#1047: A Pretty Good Day

RECORD STORE TALES #1047: A Pretty Good Day

The worst and most tiring kind of days at the Record Store were the ones with customers bringing in endless boxes of discs for us to buy.  These took up a lot of time and counter space to keep organized.  I hated it when multiple customers with multiple boxes arrived at once.  All you could say is say “leave your name and number and we’ll get through these as quickly as possible.  It could be a couple hours.”

Some customers understood, some did not.  That’s retail.

By contrast the best kind of days were often the ones without the pileup of CD boxes.  If everything came in at staggered times, that was ideal.  Even better if all the discs were in good shape.  Icing on the top of the cake if the customer wasn’t a jerk about pricing.  Everybody assumed their discs were worth solid gold.  To be truly the best kind of day, customers would be bringing in good stock that you wanted for yourself!  Whether it be a new release or something rarer from a back catalogue, those were the good days.  You’d slap your name on a post-it note, stick it to the CD and claim it for self-musical enrichment.

I may have mentioned this a couple times before:  the Big Boss Man hated when we bought stock for ourselves.  But that was 50% of the reason people wanted to work in a music store.  The best of days were those when the Big Boss Man and his underlings were not around!

One factor that didn’t affect whether the day was good or bad:  who I was working with.  I liked virtually every single person that worked in my store.  There were one or two who made me pull my hair out, but they never lasted very long.  I was very fortunate to have good working relationships with just about everyone in my staff.  I tried to show my appreciation by buying them CDs or dinner.

Speaking of dinner, one of the best days I had was in the late 90s.  A Jack Astor’s restaurant opened in the plaza across the street.  I was working one afternoon minding my own business when a guy showed up at my door with a “Jack Attack”.  I was shaking my head “no” as if to tell him I didn’t order any food, when he explained it was all complimentary!  A bucket of wings and six bottles (bottles! Not cans!) of root beer.  He dropped off a menu with ordering instructions for delivery.  That was a very good day.  I was working alone, but I left a couple bottles of pop for the night shift.  (A couple.  I was thirsty.)

I liked working alone, but eating a meal on a lone shift was tricky.  Even the best of days were food-free days.  The boss absolutely hated when we ate meals at the counter, but where else was there to go?  We were working alone, we couldn’t leave the store.  We couldn’t go into the back room to eat for 15 minutes.  So most days, at least the ones working alone, were junk food only.  Chips, pop, candy bars, pepperoni.  That was it.

But combined with good tunes and no bosses, a pretty good day!





#1040: The Tag Jar


As your typical mall music store in the 1990s, we had the usual magnetic tag security system.  The idea was fairly simple.  At the store entrance there was a magnetic detector that you had to pass through.  Our merchandise was tagged with these little magnetic strips, about an inch long.  If you passed one of these strips through the detector by the door, a loud siren would be triggered.  It was one of several loss prevention methods we used.

There were two ways to utilise the security tags.  One was to double up with a re-usable security case.  These cases locked the CD into a longer “long box” length package.  This package was tagged on the inside with the magnetic security system.  At the front counter, a special key would unlock the security case.  You’d then put another CD in there and re-use it.  The other method involved tagging the CD or tape itself, in an inconspicuous place on the spine of the cellophane.  In this case, a special magnetic device behind the counter would “de-tag” the disc.  It was not totally reliable so you wanted to use the device three or four times, running it over the tag.  You wanted to make sure you properly de-tagged the item before the customer left the store.

Since no customer liked setting off the security alarm, it was heavily emphasized:  make sure you de-tag!  And we had a jar where you had to pay a dollar if you were caught checking out a customer without de-tagging.  The boss warned us:  everybody screws this up, it’s just a matter of time until you do.  I was like, nahhh man, not me.  I was hired in July and my first dollar went into the tag jar before Christmas.

The money in the tag jar went towards paying for our annual Christmas dinner.  The boss invited one of his personal friends to join us, which in hindsight seems weird.  It was a nice dinner though, and we worked hard earning it.  My first Christmas there was a busy one and we were both buying and selling discs the whole time, all at one little tiny counter.

