“Do you have a Christmas album by Aryan Neville?”
February 26, 2015 8:30 AM   Subscribe

 
Ha. Ha. I knew this would make it here. Not sayin' any more.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:39 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Customer: “Do you guys have any Kenny G posters?”
Clerk: “No, I’m sorry we don’t.”
Customer: “Well, if I get two then I’ll give you guys one.”


That had to have been a prank call. And a good one at that.
posted by sourwookie at 8:46 AM on February 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


Well, if customers weren't helpless, there wouldn't be any need for clerks, would there?

You know what is also funny? Keeping track of the boneheaded things your fellow employees say, because they're often even more clueless than the customers, some of whom actually know more than the employees. We had a managing editor once at a neighborhood paper who regularly spouted nonsense, and so we kept a list. Here are some selections:

2006

11/08: I had a friend who could move clouds with her mind.

11/09: If someone had a cell phone back in the 19th century, they would probably be hanged.

11/10: I'm already distracted enough. If I started doing research on the Internet, I'm afraid I'd develop full-blown ADD.

11/16: Satire is the new fact.

11/27: I don't know if I can e-mail an x.

11/28: You wouldn't think that "bootylicious" is a word, but it is.

11/28: Usually I'm sensitive to jet fuel.

12/12: I like to to do things in order so I remember. But today I didn't do that. Or something.

12/15: Sometimes, when I'm gambling, I think I should do the opposite of the opposite of the opposite of what I usually do.

12/19: That's why I like movies, because you can find out what happens faster.

2007

1/04: Everybody has a disorder, they just don't have names for them yet.

1/05: If you look a gift horse in the mouth, you're probably going to want to brush his teeth, is all I'm saying.

1/12: Most songs -- almost all songs -- are about things that happened.

1/15: My head hurt this weekend from thinking so much.

1/16: I try to be confused about one thing at a time.

1/16: Kids. How do you spell that?

1/16: If you see a mole or a sore, you might not know it's there.

1/18: Do I want to be a policy wonk or a sex symbol?
posted by maxsparber at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2015 [48 favorites]


Local....Record?....Store?? Those words, while English, don't seem to make sense combined that way...


Okay, drive by snark done. Now I'll RTFA.
posted by Twain Device at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


OOOH Navy Seals!
posted by dortmunder at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Meticulously logging every time somebody mispronounces or misstates something, because they don't know the correct name of that thing and are seeking more information about music they think they might like, actually makes me think that there's no "got that way". These guys were always assholes.
posted by Shepherd at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2015 [77 favorites]


Teenage girl asks for classic rock gift suggestions for her dad.
Clerk: “How about Alice Cooper?”
Girl: “Oh no, he hates female singers”


Well, that one really isn't especially fair. But the others are fair.

I was very fortunate in that, during my prime record-buying years, Oarfolk Records (of sacred Minneapolis memory) employed a very nice girl with blue hair and engineer boots and the overall atmosphere in the store was very friendly. And honestly, back when Let It Be still existed , those guys were nice too, just proper friendly, and would tell you what they were playing without seeming condescending about it, which is how I got David Bowie's Aladdin Sane which I really like.

I don't think I've met any really awful record store guys, although I feel like the culture has kind of changed at some of the places I used to go and now they're just sorta vaguely "pretending to be skeevy 1970s dudes even though they are really rich college-edjumacated guys from Edina" and it no longer really feels like they're excited about music qua music.

Okay, let's face it, Minneapolis is paradise. You can buy your comics at Big Brain and Dreamhaven, and your science fiction at Uncle Hugo's, and there are still a couple of interesting record stores, and even the baddest of the apples at those places are more comic than intimidating or mean, and in general folks are pretty nice. I would not mind more women employees at Big Brain, and Dreamhaven is a bit snobby, but in general I feel good about those places. ("Tanith Lee is in boxes on the floor" as the instructive sign at Uncle Hugo's reads!)
posted by Frowner at 8:51 AM on February 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


The most incomprehensible question I ever got as a record store clerk was a dude who asked if we had "that new Fihsen John"

and I was like, "I'm not sure... I can check our system and see. Uh, how do you spell that?"

and the guy just looks confused and repeats "Fihsen" like I'm an idiot.

And I said, "uh... so like... F... ?"

and the guy just looks a little frustrated and says "It's just Fihsen", staring at me like I'M the idiot here.

So I tried a couple of different spellings but couldn't find anything, and was like "Sorry, I don't think we do."

and the guy says "okay" but in that half-unsure way like he thinks I fucked up, like I'M the idiot here.

So he goes away, and I sort of shrug it off, no idea who he meant.

It was maybe two days later that another employee said something about the new Fiddy Cent (or, Fifty Cent) jawn (Philadelphian for "unspecified thing")

and I remember that guy and realize he had been saying "Fifty Cent" the whole time, and that he didn't spell it, because it was simply the words "Fifty Cent"

and, I realize that yes, in fact, I'm the idiot here
posted by Greg Nog at 8:52 AM on February 26, 2015 [51 favorites]


So the record store clerk became an asshole when he bought the notebook?
posted by srboisvert at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Customer: I keep hearing this song on the radio, I love it but I don't know what it's called or who it's by.
Me: Can you sing a little bit of it?
Customer: No, I don't want to do that.
Me: OK.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


I agree with Shepherd. These meticulously recorded and then deliberately-hand-picked-for-a-blog-post anecdotes say a lot more about the person who picked them than they do anything to explicate the reasons record store clerks become pretentious assholes...
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:55 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Customer: “Do you know where The Department of Resurrection is?”
Clerk: “Is that a band?”
Customer: “It’s a government organization”
Clerk: “Oh. No. I don’t know where that is.”
Customer: “The Pentagon… The Vatican and the Pentagon.”


I'm at the Pentagon. (What?)
I'm at the Vatican. (What?)
I am the combination Pentagon and Vatican
posted by srboisvert at 8:55 AM on February 26, 2015 [93 favorites]


I LOVE BAHADU!
posted by capricorn at 8:56 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You mean Erika? Ya know, I'm cool wit' her.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:57 AM on February 26, 2015


That little old lady who ate the guy's pizza knows how to live life.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 8:58 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


“Do you have any… uh… Gospel… uh… I mean… uh… tape… on… video… uh… I mean… (screams) DO YOU HAVE ANY HALLE BERRY MOVIES?”

This makes me happy in ways I can't describe. Unfortunately, lots of the other comments made me uncomfortable because I felt like I was laughing at disadvantaged individuals. Except for the older lady who likes pop rap, and the pizza thief.


Customer: “Do you have constellation music?”
Clerk: “Constellation music?”
Customer: “You know… A variety.”


Well, there is Constellation Music, who release God Speed! You Black Emperor and similar artists, but I realize this is probably another example of someone who doesn't know the word for something, which seems to be pretty common on this list.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:59 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, let's face it, Minneapolis is paradise.

You say that, but I have to walk past the corpse of Let It Be every day and wince at the playground for Target corpbots it has become. At the every least, it's a paradise with a weedy patch.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:01 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Bauhaus anecdote was funny.

I don't miss spending money on individual CDs, I don't miss moving a music collection, I don't miss carrying CDs around in my car, I don't miss having to rip and burn CDs for a mix, I don't miss having to buy a whole disc for a single, and I don't miss never being able to hear something because it's not within the taste of my local store. I do miss the music buying experience, however. I would make a day of it, go to the local store, browse the aisles, and have to decide between 3 of 5 different discs I wanted. My local store, Burt's, was friendly and in a cool college town. They always had something interesting on the store PA, and it was in a storefront that smelled like old vinyl and wood.

I believe they went out of business in 2007 or so, but that was an important part of my early 20s and late teens.
posted by codacorolla at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


This guy hand picks the very best examples of customers saying hilariously idiotic things from a decade's worth of records...and comes up with some mispronunciations, misspeakings and some people who just don't happen to know things that are self-evident to the experts they're calling for expert advice.

Sheesh.
posted by yoink at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


I am pretty sure a lot of these are customers screwing with the clerks. Sort of like the time I was working at a store in the mall while in college and two teenage girls came in and asked if I had blue balls (we sold soap balls, among other things).
posted by TedW at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2015


srboisvert: I am the combination Pentagon and Vatican

I wonder if they do sacrifices on aliens there (see, like a combination Space Aliens From The Pentagon and the Illuminati Insider's story of Satanism And Human Sacrifice At Vatican, which is still a popular story to email, almost 9 years after the date on that webpage).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:04 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The "I never met a black guy who could add up in his head" one seems both gratuitous and made up. First of all, you have to use the register to ring up a sale so what would be the point in not using it? Second, this'd have to be a place without sales tax, and third, why does it make a point of telling us the co-worker's first name?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:05 AM on February 26, 2015


The old woman comes up to my co worker, Rob, and says “that sure does look good.” Rob has the slice right up to his mouth to take a bite out of it when the old lady grabs Rob’s hand and pulls it over to her own mouth, taking a huge chomp out of it—completely out of the blue.


She took a bite out of Rob's hand!?

(See? Making fun of other's words works both ways.)
posted by TedW at 9:06 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


We're lucky that we still have a few semi-decent local record shops around town (Salt Lake City). I'm no slouch in the music-appreciation department, and I've also worked retail so I know not to ask stupid questions or do annoying shit like rearrange all the Metal records by sub-sub-sub-genre on a whim or anything AND YET when I eventually do sidle up to the counter with my purchase I still get the fucking treatment while my choices are rung up.

Look, I get it that Oneohtrix Point Never is still somehow not obscure enough and You Need to Let Me Know about Trent Reznor's keyboardist's side-project band that nobody has ever listened to because SHIT I just bought an album that literally 0% of my friends even know about but goddammit you're gonna make sure you can out-obscure every customer who walks in the door anyway

I bought the other album, too. The one by Trent Reznor's keyboardist. It kinda sucked.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:07 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


IDK why it became acceptable that music, comic, and video game stores all had retail clerks that were (/still are) actively hostile to customers, but I am glad I no longer have these guys standing between me and the media I want to buy.
posted by almostmanda at 9:09 AM on February 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


someone put this on my Facebook a couple of days ago. Funny and all but it got me remembering just how intimidating those record store guys were when I was kid, early-mid 70s, age twelve or thirteen onward when I really caught the bug and started hanging out in record stores. Though lurking is a better way of putting it. I was way too intimidated to want to be actually noticed by anyone who worked there, let alone talked to.

