Angry email lands William Roberts a job with the Pawn Stars
William Roberts outside the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas.
Editor’s note: The following tale could only happen to William Roberts. It may or may not be recommended as a job application method.
William Roberts loves trivia. LOVES it. While a student at Northside High School, he played on its formidable Quiz Bowl team and was an outstanding student. While he attended the University of Chicago, majoring in statistics, trivia games moved online, offering the chance to play without having to gather a team or get out a Trivial Pursuit board.
In December, after Will had graduated U Chi, a friend recommended a new game called Rick Harrison’s Trivia Challenge, a smart phone app. At the time, Will said, he was a heavy player of Trivia Crack, the most downloaded game of that month from Apple’s app store. Will liked Rick Harrison’s Trivia Challenge more and played it intensely. In fact, he was apparently the first player to reach the “end” of the game at 100 levels.
And that’s when he got angry.
Rick Harrison of the game’s title is the star of “Pawn Stars,” The History Channel’s highly rated reality show starring Harrison, his father, Richard – the “Old Man” – and son Corey, along with their friend Austin “Chumlee” Russell, the staff of the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. Viewers love the colorful camaraderie among the staff and the fact that Rick appears to know everything – about anything – offered to or sold in the store. And if Rick doesn’t, he consults a cast of experts that does. He also is a champion haggler for prices. The Pawn Star brand launched Trivia Challenge as natural extension of Rick’s interests.
Back to Will. On the evening he reached the final level of the game, he also realized, in effect, it wasn’t “winnable.” Players are invited to earn virtual gold coins with correct answers. The coins can be traded for “swag” from the store such as Pawn Stars T-shirts or meeting with the cast.
“Once I got up to level 100, I realized you couldn’t win enough coins to win even the minimum prize,” Will explained. “Well, maybe if you played for a million years.”
“The moment that I happened, I sent an angry email,” he said. “I knew if I sent a quality email they would definitely give me a shirt or something. So, I sent out that email on a Friday night. Maybe two hours later, Jim (the game’s co-creator) had written me a long, impassioned apology and said he was going to send me some cool stuff. I thought that was the end of it.”
But it wasn’t. The following Monday, Rick Harrison personally emailed Will a friendly apology video. And Jim Scott phoned. Will took the call, expecting it was a call-back for a job interview.
“I picked up the phone and it was Jimmy, Rick’s partner,” he said. “He talked to me at length about what I thought could be improved with the game; what I would personally do to change it. I started telling him and then I realized I was giving this information out for free. I was looking for a job and I just graduated from college with a degree in statistics!”
Will begged his way off the phone and when he got home, composed a detailed email and attached his resume.
“I definitely thought the game was good,” he said, describing his letter. “I had heard that start-ups like this, especially in the app world, want someone who really knows the game and wants to improve it.”
Jim responded by inviting Will to Las Vegas for a job interview, with a generous offer to cover his travel expenses. He flew out. He had lunch with both Rick and Jim. They offered him a job with Old Man Interactive, the app company run by Jim in partnership with Rick.
“Rick is real,” Will said. “The person you see on TV is him. Television is the heavily edited version of the real Rick.” When the moment came to negotiate his salary, Will’s mind was racing.
“I was struck with the opportunity to do the classic barter with Rick,” he said he was thinking. But as it was a fair offer and close to his request, he decided not to try to game the master haggler.
He returned to Fort Smith, packed and moved to Las Vegas, where he has been working for several months. His official title is data analyst. The job, while certainly unusual, is indeed the kind of work that employs his degree in statistics. The problem that set him off originally is now fixed, Will reported. That really made him like his employers. Rick and Jim, Will’s direct boss, are in weekly meetings with the app team.
The job also rewards his own passion for trivia. He can also contribute questions. “What I try to do is go through the quiz questions and address things I think are not necessarily rewarding to the user,” he explained.
He has come to respect Rick’s knowledge and for a trivia enthusiast of Will’s level, that’s saying something. “I like the way he presents the facts,” he said of Rick’s manner on the show. “It’s like a grab bag of different things instead of like other educational shows where it’s all about one subject. He presents facts in a way that’s not the way a historian would. It’s more of an armchair history lesson.”
He also still loves to play Rick Harrison’s Trivia Challenge.
“Five stars,” he rates it. “You need to play.”
By Lynn Wasson
Download Rick Harrison's Triva Challenge free from Apple or Google app stores.
This article appears in the April 2015 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.