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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Real Life: Unfortunately Still Not Like the Movies

posted by on December 5 at 13:30 PM

Yesterday I was at Sonic Boom, flipping through the used vinyl, when exactly the thing I had always been hoping to witness in an independent record store became a distinct possibility. I heard the door open and someone come in, and the guy at the counter welcome them to the store. The customer’s response:

“Do you have any Hannah Montana?”

Ding dong! If ever there was a perfect opportunity for a jaded indie record clerk to let a customer know in an obnoxious and condescending tone that there was no possibility that a record store like Sonic Boom, which sells primarily music by musicians, not corporations, would ever carry Disney-brand child sugar pop, and that it was insulting for her to come into his music store and ask for something that could never really be classified as “music.” I just kept playing the scene from High Fidelity in my head over and over again, where Jack Black chews out the guy who comes into the store to buy a cheesy pop record for his daughter. That’s every record clerk’s dream, right? To totally stick it to some oblivious parent who wanders into a den of pretension and asks, “Will you please make fun of me for the following reasons?”

To no real surprise, the clerk was nothing but nice and courteous, looked in the database to see if the store had it (which of course they didn’t and never did) and offered to special order it for the woman. There was no condescending back talk. There was no pretentious rant. What a wasted opportunity. If only the same thing could have happened while I was flipping through records at Singles Going Steady I might have had a better chance of getting the scene I wanted.

RSS icon Comments

1

The record store you're gonna see that happen in is the one called "5 Years Ago When Low Brow Snobs Still Used Music To Define Themselves"

Posted by Your Earbuds Are Showing | December 5, 2007 2:31 PM
2

You are a tool.

Posted by NaFun | December 5, 2007 4:45 PM
3

whoa dude. any good independent business worth its salt knows that you stay in business with good customer service. no business should be a "den of pretension." your fantasy kind of makes me ill.

Posted by angela garbes | December 5, 2007 4:54 PM
4

Hell, I would've been hoping for the same thing. I've often considered going in and asking for some random record, just to see if it would illicit that response.

Posted by kathleen turner overdrive | December 5, 2007 5:06 PM
5

Well, the record store in "High Fidelity" was going out of business because Jack Black kept doing that sort of crap. But it did lead into the next scene where he asked if that one song invalidated Stevie Wonder's entire career.

Posted by kebabs | December 5, 2007 5:53 PM
6

The Singles Going Steady guys would probably just say "Sorry. We don't have Hannah Montana in stock" politely.

Jeff, if you want that experience, assuming the store hasn't changed in the past couple of years, head down to Portland's Jackpot Records once the floodwaters reside. You'll get that classic indie snobbery in no time, in a loud tone too.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 5, 2007 5:54 PM
7

if you were to tell me that happened at sonic boom i would stop going there. period. you have no idea what that woman listened to. you have no idea who she was buying that for. you have no idea if it was for a kid who already owned records by tegan and sarah or alanis morisette. or herself.

who cares what people like or don't. what's cool to one person, is another persons crap.

i have to agree with #'s 1, 3, and 6. and possibly 2.

this is the reason there is no orpheum records anymore. eye-rolling smugness is not a cool or hip thing. being nice and staying open - longevity, is the way to go.

Posted by terry miller | December 5, 2007 6:12 PM
8

Record store snark can bite me. I've yet to encounter a retail kid with attitude that even knows what the fuck their talking about.. kids that play rock and roll dress-up and still don't know John Du Cann from John DuCann... zip it, kids!

Russ and Janet were always polite, Tim was always eager to suggest something, even Al would keep it shut to make a sale. Good for the guy at Sonic Boom, and leave the eye-rolling to the video store clerks.

Posted by Dougsf | December 5, 2007 6:15 PM
9

This sort of scene used to play out in my hometown's cool indie record store all the time. The owner was a former punk rock "star" who also owned a small label and wrote reviews in the local newsweekly. He was quite the petty tyrant, and delighted in mocking those he thought weren't up to his standards of cool.

This was before people could get music so easily over the internet. That store was one of the only places to get even slightly obscure music in that town, so they had a lock on a certain audience. I'm betting stores like that are mostly out of business now.

