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Innovative online pawnshop app, ‘CASH,’ crashes on first day of operation

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On June 28, a new smartphone application was launched that its creator perhaps hoped might well do to the pawnbroking trade what Uber has done for taxi service. Called “CASH,” it was supposed to enable people to use their phone camera to take a snapshot of an item of value and transmit it for evaluation. If the seller decides the price is right and agrees to the terms of the transaction, he or she can quickly obtain an advance on the sale to their bank account. 

But less than a full day after the startup of the new service, reports J-Cast News (June 30), the operator was flooded with spurious requests and had to beg off accepting new applicants.

The company, based in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, is run by Yusuke Mitsumoto, founder of a service that he established in February of this year to assist people who wanted to set up their own online store. 

The CASH system, ideally, works like this: A customer first takes a photograph of his or her possession, such as a luxury brand item or gadget, and uses the application to transmit the snapshot. The software automatically assesses the market value and almost immediately replies, indicating the item’s monetary value. What makes the system unique is that it is possible for an advance to be quickly transferred to the intended seller’s bank account or to an ATM, such as at a convenience store, with maximum amount limited to within 20,000 yen. 

In other words, even before the buyer and seller have a chance to haggle over the actual value, the seller can obtain a partial advance.

The owner of the object to be pawned, according to the agreement, is obliged to send it to the company within two months. If he or she decides afterwards not to part with the item, the prepaid funds plus a 15% “cancelation fee,” must be repaid to the company. Like a regular pawnshop, the customer has a choice of selling the item, or taking out a loan until the item can be redeemed with interest.

Mitsumoto, however, insists that his company is not in the lending business, but rather engaged to buying and selling of used merchandise. His site operates according to the law regulating sales of used garments, and therefore the 15% income obtained from voiding of the transaction is entered in the books as a “cancelation fee,” as opposed to interest. 

On the other hand, during an interview with a web site called “TECHWAVE,” Mitsumoto remarked that the aim of his business was actually microfinancing.

CASH’s first day of business, June 28, turned out to be less than auspicious. The site was flooded with pranksters, who transmitted photographs of such worthless items as a remote control unit for an air conditioner; a bowl of hiyashi chuka Chinese-style noodles from a convenience store; some green tea; a plate; a hair comb; and so on. The software, apparently confused, sent back assessments at prices far in excess of the items’ actual value. 

By 4:39 p.m on June 29, the operations were halted after 29,241 downloads, the cash value for which was assessed at a whopping total of 366,000,000 yen. Of the nearly 30,000 items, 7,512 were selected by the company for sale/purchase transactions. 

Mitsumoto was apologetic about the shutdown. He pointed out on his web site that his firm only employs four staff, and noted that “We’re not set up to deal with over 7,000 items a day, or dispense 350 million yen per day. So for the time being we had to halt the operations. We’re sorry.” 

J-Cast News phoned and emailed Mitsumoto for follow-up comments, but as of 7:00 pm on June 30, it had yet to receive a response.

© Japan Today

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