What Else Is Killing Record Stores? Snooty Staffers

It’s funny in High Fidelity; not so funny in real life.

And for all the reasons that physical retailers are going extinct, the snooty staffer is unfortunately still one. Here’s an impassioned comment that popped up recently in the Guardian, one that firmly challenges the ‘hagiography’ surrounding physical record stores.

I am growing tired of your constant hagiography of record shops. I have been buying records for 30 years and since the day I foolishly asked for a copy of ‘Love Song’ by The Damned “with Dracula on the cover” (it was lead singer Dave Vanian), I have been sneered at, patronised, ignored and looked down on – not any easy feat when you are 6ft 3in tall.

In contrast to the mystical palaces depicted by your writers, I have found record shops to be untidy and dysfunctional, and the patrons to be accordingly surly, arrogant and disingenuous. Opening hours are obscure and changeable. Prices are vague and often improvised (always upwards – and there are always one or two choice records tantalisingly on view behind the counter, but which are heartbreakingly “not for sale”). Boxes are left unsorted and the racks of vinyl packed so tightly and inaccessibly that I have been left with the gnarled hands of a farm labourer and permanent bad back.

I have now found a record shop that is always open, reasonably priced, well ordered and infinitely varied. It’s called the internet.

Mark Goodall
Whitby, North Yorkshire

21 Responses

  1. Jeff Robinson

    Hilarious view from a punk, but simply not true. This same topic was eluded to in a New York Times article a few weeks back, something akin to those with a critical opinion are left behind in todays internet world.

    Mom and pop retailers here in the United States are still an imperative necessity for an indie band. Myriad promotional opportunities abound for bands when considering the possibilities for in-store appearances. Here in the midwest there are several great stores for that.

  2. radiowaves

    Geez, I guess we must be spoiled here in New England where we have the awesome Newbury Comics chain of record stores. Nothing but polite and helpful staff. I’ve been shopping there for 25 years and can’t remember a single bad experience.

  3. Maxwellian

    Hey, I love the old-fashioned things like anyone else: horse-and-buggy rides in central park, a big band jazz concert, and the old play in a dusty theater without any speakers to amplify the acting… etc etc.

    But then saying we have to SAVE these things?

    you lost me there…

  4. brooklyn habitat

    Sad but true but I agree that it does depend on the store and the specific shift. But you are guaranteed no snootiness online but then again not much soul either. Your choice,.

  5. Visitor

    I love discovering music via the internet and have been download since Napster debuted. However, I will NEVER get sick of PHYSICAL STORES. In addition to “collecting” MP3s, I’m first and foremost a vinyl collector. I find this guy’s point of view rather wimpy. I live in LA and while there’s a couple unfriendly stores, the majority are operated by interesting and passionate people. I love chatting with staff, hanging around other music lovers and getting out of the house. The internet will never replace good ole fashioned human connections. Not for me at least. People like this guy make me worried about humanity. Will we all just sit in blank rooms someday and never leave our cells?Sadly, it seems like that’s who we’ve become.

    • Visitor

      Btw, I’m not an old fart. I’m 28 years old. I grew up on punk rock and thank god there was a physical punk store that I discovered music at and met new people. And even though the employees weren’t always the nicest, I didn’t get my feelings hurt like this pansy ass. Traveling for an hour via bus, boat and foot just to touch dusty Black Flag records was all I cared about. I didn’t need someone to talk nice to me.

      In his defense, I agree there are some asshole record store employees. But this guy makes it sound like it’s the majority. Simply not true.

      • Old Fart

        C´mon guys. Digital music news? What could be less digital. This topic is for preservationists the very, very specially interested.

  6. @SheerZed

    Good customer service is essential. Rough Trade in London has great staff and regularly made excellent recommedations around my purchaces. I grew up going to Acorn Music in Yeovil. Musicians that worked there educated and enlightened me. As for physical being unimportant…it’s equally as important as digital. It’s the back-up disc, duh!

  7. That Retail Chick

    As a veteran music retailer of 14 years, that has also worked with others that have owned music stores for longer than that, I have to reply to this topic. This cannot be how we will be remembered.

    Ok, yes, at some point transition to digital is going to happen with every customer, however NOTHING BEATS going inside of a record store. Our shelves were always stocked, and when we did not have what a customer needed, we offered special orders that would come back within one week and they loved that. I worked for 3 different companies (the store I worked in had been purchased 3 times) and the last was Value Music Concepts. They (the owners and corporate office staff) had nothing but sincere love for each and every customer that shopped in every store they owned! Customer service was a must and the only standard was that it be legendary…no questions asked and mistakes in that area were very very very minimal. But I do not even think they had to say that. The employees (some of which used to own their store) loved the customers that shopped with them. Most of us had seen children grow from babies, marriages end in divorce, embraced customers that lost loved ones and needed music for that time.

    We all had provided soundtracks to millions of lives and I guarantee you, the process was much better than the one offered on spotify. Music retailers originated that process. It’s personal, intimate, and cannot be replicated. There is a trust factor between the music retailer and the customer that is far better than the “Listeners Also Bought” section on your Itunes store page.

    The people who worked in those stores not only loved music, they loved to introduce new music to people and help those that were tying to connect with old memories.

