an easy-to-use guide created by a disgruntled retail clerk

Chances are, you shop. You probably buy music and/or videos. Perhaps you even buy tickets or rent videos. Are you an asshole customer? Do you have to deal with asshole customers?

I do.


Thus, "How to Shop in a Music/Video Store Without Being a Shitfuck."

I have worked for Wherehouse, a nationwide chain of music/video stores, for three years. (My opinions do not represent those of my employer, blah blah blah...) There are the things I would like you to know, these are the things that would make the shopping process run easier for all parties involved:

Finding What You Are Looking For

A successful search for a piece of product (a CD, for example), consists of multiple parts. The most important part is LOOKING FOR THE CD YOURSELF. Which means: when you walk in the door, you do not come directly to the front counter and say, "HI CAN YOU HELP ME FIND A CD?" Rather, you locate the section where the CDs are merchandised. You look at the big signs that say things such as "POP/ROCK" or "RAP" or "JAZZ" and find the section that best describes what you are looking for. And then, you make use of this neat little thing we use, which we affectionately call THE ALPHABET. If you are looking for Miles Davis, for example, you find the sign that says JAZZ and then you scan the section for where the Ds begin. D-a-v-i-s. And what do you know, his CDs will be there at some place after John Coltranes, but before Ella Fitzgeralds.

Asking "Do you have any in the back?" is in bad form. Storing product in the back is a generally negative practice, as things do not sell when they are in the back. We generally keep everything on the sales floor. And if it's in the back, it won't come out until it's good and ready. However, we have understock bins. We have special displays. We have carts of product that have not yet been put out. Asking, "Would you possibly have it somewhere else?" is a better question.

Sometimes we will not have what you want for any of a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it will be sold out. Sometimes, it is something we used to carry and it didn't sell well, so we got rid of it. Sometimes, it is an out-of-print item. If you want it bad enough, we can attempt to order it for you, or call one of our other stores to see if perhaps they have it. If you do not want it bad enough to order it or go to another store for it, perhaps you should refrain from getting pissed off at us for not having what you want. JUST A THOUGHT.

"What is the movie with the guy that dies in it?" and "What is that movie with the aliens?" are actual questions asked by actual people--not just PARTS of a question, mind you, nor were these questions asked while pointing at a poster or some such thing. And then they stood there, waiting for an answer. Well, lessee... Alien? Aliens? Alien Resurrection? Mission to Mars? Close Encounters? The X-Files movie? Species? Cocoon? The Arrival? FUCK IF I KNOW.

Sometimes, you can hum three notes of a song and we will know exactly what you are talking about, grab the CD for you, and send you happily out the door to go listen to it. Usually? No. Sing to us if you want, but know that this method has a less than 50% success rate. We are not paid to sit around and listen to the radio all day long. We rot in a building for eight hours at a time listening to whatever crap music our co-workers put on. Describing a group's music video does not typically get responses of, "OH! THAT ONE! YEAH, THAT IS CREED'S NEW SONG," or whatever. Typically, we stand there and go, "Uhh... I dunno." And from my past experience, the people that work in music stores do not generally enjoy the majority of mainstream crap music. (What do we listen to? The Pharcyde, De La Soul, Jurassic Five, Veruca Salt, PJ Harvey, The Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Devo, Phish, Morbid Angel, Underworld.) They are not going to know who does that popular R&B song "Let's Get Married" unless sixty people before you have asked for the same thing, and at least one of them knew who it was by. You need to come in knowing more than the song title. The name of the artist and the title of the album are handy.

Singles work like so: An initial split is produced and distributed. After it sells out, that's it, they don't make any additional copies of it. If the single was released in June, got massive amounts of airplay in July, you are going to have a hard time finding it in October.

Standing in Line

Lines work in a simple way: one person behind another. Which means, when there is someone in front of you, you shouldn't just drop your stuff down at the next counter. Nope. You should get behind the person that was already there. Imagine that.

