The cast speaks out about their newfound fame and the behind-the-scenes action.
What's it like being famous?
I don't consider myself famous; I consider myself a normal guy with a pretty unique job. However, with the show's popularity, people are recognizing me more and more when I'm out. It's kind of "weird," just because I don't grasp the fact that I'm a celebrity, but people come in starstruck. The first time someone asked to take a picture, I turned to them and said, "For what?" The "famous" part hasn't clicked just yet.
You famously said that if it wasn't for you, the store's only publicity would be "an ad in the Yellow Pages"? How does it feel having whole teams of people doing publicity for you now?
I canceled that ad in the Yellow Pages. I still need to focus on the pawn shop; when people are looking for a pawn shop, they need to think of American Jewelry and Loan. Because of the show, a lot of people are already thinking that, which is taking some of the pressure off of the advertising.
Do you wish you'd been better prepared for the success of Hardcore Pawn?
Yeah, we're generating a lot more interest. I'm having daily meetings to tell my staff that it'll be harder to stay grounded in what we're here to do, which is, first and foremost, to run a business. When I'm hiring now, it's created a little bit of a twist, so I have to make sure they're here to do work and not to be famous. There are two aspects of my job – the TV aspect and the working aspect.
Do fans come into the store and try to get you to go on a date with them?
I hear all sorts of crazy things, especially on my Facebook page. You have to take it for what it is: you're on TV, people will find you attractive and ask you out. People will always ask crazy things and I'm not used to it while I'm working. I don't go out on dates with fans, though.
What should we expect to see from you this season?
Ashley made a pretty bold statement and you'll see me stick to my guns, trying to make American Jewelry and Loan better. We've had a lot more confrontations... it's everything we've done amplified by 10. I'm a stay-the-course guy, but I get flustered sometimes and, like everyone, have a breaking point and I've reached it a couple of times.
If you had to work with any one family member, who would you choose?
I'm gonna say Ashley. Just kidding! My dad's a great teacher; I think that I can learn a lot from him. He's the most charismatic person I've ever met; he has a natural energy to draw people's interest. If I could just get 10% of what he has, I'd be a very successful man.
What's your least favorite thing about running or working at the store?
There are so many stories I hear on a daily basis from people that are hard up and have nowhere else to turn. I'm still human, and no matter what you see on TV, I still listen to these stories that make it hard to break the business end apart from the human aspect. When I have to turn someone away, I don't know how the person is going to get what they need, so if I have to deny someone a loan, it's the worst part of my day.
What's the craziest thing that ever happened to you on the job?
I had a woman that brought in a cussing bird, and the bird would swear like crazy. That was pretty unique. On the flip side, the woman had some sort of fetish with the bird and would put it – the head of the bird – in her mouth.
Did you buy the bird?
No, I couldn't bring myself to take away what was essentially this woman's life.
What's your biggest strength as a negotiator?
In order to be a good negotiator, you have to not be scared to walk into a deal and you can't back down from your instincts. Most people are too scared to negotiate, but I'm not and if I can strike a deal, I will. Most people are at a disadvantage.
Was there ever a time when you bought a big-ticket item and it turned out to be fake?
Not fake, but if you have an hour and a half, I can show you how I've overpaid over and over again. I had some high-end earrings in a blue box, retail on them was $7,900; the customer asked for $2,500, so it was a great deal. It turns out they bought it from a mall where they essentially paid for the box rather than the merchandise. Ultimately, it was worth only about $150 to sell for scrap. I immediately called Les: "You won't believe what I got." Les said, "How much does it weigh?" "Oh, .07 grams!" "You bought it for the name didn't you?" They sat in the showcase for six years, but when we sold it, we almost broke even on the box. If you want to be first in this business, however, you cannot get mesmerized by names.