GETTING MORE TALE #605: “Hey, you got a message, use Western Union!”
Featuring guest essay by John Hubner
“A lot of bands mature, which means they get square; they start delivering messages. Hey, you got a message, use Western Union.” – David Lee Roth
When David Lee Roth made that legendary statement, he was talking about rock and roll bands who take things too seriously. Might as well jump? This is course is a matter of taste. I enjoy Van Halen and ZZ Top, but I also enjoy the more cerebral works of Marillion and Dream Theater. In music there truly is room for all tastes and styles. Few genres are as diverse as rock and roll, even lyrically. If a writer is a strong enough to embed personal messages in their words that might go undetected by the listener, then this kind of lyric should be celebrated. On the other hand, fans are sometimes turned off when the messages are too overt. U2 have faced some backlash over this.
So, rock bands: by all means, feel free to tell us all about climate change, globalism, big pharma and Wall Street. If you do it well, the fans won’t mind. On the other hand, there is no shame in rock and rolling all nite and partying every day. As Paul Stanley once said in one of his many stage raps, “We all came here tonight to escape from the world! Tomorrow morning when we get up it’ll be just as screwed up as it is today. We might as well have a little fun!” And that is certainly one very valid reason to rock.
Even here, in these very virtual pages, I’ve taken a few liberties where I’ve veered slightly off course. I’ve preached a little bit about the plight of the Indigenous Canadian. Other tangents included mental health, stigma, religion, tolerance, and even the rights of service dog owners, with music as the common thread. I hope I haven’t offended anyone with these fairly benign notions. I try to be careful. As a writer, I founded myself with two projects: my reviews, and Record Store Tales. Most of you got here because of the music, and so that’s what I deliver. I don’t need to bore you with social justice or environmental ideals. I don’t want to bore myself, either.
Speaking of Record Store Tales, one of its many focuses was to relay lessons I learned from a decade of retail management. Any time I walk into any record store, I could make mental lists of things they are doing great and others for Continual Improvement. That goes for a lot of retail in general too. Back to the subject at hand…and this should be patently obvious to most sensible people…leave your personal politics out of your customer service job.
Mrs. LeBrain and I were up at the cottage a couple years ago, and we stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some bathroom essentials and some candy. There was only one cashier on duty and she was a chatty one. There was a problem with the person in front of us; something wasn’t scanning right. It took forever to fix, and this cashier would not stop talking. I had a feeling we’d be in for some chatting when she finally got to us.
I was right, and it didn’t start well with a “How are you today darlin’?” Fine…thanks. “Would you like a bag for this?” I glanced at Mrs. LeBrain who nodded yes and said, “Yeah a couple bags.” Her response threw me for a loop.
“Well have you seen the landfill?” she asked me in a condescending tone.
“Ummm…no?” I answered, very puzzled.
“Well,” she began, “There’s no room left in the landfill and the birds are choking on plastic from garbage bags…”
I politely let her finish, and then explained, “OK, but we have dogs here at the cottage, and these bags will be used for them.” There were in fact three poop factories (Schnauzers) at the cottage that weekend.* Stoop and scoop, people. Stoop and scoop.
It’s none of her business why I wanted those bags, I didn’t need to explain myself and I certainly didn’t need to be lectured about reusing and recycling. I went through highschool at the start of the green revolution. I do my best to be a responsible inhabitant of Mother Earth. Rest assured, I am not some littering jackass who doesn’t give a shit. Sometimes you just need a couple plastic bags, goddammit!
I thought about being “that customer” and complaining about the talky cashier, but decided to live and let live, and instead save it for this story. Consider my wisdom, young padawans. You don’t know your customers as well as you think you might. Say too much, and you just might lose your customer, or find them complaining about you to your boss, as happened to me once when I made a snarky comment about Radiohead!**
So ends today’s lesson, friends. Do you agree with this experience and advice?
* We asked Schnauzer expert John Hubner for a “message” about how awesome Schnauzers are. He sent us the following treatise:
Klaus. Dieter. Helmut. Otto.
** Freed of the shackles of the Record Store, I can say I like Radiohead enough to own a couple CDs, but still find them so very pretentious.