There’s a lot of things I’ve heard from customers just from working at a local record store in El Paso for two years. Below are seven that I hear almost constantly.
1. Are records and CDs still a thing?
Believe it or not, people still want physical media! Customers have told me that they prefer purchasing physical over digital. For me, I choose getting an album on CD or vinyl over downloading it digitally. Even as music shifts more and more towards a digital platform, there’s just something special about holding your favorite album in your hand, playing it in the car or on your record player, or reading through the linear notes and lyrics.
2. How do you evaluate a record’s/CD’s condition?
With CDs, we check to see if there’s any scratches, marks, or blemishes on the disc from being played by their past owners. If so, we clean and resurface the CDs to buff out any scratches and refurbish them. We also give it a new, clean case if the one it came with is cracked, dirty, or scratched up.
With vinyl, we check each one to see if there’s any trace of usage, markings, scratches, scuffs, blemishes, and any other imperfections. These are usually caused by careless playing and can end up depreciating a record’s value. The same goes for a record’s jacket. The most we can do with vinyl is clean off any dust or finger prints, but markings and scratches will unfortunately stay. That isn’t to say the record is unplayable if it has any of these. If we find a record that’s full of scratches and markings, we recycle it rather than put it out on the sales floor.
After examining these, we go ahead and price them accordingly as we enter the items into our system and put them out on the floor.
3. Do you buy CDs/records/DVDs?
Yes, we do! We appraise your collection to see how much we can give you for all of it. Don’t come into the store with high expectations though. While vinyl records are making a resurgence, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a lot of money for what you have. There’s a lot of stuff that we already have like jazz, comedy, classical, folk and even some pop rock. The same goes for CDs and DVDs.
We get a lot of stuff that we see often, which is what we call penny inventory, so we can’t offer much for that kind of merchandise. However, we’re always looking for classic albums (like the Beatles or Pink Floyd), metal, punk/alternative, and other contemporary music.
4. I’m looking for a certain album, any way you can help me?
Most of the time, we can help customers order their favorite album on CD or vinyl. If it’s something that we can order from our distributors, we’re more than happy to help! But, if it’s something that’s out of print, the best that we can offer is to do a digital download and burn it onto a blank disc for you. The same goes if the album is only available on vinyl but not on CD. We can record the audio from the vinyl, convert the tracks into digital files, then burn it on a blank disc.
While it isn’t as good as having the physical product, it’s at least something!
5. Can I hang out and talk to you about music?
Of course! However, I have to remind you that we all have a job to do. So, while we would like to spend some time and talk to you about your favorite artists and recommend things to you, we can’t spend too much time doing that. There are other customers that will need our help. Don’t feel discouraged if we have to cut the conversation short, we can always pick up the conversation the next time you stop by.
6. Are you hiring?
Since it’s a small, locally owned store, we hardly look for new hires, but we always encourage people to drop off a resume and chat for a bit! Truthfully, you’re not going to make a very good impression just calling and asking us about getting a job. So, it’s better to come in person to ask us about a job so we can have a better idea on whether we want to hire you in the future.
7. I bet it’s like Empire Records.
I hate to disappoint you but working at a record store is nothing like Empire Records made it out to be. The movie really popularized the idea that working at a record store only consists of playing whatever music you want and doing absolutely nothing. While it’s a lively environment, you won’t see the employees dancing around to their favorite songs or chasing a shoplifter.
Personally, working at a record store has been fun compared to the other jobs I’ve had, but it isn’t a place to goof around either. You can’t just sit back and play your favorite records while you help customers at payout. It’s retail, after all. You have to interact with customers and ask them if they need help. You have to check in new and used inventory and make sure that the CD and vinyl stacks are clean and in order.
Truly, I love my job. I love my co-workers and I love being able to work so closely with music, even if it’s retail. The only things I can say that working here has had in common with Empire Records so far is that we do fight over what music to play next and there’s a sort of camaraderie between the employees.