Jeff Riger: Hardcore Pawn, Pretty Hardcore!
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One of the coolest things about my job is that you never know where it might take you on a given day. For instance, I woke up Wednesday morning planning on heading down to Allen Park for Lions practice but found out we were going to American Jewelry and Loan instead. In case you don’t know, American Jewelry and Loan is the pawn shop where they film the show “Hardcore Pawn.” It’s also the place where former Red Wing Darren McCarty just took a job at, so we wanted to interview him.
Walking into the shop the first thing you notice is the tremendous amount of people that are lined up ready to pawn their property. Some people are probably doing just to be on TV, while other customers truly need the money and have no other route to go. The TV show films 3 weeks out of a given month and right away you notice the cameras rolling and Seth Gold, the owner’s son, giving interviews and making deals. The whole operation blows your mind; however, you haven’t seen anything until you get a tour of the place and see all the merchandise that people have pawned in the many storage rooms in the back of building. From TV’s to lawnmowers to even motor cycles and cars … they have them and you can pawn them. In fact, they have a ton of them. It’s hard to put into words the maze of merchandise that you have to navigate through when you hit the back rooms. It’s pretty remarkable!
However, you know as well as I do that when it comes to pawn shops people don’t care about the operation, instead they care about the stigma that comes along with it. That controversy mixed with a very popular reality TV show as well leaves a lot of Michigan residents with the idea that American Jewelry and Loan is bad for the city of Detroit and is only in business to prey on customers who have no other place to turn. And I understand, heck I might have thought the same thing walking in. However, after talking to Seth and Darren about the business and seeing firsthand the operation, I have changed my mind.
For a second forget that a TV show is filmed at American Jewelry and Loan and instead focus on the actual business of pawn. Using something that you own for collateral for a short term loan is really all that is taking place. People pawn things for different reasons, some of them don’t need the money but most of them do.
I’m not going to pretend that I live every day with the desperation that some of the customers of this pawn shop encounter. If I need money bad enough, I have various avenues that I can use. But some of these pawn customers are not as lucky. Imagine for a second you have no credit, checking accounts, money or a job. The mortgage is due; the utilities are due so what are you going to do? What bank is going to give you a loan? What institution is going to help you out of your current jam?
I’m not trying to make a pawn shop seem like it’s a charity and that they are not making interest on the loans that they give out. They want to make money just as bad as I want to make money. But places like American Jewelry and Loan do business with people that other institutions won’t, and for that I’m glad they exist … and of course because it makes great TV as well. So you tell me, where does all the controversy come from?