The security alarms were loud.  You could hear them down the hallway of the mall, all the way down to the Zellers store.  That’s how I got caught one time.  I was hoping the boss didn’t hear me while he was out doing his bank run, but he did, and I had to pony up my dollar.  I couldn’t remember if I de-tagged the guy or not, which meant I probably didn’t.  But sometimes I swear it was just that the device wasn’t de-tagging properly.  Some box sets also had two or three tags on the shrinkwrap.  There were multiple ways to screw it up.

Thieves always find ways around your best security measures, and ultimately the tags were not worth the cost and were phased out in future stores, in a new and innovative way:  ditching new product almost altogether in favour of a 90% used strategy.  But that’s a whole other story.

#1039: Catalogue

RECORD STORE TALES #1039: Catalogue

There was one chain back in the Record Store days that was considered our chief rival.  They weren’t really; they were actually much bigger than us, but the Boss Man really had his radar locked on that one specific rival.  The other guy made an offer to buy us out, but there wasn’t much he could do if we were not for sale.  It was a cold war rather than a hot war from my perspective.  I did have to eject the rival from my store once.  We had standing orders (and a picture of the guy behind the counter, a Mutt Lange lookalike) to eject if he was seen in store.  That wasn’t fun.  He was with someone else, a buddy or a business associate and I had to kick him out!

I cannot be certain, but I think one of the main reasons the Boss Man didn’t want his rival in our store was one particular secret.

It is true that we had a general policy of “loose lips sink ships” – meaning “don’t say shit”!  You can imagine how much the Boss loves my website, which is why I don’t name any of the guilty parties, but these stories are from another millennium.  None of it actually matters anymore.  One thing he didn’t want known is just what we were using as our pricing guide when buying and stocking used CDs from the public.

The rival’s store had an annual catalogue.  It was about the size of a telephone book.  From the very start, we used that catalogue as a guide.  We knew their lowest retail price for everything they sold, which was virtually everything currently in print on a major label.  Every year, the store managers were sent out to buy the latest issue.  One at a time, so as to not raise flags.  Every year, we had to make white book covers to disguise the true origin of the catalogues that we could be seen flipping through.  When things got computerized, we scanned, line by line, every single CD in that catalogue to begin our own pricing guide.

It grew from there by many times over, as we added discs from other labels, out of print CDs, and everything else we ran across in our travels.  Within a short period of time, our pricing guide was many times the size of their original catalogue.  Obviously, having a custom made pricing guide on the computer was superior and a mere glimpse at the future.  Still, I kinda miss wrapping those big ole catalogues in paper and decorating the new covers.  The new kids will never know.


#1033: Boxing Daze

RECORD STORE TALES #1033: Boxing Daze

Boxing Day (December 26) is for relaxing.  After all this activity, we need a break.  That’s my opinion.  For others, including my wife, it’s for shopping for crazy bargains.  In her defence, she doesn’t do that anymore, but I used to question her sanity.  After all, I remember working Boxing Day…many Boxing Days…and it was definitely one of the worst days of the year to have to work at the Record Store.

Christmas Eve wasn’t so bad.  There was usually lots of cheer in the air.  Many customers were pre-spending Christmas money on themselves.  By the end of the day though, the shelves were so damn bare.  I’d look at them and wonder just what the hell we would have left for sale when we had our big “Buy Three Get One Free” sale on the 26th.  Yet people still found things to buy.

After working straight the month of December with only a couple days off, having one day’s break on Christmas Day wasn’t enough.  The 25th was always busy.  Multiple visits with family, lots going on, lots to do, and no time to actually rest.  Then I had to go to bed on time to be up for the Boxing Day sale.  That’s exactly how I spent my last Christmas at the Record Store.  I even gave up one of the days off in December to a co-worker who wanted to go see a concert.  Why?  Because I was a nice manager.  A good manager.  The kind of manager you wanted to have.  Yet that guy stabbed me in the back years later when he took issue with my side of the story in Record Store Tales.  I should have taken the day off and made him work!  Ah well.  Didn’t Green Day say that nice guys finish last?

