RECORD STORE TALES Part 318: Oh What A Feeling
In 1996, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Juno Awards, a box set titled Oh What A Feeling was released. It was four CDs loaded to the gills with Canadian music, from all corners of the country and all styles of music. It was a great set and one which sold regularly in our stores. The original run of the set sold out briskly. We had a hard time keeping it in stock new, and a few years later, used copies were somewhat scarce. We sold it at a very reasonable price of $19.99, used.
We had one customer, who I never gave a name to except for “Eastern European Guy”. He had an accent and broken English so that worked for me. He pulled Oh What A Feeling off the shelves and asked to listen to it on one of our six crappy listening stations. I popped in all four CDs, handed him the headphones and remote, and left him to listen.
One thing that always pissed me off was people who constantly need help on the listening stations. It’s not hard. Volume controls were right there in front of you. The remote was like any remote that people would have had at home. People who couldn’t figure out how to skip tracks pissed me off. How do you listen to music at home? I didn’t get it.
Eastern European Man motioned with his hand for me to come over. “This song…there is a problem with it. Listen please.”
“Hey, I have an idea. Let’s stick the lead guitar player behind the bassist for this video.”
I placed the headphones on my head. It was track 1, disc one. “American Woman” by The Guess Who. I listened for a few seconds, nodded my head in approving time with the song, and removed the ‘phones.
“Sounds good. What problem are you having?” I asked as politely as I could manage.
“This song…there is strange sound. Listen again.”
I placed the headphones back on. Dah da da da da, dah da. American Woman, stay away from me-hee. Sounded fine. I heard no strange sounds. I told him I heard nothing unusual.
“There is a sound…ticking sound. Tick tick tick. Listen please.”
I put the phones on for the third time. Finally I got it. I heard the ticking. It was the cymbal.
“Oh, OK, I get it. Yeah, that’s not a defect. That’s the drummer playing cymbals.” I made a drumming motion to get my point across.
“No, no. There is ticking sound. Tick tick tick. This not right.”
I explained again, “I hear the ticking sound you’re talking about. It’s part of the song. It’s the drummer playing cymbals, it’s a percussion instrument, like this.” I made the drumming motions again.
“I not like. Can you order me other copy?”
Man, I freaking hated ordering shit in when I didn’t have to. There was nothing wrong with Oh What A Feeling. If I ordered in a copy, it would be coming from another store in our chain. We carried this item as a used item, but they were all going to be the same. When we brought in this item from another store, we wouldn’t make any money on it. The store that sent it to us gets the sale. So, even if he buys it which was not guaranteed since the next copy would have the same tick tick tick, I would be losing the sale.
He insisted. I ordered in the box set, we called him, and inexplicably, he bought the new one even though they were identical. He never even returned it, which I completely expected.
Later on, the same man came in and picked out Bruce Dickinson’s album Balls To Picasso to listen to. Once again, I brought him over to the listening stations, and left him to listen. Once again, he signaled me over with a hand gesture. I made my way to home wondering what the hell could be wrong this time.
“Did you put in correct CD? I know this singer. This is…not him.”
I put on the headphones and turned it up. It was Bruce singing “Cyclops”, track one.
“This is the right CD. This is Bruce Dickinson,” I told him.
Puzzled, the man said, “He changed his style!” Well, win some lose some man. I left him to listen once again. I got back to my work, I had lots of customers to deal with that day. About 10 minutes later, he motioned me over once again.
“The player…it not working.” This happened quite frequently. Our stuff was used and abused by the lowest scum and passersby who needed to kill 10 minutes while they waited for the bus. Tire kickers. They like to try things, but not to buy things. Eastern European Man was not one of these, he did buy things. However our stuff took a lot of abuse from others and was always on the verge of failure.
Attempting to joke around with him, I put on a happy voice and said, “Oh, did you break it man?”
Not understanding the humour, he answered, “Ehhh…perhaps.”
He bought the disc. After a while, I never saw him again. It’s funny. You dread people like this coming into your store, and you having to wait on them hand on foot when they want to listen to something. You hate them constantly signaling you over when you’re busy with other customers. But, then you miss them. You miss that eastern European accent because hey, he might have been annoying but at least he wasn’t a dick, and he did buy things. He might have treated you like a servant to him, but technically that’s what you were. You might have been a manager but to these guy you’re serving them, and they’re the customer, and that’s it, and I don’t begrudge it anymore.
But what happened to him? Did he return to Eastern Europe? Did he go online and start listening and downloading there? Who knows. After all, I never caught his name. He was just Eastern European Man.