'Wait right here' develops dramas for pawnbroker

DAN RODRICKS

April 27, 1993|By DAN RODRICKS

This woman walked into Boston Loan Office, a pawnshop o West Baltimore Street. She flashed a gold ring. Park School. Class of '69. (The ring, that is. Not the woman.)

Broker's a guy named Herskovitz, first name Richard. He sized up the woman, then eyeballed the ring. It had initials: SAH.

Herskovitz asked for an ID. She showed a Social Services card. Initials didn't match those on the ring.

"Wait right here," Herskovitz said.

He got on the phone. Called Park School. Explained. Looking for a grad, Class of '69, initials SAH.

"Small school, good records" was how Herskowitz put it the other day. "I was lucky."

In fact, it turned out there were two from '69 with initials SH. One was Stephen Hecker. Lawyer. Weinberg & Green. Herskovitz called him.

In case this sounds like a load, please note: Herskovitz was following procedure.

A lot of palookas come in off the street with stuff. They think a pawnbroker's nothing more than a fence who pays taxes.

But pawnbrokers play by the law. At least Herskovitz does. He's been with Boston Loan 16 years. Knows all the cops. Knows the law.

What's the law?

Law says you gotta ID everyone who comes in with everything. Gotta file reports with the cops -- daily. Gives them a chance to cross-check everything with stolen-property reports. Get it?

Nothing unusual about Herskowitz calling around, trying to find owners of property, either.

He's done it many times. With rings alone, maybe 10, 20 times a year he finds the rightful owner.

And check this out:

Just last week two guys walked into Boston Loan with gasoline-powered hedge shears. Nice piece of equipment. Two, three hundred bucks retail.

Guys wore uniform jackets. Worked for a landscaping company. Gave Herskovitz their IDs.

"Wait right here," Herskovitz said.

He called the landscaping company. The company flipped. The two employees were boostin' the piece. Herskovitz called the cops. The two schmos left -- the hedge shears and their IDs behind. They're in trouble.

Another time, last winter, a guy walks in. He works for a big-time caterer. He's carrying a microcassette recorder. He wants to pawn it.

Before he bites, Herskovitz always sniffs.

There was a tape in the recorder. Herskovitz listened. Heard some guy talking about Oriole season ticket plans. Guy sounded like an authority figure. "Sounded like he was dictating a letter," Herskovitz says.

"Wait right here," he told the customer.

He called the Oriole front office. Reached a certain party in sales. Certain party was missing a microcassette recorder from his briefcase. Herskovitz called the cops. Guy's arrested, awaiting trial.

Stupid? Yeah, but Herskovitz has a gentler way of describing the mentality of the miscreants who walk into his shop with ill-gotten merchandise.

"They don't think past the moment" is how he put it.

Anyway, let's get back to the story of the ring -- Park School, Class of '69.

The woman is still waiting to hear how much Herskovitz will give her for it. Herskovitz is on the phone. He talks to Steve Hecker.

Hecker can't believe the phone call. He hadn't seen his Park School ring since a year or so after he graduated. Unbelievable.

Herskovitz wanted to know if the ring had been stolen.

TTC Nah, said Hecker. It wasn't stolen. He lost track of it.

Every now and then, he wondered what happened to it. Sentimental item. Something he'd like to have again maybe.

Sure, said Herskovitz. Come and get it.

Meanwhile, Herskovitz tells the woman she won't get any dough for the ring. And she won't get the ring back, either.

She blows up. Herskovitz makes a suggestion: Leave, or he calls the cops. Woman leaves.

Hecker shows, flashes his ID, gets his ring back -- at no charge, of course.

He's awed by the honesty. Not to mention the mystery in the return of a ring missing more than 20 years.

"Really remarkable" is what Hecker said.

"Nothing unusual" is how Herskowitz put it, and I can almost hear him look up at a customer and yell:

"Next!"

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