So I just lurked and listened, and whenever I could afford it (which wasn't often) actually bought something, but beyond a mumbled "thanks" when I made my purchase, never spoke a word. Until one day, 1975. I would've been fifteen or sixteen. A particular track got played on the store sound system, but for whatever reason the guy hadn't put the album cover in the NOW PLAYING spot. And it was just such an extreme piece of music. Blistering fast at first, then off into flutes and sweet acoustics and choir by the one minute point, then blistering again ... and so on.

I just had to know. "Who is this?" I said, piercing years of silence.

The guy peeled back his long rock star hair, gave me a stern who-the-fuck-are-you look, then broke into a big enthusiastic smile and ranted for the next minute or so about the incomparable genius of Steve Hackett's first solo album.

Moral of the story. Only engage with "pretentious local record store asshole" when he's playing something so extreme that he could only LOVE it, else why would he play it? You will instantly be branded as "cool" regardless of how dorky you may look (or feel).

The song in question by the way, was Ace of Wands, which still sounds pretty darned extreme.
posted by philip-random at 9:11 AM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


Some of the comments are pretty great too:

I used to keep a large stack of Rock Around The Clock 78s out the back for the inevitable visit from someone telling me they had a rare record ( it sold 25 million copies ) , I would hand them a copy and tell them they now have two very rare records.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:11 AM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


I was just about to say that the comments are better than the article. The whole exchange that starts with "I used to sell 78s" is brilliant comedy, particularly once "Dr Payton" comes in.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:14 AM on February 26, 2015


What's a record store?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:14 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am going to confess to one of these just to clear my conscience.

I said this to a record store employee A LONG TIME AGO:
"Um, do you have Paco Bell? It's classical music."

*hangs head and walks away*
posted by Sophie1 at 9:15 AM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


These kids are missing their calling. Ethnomusicology is ALL about pronouncing the names right.
posted by spitbull at 9:15 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's a record store?

you used to see them near book stores
posted by philip-random at 9:20 AM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


The WORST is those people who only come in for Rex Manning Day.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:24 AM on February 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


AND YET when I eventually do sidle up to the counter with my purchase I still get the fucking treatment while my choices are rung up.

Look, I get it that Oneohtrix Point Never is still somehow not obscure enough and You Need to Let Me Know about Trent Reznor's keyboardist's side-project band that nobody has ever listened to


The guy might have appreciated your selection or recommended something he thought you might like. We had a guy where I grew up, I never knew his name but he worked at Shake Records ad had a beard so we referred him as Bearded Shake Guy. You'd go up with a CD and he would be all "oh, you like this stuff? Here, I'll open it up for you, and you should also hear this, and this, and this" and before you know it he's handed you a stack of a dozen CDs to take over to the listening station. We loved when he did that, my friends and I discovered so much great music that way (this was before you could look everything up on the internet).
posted by Hoopo at 9:24 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


>I don't miss spending money on individual CDs,

I don't miss that either. I still do it.

>I don't miss moving a music collection,

Haven't moved in 15 years. It'd suck to move, but the music is only part of why.

>I don't miss carrying CDs around in my car, I don't miss having to rip and burn CDs for a mix,

That part really IS better now.

>I don't miss having to buy a whole disc for a single,

Well, you never HAD to buy it. You could find someone who liked more of it, and tape the track you wanted.

> and I don't miss never being able to hear something because it's not within the taste of my local store.

Is that really a Thing that Happened? I don't think I ever encountered that.

> I do miss the music buying experience, however. I would make a day of it, go to the local store, browse the aisles, and have to decide between 3 of 5 different discs I wanted.

I don't miss this at all, because I still do it a couple times a month at a great local record shop here in Houston.

It sucks that most places don't have one of those anymore, though. The guy who runs Cactus has taken partners and makes a point to do big in-store events and whatnot, and I get the idea this makes it viable as a business, but Houston's a giant town. Most places probably don't have the critical mass of people required to, say, convince Steve Earle to come play an in-store concert at which he releases his new CD a week early.

The neatest record shop I ever went to was, no kidding, in Jackson, Mississippi. It was called the Musiquarium, and it sold CDs and beer on two different floors of a somewhat fancy shopping building. You could get a pint of something awesome, and then browse or sit at listening stations (remember those?) before closing out a tab that might have 2 Rogues, a Johnny Cash, and the new Radiohead.

They are, of course, long closed.
posted by uberchet at 9:25 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Another confession akin to Sophie's - I once asked clerk in a Lower East Side used CD place if they had anything by "Bruce COCK-burn, you know, the guy who does Wondering Where The Lions Are."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:29 AM on February 26, 2015


Bill's Records and Tapes (Dallas) is sorta like this. We used to make the 3-hour drive from my town to go there because that was the closest place to find trance and house on vinyl. Nothing had price tags. You would bring your stack to Bill, he would look through it, and then say $142. You could take it or leave it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:29 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have been known to ask for Tolstoyevsky in bookstores.

There is a fairly recent book compiling similar faux pas expressed in bookstores by clueless customers. I think anyone in any retail outlet could keep a similar notebook.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:31 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I worked at a B. Dalton bookstore in the late 80's, and these stories are nothing.

Plus, it's no Acts of Gord.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:31 AM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


IDK why it became acceptable that music, comic, and video game stores all had retail clerks that were (/still are) actively hostile to customers

In all fairness to comic shop clerks, you can only have the exchange "You got Thor?" "Have you looked under 'T'?" so many times before you start to lose faith.

And trying to invest in valuable vinyl is a funny business, when you think about it. On the one hand, you've got your all-time great records. Take Sgt. Pepper's, for instance: one of the best albums ever published, but worthless on the collector's market because everybody bought a copy. On the other hand, there are plenty of albums that are ultra-rare, but they're so rare because they're terrible and nobody bought them. Again, worthless, because there's no demand. To actually find a valuable album apart from one-offs, misprints and other novelties, you have to hit a weird sort of sweet spot in the middle.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:32 AM on February 26, 2015


IDK why it became acceptable that music, comic, and video game stores all had retail clerks that were (/still are) actively hostile to customers, but I am glad I no longer have these guys standing between me and the media I want to buy.

Yeah, I totally get this -- I absolutely lament the loss of many small local businesses but sometimes it was super intimidating to go in there. I don't love music; I enjoy it and I like some of it, sure, but I am not deeply passionate about it, and knowing that I was going to be judged and possibly mocked openly made buying stuff a lot harder and more unpleasant. Honestly, it's possible I would have listened to more music if I didn't feel like I had to gird my loins just to go into the store and brace myself for any interactions with an employee.

Maybe it's in part because the last time I went anywhere like this I was like a sixteen-year-old girl but WOW could some of the clerks be judgmental. Definitely not all of them, but a high enough percentage that I would sort of dread the experience. Being able to make stupid mistakes in the privacy of my own home while I search for myself is a blessed relief.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:32 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I really haven't encountered any of this stuff in a long while, simply because the local stores that are still open that sell books/records/comics etc are still alive because they are run as competant businesses. We have a record store that is a micro-chain, a local video rental place (which is REALLY a dying breed) and a comics store that are staffed by uniformally friendly and helpful people. The comics store in particular seems to be run by people who really get the whole "we have got to get more people in here!" thing and have succeeded in it; there are regularly women and kids in there shopping for comics, which as far as I'm concerned is the #1 sign of a sustainable shop.
posted by selfnoise at 9:38 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or maybe, asshole record store guys, just maybe, your customers is a trio of high school girls who skipped school, lied to their parents, and drove the 90 MILES to Billings, Montana - absolutely terrified their parents would find out - all so they could purchase their first CD from a store they looked up in the yellow pages, just because they loved music that much.

And maybe, just maybe, these girls live in a tiny, tiny town where they live too far away to get cable so to get MTV or VH1 they have to have satellite dishes the size of their house, so they don't really have TV, and the only radio stations they can get - there are no local ones - play country music or 60s/70s hits. A fairly common scenario in that region of the world, I might add. So while they can sing every word of every Buffalo Springfield song ever written, they're a little in the dark about the current music scene. And one of their cousins sent a mixtape with this AWESOME band on it, but all they have is the scrawled handwriting and they think it says nivan? Something like that? Could you help us out? And maybe, just maybe, all you had to say was "Nirvana" but instead you had to be a GIANT CONDESCENDING ASSHOLE. And these girls would have dropped a lot of money in your store, money they had saved for months babysitting/lawn mowing/feeding horses, and maybe gotten some more really cool music with recommendations from you, but because of your attitude they ended up fleeing, one of 'em cried in the car in the parking lot, and the rest of them pretty much vowed never to go to a record store again.

*harumph* Jerks. There's a lot of things for which I'm thankful about the internet- music availability is high on the list. Not dealing with clerks like that is a big part of that.
posted by barchan at 9:44 AM on February 26, 2015 [76 favorites]


In about 1992 I was in a mall record store. I had no credit cards and no cash in my wallet. A clerk asked me if I needed help. I said "Yeah, I found what I wanted (waves cassette tape in an anti-theft plastic locker) now I just wonder if you know where the cash machine (the ATM) is in this place (meaning the mall)."

"Cash machine? Is that the name of the band?"

Which apparently I thought was funny enough to stick with me. I wonder if that would have made a book like this, and which of us would be portrayed as the unreasonable fool.

Many of these "Quotes from the Music Retail Front" are really just "Quotes from the Retail Front" that happened in a record store. The entries here seem mean-spirited in isolation, but if the creative outlet helped the clerks endure a frustrating gig good-naturedly, maybe that's OK.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:45 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Back in the dark days of the late 80s when I made ends meet by asst managing a mall bookstore, I encountered a few of the eye-roll-worthy classics, "Do you have that book with the [x_color] cover?", "Where are all the Cliff's Notes for my high school English class books?", "How long can I borrow this book for?" etc.

But those nitwits were vastly outweighed by the reasonably-intelligent, pleasant folks just looking to spend a few bucks on a pretty good read. So I have a tendency to see folks like the dude with the quotes notebook as insecure self-haters attempting to cope with their low social status and miserable pay by shifting that self-loathing and feeling of oppression by The Man onto various strangers who have the incredible temerity to ask for the help that the clerk was in fact hired to provide.
posted by aught at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


> and I don't miss never being able to hear something because it's not within the taste of my local store.

Is that really a Thing that Happened? I don't think I ever encountered that.


How could you not encounter it? No brick-and-mortar store can hold more than a small fraction of the range of musical choices available through iTunes or Amazon or Spotify or whatever. In the pre-internet days you were always limited to some intersection between the tastes of the record store manager/clerks and what music was currently in print from the record companies.

