Today I thought I’d share with you my experience of working in a music shop.
However before I start, I’d like to say a quick thank-you to the now over 200 of you who have joined me here on this little blog of mine, especially those of you lovely people who have continually commented and engaged with You Should Hear and I. I’ve said this a couple of times on my Twitter (linked and down below), that my goal at the start of 2018, was to hit 100 followers by June. To consider that even before the end of June, I hit 200 followers, is insane, and my family have all had to put up with me constantly voicing my huge amount of disbelief as I try to wrap my head around it.
Back to the music shop.
I’ve been working at this particular music shop, a family run business, since my last year of high school, now just over two years. I’ve never been so grateful for having a job, despite my bleary eye’d SnapChat’s to my friends while I make my morning coffee every Saturday morning in the staff kitchen.
It was a complete off-chance that led to me securing a job here. I’ve driven past this shop since I was a young child, it’s been an ever present fixture on the corner of one of my most frequented main road intersections, one I spent driving past on a close to daily basis during my childhood, and well into my teens.
It was during February of 2016, and my friends and I were on the way to our Year 12 formal, as our hired limo for the night crossed through the intersection, and I voiced my appreciation for the music shop. My best friend Kate’s, who I have mentioned several times throughout my blog, formal partner offhandedly mentioned that his best friend worked at the shop, and loved it. I didn’t pay much mind to it, until the day after when I mentioned it in passing to mum, who told me I should apply. However, I never got around to it, until a week later when she texted me the store number as a not-so-subtle hint to get a move on.
When I rang up, I spoke to my now manager, who told me they weren’t currently hiring, but to send my resume in anyway. The next day I was called in for an interview, which I went to the day after that, on a busy Saturday morning.
The shop was bustling with people, so I was super duper grateful that he took the time to chat with me, even going as far as introducing me to the staff in the print music section, where I would be working, should I get the job. I left the interview feeling pretty confident.
And then didn’t hear anything for two weeks.
It was nerve wracking to say the least. This would be my fourth job, and at least the hundredth that I’d applied for so I was incredibly keen to find out. So I called up, only to be advised that the owner was currently away on holiday, so the conversation hadn’t even been brought up yet. I went away on my family Easter trip, waiting again. On the long drive back home, it was all I could think about, so determined, and slightly impatient I called again, only to be asked how soon I could start. Three days later I started.
It’s honestly been so much better than I ever could have hoped for. The beginning was only slightly rough. I’m pretty reserved when it comes to people I don’t know, and I’d been thrown into a pretty tight knit family of staff members who loved cracking jokes, hanging out after work, organising get together’s and calling each other over the desk phones just to mess with each other, so it took me over a year and nearly four more people joining/leaving the shop for me to stop calling myself the ‘new girl’ and relax a bit. The staff member in charge of print music on the Saturdays that I worked also took some time to get used to. Since joining, his dry sense of humour, refined English accent and love of watches, organs, old Melbourne trams and Rover P5’s have become staples in my weekly shift, and I always come home with a story to tell.
Saturday shifts are undoubtedly the best of the week, considering nearly the whole staff is working, it usually gets busy, and the company shouts us all lunch every shift. This year I started working in the musical instrument (hereby referred to as MI) department a lot more, more full day shifts rather than afternoons filling in, and while it continues to intimidate me, I’m slowly growing to love it, especially getting to hang out with my friends, all the younger staff members, all of whom work in MI.
That said, working in a music shop, like any retail experience, comes with it’s fair share of con’s to try and balance out the pro’s.
One of the huge problems I’ve come to face? One of the problems that continues to grind my gears on a close to weekly basis?
If you didn’t catch my write up about sexism in the music industry, specifically music festivals, give it a read, because it’s a great indicator of all the levels that sexism is present within the music industry, and apparently, small-scale, family owned music shops, are not exempt.
The staff are 100% not the problem. If I’m asked to dust and vacuum the print and piano rooms, no-one has a single problem if I get sick of it and pass it onto my friend, a male staff member, to do the guitar rooms.
When I’m helping out in MI, the manager has no problem with asking me to help out with carrying boxes and instruments, and I know if I’m having trouble, I can say so.
Sure I end up the one washing the dishes in the sink when it starts over-flowing, but that’s because the sight of it gets on my nerves. On several occasions I’ve directed another staff member, a guy, to empty out the sink, or at least dry them as I finish, and no-one complains.
Customers however, a different story.
I’m one of two women working in print, and I’m also the youngest person in the entire store. On several occasions I’ve had someone on the phone asking about a particular sheet of music, only to be asked if they could ‘talk to the man who’s usually there’. I understand having prior conversations with him throughout the week when I’m not there, it only makes sense to finish what we each start separately, but I’ve had customers with fresh enquiries, assuming that because what they want isn’t in stock, there’s a man there who could possibly tell them differently.
Working in MI was an eye opening experience as well. There’s one other younger girl, a year older than me, who works there regularly, and she’s shared experiences with me, that only recently I’ve gotten to experience first-hand. I was shocked when she recalled stories of speaking to customers on the phone, only to have to assure them several times that she did work in the guitar room and was perfectly capable of helping them out, sometimes even having people asking directly to speak with a guy. A whole group of boys have come in and watched her setting up a bass and a bass amp for them to test out, whispering and snickering between themselves as she did so. My experience in MI, due to the sparse time I’ve spent over there, only occurred recently, but it still left me incredibly frustrated.
