used CDs

#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.

 

 

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#573: Pawning Sh*t

GETTING MORE TALE #573: Pawning Shit

You’ve met new contributor Aaron, and as he begins his story, you’ll get to know him a little better.  But how did he enter Record Store Tales?

It’s a funny story, but I very briefly dated his older sister.  We all “met” online – a local electronic “BBS” or “Bulletin Board System”.  My handle was “Geddy” and his was “Capone”.  He still sometimes calls me “Geddy”!  He must have thought I was cool or something.  I wasn’t even working at the Record Store yet when we first met, but Aaron/Capone was big time into music.  He loved Guns N’ Roses.  It was 1994, and Guns N’ Roses were still big news.

When I started at the Record Store, it was like the floodgates opened!  Suddenly, via me, Aaron had access to all kinds of rare rock.  His favourite band was Nirvana, and a few months later I was getting in rare CDs like Outcesticide and Hormoaning.  We continued to bond over music, and started hanging out on weekends.  He was known to complain a bit about my “80s rock” in the car…my response was always “the driver chooses the music”!

Most weekends revolved around music in some way.  We’d hit all the major local stores:  Dr. Disc, Encore, HMV, Sunrise, and of course my store.  I remember one Sunday shift: Aaron had nothing to do that day so he just hung out at the mall during my shift.  It ended up being a great idea.  He helped out some of my customers when I was too busy!

I couldn’t even begin to guess how many discs we bought on those shopping excursions, but I remember a few.  I got Japanese imports of Kiss Killers and Judas Priest Unleashed in the East, at the Sunrise records at Conestoga Mall.  I can recall one afternoon of introducing Aaron to Iron Maiden.  Their home video Raising Hell had just come out, which was to be Bruce’s “final” show with the band.  They had a “horror magician” on stage named Simon Drake and we enjoyed that video quite a bit.  “Do all their songs sound like this?” asked Aaron, who was more used to the detuned rock of the 1990s.

I have one memory that happened a bit later on, after Aaron had his daughter.  A lady came into my store with a giant box of CDs and almost all were shit.  I had to pass on most of them for a variety of reasons.  It was mostly dance music.  They were in shit condition, they were shit titles, and we had too many of them already.  The lady didn’t care; she just didn’t want them.  “Just keep them,” she said.  She took a few bucks for the discs we could take, and left behind at least a hundred worthless discs.

Worthless to the Record Store, anyway.

We didn’t really have a specific policy at the time regarding what to do with the abandoned discs in this situation.  The store could not sell them.  I’m not sure if the Boss Man would have been pleased that I took them, which is one reason why I’ve chosen to wait 20 years to write Record Store Tales and Getting More Tale.  Aaron and I took the discs to a Cash Converters store, which was a pawn shop on the other side of town.  They were the competition.*  It was funny watching the guy go through all the CDs I had passed on, checking the discs inside and not caring about all the scratches.

One thing Aaron owned that I did not was a Super Nintendo.  I skipped the Super.  My sister had the original NES and I had the Nintendo 64.  Aaron and I had played WWF Wrestling on his Super Nintendo, and I quickly became addicted to the game.  So together we dumped the box of junk CDs at the pawn shop, where I bought a Super Nintendo and a couple games.  Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was one, a great game that still rocks today.  Unfortunately that Super Nintendo busted after two months.  Rats!

At least we had fun.  Whether it was watching shitty horror movies (Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Stuff, Frogs), searching for rock and metal in record store racks, or pawning shit to buy more shit, we definitely had our fair share of fun.  And that’s the long and the short of how Aaron fits into Record Store Tales.

* The Cash Converters outlet close to our store was managed by a guy that we named “Jheri Curl Man”.

 

#552: Alive!

GETTING MORE TALE #552: Alive!

