- Most businesses fail when taken over by family.
Les Gold the force behind the TV show “Hardcore Pawn,” For What It’s Worth: Business Wisdom from a Pawnbroker, today.
Les the self-proclaimed street economist gives business advice while telling the story of Gold’s life, he said. It’s the latest development in Gold’s career since the show on Tv launched.
His shop has two locations: its 50,000-square-foot and flagship operation, the flagship store a former bowling alley.
His Jewelry and Loan makes more than 1,000 loans per day, and its warehouse is filled with more than 50,000 items, including 4,000 televisions. “Hardcore Pawn” had more than 3.4 million viewers.
Crain’s caught up with Gold about his business strategy and what it means to “think like a pawnbroker” in various aspects of life.
Most businesses fail when taken over by family. That’s why it’s important to me that my children realize exactly what it takes to operate a pawning business.
We kiss in the morning, we argue when we need to during the day in the benefit of the business, and we kiss again at night. That’s how you keep a family and business running smoothly.
Most of your customers temporarily lend items in exchange for a loan and about five percent outright sell their items.
Electronics and jewelry are our bread and butter. But we’ve bought personal items for less than $5 and we’ve bought jewelry for $100,000. We’ve also bought Abe Lincoln’s hair, an Elizabeth Taylor diamond brooch, an Olympic torch and prosthetic limbs.
One customer even tried to sell me an eyeball. He needed some money and asked if we bought odd and interesting things. When I said we do, he popped his eye out and tried to sell it to me. When people are desperate and have nothing to pawn, even an eyeball is a chance to raise money.
We generally give 40-70 percent of an item’s value. So a $5,000 fur coat could bring a $3,500 loan.
But customers can set their own loan amount. We always ask them, ‘How much do you want?’
Some people will bring that same $5,000 coat and take a $10 loan. We keep the coat for 90 days, and they will pay $1.50 a month for storage and interest …
People use us as an alternative storage unit. Some people use pawn shops to store things like lawn equipment and snow blowers.
Most interesting item?
While the show room is full of sports memorabilia and stuffed animals, the most interesting item lurks in the store’s warehouse. The tool of “Dr. Death” – Jack Kervokian’s assisted suicide van, sits in a garage-like area surrounded by suitcases, furniture and home-improvement equipment. Anyone interested in “muderabilia” can buy the van for $28,000.
How do you avoid getting swept into people’s sob stories?
I always tell my employees to keep the emotion out. Everybody’s got a story. If you put emotion in the deal you want to close, you’ll pay too much.
You try to not let their stories pull on your heart, because you’ll pay too much then.
But when you’re selling an item, you want to use emotion. You want to get customers attached to an object and get them to make their decision a little bit quicker.
You seem to thrive on risk-taking or making a decision on gut instinct.
This guy lost his job and got kicked out of the motel he was living in. To earn some cash, he brought a bracelet he found to the shop hoping to get $20. I realized the bracelet was gold, and told him he could get $200 for it.
After telling him that, he broke down in tears. I told him, ‘You have a job here if you show up at 9:15 a.m.’ (the next day)
He took a broom and a dustpan and got to work, and he hasn’t stopped since. I wish I could make all my employees as great as him.
Has being a TV star changed you?
I’m a pawn broker. People think of me a TV star, since they watch me in their bedrooms and living rooms, but I’m really just a pawnbroker and a businessman.
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Books by Les Gold