Record Store Day Ruined By Grumpy Old Man!

Note: though I have been assured it was perfectly legal to post a photo of this store, I have removed it to avoid a possible nuisance lawsuit. According to a friend of mine, the store's owner is upset with what I've posted below about my experience on RSD. Too bad. I couldn't have been more complimentary about the store and any more truthful about the behavior of his brother towards me and as I've since heard, towards other customers. As this substitute photo shows, I travel the world on behalf of vinyl. I am treated well—as you should expect to be treated when you enter a record store—wherever in the world I go. It is sad that when I visit my local record store I am treated like a teenaged vandal.

How was your RSD? Mine was ruined by a grumpy old man at my local record store, Music Merchants in Westwood, New Jersey.

It's a relatively small but very well-stocked store. They endeavor to carry all of the new non-audiophile vinyl releases and their used selection is pretty good. That they have survived as a record store in a busy, high rent commercial center of an affluent town is a tribute to their good business sense....except for one thing: one of the two brothers who owns the place is among the most unpleasant individuals I have ever encountered in a record store or for that matter anywhere else.

I have thumbed through vinyl at record stores around the world—not that I have to tell you that—and not until I first visited Music Merchants a few years ago did someone run over and complain about my "thumbing": it was one of the brothers. It wasn't so much the message as the medium that grated like chalk on a blackboard: his tone was like how someone putrid might admonish a misbehaving child.

After telling him I'd been in many more used record stores than had he and that no one had ever complained about my "thumbing", I let him know that I'd try to be more careful.

So today in a store crowded with RSD customers I began "thumbing" just as I'd done it at Twist and Shout in Denver last Thursday and how I'd "thumbed" at PRX last week and at I don't know how many record stores and up came Groucho and in that putrid tone he said "Uh don't thumb through those records like that, some of them are older than you and they are fragile", which of course is B.S., but this time I said "okay" and moved on.

A few minutes later I spotted a copy of Buffalo Springfield Again and I wanted to see if it was a first pressing, so I very carefully removed the record from the plastic sleeve and gently removed the inner sleeve only part way from the jacket and when I saw it was a yellow label second or third pressing I slipped it back into the jacket and as I started dealing with the plastic outer sleeve the chalk hit the blackboard and the shit hit the fan: "Let me show you how to put a record back in the jacket" (or something similar) he said and that was it for me.

"Look I don't need a lesson from you on how to handle records okay?" "Yes you do." "I know more about records than you'll ever know". "No, I know more than you." " Look, fuck you". "Just put down those records and leave." "Gladly!"

And out I walked, leaving behind a large pile of records I was going to buy. My friend Mike followed me out a few seconds later but in time to hear the other brother come over to Mr. chalk on the blackboard and say to him "Why did you do that? That guy can cause us more trouble than you can possibly imagine".

Do I want to cause them more trouble than they can possibly imagine? Of course not. They are conscientious record store owners. Yes, a few of the Sundazeds were definitely overpriced but overall they stocked the store fully and it was worth paying a few bucks more if just to support the store. But I'm not going to put up with that kind of treatment from anyone.

I've heard stories from other people about being abused by the angry brother and it's time for the other brother to tell his brother to put a cork in it!

I hope your RSD was more pleasant than was mine!

Jim Tavegia's picture

Bought new:

Ray Lamontagne, Be Here Now

Sinatra at the Sands MoFi Dbl Lp   002589

Jim Tavegia's picture

Does he think he has a business or a shrine?  Sounds like he needed to do nothing but man the cash register and enjoy counting out money. Stay away from people.

Maybe next year they will have one of those rides like at Disney's  It's a Small World and you  can just go by the lps, but don't touch. If he  finds out that a actual diamond tip touches his records he might have a stroke. 

MicallefK's picture

They oughtta be glad, I have never heard of this store but will be checking it out soon. Just gotta watch out for the old grumpy fart.  

Michael Fremer's picture

Watch out! 

Rayman's picture

Hmmm... to thumb or to finger?

Devil Doc's picture

I always do. My B$M owner and I are good friends and we enjoy dickering with one another to the amusment of his other customers. I got everything I was looking for plus a couple of Jems. Mint- copies of Merry Clayton's eponymous album and "Emotion". Sorry you had such a bad time. I think you handled it well. I'd of probably punched him in the nose and got arrested. But I think it would have been worth it.

xtremefidelity's picture

...talking with you about the VPI Classic Direct. I couldn't belive this was going down as this guy interrupted us to tell you the "right" way of putting an LP in the jacket! {can you imagine, readers, here was a guy telling Michael how to treat an would have been a humerous story if it weren't for his nastiness and belligerance} For the first few seconds, I thought he was joking with you as I know that you've been there before, but then his tone started to get nasty and I was just speechless.  Afterwards, it struck me that my response to him should have pointed out that you, of probably any single individual, were more responsible for the resurgence of vinyl that has not only kept HIS store in business, but actually packed it on a day like today. 

