Wash that smartphone!

A smartphone, properly scrubbed

A smartphone, properly scrubbed

All good things come to an end, and when that happens to your smartphone, you should wash it. And, no, I don’t mean what my one-and-a-half-year-old grandson did to his mamma’s new iPhone 6S.

In a pawnshop context, washing your phone means scrubbing it of personal information before you sell it. Older model smartphones lose value quickly but they still have some value: A Pew survey last year found that 68% of American adults have a smartphone.

That means 3 in 10 don’t and probably would like to acquire one if they could afford it. Pawnshops are one place that can happen

When Kamaaina Loan (or any other pawnshop) buys a smartphone for resale, it will scrub it. The simplest way is to do a factory reset.

However, at least with Android phones (which is most of them), a reset does not necessarily wash the phone clean.

Earlier this year, Avast, a software security company, purchased 20 used smartphones from pawnshops in Europe and America. 60% had not been reset: an error on the part of the person who sold the phone to the pawnshop and of the pawnshop as well.

However, here’s the problem: of the 40% that had been reset, half still had recoverable personal information on them.

Avast said that was because some older versions of Android’s OS have a factory reset that does not clear data.

Worse, some sellers just deleted their files without doing a reset. That left the files easily recoverable with commonly available and free software.

Avast says the thing to do is to overwrite your unwanted files, which is what the reset does.

We’d add that destroying old files in unwanted equipment applies to anything with a chip in it. Even copiers save everything they see. The old copier itself may be dead but its brain lives on.


#maui #mauiretail

And now, a good word for fakes

But not from us. We hate fakes.

No, it’s Jack Ma, head of notorious fraud site Alibaba (the Amazon of China, some call it, which seems unfair to Amazon). In a story reported at CNN Moneym, Ma said

“The problem is that the fake products today — they make better quality, better prices than the real product,” Ma told investors at a company event Tuesday. “The exact factories, the exact raw materials, so they don’t use the name.”

Excuse us while we retch.

First of all, we examine designer goods in the pawnshop all the time, and while some fakes are better than others, they aren’t “better quality” or even as good.

We note that just to get it out of the way.

The problem with Ma’s continuing criminal enterprise is not (or not only) the quality of the fakes he sells. It’s theft of intellectual property. And it’s destruction of the value of real goods by pretty-good fakes.

For example, the market for collectible Kingdom of Hawaii coins has been nearly ruined by fakes. Sold by Jack Ma.

We bet Jack Ma would not be so happy if someone set up a fake Alibaba site that directed shoppers to a warehouse in, say, Belarus and took away the dollars now going to Jack Ma.

There is also the matter of additional costs imposed on honest merchants like Kamaaina Loan, who have to take steps to intercept and reject the fake garbage that Jack Ma pumps into the stream of commerce.

It would be a good thing if Alibaba was treated like a chop shop or other similar criminal operation and shut down. We aren’t saying we expect it, but it would be a good thing.

If you think we are kidding, just go to Alibaba and search for “fake coins.”


#maui #mauiretail #visitingparadise

Reality spreading

Heck, no, we don’t mean the US political campaign is beginning to be full of truth and good nature. But after a long dry spell, Kamaaina Loan blog can again report on pawn-based reality teevee programming.

The reality pawn audience seemed to have peaked  and then Chumlee of “Pawn Stars” got himself arrested on drug and weapons charges, which sort of cooled things down.

But British papers report that Australia’s  top shock jock (Kyle Sandilands and no, we never heard of him either) has signed for a pawn show on Australia’s channel 9 to be called “Meet the Hockers.” What’s a stuffed koala bear worth, anyway?

Meanwhile, back on America’s top pawn show, the gossip sites are reporting that Chumlee will plead guilty to one each of drug and weapons charges, but nothing on the original sex assault or harassment complaint, of which few details were ever revealed.

He will, they say, get probation and after completing it successfully will have his charges knocked down from felonies to misdemeanors. His social media accounts claim he will return to the show sometime.

#ProudofPawn #maui #mauiretail

Semi-good advice about pawning

pawnFor such a simple idea that people have been using for thousands of years, pawning seems baffling to many people.

