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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Classic Overheard at the Record Store

posted by on January 30 at 10:22 AM


I witnessed the following scene while running some errands at Sonic Boom in Fremont:

An older, 50 to 60ish gentlemen enters the store and loudly asks, “Do you have any Kenny G?”

A record-store employee checks through the stock via computer and (clearly trying to be polite) answers, “No, not right now. I’m sorry.”

The older gentleman walks down the aisle and starts skimming through some CDs before he turns to another employee and asks, “Which Rush album is the most musical?

The employee clearly has no idea how to respond (although he almost laughs), overcome by the sheer nonsense of the statement. He (the record store employee) tries to offer a bit more information on which are the most technically impressive and accomplished of Rush’s discography while the old man tries to clarify what he meant by “musical.” The old man offers helpful descriptors like “more orchestrated” and “you know.”

After perusing the aisles quietly again, the old man asks, “Is this where the Billy Joel is at? He’s really good that Billy Joel.” An employee then shows him the proper place to find Billy Joel’s Glass Houses.

Now, it seems too clichéd to have really happened. This scenario with the clueless old man and the record-store hipster is the sort of thing you see in bad teen movies where one of the main characters (who never gets laid) is all edgy and into underground music and has to deal with this sort of zany crap all the time. It’s also the perfect setup for another sort of well-tread scene: the know-it-all record-store employee snarkily dismissing the tastes and ignorance of a clueles customer whose tastes and values are impugned as the equivalent of eating shit straight out of the toilet.

But throughout this genre exercise, the guys at Sonic Boom attempted to be as respectful of the man’s questions and questionable taste, even if at times they couldn’t disguise their confusion with the situation. The employees I talked to thought the guy couldn’t be real—that he had to be a secret shopper or something. Maybe a performance artist? The most likely explanation is that this was just a clueless old man and some clichés are clichés for a reason.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see which Rush album the old man ended up buying.

RSS icon Comments


I hope it was Presto.

Posted by Levislade | January 30, 2007 10:35 AM

I'd have to go with 'Moving Pictures' myself.

Posted by trent moorman | January 30, 2007 12:37 PM

as a former employee of easy street, i have to vouch for this kind of experience happening *all the time* (especially in a touristy area like lower queen anne). it *is* hard to keep a straight face sometimes, but if you want to give good customer service, sometimes you just have to eat your laugh and hand them the john tesh cd they want so badly.

sharing stories like this amongst ourselves was one of the most fun parts of the job, and often customers would be in as much awe as us when events like this happened, which, like i said, was all the time.

Posted by alan | January 30, 2007 3:03 PM

When I worked at Everyday Music, a customer walked in and asked with a straight face, "Do you carry CDs?"

Working retail is the most efficient method of manufacturing misanthropes.

Posted by segal | January 30, 2007 3:46 PM


Posted by elswinger | January 30, 2007 4:21 PM

Everyone always brings up High Fidelity in the context of these kinds of "oblivious square/know-it-all hipster" situations, but the old Kids In The Hall sketch with Bruce McCullough and Kevin McDonald takes the cake...whereupon Bruce's character convinces Kevin's to ditch the Depeche Mode, steal a car, and listen to the Doors' Morrison Hotel. The next guy walks in asking for the new Depeche Mode and Kevin yells "SUUUUCKS!"

Oh, and 'Hemispheres'.

Posted by laterite | January 30, 2007 4:44 PM

back in 1993, my first job at sub pop was at the teeny tiny sub pop mega mart, which is now just a memory. a few days into our first week, a man came in and was browsing the sub pop catalog we had displayed on the wall.

he picked up a copy of nirvana's bleach and i took the opportunity to tell him all about the record -- how it was done for $600 and some change, where it had been recorded, and that we still had a couple of vinyl copies kicking around.

i tried to sincerely deliver the spiel, without sarcasm. dude looked like he didn't know the difference between soundgarden and pearl jam and i figured his next question would be do you know where kurt lives? (an everyday occurance).

you can imagine how mortified i was when he introduced himself. it was jack endino, and he could not have been kinder about me trying to sell him a record he had helped make.

Posted by kerri harrop | January 30, 2007 5:24 PM

The same thing happened to me today at the Bothell Regional Library. A woman with what appeared to be The Down Syndrome strolled in and loudly told the reference librarian ("You're my favorite because you give me a hard time," she said to the librarian) that she had a request. "I NEED THE WORKS OF PAUL REUBENS. (BEAT) WORKS AND FILMWORKS," she said.

She also spelled "Reubens" correctly, when asked. She was visibly thrilled to learn he was in six episodes of "Murphy Brown."

We're married now.

Posted by horat!osanzser!f | January 30, 2007 5:51 PM

i second #5, 2112 is pretty much the most musical

Posted by kwab | January 31, 2007 9:38 AM

That guy in Sonic Boom was me, in costume. It most certainly was!

Posted by Joy Von Spain | January 31, 2007 2:46 PM

Christopher Hong

What is your reasoning behind calling this person, who has his own musical tastes (and life), a "clueless old man"?

So what if the man likes Kenny G, Rush, Billy Joel and whoever else you mentioned? So what if he asked the clerk: “Which Rush album is the most musical?”.

He was counting on that employee (which is part of their job) to help him pick out the best Rush album plain and simple.

I guess you think you're better than him because he doesn't "know his stuff"?

What do you like and will I think you're a "clueless young man" because I don't like it?

I know I'll most likely catch hell from most of you for this post but calling an individual who has his own musical tastes and own life a "clueless old man" is unfair and downright mean.

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