Image v. reality

Almost since the Kamaaina Loan blog began, we have been writing about how “Pawn Stars” and other reality programs have tended to improve the public perception of what pawnshops are like. We are all too familiar with the image presented in the old Rod Steiger film “The Pawnbroker.”



Even then – and that was half a century ago –the movie portrayal was far from reality. Just as, when you think about it, the “Big Bang Theory,” the most popular show on network TV, doesn’t provide a realist6ic view of how geniuses live.

So, what are real pawnshops really like?  Are they dark places where thieves slouch in, looking to convert a hot laptop into a couple of sawbucks? Hardly. For one thing, pawnbrokers have embraced technology. Stores are bright and open, so that surveillance cameras can be effective. Most of the nation’s 12,000 pawnbrokers also use technology to record driver’s licenses, serial numbers and other detailed information about both the merchandise they are offered and the customers.

That includes a thumb print.

A scoundrel looking to break the law could hardly leave more evidence if he tried.

Then look at the goods in a pawnshop’s retail department. (Almost all pawnbrokers are also licensed secondhand dealers.) Diamond jewelry, good watches, gold, good guitars. Pawnshop customers are, overwhelmingly, people with jobs and therefore with assets and money to spend.

Most goods in the retail division were not pawns that someone failed to repay. At Kamaaina Loan  And Cash For Gold, redemptions are at an all-time high—90%.

Retail stock (when it is not new, like our Kala ukuleles and some silver jewelry) is good stuff people didn’t want to keep. Maybe they were moving to a different island, or they are buying a better guitar and want to sell us their old one to help pay for the new one.

Or they realized that that designer handbag in the closet hasn’t been used for months because they have a new style that suits them better.

So they sell it to us and we sell it to you.

Maybe, in the movie, Rod Steiger dealt with down-and-outers, but when we take in a designer handbag that cost $2,000 new and that we resell for $800, we are still talking about upscale consumption.

To put it another way, the goods we sell are the same goods that were originally sold at the mall. Just used a little and marked down a lot. And our customers are the same as the shoppers in the mall, just with maybe a sharper eye for a bargain.