Attention K-Mart Shoppers
October 2, 2015 8:27 AM   Subscribe

"This is a digitized version of an in-store cassette tape that was played within a Kmart store. See the title of the file for the month and year. I worked at Kmart between 1989 and 1999 and held onto them with the hopes that they would be of use some day. Enjoy!" (via)
posted by griphus (42 comments total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is it weird that the most ephemeral, pointless stuff is also the most fascinating, and the most in desperate need of preservation? I'm so glad somebody thought to save this, since otherwise it would surely be lost forever.

I liken it to the earliest Dr. Who episodes, lost utterly except for the bits people thought to record and save. Much will be lost if it is not actively preserved.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:41 AM on October 2, 2015 [16 favorites]


If you're not busy today, the Mefi ephemera tag is quite the thing.
posted by zamboni at 8:43 AM on October 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


I agree, Mr.Encyclopedia. I was once looking through some old New Yorkers (1950s) and the most interesting things were the ads.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:46 AM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm currently playing this over the sound system of my funeral home. None of my employees or siblings have picked up on to it yet.
posted by ColdChef at 8:48 AM on October 2, 2015 [90 favorites]


The Seeburg 1000 says "get off my lawn!".
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:57 AM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm currently playing this over the sound system of my funeral home

♫♫ The Best for you....
From ColdChef's funeraa-aaals ♫♫

Man, I'd love to be a fly on the wall when someone finally notices :)
posted by pjern at 9:02 AM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


At the very least, this will give future indie films set in 90s K-Marts that extra degree of verisimilitude, and for that we can all be grateful.
posted by fifthrider at 9:12 AM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Someone needs do use this for some "techno" stuff.
Perhaps that chill space stuff that goes on and on where it is occasionally broken with some breathy female voice, but instead someone that sounds like Ward Cleaver drawing your attention to the blazers that are on sale.
posted by boilermonster at 9:12 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is amazing.

Excellent use of the "vaporwave" tag on the archive.org entries.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:20 AM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Going straight from an advertisement for a "goof-proof policy" on photo development into "No More I Love Yous" is the kind of hard left turn that makes my heart hurt.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:30 AM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Love this stuff. One of thee Internet's greatest triumphs is saving cultural refuse.
posted by PHINC at 9:54 AM on October 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


A few years ago, I found a bunch of VHS tapes of TV movies I recorded in the early 90s.

I was so excited to watch them for the commercials, until I realized that ~10-year-old me meticulously edited out every single one.
posted by segfaultxr7 at 9:59 AM on October 2, 2015 [25 favorites]


So on the Cartoon Exchange Torrent Darkweb you can trade and download video files called "timeshifts" (prob named after this but slightly different in concept/intent) which are recorded blocks of Saturday morning cartoons with all the commercials intact.
posted by griphus at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Fun should be affordable too!
posted by srboisvert at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2015


I figured I'd start with the October 1989 one. I'm amused that it seems that 4 out of every 5 of the announcer spots have to work in a mention of their "Entertainment and Lifestyle Consultant, Martha Stewart."
posted by radwolf76 at 10:08 AM on October 2, 2015


Timeshifts are wonderful. They help to get across the zeitgeist of a different time, help put you actually into a vanished mindset. Imagine hyperventilating then breathing nothing but seventies for two hours. To recreate that time in capsule inside your mind. Drugs don't offer that kind of experience.

Remember to come back up safely. Use a depressurization chamber or you might get nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream. No one wants to get the bends from exposure to Super Globetrotters.
posted by JHarris at 10:09 AM on October 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


Holy shit, I remember goddamn hating the Kmart looping music. It seemed like there were about 25 songs that were on loop... forever. I even made a website bitching about this back in 1995 and got legally threatened by Kmart. Yet somehow, I kind of want to give these tapes a listen to see if I remember all the songs still...
posted by lubujackson at 10:12 AM on October 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is so, so fantastic.

The Pharmacy one is a nice bite-sized intro and October 1990 seems like a good jumping in point for the longer tapes. Thanks, griphus!
posted by laze at 11:00 AM on October 2, 2015


Choice muzak version of Doobie Brothers' "What A Fool Believes" at the 21 minute mark on the October 1990 cassette.
posted by porn in the woods at 11:52 AM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Choice muzak version of Doobie Brothers' "What A Fool Believes"

Oh that's amazing. The closest that song comes to rocking out is the line that starts "Sheeeee" (at 22:05), and I was getting ready for the mildest of head-bangs, and it's just drowned in the mushiest of synth-violins. It's like they take a chicken and not only do they de-bone it, they also partially dissolve it in acid to remove any structural fibers.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


