retail

#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!

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#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.

#680: The End of an Era

It was the year 2000.  Not just the dawn of a new century, but a new store.  Even though I was a store manager myself, I only found out about the expansion through the grapevine.

We were at a party when Tom said to me, “You’re going to be so relieved when the new store opens.”

What?…what new store??

“They didn’t tell you?  I can’t believe they didn’t tell you.  Yeah, they’re opening up a new store and moving head office with it.  The head office people are finally going to be out of your hair when they move it.”

“Head office” was a little room in the back of my store.

Nope, nobody told me!  In fact, nobody ever told me in any official capacity.  Even when they had started building the place and deciding who would staff it, nobody ever officially told me.  Even as they chose staff members from my own crew to run it, they didn’t tell me.  Communication at the Record Store was dysfunctional.  I heard again in passing from one of my employees that was being sent there, as if I already knew.  This pissed me off, but Tom was right.  I was hugely relieved to have the head office people moving out.  Good riddance; now they could go and micromanage somebody else!

Life was peachy for a couple years.  I had them out of my hair, and I took over the back office when I began running the store website.

All things end, and in 2003, they moved me to the new store as well.  Sales were down at my old store, and I had some problematic staff members.  So they shuffled around managers and I took over the other store.  I hated working there.  It may have been new, but it never felt like “home” like my old store did.  They told me that being comfortable wasn’t a good thing.

I didn’t enjoy managing the second store like I did the first, and I hated the location.  It was smaller.  There was no room behind the counter and I was always bashing into things.  It had fewer listening stations.  I missed my old regular customers, and being micromanaged again sucked!

I finally left in 2006 and the store soldiered on with a new manager.  But again, nothing lasts forever.  In the Brave New World that is music retail, a lot of record stores bit the dust.  Now it’s 2018, and an era is coming to an end.  The store that I uncomfortably managed is closing this year.  Even though working there was not fun, it’s still a sad day for me.  It might never have felt like home, but it kind of was for three years.  Huge chunks of my CD collection came from that store.  My mint Black Sabbath Black Box, my Queen 3″ singles, and a Japanese import Deep Purple box set* all came from that location.  So did dozens of Record Store Tales.

As the sun sets on my old store, it’s bittersweet.  Not a lot of great memories there, but sadness just the same.  Any time a record store closes, it’s a loss for music fans.  The inventory will be consolidated with another store that is moving to a bigger location, but it’s hard not to see it as another one biting the dust.

 

 

 

* Review forthcoming.

#677: Rock Clocks (Happy Mother’s Day!)

No Sunday Chuckle this week — a special post instead.

 

GETTING MORE TALE #677: Rock Clocks (Happy Mother’s Day!)

My mom has always been creative.  Ever since we were kids, she’s been making things.  In my earliest memories, she learned how to make ceramics at home.  A prized possession of mine is my Darth Vader lamp.  It’s made of two ceramic pieces, the base and the Vader bust.  It has coloured lights in his chest, and his lightsaber lights up as well.  I got Vader, while my sister had an R2-D2.  I still have that Vader and she still has her R2.  Then she even bought a kiln so she could fire her ceramics at home.  My dad called it “that damned kiln” or “that god-damned oven” while my mom expanded to teaching ceramic classes in the basement.  She even started making stained glass ornaments!  My dad hated that we had a cottage industry in the basement, and her stuff always fought for space with my Transformers boxes.  But dad had to admit one thing, which is the ceramics not only paid for themselves, but also my mother’s annual vacations.

Vader lamp, far left

When I started working at the Record Store, one of my mom’s more successful creations were functional clocks.  You could buy a clockwork and put it in anything really, but CD clocks looked cool.  I convinced her and the Boss to work out a consignment deal.  I brought home a bunch of defective CDs that were written off in the back room.  I had her make a variety of clocks — Pink Floyd CDs, Bob Marley’s Legend, or anything with a cool picture on it.  We also had a few basic ones with just numbers glued to a blank CD face.

They weren’t great sellers, but she moved maybe two dozen over the years.  It didn’t cost the Boss anything to stock them, maybe 18″ of shelf space behind the counter, but it was more of a favour than a business move.  As cool as they were, they got dusty up there on that shelf, and were tricky to clean.  The little metal hands bent easily, and if you wiped too hard you could mark up the clock face, or remove one of the numbers!

One gimmick came up with was allowing customers to buy custom clocks made.  They could either a) bring in a CD to be made into a clock, or b) use one of the defects in the box in our back room for a clock.  We did a few of those, though it meant my mom had to go out and buy more clockworks.

