It would be easy to form a less than flattering preconception about the type of people who would be renting TVs and stereos. And some of those preconceptions would be accurate. Some wouldn't.
Might surprise you to learn that some of my customers were Kansas City Chiefs. Couldn't name any of them, but I had a few. Think about it. They were only in town for the season. As I recall, this was when they still had their training camp at William Jewell College in Liberty.
Didn't make any sense for them to hire a moving company, haul all of their shit from Texas, or Florida or wherever they lived all the way up to KC for a few months and then haul all of that shit back. Easier to come up here light, rent what they needed for as long as they needed, then send it all back and travel home light. Not like they couldn't afford it!
But admittedly, that was the exception. For the most part, they are on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Maybe not quite poverty level, but they could swing a dead cat at arms length and hit poverty level.
Could be a guy who is recently divorced and trying to start over. She had a good lawyer. She got the house, the newest car, judge awarded her generous maintenance and child support for their three kids. He finds himself working just as long and hard as he used to, but left with nothing. He's living in a shitty part of town because it's all he can afford. He just needs a TV to watch in his crappy little roach hotel to distract him from his desire to blow his brains out.
They could be a couple who don't have a lot of education, no marketable skills and maybe started a family a bit too soon. They are together. They're struggling mightily to do the right thing and raise their kids. They just can't get a break and they can barely...just barely, pay their rent and buy food. They can't take their kids to Worlds of Fun. Fuck, they can't even afford to take the family to McDonald's for a "night out". But by God they can have a TV. The family can at least watch TV.
And this was back in the day when you only had 3 channels! ABC, CBS, NBC. That was it. KSHB might have been available on the UHF spectrum by then, but all they had were re-runs of "Love American Style" and Uncle Ed Muscare. If you weren't watching one, you were watching the other. And they both sucked ass.
The rental business was pretty brutal. Probably still is.
You know how when you owe money for something or have a credit card, the company sends you a bill. The bill tells you how much your payment is and when it's due. They even tell you how much more you will owe if the bill goes past due.
The rental business ain't like that.
Here's your TV. Sign here. Your payment is $XX.XX a month and payments are due on the 16th of the month. Best be remembering that. We don't send no stinking bills.
If the 16th rolls around and we don't have your rent payment, I'll be at your door on the 17th. The money or the TV are your only options. There is no mercy, there are no negotiations, no deals, no bargains. You give me the money, or I'm taking the TV. Period.
It doesn't even matter if the 16th was a Sunday or a holiday. We have a mail slot in the front door. Better fucking be an envelope with cash or a money order from you waiting for us on the floor. Or you go on My List.
People used to say "Man! That has got to be rough! You show up on a Sunday afternoon, the renter and his buddies are drinking beer and watching a Chiefs vs. Raiders game and you're there to take away the TV! Dayum! That's cold!"
It was rough and it was cold. I won't lie to you. I was cleaning out my van one day and found a slug. A bullet. Did a walk around and found the entry point just forward and above the rear driver's side wheel.
Somebody could have been targeting me. Or maybe I just caught a bit of stray gunfire. Have no idea. But I kept it for years as a sort of good luck charm. It didn't kill me. That's good luck, right?
I also remember showing up on a collection run to find the po po on sight intervening in a full-blown domestic disturbance. Maybe over the fact that somebody forgot to drop off the Remco payment. Who knows. I just need to grab this TV and I'll be out of your way. Won't be a minute. As you were.
Those were sensitive situations that had to be handled delicately. But it got a whole lot worse than that.
Try getting an early start on a Saturday morning. Your first collection stop of the day doesn't have his rent payment. Just lost his job. He can probably borrow it from his folks. He can have it Monday. Promise.
Sorry man. Sucks to be you. I gotta take the TV.
You walk into the living room to retrieve YOUR rental property and there are 3 or 4 kids, still in their pajamas, eating dry, stale, expired "Best Choice" knock-off Cheerios right out of the box, watching their favorite cartoons.
They look up at you. Wondering who you are and why you are there. One of them smiles.
You look at their dad. His head is hanging, eyes closed. Wondering how he's going to explain to his kids why the man had to take the TV away. They don't know daddy lost his job. He'll have to explain that part to them. Again.
BOSS: "How did it go today? I don't see a TV. Did you get the payment?"
ME: "Nobody home. I'll try again. On Monday."
Friday, August 07, 2009