01/18/10 — Workin' It - Just a helping hand

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Workin' It - Just a helping hand

By Laura Collins
Published in News on January 18, 2010 1:53 PM

The Job: Pawnbroker

The Company: Swop Shop

The Location: Goldsboro

A Goldsboro man just needed $30 to get him through the end of the month.

After being laid off from his job last year, he enrolled full-time in community college, trying to prepare for a second career since his first had ended after more than 10 years on the job.

"I'm an IT student. My computer is being worked on, and I need $30 to get it back so I can do the work for my classes," he told me and handed over his TV he brought from home.

He ended up getting the loan and will have up to 90 days to repay it and get his TV back. His relief was instantly noticeable.

Before going to Swop Shop to work for the day, I thought it would be full of price haggling and authenticity checking, but the job turned out to be a bit more sobering. The pawn shop seems to have a vital role in this area and this economy, helping many people make ends meet and get through the month.

"Not everyone can walk into a bank and get a loan or withdraw $100 from the ATM," employee Dennis Olgebee said. "And not everyone wants to ask their friends or family for money. That's what we're here for."

Olgebee, who they call MacGyver because of his vast knowledge of nearly everything that comes into the store, is in charge of pricing the items. His basic rule of the thumb is a used item is worth about a third to a quarter of what the item would cost new, which is how he determines loan amounts.

"When we get stumped on something he's the go-to man here on the pawn counter," manager Ronald Bailey said.

Bailey and Olgebee have both been working more than 30 years at the Swop Shop, a place that seems incapable of getting rid of people.

Co-manager Johnny Carr and filing department manager Bill Hicks have both been there more than 20 years, and several other employees are working their way toward that 20-year mark, including 16-year veteran Frances Mandeville who has developed a wide customer base in the years she has been there. Each one seems to have their own specialty, which makes customers happy knowing they are talking to someone who knows what they are talking about.

Ray Holmes works in the music section of the store, plays in the band "Avalanche" and gets a kick out of calling me a "pawn star." Music is his passion, and you can see that come through when someone comes in to look at the wide variety of instruments the pawn shop carries. For a student looking to learn more about an instrument, it may not be financially feasible for their family to spend hundreds of dollars on a new violin. That's where Swop Shop comes in.

"Most of the time things are going to be cheaper here than anywhere else," Bailey said. "It's used, but it's going to serve the same purpose."

In addition to instruments, and electrical appliances, the Swop Shop also has guns, furniture, computers, jewelry, DVDs, video games, tools, fishing poles and speakers, among other things.

Ingrid South, who's been at the store for five years, said the best part of the job is the people.

"You meet a lot of great people working here," she said. "And sometimes you get to help some of them."