retail

#759: Talk, Talk

GETTING MORE TALE #759: Talk, Talk

I was browsing local news stories, and one came up that had me choking on my coffee a little bit.

It was an interview with the owner of the old Record Store, who had opened up a new location.  In the interests of keeping everyone anonymous, I’ll paraphrase instead of quoting the portion that had me shocked and annoyed.

“We want to appeal to the hardcore music fan, the kind that just want to come in and talk about and listen to music.  Hopefully one day we can have chairs and make it a hangout atmosphere.”

Sounds good.  Sounds a bit like Sonic Boom in Toronto.  Nothing wrong with that.  Except it contradicts the very first lesson he taught me at the Record Store! In Getting More Tale #575, I described a scenario where he set me up, in order to teach me something valuable about customer service.

He knowingly asked me to go help an annoying, very talky lady.  After a chat that lasted longer than I care to remember, he said to me “That’s your first lesson.  Don’t get into conversations with customers.”

I realise that times change, and with them so do business strategies.  I’m sure somebody will say, “Well that was different.”  I can’t help but think of all the times I got scolded or received dirty looks for talking “too much” about music with customers.  The impression I got was they would have preferred an impersonal assembly line.  Serve the customer, plug the CD wipes for $5.99, get the sale, and move on to the next one.  Don’t encourage extended conversation.  The handful of customers I created relationships with ended up being long-termers, however.  My dad tells me I have the gift of gab like my grandfather.  My regulars enjoyed our chats, though the bosses didn’t.

Now he’s talking about making conversation a main feature of the store.  Does that mean he was wrong and I was right all along?

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#751: Can I Get a Witness?

GETTING MORE TALE #751: Can I Get a Witness?

I owe the Jehovah’s Witnesses a debt of gratitude.  I developed my cat-like stealthy ninja skills thanks to them.  I was able to take this talent into the Record Store a decade later.  How?  Read on.

If you’re not familiar, Jehovah’s Witnesses travel the streets of everyday neighborhoods, going door to door to preach the word.  They have a little magazine called the Watchtower that they distribute.  Every kid in my day was taught “don’t answer the door if a Jehovah’s Witness comes knocking.”  You could see them walking down the street, in formal wear, usually in pairs.  I would hide behind furniture and watch them through the window.  You could see them ring a doorbell, get no answer, and move onto the next house.  That’s how you’d know.  Sometimes we’d even phone neighbor friends.  “Jehovahs are coming down the street! Don’t answer the door!”

It’s not that Jehovah’s Witnesses are bad people.  Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness.  It’s just that nobody really likes an uninvited religious sermon in their homes.  As kids it wasn’t a good idea to open the door to strangers anyway.  And I had some good hiding places to watch for them.  Our big front bay window didn’t offer much cover, but I could spy from other strategic places.  I’d sneak downstairs silently, and get a closer look at their faces through the blinds.  Once, I think I was spotted.  If they rang the doorbell more than once, I assumed I’d been noticed and took deeper cover.

This worked like a charm, until one day I let my guard down.  It was my OAC “Grade 13” year.  I was working on a major project and I needed an audio recording.  I called up my buddy Bob to come over for an hour and help.  He said, “Sure no problem.  I’ll be there in an hour or two.”

An hour later the doorbell rang, and I ran down the stairs excitedly.  I was able to leap an entire staircase in one jump.  I loudly hit the main floor and ran to the door.  Opening it, I saw a kindly little old man in a blue suit and hat.  It was not Bob and I instantly regretted my haste.  It was my first Jehovah’s Witness.

I smiled and let the man speak, but after a few minutes I had to stop him.  “I’m sorry but I’m in the middle of a school project.  I really have to go.”

The man was fine with this.  “Education is very important,” he said, “I’ll come back another time.”

“Sure, sure,” I said, “Have a nice day.”

I got back to my project, but the next week, the old guy came back.  This time my dad answered the door.

“Is the young man available?” asked the Jehovah’s Witness.  I don’t know exactly what my dad said to him, but he never came back again.  I actually felt bad.  He was a nice man, and I’m sure my dad let him have it with a few F-bombs!

