Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thank You, ASWAN

"So you have recently posted engagements with customers/lookers that are a little challenging. What about the encounters with customers/lookers who make your day! I have been in retail (now Big Box, used to be music) and I could always give examples of challenging customers because they are the ones who make your "blood boil" but what about the customer who "loves" that you have something and snatches it right up? Or the conversation with the "looker" who leads you to another band that you never knew existed? Easy to be hard on people, Hard to be easy on people..."

ASWAN left this comment on Part 3 of my Record Fair posts. I want to thank ASWAN. Sincerely.

Yes, it is easy to be hard on people, for a million reasons. But my sole reason, for the purposes of this blog, is that it is more entertaining.

I have been in retail my whole working life. On more than one occasion, these "challenging" customers who make your "blood boil" have been more than just your harmless record collecting stereotypes that we all love to mock. A lot of the time, these "people," are cheap and rude and condescending. I mean, I know I'm a pill, but I can still be gracious while recognizing a few quirks and foibles. I certainly wouldn't exploit a weakness of a kindhearted human being just for a laugh. I mean, it would have to be a big laugh.

Some memories:

I have had a half full can of Sprite thrown at me because I refused to return a deposit on something I did not carry but specifically ordered for this "challenging" customer who decided he no longer wanted it. I lost my cool, but of course, looked bad for losing my cool. That was a fun day.

When I explained that I could not play a CD for a customer because it was still sealed, the "challenging" customer replied "Fuck you, little man!"

Joel, a guy I thought was a friend of the shop, returned three CDs in a row because they wouldn't play in his car. I suggested that maybe the CD player in his car was wonky since the CDs he purchased from me were "pristine." He said, "Well then maybe I'll shop elsewhere. I don't need this."

Yes Joel. It's YOU who doesn't need this.

The last days of my shop were very exciting. We were doing anything to drum up business in that low income NYC neighborhood called the Upper West Side. We decided to buy an ad in a local newspaper. My partner and I were reluctant because we simply didn't have any cash. But the reps of the paper convinced us. As we were signing the contract, one rep noticed a CD on the wall. "OH! I want to buy this!' The other rep replied...in front of us...while we were signing a contract for an ad that was supposed to help business..."Oh. I have that. I'll burn it for you." My partner and I dropped our pens like the opening scene of Ben Casey and the rep ran out of the shop, with her face turning a deep shade of scarlet. Oops.

The last days of NYCD were tough, having to compete with Baby Gap, sushi restaurants and nail salons for the last few disposable dollars of the neighborhoodies in their Central Park West duplexes. I could sympathize with those who had to walk 12 blocks south to buy the soundtrack to "The Commitments" at Tower Records, on their way to Shun Lee Palace for $18 egg rolls because they just didn't have the extra dollar to spend at my shop.


But enough.

Aswan, I am here to thank the good people from the bottom of my heart. I never thought of it then and obviously not as recently as a few days ago. The bad stuff was just too much fun to relay and it made for good blogging and great therapy.

Here are some examples of why it's all worth what I do.

Just a few weeks ago, a woman wearing a Thin Lizzy t-shirt asked if I had any Thin Lizzy records. I did not. But I did have a Thin Lizzy key chain that originally belonged to Phil Lynott. I showed her and explained how I was a fan and how I cherished this little gem in my pocket. She clearly held back tears as she gushed at break neck speed, all that she loved about the band. We made each other's day. I'm sure of it.

I want to thank Peter Bogdanovich for spending an hour telling me some back stories about River Phoenix and Sandra Bullock after I told him how much I loved "The Thing Called Love." I would have spent more time with him but Jonathan Demme came in and he always loved when I suggested new music for his kids.

I want to thank Allen V. and John D., who to this day, offer me more than I charge them because they think I don't charge them enough.

Leo, for simply checking in.

Rich N. and Stu B. for trusting me with a whole lot of their past.

Peter R. for being there in ways a few words in a blog post would not do justice.

Everybody from Sheepshead Bay for getting my back more times than I deserve.

Oh...and another great customer was this guy, I don't recall his name, who would come in every Tuesday and ask me for ten new things. I'd pick out ten and he'd buy eight. No question. (He eventually ended up on my shit list because when I moved my location to a spot across the street, he stopped coming in because "it was no longer on my way home." Lazy bastard.)

And those great, great Saturdays, when all my friends would come in over the course of 6 hours and make my counter the biggest party on the planet. Sometimes alcohol would actually be served.