My standard pre-internet experience of going into record stores (and I used to kill a lot of time in them) was to start by checking out a number of key bins to see if they had anything by artists x, y, z....and of course most times they didn't have whatever gap in my collection I was looking to fill. And I didn't have particularly esoteric tastes or anything.
posted by yoink at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'll never forget the time I picked out Mozart, Willie Nelson, and Ricky Martin CDs and the clerk looked at me like I was insane. They were stocking stuffers for my sister, father, and mother, respectively, but I couldn't be bothered telling him that. Instead I amused my family telling them about the clerk's reaction at Christmas when we opened our stockings. The laughs go both ways, is what I'm saying.
posted by orange swan at 9:51 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


The worst job applicant I ever had the misfortune of meeting was during my brief stint as a record store clerk.

Two things you need to know: Our store was closing so there was STORE CLOSING signs on every flat surface. Second our store had a small discrete porn room in the back.

I'm shuffling some CD's in metal section when a guy walks up to me and says "Hey, I turned in a job application a few days ago and no ones called, how long is it going to take?"

I turned to explain, nicely I swear, that we weren't hiring since we were all being laid off in a month and realized he was holding an open Hustler. He was walking around asking about employment while standing next to a STORE CLOSING sign and looking at porn. Although I guess the porn explains why he didn't see the sign at the moment it doesn't explain the other 250 he must have walked by.

I can't honestly saw he wasn't record store clerk material.
posted by lepus at 9:52 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


In all fairness to comic shop clerks, you can only have the exchange "You got Thor?" "Have you looked under 'T'?" so many times before you start to lose faith.

At the same time though, off the top of my head I can recall the following ways of organizing comic book stores I have been in:

- Alphabetical by title
- Alphabetical by author
- Some stuff alphabetical by title, some alphabetical by author but only when there's a sufficiently large body of work by the author
- Sorting first by Marvel vs DC vs indies
- Sorting by Marvel and DC together, then indies
- Including Image with Marvel/DC
- Including Image with indies
- Putting Vertigo in its own non-DC-section; putting Ultimates in its own non-Marvel-section
- Manga sorted with the indies
- Manga in a separate room upstairs
- Incredible Hulk under "I"
- Incredible Hulk under "H"
- Incredible Hulk under "H" in the new release section but "I" in the back issues
posted by Greg Nog at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


Customer: “Do you have constellation music?”

Almost certainly a mispronunciation of "compilation," FWIW.

The old woman comes up to my co worker, Rob, and says “that sure does look good.” Rob has the slice right up to his mouth to take a bite out of it when the old lady grabs Rob’s hand and pulls it over to her own mouth, taking a huge chomp out of it—completely out of the blue.

I never worked at a record shop, but this I totally believe. I once subbed in for a baker friend who had a stand at a farmer's market, and this old woman came furiously up to the stand and hollered at me that the pies were overpriced. I nodded as though to say, you know, what can you do?

Without breaking stride she stuck the fingers of her hand into one of the pies, grabbed a fistful of crust and filling, and ate it as she passed.

To this, I had no response. Retail customers are weird.
posted by gauche at 10:02 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'll never forget the time I picked out Mozart, Willie Nelson, and Ricky Martin CDs...

Christmas, 1992: Stocking contains Guns 'N' Roses Use Your Illusion I & II, Willie Nelson Phases and Stages, Kenny G Breathless, and Brooks and Dunn Brand New Man.

Thanks mom and dad! Everything got pretty heavy rotation in my Discman.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:02 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's in part because the last time I went anywhere like this I was like a sixteen-year-old girl but WOW could some of the clerks be judgmental. Definitely not all of them, but a high enough percentage that I would sort of dread the experience.

Same here, which is why I don't really find this shit cute or funny. I would bet cash that for every mildly funny anecdote in that notebook, there are two that are just harsh and judgy and mean. It made me think of this.
posted by almostmanda at 10:02 AM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Is that really a Thing that Happened? I don't think I ever encountered that.

Yep. I went to three stores mainly. FYE, which had pretty typical stuff for a mass market chain, and about as deep as they went was the most recent Sub Pop stuff. I went to a place near my grandmother's house, a smaller chain called Record and Tape Traders, that mostly did mainstream rock / metal for their guitar music stuff, but had a good collection of rap and electronic. I went to the local place I mentioned above, which had an awesome Indie collection (well, what I as a P4K reader at the time considered awesome), but pretty shallow rap, electronic, and mainstream. With the three stores combined I managed to get nearly everything I wanted, but you would still hit a rare, discontinued, or otherwise collectible item that nobody had (or wanted 40 dollars for). For example, The Wren's first album before it was re-released.
posted by codacorolla at 10:06 AM on February 26, 2015


It's interesting how differently it's possible to read these. I read them very much as "I am the type of person who also expects librarians to tell me what a book is based on the fact that the cover was red, and then I get all huffy about public servants when they can't"....people who feel that anyone in retail (or any kind of public-facing) job has to be a mind-reader and they, the public, have zero responsibility for thinking their request through. (ie, "why won't you sell this record for me").

Plus, reading these did make me realize that deep in my heart, I believe that adults should, in general, be organized enough to conduct a little bit of research to narrow down a question, especially in the age of google, and we've been in the age of google for a while now.
posted by Frowner at 10:09 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


The guy might have appreciated your selection or recommended something he thought you might like.

That right there is how I wasted 20 dollars on a fucking Dream Theater CD one time. I'm still salty about that!
posted by codacorolla at 10:09 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Speaking as a former judgy record store clerk, this is hilarious. And your musical taste is hilarious, too. Yes, you.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:11 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Plus, reading these did make me realize that deep in my heart, I believe that adults should, in general, be organized enough to conduct a little bit of research to narrow down a question, especially in the age of google, and we've been in the age of google for a while now.

Yes, this. I get the occasional ridiculous question from readers of my blog. I saw a question of the Vogue Knitting Facebook page that said, "I'm looking for a pattern that appeared in your magazine sometime last year. I think it was blue or green." The VK page admin was quite professional and answered only with a, "I need a little more detail to help you identify it, please!", but all I could do was roll my eyes and think, how do you type all that out and not realize that you're asking an impossible question?
posted by orange swan at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2015


‘If I Gotta Love Edith’
To be fair, the band itself didn't know what words they were singing.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:17 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


The VK page admin was quite professional and answered only with a, "I need a little more detail to help you identify it, please!"

I mean, I think that if the linked article indicated that all these guys gave just mean, crushing responses to the various silly questions, then I would dislike it. I think it's okay to laugh a little bit at someone's silly question (every time I've been in a public-facing retail or volunteer role, we told those around, and we did have employee logs at a couple of places) but I (perhaps optimistically) assumed that the record store dudes were writing these down instead of meanly responding.
posted by Frowner at 10:18 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


At the same time though, off the top of my head I can recall the following ways of organizing comic book stores I have been in:

The legendary Discount Video in Minneapolis organized their movies by studio that produced it, and treated you as an utter heathen if it confused you. They were the video store versions of the record store clerks we're discussing, but my estimation of them fell considerably when I tried to find a copy of Panic in the Streets, which they insisted had never been released. I had also worked in a pretty nerdy video story -- Videotheque in Westwood, Los Angeles -- and had first seen the film when it was released on VHS a few years earlier.
posted by maxsparber at 10:20 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I worked in the music department of a now-dead store. I experienced dozens if not hundreds of variations on the "I'm looking for that one song that's really popular right now" customer.

First, it's AMAZING how often we were eventually able to accurately find the song/artist/album they were looking for!

But ANY attempt to elicit more info from them was met with immediate anger and defensiveness. I honestly think they believed deep down that we already knew what song they were talking about and we were withholding that information.

And they would often have one piece of information and it would be wrong! "Well, I know the album has a mostly green cover." [Nope.]

Here's one. From 1997.

Customer: I'm looking for a song. It's really popular right now.
Me: OK. What can you tell me about it?
Customer: You'll know what it is!
Me: Is it sung by a man or a woman?
Customer: [at this point she's super annoyed] It's a group! You know!
Me: Let's see if I can narrow it down - is it a female group? The Spice Girls?
Customer: NO! IT'S NOT THE SPICE GIRLS! It's a girl group.
Me: Would you say it's pop music? Like Top 40 or something else?
Customer: It's by a group that's a mix of girls. There's a black girl and a redhead and some other girls.
Me: That sounds like the Spice Girls. I can play you their hit s . . .
Customer: NO! IT'S NOT THE SPICE GIRLS, I ALREADY TOLD YOU!
Me: Is there any other detail you can give me?
Customer: They're British I think. I can't believe you don't know this! This song is everywhere! They play it constantly!
Coworker: [starts loudly singing Wannabe by the Spice Girls]
Customer: YES! YES! That's the song!
Me: That's the Spice Girls.
Customer: No, that's not right.
Customer: [buys album anyway]
posted by peep at 10:22 AM on February 26, 2015 [29 favorites]


Yeah, clerk recommendations are great if and only if the store has a listening station. Otherwise you're likely to end up paying for music that sounds the way periodontal disease smells.

The most up themselves clerks I've ever met are right here at the famous Powell's bookstore. They seem to feel that the absurd hype about anything to do with Portland makes them the bookstore clerk equivalent of rockstars or famous critics. I asked one where I could find a copy of one of Jane Jacobs' books after first not finding it in Economics or Sociology. The clerk -- physically not far from the Comic Book Guy phenotype -- stared at me in unbelief that I could be so stupid and shouted "It's in 'Civics'!" A section not many bookstores even have and one which I didn't spot and which, yes, did not spring to mind. And then he glared at me all the way out of the department.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:23 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I saw a question of the Vogue Knitting Facebook page that said, "I'm looking for a pattern that appeared in your magazine sometime last year. I think it was blue or green." The VK page admin was quite professional and answered only with a, "I need a little more detail to help you identify it, please!", but all I could do was roll my eyes and think, how do you type all that out and not realize that you're asking an impossible question?

Meh. One only has to click over to AskMe to find people asking questions that seem hopelessly incomplete ("I heard this song yesterday with a kind of 'uhn, uhn, uhn' bit in the chorus--can anyone help me" or whatever) and which nonetheless get answered successfully. It's possible to be nagged by a partial memory for which you can't fill in any details, and yet when someone says "was it this" you can say with certainty "yes" or "no."

