 / year; the last two years. I hope my experience though painful to recount will help individuals avoid being ripped off.
Through Nov. / Dec. of 2010 I became late in a few bills among them the past due amount of $305.22 owed to American General Financial Services. I intended to pay the amount due on my latest invoice2 of $517.64 by the 15th of January, 2011 since I get paid bi-monthly. Due to poor communication on my part American General issued an order to repossess and on Sunday, January 9th at 5:55:00 a.m. Tanners Transport and Recovery, Chino Hills seized my vehicle. I awoke to find my car gone so I called the local Sheriffs office who informed me who had taken the vehicle. Knowing I had a late payment due, I went online and paid the amount past due which was $305.223. I fully expected to straighten the matter out the following day, Monday Jan. 10th. I went to the office where I obtained the loan (Hacienda Heights) and the rep there stated all my matters were to be now dealt with at the Pomona office and she provided me the phone number. That morning I called the Pomona office and Darlene Gomez the branch manager informed me that she had received the record of my online payment but could not determine if the funds had cleared. I would need to bring in additional funds to pay for the repossesion and upon payment she would send a release to the repossesor. She stated this would be detailed in a letter I could expect to receive from her. She did not know where the vehicle was sent either to Riverside or Los Angeles. She inferred I might be able to prevent the car from going to the Auction House. She gave me the phone number to Tanners Transport and Recovery because I was responsible for arranging my own appointments to pick up my vehicle and to recover my personal belongings. Darlene claimed to have no affiliation with Tanners and stated that her office was a separate entity from the repossesor, she had no control over the handling of my goods. I called Tanners hoping to prevent any handling charges due to having to transport the vehicle from a tow yard to an auction house and discovered from their female phone representative that as of the time of my call at 11:15 a.m. the vehicle had not even been processed yet, they may be able to hold it, I should call back at my next opportunity, 2:00 p.m. I called at 2:00 p.m. and Jesse at Tanners now informed me that the vehicle had already been shipped to Manheim Southern California previously known as the Southern California Auto Auction and that I would have to call them. When I objected that his representative in the morning told me she would try to place a hold on my car, he stated flatly that American General directs them to immediately take the car to the auction house. This is a contradiction to what I had been told by Darlene at AG and the rep within his own office ( I paid them the past due within six hours of it having been repossessed!). He would only provide a phone number to call to recover my personal belongings. He would not state where or when I could retrieve my personal belongings. In fact he explicitly avoided providing any address other than Van Buren and Redley for the car or my belongings. After work on Tuesday January 11, I received a notice of a certified letter being at my local post office. I retrieved said letter the following morning Wednesday, January 12th. Having read through the Notice of Intent to Dispose of Motor Vehicle or Notice of Repossesion and Sale it was unclear who was to be paid, how much they were to be paid and where I could retrieve my car and goods. It did include a form Request for Extension of Redemption/Reinstatement which I immediately filled out and hand delivered to the office address stated on the letter in Diamond Bar. When I called Darlene Gomez back at the Financial General office it was now Wednesday morning Jan. 12, Darlene stated she received my request to reinstate and that everything was clearly indicated on the Notice of Intent. I expressed that it was not clear and asked to review precisely who I owed, how much I owed and where/ when I could get my goods. She proceeded to tell me to call Manheim Southern California (S C A A) since it was detailed in the notice sent. I explained that the notice did not detail the information clearly at all. She agreed after reviewing the document and gave me the phone number to the Southern California Auto Auction. She stated that I would have to pay American General the amount of $395.00 for cost of the repo plus 25.00 plus 50.00 for a total of $480.72. We went back and forth about the exact amount and she stated she would have all totals available when I came to pay in the office at my earliest convenience which was Friday, January 14th. She said Manheim Southern California would have details of how to get my car and that she had no other knowledge to assist me. I called Manheim Southern California (SCAA) and was provided two numbers for vehicle redemption. One was for a rep Giovanni, the other rep Paul Garcia. I left messages for them to call my home and instructed my wife at home to call me at 11:15 should they call the home number I left in the messages. My wife informed me later they had not returned my calls. I called Darlene back at American General and indicated I was concerned because it was already Weds.; I knew I had to have an APPOINTMENT to get my car and the reps had not called me back. As I was on the line with Darlene she called Manheim Southern California and near instantly informed me they would not call back or arrange an appointment with me until American General had faxed them a release, which wouldnt occur until after I paid the repo. fees to American General. This was contrary to the information first provided by American General that they had no control over the auction houses actions and that I should call Manheim for an appointment prior to having paid the repo fee. I was left with no choice but to continue the conversation the following morning Thursday January 13 due to work constraints. On Friday at 9:00 a.m. I called Darlene and was asked to hold extensively until approx. 