Clearly, my method of ninja-like avoidance and surveillance was superior.  I never rushed to answer the door in haste again.

Now, how does this all relate to the Record Store?  Well, I’ll tell ya.

Yours Truly

As discussed in Record Store Tales Part 190: The Early Bird Drops the Discs, I hated when people would bang on the door before we were open.  It wasn’t like our hours were a mystery.  There’s one store in town, Orange Monkey Music, that doesn’t really have posted hours.  It was a day to day mystery.  Whenever they showed up, they’d open.  Some days they wouldn’t open at all.  Not us!  It was the same schedule every week, posted on our front door for easy reference.  It was also on our website.

I’m not sure why some people felt entitled to get in the store before we were open.  I’ve never presumed that a store should let me in just because I was there 10 minutes early.  If I’m there 10 minutes early, that’s my 10 minutes to kill.  It’s not some store employee’s responsibility to let me in because I showed up before the posted hours.

Every Record Store employee had to show up 15 minutes before opening.  This allowed us to vacuum and set up for the day.  If I showed up earlier than 15 minutes, it was because I was the manager and had other things I wanted to get done before opening.  I didn’t get paid for being there early so there was no way I was opening early.

Sometimes I’d be in the back room looking at inventory, when I’d hear banging on the door.  Maybe it would be a boss who forgot their keys, or maybe it would be a customer.  Using my Jehovah-honed ninja skills, I’d skulk behind counters and displays so I could get a clear look.  If it was indeed a customer, they’d usually be carrying a bag of crappy CDs to sell.  Early morning booze money!  I’d stay hidden until they fucked off, then I’d get back to work.  Ninja skills:  maxed out!

The owner of course would let people in early, even though it was me who had to serve them and not him.  I remember one time, local weather man Dave MacDonald showed up early.  The boss let him in well before opening; they seemed to know each other.  But because he was in, that meant everybody else was welcome too.  And I wasn’t even supposed to be on duty yet.  Fuck me, right?  I hated when he let people in early.  Another effect of this was, if you do someone a favour once, they expect it next time.  “The owner lets me in early…”

I’d like to thank every Jehovah’s Witness who ever took a stroll down my street.  You taught me skills you didn’t even know!

 

#732: Where the Hell Am I?

GETTING MORE TALE #732: Where the Hell Am I?

What is the most important information to possess when you’re shopping?  Is it your shopping list?  Is it money?

No friends, that is not what matters most.  What you need to know most of all is where the hell you actually are.

I was working at the Record Store in the late 90s.  We had big red gift certificates in different denominations.  They had our logo printed on them.  You could use them at any of our locations.  They were pretty standard gift certificates, like any other store might have.  Today virtually everybody has switched to magnetic gift cards instead, which undoubtedly saves on paper.

A family came in one afternoon looking to spend.  They had over a hundred dollars in gift certificates.  Enough for the whole family to enjoy.  Collectively they had numerous questions, but were courteous and friendly.  I spent roughly an hour with them, helping them find songs and retrieving CDs for them to listen to.  They narrowed down their pile of CDs to the discs they wanted most.  Then we got to the checkout counter.

I made sure each case had the right CD inside, and I made sure each one was clean.  I rang them up and told them the total, when the man handed me a little blue HMV gift certificate.

My heart sank.

“This isn’t us, this is for HMV,” I informed the man.

“This isn’t HMV?”  He was stunned!

No!  This isn’t HMV!  Didn’t you notice all our massive signage?  Also, all our CDs are used!  When was the last time you saw a used CD at an HMV store?  My mind was screaming all of these things silently as the man.

What bugged me the most wasn’t all the wasted time on these people, it was that he was actually angry!  Angry at who?  If it were me, I’d be super embarrassed but I sure as hell wouldn’t be angry.  I would also be sure to buy something — anything — to make up for all the time the store spent on me.  This guy escorted his family out, leaving all the discs with me at the counter.

I’m sure the boss man was thrilled when I told him this story, and how effective all our store signage was!


Now a story of my own, but without the temper tantrum.

