#879: Advertising & the Pennysaver

GETTING MORE TALE #879: Advertising & the Pennysaver

The Record Store didn’t do oodles of advertising.  We had a limited budget.  We usually ran ads in the Pennysaver, a free weekly ad paper.  Their rep with us was a super ducky guy named Dana McMullen.  He was a sharp dresser with a talent for layout.  We got along immediately because he was a Queensryche fan.  It was always amusing to me how you could run into fellow rock fans almost anywhere.  Dana didn’t look like a metal head.  His hair and suits were meticulous.   But he loved his Queensryche.  We were both pretty fond of 1994’s Promised Land.

We opened the store that I first managed in 1996.  It was a dry period for Queensryche, but then in ’97 came Hear in the Now Frontier.  I was disappointed with it, and told Dana as much, but he bought it like any loyal fan would.  He was a good guy.

Dana left the Pennysaver shortly after, and we had a new rep.  I can’t remember her name, just that she always called me “Dude”, which I hated.  (The part of working retail that isn’t in the manual is that you have to get used to people calling you “Dude”, “Chief”, and “Bud”.)  Advertising with the new rep wasn’t as smooth as it was with Dana. I remember she messed up some important details on a few of our ads.  One day she was meeting with the Boss Man about these mistakes and she left in tears.  Yikes!  I didn’t get a “See ya Dude!” from her that day.

I know from making in-store signage that the Boss was hard to please.  In 1994, I was green and just started.  The first display I ever made, he hated.  It was a simple enough job.  We got free posters from the record companies all the time, but the Boss didn’t want plain old posters taped to the walls.  He wanted them framed.  One night he left me with the job to frame some of the free posters we got.  The only issue was that the large posters didn’t fit the medium sized frames, so you had to chop them up and make them fit.  He assigned me to frame a Jann Arden poster for her second album Living Under June.  It was such a huge image of Jann that I couldn’t just trim the edges and make it fit.  It was a vertical poster but he wanted the frame horizontal.  I had to chop it into pieces and have the picture of Jann on one side and the name and album title on the other.  The boss hated it and made sure I knew it.  He couldn’t tell me what he wanted it to look like, just that what I made wasn’t it.  Fortunately we hired T-Rev shortly after and he was much more artistically inclined.  I was relieved of my sign making duties.

I’m sure when he looks at my site now, the Boss must still think my graphic skills still suck because they haven’t changed much!

We expanded to radio ads.  I hated our jingle, but I remember early conversations with the radio people that could have taken us in another direction.  Although he had a tiny office in the back, it wasn’t really good for meetings, so the Boss would have a lot of his meetings in the store.  I was there when one radio guru pitched his ad concept.

“It’s Beavis and Butt-head see, and they go, ‘Hey Butt-Head, heh heh, where should we sell these awesome used CDs?’”

The boss wasn’t into that one.  “I think Beavis and Butt-Head are a little passé,” he asserted.

He might have been right, but I didn’t agree with that; the Beavis and Butt-Head movie was only a year old.  Their voices were recognizable.  The Boss just didn’t like them.  My only contention was that I could do better Beavis and Butt-Head voices than the radio guru.  We didn’t need him!

While I didn’t always enjoy having these meetings going on in my workspace, and having to work around these people, it was fun listening in.  Sometimes the Boss would ask afterwards what I thought of the pitch.

Later on, after we started expanding and (in my opinion) losing our path a bit, the Boss hired an expensive marketing expert.  I didn’t care for her ideas.  I remember he sent us one of her proposals and it just lost me.  We were supposed to read it and offer our feedback.  I thought we were a music store, and here’s this marketing proposal with all these empty buzzwords in it.   Words like “synergy”.   It felt like a huge disconnect between upper management and working on the floor.   The business was simple – we bought CDs from the public, and we sold them back to the public.  Now we’re spending money on marketing while I have to wait weeks just to get paid my mileage cheques.

Having said all this, take it with a grain of salt.  He’s still in business and this year will be celebrating his 30th anniversary.  He must be doing something right.



        1. got em a couple of years back, maybe 3 or 4 years ago. They were on sale too. There were 2 different pairs but they only had the black ones. They are from dr martens uk site.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Cool story, did the Pennysaver ads generate more business for the store? Great Twisted Sister song, I never heard that one. My one criticism of the band was that Jay-Jay and Eddie never did guitar solo tradeoffs like they do in that song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ads helped a LOT. The biggest problem with the store wasn’t sales — it was getting in used stock. So people would come in with a box of discs every day. “I saw your ad in the Pennysaver!” It helped a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My record store was a huge conglomerate so they handled all the marketing and such. The only thing we dealt with were the label people that dropped off CDs to be played in the store. I would’ve enjoyed all that other stuff as well if we could’ve done that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We had a store here in the mid 80s called Poor Pete’s, I swear to god it was a front for some shadiness going on in the back. lol
    if you could cut through the huge smoke int he place you could find tuff. I bought ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In’ from there back in 86. They were the first place that I know of that sold used vinyl. were talking 86..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It didn’t last maybe three years at the most. Funny thing was a ways back I bought a used copy of Unleashed In The East and stamped on the inside label of the record was “Poor Pete’s”. That was gold I found! lol

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Everytime you tell a boss story I am still saddened he could be such a thoughtless dink, but I’ve been reading these for years and shouldn’t be surprised. Still gets me every time, though.

    That B&B movie rules.


  5. Thanks for mentioning that instant friends with someone who liked a cool band. I miss those times. Had forgotten about that. A few years back at work there was a customer wearing a shirt saying smell the magic. I just had to ask him if it was L7 related and turned out he had gone to one of their shows and I didn’t recall that one, but told him about another show I saw and then when I shared the story at home I was a given a weird look and was told that you saw that show too. Think I saw them maybe 3 times?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was at BGO Waterloo today. One guy called the employee “buddy” about 10 times in the few minutes he was there.
    I almost started laughing.

    I had my own weirdos to contend with however. Like the mumbler that wouldn’t stop talking to himself, or the vinyl hunting creeper that would not follow social distancing rules.
    He was edging near me, so I switched to the other side of the rack. When he switched sides I went back to my original spot.
    Then he proceeded to check the side of the rack I was looking at AGAIN!!!
    I put half of my vinyl purchases on the records to my left, half on the records to my right. Then when he inched closer I put my hands on both stacks and stood there.
    Dear vinyl hunters that want to get close to me: I hated you before Covid 19, I REALLY hate you now. So please, kindly stay the F away from me.

    Liked by 1 person

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