RECORD STORE TALES Part 298:
Why I Couldn’t Give You A Quote Over the Phone
We advertised that we paid cash or credit for used CDs. A lot of customers used to call with the titles of their CDs, to get a quote over the phone for selling them. “Hey, I have 30 CDs here to sell, if I read off the titles, can you tell me what you’ll pay me for them?”
The answer was no, for a number of good reasons. For us, buying used CDs wasn’t a science. We tried to create a system as best we could, but there were so many variables. In addition, a lot of the process is subjective. I’ll try to help you understand.
First and foremost – quality. We were exceptionally picky about all discs that we bought. If the disc was scuffed, we could buff certain scratches out. (Not top scratches and pinholes though! They are a whole other chapter to the story.) A lot of customers would call and say, “My discs are all mint.” Well, I found that for some, “mint” had a broad definition. It could mean anything to brand-new to scratched like a hockey rink. If a customer said “mint” you couldn’t go by that. Likewise with “they all play fine.” Until I look at it, I don’t know if it’s in a condition good enough to sell to my customers. You probably have your own standards regarding CDs you want to keep in your collection.
But there’s more to quality than just the CD itself. Is the front cover present? How about the back? A lot of customers discarded the back covers, in order to store their discs in those stupid travel wallets. Bad idea, since those wallets scratch up CDs, sometimes beyond repair. Not to mention, we wouldn’t take a CD missing its back cover. Maybe the front cover is also water damaged – we couldn’t take a CD when the pages of the book were stuck together like a teenager’s Playboy mag. That happened a lot more often then you might expect.
When it came down to the pricing of the CD, we had a lot of additional factors to consider. How much do we sell it for? How many copies do we have? Do any of our other stores need a copy? It is rare, or scarce to find used? For example, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was not a rare CD, but it was hard to find copies used in good condition. I’d be interested in paying more for Dark Side of the Moon than I would Van Halen’s Balance, even if we sold them both for the same price.
Let’s say you’re an annoying customer, and you called my store looking for a price quote. Let’s say the person answering the phone forgot the rules, and gave you a quote over the phone. Then when you actually come in to sell them, I’m working instead, not the person who gave you the price quote. So imagine that scenario.
You come in and I start going through the discs. Immediately, you’re pissed off that I’m passing on that scratched up Metallica CD that somebody quoted you $5 for. The reason? A hard-to-spot top scratch that cannot be fixed. Or a missing back cover. Or a deep scratch I can feel with my fingernail. Or perhaps I could take it, but I need to have the scratches buffed out and I can only pay you $2-3.
Then next up, you have a Guess Who Greatest Hits. When you called for your quote, I had none in stock. Now I have two. (It happens!) So I can’t give you what the other person quoted, because now I have two copies and I don’t need it as badly.
Finally, let’s say you were quoted that you were going to get $3 for your Hanson CD. The person you spoke to on the phone saw that we didn’t have any Hanson in stock. However, I know that is an unusual happenstance and we always have tons of Hanson everywhere. I might pay a buck where somebody else offered you $3, because I know better. Them’s the breaks, right?
This doesn’t even account for other stupid things that can happen. For example, a customer saying to you that he has Metallica Garage Days when he actually has Garage Inc. Basically if you could think of a way information could be miscommunicated over the phone, it happened.
Customers seldom understood. “I don’t want to come all the way down there unless I know I’m going to get good money for these discs.” Unfortunately, coming down there was the only way. No ifs, ands, buts, or exceptions. People sucked sometimes.