Given how you were treated in front of all these people, I find your comments amazingly restrained and very professional. 

BTW- this guy is the brother of the owner I'm told.



Michael Fremer's picture

For the corroboration.  

Russo7516's picture

Heaven St  and Human Head record shop din't not particpate in RSD but did some really cool stuff. Human Head had a  record press plant set up and  people made their own 7 " really cool.  Plus half  price on all the used  stuff and many other offers still going into the night. Heaven St  rolled out  a live show and and  lot of first pressing  and  give a aways .  Jammed packed. A load of fun . 

CCFK's picture

Happy Ebay Windfall Profits Day!

amarok89's picture

I'm burnt out on RSD. The only thing I was interested in this year was the original Pinback finally available on LP. But only 2000 copies? It was listed as exclusive for RSD. I heard later it is on clear vinyl so maybe that's what makes it exclusive and it will come out as a full release later. Who knows? This morning before any store had opened nationwide I saw two copies available on eBay. Obviously they had some connections with a record store. With the recent start to the Blue Note reissues helping to re-spark an interest in jazz for me I have been zoning out to the best collection of new LPs I've bought in a one month span for as long as I can remember. (The Blue Notes and a lot ot others now that I'm in the mood) I am happy about RSD and hope it continues to create the crowds that have been showing up, but I dont need the agravation anymore and I'm sick of the collectors mentality on the part of the artists. I just found out that Neil Young's box set is delayed until November. For Black friday?? Why? Put the frigging thing out when its ready. And if Pinback doesnt follow through with a full release after going to the trouble of finally mastering their first LP then those guys are dicks. I support the independent record stores as much as I can and I have bought a lot of my recent vinyl there. But i do that year round and at normal prices and no lines and attitudes. I'm new here so sorry for the rant, but I need to get another glass of wine and get back to Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis which I bought at an independent record store a week ago with no lines and the coolest store clerk I ever met thank you very much

AnalogJ's picture

My local store has been much more sympathetic in the last few years, but for a while, they didn't get the "audiophile" thing. You buy records to collect them. If they had groove distortion or skipped, well, it IS an old record. Near mint, but didn't play like it? Again, what do you want for an old record?

Once I had a completely unplayable record that looked quite good. Stan Ricker, who is on an email blog I'm involved with, asked me to send the record for him for analysis. He got it and told me it had been completely mispressed. My local store's response was to complain that I return everything, even though I had bought plenty of records, even high priced ones (they carry plenty of those -- collectible rock and roll primarily).

I laid low for a while, because I think they meant well and I have had plenty of good conversations with them about music in general. Plus it was a record store specializing in vinyl and within a 10 minute walk to my home.

They finally "got" me, relatively speaking. They understand that I buy original pressings not for the collectibility, per se, but for the potential for the best sound. That's not their typical clientele, but they at least acknowledge my point of view as legitimate.


Their expensive stuff is due to its rarity. They generally don't carry audiophile new vinyl, as it's too expensive for their typical clientele. They'll carry largely Sundazed and the like. Discs that are closer to $20/disc and under.

Paul's picture

I think everyone will agree with me that Customer Service in this country is at an all-time low. Been there too many times and chose to take the high road... well most of the time anyway! RSD should be about community and the discovery of new music. Just believe Mr. Fremer that one day Karma will get even with the person that pounced on you at RSD. Me, I stayed home out of the cold rain and clicked a button or two, actually saved money and didn't encounter any bad characters. For us true music fans, everyday is RSD.

davidmreyes77's picture

My Record Store Day went well. That's a shame about your experience at that store. One of my pet peeves is shopping at a store where the employees or even the owners make me feel uncomfortable. When I browse for records I am in my own little world and want to be pretty much left alone. I once had a record store owner stand next to his employee as he was ringing up my records I was purchasing and he decided to check out what I was buying and put down one of the bands whose album I was buying. I should have sarcastically agreed with him and then told him I no longer want to buy that album (but I wanted it..)

By any chance Michael, will get around to (assuming you will obtain copies) of The Zombies reissues that came out today on Varèse Sarabande Records mastered by Steve Massie?

Michael Fremer's picture

I saw it in the bins Saturday but I have an original UK pressing and I bought the last reissue cut from analog tape. So buying it again when there was so much else that I didn't have at all was simply not on the radar screen. If someone bought it and would be willing to send it to me, I promise to take good care of it, review it and return the next day.

amarok89's picture

as to how anyone would be able to "thumb" through records incorrectly. I understand your leaving Michael.

