Bruno Megaro (59, left) and Stefan Gautschi (57) run a pawn shop in Grenchen SO.
Samuel WalderRingier journalism student
A bike, jewellery, pictures or mobile phones. The operators of the deposit box in Grenchen SO accept almost everything. The two managers Bruno Megaro (59) and Stefan Gautschi (57) opened their pawn shop a good seven years ago. Now inflation is playing into their hands more than ever.
Blick is sitting at a table with the two men in a back room of the shop. Her office is next door. Unauthorized persons are not allowed in there. Because all their money is in this room, according to the two. Megaro sips his coffee and begins to speak: “We’re also feeling the price increase.” This is reflected in increased demand. “The worse things are for people, the better our business is,” say the two.
After Corona, people still had money because they could save. “Now, with the rising prices, more and more people are coming who want to pawn something.”
Blick has a representative survey by the comparison portal Comparis, which was carried out for Blick at the end of 2022. “Four out of a hundred people want to go to the pawnbroker because the prices have gone up,” it says. There are no comparable values with previous years.
Striking, according to Comparis financial expert Michael Kuhn (43): “Price increases are driving people from all walks of life to the pawnbrokers.” Above all, men up to the age of 65 are considering depositing jewellery, clothing and other valuables in exchange for cash. Also interesting: According to Kuhn, more people with a high level of education and households with children plan to go to the pawnbroker.
That’s how a pawn shop works
The concept of a pawn shop is simple. “Someone who needs money comes to us and shows us an item that they don’t necessarily need,” explains Megaro from the deposit box. The two then appraise the value of the item. Customer and pawnbroker agree on a sum. “However, the sum must be less than the actual value of the object.” Otherwise you can no longer sell it in case of doubt.
“We pay the agreed sum,” says Megaro. From then on, the customer has three months to repay the borrowed money plus interest. If the customer doesn’t come back, Megaro and Gautschi give the person a new deadline. If the customer doesn’t come at all, the item automatically belongs to the pawn shop. “In such a case, we try to sell the property,” says Megaro.
Pawnshops offer alternatives to bank loans
“Many want to pawn gold and silver jewelry,” says Megaro. “We always have to keep the current price in mind.” Otherwise they pay out an incorrect sum. In addition, the two must constantly keep an eye on the gold market. Because of world events, the market is constantly changing.
“Mostly it’s amounts between 100 and 1000 francs that we issue.” That’s fast money. In contrast to today, in the past it was mostly people who lived on the subsistence level and still had to pay bills at the end of the month.
The pawnshop is often a welcome alternative to the bank for these people. “Instead of taking out a loan, they come to us for quick money and don’t necessarily have to pay it back,” says Megaro. He confirms the Comparis study: “We come from all walks of life.” Business people, upper, middle, lower class – “it’s all there,” says Megaro.
Hardly anyone takes the jewelry back
And how does a pawn shop make its money? An example: A woman brings a gold chain. “We’ll give her 500 francs for that,” says Megaro. The pawn shop has an interest rate of 3.5 percent on this 500 francs. “After three months, the woman has to pay back the 500 francs including 3.5 percent monthly interest. That makes 552.50 francs. »
Nowadays, however, rarely does anyone come to collect the gold jewellery. “We melt down 80 percent of the gold jewelry,” says Gautschi. This is a better way to sell gold.
The two pawnbrokers are confident about the future: “We think that pawnshops will come up again in the next few years.” That should depend on whether inflation stays at high levels for a longer period of time.