Just the other day here at Kamaaina Loan, we were discussing possible regulatory changes — perhaps coming from the national government — that would affect us, so we pulled down “Black’s Law Dictionary” to refresh everybody about the legal description of “pawn loans.”

It uses words like “bailments” and is not that user-friendly, so this is how I — as a professional writer — boiled it down:

A pawn transaction is a short-term cash loan secured by portable collateral.

The devil, of course, is in the details. We found an article in the Dayton Daily News headlined

Before you hock an item to a pawn shop

It seems to be a Better Business Bureau canned article but none the worse for that. With one exception, we found the advice offered to customers pretty good.

The exception?

• Know the value of items. If you don’t know the value, shop around and/or consider getting an appraisal.

The first part of that is OK. But an “appraisal” is impractical in most cases.

The BBB quotes the National Pawnbrokers Association that the average pawn loan is around $150, and that is close to the average at Kamaaina Loan And Cash For Gold.

Now we also offer appraisals, and ours have been accepted by every court in the state. The difficulty is that the minimum charge for a real appraisal is about $150 — and it can be a lot more for a big task like helping a conservator prepare a report for probating an estate.

Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to pay $150 to learn the value of something you are going to use to get a loan for $150.

So, what to do?

With gold and silver, you can look up the New York price on Then with some simple arithmetic you can determine how much gold is in your wedding band. Example: an 18 karat band is 75% gold, so if it weighs 4 grams it has 3 grams of gold in it.

jeweler signYou know the New York price per gram. The pawnbroker is going to offer you a fraction of that, because if he has to sell the ring there are lots of expenses involved: store overhead, insurance, shipping, assay etc.

That includes his risk that the N.Y. price will go down between the time he gives you cash and the time — at least two months later under the laws we operate under — that he sells it.

So there is room for borrower and lender to make assumptions. Different pawnbrokers will come to different conclusion about what that ring is worth. At Kamaaina Loan, we like to say, see us last. You’ll find out we make the highest offer.

(As a practical matter, the pawnshops on our island are separated by about $5 worth of gas and 30 to 45 minutes of driving time, so you cannot really afford to shop around too much for a $150 loan. Pick a pawnbroker you like and stick with him. Pick us.)

With other items,. the customer can do the same thing we do: look it up on the Internet.There are specialized sites. For example, for golf clubs, the Professional Golfers Association maintains a free site, This is supposed to be based on transactions across the country, but it may not be entirely reliable for local preferences, and condition counts.

There are sites for particular brands of guitars etc., but for the majority of goods eBay sets the floor. You the borrower can look up prices on eBay as well as we can. Remember to look at “completed auctions” to get the actual prices achieved.

One thing we liked about that BBB article was its report about inquiries and complaints. In 2015, the BBB received over 65,000 inquiries about pawnbrokers, but only 300 were complaints.

We bet they got more complaints about the cheese in cheeseburgers.

(Kamaaina Loan is a member of the Hawaii BBB.)

#maui #mauipawn #mauiretail

We are on the fringe and proud of it

Customers line up at a Philippines pawnshop (photo by winwin1684)

Customers line up at a Philippines pawnshop (photo by winwin1684)

Pawnbrokers are sometimes called “fringe bankers.” Well, we are called worse things. The people who call us “fringe” bankers are generally more or less sympathetic to what pawnbrokers do, in at least one of our many roles, which is to provide credit to people who are ineligible or unwilling to participate in “mainstream” banking.

At Kamaaina Loan And Cash For Gold, our average loan is about the same as for pawnshops nationwide — $150 or so. Try going to your local bank and asking for a loan that size. Unless you are a potential credit card customer/victim, you’ll be laughed out of the marble halls, in the politest way, of course.

But what about people who are afraid to go into a bank, even if they are in the economic class that bankers like to see? (In the United States, half of the typical bank’s customers generate 150% of profits, which means that the other half cost the bank money. That’s why banks are unwelcoming to little people.)

We almost have to look overseas to understand why some Americans are so wary of banks. Since the New Deal brought in effective deposit insurance for ordinary depositors, few working people have lost savings in a bank failure. (It is not well known, but before the New Deal, there were deposit savings insurance plans in some states, like Nebraska, but as banks failed by the thousands during “Coolidge prosperity,” small savers were wiped out anyway, because the insurance plans did not have sufficient backing.)

