No Sunday Chuckle this week — a special post instead.
GETTING MORE TALE #677: Rock Clocks (Happy Mother’s Day!)
My mom has always been creative. Ever since we were kids, she’s been making things. In my earliest memories, she learned how to make ceramics at home. A prized possession of mine is my Darth Vader lamp. It’s made of two ceramic pieces, the base and the Vader bust. It has coloured lights in his chest, and his lightsaber lights up as well. I got Vader, while my sister had an R2-D2. I still have that Vader and she still has her R2. Then she even bought a kiln so she could fire her ceramics at home. My dad called it “that damned kiln” or “that god-damned oven” while my mom expanded to teaching ceramic classes in the basement. She even started making stained glass ornaments! My dad hated that we had a cottage industry in the basement, and her stuff always fought for space with my Transformers boxes. But dad had to admit one thing, which is the ceramics not only paid for themselves, but also my mother’s annual vacations.
Vader lamp, far left
When I started working at the Record Store, one of my mom’s more successful creations were functional clocks. You could buy a clockwork and put it in anything really, but CD clocks looked cool. I convinced her and the Boss to work out a consignment deal. I brought home a bunch of defective CDs that were written off in the back room. I had her make a variety of clocks — Pink Floyd CDs, Bob Marley’s Legend, or anything with a cool picture on it. We also had a few basic ones with just numbers glued to a blank CD face.
They weren’t great sellers, but she moved maybe two dozen over the years. It didn’t cost the Boss anything to stock them, maybe 18″ of shelf space behind the counter, but it was more of a favour than a business move. As cool as they were, they got dusty up there on that shelf, and were tricky to clean. The little metal hands bent easily, and if you wiped too hard you could mark up the clock face, or remove one of the numbers!
One gimmick came up with was allowing customers to buy custom clocks made. They could either a) bring in a CD to be made into a clock, or b) use one of the defects in the box in our back room for a clock. We did a few of those, though it meant my mom had to go out and buy more clockworks.
I’ll never forget this one guy. He came in one day but it wasn’t for a clock.
He approached the counter and asked “Do you buy CDs?”
“Yes we do!” I responded, and he pulled a CD from his jacket pocket.
I looked at the cover and did not recognise the name. I flipped it over and looked at the back. No label, no bar code…definitely some unknown artist.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I began explaining the part that I hated explaining. “I’ll have to pass on this one. We just generally don’t buy things like this because they tend to just sit on the shelves for years. I can’t find a record label on the back, I don’t know this artist, and there’s nothing under this name in our system.”
“Oh, well that’s me,” he answered.
“Oh this is you! Well, that’s cool, but still, it’s just not the kind of thing we would buy for stock. The best I could do is offer to sell it on consignment here for you. But I’ll be honest, we don’t sell a lot of consignment CDs here unless it’s a pretty popular local band.”
“Can you make it into a clock?” he asked while pointing at my mom’s CD clocks.
“You want to make it into a clock? Yes, absolutely we can do that!”
That took a twist I didn’t expect! “I want to give it to my wife as a gift,” he said.
Well sure, why not! I took his order down in a little yellow receipt book. He chose the style of hands and numbers (gold coloured) and a week or so later, he had his clock. Two AA batteries not included.
Here’s another clock memory for you. Can you guess how often people looked up at the clocks and said, “Woah! Is that the time?” More frequently than you’d think. No, those clocks don’t have batteries in them, they’re for sale and they’re all showing different times, you dumb ass.
We ended the clock collaboration shortly after. At least I tried. Not all my ideas were good ones. It wasn’t a failure, it just wasn’t worth the effort after the novelty wore off. It demonstrated one thing that remains true about retail: things only have a limited shelf life. People don’t want to see the same stuff sitting there year after year. It was true for virtually everything we sold. Bobble heads, action figures, Simpsons characters, Osbournes figures, accessories and impulse buys…they were all shuffled from one location to another when they were “dead”. Then you’d sell a few more, and the product would die again. Shuffle the remains to a sale bin in a third store and you’ll probably clear them all. One of our stores had the Metallica McFarlane figure set opened up on display with the big stage and everything. I was aghast! You don’t open a toy for display, you idiots. Nobody would buy it. And guess what? That open Metallica set was a shelfwarmer, as it slowly suffered from shelf abuse.
The only thing that was timeless and the never-ending star of the show? CDs. Music.
I left in 2006 and I know that music stores have changed in the last 12 years. They’ve all had to diversify, and the old store I used to manage now sells board games and used Nintendo cartridges. I got out at exactly the right time. My passion has always been for the music. The rest is just window dressing.
And that includes CD clocks. Sorry mom!