#797: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For It!

GETTING MORE TALE #797: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For It!

In the early 90s, we got our first Costco store in Kitchener.  My parents raved about how much I’d love it.  In those early years, I enjoyed going with them.  I’d throw a 20 pack of Hot Rods into the cart and see if they’d notice (they always did).  They didn’t have much of a music selection, but what they did have was priced to go.  So I picked up a few current releases:

The Guns was a nice score.  The full Tokyo show, split onto two VHS tapes (sold separately).  At Costco prices they were affordable.  The show later made up a large portion of their album Live Era.  Costco was great for buying new releases, junk food in bulk, and the occasional electronics.  We enjoyed getting free food samples and checking out the latest in TVs and videos games.  I stocked up on blank tapes.  But there was one thing Costco didn’t have.

To be clear, it wasn’t that I was looking to buy this.  I was just being a shit.  I have a juvenile sense of humour, and always have.  Costco should have known that if they were going to leave pads of paper for “suggestions” at the end of every aisle, someone was going to write silly things on it.

Most people wrote sensible suggestions.  “Too much packaging on products” was a good one.  It’s true, Costco would use far too much cardboard and plastic to package together three things of deodorant.  But I noticed they didn’t carry something; something important that could easily be sold in bulk.  My mom gave me shit for it, but I always wrote “CONDOMS” on the suggestion pads.

I didn’t need condoms, believe me.  Definitely not in bulk.  But something about the idea tickled my funnybone, and so every time, I wrote it down.

“MICHAEL!” my mother would scold.  I’d grin and laugh.  It went on and on like this, visit after visit.

But you know something?  It was a good idea.  So good that a few years later, they were stocked.  I couldn’t believe it.

“Kathryn!” I shouted at my sister.  “Get over here, you won’t believe this.”  I proudly pointed at the condoms.  “Do you think that’s because of me?”  I mean, I wrote it down enough times.

I think I had something to do with it.  At least, that’s the way I tell the story, and I’ll be damned if I’m changing it now.  Costco carries condoms because of me.

There was one guy I knew back in the day who would have appreciated it.  He was a friend of a friend.  We were at an age when you’d be expected to be “embarrassed” to be buying condoms.  Not this guy.  He went up to the counter at the drug store and said, “See that?  That’s a five pack.  That means I’m getting it five times.”  Then when the transaction was done, he’d conclude by saying “See you tomorrow!”  No embarrassment for that guy.  I like to think that I got Costco to carry condoms in bulk, and I did it for that guy.  You’re welcome!




#795: A Case for Security

A sequel to #424: How to Stop a Thief


GETTING MORE TALE #795: A Case for Security

Back when people used to actually steal physical CDs instead of just stealing a download, extravagant measures were taken to secure our precious inventory.

We had a magnetic tag security system.  At the entrance stood an electronic gate that would go into alarm mode any time one of those magnetic tags was near.  Every item we had in-store was tagged.  The system was not cheap.  I believe the tags cost 5 cents each (in 1994 dollars).  They were the cheapest ones available and they quickly added up.  The tags were not re-usable.  Once they were de-magnetized they were done.  Also, because they were sticky tags, if you ripped one off you wouldn’t be able to re-apply it very well as the sticky side got less sticky.  You could put it back on with tape, but no matter what you did, over time the tags would always start to peel off on their own.  We did a “tape check” every week to make sure every cassette still had a security tag firmly attached.

There was a different method for securing CDs.  To cut down on the use of the magnetic tags, we used plastic CD long boxes.  The magnetic tags were fitted inside, didn’t peel off, and could be re-used time and time again.  You couldn’t get the CD out of the long boxes without a key, or you’d destroy what was inside.  The key was kept behind the counter.

Like anything at the Record Store, this security measure had its pros and cons.  Storing those long boxes when not in use was a constant struggle.  We always seemed to be bursting at the seams with them.  We had cabinets underneath the CD shelving that were usually packed full.

