The New Pawn Shop

The New Pawn Shop

John Erhlich

Tired of the cold impersonality of banks and other financial institutions? Perhaps you should try your friendly neighborhood pawn shop.

The smoky, sleazy hock shop of Hollywood films and pulp fiction is becoming a thing of the past. Today’s pawn shops are likely well-lighted places that employ high-tech computer software, attractively displayed merchandise and young, well-dressed employees. Although pawn shops are most likely to be found in low-income areas, they are clean and customer-oriented.

I observed five shops in different neighborhoods of a large urban area of California over seven months. Unlike the intimidating relationships we all have with commercial institutions, I found that the new pawn shop offers a place where regulars are greeted by name and newcomers are made welcome. It has the easy warmth and informality of the corner barbershop or beauty salon.

Pawn shops are a combination of a friendly loan office and a retail store selling goods at rock-bottom prices. Where else can you get a loan of less than $225 at 13.3% interest for four months–and with a 10-day grace period? Interest rates for larger loans are comparable to high-interest credit cards. A typical loan is in the $40 to $60 range, made on jewelry and intended to tide the borrower over for a short period. The typical patron is a white woman, under 30 years old, and a repeat shopper.

Customers are most likely to come back for their jewelry and TVs or VCRs, and are least likely to get their clarinets, keyboards or skis out of hock.

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COPYRIGHT 1999 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group