Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why Record Store Day Black Friday Sucks

I'm beginning to think there are other options available for supporting Record Store Day without actually visiting a record store.

This epiphany came after visiting a record store on Black Friday, literally my only venture on the day after Thanksgiving. The rest of the day was devoted to watching the Iowa Hawkeyes beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers and napping.

I used to work in retail, and I still remember how Black Friday was the worse day of the entire year.

But somehow I thought that going to a record store would be somewhat therapeutic, and therefore immune from all of the nonsense that you see on the Friday night news. I'm speaking of the lead-off story found on every 10/11 O'Clock newscast that contains something about the crowds, typically with videophone footage of angry shoppers and the obligatory Wal-Mart chaos.

Fuck that noise, the record store should prove to be a better fit for my temperament.

I was at my folks' place in Des Moines, and ever since I explained to my old man what Record Store Day was all about, he's been on me to visit one of his town's record shops. He vaguely said something about one, but he admitted that he had never been to one since moving into Iowa's Capitol City and had no idea where they were located.

When I brought up the addresses, he encouraged me to visit one in particular, indicating that he had "driven by it" although he was far from useful in conveying what exactly made this store better than the others, aside from the notion that he visually saw it once.

On a related note, I did actually visit the location. It was clearly designed for collectors, as it had a large stock of memorabilia, most of which were priced high. Even the used records were listed at $16-$17 on average, meaning you'd be paying about three times as much for that worn copy of The Doors 13 compilation today than you would if you bought it new in 1969.

I left Wayback Records about a soon as I entered it, but the trip was not in vain: an old man hanging out under the stoop of the building's rear side and drinking a big soda gave me a wave as I pulled out.

ZZZ Records was the only store in town that appeared to be supporting Record Store Day, and as I drove by about twenty minutes before they opened, I noticed a line of about a dozen deep already forming in front.

I quickly joined the back of the line, putting me at a comfortable 15 bodies back.

The owner of the store nicely came out and explained the drill, advising us where the new releases were and hinting that the selections were limited. He suggested speaking to him directly if we didn't find what we were looking for as he could special order titles that weren't in the Dave Mathews section.

We all laughed, but the owner seemed very serious about the availability of Dave Mathews' Black Friday titles.

All I could gather was that everybody in line was after the Grateful Dead album, including one guy who came into the line after me who admitted that he didn't even own a turntable.

Although I can't confirm this, I don't believe ZZZ Records has a policy of limiting titles of one-per-person. Or maybe ZZZ Records doesn't have much pull in the number or which titles they could get. Just about everyone who made it in before me (by my math skills, that amounts to about 14 people) had armfulls of vinyl. By the time I made it to the "A" section, pretty much everything had been picked clean, including the douche that went to the other side of the titles and reached over to grab the one thing he wanted. Or the asshole who weaseled in behind me, wedged in between me and the guy to my right just so he could grab the last copy of the shitty Doors RSD exclusive.

I found the one thing I was looking for, grabbed an Electric Prunes record (purple vinyl!) as an impulse purchase (and a non-RSD item) and found one copy of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds radio set. It was worth the trip, but the experience at ZZZ Records and the plentiful selection of the same kind of shit you can find at auction stores across the state, means that this would probably be the last visit to the store.

Even if the two copies of the Grateful Dead or the few copies of the Dylan record had gone with the first wave of patrons, you would think there would be plenty of other titles to ponder. But no, I counted just a handful of singles, a light selection of full-lengths, and not a goddamn Miles Davis record in the mix.

The new selection, which most stores have stocked up in preparation for the influx of new faces, was weak. I've been to RSD events where I nearly put back the limited edition titles in favor for some other sealed vinyl that caught my eye.

Aside from the Electric Prunes long player, that didn't happen today.

I got a report from my cousin that the store he visited in Chicago had a pretty good selection, but that the store jacked up the prices on some titles like a bunch of assholes. When he told me that the store was asking for-and selling-the Dylan record for $65 a pop (it's a three disc set, but still), I told him that the website we visit to pick up RSD leftovers had it priced for half that.

It's like these fuckers never learned. Here is a prime opportunity to get new people into your store, and they get rewarded with limited inventory and price gouging. Every goddamn title I was looking for was at this website, meaning that I could have completely stayed in bed Friday morning and gotten the remaining titles I'd been seeking at a fair cost, tax free, and with free shipping.

If it weren't for a sense of loyalty to the one remaining record store in my area, I would definitely sit the next one out and cherry picked my own favorites in the comforts of my own home. And who knows? If the event becomes anymore a clusterfuck than what it already is, my own Record Store Day may become a digital shopping experience since the real one is turning into another reason to hate retail shopping all over again.

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