I’ll never forget this one guy.  He came in one day but it wasn’t for a clock.

He approached the counter and asked “Do you buy CDs?”

“Yes we do!” I responded, and he pulled a CD from his jacket pocket.

I looked at the cover and did not recognise the name.  I flipped it over and looked at the back.  No label, no bar code…definitely some unknown artist.

“I’m sorry,” I said as I began explaining the part that I hated explaining.  “I’ll have to pass on this one.  We just generally don’t buy things like this because they tend to just sit on the shelves for years.  I can’t find a record label on the back, I don’t know this artist, and there’s nothing under this name in our system.”

“Oh, well that’s me,” he answered.

“Oh this is you!  Well, that’s cool, but still, it’s just not the kind of thing we would buy for stock.  The best I could do is offer to sell it on consignment here for you.  But I’ll be honest, we don’t sell a lot of consignment CDs here unless it’s a pretty popular local band.”

“Can you make it into a clock?” he asked while pointing at my mom’s CD clocks.

“You want to make it into a clock?  Yes, absolutely we can do that!”

That took a twist I didn’t expect!  “I want to give it to my wife as a gift,” he said.

Well sure, why not!  I took his order down in a little yellow receipt book.  He chose the style of hands and numbers (gold coloured) and a week or so later, he had his clock.  Two AA batteries not included.

Here’s another clock memory for you.  Can you guess how often people looked up at the clocks and said, “Woah!  Is that the time?”  More frequently than you’d think.  No, those clocks don’t have batteries in them, they’re for sale and they’re all showing different times, you dumb ass.

We ended the clock collaboration shortly after.  At least I tried.  Not all my ideas were good ones.  It wasn’t a failure, it just wasn’t worth the effort after the novelty wore off.  It demonstrated one thing that remains true about retail:  things only have a limited shelf life.  People don’t want to see the same stuff sitting there year after year.  It was true for virtually everything we sold.  Bobble heads, action figures, Simpsons characters, Osbournes figures, accessories and impulse buys…they were all shuffled from one location to another when they were “dead”.  Then you’d sell a few more, and the product would die again.  Shuffle the remains to a sale bin in a third store and you’ll probably clear them all.  One of our stores had the Metallica McFarlane figure set opened up on display with the big stage and everything.  I was aghast!  You don’t open a toy for display, you idiots.  Nobody would buy it.  And guess what?  That open Metallica set was a shelfwarmer, as it slowly suffered from shelf abuse.

The only thing that was timeless and the never-ending star of the show?  CDs.  Music.

I left in 2006 and I know that music stores have changed in the last 12 years.  They’ve all had to diversify, and the old store I used to manage now sells board games and used Nintendo cartridges.  I got out at exactly the right time.  My passion has always been for the music.  The rest is just window dressing.

And that includes CD clocks.  Sorry mom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#676: Cry For Help (VIDEO)

GETTING MORE TALE #676: Cry For Help

My best impression. Based on true events.

#675: 5% (This House is Not for Sale)

For 16 years, I have been waiting for a phone call.

GETTING MORE TALE #675: 5% (This House is Not for Sale)

My dad, an old school banker, used to tell me, “Never pay somebody rent when you can put that money towards owning something of value.”

I lived in a rental apartment with T-Rev for a little while in the 90s, but mostly I lived with my folks.  That allowed me to save a lot of money for a place to live.  In 2002 I bought a condo.  I was lucky.  It was the first and only place I looked at.  It was 10 minutes away from work, 10 minutes away from my parents, and absolutely perfect for me.  I soon as I saw it, I started planning where the stereo would go.

I wanted to have my own place before I turned 30, and I was the first Record Store employee to buy one.  I could tell the office Bully was jealous.  When I told everyone I bought my own place, they all sent their congratulations, except the Bully.  She sent a back-handed email about how I had it easy living with my parents all this time.  I hit “delete”, but I did not forget.  It was a pattern of belittling that continued over the years.

I wasn’t trying to boast.  Just sharing my happy news with people who I thought were my friends.

I got married, continued to work hard, and a couple weeks ago, I finally got the phone call from the bank that I had been waiting 16 years for.  “Congratulations!  You are now among the 5% of Canadians that own their homes with no mortgage!”

What a feeling!  It doesn’t seem like 16 years.  More like 10.