If the line is long, people in it start to get impatient. Sometimes, the clerk at the counter goes into a small-scale panic. If they are a good clerk, they will try to help people faster. You can assist them in doing this by using your time spent waiting in line doing productive things like filling out your check or finding your rental card.

If you drop your stuff on the counter, say "ring me up," walk away for a minute, and suddenly a line of 500 people forms, YOU GET TO GO TO THE END OF IT. Your pile of shit does not hold your place in line. If you want to be rung up, STAY IN LINE. Once we start the transaction, it occupies our screen. To help the next person (if you've not yet returned), we have to void everything. VOIDS are a pain in the ass. If, while you are at the counter, you realize that you want something else to add to your purchase, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, you ARE allowed to buy things and then go shop some more.

Just because there are three employees behind the counter does not mean there are three employees available to help you. If they are available to help you, they WILL. They do not need you to walk up to them and ask, "CAN YOU RING ME UP?" to suddenly realize that they can indeed assist you. CHANCES ARE, if an employee is not looking up from what they are doing, or looks occupied with something else, they can't help you. Stand in line.

Payment Types


Dropping a heap of wadded up cash on the counter is unacceptable. STRAIGHTEN YOUR GODDAMN MONEY OUT, YOU BASTARD.

If your grand total is $100.07 do not hand me a hundred dollar bill and a one dollar bill and then, after I have typed everything in and opened the drawer, say, "Oh, I have a quarter." Good for you. Take your quarter and shove it. The register has already told me to give you back 93 cents change and I probably don't feel like calculating your NEW amount of change in my head. If, upon placing your $101 on the counter, think you might, perhaps, have a quarter, add (immediately), "Wait, let me see if I have any other change."

If your CD costs $20.46, do not put a twenty on the counter and then just stand there. COUGH UP THE FORTY-SIX CENTS. And if you don't have it? That's nice, go away. I am not a car dealer; I do not negotiate prices. I am not going to "spot" you change.

When I give you your purchase, it is not damp and sweaty. When you hand over the cash for it, it should not be damp and sweaty either.

If you hand me a fifty or a hundred dollar bill, I am going to have to check it for a variety of things. Do not be offended; this is just company policy. It doesn't mean I think you look suspicious and are counterfeiting money in your garage. You don't need to get defensive and snotty with me.

Credit Cards

Your options are limited to Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. No, you may not charge your video rentals on your SEARS card. We are WHEREHOUSE, not SEARS, as the BIG, LIGHTED SIGN out front clearly indicates.

If you are going to charge something, be prepared to show picture I.D. with all credit card purchases. Do not come in without your purse and in your spandex workout outfit, and then say, "Oh, I left my I.D. at home."

If you want to use your mother's credit card to buy a stereo and twelve CDs, you better bring your mother in with you--NOT a signed note that says "It is okay by me if Paul uses my credit card to charge anything his little heart desires."

If the strip on your card is demagnetized, perhaps you ought to tell us this before we spend twenty minutes swiping it and trying to get it to read. ALSO, if the strip is demagnetized, be prepared to wait extra time while we fill out manual charge drafts and punch in numbers. I DON'T CARE IF YOU'RE IN A HURRY. IF YOU ARE IN SUCH A GODDAMN HURRY, PERHAPS YOU SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT CASH.


Get a check card. Checks are a generally shitty payment method. (ATM cards with the Visa or Mastercard logo on them, however, are not.) Checks take you too long to fill out. Checks require you to pull out your I.D. From there we have to compare the signatures, write down the I.D. number, write down the expiration date, write down the birthdate if the amount is over $35, and write down a phone number if you don't have it already pre-printed on the check. If the check number is under 100, we have to refuse your check. If your name and address are not printed on the check, we have to refuse your check. If it is an out of state check, we have to refuse your check. If it is written for an amount over $35, we have to run it through our Telecheck machine for an approval code. The Telecheck machine takes a year and a half to respond. DON'T USE CHECKS.