Michael Fremer's picture

I flip quickly. While it may sound "violent" it is not. As we all know, the air between records acts as a cushion and no damage ever occurs from that kind of flipping. If it did, I'd have heard it from an owner of one of the other hundreds of record stores I've visited around the world. And my flipping was fairly low key on Saturday. That guy just had it "in" for me obviously.

torturegarden's picture

Unfortunately I really didn't celebrate Record Store Day this year. My day started off with a funeral for a good friend of mine who unexpectedly passed recently. Also, I am between jobs and short on cash so I haven't purchased and new LPs for a bit. But, I am making the best of it, and am currently in my listening room spinning some Jazz LPs and drinking a good local IPA. 

amarok89's picture

and drinking a bit. A toast to your friend.

Michael Fremer's picture

Sorry to hear that. Music and the right lubricant can often help....

Stu Morgenstern's picture

...was spent at a local flea market browsing through hundreds of records with no one bothering me. I picked up a vintage non-working Pioneer PL 112D turntable for $5 and spent the next few hours listening to music while I restored that old Pioneer to it's former glory. I love to support my local record store and I shop there often but RSD, in my opinion, has become a lot of overblown money grubbing hype. If the music companies really wanted to support the small independent stores, they would produce more product and have it available all the time. Producing such small numbers just guarantees a lot of disappointed people.

vedicspaceprogram's picture

I went to a record store in Abbotsford, BC Canada that just opened after having dinner at my parents' house. It was 4:30 PM and empty, and I bought a King Crimson's Wake of Poseiden for $6.50 in very clean condition after a 20% discount. 

I looked at the RSD exclusive release list online and saw nothing of interest, which is good because I hate lines and crowds. 

RobWynn's picture

Sorry to hear of your your incidence Michael.  Next time you might want to try PREX but I'm guessing the lines are longer her than at Music Merchants.

Like with last year, I ventured over to my local store, PREX, but kept on driving as the line was around the corner and then some (about 40-50 yards in total) 2 hours before opening.  On either the 2nd or 3rd RSD I was first in line by coming 30 minutes before it opened!!  Glad to see all the excitement over RSD and everyone is always in a good mood, which is amazing for such a crowd antsy to get their item.

So instead, I came back at 8pm and was still able to find 2 of the 4 items I really wanted: Flaming Lips "7 Skies H3" LP and the Varioius Artists title of early Kiwi Rock (New Zealand) on Captured Tracks/Flying Nun called "Dunedin Double"... while missing out on the Greatful Dead "Hampton" and the R.E.M. Unplugged.

The way I look at it is that only 1 or 2 titles each year is a real must-have (they seem to get fewer and fewer each year IMO) and at this point in my life and just the way I am, it still isn't a must-wait-in-line-for-2-to-3- hours for.  I'd rather wait to see if a title pops up a couple weeks later at the record store (which has happened with that last Flaming Lips collaboration LP and the R.E.M. Chronic Town EP), maybe at an online retailer, or even eBay for $10-20 more as I feel 2-3 hours of my weekend is worth more than $20.

Ugghh... and typing the "Flaming Lips" a few times made me realize I laccidentally put down a copy the Devo/Flaming Lips 7" .  Hopefully one is stil there when I go back on Monday.

Before I go I do have to tip my hat to ABK Books (& Music) in VA Beach, VA.  If any reader lives in that area I recommend you go there for RSD next time as I had a great experience last year.  I was visiting my parents on Thanksgiving of last year, so was able to go to ABK for Black Friday.  They stayed open after midnight on Thanksgiving so that at midnight you could shop for RSD items.  They give out a numbered ticket at a certain point so you don't have to wait in line the whole time.  And becaues there weren't many of us they went down the line asking what title was #1 on our lists and then they went and fetched it for you.  Once that was done they opened up the RSD BF section for all roam around.  

Ortofan's picture

The grumpy old jerk needs to keep rereading Stew Leonard's rock until the message finally sinks in:

SoldierX's picture

My RSD didn't pan out.  I went to 3 stores here in the Denver area and they were sold out.  I was looking for the Grateful Dead and Otis Redding releases.  When I got home I immediately checked Ebay and there were several listings for those records going for pretty high prices.  It just sucks when people seek to make a quick buck instead of enjoy the music.

BillK's picture

I was looking for the Dean Martin and Henry Mancini releases and didn't see them at either of the stores I checked.

That was of course my fault - I didn't camp out overnight to be the first through the door - but I was both happy and sad that they didn't have them (happy because that means they sold.)

To me RSD brings back one of the best parts about record stores (and book stores for that matter) - the joy of discovery. Some of my favorite records (and books) have been found while browsing the shelves while looking for what I did come in to purchase.

On Music Direct or Amazon you enter the title you're searching for into the search box, click on it,, checkout and you're done unless you click on the suggestion links.

