If reality television has taught us anything, it’s that pawn shops are environments where you really need to walk in knowing exactly what you’re doing. If you present someone with a priceless old family antique and get an offer of $25, you need to be able to think quickly in order to stop yourself from getting ripped off. However, according to a new hidden camera study, even arming yourself with all the knowledge in the world may not make any difference. It was revealed that many pawn shops treat men and women very differently, to the point where many female customers found themselves getting shortchanged by up to 60 percent or more!
Hidden Cameras: Pawn Shops in Action
In 2016, a social experiment was conducted at various pawn shop locations in the famous Diamond District in New York City. Jacob Worth, a jewelry professional with years of experience under his belt, sponsored the experiment with the help of his company, “I Want What It’s Worth.”
The setup was simple: While wearing hidden cameras, Mr. Worth and a woman would take the same diamond ring into the same pawn shops at different times to see what they would be offered based on their gender. For the record, Mr. Worth’s company valued the ring at a cool $18,000.
At the first location, the woman was offered $6,000 for the ring — not necessarily terrible when you consider that pawn shops naturally lowball most offers in an effort to increase markup as much as possible during the resale process. Later on at the same location, however, Mr. Worth was offered $10,000 for the exact same piece of jewelry.
As with any good experiment, a single test is never enough to truly prove or disprove a hypothesis. Still wearing hidden cameras, Mr. Worth and his female counterpart targeted a second location with the same piece of jewelry. Mr. Worth was offered $11,500. The woman, on the other hand, was again offered $6,000 — and dinner later that evening. The pawn shop owner estimated that a fancy dinner in New York City would cost anywhere between $500 to $1,000, taking the true value of her offer up to around $7,000.
Mr. Worth was not offered the possibility of a dinner date.
Things were less interesting at the final location in that there were no bonuses offered to sweeten the deal, but the price discrepancy became even more apparent. Mr. Worth was offered $13,500 for the ring, which is actually incredibly reasonable when you consider what he already knew to be the fair market value. The woman, on the other hand, was offered just $5,000.
Once the experiment had been completed, it was effectively proved that women were given offers that were on average 59 percent less than what men were offered. Keep in mind that Mr. Worth did not walk into any pawn shop and immediately present himself as a jewelry expert; all he had to do was be a man.
To be fair, the woman was able to negotiate a few of her offers to higher values — but not by much. In the end, the woman’s final offers averaged about 62 percent of what Mr. Worth was offered in the same locations. The team hypothesized that pawn shop owners would assume that the woman was not the one who had originally purchased the ring, which could be a contributing factor in some of the lower offers. However, gender on its own absolutely played a role, too.
In the end, studies like these serve to underline the importance that hidden cameras play in our society. Yes, hidden cameras are great for things such as keeping an eye out on nannies while they care for your children or making sure that nobody steals anything from your home when you’re not around. But they also have another major benefit: one of honesty. You can learn a lot about people by the way that they treat people when they think nobody else is watching, which this particular experiment went a long way toward proving.