If you insist on using checks, they must be YOUR checks. If your mom left you a blank check, that's nice, but we can't take it. If your friend gave you a check for $25 for your birthday and left the "pay to the order of..." field blank, that's nice too, but we can't take that check either. If the check is for your business, and your name is not printed anywhere on the check, we can't take that EITHER.


If you could refrain from balancing your checkbook at the counter, that would be nice too.

WRITE YOUR AMOUNTS CLEARLY. If your threes look like eights, I am going to throw things at you.

Gift Certificates

The store policy is currently as such: If your change on a gift certificate is more than $10, you get a credit slip as change. If it is under $10, you get cash. If you only want to spend $10 of your $100 gift certificate because you hate our store, I DON'T CARE, IT'S NOT MY PROBLEM. (Do you want to know how to scam us? Buy 10 gift certificates for $10 each with your $100 gift certificate. Then, go buy 10 of our 99 cent blank tapes, and use a different gift certificate to pay for each one. For best results, do this in separate visits.)

If a gift certificate is lost, it cannot be replaced. It's your responsibility to keep track of it, not ours.

Store Hours

If it is after 6, check the door for the store hours before you walk in (at ANY store you go to). Make sure you are out the door FIVE MINUTES BEFORE CLOSING. If we have to turn off the music and kill the lights to get you out of the store, by that point we are really irritated. If we have to walk up to you personally and tell you that we are closed/are closing, by that point we are MAD. And the closer it is to closing, the more we would appreciate it if you did not mess anything up. We begin straightening the store about thirty minutes to an hour before closing.

When you call the store on Christmas and I answer, "Thank you for calling the Wherehouse, this is Erin, how may I help you?" asking, "Are you open today?" is unnecessary. NO, I JUST FUCKING SIT AROUND IN A CLOSED STORE ANSWERING PHONES ALL DAY LONG FOR KICKS, WHAT DO YOU THINK. "What are your hours today?" is a better question.

The store I work at is open 365 days a year. Which means we are open on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Day. Which means, if you rent a video on Christmas Eve, it may be due back on Christmas day. Don't assume we aren't open.

Bringing Children Into the Store

If they cry, take them out or shut them up. You have thirty seconds. It is not my fault that you chose to procreate, therefore I refuse to suffer for it. If you are the parent of a bawling brat, keep the damn thing at home.

If you spare us the wrath of your demon seeds, sometimes we will give you special treatment. Once, a woman with obnoxious kids called and asked if we could hold a CD at the front counter for her so she could leave her screaming offspring in the car, run in, pay for the CD, and run back out. Generally, the "special treatment" requests get denied, but if you explain to us that you are doing it for our sake, instead of coming across as an asshole, you come across as a saint. WE WILL GLADLY HOLD PRODUCT FOR YOU AT THE FRONT COUNTER SO YOU CAN SHOP QUICKLY AND LEAVE YOUR ANNOYING CHILDREN IN THE CAR. It may be considered "bad parenting" but I, a child-less retail clerk, am not going to hold it against you.

You know all the times Junior picked up a video, brought it over to you to show you, you said, "Oh that's lovely, dear. Now go put it back," and he went scrambling off to put it away? He put it in the wrong place. So next time, why don't you go with him when he puts it back to make sure it doesn't end up on top of a storage case display, instead of on the video rack.

The store I work in rents and sells adult videos. It is merchandised in a small corner of the store, with partitions around it, and a big sign that says something about having to be eighteen years old to enter it. However, there is nothing there to stop your four year old from running in. That is YOUR job. So do not come bitching to the manager about it. If you cannot keep an eye on your kids, you shouldn't bring your kids out in public.

If they make a mess, CLEAN IT UP. If they knock something over, PICK IT UP. If they puke on the floor, get a towel, get down on your knees, and WIPE IT UP. We are not your kid's fucking maid.

