By a show of hands – how many of you got into the pawn business so you could help people? How many wanted to be the sole salvation for some families in a time of crisis? Instead of making money, who of you wanted to make a difference instead? I would suggest that very few (if any) of us got our start with such philanthropic motives in mind. Truthfully, we all had large profits and multiple locations in our dreams, but a funny thing happened during the journey - we learned that pawn shops make a difference in our customers' lives.
Every one of us has regular customers that typically show up for a loan 5-to-7 days after payday, needing some money just to make it to the next payday. They view their collateral as a savings account and the pawn shop as their bank. So when a medical crisis occurs or kids need clothes and school supplies or a natural disaster is looming, where can these people turn? That’s right… Us. And this isn’t just a few people in our society; according to a study done by Report Linker, 35% of all consumers over age 21 were unbanked (don’t have a bank account) in 2016. Also in 2016, Forbes reported that 63% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover an emergency $500 expense.
The most successful pawn shops embrace this notion and it’s reflected in the behavior of their staff. Last week, I visited with Elizabeth Chapple, manager of Pleasant Hill Coin and Jewelry Exchange in Pleasant Hill, CA and we were discussing the notion of Employees as Advertising and she said, “OK, I agree with the idea that employees are our best advertising, but what makes a good employee?” That can be answered with two simple adjectives – empathetic and genuine:
- Empathetic – the ability to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and see the world from his/her eyes. What does the customer really need and how can I help them get it?
- Genuine – A sincere, honest attempt to help the customer without putting your own agenda in the way. This implies understanding the role of a pawn shop and how important our existence is to our customers.
Ironically, Ms. Chapple’s store has probably the most genuine, empathetic staff I’ve run across in the last 10 years. I never once saw a customer treated disrespectfully and her group earned their success because they all embraced their role in the community and understand that pawn shops improve lives.