Unsurprisingly, I've been mining the remnants of those large retail coffins off the streets still labeled "Tower Records" the past few weeks, taking advantage of the great discounts. Many people have. In fact, people who have probably no experience ever going to a record store have been doing so in hopes of finding holiday seasons gifts. The constant looks of horror, shock, and amazement on many of these faces are indescribable.
My reaction to discovering that a "normally" $22 Ennio Morricone import CD soundtrack for Barbablu', for which I ended up paying just ten bucks at the Seattle/Lower Queen Anne Tower Remnants, had an AOL subscription CD-ROM in the case instead, made me mildly disappointed. Out of the multitudes of purchases I made, this was one I was more excited about than the others. I figured I could just return it for store credit to get other goods at the very least. Or maybe not. I do remember seeing a sign written in erasable marker stating "ALL SALES ARE FINAL." But, I wasn't at fault here, and I'm sure I could just go back and get some informal credit for this -- and end up buying more stuff along the way to right the wrong... right?
Tonight, I walked to the empty cashier desk with my defective CD and the receipt, and explained my situation. I was immediately told by the guy and girl working behind the desks that they cannot take back defective CDs.
I asked why not.
They said that they cannot just start taking back everybody who supposedly has a broken CD and giving them credit. "We are trying to get rid of stuff."
There was certainly a tone in that reply that implied a lack of trust of customers who would copy their heavily discounted CDs, stuff the case with crap, and claim to have purchased a defective CD. So I told them that I had made several purchases at their store, and that I would never do such a thing unless I was telling the truth.
The girl responded by saying "No, it's not that we think you're a crook! All sales are final. We can not take anything back, even if it's defective, which sucks for you in this case, but we can't. Sorry."
I asked if I could just have store credit, and they immediately said "No! We told you can NOT GIVE CREDIT BACK. We are not 'Tower Records' anymore. We are owned by liquidators. We have to play by their rules."
While they were defending themselves, I verbally hypothesized the following to them: "So, if you guys wanted to re-seal CDs with AOL subscription CD-ROMS and sell them as something else, you could get away with it, and customers couldn't be refunded."
They paused, looked down, and said "Yes" without any emotion. Since I was planning to write an article about the demise of Tower Records anyway, I thought this was a very awful response -- so I told them that I was writing this article and asked if I could quote them on what they just told me. The girl soured and said "No!"
At that moment, I realized I was being very impetuous, so I was going to subsequently just state that I think their liquidators' policy on not taking back defective CDs was wrongheaded, based on retail principle, whether going out of business or not. It's not that I really needed the ten dollars, nor did I expect the employees to care what I have to say. But it's just a bad business decision to upset wronged customers when in any business, even liquidation, as these stories can spread and cast back a bad reputation. Basic logic in Retail 101.
But I never got to state that. The girl got up and started on me... quite loudly, in front of everybody in the store.
"OK, sir, you are being VERY rude. YOU come in here and accuse us of a scheme to re-seal CDs and sell them back to customers and THEN you ask to quote us on this which is very FUCKED up. So you can just take your quotes and go to hell. And you can call your article 'Asshole'!"
This entire half of the store pauses.
"Oh, and this is my last day, so that's why I yelled at you."
Putting aside the issue of whether I deserved to be yelled at or not, which I feel was partially deserved, let's step back for a moment here.
The people currently working at Tower know that they will no longer have jobs in the very near future.
These employees certainly have not been acting too seriously on the job. It would be ridiculous to expect that. Actually, I'd find it very strange if they were jovial and spirited. I have no idea how many of these people have been working there for a long time, or had just been recently hired to help with liquidation. But I doubt any browser at Tower Remnants today would expect any type of good service. The product is frickin' cheap! Who cares!
To which I have to ask my friend at the who bitched me out: if your fellow employees are not going to act seriously in your final days at a liquidated retail establishment, why bother acting studious about return policies? Do you think that yelling at customers and cursing at them will get you a better job reference than letting someone's botched purchase slide by ten dollars worth of credit? What kind of value does a good or bad job reference from a liquidation company hold, anyway?
I realize that it cannot be fun at all to be a Tower Remnants employee, especially given insane hours, insane moments during work, and no sense of job security. I was probably just another awful ugly troll in a grand retail parade of unpleasantness that these Tower employees glaze over every day.
I had already emotionally distanced myself from the very slow rot of a once great music chain. After this experience, this was the anger I needed to be pelted with so I could vow to never see Tower in any shape or form ever again. The fork is stuck in it.