Things You Should Never Buy At A Pawn Shop

There was a time not so long ago when pawn shops were seen as being shady, scary places where no one would ever go unless they were truly desperate. Then along came reality TV, which gave birth to Pawn Stars, and now everybody thinks pawn shops are all staffed by jovial guys who are quick with a quip, if somewhat stingy with a buck.

The truth is, pawn shops are just another business. They buy used stuff, they sell used stuff. Kind of like consignment stores, only just a little bit different in that when you pawn something, you're not actually selling it outright. Instead, the cash you receive in return is technically a loan, and the item you pawn is collateral. Should you repay the loan (plus interest) within a specified time frame, you get your item back. If you cannot (or don't want to) repay and recoup the item, then after the set time has elapsed, it belongs to the pawn shop. They, in turn, re-sell that item for a profit.

If you come into a pawn shop as a seller (or pawner), then no, you're probably not going to get the best deal in the world. This, at least, Pawn Stars does not lie about, although their customers' disappointment is most likely scripted. If you come in to buy, well, you may get a bargain, but there are some items you're better off avoiding.

Electronics are always a risk at pawn shops

Money Management lists electronics among the top five things you should never buy at a pawn shop. In fact, four out of its top five picks are all electronics if you count cell phones. These, along with DVD and Blu-ray players, video game systems, and computers are all don't buys, because in many cases, all the pawn shop will do is to verify that these will power up. Should the electronics have any other hidden issues, it's buyer beware — as Money Management points out about gaming consoles, even new and unused ones can be buggy or defective, and this also applies to laptops, tablets, cell phones, TV sets... in fact, just about any type of electronic device you can think of. If you buy these items new or even refurbished, they come with a warranty, but if you buy them from a pawn shop, you're just out of luck.

Truemors also raises another issue regarding computers: These tend to require some type of registration upon first use which can subsequently be employed as a form of theft protection. If you should unwittingly happen to purchase an item that has been stolen and its true owner later reports the theft, there's a risk that this device could then be blocked.

Pawn shop vacuum cleaners can be gross

Money Crashers also lists electronic devices as three out of its four items they recommend you never purchase from a pawn shop, but the fourth item on their list is something you may not have considered: vacuum cleaners. It seems vacuum pawning is really a thing, which makes sense if you consider just how pricey some of the higher-end ones can be. No matter how low the price on a pawn shop vacuum cleaner, however, it's really not the safest (or healthiest) of purchases. As one of the members of the Friends Don't Let Friends Pay Full forum remarked, "You'd never know what they tried to get up through that thing." Eww, now we're imagining all kinds of nasty stuff all up in that bag... yuck.

Even if you don't end up buying Jeffrey Dahmer's old Hoover, however, there's still a danger of introducing somebody else's germs and allergens into your house. Not to mention the fact that a vacuum cleaner, like any other type of secondhand appliance, could have hidden defects that might not become apparent until you take it home and try to use it.

Pawn shop jewelry could be junk

Jewelry is one item that you're likely to find in just about any pawn shop you visit, and the display cases will probably include quite a selection of no longer needed engagement and wedding rings. It's definitely not a good idea to buy any of these — talk about kicking off your union with some seriously bad karma!

Jewelry, on the whole, can be a risky pawn shop purchase. A lot of cheap knock-offs and outright fakes may be sold — and priced — as if they were the real deal, and you'll be stuck with expensive junk you can't return. Brad's Deals warns that you'll need to be skilled at jewelry appraisal in order to be sure of getting a pawn shop bargain, and jewelry — in case you were wondering — was the one non-electronic item on Money Management's list of top five pawn shop items to avoid.