Here on Maui, we look to the Philippines, because so many of our residents trace their origin there. Filipino-Americans are an even larger proportion of our customer base than their status in the island (which is around one-third of all residents), This is commonly attributed to their suspicion of banks and bankers, which is something they brought with them, like a fondness for bibingka.

The Panay Times puts it this way:


Distrust in the banking system is probably the biggest reason why even the moneyed are cautious about keeping their eggs in one basket. It is no longer possible to count in one’s fingers the local banks that have folded up, leaving their depositors at the delayed mercy of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC), which could only refund no more than P400,000.  If a depositor has more than that, sorry na lang.

(400,000 Philippine pesos is only about $8,000, compared with the $250,000 that the FDIC insures US accounts for.)

Even today, that newspaper reports, only one in 10 Filipinos have bank savings accounts. (We suspect the rate is quite a bit higher among Maui Filipino-Americans, but the residual suspicion of banks remains high. Probably it is reinforced by news from relatives back in the islands.)

Suspicion of banks may be good for us pawnbrokers, but when it spreads too far, it begins to hurt the overall economy, because banks cannot fulfill their function of providing business credit. In America, some pawnshops (ours included) make business loans, but it is not a big fraction of our volume.

In the Philippines, and in Southeast and South Asia generally, pawnshops are much more popular as a source of business capital. That is why some big financial operators are looking at funding online pawnshops directed at business startups in the region.

(Softbank, the main backer of this particular venture, is a gigantic Japanese firm that has been expanding from telecommunications into finance.)

One investor puts it this way:

“The online pawnshop is exactly the kind of innovation I believe can help unbanked citizens. The Philippines is the ideal market to start the service, as pawning is the major financing method instead of banking for its people,” Yasu Seo said.

The report on this venture did not reveal how much money is flowing into pawnbrokers targeting startup businesses, but other reports suggest the total is in the tens of millions or low hundreds of millions of dollars. That is not insignificant but indicates the target borrower is an entrepreneur looking to start a small business, not large projects (which probably can tap international funds in places like Hong Kong or Singapore).

How did the Philippines come to distrust banks so? Under Spanish administration, there was no banking to speak of. When the United States gained control in the early 19th century, banks began to be opened in Manila, but communications were not adequate to foster banking in the remoter islands.

Also, most Filipinos in those days were on the edge of subsistence, so they had little money to put into savings accounts.

The disruption of the Japanese occupation was not helpful, as the islands switched currencies. After independence, banks have had only about 70 years to instill confidence in depositors, and they missed the opportunity by having too many failures and (according to Panay Times) too much chicanery.

The Philippines remain a poor country, with many millions of subsistence farmers who cannot aspire to a savings account, but estimates are that at least twice as many people could open accounts as actually do.

That helps make pawnshops important in the islands.

In America, banks do not have such bad reputations (at least for stiffing depositors) but it is still true that something like a quarter of Americans have little or no connection with a regular commercial bank — either because they don’t have enough income to bother or because (especially in some immigrant communities) they are suspicious of them.

That’s where we “fringe financial institutions” come in. Pawnshops provide a needed source of credit to people who are otherwise not welcome in lending offices. We are proud of being able to help.





Better endowed

Two women came into a Jacksonville, Florida, pawn shop. One was well-endowed when she came in, but she was even better endowed when she left, because — as surveillance tape shows — while her friend was keeping the salesman occupied, she slipped 5 gold chains and gold pendant into her brassiere.

The shop owner described her as “a professional.”

Well, maybe. But it is a longstanding rule in the jewelry business — one item at a time on the counter. That pawnbroker was asking to get ripped off, and he did. Total loss: $3,600.


#maui #mauiretail #mauigold

Another thing to worry about

From Florida comes a report of another way for pawnbrokers to lose money. In this case, $30,000 to a crooked employee who forged pawn tickets, put his own thumbprint on them, then pocketed the amount supposedly given to the customer.

This shop was using paper forms, so it might have been harder to carry it on with an electronic pawn system. On the other hand, the story does not say either how the employee was caught or why it took 9 months to catch him.

You would think that somebody would have noticed that the loans were not being repaid and then discovered that the pawned items weren’t in the store. Unless the crook was doing a lot of extensions.

