Retail Therapy?

Apparently I “lost” two new posts from our friend Nick Haines. Lost somewhere on the seventh level of Dante’s email Hell, I suppose. Gent that he is, Nick re-sent me the two posts, the first of which I will post…NOW! Enjoy.

Record Shops.

Working in a record shop is as close as many of us ever get to being ‘in the music business’. There are the big chains (Editor’s note: not so much here in the States anymore, Nick) and there are the small independents. Each has its own merits, and demerits, but both rely on one thing: staff.

These denizens, when they’re not nursing a hangover or an ill-defined grudge against humanity, do their very best to help the music buying public. The trouble is that the public seem to want to make things as difficult as possible for all concerned.

A record shop assistant needs to have good musical knowledge, the patience of a saint and the mind reading abilities of Derren Brown. For instance, customers mishear song and band names, sometimes to hilarious effect, the member of said staff having to make sense of the nonsensical and the non existent. I have been variously asked for “When a man loves a woman” by Perspex Sledge (instead of Percy Sledge), a lady who seemed to think that Lou Reed’s former band had something to do with curtains, hence her asking for The Pelmet Underground. Spandau Ballet became Spandex Valley but the best, and the one that caused most head scratching was the lady who asked for Two Polar Bears. She was quite adamant that this was the title. We assured the woman that there was no such album, but she refused to believe us. It was a quiet-ish day and relishing a challenge all staff was asked to try and decipher this odd request. It was one of the most junior staff members who haltingly suggested that what the woman may be wanting was Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. She saw no humor in her misapprehension, purchased said album and stalked away without saying thank you. Maybe it had something to do with the gales of laughter emanating from behind the scenes.

Misunderstandings aren’t restricted to band names of course; there was the gentleman with a broad Scottish accent who on a busy Saturday asked for Jumanji. He was politely guided to the video section and shown the requested title. He became restless and said; “No, Jumanji!” It was pointed out patiently and politely that this was, indeed, Jumanji; the gentleman seemed on the point of apoplexy and shouted; “No..AreJuTheManager?!”

Sometimes a customer’s enquiry is so bizarre there’s nothing much you can do apart from give a witty retort. Three Japanese tourists came into the shop and asked for the war film Tora Tora Tora. For those unfamiliar, it’s the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into the war. I lead them to the relevant section and handed them the video. They examined it closely then shook their heads. “No,” said one, “We’re looking for the one with the different ending.” I’m afraid that all I could do was burst into laughter and ask if they meant the version where the Japanese won the war. Fortunately my witticism passed them by.

On the whole, in fact almost exclusively, staff do their very best to help. Every now and then however the slings and arrows of outrageous customers becomes too much. A somewhat belligerent older gentleman pushed his way to the front of the queue brandishing a cd case and demanded to know if it was the new album by Irish middle of the road duo Foster & Allan. The staff member, who shall remain anonymous (wink), assured the man that it was indeed Foster & Allen, in spite of the fact that he was holding Metallica’s Black album. I really hope he had his stereo turned up loud when he got home to play it.

Oh yeah…while we’re on the subject of shops…

Express checkouts are a good idea; 10 items, zoom through…excellent.

So why IS it that the stores always put the member of staff who has the IQ of a goldfish with learning disabilities on the till? If it’s not the goldfish it’s the member of staff who is suffering from RSI of the entire upper torso. You know the ones…they’re in a plastic neck brace and their arms are swathed in pink elasticized bandages.

Suggestion to Asda (Ed: ?) for a happier shopping experience. You have 2 express checkouts. This is good, but might I suggest the following refinement:

Checkout 1 will be exclusively for people with 1-10 items and who have their fiver or tenner readily to hand. Cash only.

Checkout 2 will be for the ‘others’. The others are the chancers who interpret 10 items as anything up to 30. They are the ones who deliberately pick only items that have no barcode. They are the ones who pack their bags slowly and then blink uncomprehendingly at the cashier’s request for payment, then search their pockets and bags for their purse/wallet. The ‘others’ are the ones who pay for a loaf of bread and a pint of milk with a debit/credit card. They are the ones who use their cards to scrape frost off the windscreen and clean out the budgie’s cage with and still expect the bloody thing to work…..I could go on but hopefully Asda/Walmart (Ed: “Ahhhhh, now I get it!) you see my point.

Express means faster…got it?