Cash in a Flash: Gatekeeping, Deception, and Qualitative Methodology in the Study of Payday and Title Loan Businesses


The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the workplace policies, practices, services provided, and interactions between customers and employees in payday loan and title loan businesses in Northeast Alabama. Originally, we pursued interviewing employees of payday loan and title loan businesses by contacting their place of employment and asking for employees who would be willing to participate in interviews. We ran into issues of gatekeeping and found it difficult to gain access to employees willing to be interviewed. After contacting more than 40 locations in various towns in Northeast Alabama and being unsuccessful, we redesigned our methodology to better accommodate the gatekeeping issues we faced. We decided instead on complete participant observation. This involved the researchers visiting payday loan and title loan businesses, presenting a fictional story about needing a loan for dental care, and inquiring about the services available. This case discusses gatekeeping issues we faced and how these issues were addressed in our research design, as well as the ethical implications of withholding the identity of the researcher in qualitative research. We also briefly discuss the data collection process, how we analyzed our data, as well as some findings from this study.

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