It was 17 years ago that I, a dirt poor college freshman, took a part-time job at a local Sam Goody music store in the mall. Never mind that I was clueless about any genre of music that did not include Jethro Tull and Blues Traveler; I had a car, a pulse and I walked upright. Plus, I was too poor to refuse the Friday night shift. I was hired on the spot, earning something like $6.30-an-hour. I was handed a Sam Goody "hello, my name is..." badge and set loose on customers. My career in the music industry was underway.
Mercifully, it lasted just a few months. I was terrible, maybe the worst salesman Sam Goody ever hired. I had never even heard of Coltrane or Miles Davis, and don't even think of asking me anything about Brahms or Handel. Whenever somebody would ask if we had something, I would mumble "yes" then lead them around the store in concentric circles hoping one of us would spot something vaguely familiar along the way. Most of the time I'd lose the customer along the way. Every once in a while they'd walk out the door, never to return again during my shift.
My manager, fresh out of prison (or so it seemed to us), had little patience for me. He would station me further and further away from the music and the customers. After a while, I was required to stand outside the door and hand circulars and other propaganda to customers as they ventured into the land of overpriced CDs. I recall customers back then, starved for choice, would think nothing of paying between $12 and $15 for a new Mariah Carey or Pearl Jam CD. This truly was the heyday of the industry.
I left the job around Christmas time, 1990. Despite its insistence on hiring clueless, unmotivated dolts like me to help sell product, the music industry went on to have a solid decade of ever-increasing sales. I finished my degree, got a job in a newsroom paying $10.65-an-hour, and rarely gave any thought to my short stint in the biz. Until this week. It was the inspiration for my latest column.