Working on Boxing Day always felt depressing.  You didn’t want to be behind the counter working 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.  I would be powered by caffeine and saddened that the cheer in the air that was so obvious a few days earlier was all gone.  Now it was replaced by bargain hunting.  Deals.  Surly door-crashers and people unhappy with the gifts they did receive.  It was a different kind of day compared to Christmas Eve, and it was long.  And worst of all, there was nothing to look forward to after the 26th.  Just going back to work on the 27th for what was essentially a normal back-to-the-grind day, except with loads of returns.  After the high of Christmas, the comedown of Boxing Day was just brutal.

I’ll never miss it, and I’ll never shop on Boxing Day.  I will not contribute to that culture.  I remember when stores had to be closed on the 26th.  In fact the first Boxing Days at the Record Store, we were closed.  The second one, we opened illegally, and working was on a voluntary basis.  It was voluntary for the first few years.  Then it became near impossible to get it off, though I did get it off for most years that I was manager.  The rule of thumb was you could have Christmas Eve or Boxing Day off, but not both.  Yet that last year I worked both.  Because I was a sucker I guess.  Merry Christmas motherfucker.

#1006: Too Many Cooks

RECORD STORE TAILS #1006: Too Many Cooks

Every so often, a thought or a memory has casting my mind back onto the old Record Store Days.

You probably don’t often think about a job that you quit almost 20 years ago now.  Then again, you probably didn’t work in a Record Store.

It was the Dream Job.  I always wanted to work in some way with music, and selling CDs was pretty high on my list.  It truly was everything I had hoped for.  I acquired hundreds of rare treasures, out of print CDs and things I never knew existed.  I got them with a discount, and I got to listen to music every day.  Lifelong friends were made.  That’s something I never thought would happen from a workplace.

The Record Store also put me back in touch with friends I had seen in years.  The Store was located at the local mall, the epicenter of the neighbourhood.  Banking, groceries, and everything you needed could be found at the Mall, and so a lot of the people I went to school with drifted in through my doors.  Some managed to stay in touch since then, thanks to social media.  I would not trade those connections for the world.

I know a young fella who now works at one of the many stores that I did time in.  It was one of my least favourite stores, in fact.  I hated working at that location.  The customers were not, shall we say, the upper crust of society in that neighbourhood.  But the kid loves his job!  Have things changed, or did I get it wrong? That’s what I ask myself sometimes.  Did I misrepresent those years in Record Store Tales?  Was I unfair?

The first two years were really awesome.  I looked forward to going to work every day.  I got there early and stayed late.  There is no question that the fun atmosphere changed when we started to expand.  10 years later I was having panic attacks.  Too many years of a retail job that was treated with as much urgency as a doctor’s or a lawyer’s.  Family came second.  Performance was everything.  Weakness was inapplicable.

Too many cooks spoil the brew.

At the end I had three bosses, and it was kind of shady how some of that went down.

I never looked forward to work anymore.  I still got there early, but that was more to take my own time opening.  Get ahead on some things.  Listen to music.  Fill orders.  I still do that today in my current job.  I arrive early, and slowly and casually start getting stuff done before we’re officially open for business.  Make a coffee.  Read some news.  Answer emails, before the phone starts ringing.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but the boss told me, “If you worked at IBM, coming in early to do extra is considered bad work habits.”  I distinctly remember him saying that.  I simply could not win with them.  It was a record store, not IBM!  Who cares what IBM do?  They don’t buy and sell used CDs from the public.

I’ve said before that there were cliques at the Record Store, and I stand by that claim.  I never felt like I belonged.  I was the only hard rocking sci-fi nerd with severe social anxiety.  I wasn’t hanging out with the right people at the right bars, because that’s not my thing.  Being invited out to the bar doesn’t count.   I.  Did.  Not.  Fit.  In.  I stand by that.  And I maintain that people in power did let their personal lives leak into their work life.

No.  Upon reflection I feel like I was fair in my previous assessments.  I will say that I am guilty of one thing in my writing.  Once I knew that people at the Record Store were reading, I let that influence my writing too much.  Too often, I wrote with that knowledge in the back of my head, whether consciously or unconsciously.  Perhaps that was unavoidable.

Too many cooks spoil the brew,
Wanna be the king of the world,
Yeah, and too many jailers makin’ the news,
Wanna be the king of the world.

