Record Store Rant

I haven’t been my musical self lately and that has caused the lack of posts. Aside from work getting more intense, my trip to the local record store last Tuesday has really affected me and I have been a little jaded by it.

Last Tuesday (3/20), I made my morning trip to my local Newbury Comics in North Attleboro, MA. I get the weekly e-newsletter on Monday evenings so I had my shopping list ready for the new releases. The highlight release was the new Masterplan album, MK II, for a mere $9.99. Now that is an excellent advertised sale, I knew that I had to get there on time because the store may only stock a few copies.

I was in my car, in front of the entrance, at 9:45am. At 10, I was the first and only customer in the store. I headed straight to the New Release display… Masterplan. I looked under “Masterplan” in the ‘M’ section… new Masterplan. I checked under “Misc. M”…..nothing. So I went to the front counter and asked the salesperson if they had it in stock, this is at 10:01am. The salesperson said she would check and she looked on the computer. Sure enough, it was delivered to the store.

I shopped while the girl checked the shipment for the CD, I had picked up about $100 in CDs and DVDs on my list. The clerk came over after about ten minutes and she politely told me that the CD was delivered but it was on hold for someone already. At this point, I’m still the only customer in the store and the phone hasn’t rung since I’ve been in. Adding insult to injury was that this was the ONLY copy they received!

I’ve been a Newbury Comics customer for over ten years so I am very familiar with their store policies and the do not have a ‘hold’ policy. The only time they hold something for a customer is if the item you want is out of stock in the store you’re at, they call another to find it, and you go straight there right away. The chain doesn’t hold items in advance in order to give all customers a chance. I know this very well because I have tried to reserve/hold things in advance and have been denied the request. At the same time, they stores have extended me the coutesy of locating my item(s) in other locations and they have held them until I got there. Basically, they are flexible.

As the girl was checking the computer for other stores who received the CD, I noticed a pile of CDs at the end of the counter. I started to flip through them, and there it was, the Masterplan disc! On it was a Post-It note that read: “Employee Hold”. The salesgirl interrupted by telling me I had two options:

  1. Go to the Warwick, RI store 30 mins away (60 mins round trip) and they will hold it untill I arrive
  2. They will order it but there are only two copies in the warehouse so there is no guarantee that it will be delivered because it’s a first order/first serve basis. Also, it may take up to a week to get it so the sale price may not be valid.

I had things to do so driving an hour round trip was out of the question and ordering seemed futile. I thanked the salesgirl and continued browsing. I continued to shop but I felt disappointed because the main reason for the trip was the new Masterplan album. After another 20 mins, I put all of the other CDs and DVDs back on the shelf and I walked out buying nothing.

This might make me sound child-ish but I went for a certain CD, was the only one there, and got shut-out by an employee. I was given some other options but they weren’t as convenient as my original option, so I passed. Again, maybe a little child-ish but this has happened three other times this year. This was the fourth time I had been the first one in the door for a new release and an employee had the only copy on hold. I’ve worked in Retail since I was 15 yrs old and I know the golden rule: the customer comes first. Most companies do not allow employees to hold items aside, the employees are bound by the same rules as customers. An email to their Customer Service dept confirmed this is the policy for all Newbury locations.

It’s a week and a half later and I still haven’t picked up the new Masterplan, the shop hasn’t re-stocked it, and I haven’t spent a dime in any Newbury Comics store. So where do I go from here? Buy online where I can get it at various websites but for $5 more at the least? Wait for the shop to re-stock and pay possibly $6-$7 more for regular price? This is where the frustration comes in. Years ago, there was a “mom & pop” record store that stocked multiple copies of every new release, even Japanese imports. The store knew it’s customers and heavily stocked Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, AOR, and Classic Rock artists and releases. When I walked into that store, I always got what I went there for. Very rarely did I ever leave without a new release. Unfortunately, that local store closed down years ago.

My Tuesday routine at Newbury Comics has worked successfully ever since. Most of the time, I get what I was looking for. I have only been beaten by other customers a few times, and that was because I overslept! Most days, I am the one beating out other customers for that single copy. It’s this “employee hold” situation that has thrown me off, someone is beating me at my own game but not following the rules. What really bothers me most is that they advertise the new album, give it a superb sale price, and then they stock one copy per store. What if there are more people out there like me? Shouldn’t they stock more copies at the beginning of the sale? If 1000 people received the e-newsletter and 1% (10 people) went to the North Attleboro Newbury Comics for Masterplan, then they lose the potential business of 10 customers. The business logic astounds me. I understand that Masterplan is not as big as Gwen Stefani but asking to stock 2 or 3 extra copies on the day of release isn’t much? I also realize that I’m lucky to have a store like this in my area. Most people have Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and other ‘big-box’ retailers with no selection and they have no choice but to order online.

Has this happened to anyone else? Am I making more of it or is this the state of the record store biz?