South City Pawn: Wisdom from a West Coast Pawnbroker

Dave Newman is both president and head janitor of his South San Francisco, CA, store, South City Pawn. Established in 1969, he and his brother took ownership of the store in 1989. They have been members of NPA ever since.

National Pawnbroker (NP): What makes your stores different from other pawn stores in the area?

Dave Newman (DN): In a word, service. We pride ourselves in delivering a higher level of customer service than our competitors, and make each customer feel like they are a part of our family. I’m also a dog handler for the state and county Search and Rescue teams, and my dog, a 100-lb. German shepherd (who is also our store security officer), conducts regular therapy sessions with local kids in our store.

NP: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing pawnbrokers today?

DN: From my perspective, the biggest challenge comes from the politicians who prey upon our customers by passing legislation and rules that look good on the surface, but, in reality, make it more difficult to obtain the financing they need to pay their bills.

NP: How has the new Military Lending Act rate cap affected your company?

DN: Not at all. We’ve always been a military-friendly business. Most of us are veterans ourselves, and we’ve always offered discounts to military members and their families as a way of saying thank you for the sacrifices they make. Here in California, we’re a low interest rate state anyway, so the new mandated rate didn’t really affect us. The question that should be asked is: How has the MLA affected the military families that are now afraid of using our services in fear that it will get back to their commanders and be reflected in their next evaluation?

NP: What advice would you give someone just entering the business?

DN:

  • You’re entering one of the most fun, educational, and rewarding career paths you could choose and one with many challenges and temptations.
  • Always remember that the customer is the only thing keeping you from getting a boring job like everyone else. Treat each customer like they’re special, and let them know you appreciate that they chose to come to you.
  • Be an active part of your community and give back to it often. You will stand out from your competition and be rewarded for your efforts.
  • Be patient with your customers. Many are in dire straits and you are their last recourse. Their attitude isn’t personal; you’re just the person in front of them when they felt the need to vent.
  • Whatever your buildout budget is starting out, double it, and then add a few extra dollars. Build a store that you’d be proud to have your family/friends/pastor/rabbi visit.
  • Always remember that your primary job is selling money and finding the balance between how much you give out without giving so much that the customer doesn’t come back for it.
  • Regardless of the profit, you can only sell it one time. But you can re-loan on it forever, and that is the goal.
  • No matter what part of town your store is in, you are in charge of the type of clientele you will attract, so build the store that will attract the type of customers you want.
  • Finally, there is no excuse for poor customer service. What you show the public, the public will reflect back at you.
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    NP: How does your company give back to the community?
    DN: Through volunteering in the school reading programs, donating instruments to the music classes, and by providing emergency assistance (food baskets). We also donate our services to search and rescue to aid community members in locating family members who have gone missing.

    NP: Why are you a member of NPA?
    DN: I was originally sent to the NPA by my state association president (the second organizing meeting in Miami) in order to keep an eye out for anything being done nationally that could affect our state. I’ve stayed with the NPA since that time because the people have become family. Even after all these years, I still learn something new to take back to my store every time we get together.

    NP: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
    DN: “I have nothing else to say” should be a surprise to anyone who knows me.