#990: Cleaning the Door

RECORD STORE TALES #990: Cleaning the Door

In 2005, near the end of my sad reign as Record Store Manager, I was working at the head office branch.  There was a door in the back of the store that lead to an office space with several desks, and a warehouse area for supplies.  It was like the Great Wall.  On one side sat the the elite who laughed as they made the decisions, what stock we were carrying, and other sundry details that came down from on high.  On the other side, I the rabble that worked behind the counter serving the unwashed public.

Or at least that’s how they made it feel to me.  The cold detachment.  It was always unnerving when you could hear them discussing your store behind the wall.

Either way it was clear by 2005 that I was the old guard on my way out.  Management was unprofessional, and some of us couldn’t help noticing that other stores got away with things that mine didn’t, perhaps due to personal relationships.  This is not only my observance but that of others in the know.  So I knew the deck was stacked against me until I eventually made my move to depart.

One thing they were always bitching about was “your store is messy/dirty/disorganized”.  There was the incident with the glass front display case that had fingerprints on it for example.  Other “preferred” stores were the same or worse, but didn’t catch the grief that I did.  So I decided to try an experiment and see if they’d notice.

The only door to the back office was filthy with fingerprints when I took over that store.  You know how the area around a doorknob gets blackened with the dirt and grime of the years since last painting?  I was shocked, because I inherited that store from someone who seemed to be more preferred than I was.  One week I decided to scrub that door, and surrounding wall, clean.

Anytime management were not around that week, such as the night shifts, I would get out the cleaning products and scrub.  It took a few days, but eventually I got all the black off the door and wall.   They were as fresh as the day they were painted.  The grossness was gone.

I waited for someone in management to notice, but notice never came.

A week or two later, I asked someone if they noticed I had cleaned all the grime off the door?

“Mmm,” came the only reaction.

“Fuck this job,” was my own silent response.

#967: Dilemmas of Buying

RECORD STORE TALES #967:  Dilemmas of Buying

Mixing friends with work is always a tough balancing act.  When you work retail, it’s even harder.  The friends come to you, and they’d like to do business with someone they are familiar with.  Who wouldn’t?  At the Record Store, it was particularly difficult to maintain a stable counterbalance when buying used CDs from people who consider you to be a friend.

One thing always said when training new staff on buying used CDs was that “every customer thinks their CDs are gold.”  They don’t really understand why certain ones are worthless to you.  When buying from the customer, we went into detail explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of the offer, breaking it down disc by disc.  “These ones I can’t take because I already have two or more copies of each right now, and the other stores are well stocked too.”

When it’s a friend coming in to sell their discs to you, they don’t necessarily expect any special treatment, but they do expect you to “do your best” with your offer.  And that wasn’t always possible.

Upper management really kept an eye on my interactions with my regular customers.  They often complained to me that I paid too much for stuff when it was somebody I “preferred”.  That may be true in some instances, but I believe that upper management were too focused on dollars and cents, and not maintaining good relations with a regular customer.  A customer — somebody who spent money in our stores or supplied us with used stock that we in turn sold and made a profit on.  The managers were always hammering us on COGS – Cost of Goods Sold.  We had targets to aim for, and strategies for buying stock.  Unfortunately, this ran contradictory to “doing your best” when buying stock from somebody who knows you.

Just because somebody considers you a friend doesn’t mean they won’t go somewhere else to sell their discs to get better money.  They will.  They did!

“Come on Mike, this was twelve bucks when I bought it from you!  You can only give me three?”

“Fine, fine, I’ll give you four.  Just don’t say anything.  The bosses really hound me if they see me giving more than I should.”

Another factor is that every customer felt their CDs were in great shape even if the store didn’t.  That was another source of conflict.  We had a regional manager who was so picky that she would deduct money from a customer’s total for the lightest hairline scratches, even off the actual playing surface of the disc.  When you answer to someone like that, it was hard keeping your regulars happy with your offers.

And they really did watch me.  More than once they gave me shit for treating my regulars better than they thought I needed to.  Conrad, for example.  The guy bought in so many Japanese imports.  I don’t know how he had so many, but I tried to give him the maximum.  He could have taken them downtown, but he came to me.  He chose me because we both liked heavy metal (especially Bruce Dickinson) and both understand the value of Japanese imports.  He pissed off management because if I wasn’t working, the person who was usually offered him less, which he would complain about.