Me, I'd certainly fall into the category of people who would think "oh, there's no point in asking if I can't tell them more than that," but it's hard to see how it's skin of anyone's nose to give it a try.
posted by yoink at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Customer: “Do you guys have ‘If I Gotta Love Edith’ by Iron Butterfly?”

‘If I Gotta Love Edith’
To be fair, the band itself didn't know what words they were singing.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:17 PM on February 26 [+] [!]


Actually that hymn was "In the Garden of Eden" by I. Ron Butterfly.

I would expect stupidsexyFlanders to remember that rock and/or roll song.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


That right there is how I wasted 20 dollars on a fucking Dream Theater CD one time.

I am so, so sorry

I do remember telling my dad about Bearded Shake Guy once when he wondered what I'd done in a record store for 2 hours. He was all "well he's not your friend, he's just trying to get you to buy things." Only in the 90s was it an acceptable line of reasoning to be suspicious of a guy trying to sell you stuff while you're in his store looking to buy precisely that stuff.
posted by Hoopo at 10:30 AM on February 26, 2015


and I don't miss never being able to hear something because it's not within the taste of my local store.

Is that really a Thing that Happened? I don't think I ever encountered that.

Uh, yeah—of course that's a thing that happened. Unless you listened solely to current mass-market releases, or lived in a city with lots of large or specialty record stores, the range of music that was available to you in the brick-and-mortar era was very limited.

I fell in love with electronic music as a teenager in the early 90s, and the best record stores we had in my crappy little town were the Camelot Music and the Waxie Maxie's. Between the two, Camelot had the better selection of electronic music, which shared space with 2 Unlimited and The Macarena in a tiny little "Dance Music" section. I scoured that section religiously, hoping to find the odd Astralwerks compilation or Aphex Twin EP.

Even considering that electronic music was a niche genre at the time, the selection was inconcievably puny, and included only the most generic, high-profile artists and releases. Forget following any given artist, label, or subgenre—I had no choice but to take whatever morsels Camelot deigned to make available.

On rare and glorious occasions, I found someone to drive me two hours to the independent record stores in the city, where I could spend my hard-earned cash on mixtapes, twelve-inches, and compilation CDs.

Half the reason I went to raves was to fill my backpack with new music from the merch tables. Nowadays, you just go to Soundcloud and click on the tag you're interested in. Back then, if you wanted to get your hands on the most current sounds, you had to know where to find the flyers that directed you to the semi-secret, often-illegal events that would be held several hours away, in dirty warehouses, at 2 am.

But much of the same applies to less niche-y genres. If you had lived in my town in the 90s, and you were into old-time country music, or jazz, or reggae, beyond a casual surface level—you weren't going to have much luck in that Camelot.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's status-seeking authenticity plain and simple. And I was one of those dudes. Albeit I'd like to think I wasn't particularly egregious and actually quite the opposite if you, the naive customer, expressed an interest in a thing in which I have great passion. It comes, at least somewhat, from being ostracized generally but finding a community of like-minded people sharing a passion. Things get tribal.

The only folks I recall being particularly dickish to were the ones who tried selling obviously stolen and/or rat-fucked* used titles. They deserved every drip of condescension I could inveigh.

* rat-fucked: (1) an item in horrible physical condition. (2) a title with no merit that caught fire thanks to the hype machine and, now that it needs to stand on its own merits, obviously sucks. Everyone thinks that the track's previous popularity makes is a top-shelf used item but if you go looking in the used bin you find at least eight copies. Said person, once you express a contrary opinion of the title's worth, throws a tantrum and thinks you're a condescending ass. For example: EMF's Unbelievable. YMMV as I'm working from a 1993 - 96 perspective here.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:39 AM on February 26, 2015


You know, I found this article absolutely, unable-to-stop-laughing-at-my-desk hilarious and I was initially surprised at the reaction here, but I think the issue is actually the "here's why record store clerks are assholes" framing, because it's totally true that the assholishness is a huge problem (and is often actually just sexism!) and not at all justified by people saying things that are unintentionally funny like calling Afrika Bambaataa "African Bandstand".

I think laughing at silly things that happen at work is a normal way to let off steam, and if I let it turn me into a huge dick in terms of how I deal with outward-facing communication then I would be, not righteous, but a huge dick who should be fired because I would be doing my job really poorly. It is not a great framing. It is a tongue-in-cheek framing but it is one that unintentionally tries to justify asshole behavior and sexism. Reading Mrs. Pterodactyl's comment made that pretty clear to me. (Er, her second comment, to be clear. Rex Manning, that guy's a dick!)
posted by capricorn at 10:39 AM on February 26, 2015


I have to admit I saw this fly by a few days ago and kind of hated its tone. I worked for Now Defunct Book & Music Superstore for quite a while and we had a bazillion of these in every store. While I was happy to do the cartoon I LOVE MUSIC I WORK HERE, WHOOO thing and order 10 copies of the new Dump CD, play it overhead and watch it sell out within half an hour (true, happened more than once, you out there James - what's up James, hey) I never ever got what was to be gained by snarking at dads and grandmas for mispronouncing something or trying to suss out a song they heard 15 seconds of on the radio on the way to the store. I would always picture my dad walking into that (then-)intimidating music department and didn't want him treated like an asshole for being a huge Chicago fan (also true, me too, come at me) or something. yoink 100% nails it above, I think.
posted by mintcake! at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


George_Spiggott: "The "I never met a black guy who could add up in his head" one seems both gratuitous and made up. First of all, you have to use the register to ring up a sale so what would be the point in not using it? Second, this'd have to be a place without sales tax, and third, why does it make a point of telling us the co-worker's first name?"

I've seen people who get in the habit of giving the price before ringing it up as sort of a multi-tasking thing. They give the price and then punch the keys while the customer is futzing with their wallet or purse. I think usually they're not calculating tax in their head, it's just they've memorized the most common prices of things you can buy; like maybe 99% of what they sell are 8$ CDs and 14$ CDs and 20$ CDs and you can only combine those in so many ways.

Specifying this is something that happened to "John" might be left-over from when this was stories they told each other in the store, where they all know who John is. So it was a way to provide the detail that this is something said to a black clerk. But when translating for a wider audience he didn't want to call John, "my black co-worker."
posted by RobotHero at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2015


Me: That's the Spice Girls.
Customer: No, that's not right.
Customer: [buys album anyway]


It was Citizen Kane! It was Citizen Kane! IT WAS CITIZEN KANE!!
posted by dialetheia at 10:51 AM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Years ago, I took a few CDs up to the early-twenties till clerk at one of London's HMV branches and she said "Wow, you have got really good taste." Scanning for sarcasm - it's clean!. Happiest moment of my life.

I also recall approaching the guy who ran that jazz-and-musicals specialist record shop in San Francisco once and announcing I had a question. He looked at me with infinite weariness, clearly expecting some brainless query about Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest epic. I won't say the scorn entirely disappeared when I named the two obscure Cole Porter musicals I was actually looking for, but he definitely dialled it down a notch.

Of course, that's two encounters out of hundreds, and I'm pretty sure I lost all the rest.
posted by Paul Slade at 10:56 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have worked retail (albeit never in a record or book store) and while I recall the occasional loopy question, nothing was so off-kilter that I would feel the need to record it or repeat it a decade or more later. If anything, my experience in record stores as a customer worked the other way around. In 1987, Jimi Hendrix's Live at Monterey was released, and I recall a snotty records store clerk insisting that I must be looking for Female Trouble, an album by Nona Hendryx*. A few years later there was a cello piece recorded by Julian Lloyd Webber I was trying to locate, and every clerk I spoke to directed me to the soundtracks section, where all the Andrew Lloyd Webber was to be found.

Still, I suppose there are some folks who take a malicious pleasure in belittling people who come to them for professional help. The dwindling of record stores may have reduced how often we spot them, but luckily there are still enough computer shops and bicycle dealerships to employ them.

*Nona is Jimi's first cousin, btw. Who knew?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think pretty much everyone who's ever worked retail has dealt with some of this stuff, and all the more so if the store wasn't a chain.

At my shop, we get a lot of calls from people wanting to sell us vintage clothing, and upon questioning at least two-thirds of them turn out to not actually have vintage clothing. I have been yelled at by women for refusing to buy their wedding dresses from the 80s. If I had a dollar for the number of times someone has said "Well, it was very expensive when I bought it!" I could probably have bought an expensive, yet hideous, 80s wedding dress when it was new.

We also regularly get customers who say they want flapper dresses but actually want the Halloween version thereof; customers who don't understand why we can't provide a Pucci-print maxidress and Afro wig for their 70s party; customers who refuse to believe that I don't have another of the dress they want in a different size.

Once, a lady yelled at me for refusing to let her try on the tiny, fragile, Titanic-era silk tea gown that was hanging on the wall. "Well, if you've got it for sale, people should be allowed to try it on!" she huffed, even after I explained that even someone as impossibly petite as the gown required, wearing appropriate corsetry, would probably destroy it if they so much as sneezed.
posted by nonasuch at 11:03 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Frowner: I was very fortunate in that, during my prime record-buying years, Oarfolk Records (of sacred Minneapolis memory) employed a very nice girl with blue hair and engineer boots and the overall atmosphere in the store was very friendly.

As far as the woman with blue hair who used to work at Oarfolk, you should read her chapter in Typical Girls: New Stories by Smart Women edited Susan Corrigan. My review.
posted by larrybob at 11:04 AM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


People kept asking, so we had to put up a sign.

Sign reads "Mojo Nixon does not work here"
posted by ckape at 11:05 AM on February 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


I've only had a couple of bad experiences with snobby record store clerks, probably because I spent enough time in my local places that they knew me after a while, so I am probably biased because of that. But I can only imagine that it would be frustrating having to work with the general public in a subject area that's really important to you and you care about. And the most knowledgeable record store clerks were the ones who cared about music the most.

There's a fine line between being passionate about your interests and judging someone's purchases, and actually judging the person for making them, but I'm going to cut those clerks a little slack for their annoyances, because I know I've got my own. When you care a lot about something and put in the time and effort to learn about it, it probably wears on you after a while.

I don't know anyone who isn't a snob about something or another.

(And snobbery is not the same thing as pretentiousness. 'Pretentious' is a pretty serious accusation, really, and often implies that the speaker thinks their tastes are universal and people who don't share them are just faking it.)
posted by ernielundquist at 11:07 AM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


> Sign reads "Mojo Nixon does not work here"

Well then your store could use some fixin'
posted by Gev at 11:16 AM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


Doleful Creature: AND YET when I eventually do sidle up to the counter with my purchase I still get the fucking treatment while my choices are rung up.

