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Pawn Shops Doing What Big Banks Won't

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Of course, if you don't need a loan, getting one shouldn't be too much of a problem.

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Satisfying a Different Set of Needs

Other than small business loans, Pawngo customers tend to be solving specific sets of issues: medical emergencies, college tuition, taking care of an elderly parent.

"Obviously, I get a lot of flak about this business, and my comment back is, 'What's wrong with borrowing against your past?'" says Hills. "I think it's a much smarter decision to borrow money against something that you own, rather than leveraging your future. If you don't pay us back, we don't foreclose on anybody's house, we don't repossess your car, we don't send bill collectors after you. We sell the item and you move on with your life."

Given Pawngo's relatively upscale customer base, roughly 85% of those using the service repay their loans, compared to the industry average of 70%-75%. And servicing, say, the small business owner who needs to make payroll, Hills sees a much different type of item coming through the door.

"In the brick-and-mortar pawn shop business, all day it's 'How much do you want for your TV? How much do you want for your Skil saw?'" he says. "But here, when the FedEx truck rolls in, you never know what you're going to get."

Some of the items he's gotten have included a guitar once owned by Jerry Garcia, an Olympic torch, and a bottle of 1980 Dom Perignon Champagne. But the one item that he'll never forget came to Pawngo courtesy of the 1977 Playboy Playmate of the Year.

"The first thing she sent in was a beautiful watch that turned out to be fake, so we couldn't help her on that," Hills says. "I was on the phone with her and asked if she had anything else. She said she had a jewelry box that Hugh Hefner gave to her -- though I probably can't describe it in PG-13 terms, but let's just say she's sitting on a bench at the Playboy Mansion, and Hef is in his traditional robe, down on his hands-and-knees, with his head between her thighs.

"We'll be talking about that one at the Christmas party."

Pawngo is the official online partner of Pawn Stars, the History Channel's top-rated series. Find them at Pawngo.com and PawnStars.com.

Follow Justin Rohrlich on Twitter: @chickenalaking

Follow Alex Brokaw on Twitter: @brokawbrokaw

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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