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Too cool for you?

Too cool for you?
June 11, 2020 11:24AM
Bip's comment on the "other music documentary" thread made me wonder: have you had any standout experiences with judgmental, snobbish, High Fidelity-type record store clerks?

Through the years, I've met a few of those guys. (And yes, they're always guys.) And I have learned a few worthwhile things from those guys. Most of them, though, turned out to be too jaded to take seriously. And if I may be immodest, my track record is pretty frickin' good: for every clerk rolling his eyes or making some snarky-ass comment about some purchase I made, at least twenty have given me the thumbs-up on some other purchase.
Re: Too cool for you?
June 11, 2020 10:00PM
I never had that problem at Other Music, but it happened at their main competitor, Kim's Video. (Other Music's three founding owners started out as the managers of the music section at Kim's, and I worked there myself for 9 months in 1992-3.) Once, I went there looking for a mid '70s Tangerine Dream album, asked if they stocked it and was told "ELECTRONIC MEDITATION is the only Tangerine Dream album we would carry." Lo and behold, they started carrying Tangerine Dream's Virgin albums about 6 months later. I also asked for a house music compilation, only to be told "we don't carry house music." If that's what the clerk thought, I don't think he even understands dance music genres. But I've never experienced this nearly as much as the HIGH FIDELITY stereotype. If anything, "cool" record stores now tend to go to the other extreme and simultaneously embrace Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish and private press Brazilian psych and Japanese free jazz reissues.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/11/2020 10:01PM by steevee.
zoo
Re: Too cool for you?
June 12, 2020 09:07AM
Most of the clerks I've actually engaged in conversation over the years have been pretty cool. The one that stands out as snobbish was the time I expressed my surprise at finding Sleep No More by the Comsat Angels on vinyl for $4.00. This was at Mojo Books and Music in Tampa, which is otherwise and excellent store. I had just recently been looking up that album online and prices weren't cheap. So, when I expressed my excitement to the guy, he was completely nonplussed. "I'm glad you're taking it off of our hands. It's been sitting here for years." Then he quite dismissively admitted to never hearing the band. He put off of such a vibe of "haha, you are spending money on dumb music" that it kind of ticked me off. I don't think that guy worked there very long.

Usually, the people who work at independent record stores do so because they LOVE music. So, when I bring something to the counter they don't know, I'm usually asked about it in a positive way. I distinctly remember that happening when I bought a very clean copy of Fingerprintz' Distinguishing Marks. The girl at the counter thought the album cover was really cool and called over another girl to show it to her. Then she wanted to know more about the band. And that's one of the things that makes record shopping so much fun.
Bip
Re: Too cool for you?
June 13, 2020 05:37PM
I grew up in a pretty small town, so there was never really a ‘snobbish’ factor. But as you might imagine most guys were almost expected to like hard rock / metal.... why would you waste your money on punk / new wave, even if it was something tougher-minded like the Ramones?

The clerks weren’t snobs, just small-minded.

An addendum to this thread might be ‘what is your ideal record store clerk like?’

I like clerks who leave you alone. I don’t mind if they ask if I’m looking for something in particular, but once I explain i just want to browse, I want to be left the hell alone. (Sometimes I have limited time when I’m in a store, so I don’t want to waste half that time in small talk.)

I don’t like suggestive selling. I suppose if I buy an old pet shop boys 12” and they ask if I’ve heard the new one it’s alright, but only if they are fans and they’ve listened to it and genuinely like it. Otherwise don’t pander to me!

I suppose I prefer the clerks not to comment on my purchases. (Kinda leftover from judgement over teenage days). If they must, here’s hoping it’s because they’re actually enthused about the album or artist.
I bought a nice used copy of the Girls at Our Best lp in January, and the female clerk was genuinely interested in what the hell it was. I didn’t mind explaining the best I could.

I generally don’t mind what the clerks choose for in-store play. But they should use some reasonable judgement. Really abrasive satanic metal or really pornographic hip hop would be good things to avoid. I’m not a prude, but you never know who’s coming in to your public store.

OMG I think it’s ME who’s the snob!
Re: Too cool for you?
June 30, 2020 04:50PM
"I suppose I prefer the clerks not to comment on my purchases. (Kinda leftover from judgement over teenage days). If they must, here’s hoping it’s because they’re actually enthused about the album or artist."

This is only tangentially related, but it reminds me of the time I purchased a copy of Diamanda Galas' album with John Paul Jones at my favorite Austin record store Waterloo Records. The young lady behind the counter looked over the shoulder of the dude actually checking me out, saw the Galas CD, and said "She scares me." Her cohort agreed. I knew then I was making the right purchase, not just because Galas scared them (scared us, really), but because they knew enough about her to be scared of her.
Re: Too cool for you?
June 20, 2020 03:43PM
In college I worked on summers and winter breaks in the least-cool-possible record store. This was the middle 1990s in Indianapolis, and it was a chain story that sold a shit-ton of Enya and Mannheim Steamroller CDs for Christmas breaks. I remember the Soul Asylum and Shawn Colvin end-cap displays from that era, too, but we were playing mostly extremely mainstream stuff for mass consumers, many of them looking for inexpensive Christmas and Chanukah presents. Honestly, I was always thrilled when someone expressed an interest in anything below-the-radar or in the slightest way "alternative." Once I sold a Tim Finn cassette to someone who had heard a song on the radio and had a "one of us!" moment.
Bip
Re: Too cool for you?
June 20, 2020 04:42PM
Oh yes, that I can imagine. All of a sudden seeing someone with an Undertones album would be pretty exciting if all you normally sell is Eddie rabbit and journey.