Yeah, I know it's not all bad. So thank you Aswan, whoever you are, for that reminder.

And thanks to all of you who continue to support me.

I'll try to say it more often...when I'm not obsessing over the asshole who offered me $60 for a $300 Chet Baker record.


Lesley said...

Great post. And while it's nice to get a little balance—you're like me, you get a head of steam going and then it's hard to stop—I still think you can keep telling stories about the jerks with a little amuse bouche (sp) of good guys every once in a while. I've been loving the posts, please keep 'em coming. And may more of the good guys find you.

Geoff Hoover said...

Smiles! All around!

William Repsher said...

I got turned on to a lot of good music via Jonathan Demme movies. Particularly Something Wild (my "go to" movies for trying to convey to people what NYC was like in the 80's, and how that vibe is gone forever). For years, I never knew what song was playing when Ray Liotta's character robbed the convenience store, later learned it was "Total Control" by The Motels and was in heaven when I bought it (at your place!).

I was a pretty good customer, although by the time you switched to the new location my appearances fell way off ... as I was getting into, er, uh, alternate media sources. Really, as much as downloading was infringing on physical product, at that time, there were online retail CD stores like CD Now basically offering new CDs for $5.00 or less when you used their redemption codes, which were always around. I was buying a lot of stuff online at that point, and dipping my toes into the downloading pool.

As I've stated before, you and your business partner were great to get at the counter, and some of your employees ... while others were refugees from High Fidelity. I recall a few times, you guys playing early promos of a given artist, me walking up, saying, I know that's Joan Osborne, but what is this, knowing it wasn't an official release. I think you got off on the fact that someone noticed this as much as you did playing a pre-release. One time, the guy working the counter got so excited, he sold me the promo for $5.00. (It was Head Trip in Every Key by Superdrag, and the song was "I'm Expanding My Mind" that had floored me.)

I used to spend so much time in record stores, be it yours, or Tower, or HMV, or Sounds, or any number of small shops in the Village. Roughly an hour on Tuesday, and probably another hour on Saturday. I probably spend as much time now sampling stuff on Emusic and buying accordingly. Just went from a social event of sorts to me in my own little world with a laptop. That's the real change personally, from the consumer end. Sensing how insular and private music has become, as opposed to more of a social event.

Ken D said...

Although I probably came by only once or twice a month, I miss that place too. Thanks for the happy memory.
And if I recall, "The Commitments" soundtrack was probably in a crate in the back for a couple of bucks... suckers!

hpunch said...

I ,for one, can't get enough of your anecdotes of dealing with the music buying public. The blood boilers are my favorites.
More please.
I know you hate namedropping, but I'd love to hear more of your brushes with the famous and famous to some.
I remember a Noddy Holder autograph hanging up behind the counter of NYCD. He wasn't the guy selling the ad space I hope.

buzzbabyjesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buzzbabyjesus said...

I bought approximately 1,500 cd's at NYCD. And none since you closed.

Marie said...

(If this long, rambling comment bugs you, I'll understand if you don't publish it.)

I love reading your record store tales, partly because they remind me of my own experiences behind the counter with those "customers from hell." Most of the time, though, it's the good memories that are uppermost in my mind - John Anderson from the U.K. bringing me a mint copy of Gloria Jones' 'Tainted Love' because he knew I'd started collecting Northern Soul, meeting my good friend Doug through the store, who was a Motown FANATIC who collected every single number from every Motown label; Friday nights and Saturdays, when the serious collectors came in to ferret around and chat. Believe me, I know your pain at the loss of your shop . . .

The worst memories I have are of those condescending oafs who seemed to believe that I was there to sweep up and make tea. They might have been surprised to know that most of my salary (after necessities) was allocated to pay off what I owed on my under-the-counter stash box of 45s. Then, of course, there was the only time I'd been alone in the store and been afraid of a "customer", clearly mentally ill and/or on speed. A Toronto musician, Danny Marks, happened to come in, heard the guy ranting and hung around until the guy left.

Then, of course, there were the types who would become irate because we wouldn't give them top dollar (well, anything at all, frankly) for their well-worn Kansas LPs. (The store's business being about 95 per cent '50s and '60s 45s.)

dogbreath said...

Entertaining, informative & interesting as well as providing a good chuckle or two; this is why I enjoy your blog so much. It does what it says it does on the lid - well, no, that'd be silly, wouldn't it, because then it would be about wood burning. Thanks for sharing the stories with us.