As many of you know, my friend Jason and I collect Transformers.  There are not really any decent toy stores in Kitchener.  We have a Toys R Us and an EB Games.  Up in Waterloo, there’s a good store called J&J’s, but they don’t carry Transformers.  (I did, however, buy up their GI Joes.)  Cambridge is the place to be for toy shopping.

I took a day off work to go toy shopping with Jay.  First we hit a place called The Toy Society, which is an excellent store for vintage action figures.  A little bit of every genre.  It’s hard to leave without spending money.  But Jay and I had a specific goal that day, which was to check out our friend Dan’s new store.

Dan owns B&K Collectables, which if you collect Pops, is now the place to go to get ’em.  He also carries vintage G1 and new Masterpiece Transformers.  His prices are high but when I buy a vintage figure from him, I know it’s complete and in working condition.  He’s never let me down, and I have scored several rare boxed G1 figures from him over the years.  He used to sell by mail, but in 2016 he opened an actual storefront, in a shared space with a computer store.

Jay and I hadn’t been there yet, and so partially planned this day to check out Dan’s store.  We knew roughly where it was, on Queen Street down by Len’s Mill Store.  We parked and started looking.

“This must be it,” said Jay as we entered a toy store.

We looked and took it all in.  There was a guy working near the back.

“BIG DAN!” shouted Jay.

The guy turned around.  He was big but he was not Dan.

“Did Dan hire someone?” I whispered to Jay.

“Sorry, is Dan around?” said Jay to the started toy store guy.

“No,” he answered simply, but probably confused.

“OK, thanks,” we said as we looked around for a bit.  The store was cool but he didn’t have any Transformers.  We had to be in the wrong place.  Turns out, it was a store called Playin’ Around.  B&K Collectables was still a few more doors down!

Once we found Dan, we had a laugh at our embarrassment.  As usual, his assortment of vintage figures was impressive.  I had my eyes on a complete G2 Megatron, but Jay was more excited about G1 Blitzwing.

“Holy shit you have Blitzwing!” said an excited Jay.  A customer over in the computer half of the store was amused by his excitement.  “I can’t believe you have a G1 Blitzwing, is he complete?”

The computer customer walked over.  “OK, I have to see what a G1 Blitzwing is, if it’s this exciting.”

Jay explained to him, “He’s a triple changer!  He changes into a plane AND a tank.”

“Ahh,” said the guy.

You have to have fun with shit.  Here I am with Jay, two guys in their 40s buying toys in the hundreds of dollars.  The computer guy thinks we’re nuts.  We also walked into a store and accidentally scared a guy by yelling “BIG DAN!”  It’s funny.  The guy with the HMV gift certificate could have made that experience so much better for everybody if he just saw the humour in it (and bought something for all my efforts).

Don’t be angry.  If you’re a dumb shit, just own it and laugh it off.  Ponoby’s nerfect, nam.

 

 

 

#731: Do as I say, not as I do

There are a few stories I held back from the original Record Store Tales because I didn’t want to get anyone into any trouble.  In this case, 24 years have gone by so I think it’s too late for this story to do any damage.  I was 21 years old, and as green as spinach.

When I first started, one of the earliest lessons I was taught was “Do as I say, not as I do.”  That came in handy the one time I witnessed a customer get physically hit by staff!

He was a kid.  He didn’t get hit hard.  It was a light smack on the brim of the hat.  And it was still shocking.

This kid came in wanting to return a CD.  I was still in training.  The guy behind the counter wasn’t too happy about the condition it was in.  He concluded the kid was trying to rip us off.  There was a bit of an argument about it.  The kid threatened to go downtown to “Mister Disc” from then on, and that’s when he got smacked in the head and called “Junior”!

“Do as I say, not as I do,” indeed!  So I never hit any customers!  The kid never came back, but could you imagine if that happened in 2018?  You’d have vigils and boycotts and Twitter going into overdrive.  In 1994, you just had an embarrassed kid leaving with his tail between his legs.

 

#716: Hummer

GETTING MORE TALE #716: Hummer

Towards the end of my time at the Record Store, I saw a lot of what I call “bigwigs” floating in and out.  These well-dressed business men would be visiting with the boss to discuss wheeling and dealing.  They all had one thing in common:  they ignored the working stiff behind the counter as if he didn’t exist.

