Saturday, September 2, 2006

Customers: Part 14 - In Store‏ / Tejano All Stars

   Two months earlier, our store held a simulcast with a leading Christian radio station. No groups, no performances, but foot traffic was steady. The radio announcers insistently encouraged guests to, "Take a look at those prices!"
   Visitors browsed Christian and Gospel, but they also guiltily trawled Rap and Rock, as well. Temptation, Devil's mischief. Most of those people were first timers, they normally bought music at specialized bookstores. I wondered how those bookstore owners and employees felt, knowing the radio station they'd supported for years now urged their clients to shop elsewhere.
   Probably how music stores felt after the local newspaper gushed loudly when that chain bookseller, with token music racks, opened their local branch.
   We enjoyed a spike in Christian pop sales, and margins increased, but we couldn't hold those people. Even if we were playing George Strait or Elvis Presley, they didn't like it. If we were playing Rock or Rap, they flinched like we'd offered sandwiches with tequila soaked jerky, marijuana leaves, and minced sheets from the good book.
   This came after a year of inactivity from Corporate marketing Einsteins. Christian radio was their first step towards re-launching in-store events.
   Next, big thinkers at Corporate cast their net towards another demographic.
   The Latin market.
   We were scheduled for a Tejano meet 'n greet. Six leading performers, including Ram Herrera, Mazz, Los Musicales, Shelly Lares, were coming to Camp Bowie.
   The front of the store was reconfigured, with tables flanking the front windows. The DC dropped five brick packs for each artist. Musicians were coming to autograph CD's, we would sell CD's. Corporate offered zero guidance, so The Boss told me to sale price the lot. Face it, we wanted to sell product. Bought a cooler, bags of ice, several cases of soft drinks and corn chips. Undoubtedly the same crap those poor bastards ate at every event, but again, we received no guidance. Scheduled extra help for that afternoon, hired four cops for three hours. Braced ourselves for the approaching mob.

   The vans failed to show as scheduled. Their jet arrived late. Or they'd gotten lost. Or they'd stopped for lunch. Or something else. Back in the day, it would have been the dog ate my gym shorts. Grade school excuses.
   Pat loaded Selena into the player, I added Mana. We cranked the volume and played that music until the Tejano All-Stars arrived.
   Stacey snaked the crowd into DVD's, through Soul, Rap,.Latin, out from Soundtracks, over to the other side of the store. The crowd was tremendous and more poured in. Within an hour the store was packed. The crowd was massive and impatient. Many had skipped work, others dragged the kids out of daycare. When the Tejano All-Stars finally arrived, everyone surged to the front. Order was lost.
   Mandy switched music to tunes from our guests, punched "spiral," and away we went.
   I had volunteered to man register backup. All those masses of folks wanting to buy CD's for autographs, don't you know. Sales were dismal. No, sales were nonexistent. Fans offered their own discs to autograph, old vinyl, napkins. Any flyers laying about were snatched up. A yellow legal pad disappeared. Girls rolled up their tops and asked for belly signatures. Or turned tail and offered cheeks. Point was, customers weren't buying. Registers were silent.
   Told my counter colleague to ring or holler if she needed backup. Then went to help Stacey, she was having a time.
   The crowd wasn't purchasing, and wasn't moving. Shelves were emptying, though. Sections were bare. No alarms had triggered, however. People had grabbed merchandise, studied pictures, set it down. Where ever. They were bored. Product was strewn on the floor, kicked under bins. DVD's looked like they had been swiped by Hurricane Claudette.
   Up front, massed against the tables, the scene packed dense. No one budged. Fans got their autographs, shook hands, told a singer how their life had altered because of that, "Baby, I love you, baby," chorus.
   Then they stood there, immobile. Or milled around ... waiting. For what? To join the band, get invited to the after party, get married.
   "Baby, I love you, baby."
   Didn't know, didn't care. Move out, guys.
   We tried to be polite at first. Asked guests to depart or step aside. Instead we got tossed the ignorance plea. "No sey ... No hablar Ingles ... No savvy, lo siento." So many, many individuals had arrived, asking if this was the place, where was the line, were there TV cameras? Now, tragedy struck, as once bi-lingual talkers forgot English nouns and verbs in the overwhelming excitement. Luckily for them, John was completely fluent, others of us knew a smattering of words, and none of us were sympathetic. Walking up with a uniformed policeman speeded departures.
   None of the musical dignitaries spoke with store employees or District reps. Worse, people in line grumbled that Shelly Lares wasn't Shelly Lares. She was a fake. The woman wore sunglasses and never removed them. Maybe she'd walked into a door. She also never spoke to a single fan. Signed the napkins or scratch paper without comment, without a smile.
   One by one, guest stars stood up, waved goodbye, strolled away with companions. None of the persistent groupies were invited to the after party.
   District honchos eagerly demanded a quick inventory. We had received thirty bricks of product. Thirty CD's per brick. 900 CD's.
   We'd sold 17.
   Nothing had been stolen. No one even wanted to steal the discs.
   That was our first ... and, as it turned out, last ... major in-store meet and greet during the Blockbuster era.


  1. I still remember the Motley Crue instore at #98167 in OKC. It was like opening day of the State Fair, lined up all the way around the outside of the building. All manner of teased hair and tattooed flesh was present. I don't remember selling a whole lot of product that day also.

  2. Crüe, you lucky guy. One of our biggest in-store guests had to be Metallica. They did an appearance two weeks before I hired on. Aarrgg.

  3. HA HA! I was there at the Metallica in-store. The Boss got pissed at me cause I was basically just taking pictures of the band and loitering around near their table. Those dudes drained a shitload of Heineken that day. I had pics with all members including the late Cliff Burton who died like 2 months later and lost them all through the years.