Oh, this is making me miss the shop that was half a block from my prior job, because they were anything but that. It was staffed by laid back folks who loved music, and many of them had radio shows on either the local college or community radio stations. I felt so happy one day when one of the guys asked how I found all the stuff I bought there (answer: knowing enough about labels and artists to know what else I might like + college radio + the internet). They carried so much good stuff, and had a half decent used section, including the oh-so-tempting Wall of $1 CDs (mostly dreck, but there were some gems).


Hoopo: I do remember telling my dad about Bearded Shake Guy once when he wondered what I'd done in a record store for 2 hours.

Hah, I can appreciate that. My wife once let me go to Amoeba Records in Los Angeles. I only browsed through the electronic and drum'n'bass sections of CDs (maybe peaked at the vinyl), and I came out with a stack of cheap and oh-so-good CDs. I felt like I had been in there for a half our or so and that I had been good about not wandering aimlessly, but my wife told me she was thinking of calling me because I had been in there for well over an hour. And I don't think I spent too much time cross-referencing anything on my phone (quickly checking reviews and such).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:17 AM on February 26, 2015


Sign reads "Mojo Nixon does not work here"

Then your store could use some fixin.

There's so little controversy in this. Obsessed weirdos spend every waking hour consuming and picking over the minutia of something are confronted with the teeming humanity that does NOT obsess over it. I say this as one of the obsessed weirdos - I've spent years working in book, record, and video stores.

My favorite mistake question was the guy who was asking, at the bookstore, for a book called "Walter's Candidate". No one knows it. Nothing in Books in Print. Oh, uh, maybe you mean "Candidate", by someone named Walter, let's try that. Nothing.

I could tell the guy was sincere and I really wanted to help him, but he didn't really know anything about the book other than the title. I WISH I could remember how the little lightbulb exploded in my brain but eventually I blurted out, certain, "OH! Voltaire's Candide??". Yep!

Favorite non-mistake question: video store. "blood AND tits?" Like, can you direct me to the Blood and Tits section. Sigh.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:20 AM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


In all fairness to comic shop clerks, you can only have the exchange "You got Thor?" "Have you looked under 'T'?" so many times before you start to lose faith.

No, idiot. I looked under 'J' for "Journey into Mystery," 'M' for "Mighty Thor," and then thought, "You know, I should just ask."
posted by straight at 11:38 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meh, works both ways. Once in the 90s I was in an indie record store looking for a Hendrix album. I said, "Do you have Band of Gypsys?" and the clerk says, "Look under B."
posted by scratch at 11:42 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've seen people who get in the habit of giving the price before ringing it up as sort of a multi-tasking thing. They give the price and then punch the keys while the customer is futzing with their wallet or purse. I think usually they're not calculating tax in their head, it's just they've memorized the most common prices of things you can buy; like maybe 99% of what they sell are 8$ CDs and 14$ CDs and 20$ CDs and you can only combine those in so many ways.

Yes, this. It's been over 15 years since I worked in a record store, but I can still tell you a $13.99 CD came to $15.00 with tax. When you sell mainly a few things at the same price points all day, it's hard not to memorize it and try to speed up the transaction so you can back to discussing the merits of Russell Simmons versus Russell Simins with your coworker.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:44 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and $9.99 used CDs came to $10.71.)
posted by entropicamericana at 11:46 AM on February 26, 2015


IDK why it became acceptable that music, comic, and video game stores all had retail clerks that were (/still are) actively hostile to customers, but I am glad I no longer have these guys standing between me and the media I want to buy.

Yeah, I totally get this -- I absolutely lament the loss of many small local businesses but sometimes it was super intimidating to go in there... Honestly, it's possible I would have listened to more music if I didn't feel like I had to gird my loins just to go into the store and brace myself for any interactions with an employee.


Sometimes I support local businesses through gritted teeth. I don't think it's an accident that the rise of the non-white, non-male, and non-cis demographics in comics has coincided with the rise of digital distribution and direct mail subscriptions from the publisher.

At the same time though, off the top of my head I can recall the following ways of organizing comic book stores I have been in:

Soooooo much this, and to try to navigate that if you're hearing the store owner discuss loudly, as I once did, that "Thorina" was a big mistake because do you know who really reads the most Thor? BLACK GUYS, and what are they gonna think about that, and jeez, why can't Archie just go back to the safe stuff it was when only middle-aged Pentecostals were coming in to buy them for their kids...

If you have not mastered the art of acceptance, deciphering their filing system's going to be a thing of diminishing returns.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:47 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


*sings*

Theeeme
From A Summer Plaaace
From A Suuuummmer Plaaaace
The Theme
From A Suuummer Place
It's The Theme...

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:48 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Meh. One only has to click over to AskMe to find people asking questions that seem hopelessly incomplete ("I heard this song yesterday with a kind of 'uhn, uhn, uhn' bit in the chorus--can anyone help me" or whatever) and which nonetheless get answered successfully. It's possible to be nagged by a partial memory for which you can't fill in any details, and yet when someone says "was it this" you can say with certainty "yes" or "no."

Me, I'd certainly fall into the category of people who would think "oh, there's no point in asking if I can't tell them more than that," but it's hard to see how it's skin of anyone's nose to give it a try.


Even with AskMe we're supposed to make an honest effort to solve our own questions before we post them, and to formulate the question in a way that's answerable. And then, too, we're asking a pool of people who can all answer or not as they like, not singling out one person and asking them to spend a few hours on a hopeless search for something when they're not really responsible for doing that.
posted by orange swan at 11:49 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I never experienced this shaming and condescension, probably because I was a guy. And I don't like to talk to people. And even back before the intertubes, I would try and figure out what it was I wanted by spending time in the library before going to the record store.

BUT, I do remember good times in Inner Sanctum records (behind Les Amis and across the hall from Pipes Plus, you Austin people remember that, right) wandering around, trying to find stuff and having to interrupt the dude playing the saw to ask questions. He never seemed to mind. He wasn't this THAT type of record store employee. He played the saw, for fuck's sake.

But then, CD world rolled around and I started buying almost exclusively used. Used CDs can be listened to before purchase. I found so much good music that way. And the best part about being a misanthrope when you are young is that you tend to have a musical collection that crosses genre boundaries because you don't know you aren't supposed to self-select for the right music. Still got weird looks at check-out though. But whatever.
posted by Seamus at 11:49 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The legendary Discount Video in Minneapolis organized their movies by studio that produced it, and treated you as an utter heathen if it confused you.

Holy crap, maxsparber, you have just knocked one item off my List of Unsolved Questions That I Will Probably Never Get Answered in This Lifetime. I only set foot in Discount Video a couple of times, and I was always too intimidated to ask if they had any fucking system whatsoever or if they just flung stuff on the shelves randomly.
posted by Kat Allison at 11:50 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed that. Thanks!
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:52 AM on February 26, 2015


Take Sgt. Pepper's, for instance: one of the best albums ever published, but worthless on the collector's market because everybody bought a copy. On the other hand, there are plenty of albums that are ultra-rare, but they're so rare because they're terrible and nobody bought them.


Then, there's Bootsauce's first album, a copy of which may be found in every used record store in Canada.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:52 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


For the commenters saying how mean this is or that 'they were always assholes':

I've known the writer, Chris Bickel, for almost 25 years. He's kind, generous, and enthusiastic. He's devoted to his local music scene as a performer and record store owner and has probably helped more people discover new music than anyone else I know.

If you really think it's terrible to keep a commonplace book of amusing anecdotes about work, I don't know what wouldn't offend you. We humans like to tell stories, it's one of the building blocks of culture and civilization. If you follow up these little stories with made up endings where the clerks are horrible to the customers, that's you being ungenerous and assuming the worst about people. Try not doing that.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 11:55 AM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Even with AskMe we're supposed to make an honest effort to solve our own questions before we post them, and to formulate the question in a way that's answerable.

Sure, but my point was that often--as we see by repeated real-life examples--the end result of that good faith effort is "I'm sorry, I really don't have much more to go on that that this song came out in the 80's and there was a woman in the video with a pink sweater? boa? scarf?--but it's been driving me mad and if anyone can help me I'll be their friend for life!"

And then, too, we're asking a pool of people who can all answer or not as they like, not singling out one person and asking them to do an enormous amount of work for which they're not really responsible.

What "enormous amount of work" is being asked of the librarian, or the store clerk, or the pattern blog people? It's just "here's what I remember, does that jog anything loose in your brain?" They're not asking anyone to go away and hit the books and come up with a list of all the Vogue patterns in green-or-blue or what have you.

I mean, it's fine to complain if someone asks a question based on exiguous criteria and then gets pissy when you can't answer it. But it's not fine to complain simply that they ask the question. Again, what harm does it do to try?
posted by yoink at 11:58 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's an accident that the rise of the non-white, non-male, and non-cis demographics in comics has coincided with the rise of digital distribution and direct mail subscriptions from the publisher.

Holy mothballs this had not occurred to me but it makes perfect sense! Yes! I used to spend time in comic book stores either with friends or when I would take my little brother and I always felt super conscious about being a girl there even if no one said anything and I don't think I ever saw any other girls/women in them so I just assumed they were not for me! And I was too scared to ask anyone anything! Whoa! Whoa!

I don't know why this is surprising me so much but realizing that I wasn't alone in finding indie store clerks intimidating and unpleasant is an amazing relief. I thought I just wasn't cool enough to have good taste in stuff like music and comics and I've always sort of figured this (NB: Still not cool) but wow, I am very happy to realize that this is not just me! It's surprising the extent to which the people working these stores could be, probably completely unintentionally, gatekeepers for entire classes of people they likely didn't mean, at least consciously, to exclude.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:59 AM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


He's kind, generous, and enthusiastic.

So who put a gun to his head and forced him to frame this list of clueless people asking for help as evidence that it's reasonable for record store clerks to become angry misanthropes?
posted by yoink at 12:00 PM on February 26, 2015


The dwindling of record stores may have reduced how often we spot them, but luckily there are still enough computer shops and bicycle dealerships to employ them.

. . .and sexism. Reading Mrs. Pterodactyl's comment . . .

I was just about to make the observation that today's bike store employees are yesterday's record store employees but that particular chain of retails - video/computer/records/bike, which are typically staffed by guys - led me to thinking. I wonder if there's an argument to be made that these attitudes are a byproduct of patriarchy and sexism, not just in the way they treat customers but as a way of placing value over certain jobs.