(This is in addition of course to the fact that as a male growing up in the late 1970s I knew what the covers of Buckingham Nicks and Whipped Cream & Other Delights looked like in detail long before I had any idea what the music inside sounded like. :-))

TommyTunes's picture

This is now becoming an endurance test with standing in lines for hours, then if it's not bad enough that supplies don't meet the demand, some stores are beating the eBayers to price gouging. The store I chose to visit today decided to add between $10 and $20 dollars to the list price of their RSD allotment. You know what it's just not worth it. 

wkjeffers's picture

this year is the first time I haven't went to a store. the only store within 100 miles had a sale on "used CD's and DVD's" What?? No sales on vinyl new or used.  Many of the releases are singles?? The store used to have great sales for RSD, the releases were much more interesting. I am afraid the best parts of it for me are no longer present where I live. Too bad. And unfortunately there are alot of "Grumpy shopkeepers" out there that it just isn't worth putting up with ( my local store included ). I used to drive 90 miles each way to wait in line for RSD; the only vinyl sale I could access for RSD 2014 was the sale, so my local shop loses my money to internet sales-much to my dissapointment.

dhyman's picture

what a dick. we should take all the grumpy old men and send them off somewhere. and i really really hope i don't become one.  

you should have thumbed his forehead. that would have shown him.

Billf's picture

Sorry that the brother of the owner was harsh with you, but the owner did call it right that you would seek revenge. You named the store, described the great injustice that you had endured, did all but provide the perpretrator's name and home telephone number. I'd have thought that, in light of your past tirades like the Great Dumpster Caper, you'd be a bit more thick skinned when someone has the temerity to look at The Great Mikey cross-eyed. You acknowledge that this store is a good one. I'd think, knowing what a dying breed these local outlets are, you'd be a little more circumspect when someone with his cash on the line suggests that you be a little less rough on his brother's inventory. Love your passion for vinyl. Your tendency to seek revenge? Not so much.

Your words do have impact on this site. Problem with the brother? Take the owner aside and quietly voice your concern to him. You may have misidentified the grumpy old man who ruined your RSD. He may live in your house. Sorry, but get over yourself.

Richm's picture

The onus is on the those who run the store to treat their customers right. This was not a tirade but a description of MF's less than enjoyable shopping experience. Not his or anyone's obligation to take the other brother aside and whisper his complaints. 

This wont hurt their business. Wouldn't stop me from going if i was in the neighboorhood.

RCD was great at Gerosa Records in Brookfield CT. They are nice to their customers, they want them to BUY things - Retail 101.

wkjeffers's picture

the point here is that IF the stores are going to survive the owners are going to have to learn how to not treat customers. I think this is doing them a favor in that 1) they get national mention and bad press is still press 2) they learn that they can't treat people the way many many audiophiles and record store owners have always treated customers ( they even make movies about it ) and expect to stay in business. That it was Mr. Fremer was actually a stroke of luck for them in that the other brother may finally realize that his grumpy co-owner cannot continue to do this and the store stay open. I think the difference here is that there can be no mis-communication when the guy was inches away from Mr. Fremer when thhis occurred. I think Your ego should also be reflected upon Sir. I can't wait to AXPONA next week to see the seminar on correctly returning vinyl to the jacket. See you there Mr. Fremer

Michael Fremer's picture

Is this your idea of "revenge"?: 

"It's a relatively small but very well-stocked store. They endeavor to carry all of the new non-audiophile vinyl releases and their used selection is pretty good. That they have survived as a record store in a busy, high rent commercial center of an affluent town is a tribute to their good business sense..."

The post is my idea of constructive criticism. I've heard from many others who have been equally mistreated. I did not react to being "looked at" cross-eyed. I reacted to being poorly treated and emotionally abused.

My ego has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

As for the dumpster tirade, as soon as I got the correction from the Academy's owner, I published an apology. And that tirade wasn't aimed at a person but at what appeared to be a 'vinyl-injustice'.

Billf's picture

Good move removing the photo and scrubbing your posts dealing with your emotional abuse ("I will be your knight in shining armor...."). I guess some people respond to posts that couldn't be more complementary with nuisance lawsuits.

Crazy world, ain't it?

Vinylfan's picture

IMHO Michael has the right to express his opinion and comment on the total lack of tact and business sense of the jerk. If you don't understand the need for good customer service in any business, obviously you don't have one, or you will not have one for long.

Paul Boudreau's picture

Thumbing? What are you supposed to use, your foot?

This thread reminds me of the days I frequented the various used/new records store in the DC area (Record Mart, Phantasmagoria, Yesterday & Today and Orpheus), now sadly all gone. It was always fun, despite the fact that with one exception (Phantas), the owners and their co-workers were condescending, grumpy buttheads. You almost felt as if you had to beg them to take your money. I never understood that - maybe they all had retailitis. However, I never had anyone be as actively jerky as you described your experience. More like completely ignored and eyed suspiciously when I approached the altar (check out/cash register spot).

floweringtoilet's picture

The owner at Orpheus was a real piece of work for sure.