In the spring of 1996, we opened up the big store that I managed. It was our biggest store to date. There were a lot of good times at that location, and hundreds of incredible musical finds. Around the same time, I began replacing my cassette collection with CDs in earnest. Cassettes don’t have the longevity or the sound quality of a CD. Most of my tapes were starting to sound awful, especially the ones purchased from Columbia House, who manufactured their own at a lesser cost.

Upgrading my Kiss cassette collection to CD was an early priority. Some of the first Kiss tapes I bought, like Asylum, had degraded so much they were unlistenable. The early (Canadian) CD releases had issues too; they were not perfect. Both Hotter Than Hell and Alive II (disc one) had severe problems with digital noise in specific spots. On Alive II it was “Love Gun” that was the issue. There was a terrible scratchy sound encoded onto the CD.

The differences between my boss and myself were obvious the day that Kiss Alive! came in stock, used.  It came in one of those old “fat” CD cases.  It was the first chance I had to buy the first Alive! at an affordable used price, in such great condition. The boss and I had very different personalities, almost opposites. I was a music obsessive who collected things and wanted to know all the obscure facts. He liked music but just wanted to sell CDs. I grabbed that copy of Alive! and handed it to the boss to ring in with my staff discount.

 

He sighed and gave me a look. “Don’t you already have this?”

He sounded like my dad. When I’d come home, he’d say, “More Kiss? Don’t you already have Kiss?” My boss had a lot in common with my dad.

I had the tape, but the cassette had the songs in a different order.  This was a fairly common practice.  Song order would be swapped around on cassettes, to keep sides one and two about equal in length. That reduces the amount of actual tape used to manufacture it, and therefore cuts costs. It would be cool to have a CD copy of Alive! to listen to the songs in the original order.

“I have it on cassette and LP,” I explained.  “I listen to the tape, but this CD is different.  The songs are in a different order,” I finished.

He looked at me again and responded in a mocking tone, “Hey Mike, look at my shoes. The left one is different from the right one. Do you want to buy it?”

“No because I don’t collect shoes,” I answered. “I collect Kiss.”

He shrugged with frustration. I really think he was more just pissed off that I had taken some good stock for myself.

Oh well.

Staff taking “good stock” was an ongoing issue, but because getting stock at a discount was one of the established perks of working at a used CD store, there wasn’t much that could be done. I’ll give him credit; the boss considered the staff discount to be part and parcel of the job for all of us.  He eventually put a limit on how much we could buy at a time. Meanwhile, my dad would look at my collection and say “sell, sell, sell!”

He ended up getting that copy of Kiss Alive! back, when I upgraded to the 1997 remastered edition. And then he ended up getting that 1997 remastered edition back when I upgraded to the Kiss Alive! 1975-2000 box set.

He might not have understood my wants and desires as a collector, and he may have complained about me taking all the good stock, but he ended up making money when I sold back my equally good stock. No harm, no foul. Hopefully, I have bought Kiss Alive! for the final time.

#401: SIGHTING! Rasputin & the Hobbit

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#401: SIGHTING! Rasputin & the Hobbit

A few weeks ago, Mrs. LeBrain was feeling generous and treated me to a rare breakfast at McDonalds.  We don’t go very often, but our closest McDonalds has a “freestyle machine” allowing you to create any number of soft drink combinations, a really cool draw.  It was my buddy Craig who hyped the machine to me – “The closest thing we have to Cherry Coke Zero in Harperland,” he says.  Plus the egg McMuffin is only 290 calories; I know that because of the ad that runs endlessly every night on TV!

We sat down with our McMuffins and breakfast burritos, but as I was picking a table, something caught my eye.  It’s not often that I recognize my old Record Store customers in public, but how could I forget Rasputin and the Hobbit?

