RECORD STORE TALES PART 130: The Bargain Bin
The Bargain Bin was where we sold our overstock — discs we had three or more copies of — at $5.99 per disc. Which was cheap by 1996 prices. New discs went from $16.99 to $24.99 at the time.
I think it was Trev who made the sign for the Bargain Bin. Trevor was the resident sign-maker because he had some artistic ability, where my boss couldn’t read my handwriting let alone my signs. It was originally called the “Bin O’ Bargains”. It was a big red sign, and it looked something like this:
Bin ‘O Bargains. But yet 90% of customers couldn’t read it. They would always say, “What’s in your Bin Bargains?”
“Bin Bargains”? That doesn’t even make sense!
The Bin O’ Bargains, as mentioned, was a hodgepodge of overstock. Any type of music was fair game, from Alan Jackson to Hammer to Lionel Richie to Hole to the Pumpkins. $5.99 each. We later lowered this, but at the start everything in there was basically the same price. We figured, that was simplest.
Simple to us, but not to everyone else. The Bin O’ Bargains created many questions and problems for both customers and staff! I mentioned that it was for stuff we had three or more copies of. That’s an oversimplification of things, but there were also things that we’d NEVER throw in the bargain bin. For example, if by some weird coincidence, we had four copies of a Queen album: Staff would think maybe, “OK, that’s plenty of copies, I’ll put this copy of The Miracle in the Bin.”
Nooooo! No no nononono!
Queen, Metallica, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Lightfoot, …doesn’t matter how many copies we have or what we paid for them. You never, ever, ever bargain bin bands like that. If we happened to have a bunch of used copies, that’s just pure chance!
You’d also never throw a greatest hits CD in there, because they were good sellers.
Err…except those cheapie greatest hits discs that you can get new at the grocery store for around $5.
Try teaching all that to a highschool kid who just wants to work at a record store to be cool. We ended up selling all kinds of stuff for $5.99, by mistake, instead of stockpiling it. I remember once a kid handed me a copy of Metallica’s Black Album that he found in the bin at $5.99. Lucky kid! That CD never should have been in there, since it was a regular easy sale at full price. (It doesn’t matter what you think of that album, it was huge, people wanted it all the time.)
So, there was that. There was always the confusing aspect that since our Bargain Bin was overstock, you’d find the same album on our regular shelves for $11.99. So people would logically ask:
“This copy is $5.99, and this copy is $11.99. Is that because one is scratched more?”
Oooh. Hated that question. It required a set response that both stated our quality policy (all discs are guaranteed and scratch free) and a quick explanation of overstock. People were often confused and who could blame them?
After you explained the Bin O’ Bargains to them, they’d hold up the $5.99 copy. “So…I should buy this one, right?”
Yes. Yes you should.
Since the bargain bin was a hodgepodge, we just threw stuff in there — nothing was alphabetized. Which caused us problems with lazy customers who didn’t want to flip through the treasures within.
“The other day you had Bryan Adams in here. Can you help me find him?”
ARGH! Why didn’t you buy him the other day? Yeah, I’ll help you find him. Flip flip flip. Flip flip flip. Flip flip flip. I could flip the whole bin in around 5-10 minutes, but still…tedious.
We did brisk business out of the bin. The markup was decent and we might have sold 20 out of there each day. Some people used it to take chances on new music, others to pick up long-ignored albums. It just boggled my mind how many people complained about such a great deal!
“I can’t search through this bin…it’s completely random! I’m not wasting my time.”
“Can you give me a deal if I buy 5?”
We also had this frequent buyer card like a buy-10-get-one-free type of card, but it specifically said, “Not applicable with any other special deals.” The Bin O’ Bargains was already a special deal, so we weren’t allowed to stamp the card with it. Which pissed people off. Which made me wonder, “What are you complaining about? You’re already getting a CD for a quarter of its regular price.”
When the Bin O’ Bargain was full to the brim, and sales were slow, we’d have a Bargain Bin sale. Something like buy two from the bin, get one free. We were still making money and stuff cleared out of there quickly. It was one good way to get rid of all those Lionel Richie Louder Than Words discs.
But don’t worry, the Bin would fill up again in short order. There were always people looking to get rid of their Lionel Richie.