One of these guys was in one afternoon, and as he was leaving, he said “Let me go get one of my business cards from my Hummer.”

Really?

You couldn’t have just said “Let me go get one of my business cards?”  You had to add the part about your $100,000 pollution machine too?  Usually, I just say “I’ll go get it from my car.  I don’t say “It’s in my Pontiac G5, let me go get it.”  Because I don’t care and you shouldn’t either.  But some guys think they are what they drive, I guess:  big suck machines?

These kinds of people really chapped my ass, but I guess it’s very hip-hop to boast about wealth.  Not very rock and roll, but just another day at the Record Store.

#708: The Perfect Roll

Expanded from a segment in Part 18:  Klassic Kwotes III

GETTING MORE TALE #708: The Perfect Roll

I once read a quote from Keith Richards in the late 80s about the state of rock and roll.  “I hear a lot of rock,” he said, “but not much roll anymore.”

I thought I knew what he meant.  You heard a lot of rocking, but not a lot of that Stones-y jangle.  None of the rhythm & blues.  None of the subtlety.  That’s what I read his quote to mean.

Then I heard something else a decade later that made me wonder if “roll” meant something else.

 

WHAT IS “ROLL”?

A knowledgeable rock guy named Neil was working that day.  The Verve were still popular, and for good reason.  1997’s Urban Hymns was a phenomenon brought on by “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, which has since become a classic.  The song even has a Stones connection.  The famed string section is a sampled from Andrew Loog Oldham’s cover of the Stones’ “The Last Time”.  The lawyers had a field day with that one.

On this afternoon, a guy came in and started asking lots of questions (including “Do you believe in Jesus?” but I digress). One thing we always hated was when customers would ask to listen to music on the store system even though we had six listening stations. (Granted, only four worked at any given time, but again, I digress.) This guy asked to listen to The Verve.

Because we tried to be nice and not dicks, we put The Verve on the store system and skipped through the tracks for the guy.  He told us, “There’s rock and roll, and then there’s rock, and then there’s roll. This CD supposedly has the first ‘roll’ performed since the 1960s!” That’s what he was listening for.

We went back and forth through a few tracks. Then he burst out, “Did you hear that? Did you hear that! That was a perfect roll! The first roll performed since the 60s!”

To this day I have no idea what he was talking about.

Rock and roll is an amalgam of different influences, including gospel and R&B.  None of those influences have gone extinct since the birth of rock.  Whatever it was that this guy heard, something that hadn’t been performed since the 60s, I still cannot figure out.

Oh! And the “roll” guy? He didn’t buy anything!

#706: Additional Complaint

GETTING MORE TALE #706: Additional Complaint

I used to tell the store owner and his second-in-command, “We are only using about 10% of what these computers are capable of doing.”  They were great for inventory and point of sale.  We eventually started using them to print out header cards for CDs.  It seemed like the owner and those beneath him weren’t interested in getting the most out of our computers.  I think they saw potential abuse as “toys” — gaming and chatting etc.

That wasn’t what I was driving at.  I used to have to maintain a sales log.  It was a big blue book full of pages for bookkeeping.  It was handy because the boss could open it up and have a quick look at what sales were last night, last week, last year, and so on.  We kept track of our purchases and free CD giveaways in the log book.  At various points in time, I was maintaining multiple log books.  I had one when I was in charge of the store website.  Whenever there was a staffing issue, and I had to cover at another branch for an extended period, there was another log book.

It always irked me that we were not permitted to use Microsoft Excel instead of (or even in addition to) the sales log.  There is one thing I have always sucked at, and continue to suck at:  adding up a large column of numbers.  The reasons for this are two:

  1. My big stupid fingers are always mashing the wrong buttons on a calculator, and
  2. When I stare at numbers too long they all start to jump around.  2112 looks like 2121, and so on.

My suggestions to use Excel for the log book were always shot down.  For all I know, 12 years later they could still be using the big blue log books exclusively.  We did use Excel to calculate the values of our inventory, so I didn’t get what the big deal was.

