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Thread: Pawn shop ethics

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Default Pawn shop ethics

    I enjoy watching a show called Pawn Stars, which is a reality show about a large, family-owned pawn shop in Vegas. Basically, the show consists of people bringing in interesting items, and the shop figures out an appraisal of the worth, and then the negotiating process for a sale price. I've read comments on the internet that the guys are kind of sleezy, they don't give fair prices, etc. etc. Which...I guess you'd have to see the show if you haven't, to judge that for yourself. I think part of it is a perception created by bias. The guys seem a little like biker dudes, and they aren't super refined (though, IMO, they seem like decent people).

    Anyway, I was watching an episode last night which got me to thinking about the negotiating part. A guy brought in an old book that he said was once owned by Isaac Newton. They brought in an expert, and turns out, it had at one time been in Newton's personal library. He said it was worth $20K. The shop owner offered $5K, they bargained to $7K, and that was the deal. Both parties seemed happy. But did the pawnshop act ethically in offering such a low price?

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    I put this in the wrong forum. Moving it to the Crucible.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    How was it not ethical? Clearly the seller could not get close to the $20k price it was appraised at as he ended up at a Pawn Shop.

    Maybe the seller should have tried an actual auction house, a dealer in antiques or even E-Bay. Maybe he did for all we know. But in any case the Pawn Shop operators acting in their own interest as they should.

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    my god, he's full of stars... OneCentStamp's avatar
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    So basically, they're looking to sell that book at some future date for about a 300% markup. Pawn shops can't stay in business if they buy items for much more than 1/3 of what they can sell them for. I don't think it's unethical; that's just retail.
    "You laugh at me because I'm different; I laugh at you because I'm on nitrous."

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    I think an interesting counter-part to Pawn Stars is the new show, Auction Kings, set at an auction house in Atlanta. On Pawn Stars, the expert often says "At auction, you might get....". The experts on Auction Kings say the same kind of thing, the difference being that you then get to see what actually happens at the auction. The actual selling price is often WAY below the expert's estimate. So leaving aside anything else, I don't think the pawn brokers can be faulted for not taking the estimated price too seriously.

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Is it taking advantage, though, of the fact that the pawn shop might have contacts to sell unusual items that the seller doesn't have access to or knowledge of? I mean, if the pawn shop is really the only way they know to sell something, or selling it to someone else would be extremely difficult for them, should that be a consideration for the shop?

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    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    I'd wondered if that might be the case, Rube.

    The pawn broker doesn't have an ethical obligation to make an offer anywhere near the estimated value of something, particularly because he has to purchase things under value or else he won't make a profit. I'd think ethics would come into play if a pawn broker was trying to mislead people, by telling them that the estimated value was different than it really is. Obviously, since that show brings in experts that isn't as likely to happen there.

  8. #8
    For whom nothing is written. Oliveloaf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by OneCentStamp View post
    So basically, they're looking to sell that book at some future date for about a 300% markup. Pawn shops can't stay in business if they buy items for much more than 1/3 of what they can sell them for. I don't think it's unethical; that's just retail.
    Like the bald guy on the show always says, "Now I gotta find someone who wants this." Having something "worth" $20,000 is meaningless until you find someone for whom it is a $20K item. The shop now has $7000 in a piece of merchandise that may sit there for months, if not years.
    "I won't kill for money, and I won't marry for it. Other than that, I'm open to just about anything."

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Oliveloaf View post
    Quote Originally posted by OneCentStamp View post
    So basically, they're looking to sell that book at some future date for about a 300% markup. Pawn shops can't stay in business if they buy items for much more than 1/3 of what they can sell them for. I don't think it's unethical; that's just retail.
    Like the bald guy on the show always says, "Now I gotta find someone who wants this." Having something "worth" $20,000 is meaningless until you find someone for whom it is a $20K item. The shop now has $7000 in a piece of merchandise that may sit there for months, if not years.
    Here's the thing...he does always say that, and in most cases he's got a point. But this is a book that was owned by Sir Isaac Newton, there's got to be a market, but certainly it's esoteric, and I for one wouldn't know how to go about finding that market. He might, though, given his experience in the business for the last 25 years or whatever. So, is it taking advantage, given that he knows where to go to sell it and the seller doesn't?

  10. #10
    For whom nothing is written. Oliveloaf's avatar
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    True,

    But as in the case of this book, the seller doesn't have to sell. He KNOWS that there's a market for the book, and he's free to exploit it.
    "I won't kill for money, and I won't marry for it. Other than that, I'm open to just about anything."

