Getting By in a Pawn Shop Economy - NBC Southern California

Getting By in a Pawn Shop Economy

As times get tough, a whole new customer is walking through the door



    It’s a place for people to trade family treasures for a few bucks and has a reputation for attracting the down and out. But pawn shop business owners say that's not true.

    The recession is driving more people to the pawn shop. It's a place where that old guitar or new watch can mean money in your pocket and in today's economy, that old pawn shop is getting a new life.

    Jeff Bernard's Palace Pawn Shop is full of yesterday's treasures. Items pawned and lost. But he says don't get the wrong idea.

    “Most people think people come into a pawn shop, they pawn their stuff, the poor souls come out, they're gone and never see the end of it.  And that is absolutely not true, that's not how we operate,” Bernard said.

    In fact he says for 85 to 90 percent of the items he takes in on pawn, the owners come back and pay them off.

    “People are not pawning to get rid of, people are pawning to borrow money and come back and get it,” Bernard said.

    “Well sometimes it's the only way you can get money,” said Cameron Hoffman who went in to pawn a guitar. 

    James Ward went in to make a payment.

    “I've never lost anything. I always come back and pay,” he said.

    In today's economy pawn shop owners, like Yigal Adato from Cashco Jewelry and Loan, say they're seeing more middle and upper class customers coming in for money and the items they’re dropping off are more valuable.

    “We used to have a lot more $25, $50 loans. Now we have $500, $1,000, $2,000.  People have to pay their rent, their mortgage, big bills,” Adato said.

    He says people eventually get their pawned items back. But it's taking longer than it used to.

    If you need money you can always sell your accordion on Craigslist or eBay, but the folks at the pawn shop say there's a big difference at a pawn shop.

    “People pawn because they don't want to sell,” said Bernard said.

    “You can pawn your stuff, get money and go back and pick it up without getting rid of it,” Ward said.

    People who pawn say it means they don't have to use a credit card.  Instead they take out a four-month loan and there's no car or home to back it up. Instead, they use a power tool, a ring, a watch or an acoustic guitar.

    What it will cost you to pawn an item varies depending on the loan amount. You can usually borrow from 20 to 40 percent of an item’s used value. Let's say you borrow $100 on a wedding ring -- it will cost around $23 for a four-month loan. But, you can go in any time to pay off the loan and get your ring back.

    There are also deals when buying from a pawn shop and depending on the item, you can negotiate the price. Don't always offer what on the sticker.