spoogecakes

#543: Loose Lips Sink Ships

GETTING MORE TALE #543: Loose Lips Sink Ships

One night, we had a staff meeting  for managers.  The lesson that evening was that “loose lips sink ships”.  This phrase dates back to World War II.  The idea was to avoid speaking openly about anything to do with the war.  You never know how any of that information might get back to the enemy.  The same held true for the cutthroat world of CD retail.

The reason he had to reinforce that “loose lips sink ships” rule is that one franchisee had made a huge mistake, boasting openly about a great location he had just found for a future store.  Wouldn’t you know it, our biggest rival swooped in and took the spot.  He heard about it because Gabby McGabberson was telling everybody.  The ship had sunk!

This served as a reminder to watch what we say.  You never know who might be listening.  I got caught a few times myself.  One afternoon I was talking about an ex-employee who got himself fired.  Sometimes I felt like he was making me prematurely grey, and I was venting some steam in store.   Little did I know that the guy’s brother was in the store, and reported my words back to him!  Whoopsie.   At least I didn’t say anything that was not true.  He got a new job working at HMV and I think that’s where he was happier to be.  Then there’s good ol’ Spoogecakes.  I can only guess but the loose lips theory is all I can come up with to explain why ex-coworker Spoogey (remember that explosion of drama?) had such a hate-on for me.  It started in mid-2006, about six months after I quit the store.  A third party informed me that she had this weird crush/obsession.  I was oblivious to that and it was a little off-putting to find out.  I think once word got back about how I reacted, the hate set in.  I’ll never know for sure, but the point is: anything said can be repeated.

We were trained to answer customer inquiries about how the store was doing in vague terms only.   The boss caught me once when we first opened the branch I managed.  “How are you guys doing today?” asked a customer.  “Pretty busy!” I answered, seemingly innocently.  Afterwards the boss instructed me, “Never tell people we’re busy.  Never tell them if we’re slow either.  Only answer ‘business is good’.  How do you know that guy won’t try to break in and rob us now that he knows we’re busy?”

Sensible advice.  Never show your cards.  I took that advice and only answered vaguely from that point on.  That’s what I instructed my staff to say too.  Loose lips sink ships:  “Business is good.”  If the customer pressed for more details (and you might not believe it, but some did!) I would just play stupid and say that I didn’t know the numbers.   I even caught a guy trying to sneak a glimpse at my sales log book, all casual-like.  Can you believe that?

Business folks would be well advised to take my old boss’ advice.  Loose lips sink ships!

 

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#384: The Messenger

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#384: The Messenger

I hate computer instant messenger services!  Actual conversation from the Record Store circa 2004-ish:

MSNBoss – “Mike, I’ve heard that you are using MSN Messenger at work against store policy.”

Me – “What?  No, that’s wrong.  I don’t even use MSN Messenger.”

Boss – “Are you calling the person who told me a liar?”

Me – “I guess so.  Who told you?”

Boss – “I’m not telling you that.  This your verbal warning.  If I hear about this again you’re getting a written warning.”

Me – “But that’s not fair, they’re wrong.  It wasn’t me!  I don’t even like MSN!”

Boss – “I don’t believe you. I think you are lying to me.  The other person has no reason to lie.”

So that one unfairly went on my record, and I maintain to this day that I HATED MSN MESSENGER!  If you’ve used it, you know what I’m talking about.  I had signed up for an account, but I found it to have no benefits and provided nothing but distraction.  Below, you will find an example of what it’s like to try and write (or do anything) with MSN Messenger on.

“It was a dark, stormy night on the coastline of the small uninhabited…” [MSN BEEP!] “…island.  The man wore a thin coat that did not protect him…” [BEEP!] [BEEP!] “…from the rain.  He dragged through the mud a large [BEEP!] canvas duffle bag that [BEEP!] was already soaked completely [BEEP!] through to its contents. The man shuffled onwards, awkwardly [BEEP!] pulling the load behind [BEEP!] him.  He grimaced as he readjusted his [BEEP!] GODDAMN THIS MSN I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL PUNCH THE MONITOR IF IT BEEPS ONE MORE DAMN TIME!”