The biggest “pro” was reducing the cost of the magnetic tags.  Since you could use the same case over and over again with the magnetic strip intact, you didn’t have to keep buying new ones.  The long boxes were also an added deterrent.  If you wanted to steal a CD you had to hide the long box under your jacket.

This didn’t stop people from trying.  One day, somebody from the mall came into the Record Store and told me that they found half a dozen broken long boxes in the trash outside.

“I think someone has been stealing from you,” she said.

I was immediately worried that someone managed to rip us off on my shift.  Fortunately that wasn’t the case, though Zellers were not as lucky.  Upon seeing the broken long boxes, I could tell they didn’t belong to us.  They came from Zellers, who used a similar system.  Someone managed to beat it.  How?

If nobody was looking, you could lift the CDs right over the magnetic gate.  That was the easiest way, and at Zellers, chances are nobody was looking.  Another method (supposedly anyway) involved lining the inside of your jacket with aluminum foil.  Apparently this would allow you to shoplift anything with a magnetic tag.  The urban legend, which may have been true, is that a local gang of CD thieves used this method.

The gang were known locally as “Pizza Guys”.  The cops were always two steps behind them.  The main detective on the case gave us pretty clear instructions.  We were to buy everything the “Pizza Guys” brought in, record it, and get their ID.  We were to flag any “shady” purchases but otherwise they told us it was business as usual.  I don’t know if the detective ever caught the “Pizza Guys”, but years later their leader Aristotles (real name!) went to jail for selling ecstasy, meth and heroin.  Quite a large step from stealing CDs!  According to the news, he got just six years in jail.

I don’t think the “Pizza Guys” were shoplifting CDs normally.  I think they were getting them from someone on the inside.  We’ll never really know.  We used to joke that one day we’d be in an HMV store minding our own business, when Aristotles would pop his head out of the stock room.  “We’re out of Big Shiny Tunes again!”

Even though the “Pizza Guys” usually brought in what you would call good titles (usually new releases), we all hated dealing with them.  As time went on without getting caught, they got more and more cocky and difficult to deal with.  It was good to know the cops were on our side, but I’m not a detective.  My job was not to fight crime in the city of Kitchener.  My job was to sell music, and these guys didn’t make it a pleasant experience for us.


#755: You’re A (CD) Loser, Baby

GETTING MORE TALE #755:  You’re A (CD) Loser, Baby


I was never surprised but often disappointed with how customers treated their music.  Scratched up CDs were par for the course.  Also broken discs, scuffed or chipped, with beads of dried beer.  But what about empty CD cases?  Anybody ever try to sell those?  Of course!

We saw lots of people coming in with bags of CDs to trade, only for me to go through them and find empty cases in the bag.  Multiple empty cases.  The seller didn’t even know they were empty.  They were always surprised.  I couldn’t fathom how this happened!

I mean, I get it – people leave a CD in a player or changer, forget about it, and lose track of it.  I had a Spiderman: Homecoming DVD in my laptop for over six months.  I understand that’s one way these things get misplaced.  I just couldn’t understand the why, so frequently.  CDs were expensive.  Some still are.  People freak out over a lost pair of cheap sunglasses but not their music?

Now, loaning a CD out to a friend and never getting it back is a whole other thing.  That happens.  The only solution is finding new friends.  But why loan it without the case in the first place?  I still don’t get it.

I very briefly dated a girl who had a habit of losing her music.  She had all the discs in the wrong cases.  If you wanted to listen to Sloan, she had to remember which case she put it in last time.  Again, I don’t get how this habit forms.  She didn’t seem to know either.  All I can tell you is that her copy of Sloan’s 4 Nights at the Palais Royale had one correct disc, and one completely different disc.

People would bring that kind of crap into the store to sell, and then wonder why I passed on a CD set that only had one correct CD.  “Come on man, somebody will buy it,” was a common customer response.  Maybe, but not in this store!

The only time I can remember losing a CD of my own, it was the whole thing, case and all.  And it was because it slid under a car seat.  Unlike most of the masses, I refused to house my CDs in one of those portable CD wallets.  If the CD was coming with me, so was the case (or at least a case of some kind, if the original was fragile or collectable).  When I realized I was missing something from my collection, I remembered I last saw it in the car.  There it was, under the seat, safe and unscratched in its case.

