Valentine

Pop Goes the Weasel

Pop Goes the Weasel. Not just a silly song about a monkey chasing a weasel, apparently. Some claim it's Cockney rhyming slang for pawning your coat. Coat rhymes with stoat, weasel another word for stoat.

I learned this when Jessie Goldstein and I went to profile pawn shop owner Dave MacArthur. When I was up in Maine this summer, I learned that pawn shops up there were seeing a huge increase in business, people coming in, pawning or selling items to get money for gas and to pay the upcoming winter fuel bills. This was when the price of oil was going through the roof.

I made some calls and found out this was the case with pawn shops across the country. Since March 2008, owners were seeing a record increase in loans... and a lot of it directly traceable to the price of oil.

Pop Goes the Weasel. Not just about a monkey chasing a weasel, apparently. Some say it's Cockney rhyming slang for pawning your coat. Coat rhymes with stoat, weasel another word for stoat.

I learned this when I went to profile pawn shop owner Dave MacArthur. When I was up in Maine this summer, I learned that pawn shops up there were seeing a huge increase in business, people coming in, pawning or selling items to get money for gas and to pay the upcoming winter fuel bills. This was when the price of oil was going through the roof.

I made some calls and found out this was the case with pawn shops across the country. Since March 2008, owners were seeing a record increase in loans... and a lot of it directly traceable to the price of oil.

But by the time I edited this video — a month after I shot it — gas had dropped and so had my news hook. But people in this fringe economy are still scraping by, and the video stands as a window into their lives.

MacArthur's take on the pawn industry is, make it feel like a regular store, make it welcoming, and his store absolutely has a friendly vibe to it. We had a great time there. But at the same time, these are people who don't have anywhere else to turn. And he knows this. He told me, "We make a living off of their hardships," so the least he could do was treat them with respect.

My other thought was, pawn shops are another great way to recycle. They're a bit like estate sales, selling second hand, but good condition items. Just make sure to test the electronics in the store. As for pawning an item, he does charge 20 percent interest.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

About