I don’t remember who talked me into signing up for MSN in the first place, but it was probably some girl that I was interested in at the time.  Once set up, my computer signed me in automatically at every boot, because I never figured out how to disable it afterwards.  Indeed, our store tech guy couldn’t even disable it on our work computers.  He could hide it and prevent it from starting at setup, but he couldn’t completely delete it from Windows.  Thanks, Microsoft.  The only employee that I knew for certain used it at work was Spoogecakes, who left herself logged in one day after her shift!

I did use email at work (just like the same bosses did) against store policy.  But MSN?  Hell no!  The reason I know that is that I hate MSN Messenger to this day, just like I hate chickpeas or lentils!  I had one, just like all the cool kids, but the sound of that “MSN beep” is still enough to make me jump out of my chair.

I couldn’t make it all the way through this video.

Part 275: Catharis (Second Anniversary special)

MIKELADANOMikeladano.com celebrates its second anniversary today!  It started with Record Store Tales Part 1, and here we are at Part 275!  (That’s one tale every 2.65 days for the numbers-oriented out there.)  A huge THANK-YOU to everyone who’ve read my stuff; as David Lee Roth says, “It ain’t no fuckin’ good without an audience.”  I also need to thank those friends that read this stuff years ago and told me to keep writing — they know who they are.   And my family, but especially the lovely Mrs. LeBrain who lets me rock and roll all nite and part of every day.  I love you sweety.

Enjoy this Record Store Tale!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 275:  Catharsis

Sometimes when I hit these milestones, I like to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m headed.  Two years ago when I began publishing the Record Store Tales I didn’t know if anyone would read it.  I was pleased to find that enough people enjoyed reading these stories that it was worth continuing.

I knew when I started posting these that eventually, inevitably, somebody from the old record store would find them.  I made the decision to write under my real name, not a pseudonym.  I anticipated that while some of my old friends would be entertained by these stories, some would not.  I took efforts to protect the identities of the characters in the story that are not portrayed in a positive light.

I did a “soft” launch of the site.  That is, I began publishing the stories one chapter at a time, but I kept it to myself and a close circle of friends.  The response was very positive and constructive.  While some friends urged me to “keep it short”, one of the most popular earlier stories was one of the longest.  Part 16: Traveling Man was the story of a long misadventure in Oakville Ontario, climaxed by an encounter with an unpleasant lawyer customer.  One friend told me the story was “fucking hilarious” and that he anticipated from the start that the guy in the story was a lawyer.   This feedback encouraged me to keep going for it.  I was fired up.

Then once I had enough content up to give people something substantial to read, I did my “official” launch via Facebook, Twitter and email.  It didn’t take long for the rain to hit my parade.  As I anticipated some people from the store didn’t like my stories, but Spoogecakes was the only one to publicly voice her disgust, way back in Part 35.5.  The funny thing about this was that I hadn’t planned on even mentioning Spoogecakes in my story, but then she went and wrote herself in.  Oh well.

I never could have done a white-washed version of the Record Store Tales.  I tried.  Seven or eight years ago I tried something called “Record Store-ies” (lame title, I know).  Some of the “Record Store-ies” got recycled into the old Klassic Kwotes, but it wasn’t the satisfying, cathartic experience that my soul had been craving.  After the Spoogecakes shit-storm, I approached a mentor of mine about the situation.  I asked him if I had been too negative in the past, if I should have toned it down.  His response to me was something I have taken to heart ever since.

“If you compromise your art in order to please a small minority of people no matter how vocal, you will ultimately end up with a piece of art that you don’t like.”

That was great advice.  My bottom line is always, “Do I like it?”  I’ve tried to maintain a balance.  There are stories about people with whom I conflicted, but there are also stories about things like me shitting my pants in the store.   And I didn’t give myself an alias for these stories!