    We had an older guy come in once looking for “So In Love”. The one written by Cole Porter. Now you would have to realize that I worked in a strictly urban store in the heart of Atlanta, GA. He had been to Walmart, Best Buy, and FYE and he was upset because he said they “don’t know nothin ’bout no damn music”. We were his last resort and he found us by accident. I was off that day, but one of the sales associates (a young girl from the inner city that was about 22 years old who had worked there since she was 17) looked on the computer, searched all of the many avenues we had and could not find it either. She called me (on my day off) and asked me to help with the search for this really old guy. Luckily, in addition to Master P, my Bad Boy Collection, and Young Jeezy, I am also a die hard jazz standards music collector. He ended up special ordering the soundtrack to Delovely. I was there when he came to pick it up the following week. He was very thankful and told me about his wife, who passed and how they liked to listen to music and “So In Love” was one of their favorite songs. We opened up the CD and played in the store and I could see him remembering her as the song played.

    Corny, I know. But that, it what happens in record stores. I am sorry for this guys experience. He should have visited Sound Shop in the West End Mall in Atlanta when it was open. He may have still shopped for some things on the internet, but he would have never stopped coming to see us.

    Missing my four walls,

    That Retail Chick

  8. John Paul

    I bought a bicycle at a bike shop, and the person who selling one to me was rude, patronizing, and made me feel six inches tall (I’m 6’3″, so that’s a hard thing to do). I have found something easier than trying to purchase a bike: WALKING.

  9. Visitor

    Hold on, did you really just base this post on one comment on a Guardian article? What a joke.

  10. @superjaimee

    Once a true believer, I gave up on my record store when I realized it was a one-way relationship.

  11. pompous

    it does happen with small shops -Play De Record in toronto has to have the most pompous and ultra-rude staff in the world. after 3 successive bad experiences with staff and manager/owner, i called them on it. there answer was something to the effect of “people expect that” – as if being stuck-up was a good thing. never went back, spent lots of money elsewhere.

  12. Sad Reality

    The peolple working in record stores can be as rude as they want. They are getting paid peanuts. Do you want them to kiss your arse for $10/hour no benefits? C’mon

  13. @tedbeidler

    There are some great record stores out there, but on the whole I think this guy has a valid point..

  14. Naughty by Nurture

    Actually historically there adaptive advantages to being rude to customers though in this context, it would be outdated. Consider the crowded Miami club, where hopeful-patrons wearing $250 shirts claw to get in with desperation. They are pooped on by the rudest bouncers imaginable! And that makes them want to get in more! Same with pompous restaurants…

    Though beware it’s a tricky animal to tame correctly my business magnate friends.

  15. mdti

    I would agree with the article content but not necessarily the way he sees it.

    The staff appears ignorant and careless because they are less performant than a search on the internet. That’s what I experienced when looking at music in the style of some great guitarist. For the seller, it was just “heavy metal guitar shredder” but that’s not it at all… . The guy was more than useless and I had to leave with the “hmm, ok, i’ll look on the net to find more”.

    I am sure the guy was neither a douch or a dumb person. he was just a guy, as in “human being”. completely outdated in terms of result compared to the internet and access to forums, articles, reviews and such.

    And even if he could have told me “sure, check this dude, and that one, and that other one too”, i would have not bought without a quick ear to some tracks… which is less and less possible in shops (i don’t have any shop nearby anymore, just media stores like virgin and equivalent local ones).

    So why not go in a store to get physical media, just make sure you know what you are going to buy….

    🙂

  16. golfingdude

    In Southern California I can’t even think of one functioning “record store” which might be a misnomer…are we talking actual record like in vinyl??? I am an ‘ole fart’ that grew up when the 45 was the most popular way to build your music collection. And in those halycon days the stores were mostly small, individually owned, with most having some kind of free incentives like buy 10 get one free. Than Music City opened on the Sunset Strip and record collecting went from the 45 singles to the 33&1/3 albums. Enough nostalgia for now; but music executives killed their own industry not the fans of music or the occasionally self-righteous music store employee. The death of public radio via the specializing of musical format, stations bound to playing only one genre of music, ultimately killed modern music’s ability to be such an intregated part of the social conscience. Perhaps a grand overstatement, but think about this, in my day I could turn on the radio in my car, at home, or a transitor radio, and with out changing the channel, I could hear Patsy Cline, The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Carpenters, The Who, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Otis Redding, Frank Sinatra, and hundreds of other artists. Now maybe I didn’t like some of the artists but at least I was exposed to them and the huge variety of great music being made in different genres. Yes I am an ole fart but I still love my music and the discovering of artists that can make music that transcends the American Idol mentality of musical acumen.

  17. cipher

    My son gave me strict instructions when I was visiting the US to purchase an obscure LP. I asked at a Boston record store if they had it. Never heard of it I was told…not in the catalogue. However,if there is a person who would know it is our storeman Ben. Ben was called to the counter told the name of the LP.Out of Bens mouth came the complete details.I was amazed as were the staff…then a one of them said..”we don’t need a catalogue we have Ben. Six weeks later the LP arrived in Australia…It dosen’t get any better than that. Peter, Paul and Mary’s hit “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”… should now be “Where Have All The Record Stores Gone”.

    cipher.

  18. Visitor

    All y’all talking about how great your record store staffers are certtainly aren’t dealing with college town hipsters behind the counter.