Thank you for the music

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The Independent Culture
Have you ever suspected that record store assistants are looking down their noses, having a good laugh or are disgusted by your choice of music? Well, we asked around ...

Paula Young, sales assistant/ buyer, Tower Records (right)

I have laughed at people who buy David Hasselhoff. It's the only one that gets me. I can't believe people buy it. I don't normally laugh at people's choice of music because I am quite open-minded. But I wonder about those who buy his stuff. Whenever people buy Portishead, I always end up talking to them about it. I play it a lot in the shop and people ask me who they are. I go on and on about how original they are.

Dan Woodford, sales assistant, Virgin Records

The only thing that makes me laugh at people is when they buy something that is uncharacteristic of the way they look. Or when people are rude I laugh at them because it makes them more irate. But it amazes me that it takes television to sell records these days. The current Number 1 by some guys from Soldier Soldier is a prime case. It's amazing.

Angela Hughes, sales assistant, Virgin Records

The saddest thing I have ever sold was a Bill Tareny album; he plays Jack Duckworth in Coronation Street.

Peter E Jheden, sales assistant, Tower Records (below)

The worst is David Hasselhoff, the Knightrider guy. He's big in Germany and I don't understand why. I can't ever laugh at people, but inside I think, why is she buying this? It is totally crap. Some stuff people buy is just outrageous. I always get really scared when people buy Queen and Freddie Mercury.I sometimes tell people they're buying a great record. If people ask my advice, I'll suggest Pulp or PJ Harvey.

Kate Turnough, senior sales assistant, classical and jazz, Virgin Records

Sometimes people are ashamed of what they buy. Asking for classic things, like 'greatest hits' or the best of classical romance, embarrasses people. They say they're buying it for their mother.

Richard Wears, night manager, Tower Records (below)

Sometimes people return CDs saying that their boyfriend or girlfriend has bought it for them, but they don't like the music. I'll look at it and if it's something like Take That or Bad Boys Inc. or some other pop band, I'll think fair enough. But if they're in a relationship, they ought to know what the other likes. It doesn't make any sense to me. It's not just the bad stuff that gets returned. We get really good stuff coming back. Sometimes I say: 'This is an amazing album. Why are you bringing it back?'

Stephen Hopwood, sales assistant, Virgin Records

You can't laugh at people's tastes. But Whigfield is to laugh at. I think people realise they're displaying their tastes when they buy records. And that can be intimidating. But gay culture has been influential. Straight culture is beginning to appreciate irony in music and it's opening up. Abba is a good example of that. I also think record shops are becoming less intimidating - more like supermarkets.

Steve Nolan, singles buyer, HMV

People aren't embarrassed by what they buy. They're really brazen about what they want in here. We don't laugh at people's choices. I like lots of artists that others might laugh at - like Lindsay de Paul. If someone laughed at me in a record store, I would be annoyed. I think it's unprofessional, and fascist. I respect people who buy what they like rather than following the music press. I really dislike that aspect of the trade.

Gareth Lonnen, rock and pop buyer, HMV (right)

People ask for music that we think is crap all the time. But we're professionals and personal tastes don't come into our work. I just help people find what they're looking for.

Michelle Ticktin