Kurt's picture

Long in the Tooth in Philadelphia is known for lecturing customers about record handling. I was browsing there once, and the 30-something owner admonished 50-year old me for taking several LPs out of their sleeves to look at the condition. I thought maybe he was joking, and I asked him how I could tell the condition without looking at the record. He said the records were inexpensive enough that the condition didn't matter. "Would YOU buy a record without looking at the condiiton?" I asked, and he said he did all the time. So either he doesn't care about the condition of the records he stocks (the LPs I was able to look at were in rough condition), or he just doesn't want people handling them and he was giving me a line. Either way, it isn't a store for me.

Vinylpete's picture

Mike I am sorry that you had a negative experience at the store. I have been shopping there since 2005.  They do have a very good selection of used Vinyl. In good shape, The prices are fair. Very good selection of new Vinyl. Prices  better then AMAZON. Good selection of CD's new and a deep catalog of popular artists.  They can special order anything in print.  Yes there are two brothers. The one who yelled at you, should have not treated you in that way. The other borther is the one who is up front. He has always been friendly with me and I have bought well over $4000.00 worth of CDS's and Records there over the years. I am sure he was angry at his brother, for the way he treated you. He would have stepped in and defused the situation, if it was not so busy.  You post will most likely get them some new customers.

Michael Fremer's picture

Yes the brother behind the counter has never been abusive. I wrote what I wrote in the hope that the behind the counter brother might rein in the grumpy brother.

Yes, my post will most likely get them some new customers. That was also the idea. The last thing I would want to do is hurt a good record store's business!

But I also won't put up with being abused by any retailer (or anyone). I am fortunate to have a venue in which I can air grievances. In this case I was about as complimentary to the store as can be.

My plan was to visit again on a mid-week day when it wasn't so crowded and try to work things out but the brother behind the register doesn't want me to ever return so I won't.

Too bad for all involved.

volvic's picture

I thumb records as well and have never been told to stop at any store and I do it ALL the time at Academy Records, those guys have never said one word.  Love em.  Just reading your post is making my blood boil and enough to prevent me from walking in there.  I believe vinyl lovers and lovers of music are a loose family that should respect each other. Every customer through a store is not just a customer but a relationship building experience, to piss on that is a cardinal sin.  Shame on them.  

thirtycenturyman's picture

I'm glad to hear you made it to Twist & Shout whilst visiting the Mile High City!  I used to live down the street and visited a couple times a week.  Not only is their selection top notch, but they also had fantastic in store performances.  It's pretty amazing to be 20 feet from Ben Harper as he's tearing through a cover of Bill Withers Use Me!  There's actually an officially released DVD of the performance, but that song is absent; most likely due to licensing issues.  There's three other record shops about a half mile west of there as well.  You can imagine how hard it was not to spend entire paychecks on vinyl when that much temptation is within walking distance.

audiof001's picture

Maybe Michael should provide a video of his thumbing technique least we thumb in the same manner and attract undo attention.

My RSD was a nice one. 'Bullitt' soundtrack, 'The Pink Panther' on pink vinyl (couldn't resist), David Lynch's 'The Air Is On Fire',the Black Crowes and Jimmy Page 'Live At The Greek', the two Wes Montgomery 10"'s and Jaco Pastorius 'The Criteria Sessions. The Montgomery sides were way over priced at $21.99 even though they are a numbered and limited. That said, it was a fun day.

Got home and fired up the system. My new favorite table is a 45-50 year old Neat Shield MO-19 rim drive that I literally saved from being tossed into a  dumpster. It took some time to wire the table properly, refinish the plinth and platter and convert an existing original Well Tempered arm to the newer style pivot and golf ball design. These RSD releases sound superb with the Ortofon 2M Red. I'll be switching that out with my Benz Silver shortly. I left the primary realestate for a 12" pro arm to occupy down the road and mounted the WT mod in the back position.

Never understood what the fuss about idler drives until I experienced my own. Unlike anything I've ever heard and so very musical and dynamic, with transients that are jaw dropping. This is the first time in 22 years of Well Tempered Turntable ownership that the WTT has taken a back seat. Playing these RSD releases is a joy.

Michael Fremer's picture

Everything you've written helps explain why this is such a great hobby/obsession.

J. Carter's picture

I have come to the realization that I am not going to be able to get everything I want that is released on Record Store Day unless I want to wait in line for hours ahead of time and wade through a massive throng of other buyers, many of which are very disrespectful and crazy. My store is like the old days of the Filenes Basement store wedding dress sales that were notorious for fights breaking out at them. These events have become almost that hostile and very unpleasant that first hour of opening. This year I tried a different approach. Go to the store an hour after opening, bring my list of wants and get what I can get. I ended up with 4 things I wanted and 7 or 8 were already sold out, From what I was told by the employees of the store I probably wouldn't have had a chance at the 7 or 8 I wanted anyway unless I was one of the first few in line anyway so I wasn't that disappointed. Some those they didn't get either so... 

