Extracts from Graham Jones' 'Last Shop Standing': Week 3

Last Shop Standing lifts the lid on an industry in tatters. Graham Jones has worked at the heart of record retailing since the golden era of the 1980s. He was there during the years of plenty and has witnessed the tragic decline of a business blighted by corruption and corporate greed. Last Shop Standing is a hilarious yet ahrrowing account by a man who has been there and sold that.
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The Independent Culture

Having spent twenty years on the road, and in that time visited over a thousand different record shops, people often ask me what are the best and the worst shops I have known. The first part of the question is difficult, as I am spoilt for choice. The second part is easy. It took me all of ten seconds to select the shop to which I can grant the accolade ‘The Worst Shop’.

One day whilst working in Bolton, I stumbled upon a shop I had never seen before, called Sounds. I popped in and introduced myself, to Craig, the seventeen year-old owner. He informed that he had recently left school and that his dad had asked him what he wanted to do with his life. When Craig told him that he would like to run his own record shop, his father, obligingly, stumped up the funds.

A succession of customers interrupted our chat. The ensuing conversations illustrated both Craig’s business acumen and his aptitude for customer care:

Customer: “My stylus seems to be faulty, as all my records are jumping.”

Craig: “Bring it in and I will have a look at it for you.”

Customer: “I have it with me. I think it’s bent.”

Craig spent the next two (interminable) minutes holding the stylus up to the light before confirming that it was bent and handing it back to the customer.

Customer: “Do you have one in stock?”

Craig: “No.”

Customer: “Can you order one for me?”

Craig: “Sorry, mate. This is a record shop; not a hi-fi dealer.”

The disgruntled customer left, whilst I quietly explained to Craig that record shops stocked basics, like styli.

Another customer came in and asked Craig if he had anything by the Halle Orchestra. (As the Halle is Britain’s longest-established symphony orchestra and is based in Manchester, a mere ten miles from Bolton, you would have expected Craig to be aware of it).

“Of course I have mate,” Craig responded, as he plonked a copy of Bill Haley’s Greatest Hits on the counter.

The classical customer looked at Craig in disgust. I was not sure if it was due to a dislike of being referred to as ‘mate’ or to Craig’s ignorance of the Halle Orchestra. “It is the Halle I am after,” the customer insisted.

“I think you will find that it is pronounced ‘Hay-lee’”, replied Craig, knowingly.

Shaking his head, the customer started to make his way out of the shop. In a last desperate attempt to procure a sale, Craig started to read out the track listing from the Bill Haley CD, “Hey mate, all the hits are on this – ‘Rock Around The Clock’; ‘See You Later Alligator’…” But, to no avail – the customer had gone.

Then, just as I thought things could not get any worse? they got worse?

The next unfortunate customer came in and purchased a CD for £3.99. Craig took the proffered £5, but then shut the till without giving any change. When the customer pointed out the error, Craig, for some reason, could not get his till to open. A full ten minutes elapsed, with Craig frantically bashing every possible combination of buttons on the till in an attempt to open it.

When he was reduced to trying to force it open with a screwdriver, the customer called him an idiot – to which Craig responded, “Tell you what, mate – why don’t you try and f***ing open it?”

To calm the situation I gave the customer £1.01 from my own pocket and told Craig to repay me the money when he got the till open.

Sadly that time never came. Half an hour later, the till was still shut. I promised Craig I would call on him the next time I was in the area – I had spent more than an hour with a customer and had achieved sales worth minus £1.01, but the comedy value had been worth every penny.

Predictably, when I next checked out the store, it had closed? perhaps Craig never did get that damn till open.

There'll be more from Graham Jones' 'Last Shop Standing' next week?

'Last Shop Standing', £12.95, is published by Proper Music Publishing Ltd., London