The pawn shop business nationwide is seeing record numbers this year, and according to a recent report, part of the reason is that shopping at pawn shops has gained more acceptance because consumers more than ever are looking for a bargain.
When you walk into the Wright Pawn and Jewelry Shop off Westheimer in southwest Houston, the store looks more like a high-end boutique than a pawn shop.
"We have Channel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, David Yurman, Tiffany, Cartier, David Webb -- all the big names -- and they are a fraction of retail," said Pamela Wright with the Wright Pawn Shop.
"It's a real good place to shop and you couldn't ask for a better atmosphere," shopper Ron Fuqua said.
We found Waterford crystal, expensive china, fur coats, designer jewelry and designer accessories, like sunglasses, for more than 60 percent off the retail price. For the guys, we found guitars, watches and even a Harley.
So what about the prices?
We found a John Hardy hinged cuff bracelet that retails for $1,900 for $1,100; a Louis Vuitton messenger bag costs that costs $1,470 at the boutique costs for $650 at the pawn shop; and we also found an 8-carat diamond tennis bracelet just appraised for $17,000 for $7,500.
But if that is out of your price range, we found silver bangles that start at $20 and rings that start at $15.
"Even though we have a lot of designer things, we have items in all price ranges," Wright said.
Over in Katy, the Mason Road Jewelry and Loan was just voted best pawn shop.
"This is a great place to find great deals," shopper Amos Benning said.
This store is set up like a typical pawn shop. From TVs to tires, golf clubs, to guns, prices start at 50 percent off the retail price.
But before buy anything at a pawn shop, there are some things you must know: don't ever pay the sticker price.
"When you come into a pawn shop, normally all prices are negotiable; for sure in our shop they are negotiable," Wright said.
Another tip: cash is king.
"Cash will get you a better price because the merchant doesn't have to pay the credit card fee," Wright said.
And finally, if you don't have cash, how about trading your gold or silver? This solid silver plate could be swapped for a new bracelet, or your gold scraps can net you a fine piece of jewelry.
When it comes to the return and exchange policy, be sure you check with the pawn shop because it does vary from store to store.
If jewelry, diamonds, or valuable stones are involved, be sure you know what you are buying and insist for some kind of guaranty or warranty -- the same as you would get if you were buying at a retailer.