RECORD STORE TALES PART 124: Design
I was so excited when I got my own store to manage. It was bigger, loads of room for stock, with 6 CD players for customers to preview discs before they bought. In addition, for the first time I had a small back room to put stuff in.
Yet, the design of the store left something to be desired. One complaint I got was that our shelves were hard to get at. They went right from the floor straight up to eye level. If you walk into a Sunrise or HMV today, you’d see all their shelves are pretty much at waist level, easy to see and easy to pick through.
So, you would get customers having to go right down to the floor to look at the lowest CDs. Sometimes they would sit on the floor. (I never would have wanted to sit on those carpets!) Sometimes they would just bend over, giving me the worst show of plumber butt you can imagine. I’m talking half-moons, crack and all. I’ve seen a lot of bums in my decade-plus as a Record Store Guy.
On the flipside, some people had a hard time reaching the highest items, and we would have to get them down. Weirdly though, once established, this design pretty much carried on to future stores. They replaced the wood shelving with modular plastic shelving, which wasn’t nearly as good nor sturdy, but it was much cheaper.
The other thing that was extremely poorly designed was our counter. I wish I could estimate how long it was in total, but it was way too long. And the cash register was dead center. So, if somebody asked you to help them, you basically had to walk from the register to the end of the store to get out from behind the counter. It really discouraged interaction with customers. A little exercise never hurt anyone, but it was just plain annoying. My first thought upon working there was, “Couldn’t they have put a gap in the counter maybe 5 feet to my left?” I actually had it more than once, when a customer would ask me for help, and I would start to make my way around. He would say, “Where are you going?” I’m going way the hell over here just so I could get out!
Sometimes when in an empty store alone, I would just jump it! I hated that counter.
The last thing I hated about our store design was that we had a little glass vestibule at the entrance. I guess in theory, it was probably there for energy efficiency. So you’re not letting out all the hot air in the winter, and cool air conditioning in the summer. But all it did was get dirty, very very dirty.
One thing I learned: People touch glass. They don’t need a reason to touch it, they just do. That vestibule was dirty day after day after day and you could not keep it clean. If I cleaned it in the morning, it was filthy in the afternoon. People would smear greasy hands all over all glass surfaces, and kids would stick their faces to it.
In the winter, it was worse. Mud would be splattered all over the glass, as people stomped the snow off their boots. The mat in the vestibule would get soaked in just one day, and never dry out because the vestibule was so cold in the winter.
And then, you’d get these surprise store inspections. You would see comments on them like, “Glass in front vestibule was disgusting.”
Well, no kidding! It’s always filthy! Even Mr. Clean couldn’t fix that vestibule! If we hired a kid part time to clean it every 30 minutes, I would never have had a poor score on any store inspections!