Modern life may not be, as Blur would have us believe, rubbish, but it can be confusing. A hundred years ago, if you wanted to blend in to the general throb of your friends at Downton Abbey, you would just need to learn which knife and fork to use, dish out a few withering put downs and find the best way of moving a Turkish diplomat’s corpse from one room to another in order to prevent a sex scandal, or perhaps merely elope with your chauffeur. Life was so much simpler back then.
Now technology has introduced new and interesting dilemmas: is it okay to leave a WhatsApp group or de-friend someone on Facebook? And how long should it take you to stop arguing about Brexit with a Russian bot on Twitter?
A few years ago, the British Aristocracy’s go-to guide to etiquette, Debrett’s, began teaching digital etiquette lessons. These were designed to help young toffs understand how posting the enterprising ways they were diminishing their trust funds on Instagram was perhaps rather rubbing poor people’s noses in it.
Now, a similar organisation, the Organisation for Acceptable Social Manners, is running a course specifically for the vinyl obsessed. Record collecting etiquette, and how to conduct oneself in a record shop is a complicated matter, and Every Record Tells A Story has exclusively managed to obtain the final test paper from the course which we are proud to publish for the first time here:
Record Collecting Etiquette: Course for Beginners.
Test paper 1: general behaviour in record shops. Time allotted: 30 minutes. Multiple Choice. Each question is worth 3 Marks. Show workings.
Q1. You are in an unfamiliar record shop and see an interesting record in good condition. You don’t know whether the £25 asking price is fair market value or not. Should you:
a) Brazenly take your phone from your pocket, smile at the record shop owner and say “Just checking whether you are trying to rip me off. I know what you’re like!”
b) Nonchalantly take a phone and tap or scan in every record you look at, and admonish the store owner should he attempt to charge fifty pence above the lowest available internet price for anything in store.
c) Try to check your phone without being noticed, perhaps pretending to answer a phone call so you can nip outside the shop, and then check the price on Discogs.
d) Buy the record without checking the value on Discogs, and then inwardly massively agonise over whether you have grossly overpaid until you leave and can check.
Q2. You spot a record in a shop that has been on your wants list for four years. It is underpriced, but in a rack that someone else is leafing through slowly. What do you do?
a) Distract the Dithering Leafer by pointing to the other side of the shop and exclaiming “Wow! Is that a turquoise Led Zep 1 for just a tenner?”, and grab the coveted LP while they look away.
b) Barge the Dithering Leafer out of the way, with a firm “Come on, mate, there are other people in the shop”, dig out the coveted LP and hold it aloft, exclaiming with a cackle “Ha! She’s Mine, All Mine!!!”
c) Stand over the Dithering Leafer so they can feel your breath on the back of their neck. Tut regularly, and tap your watch, shaking your head and muttering.
d) Stand aside politely, with your heart in your mouth. If you can, stand just close enough to psychologically block other would-be diggers of that particular crate, waiting patiently for the person to finish.
Q3 Follow Up Question: The person in front of you picks up the underpriced record that has been in your wants list for four years. What should you do?
a) Shout “Fire!”, set off the shop’s alarm, get everyone out of the shop, and then once the confusion dies down, make sure you are first back in the shop to pick up the LP.
b) Immediately say “Ugh! That’s such an awful record isn’t it? Embarrassing….” Then stare aggressively hard at the person, shaking your head in disgust until they put it back. Pick it up as soon as they move on, and shout “Sucker!”
c) If they take the record from its sleeve, try to put them off pointing out minor imperfections as though they were fatal flaws. Say, “Oof, considering how warped and scratched it is, that’s a very toppy price…”
d) Smile, and congratulate the other person for finding it first, saying “I think you have found a real bargain there – well done!” Leave the shop before showing any tears.
Q4. You see a record you want to buy, but want a discount. You strike up a friendly conversation with the store owner, but when you ask for their best price, the store owner rolls their eyes skywards and points out the price sticker. What do you do?
a) Look hugely irritated, pull out your phone and show how a poor condition copy on sale in Greece is going for half the price, (except postage, ignore that) pointing out that should be a fair price for the really nice copy in your hand.
b) Throw the record on the counter, saying “You can keep your stinking records” and flounce out of the shop, shouting abuse.
c) Stare at the shop owner like Paddington Bear, and start writing a furious and nasty trip advisor review in front of them, mouthing words such as “arrogant”, “unfriendly” and “rip-off” until they crumble.
d) Find a couple more records you like and see if the shop owner will offer a discount for buying a few at a time.