People like me are a small minority.  At least in this town, most people didn’t value or take care of their music.  When I’d see a bunch of empty cases come in from a customer’s collection all I could do was shake my head.  I couldn’t feel sorry for someone like that.

Take pride in your music collection, people!


#687: Chronic Complainers

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.

#582: Erasure


Fixing CDs is a delicate business. You need a steady hand, the right tools, and patience. A buffing wheel with the right textured attachment works, and you also need an abrasive to gradually smooth out the scratched plastic of a disc. We used to use a special wax but found that regular hand soap and water worked better.  That’s all the abrasive you need.

In short: Yes! You can fix some scratched CDs. There are two factors that might make a CD impossible to fix, however: deep scratches, and top scratches. A deep scratch that you can feel with your fingernail probably won’t be fixed. It’s just too deep. A top scratch happens on the top layer of the CD and goes into the aluminum, destroying the data encoded in it.  Pinholes weren’t usually a problem.

The best way to fix a surface scratched CD

I spent a lot of time talking to the guys we contracted out to fix our CDs. We used one Toronto-based company for a few years, until one of our guys cracked the secret of fixing discs. Once he had a method, he went into business fixing discs himself. This gentleman (now actually a Sausagefest attendee himself) shared a lot of interesting info about fixing discs.

One thing I learned was that if you had a bunch of scratches close to the outer edge of the disc, and you went too deep trying to buff them out, you could lose the ability to play the last songs on the CD. The information would still be on the disc in the aluminum layer, but your laser can’t read it due to the excessive buffing of the plastic. The plastic layer would be no longer perfectly flat, and your laser won’t read through it.  When playing, it sounds like the music fades into static and then disappears. The end effect is that it sounds like the last few tracks have been erased. This happened rarely, but it could and did happen.

Customers could come to us to have their CDs fixed. We charged them a fee and their CD would be back in a week or two. One of my regulars named “Kitchener Rangers Al” had one of his discs fixed. Unfortunately it was buffed too deeply on the edge and he couldn’t play the last tracks. It didn’t skip anymore, but you couldn’t play it to the end either.

I remember when Al came in with his CD after it was buffed. He was helped by the supervisor that I refer to as the “Bully”. Other people used other words that are not as nice, but she could be very difficult to deal with. That went for staff and customers both. Unfortunately Al was treated like a liar when he came back with his CD.

“Bully” heard his story: He brought the CD in to be fixed, it no longer skips, but it also now won’t play to the end. He said “I think the last songs were erased.  That’s what it sounds like.”

The “Bully” dismissed Al’s complaint. “It’s impossible to erase a CD,” she said. I heard all this and kept my mouth shut. I learned from experience that correcting her, especially in front of other people, was as dumb as kicking one’s own ass. I didn’t feel like dying that day. She sent Al home with his useless CD that he paid to fix, that we failed to fix. She didn’t even listen to it to test it. She just insisted, mockingly, that he was wrong and sent him away. Quite frankly, she treated the customer like he was either an idiot or a liar trying to scam us, and he didn’t deserve that. I thought to myself, “If she caught me talking to a customer that way, she’d really let me have it.”

I chose to stay out of it, because I learned from the past. This “Bully” was a vindictive bully and it would have been a no-win situation with her again. I didn’t want to spend another three weeks of her abuse, as was par for the course when she exploded on me.  Roughly three weeks.  I just minded my own business, even though I absolutely knew 110% that she was wrong.

Al wasn’t stupid, and he came back when “Bully” wasn’t in. Al had dealt with her before. He told me the story directly, and I explained to him how the end of a CD can come to be “erased” due to buffing. I refunded him the fixing fee, and he was happy. He said he’d come in and buy another copy if we saw one. Customer retained.

