New pawnbrokers indication that many are finding it tough

Published 21/12/2006 | 00:11

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For the first time in a generation, theres a new pawn brokers in Dundalk and its existence is more than a hint that not everyone can splash the cash in the Celtic Tiger.Cash Converters in Church Street has seen a steady stream of people through its doors since it was opened a little over three weeks ago.The franchise owners, local businessman Eamonn Gallagher and Gerar

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Anne Campbell

For the first time in a generation, there’s a new pawn brokers in Dundalk and its existence is more than a hint that not everyone can splash the cash in the Celtic Tiger.

Cash Converters in Church Street has seen a steady stream of people through its doors since it was opened a little over three weeks ago.

The franchise owners, local businessman Eamonn Gallagher and Gerard Reynolds, say there is a significant minority of people who are in what the economists call ‘the underbanked society’.

For one reason or another, they may have difficulty opening bank accounts, they may not have regular employment or might be living off social welfare.

Whatever the problem, Cash Converters provides an outlet where cheques can be cashed, electrical and graded goods can be bought and sold and jewellery can be pawned to raise money quickly and cheaply.

All too often, according to money watchdogs, people on tight incomes are herded into the path of unscrupulous loan sharks, who charge exorbitant interest rates just because they can.

Those without bank accounts, poor credit ratings or no proof of income are forced to pay the shockingly high interest rates because people in desperate need of cash have nowhere else to go.

Cash Converters, by contrast, offers cash at seven-and-a-half percent interest rate. It gives people the opportunity to pawn jewellery or electrical equipment in order to raise money quickly.

It’s a service that hasn’t been available in Dundalk since the last pawn shop closed in the 1980s.

Eamonn says people need cash for all sorts of reasons, but demand is particularly high at this time of year.

He said, “People are under pressure financially at Christmas time and we have already had a good few through the doors selling and pawning items for money”.

Pawn shops evoke images of Victoriana, where sharp-nosed, mean-set pawn brokers greedily eyed gold jewellery through the lenses of their magnifying glasses. Not any more.

It is actually very difficult to lose a piece to the pawn broker nowadays. Eamonn said, “People who bring in jewellery are given a certain amount of cash depending on the value of the piece.

“They have six months to pay back the money and then after that period, we write to them a number of times to ask them what they want to do.

“After that, we have to go to a government office in Dublin to say that we have tried to contact the person without success and then they have to give us permission to sell the piece.

“In the vast majority of cases, people buy the jewellery back because it is of great sentimental value to them”.

Cash Converters is also an Aladdin’s Cave for those looking for a bargain. TVs, DVDs, CDs and other electrical equipment are for sale at knock-down prices.

But how is it ensured that the goods bought and pawned are not stolen? A strict security regime is in place to ensure that ‘hot’ items don’t get through.

Eamonn said, “If someone comes in to sell us something, we take their picture and ask for up to four forms of ID, including driving licence or passport.

“We keep all the transactions on file and if it turns out that something isn’t right, we pass the information to the Gardai.

“In fact, it would be easier to sell something hooky in the Garda station than it would be to do it here”.

There is one golden rule, however, that Eamonn sticks to no matter what - everyone who comes into the store will be treated with respect.

Sometimes clients are coming in with strenuous personal circumstances going on and they need to raise some cash.



It’s not easy for anyone to part with a much-loved piece of jewellery but sometimes that’s all they have left and the cash they get for it will could make all the difference.





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