It really pissed me off one afternoon in the store, when I was struggling to add up the numbers for month end.  The weekly totals were off, so I had to find where.  I had a system for finding these kinds of problems and part of it was manually adding up all the days’ sales.  Every time you start adding a large series of numbers and the phone rings or someone asks a question, I tended to lose my place.  So it took a while.  And every time I added the numbers, I was getting different results.  I’d been at it forever and couldn’t figure it out.

They’d just given me another staffer who would be helping in the afternoons when I used to be alone.  I asked him if he wouldn’t mind checking the sum, to see what total he would get.  He did and that’s exactly when the Store Bully walked in.

“Mike, why are you getting Dave to do the books for you?!” she yelled.  Of course, out of context, it probably looked that way.  But she wouldn’t even let me finish a sentence, and when I finally did, she said my story was “bull”.  She made her comment that the new guy wasn’t to be my personal servant.  Is that what she thought of me?  And of course this went on my annual review.  I protested it again, but she didn’t want to listen.

Dave didn’t get to finish adding that column, so I never found out what total he would have got.  Imagine how easy it would have been if it was just Microsoft Excel.

Some of the people at the Record Store who were in positions of power were, unfortunately, troglodytes.  They didn’t use computers regularly and were closed to ideas that didn’t come from preferential personnel.  It was a rock and a hard place for me.  They didn’t want to use computers to do the books, but I got “caught” getting someone to check my math.  As if it’s highschool.

Actually, it was a lot like a highschool.  And I wasn’t in the popular clique.

#697: Kiss My Ass

GETTING MORE TALE #697: Kiss My Ass

Spring, 1994.

An unemployed 21 year old student not-yet-named LeBrain was having a particularly lazy summer.  In a year I would graduate.  I didn’t have a lot of spending money.

There was a CD store at the mall.  The owner was a friend of my dad’s.  It was within walking distance.  I wandered in once or twice a week.  but their prices were too high.  They had a “buy 10 get 1 free card”, and I’d redeemed one of those (for cassettes) already, but in general I couldn’t afford to buy things there.  Most of my music was coming from Columbia House.

July rolled around, but I hadn’t been to the mall in a while.  There was a bunch of new stuff I was curious about.  David Lee Roth had an album out, and the new Soundgarden was supposed to be incredible.  Kim Mitchell had something new, and there were a bunch of 1993 albums I still wanted.  I took a walk to the mall.

Something was different at the CD store.  Where there were once these red wire clearance bins, there was now a display of…used CDs!?  Quality guaranteed?!  Woah!  I could afford these!

I saw it immediately:  a brand new release sitting there used for $11.99.  Kiss My Ass.  It was only out for about two weeks!  I didn’t care why it was there, it was MINE!  I hated spending full CD prices on a “various artists” album.  In general I’d only get three tracks per album that I wanted.  I preferred to buy stuff like that on cassette, just so I wasn’t paying 20 bucks or more for three songs.  Twelve bucks for Kiss My Ass?  Stop twisting my arm!

I remarked to the owner how excited I was to get this brand new album at such a great price!  He told me they just started selling used CDs.  I learned later the now-legendary story:  it started with about 10 CDs that he brought in from home to sell.  People wanted more, and so he began buying and selling.  So far, it was working well.  He had a few hundred on display, and there were already some great titles in there!

I ran home excited about my score.  The three tracks I was interested in were Lenny Kravitz, Extreme, and Shandi’s Addiction.  I got my required three songs.  Over time, the rest began to appeal more, but I mostly played those three.  When I learned that Kiss themselves played on the Garth Brooks song, I upped it to four.

About a week later, my dad came home from work and instructed me to go to the mall the following morning.  The owner of the CD store wanted to talk to me.

What?

“He’s interested in hiring you,” said my mom.

“Nah,” I answered.  “I ordered a Japanese version of Kiss Alive III.  I bet that came in.”