    -Jim Rockford

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Sarahfeena View post
    Is it taking advantage, though, of the fact that the pawn shop might have contacts to sell unusual items that the seller doesn't have access to or knowledge of? I mean, if the pawn shop is really the only way they know to sell something, or selling it to someone else would be extremely difficult for them, should that be a consideration for the shop?
    Well on old books at least they are notoriously hard to sell unless it is something special and popular. A first Edition Hobbit will sell for $20,000 or more with ease but a random book from a famous person's bookshelf needs to have something more to it. The name Newton will drive some interest but he doesn't not have the fanatical fan base. So I would be surprised if the pawn broker ever gets $20k, it might takes years.

    Quote Originally posted by Sarahfeena View post
    Quote Originally posted by Oliveloaf View post
    Quote Originally posted by OneCentStamp View post
    So basically, they're looking to sell that book at some future date for about a 300% markup. Pawn shops can't stay in business if they buy items for much more than 1/3 of what they can sell them for. I don't think it's unethical; that's just retail.
    Like the bald guy on the show always says, "Now I gotta find someone who wants this." Having something "worth" $20,000 is meaningless until you find someone for whom it is a $20K item. The shop now has $7000 in a piece of merchandise that may sit there for months, if not years.
    Here's the thing...he does always say that, and in most cases he's got a point. But this is a book that was owned by Sir Isaac Newton, there's got to be a market, but certainly it's esoteric, and I for one wouldn't know how to go about finding that market. He might, though, given his experience in the business for the last 25 years or whatever. So, is it taking advantage, given that he knows where to go to sell it and the seller doesn't?
    You are over-estimating the market in all likelihood. Antique books sell for disappointing amount, I know I have some. 18 years ago I almost bought a 1st Ed Hobbit for $3000 and I wish I had, it was a great investment. Since then the price sky-rocketed. But I was on my honeymoon in Scotland and $3000 was not a small amount of our savings at the time.

    Quote Originally posted by Oliveloaf View post
    True,

    But as in the case of this book, the seller doesn't have to sell. He KNOWS that there's a market for the book, and he's free to exploit it.
    In the end this over-rides everything else. No fraud involved so I won't begrudge the Pawn Shop guy a bargain if it was one.

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    Oliphaunt The Original An Gadaí's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Sarahfeena View post
    Is it taking advantage, though, of the fact that the pawn shop might have contacts to sell unusual items that the seller doesn't have access to or knowledge of? I mean, if the pawn shop is really the only way they know to sell something, or selling it to someone else would be extremely difficult for them, should that be a consideration for the shop?
    The advantage, in a sense, is their business model. Expertise and contacts take time to build up.

    Caveat venditor as people rarely say, but like the cash 4 gold stuff, I don't think businesses where a dealer buys stuff off the public is ever scamming the public, because ultimately the seller can decide not to sell, they can decide to go out and gain the expertise to sell the item themselves for a "fairer" price, but they won't more than likely and it might even be counterproductive if they spend enough time/resources gaining that expertise.

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Perhaps I'm making a half-hearted argument here, cause I tend to agree with you guys. Got into a spirited discussion with someone about it, though, and thought maybe I was misguided.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Was it an IRL person?

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    No, I don't know anyone that radical in real life (I don't think?), but I post sometimes on a board that's kinda insane, and there's a bunch of radical types on it. They seem to consider most generation of profit to be inherently exploitative.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Ah, so true whackjob liberals. The kind I basically can't stand as a group.

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    The Queen Zuul's avatar
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    Oh, thank God, Sarah. I was worried you were turning your back on capitalism.

    It is good to play devil's advocate and try to figure out where a perspective like that comes from, though.
    So now they are just dirt-covered English people in fur pelts with credit cards.

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Ha ha. Well, I guess they are, but I was trying to see if there was some validity to their argument in this case. I think part of their issue is that many of these people are probably down on their luck, so they have limited options.

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    aka ivan the not-quite-as-terrible ivan astikov's avatar
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    If you'd had any experience with the UK's Cash Generator chain of stores, you'd realise that they have no qualms about profiting from the miseries of the less fortunate. This is a company that wouldn't exist, but for the hardships of its customer base.
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zuul View post
    Oh, thank God, Sarah. I was worried you were turning your back on capitalism.

    It is good to play devil's advocate and try to figure out where a perspective like that comes from, though.
    I missed this post before. You know I would never go commie, Zuul! But even beyond playing devil's advocate, I have been thinking lately about ethical lines and where to draw them.

    Quote Originally posted by Ivan
    If you'd had any experience with the UK's Cash Generator chain of stores, you'd realise that they have no qualms about profiting from the miseries of the less fortunate. This is a company that wouldn't exist, but for the hardships of its customer base.
    Oh, I have no doubt that there are crooked operations, but I'm not sure profiting from miseries is necessarily evil. People wouldn't be pawning their treasures in the first place if they didn't have to, and giving them a place to do it isn't a bad thing. Ripping them off is, maybe. Charging too much interest, on the other hand, is dicier. Here in the US payday loan places are much more reprehensible in that regard than pawn shops. On the other hand, if a person is in desperate need of cash, and the only way to get it is to find someone who will take a high-risk loan, and the only people who give high-risk loans have to charge huge amounts of interest in order to cover all the people who default... I'm not sure that's inherently evil, either. It's a tough issue, for sure.

