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The Last Record Store Standing
Apr 16th, 2010 by JuannyCinco

This weekend is  Record Store Day

So recently I  visited the used record store.  Yes, you heard me correctly, the used record store. Records – those black things that you play at 33 1/3 rpm or 45 rpm if they’re the smaller ones.  Yes. Those.  What about 78 rpm? Alright, smart mouth, that was before even MY time.  But anyway, as I said, I went to the record store! You didn’t think they still existed did you? But they do, or at least one does.

I’ve shopped at Sound Exchange in Tampa, on and off since 1989 both at its location Livingston and now at its location on the colorful Nebraska Avenue.

Imagine yourself driving down a two lane highway where first you pass the new Spartan Mixed Martial Art gym which is a rather austere building painted a deep black and a bright red.  I’m not sure what goes on inside that building but I’m guessing it’s more Cobra Kai than the Larusso dojo,

For those not ardent fans of the Karate Kid think of this as:

Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it? vs Daniel-San have strong root, like [bonsai] tree

If you continue – resisting the urge to scream “THIS IS SPARTA!!!!” at the poor people that are giving it their all in tank-tops and sweat-pants – you’ll pass by all the parked, or is that abandoned?, lorries (that’s an english word,  excuse me for trying to bring a little culture to this post).

Next Up.

The Feed Depot – remnants of that long lost time when people needed grain and parrots.

Next Up after crossing the busy intersection.

The defunct Night Moves II building on your left – most recently known as a bottle bar, adult club or simply as a swingers location.  Choice is yours.  Strange that even in this day and age we have to pretend that some people want to “do it” with “others”.  It was, I believe, the place better known to my age group as the high school nightclub back in the 90’s called DNA.  I could be wrong.  I was rather uncool back then and didn’t really get into KMFDM at all and barely the DM from that.

Then.

Empty used car lot, private investigators (no relation) and on past…

Skippers Smokehouse!  It’s an icon ladies and gentlemen.  Not that gentlemen go here. Well they do, you see EVERYONE goes to Skipper’s – you’re as likely to see a downtown Tampa Lawyer here as you are a dope smoker…. well maybe not as likely.. but don’t let the ramshackle exterior fool you, it’s WORSE on the inside!  It is a great venue that has great music and one of the last places to see real local bands play real local music to real local people at real local prices.

Then after being sidetracked.

You pass by the go-kart track and finally you get to a rather ugly building and that ugly building is Sound Exchange (their website is about as nice as their building).  What used to be housed in a strip mall location on Livingston is now a living breathing record store in a  standalone building.  This building would be an upgrade if it didn’t look like a giant concrete outhouse for the Goodwill charity shop.  That’s not entirely fair.  It really looks more like a bunker.

All that said,  it’s not an inviting neighborhood – unless you like Bingo because it seems that accounts for nearly all the traffic in the parking lot – which, if I may say, is actually more dangerous than the go-karts next door.

You can travel along it if you wish.  A street view is a little out of date even if the run-downiness isn’t.

BUT WHAT’S MY POINT?

Sound Exchange.  It’s old.  It’s the last Record Store in the North of Tampa and I’ll probably never go back there again.

Why? Other than it’s a record store and  I don’t collect vinyl and I don’t collect VHS videos?

Because all that’s left are CDs, DVDs, and a few copies of Madden 2007 for the PS3.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I went with a list of 20 CDs that I wanted to get with an expectation that they would have maybe 2 of them used.  They had 7 of them used which was not bad considering they weren’t mainstream media but what the old people would call “indie”.  This was actually what I would call a success.  So what’s the problem?  Well.  Only 7 of them used and the average price was in the region of $6-7.   So it’s not a bad price.  The new CDs, however,  were $13.  This is a relatively bad price and leaves me wondering… do I want to travel all the way to this dingy location to save $3 on USED CDs and spend $3 more on NEW CDs? Hardly.

But then it all began to fall apart for me.