Back when I moved in, I insisted that only I carry my treasured CD collection.  If any jewel cases were broken, I could only blame myself!  (Only a couple broke.)  My whole family helped.  We had the place painted later that night and I was entertaining my first guests two days later!

First movie played at the new place:  Star Wars Episode I.

Those kinds of things are important, you know.

After I got married, we meant to find a bigger place.  We both had great jobs and the time seemed right.  Unfortunately Mrs. LeBrain got sick – really sickEpilepsy has changed our lives and we have not been able to move.  Too many far more important things to do.  We’ve outgrown this place, but we will make it work.

We own it free and clear.  It’s ours.  The roof over our head is a security blanket that we never take for granted.

 

#672: “The”

GETTING MORE TALE #672: “The”

In the spring of 1996, the Record Store chain expanded to its third location. This was a life-changer for me, as it was my store — the store that I had been assigned to manage.  I spent eight years at that location, and that’s where most of Record Store Tales came from.  Myself and a young employee who was obsessed with Pink Floyd stocked the place.  It took weeks to manually clean, input and price thousands of used CDs.  We had fun working in a closed store away from the public, but the used CD stock we opened with was very monotonous.  It was just overflow crap from the other stores; a lot of the same-old-same-old.

When training the new young Floyd fanboy, the Boss told him, “When you enter a band’s name that starts with ‘The’, skip the word ‘The’.”  This makes sense for three reasons:

  1. Speed of data entry.
  2. Saving on the cost of expensive Dymo tape for the labeling gun (for the header cards).
  3. Alphabetical listings becoming much more tedious and cumbersome when scrolling through hundreds of “The” bands.

It’s pretty logical.

  • BLACK CROWES = The Black Crowes
  • FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS = The Fabulous Thunderbirds
  • FUGEES = The Fugees
  • KINKS = The Kinks
  • SEX PISTOLS = The Sex Pistols

This worked especially well with Fugees and the young guy’s favourite band, Pink Floyd.  Both artists had a “The” in their name in the past.  You don’t call them “The Pink Floyd” but it was certainly possible you’d see something when they still had the “The”.  Dropping the “The” on our header cards kept things simple.

The young fella got it, but followed it a little too closely.

One of his header cards said simply:

  • THE

“What is this one?” I asked and he showed me a CD by The The.

I told him to change it to The The, but he didn’t get it.  The Boss told him to drop the “The” on every header card.  But the header card didn’t make sense without it.  He wouldn’t change it, so I did it myself.

It seemed pretty clear to me then, and still does now.  The name “The The” just doesn’t make sense on a header card when it’s just “The”.  Tell me I’m wrong.

I was at Sunrise Records the other day, where I found The Best of Sword on CD. I eagerly put it under my arm, since I was missing the three previously unreleased bonus tracks.  (In case you didn’t know, Sword recently reunited and are recording a brand new studio album.)  But guess where I found the CD?  Or, rather, guess what two bands were filed together under the same name?

  • SWORD

Sword is from near Montreal, Quebec.  The Sword is another band altogether, from Austin Texas.  They both play heavy metal but are nothing alike.  In this case, there need to be two header cards, and one needs the word “The”.  It’s another rare exception.  The Sunrise store should have made these two header cards:

  • SWORD
  • THE SWORD

Even better:

  • SWORD (Montreal band)
  • THE SWORD (Texas band)

But clearly nobody who worked there knows enough about either band to see this.

A customer who enjoys The Sword could be very disappointed by picking up The Best of Sword.  Likewise, a fan of Sword might have thought the live Greetings From… CD was a reunion CD by the French Canadian metalers.

This is why it is critical to have staff who know music.  It’s the kind of proficiency that in our insta-knowledge internet era, most people don’t maintain anymore.  Proper header cards were a problem when I was managing the old Record Store too, and it was the same root cause:  It’s hard to find staff who know and care about this stuff.  And it’s not impossible to learn it.  The truth is, if I were a young The Sword fan today I would already know there was another band called Sword, because I would have stumbled upon their albums and looked them up on Wikipedia.

You could take this header card business too far, of course.  Just as you don’t need both “Pink Floyd” and “The Pink Floyd”, a record store doesn’t need two Queensryches or two L.A. Guns.  But you do need two Swords…with “The” and without.

* Here I am nitpicking about proper filing of header cards, when I should be complaining about the mistakes on this Sword CD.  Right there, on the back and inside covers, is a massive typo:  “Get It Whole You Can”.  Inside, the liner notes make the classic “there/their” screw-up.  Can’t believe nobody caught these before they went to print, but there it is.