“Just go to the mall and talk to him,” they both said, and so I put on some nice(r) clothes for what was in effect an interview.  I wore cowboy boots because I didn’t have anything else but sneakers.  He already knew me as a customer, and trusted my dad as well.  We just chatted for a bit.  He told me that his employee Craig would be leaving for school at the end of the summer, and he needed a replacement.  There were only the two of them, so it was actually a bigger deal than just “working at a CD store”.  Craig opened, closed, did bank deposits, and everything else that needed doing, and eventually so would I!

He told me the job was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.  Sure, sure, stop twisting my arm!

Therefore, the CD copy of Kiss My Ass (that I still own today) is the very first used CD I bought at the store I would eventually work, and also the last one that I bought before actually being hired!  And he was right about the job.  It was hard work, and it was fun.  When I began working there, I used to show up about 30 minutes early just to flip through all the new arrivals.  If something jumped out at me, I’d put it in the front row.  If something was priced too low, I’d tell him.   “This is really rare”.  I impressed him by knowing the details of who was in what bands, and their different side projects.  I told him I learned this stuff by reading the Columbia House catalogue every month.

What an awesome time to work!  The used CDs were on the ground floor.  Soon they’d be 99% of what we did.  I was there for many releases of what are now classic albums.  I’m really proud to have been there for those times, even if not everybody gets that.  It was work and it was fun.  Not everybody gets to have a job they can be passionate about.  When I was there at the beginning, putting in 200% every day, it was simply an amazing time to be alive.

 

 

#695: Don’t Forget to Lock It!

GETTING MORE TALE #695: Don’t Forget to Lock It!

The most important part about closing the Record Store was also the easiest. It wasn’t balancing the cash, or leaving the store in good shape for the morning shift. It wasn’t setting the alarm. It was simply remembering to lock the door on your way out.

When it comes to locking up, I had the best life experiences to remember by. After all, it was my dad who used to make locking up a long, drawn out exercise.

When we used to go to the cottage for the weekend, my dad would make 200% sure that we locked up the house. My mom, sister and I would be waiting in the car, in the driveway, for him to finish checking. He’d exit the house by the front door, check it a few times, and then go out back to check the back doors and windows. Then he’d come back out front and check the front door again. If he was being extra careful, he might run back to check the back door one more time. Then, we could leave.

Leaving the cottage was the same routine. Exit by the front door, lock it, and make sure. Run out back. Check the back doors and windows. Check the front once more before leaving.  Repeat as necessary.

We teased teased my dad about it.   Once, after he got into the car, I jumped out and said “I have to check something!” I then checked the front door and ran out back to check there too before returning to the car. It was pretty funny, I thought.  Not sure he got the joke….

When it came time to be an adult with grown-up responsibilities, locking up the house, or car, or store was never an issue with me.  (It’s an issue with Mrs. LeBrain, but that’s a whole other story or two.  There’s a reason I made a sign that said “LOCK ALL DOORS AND WINDOWS BEFORE YOU LEAVE”.)

I would always be doubly careful. There were times, more than one occasion, when I could not distinctly remember locking the door at the Record Store. Rather than worry all night, I’d jump back in the car and make sure. I never did actually leave the door open, but taking the 30-40 minutes to drive back and confirm was worth while.  Much better safer than sorry.

I was absolutely furious one morning when I came in to work and the door was unlocked. As discussed in #489: I Forgot to Remember to Forget, it only happened once. Thankfully no thieves tried the door. If they had, they would have had free entrance. I can’t remember who left the door open…but I wanna say it was a night shift with Dave Quon and The Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd. Clearly, they didn’t have dads like mine.  If memory serves, each of them thought the other guy had locked up.

Locking car doors was also something drilled into us, before the era of remote door locks. I was stopping at a convenience store with one of the guys from work. As we got out of the car I reminded him, “Don’t forget to lock it.” Some dirtbag hanging out in front of the store yelled mockingly, “Yeah better sure you lock up that Ferrari there.”

Not the point!

As much as it annoyed us as kids, I’m glad our dad drilled “don’t forget to lock it” into our heads. It helped a lot when it came to adult life. Nothing was ever left unlocked at the Record Store by me, and I think indirectly they need to be thankful to my dad. He personally trained their employee (me) on locking the doors.  I think my dad deserves a bonus! Or a free CD, or a T-shirt!

#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.