To me it didn’t matter that my COGS would take a hit by offering Conrad top dollar.  What mattered more was keeping Conrad loyal.  Where in Kitchener are you going to buy Japanese imports?

At Encore Records, that’s where, if Conrad thought he wasn’t getting enough money.

I’m sure, given the opportunity, the old management could run off a litany of reasons why I’m wrong.  But the fact is they had their own preferred customer.  They called him “Scottish Man” and only a limited number of employees dealt with him because he expected top dollar.  Now, upper management would always tell you that “Scottish Man brought in better stock and was more pleasant than gum-chewin’ Conrad.”  That sounds like a bias against heavy metal and chewing gum to me.

Just my opinion.  Just my opinion from my position at the front counter.

Let’s just say that if Conrad was bringing in rare Van Morrison and Stones imports instead of Axel Rudi Pell and Helloween box sets, their opinions might have been different.  With or without the chewing gum.

#966: Crossing the Line

As hinted in the past, there are many Record Store Tales that have gone untold.  Some I have been asked not to share.  Some I’ve waited years to write, in hope that the past two decades will put some distance between the events and the people concerned.

RECORD STORE TALES #966:  Crossing the Line

It took time for the world to catch up to my needs.  As an introvert, I hadn’t had much luck meeting girls.  I said stupid things, I put my foot in my mouth, I didn’t know how to introduce myself.  I’d tried going to the bars with friends, I’d been set up on dates, but I had no success.  Thanks to the internet, I was soon able to make a better first impression, online.  There I could take my time with my words and hopefully make a connection with someone.  It was the summer of 1999, when I met a local girl named Jen online (not the one I married, I must like the name).  We got along great so she decided to meet me in person.  I was not hard to find, working at the local Record Store.

Convenient, yes.  Smart, no.

Though I was at the end of my shift and it was OK for me to chat, my boss did not like the looks of Jen.  She was exceptionally tall, and worked as a bouncer at Oktoberfest because she could physically handle herself.  But that wasn’t the boss man’s problem.  His issue was that she had a piercing in her bottom lip.

I know, right?  In 1999, a labret piercing wasn’t as common, and my boss absolutely hated piercings.  He flat out told us once that he would not hire a guy that might have been fully qualified for the job because he had a ring in his nose.

He warned me against “crazy girls”, and then proceeded to tell one of our customers all about it behind my back.

The customer that we called “Tony Macaroni” was in one day and wanted to check out some newer metal releases.  (I was always trying to sell him on Bruce Dickinson who he found to be too “Satantic”, thanks to the Chemical Wedding album.)  Tony said to me, “So your boss tells me you’re dating a…” he paused looking for the appropriate words.  “A different kind of girl.”  He probably meant to say “freak” or “weirdo”.

“Huh?” I responded in confusion.  Jen and I never actually got to dating, but I knew what was up.  The boss was telling Tony about this “freak” he spotted me with in the store.  I guess he found that amusing enough to share.

I really should have spoken to the boss then and there about privacy and overstepping his bounds.  But I found him intimidating, and so I said nothing.  As a business owner in charge of dozens of people, he certainly should have known better.

The funny thing is that I’m still friends with that Jen.  We never hooked up romantically, but she’s a solid human.

The next incidents happened in 2003.  Again, he involved himself in my dating life.  I had recently turned 30 and for the first time in my life, was getting turned down by girls in their mid-20s for being “too old”.  29 was fine, but 30 was apparently over the top.  Unable to turn back the clock, I was not happy when this started happening.

I had one weakness back then.  I liked to talk.  Some of the other store managers were friends, and I would periodically call them up and ask for advice.  The boss absolutely hated when we talked on the phone to employees at other stores.  It meant that during the phone call, there were two people not working.  I did this too often and got caught.  The next day he pulled me into the office for a chat.  Then I made another mistake.

The correct course of action would have been to keep my mouth shut and accept a slap on the wrist.  Instead, I opened up.  I told my boss about how I wasn’t enjoying turning 30, how I just found a gray hair, and how this girl I was seeing decided to break it off because she was 24 or 25 and her parents wouldn’t like that I was 30.

