Down at the pawn shop

Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours until redeemed

Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours until redeemed

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “if you would know the value of money, go try and borrow some.” The rest of the quotation goes: “For he that goes borrowing goes a sorrowing.”

For real sorrowing, though, try borrowing from a pawn shop. I was forced to do that some time ago when a windfall I was waiting for got delayed and I needed money for a journalism workshop I got into (and also, for food and being alive).

Having invested my money in experiences and frivolous purchases, I had nothing of real value to pawn except the laptop that I work on to make money. Still, it was a relatively new Toshiba worth at least P20,000 with the (actually worthless) Windows 8 OS installed.

The guy at the pawn shop disagreed. Based on their chart, the laptop that kept me fed was worth no more than P3,500. With interest collected in advance for some reason, the take came to around P2,900 with a dent on my dignity thrown in interest free.

The lady in front of me got even less than that for her gold wedding ring but pawners can’t be choosers, I guess. (It can be argued there is always a choice but the choice in this case is to not pawn your valuables at all. Maybe you can boil them to make some sort of thin soup.)

“I just need a little money get through the next few days,” I tell the guy, desperate for him to understand that I am not a meth addict who would soon be reduced to trading burgers and blow jobs for the next hit.

He didn’t really care but one must keep up appearances even–especially–at a corner pawn shop where housewives and college students line up with faded wedding bands and jail-broken phones.

The transaction took less than 30 minutes and then I was P2,900 richer (but poorer, on balance). I had expected to get low balled but the money was so much less than I thought I would get.

More depressing, though, was the lack of due diligence on the part of the pawn shop. I’d brought the laptop’s original packaging, the warranty card, and the receipt. I even brought the carrying case that came with it, just to show that the laptop was mine (or that I was a thief with OCD).

They didn’t even check those out. All they needed was for me to show two IDs and fill out a form. They also asked me to write down my user password in case I welsh on the loan and they have to sell it after 30 days. They didn’t even ask me if I owned the laptop, really.

I guess it doesn’t matter because they’ll come out winners whatever happens. Even if a pawned item turns out to be stolen and someone turns up to claim it, they’ll only be out a few thousand pesos. If it isn’t but the borrower fails to pay, they can recoup the loss at auction.

Corollary to that, the pawner comes out a loser whatever happens even if only because their concepts of value and worth are turned on their heads.

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