Returning Product

Before you make a purchase, make note of the store's return policy. Sometimes it is posted on signs. Sometimes it is printed on receipts. Sometimes it is on a placard at the front counter. It is your duty to inquire about it and decline to make the purchase if the return policy does not meet your standards. AFTER you have made the purchase, opened the CD, thrown away the receipt, and lost all of the packaging, it is too late.

KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS. (Sometimes, you will get two or three receipts. Keep all of them, in that case. Coming in with your credit card charge draft instead of your Wherehouse receipt is no good.) Without a receipt, your options are severely limited.

If the item has been opened and IS NOT defective, it is yours forever to cherish; we don't want it back. If you bought a CD and the song you wanted wasn't on it, oh well. It is opened. It is no longer resellable. We can not take it and throw it back on the shelf and sticker it $17.99. We cannot return it to the vendor and get credit for it. SO, when you buy a CD, make sure you are getting what you want. Make sure the song you want is on the CD. Make sure you are not accidentally picking up an edited ("clean") version. Make sure you aren't buy the widescreen version of a video when you want the pan and scan.

When those CDs say "PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT LYRICS" on them, they aren't kidding. If you buy your kid a CD with a parental advisory on it and then try to return it because it swears... uhhh... I'm not sure if anything less than a brain transplant will help you out there, buddy.

Renting Videos

Sometimes, there are two versions of a video: Letterbox/widescreen and pan and scan. The common misconception about the Letterbox version is that the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are COVERING something. Au contraire. You see, when a movie is made, it is typically made for the big screen. Movie theater screens are rectangular in shape. Your TV, however, is square. How do you suppose you fit a rectangular picture into a square? You either add black bars to the top and bottom (letterbox/widescreen) or chop off the sides and make it a square (pan and scan). If you are not sure what you want, get pan and scan.


Dropping your videos on the counter and walking off is not the proper way to return them. (WE HAVE A DROP BOX FOR THAT.) When you drop your video on the counter and turn around and walk out the door (or continue on into the store to rent something else), various things can happen to your video. LIKE: Someone else can pick it up and take it home with them (And, what do you know, it is still rented out on YOUR account, so when they don't return it, YOU are the one that gets charged the cost of replacing the video.) or an employee can mistake it for a video that has already been checked in, and then put it back out on the shelf. (And then twelve days later, someone else will come up to rent it out, it will come up as already being rented out, and you will be charged for having the video out twelve days.) So don't drop your videos on the counter and walk off. Either hand them to an employee and WAIT for the employee to check them in (the end of the transaction is signified by the printing of the receipt) or PUT THEM IN THE DROP BOX.

Sometimes, when your video has been out for 7 days or more, we will call you and remind you to bring it back. This is a COURTESY call. We are not required to do this. Frequently, we don't. Frequently, calling customers to remind them that they now owe $46.75 for a late video is an unpleasant experience, because all they do is bitch about it. So no one ever wants to do it. Thus, it does not get done as regularly as we'd like. However, our failure to call and remind you that you have had your video out does not relieve you of your duty to pay the late fees on it. It is not our responsibility to breathe down your neck and make you get your videos back the day they are due.

Do not return your videos to the Blockbuster down the street--or one of our other locations--and then yell at us, "I RETURNED MY MOVIES!!!!!" Yeah, you shitfuck, you returned them TO THE WRONG STORE. And apparently, if the videos are not picked up from Blockbuster in a timely manner, Blockbuster will put the video in its own packaging, put its own barcode on it, and rent it out there--for which, you are going to end up having to pay Wherehouse the cost of a replacement. So I am thinking that, perhaps, when the video box says "WHEREHOUSE" all over it, you shouldn't drop it in the dropbox of a store with a big "BLOCKBUSTER" sign on it.

If a video is not returned within 15 days, do not be surprised if suddenly your credit card has a massive charge on it. Yup, you just PAID for those videos--the full price of them. And if that was Final Destination, for example--a brand new release--that you failed to bring back? Wow, you just paid $104.99 (plus tax) for it. (Because we get new releases before they are available for sale to the general public, we pay an average of $100 or so per movie, which is what you, in turn, pay when you don't return them.) Sucks to be you.



