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Economic Crunch Impacting Pawn Shop Business

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Associated Press

MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma -- As Oklahomans continue to feel the pinch of the economic downturn, pawnbrokers say they're seeing an increase in the number of people selling items to help ease the cash crunch.

Pawnbrokers in Oklahoma City and Muskogee say they're having to be more selective about merchandise they buy, as several reported an increase in the number of pawned items customers fail to buy back.

Bob Callison, owner of Bob's Pawn in Muskogee, said he's seen the number of customers who reclaim pawned items drop from near 70 percent to 50 percent in recent months.

"People have good intentions, but sometimes they just can't (come up with the money)," he said.

Adrian Cutler, who owns Adrian's Pawn Shop in south Oklahoma City, said he's seen an increasing number of people selling off work tools.

"I'm starting to see a lot more tools being pawned because work is slow," Cutler said. "This is a real blue-collar, working-class neighborhood."

Cutler said he's also seen his pickup ratio on pawned items drop dramatically in recent months, while at the same time his sales have declined.

"We're pawning more than normal, but we're not selling as much," he said. "For some people, it's a matter of picking up their DVD player or eating for the week."

Bobby Yandell says he sees the same problem at his Bock's Pawn in Muskogee, a business he's operated for 30 years, whenever economic times are tough.

You get a lot of merchandise in, Yandell said, "but who are you going to sell it to?"

"Everybody wants to pawn something, but if they're out of work, how are they going to pick it up?" he asked. "A lot of people are just concentrating on buying groceries right now."

Steve Moore at U.S. Pawn in Muskogee said his business has picked up since the economy got worse. He, too, said the pickup rate isn't as good as it used to be, saying some people who intend to come back get in a bind and just can't pick up their merchandise.

"We take every deal on its own merits," he said. "I'm being more cautious looking at every deal a little harder than I used to."

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