July 19, 2006



Record store tales, edited for clarity and/or length:

Blackmail Is My Life: "I worked for more than two years as a clerk at a snooty video store here in Philly. It was miserable not only because of the irregular hours and the working conditions—including the pay—but also because the customers' needs were so unpredictable. Some wanted their taste in film to be validated, while others wished to be punished and ridiculed. It was an exhausting job, not unlike working as a dom in an S&M dungeon.

Customers' expectations were not only that you would serve them like a slave, but also that you'd be cordial enough to avail them of your formal education, and your informal education as a video store clerk (free lessons in auteur theory, etc.). The problem is that they often didn't want an opinion at all; many times they were just looking for a sparring partner, and were either too lonely to find one or felt that their intimate friends weren't up to the task. And these are just the aspects of the job that don't incorporate any aspect of waged work to begin with—viz. I haven't really mentioned my bosses in this formulation.

[Here's where I mention something about "Eroica" and how there are too many bourgeois individuals. How can they all think they're the only one who wants to rent "Pirates of the Carribbean" when the sequel came out last week?]"

Mike Doughty: "Sullen record store clerks are disarmed easily by your being unafraid to ask questions about music you don't know about. It unnerves them that you don't buy the notion that a lack of knowledge is inferiority, and that you're actually trying to learn stuff by ASKING."

XXXChange: "I think many record store clerks may be frustrated musicians or artists. Resentment towards the customer might really stem from the fear that the customer might not recognise the clerk's genius. The clerk says "You haven't heard _____!!!?????" while silently thinking "How could they ever appreciate MY music if they havent heard _____."

Maybe this is wrong, though, because you hear the same exclamation from record collectors who have no artistic ambitions. This happens with collectors of all different genres but mainly, in my experience, collectors of indie rock and rare funk records. Collectors like to flaunt their knowledge of obscure/rare records as a badge of how intelligent/cool they are. This name dropping has more to do with their ego than any desire to point out something the other person might enjoy. Music nerds can be really unpleasant people, I guess. They also make up nearly all my friends."

Amar: Most of the interactions I've had at record stores have been agreeable. Ron Benway—who ran Benway Bop records in Las Vegas for many years before retreating to L.A.—was one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. I guess owning a store and just working there are two different things, though. If you're making minimum wage, don't get tips and are an opinionated music nerd to begin with, it would be more surprising if you WERE nice to customers than the other way around."

Posted by Sasha at July 19, 2006 10:12 AM | TrackBack