HalSF's picture

I'm having a Michael Fremer moodswing day because I listened to your Colorado Public Radio discussion with Joe Harley and Scott Carney, and it was an absolute pleasure — a wonderful, fun, swinging discussion about the vinyl revival and good sound; but I also read this column about your RSD encounter with this disgruntled, emotionally troubled recond-store co-proprietor, which just made me feel sad about the various ways that you sometimes squander and self-sabotage the authority, positivity, and power you've earned defending the noble cause of analog music and vinyl gear.

You didn't have to write this column, and you shouldn't have written it. It's barely tweet-worthy, if that. Pursuing payback after this unpleasant but relatively trivial retail tribulation just makes both you and Stereophile look bad, and it bolsters the rap against audiophiles for their alleged sins of arrogance and self-righteousness. Sure, on one level the whole scene was kind of hilarious (although I'm sure it didn't feel that way), like the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen demolishes the know-it-all bloviating about Marshall McLuhan in the movie-theater line by magically producing McLuhan himself, who proceeds to tell the blowhard that he's getting it all wrong. But in this case your pique and ire stomp the comedy to smithereens.

I'm not trying to suggest you do this kind of thing all the time, but you shouldn't do it at all. It's unprofessional, and like all trolling, it's ultimately kind of boring.

Michael Fremer's picture

True, I didn't have to write the column but the visit ruined my Record Store Day. I was so looking forward to it. The guy baited me with the "thumbing" comment, which I absorbed but the second one was too much. 

I wasn't aiming for comedy during my visit. Nor was I aiming to return the abuse. Nor was my reaction in any way based upon my "position". 

It's how I would react in any retail situation, say in a clothing store, were I so treated. 

Big Cap's picture

The busy-bodies complaining about this article really need to get out more. The essence of free speech is that it is a continuum that travels in two directions, both good and bad. The guy at the record store was a prick and got called out for it. So what? His reputation is only sullied as much as the reader lets it be. Go to the store and thumb some records if you are such an arbiter of good will and see if the guy truly is a prick. Then get a career in audio journalism, write thousands of columns on near countless pieces of gear and music, start a website, develop a following...then you can lecture readers on the ethics of record shopping. Oy vey, what a bunch of caterwalling over nothing. Thumb on Mikey and keep writing, about records and pricks.

forshac's picture

I grew up near Westwood & often shopped at Music Merchant's predecessor, Town & Country, back in the day.  The bad brother has had a rep locally for many years--the one thing local Yankees & Mets fans, liberals & conservatives agree on is:  This guy's a piece of work.  He reprimanded me once for daring to (carefully) take a record out of its sleeve for examination.  To hell with Music Mechant, I thought--which was easy, since by then I'd moved away.  I took my business elsewhere whenever I visited the area.


Earlier this year, I "got over myself" (with some encouragement from MF--thanks, man) & checked it out.  I was afraid I was in for a vinyl version of the Soup Nazi, but I guess I got the good brother.  I concentrated on the used stock & while nothing was priced, he gave me a fair deal on what I wanted, only "looking up" one item (Marty Robbins' "Gunfighter Ballads"--in mono!) & giving me the low-end price.  I let a happy camper.  Now I read this.......

Life's too short.  You get around.  You have a computer.  The prophet is not without honor, except in (or near) his hometown.  You don't need Music Merchant.  Neither do I.  They're off my vinyl tourist list.

Thanks for the local color!

forshac's picture

I did OK.  I shopped at four different stores--no lines, no waiting.  One store held the Garcia reissue for me (they're punk oriented & didn't care; I work nearby); another held the Jorma reissue (& gave me 20% off--woo hoo!).  A third store jacked up prices on the RSD exclusives by $5 to $7--boo!  (They had a Robert Fripp album I'd been looking for.....)  The one that got away was Newport vol 1--none of the stores had ordered it.  Go figure.....

Business was brisk & RSD even made the evening news!

anomaly7's picture


I went to a previously unvisited store-1,2,3,4 Go Records in Oakland, as they opened at 8 am. I arrived at 8:45 am and the line was about an hour wait to get in the door. It was very nice inside this small store though, as they kept the number of people allowed in at once to a small number so you could really browse without feeling like you were on a conveyer belt or a fish fighting to get upstream if you wanted to go against the flow. 

The crowds were different this year! Last year I was in Hawaii near no record stores. The previous year the crowds in the SF Bay Area were half old (50's like me) and half young. This year it was 95% young, and a friend across town in Berkeley, also in his 50's, texted that he was the oldest one in line. He waited in line for two hours for Amoeba Records to open at 10:30.

The only annoying part about the day was getting home and playing my copy of The Doors RSD release. Track one is defective with an area of the groove smooshed down so that the grooves are basically missing in a portion of the record. I Googled the problem and it looks like there were many others with this problem. The needle literally has no groove to ride in at this point on the track and practically skates across the record until it catches the groove on another part of the vinyl. Hugely annoying. Break On Through is one of my favorite tracks, except here.

