‘At the end of the day, it’s about the money:’ Former TitleMax employee discusses sales practices

Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - In March, WTOC Investigates told you about how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau again fined TitleMax millions of dollars for deceptive sales practices and predatory loans.

This time, for handing-out high interest loans to military families, which violates the Military Lending Act.

Now, we’re hearing from a former TitleMax store manager and others about how they say the company does business.

They say TitleMax targets people they know won’t ever be able to fully pay them back - making millions of dollars off the backs of low-income and elderly Georgians.

We started our digging this time, at a barber shop in Hinesville.

Barber Rickie McGregory hears a lot inside of Jazzy’s Barber shop but one recent topic hit home for him: TitleMax.

“Somebody’s like, ‘hey, did you all see that story on WTOC this morning?’ I was like yeah, I saw that too!”

That story resulted in a man getting his title back.

It’s something McGregory is working to do himself after he says, a TitleMax salesperson misled him.

He says after our story aired, a woman in the shop who claimed to be a TitleMax employee chimed-in.

“She said, and I quote... ‘I wouldn’t recommend TitleMax to my worst enemies.”

In 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined TitleMax’s parent company millions of dollars after finding that, in part, their employees mislead customers by not explaining the true cost of their loans.

We decided to track-down a former TitleMax employee ourselves.

Former store manager Cordelius Brown says she worked for the company from 2014 to 2021. She asked us not to show her face.

“The problem is, they’re taking advantage of people who are already desperate,” said Brown.

Brown says she was instructed to tell customers their title loans were just like paying off a credit card and would go towards the original amount owed.

The problem? They’re actually just paying off the interest.

“The fact is, TitleMax misled plenty of employees in order to mislead the community,” said Brown.

Brown says one particular situation pushed her over the edge.

She says a customer suffered a stroke and had to physically come into the office, to get her car back.

“She can’t walk, she can’t talk, she can’t write, she can’t feed herself. And they repo’d her vehicle. She owed less than $1,000...”

“... I’m like ‘why are we doing this to this lady? Her life is more important than this bill. Can we not just relieve her of this debt?’ They wouldn’t do it. They didn’t care. And I said these people don’t care about these customers. At the end of the day, it’s about the money.”

Brown says when she tried to help customers like that pay off their loans more quickly, by explaining that their monthly interest payments do NOT go toward their loan’s principal... she says she was reprimanded.

“They treated me like I did a bad thing! That’s how I trained my team: to tell customers, ‘pay a little bit more. Even if it’s just a dollar, pay it.’ Because the goal is to get your title back with TitleMax.”

Again, Brown hasn’t worked at TitleMax since 2021 so we don’t know if these practices she told us about are ongoing.

Back at the barber shop in Hinesville, McGregory says he’s stunned and hopes stories like these will keep others from becoming victims.

“To find out that this is regular practice, and it’s legal! It’s amazing, I just can’t believe it.”

Brown says TitleMax is making so much money, the fines they’ve been slapped with don’t affect them at all.

She hopes the feds step-in and force them to change their practices... or shut them down.

WTOC did contact TitleMax for a response to this story but they didn’t get back in time for air.