RECORD STORE TALES Part 180: Google
We first got email and internet at the record store in the late 90’s. One of the big fears back then was the dreaded computer virus, but of course we also had to deal with internet abuse. I remember coming in to work one day to find our computer’s MSN Messenger still active from the night shift; Spoogecakes left herself logged in. Myself, I was never that fussed about MSN, I was more an email guy. I got busted emailing a few times, I had verbal warnings, but I never did anything like leaving myself logged into MSN!
The powers that be were concerned about time wasted on the internet, and the viruses. This put into effect a strict internet policy. Part of that was blocking nearly every useful site on the internet. There were only a handful of sites available to us. There was a secret password override, which made the rounds once leaked. The guy who figured out the password decided to share it on his very last shift. His name shall go down in hallowed halls, somewhere, someday.
Some of the sites that we were allowed to access included Canoe, so we could print out the charts, and Allmusic so we could do album lookups. Allmusic was next to useless, being so slow and inaccurate. I preferred Google. The beauty of Google was that you didn’t have to use it to actually go to another (potentially shady) site, you could use it just to answer a simple question. For example:
So there’s your answer, without even having to click on one of those shady lyric sites.
Now, I showed my bosses how to use Google to answer the toughest customer questions. Often, a customer would come in and say, “I’m looking for a song, but I only know a few words. Can you help?” This was long before you could hold up your iPhone and use an app to do it for you. You had to ask the folks on the radio, or at the record store.
Google was the easiest most accurate way to answer these questions. So, here’s a question you might get: “I’m looking for a song by somebody that goes, ‘in the midnight hour, I want more more more'”.
Plug it into Google like so, and you get your answer.
Again, you don’t even have to click on the shady lyric sites. Then once you know the artist (Billy Idol) you could just run over to the shelves and see if you had that song. If you didn’t, Allmusic could tell you which album you want, now that you knew the name of the song and artist.
I showed them this trick, but they would not budge on the block policy. They insisted that Google be blocked. They thought you could use Google to visit a blocked site. Just clicking the link, they thought, would bypass the block. They thought the block only applied to the address bar.
I explained this but the answer remained “No.” Google was to remain blocked, purely because they didn’t understand how Internet Explorer worked. Essentially, we were blocked from a simple tool to answer common questions. At least many of us secretly had the override password, but before that leaked, we couldn’t access a search site like Google. I had a customer say to me, “Can’t you check the internet? The guy at HMV can.” And no, technically I couldn’t. Allmusic didn’t have a feature to look up song lyrics, and its search engine was pretty shitty as it was.
With today’s technology you can do this easily with a cell phone, that was unimaginable to us 10 years ago. Regardless of the policy, I used the password to use Google and answer questions. And I checked my email, too!
NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…
Part 181: Jim Carrey’s clone