RECORD STORE TALES #996: “These are really big in Europe”
I was working for a stretch at our newly opened Mississauga location. It was deader than dead, but many of the managers had to take turns running the ship until we had a trained staff. There were always staffing problems like people not showing up for their first shifts, and I don’t think the manager lasted a long time either. Kind of a nightmare, as many store openings were back them. This store sat in the middle of a medical strip plaza. Dentists, pharmacies, that sort of thing. Across the street was a vacant field.
I think there was a barbershop or something in the plaza, or hair dresser if you will. This one Mississauga kid came in to check us out. He was related to someone who worked at the hair dresser. He was into dance music and had lots of questions.
“Do you buy CDs? My cousin is a DJ and he has a lot.”
“Yes we do, get him to bring them in and I will go through them and see what we can use.”
“He has really cool dance music.”
“Right on, yeah, bring it in and I’ll have a look.”
“How many can you take?”
“Well I’ll have to have a look first, but you can bring in as many as you want and I’ll sort through them and let you know.”
“How much can he get for them? He has really great dance music that’s hard to find, he bought them on import from Europe. These are all artists that are really big in Europe.”
Egads. That was never something I wanted to hear. Dance music that was “big in Europe” usually sat for months on our shelves because, well, Canada is not in Europe. I went through the spiel.
“Well we offer between $1 and $7 cash each for CDs, and 20% more for credit. It’ll depend on what kind of shape they’re in, what they retail for, and if we have any in stock already. So bring them in and I’ll have a look.”
“So, like $5 each then?”
The kid did indeed have a lot of questions. Eventually he was all questioned out, and returned a few hours later with a big box of CDs. As promised, mostly dance music from Europe with a couple American and Canadian titles sprinkled in there.
“OK, give me an hour or so and I’ll have these all priced out for you.”
“Can you give me an idea?”
Jesus. “No, I haven’t even started looking at them yet. If you want to go and grab a coffee, I’ll need about an hour to sort through these.”
There was absolutely nowhere to grab a coffee nearby, I just needed him our of my hair.
I sorted through the discs, and most of them were in pretty bad shape. Scratched, with some damaged booklets. We always offered less for scratched discs because we had to pay a third party company to buff the scratches out. We had already nickle-and-dimed the third party CD fixers to death, but we generally deducted $2 from the offer for discs that were scratched. Plus a lot of these were older titles, and that meant the fad was often over on them. So the kid wasn’t going to be getting full value. I was sure that would be easy to explain to him…not.
I had no idea who many of these artists were. Mississauga was definitely more into dance music than the more…eh…white trash of Kitchener-Waterloo. But this was not a busy store, and we really had no idea what was going to sell or sit for years. I looked the artists up, disc by disc, and passed on the majority simply because I could not find out a single thing about them. The thing about buying discs like that was that I was always second-guessing myself. The last thing I wanted was to get in shit for buying shit! I played it on the safe side and decided to take a small token number.
I called the kid over and went through his discs stack by stack. “The ones back in the box I can’t take — they are just too damaged, too obscure, or both.”
“But this guy here is really big in Europe right now.”
I had to be blunt. “Yeah, I know, but this isn’t Europe and I have a really hard time selling stuff like this.”
“Lots of people are looking for these man.”
“I’m sorry but I just can’t give you anything for those. I just can’t find out anything about them and sometimes obscure dance music can sit for years. A lot of these are from the 90s.”
The kid was clearly disappointed but I went on.
“These ones here are a bit scratched but I can fix them up. These here are worth $3 each and these are worth $2 each.”
“$2 what? My cousin paid $40 for that one at HMV.”
He could very well have been right…back in 1997. I had no way of knowing what its present value was. I kept going.
“These ones are in great shape,” I said trying to butter him up. “I can give you $5 for this one, $4 for this one, and $2 each for these because I have a couple copies already and could only buy these for our bargain bin. All together, I can give you $47 cash or $55 credit.”
“$55 that’s it?”
“$55 credit,” I corrected. “Or $47 cash.”
“What’s credit?” the kid asked.
“That’s if you wanted to buy something in the store, I’ll give you $55 to spend here. Or you can have $47 cash.”
“That’s all I can get for these? If you take them all you can have the whole box for $150.”
Blunt time again. “Man, I can’t even stock them all, some of them are in un-sellable condition.” But not too blunt. I couldn’t just say, “Kid, these are all crap.”
“But they all play fine, my cousin’s a DJ.”
Of course he is. That’s how they got so banged up.
“It’s not about how they play, it’s also about how they look. We want to sell our customers CDs that look and sound new.”
“So all of these CDs behind you are brand new?” the kid continued to interrogate.
“No, they’re used, but if everybody’s been doing their job right, they’re all in mint or near perfect condition.” I paused a moment and threw him a bone. “Listen I’ll round it up to an even $50 cash but that’s really the best I can do for these.”
The kid took back every disc except for the one I had offered $5 on. He sold that title to me, and walked with the rest.
And that’s how you spend over an hour working for a measly $5 of inventory!