It would be like parking at the local Walmart, noticing some cd’s on the seat of the car you parked next to and... *gasp* there’s a Skids or AuPairs album there!

(No way does this ever happen, by the way. Ever!!!!)
Re: Too cool for you?
July 04, 2020 01:48AM
I met a very dear friend that way. We worked together, and I went to her desk to ask a question. Before I could ask it, though, I noticed the CD cover on her desk and gasped, "Go 2!"

We left early for lunch, and ended up working late that day to make up for the two hours we spent talking about music. She's about 15 years older than me, so she had some stories that blew my mind -- seeing the Stones when they were young, seeing Pink Floyd when they were unsigned.

She got to interview XTC for her local paper when they played in her town, and she asked Andy Partridge who his guitar influences were. He said his biggest influence probably was Ollie Halsall, from the band Timebox. "Most Americans aren't familiar with him," he said dismissively. She laughed and said, "When I lived in London, Ollie was my boyfriend."
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Bip
Re: Too cool for you?
July 04, 2020 09:11PM
Holy Toledo, what a conversation starter she had. Now THAT never happens in real life. Ever! (Except for that one time....)
Re: Too cool for you?
July 06, 2020 06:17PM
There used to be an very tiny and very cool record store called Anthem in Sydney's Town Hall Station where I purchased some of my earliest independent music but I was a little scared of going in there 'cos Rob Younger of Radio Birdman worked there and I was a bit scared of him as he had a bit of a captain grumpy rep at the time, possibly from punters calling out RB songs at New Christs gigs. He actually celebrated his birthday yesterday (ahem, Delvin) so I wish him all the best.
Re: Too cool for you?
July 07, 2020 01:14PM
I usually limit birthday tributes, with each show, to artists who have their birthday on that day. Having said that, Radio Birdman is always a good addition to any 20FR setlist. Thanks, Aitch!
Re: Too cool for you?
July 07, 2020 01:32PM
I've been thinking about this ever since you first posted, and finally came to the conclusion that I've never had this problem at any record store, ever. Which is apparently an unusual and amazing thing, and we definitely have snobbery amongst the record store clerks. Either I unwittingly share the same snobbery, or they're all professionals.

There was a store here in Austin called Cheapo Records for a while, and I used to sell, trade and buy CDs from them a lot. A friend and co-worker of mine told me she refused to go there because one of the employees sneered with contempt at something she was trying to sell to them. (I can't remember what it was - a Hanson CD, maybe?) I never had that experience, though.

Edit: it occurs to me that I should mention that the first "cool" record stores I patronized were in Houston, not Austin. Never had any problem there, either.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/2020 01:33PM by Michael Toland.
zoo
Re: Too cool for you?
July 07, 2020 02:04PM
So, I remember once when I expected snobbery, but was provided support for my purchase. I found Simple Minds' "Once Upon a Time" for a dollar and figured that was the right price for me to add that record to my collection. As a SM fan, I was well aware that's the beginning of the slide for the band, so I was actually a little hesitant bringing it to the counter at such a hip store (Vinyl Fever in south Tampa...Monk knows the place). Rather than a sneer or simply no comment at all, the guy says "oh, I love this album." I said I prefer the earlier stuff and was hoping to engage in a conversation about the band, but he went on and on about how he loves the "big" sound of OUAT. I then realized that I was the snob in this scenario. I wanted to educate him on the excellence of earlier SM, but he didn't seem to care.
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Re: Too cool for you?
July 13, 2020 11:49AM
I’ve never had a clerk deride one of my music purchases, but I remember buying, about 25 years ago, copies of Lou Reed’s essential Live in Italy and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin’s acoustic gem My Goal’s Beyond at a Chapel Hill record shop. The male clerk expressed surprise that I was buying discs by these two great artists, whose music (he explained) “[didn’t] go together.” When I politely inquired as to why they didn’t, he simply shook his head as if I’d asked a damfool question, and handed me my change.

Turning from record shops to bookstores, I bought a copy of Bertrand Russell's marvelous Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects around the same time at a neighborhood Waldenbooks. (This was just before Borders and Barnes & Noble arrived in my neck of the words.) The store’s lovely female clerk smiled flirtatiously at me as I approached the register, but when she saw what I was buying, I received from her a real frowny face. She, too, handed me my change without saying a word. C'est la vie!
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