Pawn Stars – lessons on how to cheat customers

Pawn Stars on The History Channel is an annoying show to watch for the simple reason that the “stars” of the show continually cheat their own customers. They are not nice guys to be admired.  They are con men using some of the oldest tricks in the book to take advantage of people who trust them to get a good price for the merchandise . Let’s take a look at how we know these guys are really crooks.

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  • Asking customers “how much do you want?” – Most people bringing an object into  the store to be sold, have done absolutely no research ahead of time as to how much it is worth. Reputable buyers never start by asking someone “how much do your want?” This is a trick question designed to see if the seller even has any idea of the price range that type of object sells for.  A potential seller should never answer that question.  Otherwise you risk saying you want $200 when the first offer from the purchaser would have been $3,500.
  • The Pawn Stars team brings in their own “independent” experts . If you are trying to sell something, it is idiotic to let the person you are trying to sell it to pick an “expert” to tell you how much it is worth. Yet this happens on Pawn Stars almost every episode. The so-called independent appraisers are friends of and have an ongoing business relationship with the owners of the pawn shop. They are not going to jeopardize that for  a customer they just met and will only deal with once. The experts are always going to low-ball the price.

pawn 2

  • They gang up on the customer – It is a normal psychological trait that the more people telling you something, the more you tend to believe it.  The Pawn Stars take advantage of this fact  by “just happening” to wander over when a customer starts getting stubborn  about a price.  By the end of a negotiation, Chumlee, Rick Harrison, Richard Benjamin Harrison and Craig Gottlieb will all be standing there with serious faces telling a customer that the price they are offering is the highest they will get anywhere. The customer is usually alone so it is 4 against 1. Usually 1 person has a hard time arguing against 4 other people, and the customer almost always takes the low price being offered.
  • Pawn Stars never shows the objects being re-sold –Notice that the show only focuses on the Pawn Stars buying objects from people. The show never shows these objects being re-sold. That is because it would quickly demonstrate what thieves these “stars” are if it showed them turning around and re-selling the objects for 3 or 4 times what they just paid for them. It would be obvious that they had lied with a straight face about what the objects were worth. Notice that there are always hundreds of people in the store buying things, but that the cameras never focus on any of them.

The best moments on Pawn Stars are when a potential seller refuses to take the ridiculously low price being offered and simply walks out of the store.  Sadly, this very seldom happens.

Despite its flaws, Pawn Stars does provide very valuable lessons for anyone looking to sell anything.  Here are a few tips for all would-be sellers.

  • Do your homework. Use the internet to research what your object is worth.
  • Never use a buyer’s independent appraiser.  If you have a specialty items that needs to be appraised, spend a few dollars and pay for your own appraisal.
  • Never go to a pawn shop to sell anything.  Of all the establishments buying things, pawns shops pay absolutely the lowest prices.  Go instead to a store that specializes in the type of item you have, whether it is an antique plate, a comic book or a firearm.
  • Walk away the second you get the slightest feeling you are being cheated. In other words, pay attention to that “sixth sense”. If you get even the slightest little tingle that  you are being cheated, then you probably are.

We hope these hints will help keep future sellers from being cheated. For most of the customers of The World Famous Gold & Silver Shop, it is already too late.



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