As you will know, it was once rather famously said that, “A week is a long time in politics”. Well let me tell you, a month is a long time in pawnbroking. Just past half way through February 2015, the Editor received a phone call late in the day from our alarm monitoring company saying “There’s been an alarm activation in your Golders Green store”.
I called the store. Our Manager Mee Mee answered “We’ve been robbed, we’ve been robbed!” My heart sank. “Are you ok? Are the other staff ok?” – “Yes, yes” beamed Mee Mee down the phone – something I thought odd, “The Police have already arrested them outside – they are laying on top of them right now!”
Thoughts cascaded in my brain faster than Usain Bolt on his way past the crowds at a JD Sports shoe clearance sale. Firstly, thank heavens the girls are ok. Secondly, thank God the robbers have been apprehended, thirdly “laying on top of them?”!
I’m a liberal minded adult, but even I couldn’t understand some of my thoughts at the time.
Anyway, bad news at the robbery, fantastic news at everything else. After dealing with the usual administration and due diligence and care for the staff, Directors attended the shop the following morning to see everyone was genuinely ok and to attain fuller details about the incident and see what damage had been done to the store.
What had happened was that two robbers (one just recently out of detention – bless the uncorrected soul, he probably needed a longer holiday at the taxpayers expense to have learnt the error of his ways) had pulled up on the pavement on a large motorbike. His accomplice jumped off whilst the rider backed the bike up – before full throttle on and hurtling forward, slamming it through our front door. This was irritating in the extreme as in fact, the door was already open for business, so he didn’t even have to have knocked. Not the sharpest pencil this one. Anyway, once the motorbike battering ram had smashed, or rather, pushed open an already open door, his large accomplice shoved past him on his way into the store to rob it. Now, apart from that this was on several of our hi-tech CCTV cameras, apart from the fact that the alarm that goes direct through to local Police, was pressed as soon as the tyre rubber was kissing the letterbox and finally, the fact that the permanent toughened security screens keep the staff safe, this was still a very unnerving moment for the staff.
Hallelujah, before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’, not one, not two, not three, ok, so FIVE plain clothes Flying Squad Police officers leapt out of various staging posts on the High Street and arrested them ‘Old School style’ with a serious and much needed physical take-down. It was a good job there were five coppers, for the two robbers (one c. 6’4” tall), stood trading blows for some time (and by some time, I mean it was three or four minutes before the situation was contained) before being laid upon and arrested. Now I understood where Mee Mee’s ‘They’re laying on them!” came from.
What a huge relief.
There is speculation about how much the Flying Squad officers pre-knew about the attempt, or maybe they really did just get lucky, but in any event, we do not mind which. Two robbers were arrested without physical harm to staff, or loss of goods. Now, talking of physical harm, during the arrests, the three staff, Mee Mee, Jean and May, stood safely behind super-strength toughened safety glass watching the street tussle unfold. After arrests the Officer in charge came in and caringly asked the girls if they were ok? “Yes” firstly piped up Jean (Jean usually to be the first one out of the traps in this department), “I just wish I could have got out there whilst you lot were rolling around. I’d have kicked em’ RIGHT IN THE B*LLS!” exclaimed Jean to the Officer.
Up next piped our diminutive but oh-so-tough Burmese Manager Mee Mee, who is about five feet tall on a good day, “I’d have KILLED them!” she said. The Officer began to grin (or beam in fact) and slowly turned to see any reaction from May, our final member of staff at the store.
May said nothing. She didn’t need to. The girls knew what May would have done. With her now legendary reputation as the most patient sales assistant in the company, May, upon demand of a Rolex by these awful robbers, would not have handed them the watch at all. She would have spent the time attempting to sell them a Rolex and knowing May, an extended warranty to safeguard from the events of fire damage, water damage, accidental loss, or…. cough….. theft.
The girls were truly brilliant and we are very, very proud of their bravery and their conduct. We would also like to say a huge thank you to the swift actions of the Met Police Flying Squad. As Jean put it, as only our Jean can – “Good job boys!”.
Lightening does strike twice
A month later, when Jackie in Eltham said at 11am on a bright Monday morning, “I’ve got Vince on the line – he’s in Folkestone and needs to speak to you”, I replied, “Tell him I’m just with a customer, I’ll call him straight back”. I knew Vin would be understanding of the priority of dealing with a new loan customer wanting £2k on her ladies bi-colour Rolex. “He’ll wait, but he needs you urgently, he’ll stay on the line”, hollered Jackie. I thought, ok, but a bit worrying. When I got to the call, I realised, with much regret, that my worrying was justified. Vin said “We’ve been robbed again”.
