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Profitt Report: New website takes the guesswork out of pawning, selling, buying

More than 30 million people rely on pawn shops according to the National Pawnbrokers Association, but finding the best price can be a challenge. Photo credit: Ben LaLonde

More than 30 million people rely on pawn shops according to the National Pawnbrokers Association, but finding the best price can be a challenge.

"It's all about knowledge, providing them with the information they need to make educated decisions," said Jonathan Polter, co-founder of PawnGuru, an Ann Arbor-based startup, aiming to take the guesswork out of pawning, selling and buying.

Polter explains, finding the best price for an item often involves a lot of leg work, and with limited time to compare prices, people are likely to go with the first offer. Polter and his co-founder, Jordan Birnholtz, took a few items to several pawn shops on Eight Mile Road in Detroit.

"We even took this necklace, one shop gave us $50 and another offered $1,050," Birnholtz said.

He and Polter saw a gap: consumers need this information quickly, most own a smart phone, but majority of pawn shops aren't using that kind of technology. That's how PawnGuru was born.

"It's really straight forward, all you have to do is put in what you're trying to sell, your name, your email address and zip code and at the top you're choosing whether you're trying to sell an item or pawn an item or just buy one," Birnholtz said.

Once you've explained what you're pawning or selling, the offer goes to shops that are signed up for the service in your area. If they're interested, they'll contact you.

"You can actually negotiate with each of them," Birnholtz said.

Pawn shops that have signed up say the service is bringing in customers that they might not have been able to reach otherwise. Shelby Berger, co-owner of Main Street Pawn Shop in downtown Pontiac, said PawnGuru customers are almost exclusively brand new to his shop.

"It starts off real informal, they send us a couple of messages, we get back to them," Berger said.

Several Flint-area shops have signed up with PawnGuru, along with a handful of others throughout mid-Michigan. The service is available nation-wide.

The Profitt Report wants to hear from you - please send your consumer questions and story ideas to ProfittReport@WSMH.com

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