Calif. Pawn Businesses Booming

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Just how bad is this going to get? Complaining of high utility bills now in CA is like complaining about the cold in Minnessota in late October: "You aint seen nothin' yet!"

Hyperlink: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/nation/specials/energy/A88501-2001May28.html

California Crisis Calif. Pawn Businesses Booming

The Associated Press Monday, May 28, 2001; 6:11 PM

SAN FRANCISCO Rising energy bills have some Californians pawning their valuables to pay for power.

When an employee at an Oakland pawnshop asked N'Kechia Jackson last week how much she wanted for a gold necklace, Jackson had a specific amount in mind.

"I need $113.86," she said. "That's how much my PG&E bill is."

Jackson, who got $125 for the chain, said her monthly energy bill from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is like a credit card balance that never shrinks.

Bay Area pawnshop owners say similar scenes are becoming common as laid off dot-com workers and single mothers hock items like jewelry and laptop computers to pay rising power bills.

"That's the number one reason people have been coming in to pawn right now," said Bill Rager, assistant manager of Best Collateral Pawnbrokers in Oakland. "Basically, it's high-dollar items chains, watches, bracelets, engagement rings, wedding rings."

Pawnshops do not require credit checks, and they offer fast cash. They also allow people up to four months to repay a loan before their items are sold. Interest rates range from 5 percent to 20 percent.

"The sad thing about it is that I'd say 60 percent will lose their property because they can't afford to get it out," Rager said.

Another woman entered Rager's shop minutes after Jackson pawned her jewelry. The woman, who gave her name only as Sophia, used her children's Nintendo game set as collateral for a $65 loan.

The woman said she had scrambled since February to pay a $700 PG&E bill, and now had no money to cover her $100 phone bill.

"When they come home and see their Nintendo gone, they'll be upset," she said. "But my kids are understanding."

Copyright 2001, The Associated Press. Fair Use for Education and Research Use Only

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), May 29, 2001


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