9:30 until other office help arrived. Once free to take my call, Darlene explained she would not be in the office Friday, but I was to bring in my money and work with Claudia Jimenez who would settle my account and give me the release necessary to then schedule an appointment to retrieve my goods. Darlene stated I should make sure to get my appointment prior to leaving the office. I expressed my deep concern that without an appointment I may not be able to retrieve my car from the auction house, and that I had already arranged to miss a days work. I told her, I pray to God Ill be able to get my car tomorrow. Friday morning my daughter and I went first to the bank, and then to the American Generals Diamond Bar office. Claudia Jimenez, American Generals Sr. Assistant Manager assisted me after some minutes, though the phones were not ringing and there were no customers. The amount I had to pay American General was $408.40. I was given a receipt for $395.00 listed as principal, and a receipt for $13.40 listed as interest. This amount differed from the amount listed on the Notice of Intent as $395.00 paid or owed to was unclear for $395.00 for Tanners as a Repo fee. The amounts indicated as owing to Manheim Southern California (SCAA) were listed as $10 / day storage and a $25.00 Release Fee. Claudia would not provide a copy of the release, stating that she had faxed it to the auction house and since it was on American General letter head and addressed to Manheim I was not allowed a copy although my name was on the document detailing the legal right to redeem my car. I was now free to arrange an appointment. While still in the office I called Manheim Southern California and was placed on hold by Giovanni. After ten minutes I expressed to Claudia that they had placed me on hold and were not picking up. She said they had not received the fax yet and speed dialed Paul Garcia at the Manheim Southern. Near instantly (although I was still on hold for over fifteen minutes) Claudia told Paul Garcia that I was on the line with Giovanni and that she had faxed a release. She turned and told me Paul Garcia from Manheim would call me right back. I held on the line with Giovanni while waiting for a call back from Paul. It was then I saw that Paul and Giovanni were on her speed dial and computer, and that Claudia was on a first name basis with the representatives from Manheim Southern California. This was further contradiction of Darlene Gomezs assertion that her office had no control of auction house practices or the arranging of my appointment. After some minutes Paul Garcia called me and informed me that the earliest I could retrieve my vehicle would be Monday, January 17. I asked him why; seeing as how I had tried in vain all week to contact him, and that he clearly could not have been booked solid at the earliest hour possible to arrange an appointment. He stated he had approx. 70 cars ahead of me, and that I could come Monday at 8:00. I pressed him for the total number of cars which were in line before me to be processed and after some delay and counting on his part, he declared there were 67 cars to be processed that day Friday, January 14th and that I would have to be back Monday January 17th. He then stated I would need to bring a Cashiers check for $225.00. I asked for a breakdown of fees and he stated the following.
1. $25 due to storage at $5 /day for 5 days
2. $25 admin fee
3. $60 for assessing the vehicles mechanical condition (We had to start it)
4. $115.00 for removing the security system that was in the car!
I asked why he had modified the vehicle and he claimed he had to start the car and perform a mechanical assessment as directed by American General Financial Services on all cars. In order to start the car he had to remove the key switch security system. The $115.00 charge for mechanical alterations, and the $60.00 charge for a vehicle assesment are not indicated on the Notice of Intent. The notice of intent only declares $10 / day storage, and a $25.00 release fee. This again contradicted the information I was given that Manheim Southern California is not in any way directed by American General in their handling of my car. In addition he corrected the incorrect address given on the Notice of Intent as to where to collect my car. I expressed my displeasure of the need to lose more time from work and the additional charges to Claudia Jimenez. My daughter asked her if the notice of intent had been handled by American Generals legal department and Claudia stated, No, she had drafted the document. She stated should I be late on any payment the vehicle would subsequently be sold without notice. I asked for the name of the district manager and she said his name was Miguel Barron. She could not provide a phone number. Now that I could not recover the car. I went to get my personal belongings. I called Tanners Recovery and was given an appointment of 12:00 and an address which I promptly drove 35 miles to. I was shocked to see it was the Valero gas station at 8677 Limonite in Riverside, Ca. (in another county). I called Jesse at Tanners back thinking he gave me a bad address. He told me that they had two locations and it would be easier if I would just stay at the gas station, someone was on the way to me. I had to call three more times before a woman arrived with my goods in a plastic trash bag. In the parking area of the gas station I had to inspect my personal belongings and asked her what had happened to the key switch needed to start my car. I explained Paul Garcia at Manheim Southern California claimed they could not start the car and had to remove the whole security system. The key switch was with the vehicle when repossessed. She called her office and claimed her agent stated it was with the vehicle when it was given to Manheim Southern California. I noted the missing item on the personal property release form she made me sign. In order to get a copy which I demanded she had to ask the Valero gas station attendant if we could borrow her copy machine. I asked if it was typical that business is conducted in the gas station and she said yes in order to protect the repossession personnel. I wondered if the risk was so great to them why they would be allowed to share that risk with all the unknowing gas station customers or employees ? Shouldnt I be forced to retrieve my goods at a Sheriffs station? I also asked her if she felt that Paul Garcias claim of processing 67 cars that Friday seemed like an unusually high number and she agreed it seemed high. I went home to figure out how I was to arrange another ride to Manheim Southern California for Monday. I did a little research and found more than one similar experience when dealing with Manheim Southern California (Southern California Auto Auction). I have asked the Fontana Police Department to assist me in redeeming my car.