For major on sales, have CASH. Ticketmaster accepts credit cards now, but they slow down the line and everyone behind you will beat you to the ground if you are the one responsible for them not getting tickets.

Tickets are light and heat sensitive. Keep them out of the sun or they WILL turn BLACK, thus rendering them unusable. Once they are black, they are garbage. There's nothing you can do about it.

NO REFUNDS OR EXCHANGES after you leave the Ticketmaster counter, unless the show is cancelled. LOOK AT YOUR TICKETS CAREFULLY. Make sure the guy didn't punch out the wrong tickets. Make sure the show is where you thought it would be. Make sure you got three tickets if you asked for three tickets, and didn't get shorted one or given an extra one.

Ticketmaster is separate from Wherehouse. Ticketmaster is ONE terminal in the store--and, strangely enough, it is the one WITH THE BIG TICKETMASTER SIGN OVER IT. We have five other terminals; they do not spit out concert tickets, just as the Ticketmaster one will not look up CDs. Should your question pertain to Ticketmaster, it would make sense for you to go stand at the counter with the BIG TICKETMASTER SIGN OVER IT. You may not get immediate attention. OUR customers come first. Whether or not you were there before them is irrelevant.

DO NOT CALL OUR STORE AND ASK ABOUT TICKETS. There is a TICKETMASTER number for that. And YES, they will put you on hold for about half an hour; that's not our problem. We are NOT ALLOWED to give out any Ticketmaster information over the phone. THIS MEANS: No, we cannot look up prices for you, NO we cannot tell you whether or not there are still tickets available for a show, NO we cannot tell you whether or not Ticketmaster is even SELLING tickets for that show at all, NO we cannot tell you what date the show is, NO we cannot tell you what time they go on sale. And if we DO, out of the kindness of our hearts, spare you any of the hassle of calling Ticketmaster, the information we give you is not guaranteed to be CORRECT, and there is not a damn thing you can do about that either.

For the most part, management figures are the only ones that can make the Ticketmaster machine spit out tickets. And, because they are human, sometimes they go on breaks. Sometimes they are gone for an hour. Sometimes, you are not going to be able to get your tickets due to this. OH WELL, TOO BAD FOR YOU. Wait, or go somewhere else.

If your ticket purchase/inquiry is a huge hassle, I recommend BEING REALLY NICE to the person helping you for the best possible results. If you want to go see the Anaheim Mighty Ducks play the Detroit Red Wings at the Anaheim Arena, and you don't like the best available seats, finding seats in other price ranges can be a pain in the ass. Know this. Act accordingly. Seats behind the goal cost less than seats at center ice. Seats up in the rafters cost less than seats at club level. Each price range requires a different code to be typed in. In short, it is annoying. Most sporting event ticket sales are. DO NOT ACT LIKE A PISSY SHITHEAD OR ASK FOR SOMETHING STUPID LIKE "SEATS IN THE SHADE AND BY THE HOTDOG VENDOR." There isn't anything on our map that says "IN THE SHADE. BY THE HOT DOG VENDOR, " YOU ASSHOLE.

Selling Your Used CDs

We have the right to refuse anything we don't want, for any reason whatsoever. WE WILL NOT TAKE: promotional CDs (signified by a "notched" or "punched" barcode, a slash through the barcode, a cut in the spine of the CD, a--typically gold--stamp on the liner notes reading "FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY" or something to that effect, etc.), CD singles, CDs missing cover art or backings, anything we have an overstock of (four or more), anything that doesn't sell, those classical CDs that Best Buy used to sell for a buck each (and then people would sell them to Wherehouse and get three dollars each for them), or SCRATCHED CDs. Scratched. Yes, this is where everyone throws a fit. "BUT IT DOESN'T SKIP!" we are told constantly. Well, golly, that's nice, but about half of the people that buy used CDs ask to see the disc before they pay for it, and if it has scratches, they won't take it. SCRATCHED CDS DO NOT SELL. A hundred scratches or one, WE WON'T TAKE THEM IF WE DETERMINE THEM TO BE "TOO SCRATCHED." And then, of course, this is where you whine at us, "IT DOESN'T SAY THAT ON THE SIGN. THIS IS FALSE ADVERTISING," and make me drag a manager over to point to the fine print where it says, "ALL TRANSACTIONS ARE SUBJECT TO MANAGER APPROVAL," and then you go stomping out of the store like a brat and telling us that you're never going to shop there again.