I’ve been criticized by other former employees for not speaking up. That’s fair and all I can say to them is, if you walked in my shoes all those years, let’s see how willing you’d be to jump into the lion’s den. I don’t know what it was about us, but she had an evil place in her soul reserved just for me. Other people had felt her sting before, but nobody I have asked ever experienced the brutal treatment I got. She’d explode on me periodically, year after year after year, right to the end, when I removed myself from the circle permanently.

No thanks to “Bully”, Al got his refund and kept coming back. He had been there since Day One, and I hope he still shops there today. As for me, nobody knows the role I played in keeping that customer. At least they didn’t until now! You can, technically “erase” the songs at the end of a CD, or at least make them unreadable. Not exactly the same as erasing, but the end result is a wrecked disc no matter how you look at it.

#507: Buying School


GETTING MORE TALE #507: Buying School

One of my (many, many) jobs at the Record Store was running our “buying classes”.

The problem was this:  teaching new employees how to buy used CDs was a very intensive process.  It made sense for us to train multiple people at once in one session.  We wouldn’t even try to teach an employee how to buy until they’d been with us for two months.  Once they had a little bit of experience under their belts, we’d start training them on being a buyer.  One of the best features of the stores was that everybody was a buyer.  You didn’t have to wait for a specific person.  Anyone behind the counter could buy.  We had to make sure that every single person was 1) fair, 2) competent, and 3) ready for the responsibility.

The first two buying classes were done with two instructors – myself and one of the bosses.  (The first one was memorable — one guy came in with a cocaine hangover after spending the night partying too hard with the Dandy Warhols.)  Subsequently, I handled the classes solo.  We would generally have three to four new employees in each class, all from different stores.

We had a dedicated computer just for these classes, and of course it was an old outdated one.  We couldn’t afford to buy a computer just for these training classes, obviously.  Do you remember how huge an old computer was?  I’d check in early and begin setting up the monstrous hardware which consisted of a PC, a titanic heavy monitor, keyboard, mouse and receipt printer.  Or, if the class was being held in another city, I’d pick up the equipment at our home office and drive it (and sometimes employees too) to the class.  If I was lucky, about two months later I’d see a mileage cheque.

We also had several large boxes of “training CDs” to help with learning scenarios.

For example:

  • CDs that were scratched, but repairable.
  • Discs that were top-scratched or pinholed, and not repairable.
  • CDs that were in mint condition.
  • CDs that were missing a component, such as a back cover, or one of multiple discs.
  • CDs that were so common that we always had them in stock.
  • Box sets.
  • Promo discs.
  • Classical music (we used a different buying structure for classical albums, based more on record label and series than artist and title).
  • Discs from every section of the store.
  • DVDs and video games too.
example of pinholes

example of pinholes

There was a lot to teach, and I tried to make it fun, even though much of it was very tedious.  A lot of repeat, a lot of doing the same thing over again, and a lot of waiting around as people took their turns going through buying scenarios.  The classes were a chance for me to unbutton a bit and step out of the box.  I had fun with the scenarios.  I would play different characters.  The white trash dude who watches everything you do and won’t shut up and let you think.  The crackhead looking for a their next rock.  The down-on-my-luck guy with a sob story that may or may not be true, who just needs enough money for the bus.  And of course regular, every day, normal polite people.  Because those are the exact situations they were going to experience in the front lines of the Record Store.

Not to mention (and we’ve been through this in more detail before, in Part 92: Staffing) there are many different versions of CDs.  They can be similar, but have different tracks.  It was crucially important to buy and enter these things accurately.  If you didn’t, a customer would say, “I was looking on the internet and I saw you had the 1995 remastered version of Diary of a Madman,” and find that you just entered it wrong.  It’s not the 1995; it’s the remixed 2002 one that nobody wants!  Somebody made a trip in to get that CD, and you fucked it up.  We tried to avoid that!  But there’s only so much you can teach.

Then, to finish the buying procedures, I had to teach them about the bi-laws regarding buying used goods in the province, and how to take ID from customers.  They had to know what ID’s were accepted, how to properly enter the info into the computer, and also how to deal with difficult customers who didn’t want to show their ID at all.