In my younger days, my friends and I fetishized K Mart's Kresge Background Music LPs as a sonic totem for the vanished idealized retail landscapes of the late '50s and early '60s. I never gave a thought to the music that was, just then, still playing in K Marts across the land, probably because I was a teenager working in retail myself, and the in-store music of the '80s and '90s felt bloodless and contemporary, like listening to smooth jazz on the Weather Channel. But nostalgia rolls around to reclaim all things, so here we are.
posted by mykescipark at 12:08 PM on October 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Amazing. I worked at a Laneco in NJ during the early 90s. The in-store music came from satellite, I think, because it would fade out during a thunderstorm...? But does that even make sense? Did they have such a thing then?
In any case the music sunk in, and I recently started a playlist with the songs I remember:
TRUE - Spandau Ballet
I Just Died in Your Arms - The Shadows
Forever Young - Alphaville
I Think We're Alone Now - Tiffany
The Promise - When In Rome
How Deep is Your Love - BeeGees
Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now - Starship
Babe - Styx
I Want to Know What Love Is - Foreigner
Don't You (Forget About Me) - Simple Minds
La Isla Bonita - Madonna
Wicked Game - Chris Isaak
Smooth Operator - Sade
posted by joecacti at 12:38 PM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


oh my god

this is truly incredible
posted by rebent at 1:10 PM on October 2, 2015


Imagine hyperventilating then breathing nothing but seventies for two hours.
1973 World Series Game 1 broadcast complete with ads
posted by clorox at 2:08 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is so much win. In college I worked at KMart from 87-90. Thanks griphus!
posted by readyfreddy at 2:09 PM on October 2, 2015


Imagine hyperventilating then breathing nothing but seventies for two hours

If you haven't seen the UK version of Life On Mars you are in for a treat.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:48 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


It might be helpful to listeners to know a few things about Kmart at this time period. First off, this was still the era of "Muzak". Big licensing fees and major trouble if you didn't abide by them. As such, the first half of the tapes are straight up Muzak-style music. Piped in to each store via Kmart's own "radio station", which I'm pretty sure was via satellite. (our store viewed training videos via Kmart's satellite too, but we were a district manager headquarters, so YMMV). Eventually, though, that style of elevator music fell out of fashion (15 yrs prior lol) and they started putting has-been pop tunes on the tapes. I can only remember a few tunes (until I go back and listen to this treasure trove), but Human League's "I'm only human" track sticks out in my mind. Sure, it was seven years old or so by then, but as teen/20something kids, this was like the biggest breath of fresh air imaginable in those dusty derelict about-to-be-eaten-by-walmart stores. (everything was still quite 1970s, but it was 1990).

As many of you have noticed, Martha Stewart had an endorsement deal with KMart at the time. I stocked her shelves regularly. Kate Smith too, I think. (or was that Sears?). It was the beginning of celebrity endorsements. And to our minds at the time, a way Kmart was trying to freshen up a bit to compete with the elephant in the room: Sam Walton.

Kmart was still a mighty juggernaut at the time (but waning). Their CEO was still some bigshot who wore cufflinks and had a perma-tan, and no doubt, regularly visited the golf course. Kmart, much to employee's chagrin, was still financing a god damn RACE CAR. (Formula 1? Can't recall). Even as young kids with a side job, we found this preposterous and extravagant. (we could also see the writing on the wall for Kmarts future in the 80s… even as just dumb kids).

Kmart was already really behind the times back then. They had recently shuttered their old grocery stores (yes, they had grocery stores) or merged them into existing Kmarts (like my store). You still had to manually enter every single price on the cash register, from a pricetag that had been manually stuck there by a clerk. In a case of you get what you pay for, the stickers were often wrong. And worse yet, they also required a department number to be entered into the cash register before the price. (roughly 10 keystrokes per item?). So, what happens when you have no department number on the tag? or no tag at all? and a line 12 people deep? you make up a department number to keep things moving. (and maybe even make up a price if the tag is MIA). Well, folks, that's a recipe for disaster if you are using this data for INVENTORY. Oopsy. I'm not sure if Walmart was fully scannered yet, but I'd not be surprised. And definitely they had something more modern. (mind you, I was working at something of a "flagship" store too).

Then there were the sales. Yes, there were the (in)famous blue light specials. But, because of Walmart, the company had started to phase those out as tacky and old school. We still used them to clear out Xmas stuff in January, but seldom otherwise. Rather, the "in thing" at the time was the Sunday circular/sale in the newspaper. So, every Sunday morning, we'd be frantically changing signs on everything in the store that was on sale (tons of stuff) And worse, applying stickers with the price gun to everything on sale. This never went off without a hitch (what do you want when you run a store on high schoolers). This was the source of infinite calls over the loudspeaker for "price check on aisle 6". And also why you, the poor customer, often had to wait.