"Used Buys," as we call them, take a long time. Each CD needs to be checked for the aforementioned things. Each CD needs to be scanned. When they do not have a barcode, or the computer does not recognize the barcode, they need to be looked up. Because of the amount of time that these transactions take, you may be asked to wait until we help the other customers in line. THAT'S LIFE. DEAL WITH IT.

To sell your CDs back you will need either a VALID CALIFORNIA I.D. (i.e. a driver's license or state issued identification card) or a SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. This is STATE LAW. This way, if you are selling back stolen CDs, when the person who was robbed of them reports them stolen to the police, the police can look at our buy-back records, look at the I.D. numbers, look you up, and show up at your front door to haul you off in the back of a cop car. Sorry, sell your stolen CDs in a garage sale instead.



If you pick up something and later decide you don't want it, PUT IT BACK WHERE YOU GOT IT FROM. If you are too lazy to do so, bring it up to the counter and give it to us. Mumble something about not remembering where you found it. DON'T DROP IT OFF IN SOME RANDOM PLACE. When you do that, there is no telling when it will turn up again.

WE LOSE TWO TO FIVE PENS A DAY TO CUSTOMERS. It is a real pain in the ass. It gets to where I have to go dig one of my own pens out of my bag in the backroom. And then, my cute little $2 Sanrio pen--with Bad Badtz Maru on it, that my friend Don got me two years ago as a going away present--gets "accidentally taken" by some old hag and I am utterly devastated. So, when you get out to your car and realize you have the store's generic Papermate 99-cents-a-pack brand pen stuffed in your purse, BRING IT BACK YOU DIRTY CUNT. One pen makes a difference. If someone had brought back one of the cheap pens that fateful day, I would still have my Bad Badtz Maru one.

When I answer the phone saying, "Thank you for calling the Wherehouse, this is Erin, how may I help you?" it really is unnecessary to ask, "Is this the Wherehouse?" seeing as I have just stated that fact quite clearly for you.

When I am carrying a stack of CDs--or movies or accessories--that I have carefully balanced between my hand and my chin, get the hell out of my way. DO NOT stop me and ask, "Can you help me find something?" NO, OBVIOUSLY, I CANNOT. So when I say, "Matt up at the front counter can," perhaps you shouldn't give me a dirty look. When I have just expended all of the energy in my body trying to get a bunch of boxes--that weigh twice as much as I do--on a dolly and am sweating and having a difficult time trying to haul the thing from the front of the store to the back of the store, the only acceptable thing you can say to me at that point is, "Do you need any help?" (No, but thank you. I can manage.) If you start your question off with, "Miss, can you help me--" I will CUT YOU OFF AND SAY, "NO, you inconsiderate BASTARD."

If you don't like one of my co-workers, that's nice. Don't come bitch to me about it. If they were rude to you, they are probably rude to me too. I probably hate them as much as you do, if not more. Bring in some rope and a bat and I'll help you string them up from the rafters and go at them like a piñata.

IT IS GOOD TO KNOW ENGLISH. Asking me questions in a foreign language isn't going to get you very far. Sometimes, there will be someone around who knows Spanish, but NO ONE AT THE STORE KNOWS RUSSIAN, CHINESE, DUTCH, OR THE LANGUAGE OF THE SMALL NATIVE TRIBES OF AFRICA.

Thank you.

Good night.



See what else Erin has to say at:

Back to No Apologies! Press