Q&A with Tony Castro

December 11, 2013 

Tony Castro

Q&A with Tony Castro

City of Residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Owner, Tony’s Pawn Shop

QUESTION: Just what is a pawn shop? A store? What?

ANSWER: It’s a business you can come in and get a loan on your items of value or can sell or trade your items of value. And of course you can come in and buy the items for sale.

QUESTION: How does it work? There are different aspects to this.

ANSWER: How does pawning work? If you pawn an item it means we give you an agreed amount of money and you give us your item. Then you have 30 days to come redeem it. You can redeem it in that 30 days by paying the note, which includes interest, or at the end of 30 days you can come in and pay just the interest and get another 30 days. You can renew it until you pay it off or you forfeit it by not paying. If you forfeit it, we sell it.

QUESTION: What’s the typical interest?

ANSWER: Twenty-five percent is standard.

QUESTION: What if you just want to get money for an item?

ANSWER: We’ll just buy it and that’s that. Then we’ll sell it.

QUESTION: So you have things out for sale and things elsewhere on hold waiting to be redeemed?

ANSWER: Right. After 30 days and no payment it comes out to be sold. Really, we give a 10-day grace period for people to recover merchandise.

QUESTION: Do you buy or loan everything that comes through the door?

ANSWER: No, we have to make decisions on what we’ll take and how much we’ll pay depending on value and our ability to get our money out of it. Sometimes people will pawn an item for a lot less than it’s worth so it’s easier to redeem. Say if someone has an emergency and just needs $100 but has something worth $300, they’ll just pawn it for $100 so it’s easier to get back. We sell a lot of merchandise, but really the last thing we want to do is keep people’s stuff. We’d rather they get it back.

QUESTION: Are pawn shops good places for bargains? Good places for Christmas shopping in a slow economy?

ANSWER: Oh, yeah, definitely. The best way to get good deals at a pawn shop is to come in regularly and see what’s here. If there’s something we don’t have today, we may have three of them tomorrow. There are a lot of good pawn shops around here, and people can save a lot. They’re fun places to look around, to haggle and dicker.

QUESTION: What are the most pawned items?

ANSWER: For us, jewelry, electronics and tools. We have a lot of tools here, probably the most of anybody. Shops have different specialties. For some it’s jewelry, for others it’s guns or whatever. We have all that, but I’d say our specialty is tools.

QUESTION: What’s something you never see?

ANSWER: We see very few military items or collectable, signed stuff. Few antiques. You know, the “Pawn Stars” TV show glorified pawn shop sort of stuff.

QUESTION: “Pawn Stars” isn’t realistic?

ANSWER: Not at all. It’s staged for TV. It’s good that it lets people know about pawn shops, but some people want to come in and fuss and get mad like on the show. We just tell them we’ve seen that episode; that’s not how it works. Or they want us to call all these experts. That doesn’t happen in your typical shop.

QUESTION: What’s the most unusual item you’ve gotten?

ANSWER: A snowmobile I just got.

QUESTION: Think you’ll sell it?

ANSWER: Somebody might buy it. They use them now for mud bogging.

QUESTION: How long have you owned the shop?

ANSWER: Ten years. I studied accounting then went into retail jewelry. Then I worked 15 years here with two good friends, Steve Rogers and Calvin Maye, when it was Wellston Pawn.

QUESTION: Best pawn shop advice?

ANSWER: To get respect at a pawn shop, redeem your items. There are people who’ve pawned stuff with us regularly for 20 years and always redeemed it. We look at the record, and we’d do almost anything for them. Also, if you’re buying and you pay sticker price at a pawn shop you’re an idiot. Wheel and deal.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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