A woman in a bakery or a sewing store - where they have to have just as much knowledge, if not more - acting this way toward a customer would be fired. A waitress or a hotel clerk, who face the same amount of mind-numbing questions and attitudes, have to be nice and "act like the customer is always right." There's just not a lot of "snobbery" in front-facing retail jobs that are traditional feminine roles or outputs. (Or not off the top of my head.) I mean, there's A LOT of jobs where employees get the same kind of day in/day out questions and attitudes yet the employees put up with it with a smile, no matter how they grouse behind the scenes. Thus, while a copy store clerk at Kinkos might possess a lot of knowledge that could provide a basis for some snobbery, and also face the same grinding questions day after day, they don't tend to be snobby about it. But one could make the argument that "copying" is an admin/secretarial job - more traditionally a woman's job - and the perception that there's no value there means there's nothing to be snobby about. *

So perhaps this snobbery could be an artifact of sexism as a way of devaluing certain kinds of customer service/retail jobs - the kind of jobs that women typically work. Therefore a guy isn't in "customer service": he's a record store employee, thus embodied with knowledge and thus has value. And over time, it's kind of trickled down to where it's kind of expected, regardless of the gender of the employee. (Yep, there's women in these jobs who are snobby too, but it could be argued that's just spillover in that at this point, they're expected to be snobby.)

I don't know, this is just thinking out by keyboard, but maybe there's something to it.

*Ye olde individual asshole doesn't count, we've all met them in most jobs. I'm talking as a whole.
posted by barchan at 12:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


Favorite non-mistake question: video store. "blood AND tits?" Like, can you direct me to the Blood and Tits section. Sigh.

Every store has that. The formal name is "horror".
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:11 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I worked at a mall music store, as I lived in a small town, so I didn't really have the records available to be an asshole to anybody, because if you were shopping there, amazing obscure music wasn't what you were going to find. So that prevented me from ever becoming the asshole record store clerk. I DID, have my share of fun though, and one gag I especially enjoyed was to create a name plate thing for the acronyms of bands people would ask for.

For example, lots of people would come in and ask for ICP, as in the Insane Clown Posse (like I said, a mall music store) and I would walk them over to the "Eye See Pea" tag, flip through it, and then, finding nothing, say, "oh sorry, looks like we're out. we should be getting some more in soon though!" to which they would clarify and then I would take them to the proper place. I never let on that I was funning them, but it certainly made me laugh inside!

(Also I once completely coloured both my hands with green highlighter and then pretended that it was a reaction from a cleaning product I was using earlier)
posted by wyndham at 12:15 PM on February 26, 2015


Many of these "Quotes from the Music Retail Front" are really just "Quotes from the Retail Front" that happened in a record store.

Yeah, it's all unfunny anecdotes from the unfiltered section of notalwaysright.com.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Digital distribution has led to a fucking renaissance in comics, and yes, a lot that is certain books actually selling because people don't have to face down Comic Book Guy and his Authoritative Opinions about what we are allowed to enjoy. For me, most music store clerks were similarly "helpful" in terms of explaining to me why the music I like is stupid or mainstream or whiny or whatever. The best times where when they demanded my backpack when I walked in (ostensibly to prevent theft) and wouldn't give it back without a spiel about how Fiona Apple was Overrated or whatever other thing they thought I needed to hear. It's cool if this was never your experience, but I grew up in a smallish town and couldn't avoid it until I figured out ordering CDs from Amazon.

The framing of this irritates me, like a customer not knowing the name of a Beatles album justifies being a petty gatekeeper. Like the world will end if the uneducated masses were allowed to just buy whatever without your guidance, which you will then laugh at them for requesting. Ugh.
posted by almostmanda at 12:20 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you follow up these little stories with made up endings where the clerks are horrible to the customers, that's you being ungenerous and assuming the worst about people. Try not doing that.

I totally believe that he's a good dude, but the article is titled "How your pretentious local record store asshole got that way" and the first line is "The smug, judging record clerk is a sad cliche, but the stereotype exists for a reason. " The anecdotes are presented to the reader as justification for jerky behavior. Imagining jerky behavior is not a stretch (which isn't to say that Chris Bickel is jerky, just that it's not a stretch).
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:24 PM on February 26, 2015


The worst interaction I've ever had with a record store dude was at Zap Records in Kingston Ontario in 1996. I went in and asked the guy behind the counter (who I later found out was the notoriously prickly owner) if he had a copy of Now I Got Worry by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. "If people want that MAINSTREAM crap they can buy it at K-Mart!" Alright, then!
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


My record store guys were really nice to me, actually.
posted by jonmc at 12:27 PM on February 26, 2015


Librarians at public libraries deal with questions and weirdness like this practically every day, plus the occasional situation such as a panicked parent wanting us to do their child's science fair project for them, or another parent screaming that we're racists because we won't let his kids play on top of library tables (in the adult section), or the guy who would convey his favorite conspiracy theories to the public by way of photocopying random magazine articles, arranging them on a table just so, and then blowing up at anyone (staff or other patron) who disturbed them in the least way. Welcome to public service. And, honestly, if someone doesn't know that the rare Beatles album was probably the "butcher" cover of Yesterday and Today, then fuck him and his attitude.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:27 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Years ago I was going through some severe career angst and my wife, God bless her, was casting about for alternative careers I might enjoy.

"Maybe you could open a record store!"
"Welllll....you've been in a lot of record stores with me. Do most of those guys seem happy?"
"Hm. Good point."
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I once asked a music-related question as that was dumb as a lot of these on AskMe. It turned out I was asking about the salsa equivalent of the Beatles. A nice MeFite kindly pointed me in the right direction and didn't snark at me at all. And I started to learn a little bit about the history of salsa from following the links she posted.

I haven't run into record store clerks being mean or snotty. They've mostly just been polite and rung up my purchases. Occasionally they've chatted with me a bit if it wasn't busy and I happened to buy something the clerk also happened to like.
posted by nangar at 12:32 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Back in 1977, at Record World in the Roosevelt Field Mall, I was browsing the bins when one of the clerks asked if I needed help. I just said I was a fan of the Grateful Dead. He said, "You're looking in the wrong place kid. Wait here at the register." I did. He came back about 5 minutes later a little sweaty and sort of out of breath. He handed me a cassette. I looked at it. On it was written "Felt Forum" Then a list of the Dead's songs some of which at the time I had never heard. He looked at me real close and said, "Just got this from my car. If you are truly a fan, play this and pass it on. It is what we do." It was my first of hundreds of Maxell 90 minute bootleg tapes. Still love the Cold Jordan from that show.

Record store guys can be cool.
posted by 724A at 12:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


Then, there's Bootsauce's first album, a copy of which may be found in every used record store in Canada.

My first ever concert: Dream Warriors were the headliners, with supporting acts Bootsauce and National Velvet. Such a random lineup. The Brown Album really didn't age well, but they were pretty funky at the time, mixing up hip hop drums, samples, funk, and hard rock. But then sometimes they tried to rap and.....no.
posted by Hoopo at 12:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


My record store guys were really nice to me, actually.

I mean, cool? There are a few options here:

1) You have super nice record store guys. Definitely an option! Other people have had this same thing happen to them!

2) You are a white man so you both were judged less and were less aware of the possibility of being judged because the space felt welcoming to you.

3) You found a good record store and kept going there out of loyalty.

4) Definitely some other options but I don't know what they all are.

No one is saying (I don't think) that all record store guys are jerks, just that for a lot of us these places didn't feel welcoming. Being told "my record store guys were really nice to me" feels dismissive of that and helps reinforce why maybe some of us don't go to those places. If we say "I felt uncomfortable" and people are like "Oh I totally don't, must be something wrong with you" (not an actual quote, just how it can sound if you're on the outside) then maybe we're not going to feel comfortable any faster.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:48 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


> Such a random lineup.

Back in '95 or '96 I saw The Philosopher Kings, Spirit Of The West and Great Big Sea play a show at my school. If these three bands had been opening for The Tragically Hip it would have been the most Canadian '90s concert lineup imaginable.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:53 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


My favorite mistake question was the guy who was asking, at the bookstore, for a book called "Walter's Candidate."

Best exchange I've ever heard in a bookstore—I may have remarked on this before—was between a mother and her child wandering helplessly around the store. "What's that book you need," mother asks. "Beowulf, the child replies. "Who wrote it?" "I don't know." Mom, exasperated, says, "Well, how will we find it if you don't know who wrote it?"

But it's not fine to complain simply that they ask the question.

Well, sure, it's fine, for some value of "fine," in some contexts. I mean, it's obviously not fine for the clerk to complain to the asker or within the askers earshot. The asker isn't to blame, even if the question is absurdly phrased, or staggeringly ignorant, or annoyingly repetitive. The asker deserves a polite, helpful response. But to suggest that it's incumbent on the clerk or respondent to never complain anywhere, to any one, about one's day-to-day encounters seems like a heavy burden to bear.

I doubt there's anyone who fields questions everyday who doesn't have a list something like this, even if it's only anecdotal.

I think a lot of the angst over being judged by a clerk is overwrought. Anyone who's worked in a retail or service position knows how rare it is for even the eccentrics and irritants to be much more than a face. Obviously, some people live to be dicks, but the average point-of-service provider isn't interested in your life, they're too busy thinking about their own.

(As an aside, I'm amused by watching the thread spin back and forth between a dismay over being judged by clerks and a certainty that this clerk must be an asshole.)
posted by octobersurprise at 12:56 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I read that and remembered why I was so ecstatically happy when online shopping became a thing. This is part of why record stores are closing, and this is why they don't deserve anything else.
posted by jeather at 12:57 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was the entire premise of High Fidelity.
Barry's Customer: Hi, do you have the song "I Just Called To Say I Love You?" It's for my daughter's birthday.
Barry: Yeah, we have it.
Barry's Customer: Great, great, can I have it?
Barry: No, no, you can't.
Barry's Customer: Why not?
Barry: Well, it's sentimental tacky crap. Do we look like the kind of store that sells "I Just Called to Say I Love You"? Go to the mall.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:01 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shoutout to Record and Tape Traders where I worked for 4 years y'all. Shout out especially to the head shop area customers especially to the folks trying to sell back used bongs while simultaneously trying to steal system cleanser.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


When I went back to school in the late 80s I worked at an audio store. It was moderately into high end but also sold some affordable stuff. We also sold the bane of the audio business: car stereos. Actually car stereos pretty much paid the bills in that place but gods the customers we dealt with. When ever someone under twenty-five came in the store it was a 75% chance they were going to go straight to that wall of car stereos and their intelligence was dropping with every step. I'd like to think we never went full asshole on these kids but damn, there were so many that were deserving.