Some buzz on the net states that Rhino will replace the first defective disc, but I have not received a reply from my email inquiry to them as of yet.

Jjacksn2's picture

How else can you go through a rack of records without "thumbing".

Good day for me at Shangri-La and Goner Records in Memphis. Got the "Zombies" and some Folk stuff from Newport.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

In all my years of 'thumbing' through and buying vinyl I've only ever had one bad experience and it happened in New York (maybe it's the weather) and it was at The House of Oldies. The guy's attitude was ''I have better things to be doing than showing you a couple of pressings of the same album.'' I was the only guy in the store, I'm sure he could hear from my accent I wasn't a local, or even an American for that matter, but no he still had 'to have a go' at me. Like your good self Michael I just replaced the LPs and walked out. I later found from reading on various forums that I didn't catch the record store owner on a bad day! He's like that every day!

James, Dublin, Ireland.

k9gromit's picture

...dealing with bullies and other miscreants.  I have only one observation:  When dealing with bullies, one must be mindful not to become one himself.



Robert Dalrymple's picture

I'm lucky enough to have a record store owner who cares enough about his customers to request lists of their wants from the published RSD list.  I was able to get all of my wants except the Doors and the Donnie Hathaway.  I found a NM German pressing of the Doors' "Weird Scenes" on e-Bay which will probably sound as good or better than the reissue.  I was able to get both Zombies albums (prefer my British CBS original "O&O") and even the Paul Weller 45 (350 copies - it seems like the other 349 are listed on e-Bay). 

Really sorry you were treated the way you were.  I worked in/managed record stores from 1966 to 1973 and I'd have fired anyone who treated a customer the way you were treated.

Cybermynd's picture

I would like to say in 'our' defence that this fellow sounds more like someone with serious personality issues. It isn't exactly rocket science to know that you should treat every customer with respect and defer to their methods as long as no real harm is being done.

What I find interesting is that the more sane brother, knowing who you are, did not (as yet) make any attempt to explain or apologize for his socially inept sibling. I guess they expect a decent selection and fair pricing to draw in customers regardless of how they are treated. In this connected world of ours they may have to rethink that philosophy.

bdp24's picture

Dazed & Confused and/or other NYC record buyers: Can't let this subject be discussed without mentioning Bleeker Bob. He treated his employees even worse than his customers. Is he still around? He opened a store on Melrose in Hollywood in the 80's, but it's long gone.

bcash96's picture


Bossyman's picture

I agree completely.  I actually stopped shopping there because it was such an unpleasent experience.  

Chriswilford1's picture

In this day and age of social media the onus is on you.  If you don’t want to be called out for being an asshole, quite simply don’t be an asshole.  I thought Mike piece was well balanced.

This is especially true if you work in a retail environment. The “good” brother has clearly had time to reign in this guy and has for whatever reason been unable to.  So, keep him off the floor or this sort of thing will continue to happen.

I have zero tolerance for this sort of crap. Mike has a pulpit and he uses it for praise far more often than negativity.  Had this guy not been a schmuck, none of us would be reading any of this. Maybe this will effect some change. I for one Hope so.

philip sp's picture

A delicious cinematic moment retold engagingly by the esteemed mister Fremer. But "frivolous-lawsuit"? Hardly. "Brilliant-marketing-opportunity" more like it. "It's gold I tell you, Jerry. Gold!"

Now if I was the store proprietor - the smart one - I would have been drafting my new business slogan even before our intrepid blowhard of a reviewer had hit the pavement on his way out. May I suggest a few for the whiteboard:

  • "This record shop is a Fremer-free zone."
  • "Complimentary lesson in "LP thumbing" with every purchase."
  • "See Fremer's passionate recommendation of our LP shop on his Blog."
  • "We're the record shop that told that analogue putz, Fremer, to blow it out his a*rse!"
  • "Closed today for LP bin de-lousing. Big LP sale starts tomorrow."
  • "We take sh*t from no-one. F*ck you Fremer!"

Only someone with sh*t-for-brains would think "lawsuit". On the other hand "a frivolous lawsuit" for NOT publishing a photo of the record store, may be worth a thought or two. As a dog-lover yourself you may appreciate the significance of the compliment when I say: I particularly enjoy reading your mongrel-reviews, Fremer.

Philip S, Melbourne, Australia

Jay's picture

"Let me show you how to put a record back in the jacket"... Did he then offer to teach his grandmother how to suck eggs?  wink

Superfuzz's picture

I wasn't sure what you meant when reading the article... I figured by "thumbing" you just meant flipping through records in the bin, like every other person does... but then I figured that must not be it, because why the heck would a record store owner frown upon that? So I thought maybe you were taking all the records out of their inner sleeves and putting thumbprints all over them... but no, after reading the comments, I now understand that you were just flipping through the bins (too quickly I guess, for this owner). He must be the only record store owner on Earth who would ever yell at a customer for doing something so normal.

