Repo man takes what he can get

WINONA, Minn. (AP) — “We’re like thieves in the night, only we’re not thieves and it’s daytime,” Tim Shugart says as he hops into his tow truck.
It’s a sunny Tuesday morning and Shugart, based in Winona, is on his way to repossess a car in a town 25 miles away. He’s just doing a job, he says, but one that is uncomfortable for everyone involved.
He owns Auto Center in Winona, repossesses cars for banks, provides towing services, does auto body work and sells cars.
Does he feel guilty about the repossessing?
“I still feel bad, but not like I used to when I first started doing it,” he says.
Is he nervous?
“No,” he says, as he fidgets with his radio. “But I’m cautious. I don’t know what to expect. It could go good — it could go bad. The worst thing that I don’t want to happen is to walk away hurt.”
In the 14 years that Shugart has been repossessing cars, that has never happened. Of course, that’s not to say he hasn’t come close.
“Most of the time you don’t know anything about these people,” he said. “And that’s not to say they’re bad people. You just don’t know what to expect.”
Most people are nice about it in this area, Shugart says. They know they cannot make the payments, he says, so they face their responsibilities.
Others don’t take it so well.
“It’s a feeling thing,” Shugart says. “When veins start popping out their necks, I see a red flag. And if they refuse to give up the vehicle, I leave. But I’ll be back.”
In Minnesota, repossessors do not have to consult the owner before taking a car. But if the owner does not want to release the vehicle, the repossessor has to leave it. At that point, the bank must take the owner to court and get approval for a sheriff to accompany a repossessor.
The house he is going to today is on a farm about two miles from town. Shugart gets directions from City Hall. When he comes out, he says “Show time.”
Shugart finds the farm, pulls into the back entrance and sighs with relief when he sees people working near a barn about 50 feet from the house.
“You always want people to be around in case you are dealing with a lunatic,” Shugart says.
He tells the story of an employee of his who repossessed a car just as the owners returned home. They threatened to slash him and the car he had just loaded onto his tow truck.
Shugart drives around the property for about five minutes, but he can’t find the car he needs. He drives closer to the house to see if anyone is inside.
“There he is,” he says, pointing to a second-floor window. “The guy’s hiding from us. He’s also probably hiding the car.”
Shugart backs his truck toward a shed-like building that a woman just walked out of. He asks her if the car owner is around.
Hesitantly, the woman approaches him and says no one is home. Shugart explains he is looking for a vehicle to pick up. She says she doesn’t know anything about it and repeats that nobody is home.
Shugart sees the man in the window again.
“He’s there. I know he’s there. Looks like I’ll have to come back again. There’s no sense in aggravating him,” Shugart says. “I’ll be back.”