July 17, 2006



This piece in Sunday's Times about the graying, and disappearing, of record stores, set off several conversations, each of which ended with someone saying, give or take a qualifier, "Good fucking riddance."

I made friends hanging out at record stores. I enjoyed my bazillion hours of solitary digging. But for many, many people, record stores are the worst thing that ever happened to music. The people who work in them, give or take an educating angel, are terrifying. Even if you spend most of your waking hours hanging around and bonding with asshole clerks, your reward for this investment of time is receiving a treatment only slightly less hideous than that given to every other customer, all of them impossibly stupid and retrograde in the eyes of the employees. Working at a record store turns perfectly lovely people into misanthropic turds. I hated asking for music on my birthday because I knew my mother would have to go, without armor, into a shop where someone would be unnecessarily mean to her. I also suspected that this act of minor sadism would be the clerk's primary form of joy during the work day.

I am guessing, unscientifically, that the internets is a much less terrifying place for people to shop—you don't have to apologize for wanting a Ralph Towner record, missing one of the Sub Pop 7-inches, or not understanding why Papoose is such a big deal.

Holler back with tales of agreeance or disagreeance. I would love to read a solid theory of what exactly causes record store clerks to become bouillon cubes of disdain. I have had several service sector jobs: waiter, counter-person, telemarketing phoning person, messenger, pizza-making sub-person, a couple of others (one involving the killing of weeds with a fluorescent yellow liquid). Though these jobs often made me, and the people I worked with, tired and angry, none of them made us want to ritually humiliate our customers for trying to buy what we sold. For instance, waiters have much longer and more potentially dicey interactions with patrons than record store clerks do. People buying records don't, on average, hang out for an hour and ask you to do ten different things. Is it the low pay? The lack of tips as incentive to be pleasant? The working conditions? The turf wars of identity that popular music embodies?

No need to remind me that Nick Hornby wrote a book called "High Fidelity."

Posted by Sasha at July 17, 2006 03:23 PM | TrackBack