This isn’t just storytelling to me.  This is catharsis.  While I was experiencing everything I experienced in the record store, good or bad, I held tight to one thought.  That thought was, “When this is all over, at least I will have a bunch of great stories to share.  If I can entertain just a few people with these stories then it’s all been worth it.”   Spoogecakes commented that there are “two sides to every story”.

That’s right.  And this is mine.

Part 230: Nicknames

WINNER!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 230:  Nicknames

It’s true.  You may have a nickname at your favourite store that you don’t even know about!  Maybe you’re known for your surly manner.  Maybe you’re known for returning everything you buy, or a unique form of transportation.  Whatever the case may be, here’s a selection of my favourite nicknames from the record store days!

  • Winner
  • The Creepy Twins
  • Barefoot DJ
  • Surly Brad
  • Big Daddy Dave
  • Tall One & Short One
  • Messy Jazz Guy (also known as Mr. Saturday)
  • Italian Tony
  • Girly Bike Man
  • Captain Jack
  • The Two Goth Guys (one of whom later became Dandy)
  • Emphysema Man
  • Columbia House Man
  • Jaded Rock Guy
  • The Trekkies
  • Creepy Danny
  • The Angry Walrus

The Angry Walrus wasn’t a customer, she was in fact an employee.  Dandy gave her the name, due to a resemblance that he perceived to an angry Odobenus rosmarus. 

Part 180: Google

RECORD STORE TALES Part 180:  Google

We first got email and internet at the record store in the late 90’s.  One of the big fears back then was the dreaded computer virus, but of course we also had to deal with internet abuse.  I remember coming in to work one day to find our computer’s MSN Messenger still active from the night shift; Spoogecakes left herself logged in.  Myself, I was never that fussed about MSN, I was more an email guy.  I got busted emailing a few times, I had verbal warnings, but I never did anything like leaving myself logged into MSN!

The powers that be were concerned about time wasted on the internet, and the viruses. This put into effect a strict internet policy.  Part of that was blocking nearly every useful site on the internet.  There were only a handful of sites available to us.  There was a secret password override, which made the rounds once leaked.  The guy who figured out the password decided to share it on his very last shift.  His name shall go down in hallowed halls, somewhere, someday.

Some of the sites that we were allowed to access included Canoe, so we could print out the charts, and Allmusic so we could do album lookups.  Allmusic was next to useless, being so slow and inaccurate.   I preferred Google.  The beauty of Google was that you didn’t have to use it to actually go to another (potentially shady) site, you could use it just to answer a simple question.  For example:

CARLY RAE JEPSEN

So there’s your answer, without even having to click on one of those shady lyric sites.

Now, I showed my bosses how to use Google to answer the toughest customer questions.  Often, a customer would come in and say, “I’m looking for a song, but I only know a few words.  Can you help?”  This was long before you could hold up your iPhone and use an app to do it for you.  You had to ask the folks on the radio, or at the record store.

Google was the easiest most accurate way to answer these questions.  So, here’s a question you might get:  “I’m looking for a song by somebody that goes, ‘in the midnight hour, I want more more more'”.

Plug it into Google like so, and you get your answer.

REBEL YELL

Again, you don’t even have to click on the shady lyric sites.  Then once you know the artist (Billy Idol) you could just run over to the shelves and see if you had that song.  If you didn’t, Allmusic could tell you which album you want, now that you knew the name of the song and artist.

I showed them this trick, but they would not budge on the block policy.  They insisted that Google be blocked.  They thought you could use Google to visit a blocked site.  Just clicking the link, they thought, would bypass the block.  They thought the block only applied to the address bar.

I explained this but the answer remained “No.”  Google was to remain blocked, purely because they didn’t understand how Internet Explorer worked.  Essentially, we were blocked from a simple tool to answer common questions.  At least many of us secretly had the override password, but before that leaked, we couldn’t access a search site like Google.  I had a customer say to me, “Can’t you check the internet?  The guy at HMV can.”  And no, technically I couldn’t.  Allmusic didn’t have a feature to look up song lyrics, and its search engine was pretty shitty as it was.

