RALEIGH, N.C. — When the economy sours, one business usually sweetens -- pawn shops. It is the place many people go to turn prized possessions into cash and where others come looking for a bargain. One store owner is seeing a new class of clientele.
Jerry Batts is in the quick-cash business. In hard times like these, he has seen more people willing to put treasured trinkets at risk for short-term relief.
"They're starting to hurt for money and this is the quickest way to get cash," he said. "The pawn business doesn't thrive on the economy being bad, but it helps."
Pawn shops are heavily regulated in North Carolina with laws designed to stop the sale of stolen items and to protect people with bad credit from falling deeper into a hole of debt with high-interest loans. Still, the cash can come at a high price, up to 22 percent interest.
"If they don't come back within 90 days to pay an interest payment, then I have the option to put it out for sale," he said.
Some customers do not want a loan, but just a trade. Ann VanLith is newly unemployed, but her visit to the pawn shop has more to do with the season.
"Oh yeah, that's exactly what I need, some extra Christmas cash," she said.
Last year, the Triangle ranked 12th among 388 metro areas across the country in the average amount of outstanding debt owed per household. That data does not include mortgage debt.