“What’s her middle name?” he asked me.

I could not remember her middle name.

“Well she couldn’t have meant that much to you if you don’t even know her middle name.  What are her parents’ names?” he continued.

The meeting ended with him handing me a slip of paper with a phone number written on it.  I consider this to be the second time the line was crossed.  “Give these people a call, it’s counselling”.  It wasn’t an EAP program, it was a piece of paper with a phone number written on it and I felt very uncomfortable.  Legally and ethically, no lines were crossed.  But I left that meeting feeling pressured.  Later on, he did follow up and asked if I called the number.  I had tossed the paper out.

The third and final time he crossed the line with me, it was unambiguous.  I have no idea what his issue was this time, because I only heard about it after the fact.  Behind my back, he had called my parents!  My parents!  He called them to tell them that Mike was “used to doing things the old way,” and not adapting to the “new way”.  I am not sure exactly what he was on about.  There were lots of possibilities.  Maybe it was the time I did some employee reviews on the “old” forms because I didn’t have any of the “new” ones. Or maybe it was when I got piercings of my own.  Nobody knows anymore, but when he made that one phone call, he went a step too far and my dad isn’t quick to forgive.

Over the years, I’ve been accused of being unfair and too harsh towards the store ownership.  I don’t think so.  Not when you know the context.  Best thing I ever did for myself was quit.

* That was my fault.  The copier was right next to the office bully‘s desk so I probably neglected to copy the new forms out of avoidance.

#961: Christmas in the Hamster Wheel

RECORD STORE TALES #961: Christmas in the Hamster Wheel

I always wanted a hamster when I was a kid.  I used to love looking at the neat setups that other kids had in their homes.  Hamster wheels, tunnels, all kinds of neat stuff for the little guys to run around in.  I never saw them use the hamster wheels.  They seemed to sit idle near the back of the cage.  A forgotten amusement.

These days, the hamster wheel in my head is running overtime.  Is this really the second Christmas of Crap?

One thing that’s concerning to me.  The last two years have blurred together in my mind.  I used to pride myself on knowing exactly when any life event occurred.  If I could remember the life event in terms of the music I was listening to, or a movie I was into, I would always be able to pinpoint the year.  But with the last couple years being such a blur, I find I can’t tell 2021 memories from 2020 memories a lot of the time.  That’s worrying to me.  Remembering these things is important.

I feel like Jen and I haven’t been able to catch many breaks at Christmas in the last five years.  2017…she had cancer.  2018…first Christmas without her mom (also cancer).  2019 was the one where I felt like we were getting back on our feet a little.  Then the carpet got pulled from under us in 2020 for the weirdest Christmas ever.  2021 looks a little better in some ways, a little worse in others.

I haven’t been as creative this Christmas as I was in past years, including 2020.  We do what we can.  I have my annual end-of-year list that I’ll be posting on the 31st.  I have the LeBrain Train drop-in New Year’s Eve party (message me if you’d like to join the fun).  I’m still working on the Def Leppard review series (15 parts written).  I’ll also be starting a Judas Priest box set review series in the new year.  Spoiler!

Y’see, I asked my parents if they’d be willing to part with a lot of money and buy me a Priest box set.  And, my dad let the cat out of the bag.  Even if 2021 is a bit of a downer compared to past years, it’s going to be pretty awesome opening that bad boy.  A know a certain Kontrarian (Kopp) who is eager to see inside its contents.  I’ll be showing off that box set and other goods on the New Years Eve live stream.

Things I’m grateful for:

  1. Health.  Nobody in our family has had Covid (knock wood).
  2. A roof over my head.
  3. Jen
  4. Family
  5. Friends

If I were to add a 6th thing to that list it would be “thank God I’m not working retail during Covid.”  I think I would have snapped long ago.

It’s funny — we have a friend named Michael who has been on the LeBrain Train a couple of times.  (We call him Max the Axe’s stunt double.)  He is absolutely thrilled to be working at the same Record Store chain that I used to work for.  His uncle Tom used to own a branch.  So things have come full circle in the world of the Record Store.  25 years ago this Christmas was my first one managing my own store.  I had a tradition of wearing a tie every Christmas Eve.  It was something the Boss originated that I liked.  So I kept it going.

