From kee–(at)– Sat Jul 19 20:41:02 CDT 1997
Article: 181875 of alt.guitar
From: “R.G. Keen”
Newsgroups: alt.guitar
Subject: Pawn bargaining, was Re:Pawn Shops Rippoffs?
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 1997 09:15:13 -0500
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Ken wrote:
> Alex Tobias wrote in article
> <5qlan5$d6--(at)>…
> > If anyone knows what the deal is with these places fill us in on
> > it….
> It’s all about bargaining…

Pawn shops are indeed all about bargaining. If you know what you want,
and know what it’s worth, you can sometimes get a good deal. If you
don’t know all about the item and worth, you can pay handsomely.

To a pawn shop, all items for sale are a chance to make money. From my
experiences, here are some tips. Take them or leave them, they’re just
my observations and bits of unconnected info I’ve picked up:

Pawns make most of their money on jewelry and guns, everything else is a
minor consideration.

The “minor considerations” like musical gear are priced high because
even one sale to an uninformed or impulse buyer makes more money than
ten hard-bargained sales at a modest markup. This is backwards from the
kind of high-volume sales that most retail works on. Pawns know that
they will at best have a couple of similar items, so they are targeted
at highest dollar per item, not cutting price to increase volume.

Pawns DO know a good guess at the used price of stuff. They are in the
business of getting good deals for themselves. They accumulate data on
used sales prices of lots of stuff, particularly vintage or collectible
items. If there is a printed guide to the sales prices of some set of
stuff, you can bet that the regional or national pawn chain store has a
copy under the counter or in the back. It is worth money to them to know
this information. Local pawns may or may not be as well informed.
National chains have computer networks (Hey!!!) and modems to exchange
info about items, and databases of what the last thing sold for. Local
pawns are usually one or two people who carry their “databases” around
in their heads.

Pawn inventory “ages”. Something that has been sitting there for a long
time is more amenable to bargaining.

Every object for sale carries a price tag. In addition to the price on
the tag, it carries either the cost the pawn paid for it or the lowest
price the owner will accept; this latter information is encoded so you
(the casual shopper) can’t read it, of course. This is often in the form
of the “whitehorse” code. A code word, maybe and probably so, different
>from shop to shop is used as a transposition cypher to replace numbers.

For instance, if “whitehorse” really was the code word, then the
cost/lowest price code would be encoded with w=1, h=2, i=3, etc.
Occasionally you will find other variants, using x or z or something
easy to remember to replace “0”, or a punctuation mark. You can usually
dope out the code starting from identifying the 0, then comparisons
between the prices/codes on a number of items.

Local pawns are cyclical. There is a regular cycle of poverty in many
cities, especially around military bases ond other major government
installaions, when folks pawn stuff (getting money from the pawn) just
before payday, and paying them off after payday. Just before payday when
lots of money is going out, inventory coming in, is the best time to
bargain with these shops. There is never a good time to bargain with a
national chain pawn, as the larger number of stores and wider dispersion
of shops allows them to average such cycles and move excess inventory to
other stores where it’s selling.

Knowing and being recognized by the proprietor of the shop may be a
help. If you are a “regular” and occasionally buy something as well as
talking to them sometimes, you have a better shot at bargaining for
something to keep you coming in. Maybe not, too. Depends on the store
and the people working there. Again, chains are less susceptible.

Your behavior is watched closely when you are in a pawn. This is not
only for security, but also for bargaining reasons. Good pawn operators
are keen (sorry…) observers of human activity for signs of interest in
items that may be useful in bargaining. They are professional

The Laws of the Souk apply. One of them is “He who disparages, buys.”
There are others. Not everything works or applies all the time. This is
very much like wrestling: you and the opponent, lots of time honored
tricks and ways to work it, but a truely open field for matching wits in
any given situation.

Happy hunting.


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