It turned out that 2 of the CDs I ended up buying used were already owned in my house.  One was an iTunes download and one a physical CD.  How could I not know? Trust me when I say that if you saw our CD collection you’d understand. So anyway, time to return the CDs.

First I check the receipt:

Return Policy: No Refunds

Seriously? No Refunds? What?

Return Policy: Except for DUPLICATE purchases.

Phew!  So I hop in the car and drive down there with 2 CDs in hand happy to trade them for STORE CREDIT because I know they have one other CD I would get at full over-priced price.

“Sorry. No Refunds”

“B.b.b.b.b.ut you said I could return if it’s a duplicate.”

“Yes.  You have to bring in the duplicate as proof.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s a copyright issue.  We…..”  – to make sure I get this right let me copy from their website.

Please understand that entertainment in the form of CDs, DVDs, and records is copyrighted material.  This fact makes music different from most other things that consumers purchase.  Because the enjoyment of these items can be retained by the consumer (by copying), our federal government passed Copyright protection laws that the entertainment industry is obligated to maintain.  This means that copyrighted material can only be returned when it is defective and will be replaced with another copy of the identical item. This legislation helps to insure that the artists, record labels, distributors and retailers are protected.


So. I can’t take it back because of Copyright laws.  Somehow I fail to see how it is different when I (1) RETURN an item I purchased 2 days later (2) SELL  an item I purchased from somewhere else…(3) or purchased from them 2 days before.  Let’s see.

Case 1:  Artist nets $0. Sound Exchange nets $0.

Case 2: Artist nets $0. Sound Exchange nets $Sold – Paid

Case 3: Artist nets $0. Sound Exchange nets $Sold – Paid   + ($Sold – $Paid)

Oh I get it.  What kind of an argument is that – copyright? The ARTIST makes $0 either way? The kind where Sound Exchange makes money.

First-sale doctrine protects their right to sell copyright material.  One rule for them, another for me?  Of course to sell CDs you also have to sell your identification rights – it’s akin to doing something really illicit and evil like buying sudafed and I don’t feel like doing that and I’m sure this has negative impacts on the used record store business.

But it got worse.  One album was an iTunes purchase.  How do I show that as a duplicate? Bring in my laptop? my external hard-drive?

“I’m not sure but the policy is we need to see the duplicate”.

At this point I asked to just sell the CDs back.

“The buyer’s not here.  We need him to tell you how much we’ll give you.”

I left very disappointed.  I told the man at the counter who I know has been there since 1992 – “this policy means I will likely never come back after 20 years of being a customer.”

His response? None  He shrugged and turned away.

Customer service?  It’s better online, I think…

So I send in a request through their site.

“I have the following 2 CDs for sale.  Can you tell me what you would buy them for?”

I got a response:

“You’ll have to go to the store.  It changes.”

I still have the CDs.  I won’t go back to their store.

I do understand that part is principle and that there is a part that is legal but it’s just so absurd.  I’m not sure what will put them out of business first.  Their principles and lack of caring about their customers or the law.  I’m not sure I care – even though 10 years ago the lack of any record stores would have made me feel sick to my stomach.  It says a lot that I can not care because deep down I still miss the old Corn Exchange in Manchester.  Those were real record stores and the nearby Vinyl Exchange was/is the standard bearer for all used record stores.  I’ll never forget seeing Mr Marr’s Smith’s gold record for sale….and only 500 smackers!  And of course just a mere 3 years ago or so buying the entire Fall Peel Sessions for 20.  Bargain to get Mark E Smith in a form good enough for his idolizer the late great John Peel.

I do still like to browse and I can’t do that online, can I? Step up lala.com.  Record store.  You are no longer cheaper.  You aren’t the best browsing store.  You’re officially obsolete to me.  This makes me sad.  But why do I choose to relay this story to you? Because this weekend it is

Record Store Day

That’s right.  An ENTIRE day dedicated to that anachronism, the Record Store.  Not even the CD Store. Yes. The Record Store.

An entire day where I will be doing something ENTIRELY different than going to the record store.

Sound Exchange.  You are the last record store standing.

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