It was actually a pretty good system.  Whoever came up with it (probably the same higher-up that sat in the first two classes) did a good job setting it up.  Giving credit where credit is due, it worked.  But also giving credit where credit is due, I worked my ass off in these classes, and made them my thing, while it lasted.

Training can be made fun.  I think playing out scenarios is a great way to learn.  Let’s face it, there is a lot of pressure on new employees during training.  Doing my best to make it fresh and enjoyable was my strategy, and I think the results speak for themselves.  A few people I trained ended up lasting over a decade, and that’s something to be proud of.

#425: The Soup Nazi

Dedicated to Sebastien Xavier Meunier

#425: The Soup Nazi

One of the classic, most popular antagonists from the old TV show Seinfeld is the Soup Nazi .  This character, the proprietor of a busy, highly rated soup joint in Manhattan, was eccentric to say the least.  The Soup Nazi had strict rules about lining up and ordering your soup.

Jerry: “There’s only one caveat.  The guy who runs the place is a little temperamental, especially about the ordering procedure.  He’s secretly referred to as the Soup Nazi.”

Elaine: “Why? What happens if you don’t order right?”

Jerry:  “He yells and you don’t get your soup.”

That’s right!  Deviate from procedure, and there’s no soup for you!  Jerry continues:

Jerry: “As you walk in the place, move immediately to your right.  The main thing is to keep the line moving.  It’s very important not to embellish on your order.  No extraneous comments.  No questions.  No compliments.”

As it turned out, George complained about some forgotten bread.  He was given a refund and had his soup taken away!  “No soup for you!”  Elaine ended up with a one year ban!  The only Seinfeld character with whom the Soup Nazi seems to have an understanding is Kramer.  “You suffer for your soup,” says Cosmo Kramer.  “You demand perfection from yourself, from your soup.”

I have always had a…what’s the word?…not admiration, but something like that…for the Soup Nazi.  Envy, perhaps.  Not for his gruff demeanor.  Not for his rude reactions to people.  Not for a badass moustache.  Just for his demand…nay!…his expectation on a nice, quiet orderly line.  I like order.


LeBrain at the counter, circa 1998, going through a box of discs.

You might be surprised to learn that a used CD store can have a very, very busy counter area.  It’s quite easy for things to go sideways if you’re not on top of them.  The used CD store was a place in which you’re performing multiple duties simultaneously.  While you are buying a pile of 50 CDs (which you have organized meticulously by condition and offering price), you could also be looking up inventory for someone else, and doing a sale for someone else.   Is that the phone ringing?

On a busy day, I could have several piles of discs that I’m buying from customers, and also a few more piles that customers want to buy, but have set aside while they look around some more.  It can get very confusing very quickly if there is not order.

Back in Part 274 of Record Store Tales, we took a look at a type of customer I dubbed the “Hawks”.  These are folks with a lot of CDs to sell.  They were the most annoying customers in the world:  sellers who just want to hang out at the front counter, watch what you’re doing, and chat.  They are completely oblivious to the concept of other people.  They don’t realize there is someone else behind them who is trying to buy something, while they lean and take up all the counter space themselves.  The Soup Nazi didn’t put up with that.

Since I wasn’t a Soup Nazi (and had bosses who could fire me and stuff), I would just politely (as I could manage) tell the guy that he has a line forming behind him, and could he please move off to the side?  I’d encourage them to go and get a coffee and come back later if I was going through a lot of CDs for them.

Even worse than Hawks in some ways though were customers who were just nosy.  “What are these?” they’d ask, before jumbling the piles of CDs that I had meticulously arranged earlier.  “Those belong to someone else, I had them all organized so please don’t mix them up.”  Frustration boils inside, fake smiles on the outside!

So yes, condemn me if you wish.  I can sympathize with the Soup Nazi.  I’m sure the following people burned his britches just as much as they burned mine!