Oh no. Again.
Similar Modus Operandi, this time a moped-scooter, but in a similar way, driven onto the footpath outside the shop, this time, a huge concrete block carried between the passengers legs and a full handled axe carried by the rider. Unbelievable. They managed to smash a very small hole in the toughened glass and force through a gloved hand. The bravery and quick thinking of Vince swept the most expensive items aside from the reaching hand and they were away with a couple of items, realising in seconds, that they were not going to retire on the proceeds and importantly, they were getting jittery at the growing army of people moving in as they committed this terrifying act in broad daylight.
Luckily for us, they indeed had reason to be afraid. The general public and local shopkeepers rallied round and closed in. A brave soul from the nearby key-cutting shop hurled a fire extinguisher at the fleeing robbers and a little further up the street (still no more than 100 yards from our store), a passer by kicked at the moped and unbalanced them crashing the bike to the floor. In the panic, the two men ran off on foot with several people in pursuit. They discarded their clothing and crash helmets to try and avoid recognition and managed to dart out of sight. However, yet again, the Police came into their own and with a search party out in near seconds from the alarm being raised, they arrested two men in their early twenties trying to exit the town centre on foot.
Eleven years trading, no serious incidents.
Eleven years and a month and two horrid incidents in little over a month. Shocking and an indictment of society today perhaps, that none of the arrested four in the two incidents was over 26 years old. We do not quite know what moral or social conclusions to reach, but we do know that our CCTV, our automatic Police alarms and our toughened glass security hardware is in order and thankfully, consequently our staff are and were, safe.
We have successfully branched into non-jewellery pawnbroking and have already concluded successful loans on a wide range of items. These have included musical instruments (two flutes and an electric guitar!), a beautiful bronze sculpture, a number of high-end fashion handbags (the female staff members of the Pickwick family have all been salivating over these – metaphorically speaking of course), artwork by Janet Treby and Joy Kurton-Smith and a wonderful collection of rare stamps from the Middle East. We are so excited by this new move into non-jewellery items and apart from the possible successful expansion of the business and hedge against gold, it is a delight to be involved with such unusual and interesting items.
Our new online enquiry form, that can be found at –
http://www.pickwickpawnbrokers.co.uk/online-pawn-loan-enquiry-form.htm is helping the smooth operation of enquiries and we are fortunate to have a new working relationship with renowned and well-respected valuer and one of the star of Ch4’s “Four Rooms”, Mr Raj Bisram – http://www.channel4.com/programmes/four-rooms/profiles/all/raj-bisram. Raj who co-owns the successful Bentleys Fine Art and Antique Auctions in Kent, has been a wonderful help to Pickwick in giving us valuations and provenance guidance on unusual items. We are all excited by this new area of lending business.
And there’s more good news!
Having started this News-Feed in such an unavoidably gloomy manner, the Editor is determined to prove that the ‘Pickwick Family’ has incredible resilience. This article will end with more good news! We have been selected amongst hundreds of pawnbrokers, to star in a new 20-episode Ch4 TV programme about pawnbroking called “Posh Pawnbrokers”. The show is a documentary based on the business of four pawnbroking companies (with Pickwick having the most coverage) and cameras follow the stories behind the interesting items the pawnbroking business is offered and the often, even more interesting stories behind the lives of the customers offering the items for sale or pawn. Four months of filming has now finished and the show airs towards the end of April 2015.
We are SO excited!
The Producers of the programme for Ch4, are Boomerang Productions, a Cardiff based production company that already produces the huge TV hit “Posh Pawn”, also for Ch4. The show is a daytime version of this and everyone involved is hugely pleased and looking forward to the first episode being screened. Don’t forget to set your Sky Planner to ‘Series record’ and watch the fun and interesting side of our business, as well as the serious and professional side.
Producers have described us as ‘very knowledgeable’, ‘very professional’ ‘human and down to earth’, ‘understanding and caring’ and ‘having a ‘great sense of fun that makes Pickwick a great and unique company to visit’.
We couldn’t have summed it up better ourselves. Happy Easter to all.