Q5. You see a well known record that the store owner has completely mis-priced. It’s a rare first edition worth a hundred pounds on sale for £5. It must be a mistake. What do you do?
a) Take the record, but add it to a small pile of other records you want to buy in the hope that adding it to a pile will draw attention away from it and somehow make it less likely the shop owner will spot his mistake.
b) Double down. Ask for a further discount.
c) Take it to the counter guiltily, and in silence. If the proprietor spots it, try to confuse them by playing dumb. Pretend you are unfamiliar with the album by saying “Not my normal cup of tea, but maybe it’s worth a punt, eh…?”
d) Flag the error with the shop keeper in the hope they will thank you and perhaps offer a small discount on items in the future.
Q6. You have no money and no intention of buying anything, but find yourself in a record shop. How should you behave?
a) Monopolise the time of the proprietor by sharing your Batemanesque thoughts on the careers of Phil Collins and Huey Lewis & The News while he tries to serve customers who actually want to buy something.
b) Launch into an awkward diatribe to the whole shop about how rap isn’t really music.
c) Ask the proprietor to play records on the shop stereo that you already like and own and have no intention of re-purchasing.
d) Go home and do something useful.
Q7. Another customer comes in to the shop to sell a record collection. How should you react?
a) Stand over their shoulder as they go through the records on the counter. Look pained, and tell them in minute detail why their records are actually the sort of records liked by people who don’t like music.
b) Wait until the shop owner makes an offer, then say “Is that all? They’re worth twice that!”
c) Wait until the shop owner makes an offer, then discreetly gesture to the person that you will offer ten pounds more than the shop owner.
d) View from a distance, and once the person has left, discretely ask the shop owner when the records are likely to go on sale so you can have a proper look.
Q8. You find a rare, but expensive LP in the rack. You can’t afford it until next payday. What do you do?
a) Take the record from the alphabetised section, and place it in the “Foreign Soundtracks” section underneath the main area, perhaps hidden in between a gatefold sleeve, in the hope it stays undiscovered for a few weeks.
b) Carefully place the record in between a gatefold sleeve of a record you are going to buy, and feign complete surprise if the shop owner discovers you trying to steal it.
c) Wrap the record in a paper sleeve you have felt-tipped in bold letters DO NOT TOUCH!, and place back in the rack
d) Ask the owner if he will accept a deposit, and put it aside for you.
Q9. You travel to a record shop new to you. All the stock appears dreadfully over-priced. How should you react?
a) Walk up to the counter, and ask furiously “Twelve pounds for a copy of No Parlez? Are you having a chuffing laugh?”
b) Ask the owner in a sarcastic manner “Have you made a mistake on the pricing? Only it looks like you want twelve pounds for a copy of No Parlez? That’s a joke, right?”
c) Discreetly take a photo of the copy of No Parlez for £12 and tweet it to @NoParlezClub and @VinylStupidity.
d) Sigh, and keep looking, just in case there is something vaguely of interest, properly priced, somewhere. Later, write a harsh but fair review on Google to warn off fellow crate diggers who might otherwise waste a long trip.
Q10. Another record collector arrives at a record shop at the same time as you. What is the protocol?
a) Wait for them to choose a crate, then go to the one immediately next to them and work slightly faster so, with the exception of that first crate, they are always looking at a crate you have already looked through.
b) Push past them to get to the “New Arrivals” crate first. Only look at crates they haven’t seen.
c) Ask a few questions to ascertain whether they are looking for the same type of records as you. Relax a little. Swap Instagram accounts so you can bore each other with posts of your purchases (and to make sure they’re not misleading you about what they are looking for).
d) Politely wave them in front of you, and follow them as you both work your way around the shop. Compliment them when they dig out a particularly interesting record.
How Did You Do?
Mostly As: You’re a genuine idiot. You probably film entire gigs from the front of the crowd with an iPad. Fail.
Mostly Bs: You’re certainly an idiot, and sometimes a thief. Fail. The police are waiting outside.
Mostly Cs: You have a nice record collection, but what price your soul? Perhaps dial it down? You have some unattractive, overly devious traits, which push the boundaries of Record Store Etiquette. Must try harder.
Mostly Ds: Top Marks. Congratulations. I bet your record collection is rubbish though.