  • The ones who are too busy chatting with their friends or on a cell phone to notice they are NEXT IN LINE!
  • Counter leaners who take up the whole thing, while bombarding you with BAD BREATH!  They tend to leave the counter dirty, and/or sweaty.
  • Counter parkers, who decide not to look around the store at all, but just park there and ask questions. They don’t like making room for paying customers.  They don’t even know there are any other customers.  They just have questions.  LOTS AND LOTS OF QUESTIONS!
  • CLINGERS. These people are not your friends, but they don’t know that.  Friends understand that you’re working and they are not, so they don’t bother you too much.  Clingers were usually customers who seemed lonely, and just wanted to hang out.  They like to chat, ask questions, and make it look like that CD in their hand is something they are really going to purchase.  But no, is it all just an elaborate hoax.  They just needed to kill a couple hours, and someone to talk to.  The person behind the counter is a captive audience.  They buy like, one or two discs a year just so they can’t be officially labelled a nuisance.

Looking back on it today, maybe it would have been better for my soul had I just take a few tips from the Soup Nazi.  No discs for you!


#377: The Iron Age of Computing


#377: The Iron Age of Computing

In 1995, the year after I started at the Record Store, we opened our first used CD store that wasn’t run entirely by a cash register. For the first time, the store had a computer, and computerized inventory! We then expanded to a third store in 1996 (the one that I managed), and this time we were going to try something new – two computers! Imagine that? In 1996, having two computers in the same store seemed like a luxury! This way, one computer could act as a cash register, while the other one was used to look up and input new inventory. In theory!

Our software was written completely in-house. Today if you want to open up a retail store, you would buy a point of sale software (POS) system. Not us; ours was entirely home grown by one guy, the uncle of the owner! I believe it was a massive long term undertaking. Meanwhile, staff members input all of the inventory manually – thousands of items.

It’s really funny to look back on this period from today’s point of view. I was not very computer literate but I learned quick. I remember that networking the two computers was a nightmare. It took months for him to get it working with our software. Everything seemed so fragile. If you sneezed funny, you could freeze the computers. By comparison to today it felt like the stone ages. We had no email, no internet, and the actual machines were not what you’d call top of the line even for back then.

Common problems we used to run into back in the day:

  • Backing the memory up. We started with a disc drive, then a tape drive, and finally a second hard drive. It used to take so long to back up our inventory every night (particularly in the tape days) that we just stopped doing it. Nobody was going to stay an hour late (unpaid) to watch this thing backup and make sure it didn’t crash. No way!
  • Inventory would disappear, or just be inaccessible. Nothing like coming in on a weekend morning to find out you can’t access the inventory! This happened due to one file that used to regularly corrupt. If a customer came in with a big box of CDs to sell, we had no choice but to run up and down along the shelves to see if we had copies of them. Couldn’t look them up any other way.
  • Running slooooow. Unfortunately customers used to take this out on the staff. I remember one of our staff, a really sweet girl named Caitlin, had just started and she was dealing with a really nasty woman. At that moment the computer decided to take a siesta. Caitlin said to the woman, “I’m sorry, my computer is running really slow.” The woman responded, “Well do something about it because I am running really fast.” Thanks for the understanding, lady.
  • We discovered that you could not input CDs on two computers at once. They would conflict with each other and give you an error.

Every few years, one of the computers would be replaced. Not with a new one, but usually with another old one that was still superior to whatever we were running. Then a year or two after that, the other computer would be replaced, and we’d keep upgrading like that without ever really running anything brand new.  But we made it work. Rivals would have loved to get their hands on our software, or our master CD pricing catalogue. The master catalogue was painstakingly inputted by just one individual. A hell of a lot of typing and hard work!*

We did the best we could with what we had available at the time. It’s absolutely incredible how much the technology has changed. My cellphone today has more computing power than our first point of sale system. Where did the time go?

*The inputting of the master catalog indirectly triggered my first experience with workplace bullying, something I have been hesitant to speak out about.  Even though it was many years ago, it’s not a good memory.  The story has been written, but it remains in the draft stage and will remain there for the time being.

#335: Musical Archaeological Discovery!