Incidentally I always take used records out of the jackets, and inner sleeves to look at them. To see the condition of the vinyl, check the label variation, look at the deadwax, etc. This also seems like normal behaviour, and my local record store owner doesn't care.

That reminds me of an incident a while back, a guy was browsing some used two dollar records, and had a pile of about 6 or 8 in his hands he was ready to buy, and he shouts over to the seller, "Hey, uh, these all work don't they"? I'm thinking, dude, you should take those out and look at them, see if they're scratched up or not, and see if it's even the right record in the jacket... I digress

John Mitchell's picture

I don't understand how "thumbing" through records differs from the way everyone flips through records in stores to see what's in the stacks. Perhaps someone can explain. What, exactly, was the owner complaining about?

sms057's picture

I was in Houston visiting my daughter and spending time with my new grand daughter. I found Black Dog Records close to her home. What a nice store. It is rather small but well organized. There were lots of shoppers but we managed to get along with each other. I bought 3 records. No issues with thumbing or even complaints about me looking at the vinyl. The staff was helpful. I got a nice bag, a demo cd, and a little badge promoting vinyl. I will go there again.

drtool's picture

But 99% of the time I shop at Goodwill. Did pick up Big mama Thornton and Sun Vol. 1,+ Doc Watson, all good pressing.

detroitvinylrob's picture

You are a better man than I Mikey. He would have received the finger from me that was not busy gently caressing and pushing through the vinyls. All press is good press in the sense that you just gave him significant advertising, regardless of his lacking social grace. It just stricks me as so ironic that you were the one mistreated and how the "golden rule" has been misfiled in the misc. bin for some folks. I'm sure you will receive a number of invitations from this to come thumb through (other store) record bins (unsupervised) and as much as you like. If that were not already the unwritten rule.

My record store day was local, and a cattle crawl, only to come up empty handed on some RSD (only) stuff, but I still dig thumbing through the mom and pop emporiums.

So much vinyl, so little time.

Happy Listening!

Rudy's picture

@detroitvinylrob We ought to compare notes (provided your username denotes where you live). I never bothered with RSD here in southeast Michigan--it doesn't help there is only one store left on the east side, who isn't overly enthusiastic about RSD (and new vinyl in general). Still a nice owner, though.

vinylcharlie's picture

I know those guys well. I dropped a lot of cash there on vinyl when I lived in Rockland county (1998 to 2001). The more heavy set brother that I mainly dealt with, who was not exactly warm and fuzzy and was tough on prices, but was the better of the two. The other older, thinner looking brother just spent his time posting stuff on Ebay at the counter. I overspent there definitely, but as you said, they were pretty well stocked and easy to get to, right in the middle of Westwood. I now live in Princeton Junction, NJ since 2001 and the Princeton Record Exchange way trumps that store. Many cyclists have had a similar experience at R&A Cycles in Brooklyn, they too are the "Soup Nazis" of their respective industry.

xtcfan80's picture

Ok...Almost a year later I read about Mike's an others RSD experiences. Mine was just great..I stopped in at the west side of Colorado Springs location of our local chain Independent Records and picked up the two RSD issues I really wanted. 1. Joy Division 2. Gram Parsons I also got to meet my niece's vinyl loving buddy she had been telling me about for months for the first time and we enjoyed talking about our collections and likes/discoveries. He purchased John Mayall and Hot Rize LPs he was unfamiliar with. Great time!

gbougard's picture


I'd love to have a youtube video of you "thumbing", with advice on the right and proper way to "thumb"

then reading the comments would be hilarious I'm sure.

foxhall's picture

Maybe you and the grumpy brother should reconcile and then produce a new video series on record store etiquette.

Scratch that.

Skip the reconciliation effort but produce the etiquette video with at least 10 minutes dedicated to thumbing technique.

Oksana's picture

I have both of Michael's videos. I don't remember which one he does it in, but I believe the thumbing discussed here is the same as what is on the video. It's using the thumb and forefinger to remove the record from the sleeve. Depending on how careful you are and how big your fingers are, it does leave oily fingerprints on the lead-in and beginning grooves. I remember being surprised that he handled the records this way. Especially since he, along with many of us, have gone down the rabbit hole of record cleaning with all manner of systems and tools such as microscopes and the like. With this knowledge and the description of what happened at the record store, I can understand how the owner/brother would prefer no fingerprints be left on the records, but nastiness is not acceptable either. It's easy to see how it could turn nasty and end up where it did. To clarify, I only touch the edge with my thumb and the label with forefinger, and I'm sure a lot of others who want to avoid depositing skin oils on the record do the same or similar. In this situation, it was probably only going to end one way. Michael does have a lot of vinyl experience and being treated the way described wasn't acceptable. I don't have a problem with Michael writing about it.
Michael, was he complaining about touching the vinyl with your thumb, or thumbing through the record jackets? I'm guessing the former because he wanted to show you how to put the record back in the sleeve.