With today’s technology you can do this easily with a cell phone, that was unimaginable to us 10 years ago.  Regardless of the policy, I used the password to use Google and answer questions.  And I checked my email, too!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

Part 181:  Jim Carrey’s clone

Part 157: The Year in Review / Top 5

RECORD STORE TALES Part 157:   The Year in Review

So here we are, the tail end of 2012.  While I’m sure you’re just starting to get your drink on, we here at LeBrain’s Blog are tirelessly bringing you the rock even into the wee final hours.  This is the time, traditionally, when we look at the past year!

We used to do Top Five of the Year lists at the record store, when we used to have our newsletter.  Unfortunately I don’t have copies of any of those newsletters, not a one, which is a real shame since I poured my heart and soul into them as much as anybody else at the store.  It would have been fun to look back 15 years and see what my top five of 1997 was.  I do know for certain two albums that were on it:  Accident of Birth by Bruce Dickinson, and The Colour and the Shape by Foo Fighters!  The rest have been lost to the dusts of time.

Hey, if any of you guys are still speaking to me and have copies of the newsletter, lemme know eh? ;)

Back to the present for a moment:

What can I say about 2012?  Before I even thought about doing my own blog, events were in motion that pushed me in that direction.   My good buddy Craig Fee invited me down to 107.5 Dave FM for an entire week — Stump LeBrain Week!  I spent a week on the air, with listeners trying to stump me.  There were even a couple LeBrain Weeks and an entire month of LeBrainuary, where every single day’s 4 O’clock 4 Play quizzes were mined from my own brain’s knowledge.  It was a blast, and left me hungry for more.

I’d always been writing Record Store Tales.  The oldest ones were at least a decade old on my hard drive, but I had no idea what to do with them.  I’d also been writing reviews — well over 800 of them on file before I launched — that very few people had seen.  Craig said to me, “LeBrain, you need to get blogging this stuff.  Write something every day.  If you build it, they will come.”

So that’s what I did, and I thank you for reading.

Back to the Record Store Tales:

I published Part 1 on March 9 2012, the beginning of the story, called Run to the Hills.  It was about the very first time I heard Iron Maiden, a date I’ll never forget.  And thus LeBrain’s Blog and Record Store Tales were launched.

Some highlights from the early months that you may have missed if you’re fairly new here:

So, if you have nothing better to do on this New Year’s Eve, there’s a good waste of time for ya.

And now that we’re done with the preamble…let’s get down to business.

LeBRAIN’S TOP FIVE OF 2012

5. TENACIOUS D – Rize of the Fenix

KG and JB cannot be stopped.  This album is the “Deth Starr” of rock, The D aim “To Be The Best”!   Read LeBrain’s review of Rize of the Fenix here, including all bonus tracks.

4. THE DARKNESS – Hot Cakes

I will never stop loving this band.  Welcome back.  Read LeBrain’s review of Hot Cakes here.

3.  RUSH – Clockwork Angels

My favourite Rush album since Counterparts, at least. Read LeBrain’s review of Clockwork Angels here.

2. VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth

I’d never been more worried that a band would fuck up their big comeback.  Thankfully, Van Halen did not.  Read LeBrain’s review of A Different Kind of Truth here.

And finally…

1. KISS – Monster

You know this was gonna happen.  Aside from the fact that I’m the biggest Kiss fan around, it’s a fucking great record.  Read LeBrain’s review of Monster here.

Runner up:  Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson – TAAB2 Thick As A Brick 2.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Part 55: Groupies

Hello, all, when we last met, we were talking about a weird record store stalker.  Today, we’re going to be talking about record store groupies.

Now, I dunno about other guys.  I didn’t have too many groupies.  (Spoogecakes does not count as a groupie, as she was not a customer, just a psycho employee.) Some of the girls did.  I remember Ashleigh had a couple admirers that we fondly referred to as “the Trekkies”.  Me, on the other hand…I had Tall One and Short One.

Problem:  If memory serves, Tall One was about 15, and Short One was about 16.  I was about 30.  