T-Rev and I shared the story of these two gross individuals in Part 276 of the original Record Store Tales.  “HH was known for her outrageous makeup,” I said.  She was also known for riding a bike in a short skirt, on her way to sell us some crappy dance CDs.  “The ‘Hobbit’ with ripped nylons and the short skirt with her ass hanging out…yuck!” remembered T-Rev.   Rasputin was the silent type.  He would merely nod yes or shake his head no, at whatever offer we had given them for their CDs.  I don’t know if I have ever heard him speak.

It was actually Rasputin (“Razzy” for short) I spotted first.  You just don’t forget a guy who looks like that.  Shaggy unkempt black beard, same with the hair.  It was him, which by process of elimination meant his companion was HH the Hobbit.  She has changed a bit, but not entirely.  The makeup and short skirts are gone, but she still possesses the gross-out factor.  When I sat down, her bare feet were in Razzy’s lap, right in the McDonalds.   It was like that train wreck that I couldn’t look away from.  I noticed Razzy was wearing dress shoes with no socks.  Just like the old days, Hobbit did all the talking.  Her voice was unmistakable.

I managed to get a couple pictures.  Not of her feet in his lap, but I did acquire photographic proof that Rasputin the Mad Monk, and HH the Hobbit, are still alive and well in Kitchener Ontario.

#329: Selling My CDs (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale

#329: Selling My CDs

We all end up with CDs that we no longer want or need.  I very rarely sell my CDs anymore. I’d rather donate them to a new home, where I know they will be loved and appreciated.  The money part is less important to me.  The last time I decided to sell off some CDs, I decided to try Sunrise at Fairview Mall (now closed). I’d never tried selling there before, but I had bought plenty.  Their pricing was more than fair, but the guy was very slow.  He didn’t seem as knowledgeable as the people I was used to dealing with. For example, I sold him my original, non-remastered CD copy of Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry. He asked me, “What is wrong with this CD?” It seemed he didn’t know what remastered vs. non-remastered was, only that the bar code he had punched in came up as something “discontinued”.  So I had to explain the remastered vs. original thing to him. He ended up giving me $5 for the CD which was good, and I took store credit (which was a little bit more).

Still, it took him a lot of time. I only had a handful to sell that day (10 CDs if I remember) and it took the guy more than half an hour to look at them.  It wasn’t a bad experience; I ended up with enough store credit to buy a some things.   The money was good, about the same as I would have got at my old workplace.  It was a comparable total, and I was happy with it, but the wait was a little excessive.   I used the store credit to buy my friend Peter the new Metallica live set for his birthday.

I have also sold my discs (CD and DVD) at garage sales, an experience so memorable that I’ve written a future Getting More Tale about that story.  Stay tuned!  I’m saving that one.  Let’s just say that serious garage sale people are an entire species to themselves; the cheapest people you will ever meet in your life.

I don’t need to do any more major purges of my music collection, currently.  Any time I need to weed things out (usually an old version of a CD that I have upgraded) I can always find them a new home.  You might say, “Sure, but money is better.”  Maybe, but my friends return the favor in spades, so I can’t complain.  I’m often the recipient of used CDs and movies that are sent to me in repayment for the discs I gifted earlier.  Nobody ever asks for repayment, we just seem to have created circles of friends who share the wealth.  In fact I’ve acquired some really great collectible stuff just due to the charity of friends.  Thanks!

What do you do with your old CDs?  Sell ’em, trade ’em, gift ’em?  I’m curious so let me know in the comments!

Part 301: A Nice Pair

RECORD STORE TALES Part 301: A Nice Pair

I was working the afternoon shift, and another guy named Dave was working the morning. I arrived at work at about 1:30 in the afternoon, with a big box of used stock in my hands. Upon entering, I saw that Dave was already dealing with a big box of CDs. A customer was wandering around the store, as Dave picked through his big box of discs.

I saddled up to help Dave go through the discs. The customer, a male in his early 30’s, was just looking around while he waited. He liked to talk a lot, and would periodically pipe in with a comment. “This here is a great CD, eh?” There were other customers in the store as well, including a well-dressed woman. The dude took a gander at the woman, who was wearing high heels.