It’s #throwbackthursday!

#335: Musical Archaeological Discovery!

A couple weekends ago, I had a chance to dig through some old boxes looking for musical memories.   I found that, and a lot more.

I discovered a complete inventory of my entire music collection, that I had made as a kid.  Most of it was on cassette.  There’s no date on it, but thanks to my photographic memory of musical life events, I can easily date this to within +/- a couple months.  Let’s have a look and figure out when I made this inventory.

The first thing I noticed was there are 24 CD titles on this list.  I received my first CD player for Christmas of 1989.  That would place this list a fair bit after Christmas of ’89.

In the section for “Videos”, I only had four VHS titles at the time:  Kiss, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, and Warrant.  I know I received a Faith No More (You Fat Bastards) video for Christmas of ’92.  So we’re well before December 1992.

Back to the CD section.  The presence of the Led Zeppelin box set helps me narrow it down further.  I know I received that box set for Christmas of 1990.  I also remember getting Slaughter’s Stick It Live tape on December 28th of that year, and that cassette is on this list.

I distinctly recall my birthday in July 1991.  I received Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid on cassette (thanks sis), and Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge on CD (thanks Bob).  Neither are on this list.  Therefore, this was made sometime between Christmas of 1990, and July of ’91.  Just over six months. To narrow it down as tightly as possible, I need to look for purchases that I know I made in early 1991.

In April or May of ’91, I can remember getting the new Mr. Big (Lean Into It) on cassette, and the first Raw M.E.A.T CD.  Neither are on here.  Most definitively however, missing on this list is David Lee Roth’s newest, A Lil’ Ain’t Enough.  I know I got that for Easter of 1991.  Now we’re really close.  Somewhere between January to March of ’91!

I know I bought the uber-rare cassette single for Helix’s “Good to the Last Drop” really early in 1991.  Snow was still on the ground, and that cassette single is not listed here.   Therefore: I conclude that I created this list after Christmas 1990 or early in 1991, but probably during Christmas break 1990!  I would have had the spare time to work on it during break.

Some additional observations:

1. Apparently I hadn’t yet discovered alphabetizing.

2. The dollar values printed represent approximate guesses as to retail value.  I later made a revised list that replaced this with 5 star ratings, but I have not as yet found that version.

Here it is, now preserved digitally forever!  And look — I only owned one CD single!*  Final interesting note:  Most of the items on this list are long gone.  I’ve upgraded to CD on all the cassettes and only kept a handful.  I have most of the vinyl, but I gave away my ’45 of the Wrestlers.  I have some of the CDs, but others (Kiss, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Van Halen, Slaughter, Maiden, Motley Crue) have long been replaced by remasters.







* Iron Maiden’s “Holy Smoke”, bought at Dr. Disc in the autumn of 1990.

WTF SEARCH TERMS: “Exersises for the Plumber Butt”

R.I.P. George Jones, age 81.

A little while ago, I said that the Klassic Kwotes well had run dry; I was starting a new feature.  This is that feature — let me know if you find it entertaining.

WTF SEARCH TERMS Part I: “Exersises for the Plumber Butt”

Crack = Bad

As a WordPress site, I have access to certain statistics.  I can see how many hits I’m getting per day, for example, and how many are unique visitors.  Some of my visitors are very, very unique.

Some of the more interesting particulars that I’m able to see are search terms.  Search terms that people typed into Google (or Yahoo, or whatever) that led them to me.   Search terms that boggle the mind as to a) what they were looking for, b) how it led them to me, or c) both.  Here’s a selection of some of the most entertaining.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  If feedback is positive I’ll post more in the future.

Keep in mind two things!

1. Each of these are real search terms, typed in by real people on a search engine like Google.

2. Somehow, each of these search terms led them to ME!

Without further delay…enjoy.

exercises for the plumber butt

big breasted lebrains

my lebrian secret

domestic dog shit

doorway piss

shiting discas video

big butts in leather pants

fuck my old boots history

double penetrator

And finally, one guy who used an apt search term to find this site: