Pawnshops in the service of literature

So far as we know, no desperately poor but brilliant novelists are customers at our Maui pawn shop. But you never can tell.

 

yenIn Tokyo, an old pawnshop has been opened as a museum because of its links to Ichiyo Higuchi, regarded as the first important woman writer in Meiji Japan. The building itself is also regarded as an important surviving example of a merchant building of the earlier Edo period (which ended 1867)..

Not many wooden buildings in Tokyo survived the great fires of 1923 and 1945.

Wikipedia says of Ichiyo:

She wrote relatively little as a result of living a brief life—she died at 24—but her stories had a large impact on Japanese literature and she is still appreciated by the Japanese public today.

Higuchi was unique among her peers in that her writing was based on Japanese rather than Western models. Her work is highly regarded for her use of language, and for that reason people are reluctant to update or translate it into contemporary Japanese, leaving it difficult for the majority of Japanese people to read.

Well, that’s a bummer. But still. She’s famous and some of that rubbed off on the pawnshop. Her diary records many times when she “rushed to Iseya” pawnshop, because she and her family were very poor.

Although her stories have not been translated into modern Japanese, they have been translated into English. And she’s got her picture on Japanese money, which is more than any famous American women have ever achieved.

 

Country music goes to the ‘Pawn Shop’

We can hardly wait to hear the lyrics of “Pawn Shop,” a new song by the moderately well-known duo Brothers Osbourne. In this interview, they promise to go back to the era when country music was good. We suppose they refer to the “Drop Kick Me Jesus through the Goalposts of Life” era, or something similar.

Evidently, they think highly of the song, since it will be the title of their January album, their first.

We hope the lyrics will be better than those written by the California ska band Sublime in their song “Pawn Shop.” According to songfact.com, this was a tribute/ripoff of an earlier reggae number from Jamaica by the Wailing Souls. Sample:

 

So, why I’m down here at the pawn shop
Down here at the pawn shop, down here at the pawn shop, down here at the pawn shop
What has been sold, not strictly made of stone
Just remember that it’s flesh and bone

Come on, Osbournes, you can do better than that.

Weirdest pawn story ever

Bag Lady used to be a gent Fame/Flynet picture from Mirror news

Bag Lady used to be a gent
Fame/Flynet picture from Mirror news

Or at least in a long while. And perhaps you have to be a Brit to appreciate it. Anyway, we noticed this story in today’s Mirror online.

Some background. London tabloids are the most intrusive, least reliable newspapers anywhere, and the Mirror is the most extreme of them. They allow no one any privacy.

Whether the world cares that Kellie Maloney — originally Frank — is pawning her boxing memoriblia seems doubtful, even if she/he is a figure on reality TV in England. But perhaps it was a set-up, since the story says he/she is rumored to be a candidate for another reality gig, and she/he gave an interview rather than having one of her retinue deck the photographer, as seems customary these days when celebs — even minorish ones — don’t like the paparazzi.

Anyhow, we’ve dredged through our memory banks, and if there’s a weirder pawn story than a former male boxing promoter who’s now a woman teevee personality making news by pawning old Don King contracts, we cannot think of it.

 

Backing off the pawn reporting law

Pawnbrokers under surveillance

Pawnbrokers under surveillance

This is something we haven’t noticed before. Across the country, there has been a wave of local ordinances requiring collection of data on pawn customers, with electronic reporting to local police.

But in Columbia County, Georgia, the sheriff is backing off such a law that went into effect in April.

Kamaaina Loan already collects information (as required by state law) and reports electronically (not required but good business). In fact, we take pride in being the first pawn shop anywhere to inaugurate daily electronic reporting.

However, we have opposed efforts in Honolulu to require using a particular out-of-state vendor to process the reports.

But it gets complicated. According to the Augusta Chronicle report, the objection was that the ordinance was too broad, that it extended to all kinds of second-hand dealers, not just pawnshops.

Not long after it was implemented, however, some businesses began questioning some of the new law’s provisions and expressed concerns about its impact on business. Local lawyer, Andy Tisdale said the ordinance could be interpreted to apply to almost any business that buys and sells used goods and equipment, including used cars, calling is a “second-hand dealer law.”

In addition, Tisdale said the ordinance had conflicts with Constitutional law, where it compels business owners to comply with warrantless searches or face arrest.

