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A brisk business

Buyers, sellers satisfied with pawn shop shopping

Buyers, sellers satisfied with pawn shop shopping

December 07, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

The Collector's Edition Scrabble Board, with its gold-plated letters and wood-framed board that spins, like a lazy Susan, so each player can easily read the board during their turn, sat on the pawn shop shelf with a sticker price of $89.

It wasn't new, but it looked to be in pretty good shape. And with the Franklin Mint selling the collector's edition online for $595, this one was a bargain.

In tough times, people look for a bargain, and, with the economy in recession, consumer buying is either doing well at Tri-State-area pawn shops or is expected to pick up soon.

On one side of the business, people are bringing in items to help pay their living expenses and shop for Christmas, said Richard Epple, owner of Trading Post Pawn shops in Hagerstown and Brooklyn Park, Md. On the other side of the business, people are trying to stretch their money and are looking around for good bargains.

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Christmas wish list

Pawn shops can have new as well as used items. Items available for sale recently at area pawn shops included remote-control vehicles, video games, DVDs, videocassettes, jewelry, musical instruments, Longaberger baskets, digital cameras, MP3 players, TVs, stereo equipment and tools - lots of tools.

Classic Trade & Pawn in Ranson, W.Va., has had many tools available for sale because as construction declined in the area, many people sold or pawned their tools - sometimes just for gas money, co-owner Brian Mason said.

Items that get particularly popular with buyers at Christmastime are jewelry, guitars, telescopes, stereo equipment, digital cameras, camcorders and video game systems, said Epple and Charles Scanlon, general manager of Trading Post Pawn in Hagerstown.

Demand for video game systems is high year-round, but there's a big rush before Christmas, Scanlon said. People call the store asking if any are in stock.

"People want to be on a waiting list, but we don't do that," Scanlon said. Lately, the game systems go as fast as they are put out on the shelf, he said.

Other Tri-State-area pawn shops say video game systems can sell within a week.

This year's popular items

Video game systems and iPods are the items that have been turning around the quickest at DrPawn in Chambersburg, Pa., owner and manager Donnie Myers said. Jewelry and electronics such as camcorders, laptops and desktop computers also have been popular layaway items for the holidays, Myers said.

DrPawn doesn't pawn or give loans for items, because, Myers said, state restrictions make that kind of business difficult. Traditional pawn shops allow people to either sell an item for money or sell it for a loan, giving the seller a limited amount of time to buy the item back for an additional fee. If the seller doesn't buy the item back, it's made available for purchase by the store's shoppers.

But Myers said he does buy and sell items. DrPawn allows customers to buy on layaway, a practice that once was common in stores of all kinds across the country but had fallen out of favor. Layaways have increased dramatically this year and are higher than normal for the Christmas season, Myers said.

Still, people are spending less overall, Myers said. Instead of spending $400 to $600 at his shop, shoppers might spend $100.

Ground rules

Epple and Mason said dickering is part of shopping at a pawn shop, so don't think the sticker price has to be the final price.

Another tip for shoppers: Check the store's return policy. Officials at several pawn shops said they test the product in front of the buyer so the buyer knows it works. If a store clerk doesn't do this automatically, ask them to test it.

Classic Trade & Pawn's policy is to guarantee the product works when it is purchased, testing it for the consumer, Mason said. The store will not guarantee the durability of the product. If it works for a couple of weeks and then stops, the store will not take it back. That's a chance the consumer is taking, Mason said. However, he added, most of the time, if something is brought back, the consumer can get store credit.

Myers said he's extended the store's return policy to go through the week after Christmas so gifts can be returned.

Epple advised customers to be sure to get a receipt that has on it the name of the business and a detailed description of the product.

And if you're worried about whether you're buying stolen merchandise, check with the store to see if it has to report items it purchases to local authorities.

Shoppers can be pretty secure in knowing the items for sale at a pawn shop are not stolen. Many pawn shops have to report the items they buy from consumers to local authorities on a daily basis.

Washington County pawn shops report their items to Hagerstown Police, which keeps a database of the items, Detective Casey Yonkers said. Each week, police agencies from Washington County and Pennsylvania meet to share information about regional property crimes.

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