We note that 52 pawns for $30,000 equals about $600 a “transaction,” another reason you’d think whoever reviewed the summaries should have noticed.

#mauiretail #mauigold #maui

Pawning for a revolution

From Russia Today, a somewhat hard to follow but very detailed look back a hundred years to the days when you could pawn your way into an earth-changing revolution.

The occasion is the hundredth anniversary of the failed Irish rebellion against England. Russian revolutionaries at the time regretted that the Irish were “premature” but also took the outbreak as a portent of a soon-to-begin world-circling wave of revolutions.


Trotsky and Lenin proved to be poor prophets in this case — there wasn’t a world wave of successful revolutions but the some of the Irish did gain their independence. However, this ais ablog about pawns, so we are more interested in the pawn transaction.

The Bolsheviks had taken over the Romanov jewelry and were broke but they had a hard time converting it into dollars. Plenty of people would have taken the jewels but the paper money of many countries was suspect around 1918.

The Irish rebels — not yet free — had raised $5 million in cash in the United States so they were in a position to lend on security — a pawn transaction, crown jewels for $20,000 cash.

It was hardly enough to sustain a revolution but it helped. The story gets somewhat bizarre. The pawn was informal and since the rebels didn’t have a treasury to place the jewels in, one of them gave them to his mum, who kept them under her dresss — described as the safest place in Ireland at that time.

Eventually, in 1948, the jewels were sent back to the USSR and the Irish government got its principal back, without interest. There had been inflation in the interim, but the government of Eire got something that was probably worth forgoing interest — at a time when no other country would do so, the USSR treated Eire as a sovereign state.

Nowadays it couldn’t happen. At least not the same way. There are laws against raising money for “terrorists” and crown jewels are rarer than they used to be. Today’s revolutions are financed with diamonds, but just raw ones, or oil; it is unlikely that you can pawn your way to power any more.


You can find anything in a pawn shop

We say that all the time, and we mean it. For example, news reports say that a San Francisco pawn shop, A to Z, is selling (on eBay) what appears to be an unreleased — even unannounced — new version of the latest Google Glass gadget.


No, sorry to say, Kamaaina Loan doesn’t have one. Yet.

UPDATE. March 23

To the surprise of no one, Google has retrieved its wayward Google Glass gadget.


Now the only question is, did somebody who had it legitimately sell (or pawn) it, or was it stolen and then sold (or pawned)? .The first alternative sounds improbable, but stranger things have happened.

Our guess: It was stolen from a backpack or a car or something by a crook who did not realize what it was. If someone knew what it was and wanted to make some illegal cash, it would have been possible to get a lot more than $20,000 (the highest eBay bid) from a Google competitor.

Of course, if the crook approached the competitor and the competitor was honest, then that would have turned out badly.

It isn’t true that crime doesn’t pay but it is true that it usually doesn’t pay very well.



Why we love pawnbrokers

pawnFrom the news:

In Chula Vista, California, thieves tried twice to sell a stolen flute at The Pawnshop Inc. Both times, pawnbrokers spotted the item as likely stolen and turned away the thieves.

(Side note: This is how the law works in Hawaii also. If no police report is available, a pawnbroker is able only to turn away an item even if he is pretty sure it is stolen. He cannot by law accept a stolen item, but if there is no official report, he cannot call the police. What if his suspicions turn out to be misplaced and the customer uis, in fact, honest? It’s a problem; would you — the victim of a theft — rather get your item back or have the thieves toss it in the river, which is likely what happens when they try twice to fence an item and fail.

(So, report the theft to police even if you are skeptical that the cops can do much. Without the report, it’s hard for anybody to do anything.)

Ron Krasner, owner of The Pawnshop, had a flute in stock and gave it to schoolgirl whose flute was stolen. He told Fox 5 News:

“We told them (the girl and her mother) they (the thieves) were here. At that point we went back to our video and got pictures of the thieves and gave them to police.”

Let’s hope that works out.

In Little Rock, pawnbroker Mike Willingham took what steps he could after reading stories about two small children who shot themselves with unlocked guns. He started giving away free gun locks. He told KATV News:

“Why don’t we give away these? We’ve got these, why don’t we give them away? We’re huge advocates of the second amendment and people owning firearms, but theres that safety aspect of it too.”

Let’s hope that works out.