When the woman was out of earshot, he said (to no one in particular):

“Woah. That’s a nice pair of feet.”

Then, I gagged a little. The end.

GWOBTS

Part 298: Why I Couldn’t Give You A Quote Over the Phone

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 298:
Why I Couldn’t Give You A Quote Over the Phone

 

We advertised that we paid cash or credit for used CDs.  A lot of customers used to call with the titles of their CDs, to get a quote over the phone for selling them.  “Hey, I have 30 CDs here to sell, if I read off the titles, can you tell me what you’ll pay me for them?”

The answer was no, for a number of good reasons.  For us, buying used CDs wasn’t a science.  We tried to create a system as best we could, but there were so many variables.  In addition, a lot of the process is subjective.  I’ll try to help you understand.

First and foremost – quality.  We were exceptionally picky about all discs that we bought.  If the disc was scuffed, we could buff certain scratches out.  (Not top scratches and pinholes though!  They are a whole other chapter to the story.)  A lot of customers would call and say, “My discs are all mint.”  Well, I found that for some, “mint” had a broad definition.  It could mean anything to brand-new to scratched like a hockey rink.  If a customer said “mint” you couldn’t go by that.  Likewise with “they all play fine.”  Until I look at it, I don’t know if it’s in a condition good enough to sell to my customers.  You probably have your own standards regarding CDs you want to keep in your collection.

But there’s more to quality than just the CD itself.  Is the front cover present?  How about the back?  A lot of customers discarded the back covers, in order to store their discs in those stupid travel wallets.  Bad idea, since those wallets scratch up CDs, sometimes beyond repair.  Not to mention, we wouldn’t take a CD missing its back cover.  Maybe the front cover is also water damaged – we couldn’t take a CD when the pages of the book were stuck together like a teenager’s Playboy mag.  That happened a lot more often then you might expect.

When it came down to the pricing of the CD, we had a lot of additional factors to consider.   How much do we sell it for?  How many copies do we have?  Do any of our other stores need a copy?  It is rare, or scarce to find used?  For example, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was not a rare CD, but it was hard to find copies used in good condition.  I’d be interested in paying more for Dark Side of the Moon than I would Van Halen’s Balance, even if we sold them both for the same price.

Let’s say you’re an annoying customer, and you called my store looking for a price quote.  Let’s say the person answering the phone forgot the rules, and gave you a quote over the phone.  Then when you actually come in to sell them, I’m working instead, not the person who gave you the price quote.  So imagine that scenario.

You come in and I start going through the discs.  Immediately, you’re pissed off that I’m passing on that scratched up Metallica CD that somebody quoted you $5 for.  The reason?  A hard-to-spot top scratch that cannot be fixed.  Or a missing back cover.  Or a deep scratch I can feel with my fingernail.  Or perhaps I could take it, but I need to have the scratches buffed out and I can only pay you $2-3.

Then next up, you have a Guess Who Greatest Hits.  When you called for your quote, I had none in stock.  Now I have two.  (It happens!)  So I can’t give you what the other person quoted, because now I have two copies and I don’t need it as badly.

Finally, let’s say you were quoted that you were going to get $3 for your Hanson CD.  The person you spoke to on the phone saw that we didn’t have any Hanson in stock.  However, I know that is an unusual happenstance and we always have tons of Hanson everywhere.  I might pay a buck where somebody else offered you $3, because I know better.  Them’s the breaks, right?

This doesn’t even account for other stupid things that can happen.  For example, a customer saying to you that he has Metallica Garage Days when he actually has Garage Inc.  Basically if you could think of a way information could be miscommunicated over the phone, it happened.

Customers seldom understood.  “I don’t want to come all the way down there unless I know I’m going to get good money for these discs.”  Unfortunately, coming down there was the only way.  No ifs, ands, buts, or exceptions.  People sucked sometimes.