HONG KONG—When 30-year-old homemaker Maggie Wong is tight on cash, all she needs to do is reach for her designer purse—and then hand it over to a loan officer.
Say hello to the handbag-backed loan. While typical lenders often ask for cars and homes as collateral, Hong Kong's Yes Lady Finance Co. deals in borrowers' beloved handbags. The four-year-old company accepts purses on the spot, bringing in assessors from affiliate Milan Station Holdings Ltd., a chain for luxury secondhand purses, to check the bags' condition and authenticity.
Yes Lady provides a loan within half an hour at 80% of the bag's value—as long as it is from Gucci, Chanel, Hermès or Louis Vuitton. Occasionally, a Prada purse will do the trick.
Secondhand classic purses and special-edition handbags often retain much of their retail prices.
A customer gets her bag back by repaying the loan at 4% monthly interest within four months. Yes Lady says almost all its clients quickly pay off their loans and reclaim their bags.
The company recently lent about US$20,600 in exchange for a Hermès Birkin bag, but Yes Lady's purse-backed loans start at about US$200.This is basically a pawn shop that specializes in purses -- they're offering a 48% APR for loans of a handbag. (Twice as much, one notes, as a credit card in the US.) Knowing how some people treasure their handbags (just like others might treasure a pair of boots or an especially beloved multitool), it makes a lot of sense to me, especially since Milan Station and Yes Lady have probably worked out a deal to take possession of the purses if the loan is not repaid.
Is there something as valuable and fungible to a chemist as a purse is to a Yes Lady customer? I dunno. Can't imagine a marshal coming to chain up one's NMR or HPLC. "See here, mister, you're gonna hand over all the drafts of your thesis -- and then you're gonna pay me back..."