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    aka ivan the not-quite-as-terrible ivan astikov's avatar
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    I wouldn't go as far as to describe such ventures as evil, but they do seem a little heartless. Still, if these business owners had hearts, where would their shareholder's profits be?
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ivan astikov View post
    I wouldn't go as far as to describe such ventures as evil, but they do seem a little heartless. Still, if these business owners had hearts, where would their shareholder's profits be?
    Sounds like you're dealing with a chain, that does tend to increase the heartless factor. Over here I believe most if not all pawn shops and independent. So it is a different dynamic and they have there own headaches without a corporate level above them to help them through the lean times.

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    Aged Turtle Wizard Clothahump's avatar
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    Pawn Stars is on the History Channel. What the hell does it have to do with history in any way? Yeah, I know that question can be asked about a lot of things on that channel, but at least they make the effort to be historical.
    Political correctness will be the death of our country.

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    Oliphaunt The Original An Gadaí's avatar
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    Also does pawn sound enough like porn in American english for the pun to work? "Once a pawn a time"

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The Original An Gadaí View post
    Also does pawn sound enough like porn in American english for the pun to work? "Once a pawn a time"
    It is close enough to be an obvious pun but far enough to offend only the most delicate so it works well in the US too.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    Quote Originally posted by The Original An Gadaí View post
    Also does pawn sound enough like porn in American english for the pun to work? "Once a pawn a time"
    It is close enough to be an obvious pun but far enough to offend only the most delicate so it works well in the US too.
    I wish they would give it a rest, though. There are now also shows called "Hardcore Pawn" and "Pawn Queens".

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    Quote Originally posted by The Original An Gadaí View post
    Also does pawn sound enough like porn in American english for the pun to work? "Once a pawn a time"
    It is close enough to be an obvious pun but far enough to offend only the most delicate so it works well in the US too.
    I wish they would give it a rest, though. There are now also shows called "Hardcore Pawn" and "Pawn Queens".
    I don't watch any of these, so I was not aware there were multiple shows. I probably in my vague awareness thought they were all the same show.
    Last edited by Sarahfeena; 02 Mar 2011 at 08:08 AM. Reason: Fixed quote tags

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    aka ivan the not-quite-as-terrible ivan astikov's avatar
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    I'll stick to my Cash In The Attic, thank you.
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    So, yesterday my wife walks into the living room while my kid is watching TV. She notices some sleazy looking characters on the screen, and asks what he's watching.

    He responds "Hardcore Pawn".

    There is momentary stress until she figures out what he actually said.

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    I see all Pawn Brokers as a necessary evil that can work for you or against you depending on your financial situation. The fact that they are flourishing is a good indicator that our economy isn't doing so well. I personally have benefited from them buying goods cheaper than in most other situations. I also understand that my purchase was someone's loss. They're all pretty much the same. You have to visit regularly as the stock changes fast.
    Last edited by CatInASuit; 01 Jul 2015 at 08:03 AM. Reason: Ahem - no advertising please

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Kind of an interesting thread. Firstly, I didn't know actual people watched these kinds of shows. And, yadda yadda, interesting refreshers about basic UG economics abound.

    The pawn shop owners/clerks I've known IRL seem to regard themselves as a mix of small shop-owners and as providing a valuable community service. Like they're firemen or cops or something and just trying to cover their budgets.

    Pretty odd group of people, IMHO and from my own admittedly-limited experience. No, I haven't bought stuff like a wedding ring or guns from a pawn shop, just musical equipment and shit like that, and browsed around more than any person should do.

    Yeah, they're the same as those flea-market kiosk people, just on a (slightly) larger scale. Nothing wrong with them -- besides who the fuck cares about some Newton book? Apparently not too many people. I'm surprised Mister Man offered so much for a piece of garbage. Whatever, I guess he's a gambler.
    “I just try to make as much as I can with the time that I have.” --Jay Reatard

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    Oliphaunt Jizzelbin's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    Quote Originally posted by The Original An Gadaí View post
    Also does pawn sound enough like porn in American english for the pun to work? "Once a pawn a time"
    It is close enough to be an obvious pun but far enough to offend only the most delicate so it works well in the US too.
    Depends on where one is from. I completely disagree that it's an obvious pun, but sure, lots of places out East, that works just great. It's just that not everybody sounds like Mayor Quimby in the US -- some of us abide by the British historical standard from as late as the XIX C and insist that our Keats and Byron scans with correct consonance and assonance.
    “I just try to make as much as I can with the time that I have.” --Jay Reatard

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