But the really weird thing is that Tall One and Short One had both simultaneously shitty, and awesome musical taste.   It was like…Schrödinger’s taste.  In the same transaction, they would purchase both Steve Vai, and the Moffats.  They later graduated on to Kiss.

Second weird thing.  That was a decade ago, and bizarrely through Facebook we re-contacted.  Tall One even came to my pre-wedding garage sale and bought some of my crap!  A lot of my crap, actually.

Everybody used to give me a hard time about Tall One and Short One, because they used to come in all the time, but I couldn’t be mean to them.  Well, I was mean a couple times, I had to tell them to get lost I was busy.  But then other times, they would come in with a huge box of Crispy Creme donuts.  That time, I remember I ate four in a row.

“You ate four in a row?” Short One later said.  “Do you know that each donut is like eating two Big Macs?”

“Uhhh…no?” I said.

“Congratulations, you ate eight Big Macs.  Those were for everybody!  Did you share?”

“Uhhh…a couple.”

So there you go.  I’m sure other record store guys have better groupie stories.  But did they get Cripsy Creme?  Exactly!

Part 54: Stalkers

Flashback: July 1994.

When I first started at the store, my first day, my new boss gave me the orientation.  We were both young, early 20’s.   It went very well.  I was excited.  I’ll never forget one thing he said:

I think you’ll find that it’s hard work, but rewarding and fun work.  You get to listen to music while you work, the discount is really good, and you’ll meet so many girls here.  Trust me, this is the best place to meet them.

That proved not to be the case.

Flash forward:  June 2004.

In the 10 years since, I had not once — not even once! — dated a girl through work.  Granted I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to girls.  Never did know how to talk to them without sounding like the biggest idiot in the world.  Also I somehow pick up a stutter when talking to them.

Anyway, year after year, I stuttered my way through a decade of probably talking like an idiot in front of hundreds of female customers.

One sunny afternoon in June, I was working the late shift.  It was a really nice day, a “windows open” kind of day.

I was working with this guy Matt.  Around 6 or so, I had to step out to pick up some boxes from another location.  Rush, “Summertime Blues” was on the radio, the first time I ever heard it.  When I returned to the store about 45 minutes later, I said, “Matt!  Holy shit man, I just heard the new Rush from their covers album.  It’s amazing man!”

Ignoring me, he said,”Did you see those two blonde girls in the store before you left?”

I said, “Yeah, the two hot ones?”

Matt responded, “Well one was hot, the other looked like the Angry Walrus.  That one left you a note.”

He handed me a piece of yellow paper with a kitten on it.  It just said “Paula” and then a phone number.

“Seriously?” I asked him.

“Seriously.  I wouldn’t make something like this up, man.”

Good enough for me.  The one he referred to as “the so-so one” looked good to me!  The glorious prophecy of my boss has come true!

I called the number on the paper and we agreed to go out for coffee.  I asked her about the note she left, I told her that’s never happened to me before.  She told me she was there with her friend, she noticed me there, but I left before she could hand me the note personally.  So she asked Matt if he could give me her note.

We went out four or five times, but it clearly wasn’t happening.  And that’s where it gets weird.

When she sent me the “Let’s just be friends,” email, she added a double whammy for me.  She told me that the story about seeing me in the store and leaving the note was actually a frabrication.

See, she’d see my profile on some site somewhere, and I must have said that I worked in a record store in the tri-city area.  Rather than get an account and send me a message like a normal person would, she tried something different.

“Well,” she began, “in your profile you said you worked in a CD store.  You said you were from the KW-Cambridge area.  There was a picture of you there, so I figured I could just checking stores until I found you.”  Pardon?  “I’m sorry I lied about just walking in and seeing you there.  Anyway, you’re cool and I’m cool but it’s just not happening, so…”

So…that was mildly creepy and I didn’t feel so bad about it not working out after that!

Part 35.5: Spoogecakes!

A former co-worker gets a case of foot-in-mouth disease!

Walrus Face

RECORD STORE TALES Part 35.5:  Spoogecakes!