Working with the public sucks five different ways but working retail is a sure guarantee to make you want to give up on humanity.
posted by Ber at 1:17 PM on February 26, 2015


In all fairness to comic shop clerks, you can only have the exchange "You got Thor?" "Have you looked under 'T'?" so many times before you start to lose faith.

Well, yeah, but nektht time I'll remember to thtretch firtht.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:20 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with car stereos?
posted by forza at 1:22 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not really record store stuff but music snobbery related but anyway...

I remember being poked fun of by cool alternative kids in high school. They acted and dressed super cool and they thought they were the bee's knees. They somehow seemed to think that they were the only authentic people around and that everyone else was a lame poseur that just didn't/couldn't get it. Anyway, radiohead was relatively new and fresh and gaining popularity and 'Creep' had *just* been released. I was in the parking lot and they were hanging out around one of their cars and that song was playing and one of them laughed at the way I was dressed dorky or something and they all chortled together and the irony of them listening to that song and vibing with it and making fun of people and being mean and snotty all while existing in a tribal clique of 'cool kids' seemed to be completely lost on them. Those stupid asses thought they were outsiders but really they were just a bunch of Biff McTannen's with snowboarder pants and patchouli oil. assholes.
posted by ian1977 at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Back in '95 or '96 I saw The Philosopher Kings, Spirit Of The West and Great Big Sea play a show at my school.


Wait...Spirit of the West and Great Big Sea were different bands?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


A woman in a bakery or a sewing store - where they have to have just as much knowledge, if not more - acting this way toward a customer would be fired

Those are a couple of counterexamples for sure, but there are a lot of places where staff get away with being snooty at people who aren't really up to whatever standard or level they think they should be at. For me? Expensive clothing stores. Nice shoe stores. Running shoe stores. Jewelry stores. Surf/skate shops. Fancy coffee shops. Anywhere where I have to buy nice wine or whisky. Hell, even going to a hair stylist sometimes--last week I went to a nice one because I felt like I should probably move beyond using the #2 clippers on my own head at my age. She asked me which way I part my hair. Looks were exchanged among staff when I told them I don't even own a comb. You can probably tell from this list I don't come off appearance-wise as someone that puts in much effort or has a lot of money, but yeah, we can all get chronically snobbed on by retail people if we're not particularly up on whatever they're selling.

The weirdest part to me about people being intimidated by record store snobs is that, as a guy who spent the vast bulk of his allowance and part-time job money on music as a teenager/student, was really passionate about it, and bought the kind of obscure stuff the record store dudes were into, there was nothing remotely "cool" about that. No one gave a shit about my music collection. I couldn't have a conversation about African Head Charge or the latest Crooklyn Dub Consortium compilation with people at school. People never wanted to borrow my stuff. People were like "this stuff is weird, Hoopo why do you listen to weird stuff?" and ask to put their Tragically Hip tape on instead of my carefully crafted mixtape I spent hours on for the rest of the ride. Which is fine, you can like Tragically Hip, I just feel like I heard Road Apples about 200 times more than I would have liked and was a bit bored of it. The snobby record store clerks that gave you attitude were not cooler than you, there's nothing to be intimidated by.
posted by Hoopo at 1:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait...Spirit of the West and Great Big Sea were different bands?

Yep! But The Philosopher Kings and Prozzak weren't!
posted by wyndham at 1:45 PM on February 26, 2015


Wait...Spirit of the West and Great Big Sea were different bands?

Is this some kind of trick to make me be a music snob - DUH they're different. One I like and the other I don't. JEEEZZ
posted by Gor-ella at 2:09 PM on February 26, 2015


> Wait...Spirit of the West and Great Big Sea were different bands?

Spirit Of The West were sufferable and Great Big Sea were insufferable.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:15 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You'd go up with a CD and he would be all "oh, you like this stuff? Here, I'll open it up for you, and you should also hear this, and this, and this" and before you know it he's handed you a stack of a dozen CDs to take over to the listening station.

This, plus a cup of coffee to drink while I listen to the records, has been my experience every time I visited 12 Tónar in Reykjavík. I usually left there with at least 20,000Kr (~£100) worth of CDs by Icelandic bands one wouldn't hear of abroad.
posted by acb at 2:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been selling records for close to 10 years and own a record shop in Toronto and thought this list was pretty weak. Cute, but weak.

IMO, there's no good reason to turn into an angry crank. There are jerk customers in every industry. If it's going to affect you, don't work retail.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 2:19 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


A woman in a bakery or a sewing store - where they have to have just as much knowledge, if not more - acting this way toward a customer would be fired

Sydney's largest yarn store has incredibly snooty staff, for some reason. I want to support local business, but when I can buy something on the internet for 40% less cash and 100% less attitude, you make it difficult, ladies.
posted by Georgina at 2:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


They're not asking anyone to go away and hit the books and come up with a list of all the Vogue patterns in green-or-blue or what have you.

We sometimes show movies at my library. After seeing a flier for a Sherlock Holmes movie, I had a library patron ask for a print out of a list of all of Basil Rathbone's movies with synopsis. It had to be a print out, because the computer hurt his eyes, but it could not be more than two pages in length.

Did you know they make a size 2 font?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I found this list kind of weird because it seemed to be a somewhat equal mix of things that would be understandably annoying as a record store employee, like customers expecting a clerk to be able to gauge what band/record they are looking for with virtually no information to go on or acting indignant that the store won't buy the customer's poor condition used records, mixed with complaints that didn't really indicate any irritating behavior or fault on the part of the customer but made the clerk come off as a stereotypically snooty music snob, like complaining that a customer would dare to mislabel Creed as a punk band.
posted by The Gooch at 2:26 PM on February 26, 2015


"iWhat genre is 3 Mustaphas 3 filed under? "

(I kept this in reserve for particularly snarky record store assistants. It never worked; they'd either never heard of 3M3, or yelled "Take It To The Fridge!")
posted by Devonian at 2:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


(2) a title with no merit that caught fire thanks to the hype machine and, now that it needs to stand on its own merits, obviously sucks.

I was browsing in a used record store approx 1982, and I overheard a clerk explain to this young kid that the crate full of late-seventies white sleeve disco 45 EP's which he brought in for resale was completely worthless. $0.00. The kid was trying not to cry..
posted by ovvl at 3:20 PM on February 26, 2015


Those are decent counterexamples, Hoopo, and I'm going to think about them, but just off the top of my head, isn't snobbiness to be expected when you're selling to, well, a certain kind of customer? So...does that really count? A record store sells to everybody. And aren't most jewelry and skate shops typically staffed by guys? (Judging by what I've seen just walking by and those relentless radio ads about buying your girlfriend a diamond, haha!) Most of the liquor stores I go to these days are staffed by guys, and goodness we've certainly seen some arguments right here on MeFi about the perceived snobbiness of certain kinds of beer and liquor aficionados, and how much they do or are perceived to ignore women and POC.

But that's nitpicking at your specific examples; I've been trying to come up with some examples too to disprove my own point so I've been thinking about it. Instinctively, I'd say there's some cultural zeitgeist and ownership of authenticity that feeds into what stores are snobby when (chronologically) as well, but arguing how that point ties into the patriarchy and all of it together is beyond my time and reach today for a thought I had on the fly (although I'm certainly going to ponder it as it's worth pondering).

But I would like to point out that it might be worth considering the contrast of "there's nothing to be intimidated by" and some of the earlier good comments in this thread re: the snobbiness of these stores and the way they act as gatekeepers; there's some good examples of how the level of "snobbiness" and attitude varies by who the customer is. Is it possible you don't have the same experience as other people when it comes to how intimidating clerks can be?
posted by barchan at 3:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was browsing in a used record store approx 1982, and I overheard a clerk explain to this young kid that the crate full of late-seventies white sleeve disco 45 EP's which he brought in for resale was completely worthless. $0.00. The kid was trying not to cry..


...and that kid was named Mark Ronson.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:27 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, yeah, lots of blowhard dudes with assiduously over-cultivated taste were jerks to other people and being awful made them feel like they were noble protectors of authenticity. Sure.

But remember how amazing everyone's taste in music was back then, as a result?
posted by clockzero at 3:53 PM on February 26, 2015


What's wrong with car stereos?

Well, the majority of the customers for car stereo were teenage boys with more testosterone than brains. That "Acts of Gord" link way up thread had pretty much the same customer base to deal with. Albeit with just enough money to buy a car stereo but instead of arguing about $5 games you're arguing over speakers they've blown out and want the store to replace.
posted by Ber at 3:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


To bolster Hoopo's examples, I am a woman, and while I've experienced some sexist attitudes in record stores, I get a lot of snobbery in feminine coded areas as well.

One incident that really stood out for me was when I went into a kind of high end store to get a bottle of my then-favorite perfume, which was a kind of pricey I guess 'status' brand. I asked the clerk for it, and she told me I would probably prefer something more appropriate, I think the word was, then pointed me to a table of candy colored colognes that were clearly marketed to teenagers. (I was in my thirties at the time.)

Where that lady really went over the line was in apparently making some kind of classist assumption that I couldn't afford what I'd asked for or something, but part of it was probably based on some sort of fashion snobbery.

And you know what? I don't care. It was pretty weird, but I don't have a lot of interest in that sort of thing, so being judged by someone who does is not something that bothers me overmuch.

People are snobby about the things they invest their time and money into learning about and acquiring and experiencing. There are book snobs, music snobs, movie snobs, fashion snobs, food and drink snobs, pen snobs, watch snobs, car snobs, and pretty much any other kind of snob you can think of. And none of them should be required to pretend that their carefully cultivated tastes are some arbitrary thing and that the things they care about don't matter.

I will happily cop to things I'm ignorant about and don't have an interest in. of which there are many. If I did have an interest, I'd take the time and effort to learn to distinguish the nuances. I don't, though, and I don't expect people who do understand those things to pretend that the things they care about don't matter just to make me feel better.

And I'm not going to call people pretentious for understanding things I don't, as long as they don't do it to me.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:05 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


approx 1982 ... I overheard a clerk explain to this young kid that the crate full of late-seventies white sleeve disco 45 EP's which he brought in for resale was completely worthless. $0.00.

