Pawn 101: You can take me to the fair

The Joy Zone (photo by Forest & Kim Starr)

(with apologies to Lerner & Lowe)

The Friday afternoon of Maui Fair week is always busy at Kamaaina Loan. The reason offers insight into what pawnshops really mean to their communities, rather than what the common opinion is.

If you went to the fair, no doubt you saw some slightly harassed looking guys herding 8, 9, 10 or so kids through the Joy Zone and the food booths. These were good guys — uncles maybe — seeing to it that the neighbor keiki had a good, safe time.

When you start thinking about filling up 10 growing boys and girls with chili and rice, though, the cash outlay can be daunting. Quite a few people turn to the pawnshop for ready cash.

This contradicts the view that pawnshops attract the desperate, the unemployed and the near-destitute. In fact, pawnshops are able to help people in those categories, but as bank economist John Caskey was surprised to find (in a study done in the early ’90s for the Russell Sage Foundation, published as “Fringe Banking: Check-Cashing Outlets, Pawnshops and the Poor”), pawnshops reach a much wider clientele.

Most customers are employed, although many in jobs that feature periods of temporary layoffs. Caskey went to pawnshops and interviewed customers to see who they were and what they depended on the pawn lender to do for them.

He was surprised to find that a substantial part of the business came from ordinary folks who took out pawn loans for a night or weekend on the town.

Not everybody has an ATM card, and if you are contemplating spending a couple hundred dollars at the Maui Fair, there might not be that much in your bank account anyway.

A fast pawn loan could be the answer.

It is for many people.

This was the first year that Kamaaina Loan advertised its pawn loans direct to fairgoers. If you had a good time at the fair with our help, we’re gratified.

The photograph of the Joy Zone comes from the invaluable photographic archive of Maui life being added to by Forest & Kim Starr. Mahalo to Forest and Kim.