GETTING MORE TALE #687: Chronic Complainers
There will always be people who relish complaining. Maybe they feel that life wronged them somewhere. Perhaps they got up on the wrong side of the bed. Some people are just miserable and like to spread the misery. Others are just cheapskates. Whatever the category, we saw ‘em all at the Record Store.
If you don’t like a store, why do you shop there? Chronic complainers had many grievances, but were still coming on a regular basis. It’s not like we were the only game in town. We weren’t the cheapest either. So why did the chronic complainers like to make our lives misery? Every retail job has “horror stories”, but those are amplified in a buy-and-sell environment.
I think a lot of people used to have the wrong about idea about what a “used CD store” was all about. One of the old managers, Joe, used to say we were nothing but a “glorified garage sale” disguised as a store. A lot of complainers seemed to see it that way too. They wanted to haggle. They wanted a better deal than what was on the sticker.
Me personally, when I walk into a store, I don’t assume every price is negotiable. Some people do. I still know people who love to haggle. At the store, we all hated when customers tried. Only the owner had any real authority to haggle, and he didn’t work at a cash register.
We carried a small selection of new CDs in addition to our used stock. Some folks loved to whine about pricing. Chronic complainers would tell you that “Walmart has the new Metallica for cheaper than you.” Great, super, thanks for the help. You know that an indy shop can’t compete with Walmart’s buying power, right? Their costs were much less than ours, and there was no way to beat them. Why didn’t you just buy Metallica at Walmart when you were there if the prices are so great?
Selection was another subject for complaint. We might have had 10,000 used CDs in stock but complainers loved to point out what we didn’t have. “This is the only Zeppelin you have?” they’d ask as they held up a copy of Encomium – A Tribute to Led Zeppelin. “You never have any good Zeppelin. When are you getting more?” I’d explain that you can never predict when a specific used CD would be traded in, but I could put them on a waiting list. “Nah, I’ll just check back.” Well, then don’t complain when someone else snags the next Zeppelin before you.
We had a pretty good system for a waiting list. It was all computerized so if something particular came in, it would automatically get flagged. We could also have stock sent from other stores to pick up locally. There was one woman that only came in during our first summer open…a chronic complainer that eventually fucked off. She always had a complaint, every visit. You don’t have this, you don’t have that, why is this taking so long? She ordered in a CD from another store, didn’t pick it up on time, and by the time she came in (a month later), it was gone. I remember telling the staff, “Keep this one on hold. She’s really mean. Give her extra time.” Eventually though I had to put the album out and sell it. I know that we called and left a message that she only had a week left to pick it up. She still came in too late, and that’s when she ripped me a new one.
“I had to drive an hour to get here!” she complained.
“Would our Waterloo location be more convenient for you?” I asked, trying to be helpful but also hoping to dump this annoying customer on another store.
“NO!” she exclaimed.
Maybe you should have called in to see if the CD was still here before you made the trip. I would have. I think that was her last visit, and it was one customer I was happy to lose. The owner probably wouldn’t like to hear me say that, but he didn’t have to deal with her.
When I was running our website in the early 2000s, I received a complaint about one of our locations that would not refund some used CDs. I called the manager up to get her side of the story before I responded. She said that the guy was yelling and screaming and wouldn’t let her finish a sentence, as she was trying to explain the return policy. Some customers treated our female employees like dirt, preferring to deal with males. I got the sense that this complainer was one of them. He threatened to go to the Chamber of Commerce, but he didn’t get his refund.
There were also chronic complainers who primarily just sold CDs to us. They wanted a lot more for their CDs than you can offer, and sometimes even act insulted about it. When you wouldn’t give in to them (because you’re not allowed), they’d be grumpy about it, to put it mildly. There was one construction worker that came in regularly who was my first surly nemesis. (And no, he never sold me any Village People albums.) Then there was the prick that worked at CD Plus down the street. He kept coming in over and over again to sell, even though he complained each time. He had tiger-striped hair. What an annoying fuck he was. I sure was glad when CD Plus shut down operations and I never saw him again. (The former CD Plus owner, David Cubitt, still has his mullet but now sells beer for a living.) Whatever that fucking tiger-stripe guy’s name was, I couldn’t stand dealing with his arrogance.
Tiger-stripe loved to argue. He quizzed me about what kind of CDs we would pay the most for. At the time, the Beatles’ original albums were expensive and in demand on CD, so that was one. “We’ll pay top dollar for the Beatles, they’re still very popular.”
“Why the Beatles? Neil Diamond has sold more albums than the Beatles.”
Yeah, not the point man. You could buy a Neil Diamond CD brand new for half the price of a Beatles CD at that time, and he knew that. His store made their coin selling “super saver” titles.
Any time he brought in a bunch of discs, he would only sell a handful of them and keep all the best ones. If he could get more for them elsewhere, why was he coming to us at all?
The constant negativity of the chronic complainers could become a real drag on your day.
If you catch yourself complaining regularly at a favourite establishment, maybe it’s not a favourite after all, and maybe the problem is you.