Posted by flamingbanjo | December 5, 2007 6:46 PM
10

Thanks for the reminders on the importance of good customer service. I had no idea that acting like a dick to customers was a bad idea for business. Derp.

I don't want people to be treated poorly. Really I don't. Unless it plays out just like one of my favorite movies. Then I wouldn't mind seeing the lady in white shorts getting shot in the leg by Ving Rhames, watching the girl who looks like Felicity get impaled by the big bug, or seeing the lady who walks into an independent record store asking for Hannah Montana to get an inappropriate scolding. Call me a monster.

Posted by Jeff Kirby | December 5, 2007 7:03 PM
11

The woman asking about the CD was asking for her shy, 5 year old daughter standing right beside her. You forgot to mention that little bit of information, dude.

No stranger should ever be treated poorly, especially in front of their child, whether it's in public or in a LOCALLY-OWNED BUSINESS THAT DEPENDS ON THE COMMUNITY TO SURVIVE.

Sorry to burst your bubble. Come back and try talking to me for hours about some totally insignificant, but historically important band. I'll still be smiling long after you walk out the door.

Posted by Friendly Sonic Boom Record Store Clerk | December 5, 2007 7:24 PM
12

Friendly Sonic Boom Clerk, I would have done exactly the same thing. There's never any reason to sling attitude at someone who doesn't deserve it.

Even if they came in and said "I'm looking for this band, you've probably never heard of them. They're called Black Flag." (actual customer quote, minus the eye-rolling.)

Customer service brings them (and their lovely, lovely money) back to the store. Hopefully the next time they bring a friend.

Posted by former record store clerk | December 5, 2007 8:08 PM
13

OK, now you all have to do penance for making everyone read these comments. You must buy the Scharpling & Wurster compilation (WFMU radio comedy) that has "The Music Scholar" piece on it.

Jeff, you will laugh your brains out of your ears listening to this radio skit if this kinda High Fidelity type thing really interests you.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 5, 2007 9:26 PM
14

Your best bet for immediate snobbery in a record store in Seattle is to go to Golden Oldies and ask for the new T-Pain.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 5, 2007 9:30 PM
15

jeff you're such a prick.

Posted by great | December 6, 2007 12:25 AM
16

I'm in Fremont SB quite often (just this afternoon actually) and I've never seen a clerk there act hiper-than-thou or rude (unlike say, Stranger staffers). Which is probably one of the reasons SB has stayed afloat while so many other music stores have sunk.

Posted by sbfan | December 6, 2007 12:48 AM
17

y'all are having some serious trouble picking up on sarcasm...

Posted by reality | December 6, 2007 12:53 AM
18

I guess I'm just relieved to hear that Sonic Boom has hired some decent people in the past 5 years. I haven't set foot in any of their stores in about that long because the clerks at both the Fremont and Ballard locations were the EXACT stereotypes of the snobbish record store clerks you see in the movies every single time I went in either store.

Posted by bunnypuncher | December 6, 2007 12:58 AM
19

hey Doug @ 8, what's your beef with video clerks? Do they not check your movies out fast enough or give you enough hugs to earn the $8 an hour they're busting their asses for?

Posted by dude_bro | December 6, 2007 1:01 AM
20

hey! smugness may kill businesses! i remember feeling of smugness from the staff at frites (ari included).

i never understood why.

Posted by cochise. | December 6, 2007 8:54 AM
21

For me its not about wanting my business to do good. I couldn't give a shit, it's about treating people respectfully. If an asshole comes in and ask for some great Captain Beefheart record I'm probably going to be an asshole right back. If a nice person comes in and ask for fucking Kenny G then I'll probably be real nice back.

Posted by indie record store clerk | December 6, 2007 12:41 PM
22

#19 - no real beef, video stores are have just been - in my experience - more replete with eye-rolling clerks than anywhere else. Hey, I worked in an theater for years (that's half the money, twice the shit dumped on you!), I know the pain.

Posted by Dougsf | December 6, 2007 12:51 PM
23

ah, the age-old question, what came first, the douchbag or the stranger?

Posted by d | December 6, 2007 5:48 PM

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