I’m going to take a break from our regularly scheduled program, and respond to a single reader.  It’s always great to have new readers here at LeBrain’s Record Store Tales, we’ve had people from all over the world, from Russia to Iceland.  Hello!

Still, it came as a surprise to me to get a comment so negative, so full of personal vitriol…yet anonymously!

The comment in question was in regards to Part 35: Due Credit. The submitting email address: bitchingaboutpastemployers@yahoo.com, the pen-name was “Unimpressed”.  Normally I wouldn’t publish a hateful anonymous comment, but this one was bizarre and perfect for another Record Store Tale.

Since this person was anonymous, I will dub them with a name so I have someone to refer to:  Let’s call he or she “Spoogecakes” [Note added:  Her real name is Laura, and she used to have this weird psycho-crush on me back in the day.]

Let’s go!

You are begrudging them for utilizing you where they thought you shined? They wanted you in a position where you were visible to customers first-hand and you sit back and complain?

Dear Spooge:   Yes.  It’s not “utilizising” someone where they shine.  It’s taking advantage of someone in a dead-end job.  Nobody wants to stay “visible to customers” in a retail environment forever.  That’s like saying to a McDonalds employee “you’re really good at making fries, so we’re going to keep you on the fry station.  Forever.”  Know of any better ways to kill worker morale?

Record shop employees can have a tremendous influence on customer base and at a time when the internet and websites were not as expected and commonplace as they are now, your employers wanted to maintain your skills as a visible employee.

Spooge, how do you know what my employers wanted?

Just because you did something first does not entitle you to be a sycophantic jackass.

Sycophantic?  It’s my fucking story, moron.

It’s called development of ideas and if you did not speak up at the time at what you perceived as slights on your efforts then you are just as much to blame as anyone else. If you wanted to be in the office working in your 30s you should have asked for such work or began the process of finding much more fulfilling employment.

Again, who says I didn’t?  What makes you think you would know?  In fact, we all did — and we were all made promises that never came to fruition.  All kinds of stories.  I remember one story about how we’d have 100 stores across the country in 5 years, and how I’d never have to buy another CD from a crackhead ever again.

Second, it’s not called “development of ideas”.  It’s taking someone else’s idea, and shutting them out.  Period.

You are not a peacemaker. Staying silent and then making public posts like this illuminate a petty passive-aggressiveness that is unattractive and will only fuel your bitterness. It is not peaceful. You are coming up on your 40s and either grow up or shut up at this point. This isn’t High Fidelity and you are not remotely amusing.

How do you know how old I am?  And, let me help with your reading skills, Spooge.  I never said I AM a peacemaker.  I said I WAS a peacemaker.  Much like Lester B. Pearson, I ain’t anymore.  Give peace a chance?  Been there, done that!  I’m done holding my tongue.   I didn’t at the time, because going with the flow was “better than nothing” as I clearly stated.  But, why do you care?  What makes you take the time out of your (obviously) busy day to write a three paragraph treatise on staying in dead-end jobs?

Lastly:  I’m “not remotely amusing”?  Come on!  Really? — after all, you read it and felt moved enough to respond.

Sounds to me like Spoogecakes has a sore spot or two.  After all, I can’t imagine why a random, anonymous reader would feel so driven to write such a vitriol-filled comment!  What Spoogey  apparently missed was the part where I said I was proud of what I did all those many years ago.

When one creates something, one should take pride in it.  In this case, am I taking pride belatedly.  I am very proud of everything I built and created, and nobody — certainly not Spoogey here — can tell me not to.  I spent way too many years having people tell me to sit down and not to make any trouble.  And here, you’re telling me to “grow up” or “shut up”.  Just like the old days!

Grow up?  Maybe you clicked the wrong link to your Barry Manilow blog, but this blog is about rock and roll.  You can tell by the little guitars going up and down the sides.  Rock and roll ain’t about growing up — it’s about permanent youth!

You can’t tell me to “shut up”.  In fact, the Record Store Tales are only beginning.

Hugs N’ Kisses,