RECORD STORE TALES Part 271: The Stamp
The year: 1997.
We had just started repairing scratched CDs via a GTA-based third party contractor. They were able to remove a miniscule layer of plastic from the playing surface, rendering a smooth surface that would not deflect your CD player’s laser. The result was a playable, sellable CD, with a clouded appearance on the CD itself. The cloudy look was usually very minor, although it was sometimes enough to turn a customer off of buying the CD.
After repairing the scratched discs, they would be put in brand new CD cases and then on the shelves to sell. But we also had to mark each disc as “repaired” somehow, so that if any were returned as defective, we would know they had been fixed. We could then get the fee for fixing the disc credited back to us, or the contractor could try to fix it again and buff it deeper. Either way, we needed to mark them, somehow.
The best way to fix a surface scratched CD
We agreed that the least problematic way was to stamp the inner (usually blank and hidden) sleeve of the CD, the part underneath the plastic tray. We stamped it with our store logo. For most discs at the time, nobody would ever notice the stamp unless they pulled the case apart. The only problems were with discs that had inner picture sleeves under clear trays. We were forced to put the stamp directly on the artwork in those cases, a process that killed me every time. I hated defacing a CD. It’s not something I would ever do to my own property.
Around this time, AC/DC just released the luxurious Bonfire box set, a monolith of rock containing many separate additional treats: A pick, a bottle opener/keychain, a sticker, and a temporary tattoo. This was high on my priority list, so I put my name in our store’s computer reservation system for the first used copy that showed up.
It was only a few weeks before a used copy did show up. One of the higher-ups decided to work in my store that day. A man came to the counter with some CDs to sell, and the Bonfire box set. It was mint, complete, everything intact. However the higher-up didn’t consider the set as “mint” as I did; she determined that one of the CDs from the Let There Be Rock set was scratched. It had a tiny nearly invisible mark on it not even the size of a hair, but not a scratch. She dutifully stamped the inner tray and put the CD in the pile to be sent out and fixed.
I was disappointed that the tray had been defaced, but there was no way I was letting that disc get sent out and fixed. It would look worse, with the cloudy finish. I preferred the un-fixed finish with that tiny hairline mark that I could barely see. I can see the scratch even less today with my aged eyesight!
I bought the set but that stamp is still there. I covered it up with a white sticker, and was grateful that the box set didn’t have clear CD trays with artwork underneath.
That stamp still bugs me. I still see it there, and it still bugs me! How do you feel about things like this? Defects in the physical musical product that you love? I know I can’t be alone.
Postscript: Years later some damn rat kid stole the stamper. On my watch!!