But lest this sound like a long rant of complaints, I will also add that Kmart was quite nice as an employer. First off, we were paid time and a half for every holiday we worked. AND for every Sunday we worked. This meant that a nice 8 hr shift (say what? 8 whole hours?! in retail? it happened! even for kids!) would get you the hefty sum of 12 hours of work. Like a third of my paycheck for one day of work. Every single week. Beautiful. They also had a (now) liberal break policy. Work between 3-5 hours, one 15 min break. Work up to 7 hours, two 15 min breaks. Work 8 hours, two 15 min breaks and a half hr for lunch. They had separate break rooms for men and women (what?) and the women's was much nicer with couches and a TV. You could smoke in the breakroom (half the employees smoked… easily half). And our store was unusual in that we also sold beer and wine. We also had a "restaurant" in the store like many did at the time. But this wasn't just nachos and slushees. You could get weird stuff like Chicken Fried Steak with green beans.

Then come payday, one of the weirdest traditions they still had in place… you would go to the store every other Friday morning before it opened. We'd meet in the restaurant for a very short "biweekly meeting" that lasted 15 minutes. Then, we'd line up at the HR lady's table and pick up our paychecks… IN CASH. An envelope of cash. No running to the bank. Cold hard cash, including the coins.

So, for me, Kmart of the late 80s and early 90s was a case of bestoftimes/worstoftimes. Thanks again for posting this. Major nostalgia for me. I was sad to see my local store shutter last year. But they just never caught up to Sam. And made tons of disastrous business decisions. But such is life.
posted by readyfreddy at 3:13 PM on October 2, 2015 [53 favorites]


For '70s Ephemera, one of my favorite experiences was watching a version of The Star Wars Holiday Special... WITH THE ORIGINAL COMMERCIALS. Can't find an unedited version on YouTube, but hey! Here are all the commercials!
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:24 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


My dad was an assistant manager at Kmart for about 20 years, starting in the 1980s. Because he didn't want to move us around as often as assistant managers moved around when they were on the store > district > regional > etcetera manager track, he negotiated that he'd stay at the same store so that we could live in the same area and go to the same schools. And the place we lived in for the first decade of my life was about two blocks from the store, which meant that we shopped at Kmart a lot. And this is total "wayback machine" material for me.

I'm gonna send my dad this link, see what he remembers.
posted by TrishaLynn at 3:37 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm currently playing this over the sound system of my funeral home.

Attention K-Mart mourners!...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:20 PM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


You could get weird stuff like Chicken Fried Steak with green beans.

i remember liking their mashed potatoes :P

And this is total "wayback machine" material for me.

brewster kahle ftw!
posted by kliuless at 12:34 AM on October 3, 2015


> They also had a (now) liberal break policy. Work between 3-5 hours, one 15 min break. Work up to 7 hours, two 15 min breaks. Work 8 hours, two 15 min breaks and a half hr for lunch.

I'm pretty sure this used to be the law, at least in California.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:21 AM on October 3, 2015


CHICKEN FRIED STEAK ATEN'T WEIRD
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:25 AM on October 3, 2015


You can almost smell the cheap plastic odor while listening to these.
posted by mikeburg at 8:01 AM on October 3, 2015


I'm pretty sure this used to be the law, at least in California.
I think the law was 10 min breaks, but if you were not an ass to actually gave 15 min.
Worked at a place the had the 10 min where you could not leave your work station till the bell rang and had the be there before it rang again 10 min later, so you really had about a 7 min break, and they charged for coffee.
posted by boilermonster at 9:42 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know about the length of the breaks, but the cut-off number of hours worked for 1 vs. 2 vs. 2 plus lunch are exactly the same as I remember being told were the legal requirement. But I guess like boilermonster notes, employers could still manage to be jerks about it.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:47 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The tricky part about breaks in stores like Kmart, and one thing that most stores do not abide by, is that when the store closed you typically had to stick around for another hour to clean up the place, close your cash drawer, etc. Even longer around the holidays. Well, guess what… that might have the effect of putting your daily hours past another milestone for breaks… breaks that you DID NOT receive. I don't know if this still goes on today, but it was definitely a problem back then when I worked there.
posted by readyfreddy at 10:09 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


mykescipark: "In my younger days, my friends and I fetishized K Mart's Kresge Background Music LPs "

I've never even met you, and yet you've given me an early Christmas present!
posted by Bugbread at 8:47 PM on October 4, 2015


People seem to love K-Mart.

That's K-Mart. Pure, un-cut K-Mart
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:54 PM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


like listening to smooth jazz on the Weather Channel

I got your ephemera right here! (Also, here. Also, here. Previously)
posted by en forme de poire at 9:28 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are we seguing in this direction now? Because I have looked into the heart of the void and achieved 90s cable enlightenment....
posted by JHarris at 9:40 AM on October 14, 2015


Has this been linked yet? I scanned through and didn't find it. All Things Considered talks to the guy who uploaded the tapes.
posted by JHarris at 9:46 AM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


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