Man, I hope he hung on to them for a couple of decades.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


My hometown record store clerk/owner was an old hippie who always had time to share stories and recommendations with shoppers, along with unsolicited a capella performances of standout tracks on the album you were looking at and detailed accounts of his increasingly reactionary political and social opinions.

It was awful. You had to drive an hour at least to find a record store with a proper snide clerk who would leave you the fuck alone.
posted by EatTheWeak at 4:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


And aren't most jewelry and skate shops typically staffed by guys?

In my experience, other than Birks most jewelry stores I've been to have been the opposite. Skate shops seem to be a pretty even split. But honestly I don't tour around looking at these sorts of places in other cities so this could really just be my city/neighbourhood/whatever.

Is it possible you don't have the same experience as other people when it comes to how intimidating clerks can be?


Well yeah -- record stores were right in my wheelhouse back then, I could hold my own with those guys at one point. It's places where I'm not super into the stuff (or don't look the part) where my experiences with snobby clerks are unpleasant and/or intimidating, and it's going to vary where different people experience a similar phenomenon. I guess all I was trying to say was that ultimately these music store snobs aren't so much "gatekeepers of cool" so much as "dorks of selling CDs". (Let me tell you about the time I spent an entire day driving an employee of Beanos all around Ottawa to search random record store bargain bins for a Mickey Mouse record because it had a cool break on it. Yes, Mickey Mouse. Grown-ass men. And I was totally into it.) Not sure why but having been totally into getting my hands on all kinds of obscure albums back then makes me sort of defensive about this, sorry if it's off-base. I've definitely been told I gave off a music snob vibe at times back then even though I was kinda just hoping people would like what I liked.
posted by Hoopo at 4:34 PM on February 26, 2015


> "But remember how amazing everyone's taste in music was back then, as a result?"

... No.
posted by kyrademon at 4:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Good taste is a positional good. If everybody's into something that's cool, it loses its value as a signifier of cool, and becomes merely technically proficient (or otherwise). Conversely, things which are blandly mainstream can be rendered cool by distance or scarcity.

Witness the way that anglophilic hipsters outside the UK are willing to rate totally mainstream bands, from Coldplay (who are Stereogum favourites) to derivative Carling-sponsored landfill-indie that comes wrapped in a Union Jack and was authentically on the Reading Festival bill. (When Mogwai toured the US many years ago, they had trouble selling their “BLUR ARE SHITE” T-shirts for this reason.) Or the way that (I'm told) a decade or so ago in Sweden, every teenager, including the school bullies and bratty popular kids, was into The Smiths, and conversely they lacked the outsider cachet they had in the anglosphere.
posted by acb at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's a pretty cynical perspective, acb. That is certainly a thing, particularly with adolescents who align themselves with cultural things as an initial step into defining themselves as independent people. And some of the rivalries and alignments can seem pretty silly from an adult perspective.

But do you honestly believe that this sort of cultural one-upping is the motivation for everyone whose interests and passions fall outside the mainstream? That it's all some sort of social manipulation to impress others?
posted by ernielundquist at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2015


Witness the way that anglophilic hipsters outside the UK are willing to rate totally mainstream bands, from Coldplay

I have never encountered these "hipsters" of which you speak. I am very fond of Roisin Murphy, Serafina Steer, and Jessie Ware, tho. (And I have a lingering, desperate hope that Rachel Stevens will one day return to the studio.) But Frank Turner is right out and Blur was shite.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:08 PM on February 26, 2015


Not everyone, but it is a component of identity-building, at least when defining oneself against the “mainstream”. And “cool” (which is not directly related to talent, technical proficiency or objective criteria, as experiments such as the one in which several groups of volunteers got access to markets of music by unsigned bands, each with its own charts, and the result was internally consistent but completely arbitrary hierarchies of popularity) have borne out.
Like it or not, being a totem of group identity/cultural capital is a function (and arguably a major one) of popular music.
posted by acb at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Right now: listening to FKA Twigs, LP1 (digging it!) and drinking a Cotes du Rhone Villages. I am savoring some sweet, sweet cultural capital right here.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, I used to be a hip kid who scoured the record stores of Austin for the latest import or rare releases, but now I just dig old disco funk shit like Kool and the Gang and ELO. Getting old is the coolest.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Record store? What's a record store?
posted by freakazoid at 8:07 PM on February 26, 2015


Armadillo Records in Davis, CA. When I was in college, there was a tall dude who would always wear a baseball cap over his puffy ponytail and was a damn encyclopedia of metal. Any time I would pick something out and bring it over to check it out on the listening station he'd make some great suggestion, which is how I found Strapping Young Lad, Gardenian, Lux Occulta, and dozens of other things. I can't remember his name, but I think he had a column in the local alt weekly too.

Record store clerks can be pretty rad dudes.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:27 PM on February 26, 2015


Georgina, omg, they are the worst, and they have been like that for the twenty plus-ish years I've been reluctantly shopping there.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 9:19 PM on February 26, 2015


When I was 12, in 1979, I was in the hospital for a protracted period, and my father would visit daily, stand in the doorway, and leave after ten minutes, obviously flummoxed by what to do. My mother pestered him and said that he should at least show up with some kind of gift. One day, I got a (very heavy) hardback thesaurus. Another time, a doll meant for a toddler.

One day, he showed up with a flat paper bag that obviously held a record. My mother and I exchanged amused anticipatory glances, as I'd been saying I wanted to buy (Supertramp's) Breakfast in America. My father, born in 1924, was overeducated, tone deaf, and *actually* partially deaf from service in WWII. His knowledge of popular culture has never extended beyond 1940s radio. He's also an asshat, but he was obviously trying with the gift thing.

I mention the asshattery, because I'm sure that's how I ended up, as a 12-year-old girl in 1979, getting Harbor Lights by The Platters…from 1960. I suspect sending him out with this gem was a fair response for whatever he likely subjected the record store clerks to while shopping.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, in about 1968 or 69 my dad went to the record store and asked for a record by some Spanish guy that plays guitar. I had asked for an Andres Segovia record, I got Jose Feliciano's Light My Fire. Sheesh.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:21 PM on February 26, 2015


I once asked my mother to get me a copy of (radical black British reggae poet) Linton Kwesi Johnson's latest dub album while she was in town - which she duly did, God bless her. I'd love to have seen the store clerk's face when this sweet little old white lady asked for it at the counter.

I read someone else's anecdote once about sending their father into a record shop to buy a certain Captain Beefheart album. Then realising he'd have to walk up to the girl behind the counter and request "Lick My Decals Off, Baby".
posted by Paul Slade at 12:22 AM on February 27, 2015


I worked in a toy store in the local mall and I took pride in being able to identify the product a customer was looking for with the least amount of information provided. It was sort of a real life version of the game show "$25,000 Pyramid."

"This is blue and it squeaks. You use it in the bathtub..."

Unless they acted like jerks because you don't know what they mean by "that toy they show on TV."
(I didn't have time to watch TV from Thanksgiving to New Years.) Repeating "It's really popular with kids!" in louder and louder tones doesn't help either. Then I told them that we don't have it and regularly suggested the novelty store on the other end of the mall or a store in another town.
posted by dances with hamsters at 7:24 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


approx 1982 ... I overheard a clerk explain to this young kid that the crate full of late-seventies white sleeve disco 45 EP's which he brought in for resale was completely worthless. $0.00.

Man, I hope he hung on to them for a couple of decades.


I could guess that the contents of that crate would have been worth an awful lot of money 20 years later. I'm pretty sure it just ended up in landfill.
posted by ovvl at 7:46 AM on February 27, 2015


The title of the OP link led me to think that the article would actually have insights into the precarious position of the record store clerk who possesses a ratio of economic and subcultural capital that is lopsided toward the subcultural.

This article is interesting on this question, I think--don't let the dreaded h-word derail things. Drawing on Bourdieu would mean pointing to the friction between these two groups contributing to the image of the combative clerk:

1.“liberal arts college grads with too much time on their hands”; the children of the upper middle class who move to cities after college with hopes of working in the “creative professions.”…instantly declassed, reservoired in abject internships and ignored in the urban hierarchy — but able to use college-taught skills of classification, collection and appreciation to generate a superior body of cultural “cool.”

2. …couch-­surfing, old-clothes-wearing hipsters who seem most authentic but are also often the most socially precarious — the lower-middle-class young, moving up through style, but with no backstop of parental culture or family capital. They are the bartenders and boutique clerks who wait on their well-to-do peers and wealthy tourists. Only on the basis of their cool clothes can they be “superior”: hipster knowledge compensates for economic immobility.

posted by umbú at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Clerk: “How about Alice Cooper?”
Girl: “Oh no, he hates female singers”


Well, I've never seen him in the same room as Liza Minnelli
posted by thelonius at 11:23 AM on February 27, 2015


Well, I've never seen him in the same room as Liza Minnelli

Here you go!
posted by maxsparber at 11:26 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


What's real, real cool is that there are people in the world who care more about something you might care just a little bit about. In my experience, the very second you clearly put yourself in their hands, they're gonna let you into all the best things. Record stores, bookstores, salons, whatever: if you're capable of saying something like, "I don't know a lot, but I do care and I'm excited that you might deign to care on my behalf with all yer knowledge," you're gonna get some kinda great stuff. Everyone feels under-appreciated, and they'll go out of their way if you clearly wanna hear what they have to say, even if the genre you like isn't their first choice.
posted by Blau at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've worked retail, so I know that all kinds of people comes through the doors, but I still think that was a pretty good read. Even (or maybe especially) the comments. Brings back a lot of teenage memories of buying records from unhappy people whose attitude practically shouted, "You will NEVER be as cool as me, you taste-lacking sack of shit."
posted by mosk at 5:36 PM on February 27, 2015


I'm late to post on this thread, sorry about that.

In the very late 80's/early 90's there was a record shop on South 1st St. in San Jose, California called Underground Records. They used to be on one side of 1st St., and at some point they moved across the street. There was a lady who worked there named Pat and I would go there and spend 2 or 3 hours and she would tell me cool stories about the local music scene and turn me onto lots of cool stuff, sometimes stuff that I wouldn't appreciate for a few years to come. It's like she knew what I wanted, long before I knew what I wanted and she wanted to make certain I knew it all existed. She had patience with me and genuinely seemed to enjoy working there. I wish I knew where she was now because Pat will forever be a hero to me.

I wish I still had the glow in the dark Underground Resistance shirt shirt she sold me while I was there looking for Wax Trax stuff. I'd wear the hell out of it.
posted by starscream at 9:26 AM on February 28, 2015


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