For the Record...

I recently visited a popular local record store for about the 90,000th time since I move here over a dozen years ago. I purchased three records, including an Adam Sandler movie soundtrack. Let me defend this particular purchase, and my viewing of Sandler movies, by saying I have a thirteen-year-old son. But I canít entirely blame him. Not a TV watcher, I do occasionally indulge in super-concentrated crap "entertainment" so I can quickly get back to the task of reading and writing great literature.

Such was the case when I took Hen to see 50 First Dates which was only about ten notches worse than we anticipated it could possibly be. The soundtrack, however, was halfway decentó a feat Sandler often accomplishes no matter how inane his movies. So I take it home. Give it a test spin. IT SUCKS. Totally. Because all the good songs in the movie (by Iz, Paul McCartney, the Beach Boys) have been left off due to some rights issue.

Now, maybe Iím the idiot here for expecting a record called the SOUNDTRACK to actually contain the music from the movie. Maybe I shouldíve scrutinized the back before buying. But I didnít. So I took it back.

You canít get your money back at this record store, you can only exchange. Oddly, though I am a complete music fanatic, I couldnít find anything I really wanted to replace the CD. But I wanted to get the swap over with. So I grabbed a live Jeff Buckley CD. I donít know much about Jeff Buckley except he died young under mysterious circumstances and his dad died young under drug related circumstances and that once my former house-sitter downloaded a sort of interesting Jeff Buckley cut onto my computer which I listen to about once every sixteen months.

If I were to probe for the deep truth, I think what happened was, knowing I was about to return an Adam Sandler CD, and knowing how completely fucking snotty some of these record store folks are, I reflexively made a selection suggesting I, too, am a music snob, to lessen the blow of the dirty looks I anticipated upon placing the Sandler CD on the counter (for the record, I am not a music snob. You will find plenty of Neil Diamond and Abba in my collection).

Over the years, Iíve developed coping mechanisms for the way certain workers treat the customers. Thereís this one guy at the record store, I like to joke with him about his attitude, and let him know if I wake up indecisive one morning, I need only head down to the store to have an opinion handed to me. But in spite of his snobbiness, heís also very efficient and helpful and even though, for example, he thinks my favorite live band, The Polyphonic Spree, is comprised of "a bunch of smelly hippies," he seems to recognize my right to listen to what I please.

Unfortunately, he was not my server. No, I got Sarcasm Man aka Clown Boy, who begins by informing me I should NEVER carry around an about-to-be-returned CD with me, even if I have the receipt, which I did. So I apologized. Next -- his nose wrinkling at having to touch an Adam Sandler CD -- he informs me there is a big scratch on it. At which point he tells me I need to take good care of my records. He really said this. As if he were some all-knowing authoritative father and I was some newborn being initiated into the ways of handling recorded music.

I have no idea how the fuck that scratch got on that CD. I was the only one who handled it, and I handled it once, carefully. And I said as much. Then I said, "Maybe my machine scratched it?" At which point he snorted and informed me "A machine canít do THAT!" and let me know it was a human error, clearly mine (he didnít entertain the possibility of a factory flaw).

Again, I apologized, on the chance I had scratched the CD. I even steeled myself to be informed I would have to pay some sort of penalty. But this wasnít the case. The only price I had to pay was to continue to be berated by Clown Boy. Next, looking at my receipt, he pointed at something and said, quite condescendingly, "You know, you can listen to stuff before you buy it." As it turns out, Iíd purchased the CD in question in part with a few dollars left on a gift certificate. At this store gift certificates appear as returns on receipts. So he mistakenly thought that the Sandler CD had been a swap, too and I guess he decided I was someone who spends all my days just swapping records.

Let me go off on a tangent here and say something about all the good customer service people I encounter, and there are plenty of them. Those times I have a waitress who totally gets it, or a cashier who is extremely nice, or a phone representative who does what I request, I make the time to ask for a supervisor or send in a note or somehow convey to the nice person and the manager of the nice person how pleased I am. Because thatís only fair and, I hope, the thing that balances what I do when I get treated like shit.

Which is to also ask for a supervisor. Which is what I told Clown Boy to do. Because Iím so sick of being told to keep Austin weird when half the time you wind up dealing with a worker who hates you because a) you arenít visibly pierced b) you arenít visibly tattooed c) youíre over 27 d) youíre alive. So if Iím treated like crap, I say something. Or I write a letter.

Clown boy dawdled getting a manager. Once she arrived, she did what managers do, which is anything they possibly can to get a disgruntled customer the hell out of the store and away from the long line behind her who are listening to her every complaint. And I did what I do in such circumstances, which is I took my time explaining clearly how I did not appreciate Clown Boyís condescending mannerisms.

Unfortunately, I lowered myself to his level and then sank lower as I played right into his preconceived notion of me as cranky middle-aged customer. I informed him and his manager Iíd been buying records for more years than Clown Boy had been alive (Clown Boy smarmily responded that he was older than he looked). I ranted about the customer service dues Iíd paid in my life working fifteen years of retail (at least I didnít tell him how many piercings and tattoos I have).

In the end it was a waste of breath. I kick myself for letting him get to me. Still, Iíll give him another chance. I just listened to the Buckley CD. Didnít get past the first cut. Hate it. Iíll be returning it soon. Maybe Iíll trade it in for a Partridge Family greatest hits compilation. And Clown Boy, bless his stupid little heart, better keep his pie hole shut.
About the author:
Spike Gillespie is the author of All the Wrong Men and One Perfect Boy: A Memoir, the dotnovel thebelljar.net, and a collection of essays entitled, Surrender (but don't give yourself away): Old Cars, Found Hope and Other Cheap Tricks. Gillespie is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and her work has appeared in, among other places, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler, GQ, Playboy and Elle, and online at Salon, Nerve, Oxygen, Underwire and AustinMama. She is a reformed circus poodle, a retired stripper (Crazy Lady, 1978-81) and mother to three spawn-of-satan mutts and one freakin' hilarious and very tall boy ("But remember, son, I'll always be wider than you...").  She is currently working on a novel about how utterly fucked up love can be (How novel indeed...).