Michael tells me that retail during Covid is much better working at the Record Store than it was at Giant Tiger.  Gratefully, they will be closed Boxing Day this year.  I had to work 80% of Boxing Days over the years, and truthfully they were one of the hardest.  Stock on everything was pretty picked over by then, and of course you had people doing returns and selling boxes of CDs for store credit.  Big sales, big crowds.  Including putting up signs and taking them down at the end of the day — a very long one.

So I’m grateful for that.

Merry Christmas everybody.  See you on the other side.  And please, join me New Years Eve for a rock and roll party!  Again!*

* I’m even re-using the exact same art as last year.


#943: Irate With a Beeper!

RECORD STORE TALES #943: Irate With a Beeper!

There was once a time before we had our infamous “no questions asked” return policy.  In 1996, we were able to…shall we say, “express ourselves” more freely as managers of Record Stores.

We learned from the best, and we didn’t take kindly to someone trying to rip us off.   Some time in early September 1996, I received a call from T-Rev at his own store.  “Mikey,” he said, “Just a warning.  There’s a guy coming your way with the new Rush CD, that he wants to return.  Now I had a look at it, and it is just hacked.  There was no way he opened it like that.  I wouldn’t let him return it.  You’ll see what I mean when he gets there.  He’s this little short guy with glasses and short hair.  You’ll know him when you see him.”  A prepared myself for the Rush fan with Napoleon complex.

The new Rush album, Test For Echo, was received with mixed reactions.  We started seeing used copies early on, traded in by ordinary fans (albeit impatient ones) who simply didn’t like it.  T-Rev and I both thought it was a step down from Counterparts, while acknowledging that sometimes a Rush album needs time.  We liked a couple tracks, and disliked a few as well.  (“Dog Years” and “Virtuality” were on the shit list.)  We were not surprised to see people returning it, but Nerdlinger here was unique.

The little guy stormed in, straight up to the counter, and asked to return the Rush CD.  “I don’t like it,” he said simply.  I dutifully opened the case and, as T-Rev has warned, the disc was mangled.  Probably due to a car CD deck, which were common and had a habit of murdering discs.

“I’m sorry,” I began, “but I can’t take this back.  It’s seen some pretty serious use and it’s scratched up really bad.”  I didn’t know what else to say.  “I’m sorry,” I added lamely.

He was irate.  “‘Seen some serious use’?” he quoted back to me.  “How?  I just got it at your other store.  It’s a day old!”

Customers always asked “how” their CDs got scratched.  How the fuck am I supposed to know what he did with it?

“I don’t know how it got scratched up this bad, but they don’t come this way out of the shrinkwrap.”  I grabbed our store play CD to show him.  “See, this is one we just opened a few days ago and we’ve been playing it every day.”  He glared through his glasses at our copy.

He insisted he didn’t scratch it, that he bought it that way from T-Rev’s store and he wouldn’t return it.

I didn’t know what else I could say.  “Well, I showed you what they look like coming out of the shrinkwrap.”  Then, poking the bear just a smidge, I chided, “Did you drop it?”

“NO, I didn’t drop it!” he expressed in a mocking tone.  Knowing he was not going to get anywhere with me, he left.  And, much like many tenacious customers of his guilt-free mindset, he returned later that day on the night shift.  A time he assumed I wouldn’t be working.  But he didn’t get anywhere with the night staff.  They knew something wasn’t right about it and asked him to return when the manager is in.  So, like any douchebag worth his salt, he left a pager number for me to call the next day.

“Oh, joy” I said to myself upon seeing the note waiting for me.

I never called a beeper before.  I noted the occasion for its novelty.

A short while later, Nerdlinger stormed back into the store with his Rush CD.  He must have been so dejected upon seeing I was the manager.

And so for a second time I refused to return his CD, and he did the usual expected temper tantrum.  I’m never shopping here again, I’m telling all my friends, I’m this and you’re that.

And life got incrementally better, knowing I’d never have to see that fucking Nerdlinger again.