MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Most people caught up in the Madoff scandal are mum about their losses, but there are some signs of financial stress, especially in Palm Beach, Florida, where many of the investors are based. Case in point, the Royal Pawn & Jewelry store in West Palm Beach. Levi Touger is the owner. And in a Wall Street Journal story today, he noted that he's fielded calls over the weekend from people offering to pawn a Ferrari, a Tiffany ring, and a yacht. Levi Touger joins me now by phone. And Mr. Touger, judging from these offers, this must not be a run-of-the-mill pawn shop. A yacht?
Mr. LEVI TOUGER (Proprietor, Royal Pawn & Jewelry Inc.): Well, we have any type of collateral as we can to help people in their financial struggles, we do it. Anything I could price, I'll try to help you and give you something for it.
NORRIS: And when you say give them something collateral, you're talking about cash.
Mr. TOUGER: Fast cash loans, absolutely. That's the motto of our business.
NORRIS: Have you had a chance to look at the yacht yet?
Mr. TOUGER: Oh, absolutely. We did that Sunday morning.
NORRIS: And is it worth your while to do this?
Mr. TOUGER: It was worth my while. I'm not going to discuss the name of the boat, obviously.
NORRIS: Oh, we wouldn't ask you. Yes?
Mr. TOUGER: But it's a beautiful boat worth over $500,000.
NORRIS: Now, we keep hearing a sort of jingle in the background. Is that the door bell or the sign that - the noise that goes off every time someone walks in and out of the store?
Mr. TOUGER: Yep.
NORRIS: So you really are rather busy right now.
Mr. TOUGER: We've been busy for the past year since the credit crunch has begun, regardless of this story.
NORRIS: Is there anything else that people are offering that lead you to believe that these may be calls from people that are caught up in the scandal?
Mr. TOUGER: Yes, I do have confirmation of the recent events in the past weekend in regards to the story.
NORRIS: If I may ask, what kinds of things are people seeking to exchange?
Mr. TOUGER: Well, people are pawning anything from high-end jewelry to low-end jewelry, specialty tennis racquets. I've gotten on this morning a 72-inch plasma screen which retails for about $12,000.
NORRIS: I imagine that someone in your line of work is a pretty good judge of character. Is there something that you see about the human condition when people call or come in, in these circumstances?
Mr. TOUGER: I came to this world from the world of trading, so I know the other side of the ball, too. Most people that come here are somewhat humbled. And I try to, you know, give them as much understanding and closure as to where we could stand on things, a realistic point of view. I mean, my biggest problem is when someone spends, you know, $30,000 on a flawless diamond, and I tell them that realistically in the wholesale market it's only worth $8,000, and I could prove it to him. And he's shocked.
NORRIS: Now, we in no way mean to make light of the situation, but pawnshops are not necessarily associated with the very rich. Is this a case where we could put that age-old question to the test? When things go bad, are the rich really different?
Mr. TOUGER: Well, firstly to state the fact, one of the most successful pawnshops in the country is in Beverly Hills. Need I say more?
NORRIS: There you go.
Mr. TOUGER: Are the rich different? They're not.
NORRIS: Levi Touger is the owner of the Royal Pawn & Jewelry store in West Palm Beach. Mr. Touger, thanks so much for talking to us.
Mr. TOUGER: My pleasure.
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