I’d just finished nearly a whole day of going over entry level guitars, the different EOFY sales going on, the prices, the type of guitars, the strings, the necks, the bags/picks/tuners/capo deals, the lot, so when a couple walked into the store, the MI manager nearly pushed me across the room to have a go at serving them.
Before I start, I’d done it before, assisted now and then by other staff, but I was determined to do this one by myself, and I could not have bagged a more difficult customer. The husband seemed set on asking every single question he possibly could, which fair enough, you’re purchasing a guitar, you want to know whatever there is to know, but I’m sure we’re all well practised in reading tone and body language, of which I was getting ‘You’re damn stupid‘ vibes. I could also gather that his wife was telling him to back off a bit, despite speaking in Mandarin, due to all the apologetic glances and friendly smiles she sent my way, but he was having none of it. Then it came to pricing. My God did that man try and push the price. Remember that we’re already having end of financial year sales, so our prices are ridiculously low, as in he’d be getting a guitar, a bag and a couple of free picks, for under $120. Every time I expressed a price or mentioned a deal he did not hesitate to let me know that it was still very expensive, despite knowing there was little I could do to go any lower. Then came questions about the guitar neck. Now this part I can’t blame him for. Most people would assume that the slim neck’s would make it easier for young kids to wrap their hands around and play, but in the long run, and for lessons, it really makes no difference, which I explained. Then came the sentence that increased my blood pressure.
I swear to god the MI Manager looked like a deer in headlights. He essentially repeated everything that I said to the man, word for word, and it was only after firmly stating that we could do no cheaper that he purchased the guitar. My manager was quick to explain that he too was getting frustrated on my behalf and that he’d put the sale under my name considering the close to twenty minutes I’d spent with the couple.
However, I have one experience that my entire family and anyone who encountered me for the next week know about, considering how incredibly outraged I was at it.
So it’s busy. I’m by myself in print because the other staff member has a choral performance. It’s summer, late in the afternoon, my feet hurt and there’s another wave of customers just charging through the doors and dispersing throughout the store’s four rooms, many of them wandering through the print room or stopping in front of my desk for help.
A man came in, and while at first he seemed pleasant enough, he was a bit demanding and blunt, but nothing I hadn’t dealt with before. He gave me a rough guideline of some singing books he wanted to look at, and I did my best to show him the several we had that suited his needs. Again, he was demanding, he was short and becoming slightly rude. Note that the store was filling up and I had a line of two or three families that were waiting for my assistance. After showing him all the books he had to choose from, I showed him the little corner we had that was available for him to read through the books and look at them, as I turned to go and help a family looking for a book.
As I’m talking to this family who, bless them, knew the colour and picture on the book they wanted but not the name of it, I hear clicking. Fingers snapping. Like right behind me. At the back of my head. Clicking. At this point I’ve also lost the attention of the family, who are now looking behind me, slightly alarmed and confused. There’s only one person in that section of the room. And in my head, all I can think is, ‘I know this man is not clicking at me right now’. On reflection, I should have followed what my mum would say later on, and not acknowledge him, not responded to bloody clicking like a dog, but in the moment, I apologised to the family and turned to the man, only to have a pile of books dumped in my arms as he moved through the shelves, very much expecting me to follow him. As he walked through the shelves of books he spoke to me, without even turning around to face me. “You were serving me, how come you started serving that family? That’s not professional.” “I’m sorry, the store’s just a little bit busy, I have to serve a few people at once.”
My dude I’m definitely not sorry.
I politely asked if he needed anymore help, to which he only added more books to the pile. By then my fuse was short, so I told him that I had a few other customers to help, but I’d keep his books at the desk when he was ready. I didn’t stay long enough to see the look on his face, but I didn’t see him for the next twenty minutes as I helped out the remaining customers in my section, before returning to my desk. He walked out of the adjoining room where we keep majority of the books and came to a halt in front of my desk.
“What’s your name?”
I have no idea what the intent of that question was, but I know it wasn’t to genuinely find out my opinion on working in the shop, however I answered with a simple ‘yes’ only to get, ‘Interesting.’ as my reply. Much confusion on my behalf.
To finish the exchange, he proceeded to buy only six of the thirteen books he’d dropped on my desk, and leave without so much as a thank-you.
All of that said, I thoroughly enjoy working at the music shop. Every retail worker has their own unique experiences that do their head in. This isn’t my first retail job. My first job was in hospitality at a churros and chocolate restaurant, where I was in constantly touching chewed gum people decided to stick to the underside of their plates when I was clearing tables, and my second and third were both in retail, my third being in direct contact with rude mother’s who expected me to babysit their children while they shopped for them. With that in mind, the music shop has been a fresh of breath air, despite the occurrences like those above every now and then. Anyone who works retail will agree with the statement, that it makes you ten times more empathetic with employees when you’re not working. I can’t recall a time I’ve not been overly accommodating and forgiving when being served, even before I started working.
If you haven’t worked in retail and can’t relate one bit, remember this; you never want to be the customer that employees complain about and imitate in the break room.