 

But we contend that second-hand dealers should be required to report, if the intention of these ordinances really is to deter fencing or assist in recovering stolen goods. It makes no sense to watch pawnshops with an electronic eagle eye while leaving other secondhand dealers free to take in questionable goods in secret. (In Georgia, part of the objection was that the local ordinance potentially applied to used car dealers. That seems unnecessary, since motor vehicles already have adequate regulations to monitor and track ownership.)

So while at first glance, we welcome resistance to these ordinances that compel businesses to deal with vendors they do not get to choose, the actions in Columbia County don’t appear to be the kind of pushback we would hope to see.

(The issue in Georgia about gun registries is outside our scope, since we do not deal in firearms and hardly any Hawaii pawnbrokers do so.)

Catching up with Rick Harrison

America’s most famous pawnbroker now has a bartender’s card, to go along with his saloon and other businesses opening in October.

 

He told the Las Vegas Sun he’s looking forward to the time when people will have only hazy memories of “Pawn Stars” but apparently coffee and donuts are forever:

 

Harrison also plans to open a wedding chapel, in part to revive the flagging industry along Las Vegas Boulevard South.

Otherwise, the businesses planned for Pawn Plaza are as odd a fit as the plaza’s mismatched color scheme. All are independent businesses or small franchises, such as Rita’s Italian Ice, Smoke’s Poutinerie, Vegas Flip Flops, So-Cal Speed Shop, Inna Gadda di Pizza and Pawn Donut & Coffee.

Java jive

A nice, doomed pawnshop Photo from East Sider

A nice, doomed pawnshop
Photo from East Sider

Well, excuuuse us, but $3 cups of coffee do not indicate gentrification.

A strange little story in the L.A. Eastsider is headlined:

There’s no place for a pawn shop in gentrifying Echo Park

As evidence of rampant gentrification, the East Sider notes

One by one, the adjoining Sunset Boulevard storefronts on either side of the Echo Park Pawn Shop have been renovated and replaced with new tenants . The high-ceiling interior of Sage Vegan Bistro is often busy with customers sharing plates of jackfruit nachos or ordering $3.99 scoops of vegan ice cream.  A few storefronts down, San Francisco-based Blue Bottle Coffee, where a cup of drip coffee usually goes for $3,  is preparing to open a shop.

So sorry, East Sider, but our little Maui pawnshop shares a block with a nice coffee shop (Wailuku Coffee Co.) where coffee is well over $3 a cup ($2 if you pour your own in the morning rush), and there’s no place on the island where you can get a scoop of ice cream for a mere $3.99, vegan or otherwise.

We don’t dispute the story’s statement that the landlord is pushing out the pawn shop in hopes of attracting higher-paying tenants. But $3 coffee? It takes more than that to separate the beautiful people from the rest of us.

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.”

genuine

 

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.

 

 

Gold — and not only gold — takes a powder

At the start of this year, the mavens at Goldman Sachs — who had called the price movement of gold quite closely in 2014 — predicted it would finish 2015 as low as $1200 an ounce.IMG_3692

Maybe it will, but already in July it is plunging near $1,100. We think it is fair to say that no one foresaw this. Certainly at our little pawn shop, we didn’t.

But it isn’t only gold. Bloomberg News reports that world commodity prices have fallen to levels last seen in 2002. Gold, by contrast, has fallen to 2010 levels.

Raw materials are losing favor with investors as the dollar gains amid signals from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that the central bank may raise rates this year on the back of an improving U.S. economy. Higher borrowing costs curb the attractiveness of commodities such as gold, which doesn’t pay interest or give returns like assets including bonds and equities.

The other commodities include things like iron, natural gas, oil and wheat. At Kamaaina Loan And Cash for Gold, we like to say we will buy (or make a loan on) “anything that doesn’t eat. But we don’t buy (or lend on) oil or wheat. And salesfor that, just now, we are thankful.

 

Is pawn lending fringe or mainstream?

pawnFor years, students of pawn lending have described it as an alternative to regular banking or — in the words of economist John Caskey — a form of “fringe” banking. Caskey, for one, is friendly to the pawn business, and even pawn lenders themselves have taken to calling themselves fringe lenders.

Unlike some other fringe groups, the designation is generally positibve.

Gun shy

This is just too silly not to pass on. In Florida, a man tried to shoplift a firearm from a pawnshop.

So?

It was an AK47. He stuffed it down his pants leg.

And limped out till the pawnbroker stopped him.

The Sun-Sentinel has his mug shot. I’d keep an eye on him if he were in our pawnshop, even though we don’t carry firearms.ak

The Sun-Sentinel plays the story straight. HuffingonPost rewrites it with one of  the more obvious joke lines. But it isn’t funny.