Badlands Pawn: Inside the world’s most ridiculous payday loan store

Get tattooed, grab a drink and watch Joan Jett. Oh, and get a loan.

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The apocalypse revolution has begun!

Guns, gold & rock n’ roll!

**Editor’s note: In September 2017, the South Dakota Division of Banking revoked the Dollar Loan Center’s lending licenses, thus forcing The Badlands Pawn, Gold & Jewelry to shut down indefinitely. In a statement on its website, it was announced that all Badlands entities would be permanently closed and put up for sale. “While we would like to resolve the current issues quickly, we expect that the costs and time constraints of litigation will be considerable,” the statement reads. “Without the financial support of Dollar Loan Center, and with an unknown time line, we must make difficult business decisions.”

Last year, on paying a visit to The Badlands store or even just its website, it would have taken you a few moments to realize that it was actually a pawn shop. A four-minute long promotional video, given premium real estate on the website, didn’t mention its loans service until almost three minutes in.

What it did mention about The Badlands would have made you want to travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to see it for yourself. Some of the highlights included the 24-hour radio station that operated behind bulletproof glass on the pawn floor. The glass was necessitated by the in-store firing range, where customers could bring their own gun or rent one from the collection.

Then there was a free tattoo parlor, a bar, $1 million dollars of gold on display and a weekly concert series that featured the likes of Joan Jett and Kiss.

The former owner of Badlands Pawn, Gold & Jewelry, Chuck Brennan, was not only helping pawn shops go mainstream, as Hardcore Pawn and Pawn Stars had been doing, but he was going one step further by turning his pawn shop into a theme park.

He opened Badlands Motor Speedway in May 2016 with prize money up to $250,000. Merchandise such as T-shirts, leather jackets and even barbecue sauce was for sale there.

Badlands pawn store

Badlands Pawn, Gold & Jewelry Facebook

All this sounded harmless until you remembered the rates that were being swept under the glittery rug piled high with guns and free tattoos.

Payday loans in South Dakota didn’t have a cap until November 2017, when voters approved an interest rate cap on payday lenders of 36%. Before this, a borrower applying for a loan of up to $500 could have seen APRs in the triple digits. The average APR on a South Dakota payday loan used to be 574%.
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While Brennan described his pawn shop as “the best of the worst,” due to it being able to match competitor’s rates, a loan would still cost you about 200% annually.

Those visiting pawn shops aren’t typically living paycheck to paycheck, but are in need of a fast, larger loan. While borrowers risk assets, many of which hold sentimental value, 80% of all customers end up reclaiming their items according to the National Pawnbrokers Association.

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Updated January 26th, 2020
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