The recent news that HMV has called in the administrators (and subsequently been saved…but who knows what that will really mean) has come as very sad but not surprising news to many people. But the group that seem the most upset by its demise are the staff, with both current and former employees taking to the internet to express their sadness and share their memories. And it’s something I can sympathise with, as I am an ex-employee of HMV too.
I also ended up meeting some terrific friends in the process, and the staff (and my supervisor Claire in particular) gave me a new found confidence. But it didn’t stop there, as I would have never have been part of Team Tea in the first place if I hadn’t a chance encounter with a member of head office first.
Just like any retail job, I had my ups and downs, good memories and bad while working in the store. And while I hated trying to selling their loyalty cards (it cost a fiver and no one ever wanted it) and sometimes struggled to deal with difficult customers, I ultimately left that job knowing I hadn’t wasted my time and I had enjoyed my time there.
So I thought I’d share my memories and the reasons why it would break my heart if HMV didn’t recover.
Ever since I left HMV I’ve regularly told stories of the crazy, attractive or downright awesome customers that I came across.
There was the woman that only ever ordered American shows, the school girl that always asked for Nikki Minaj (who at the time was yet to release anything) and the teenager who thought we were Blockbuster and kept trying to return movies because he’d watched them.
Each and every regular that came into the store was known, remembered and still talked about today. HMV might be a massive chain, but it doesn’t forget its regulars, just like any other store.
One thing that HMV has always done well is only hiring staff that understand and care about the products they sell. Every employee is given a test at their interview to make sure they’ve got up-to-date knowledge and a passion for music/film/computer games. This meant that every member of staff I interacted with during my time there actually cared about what they were selling, which ultimately benefited the customer too.
My favourite type of customer was the ones that sang, and they walked through the door on an almost daily basis. Unsure of titles or the artist, many customers thought that if they sang the intro at you, you’d eventually guess it. Basically it was like being on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, except instead of winning a point, you won the chance to go find the item.
One of my favourite stories involved a woman that wanted a Savage Garden track for her wedding day. She sang Affirmation to me (released in the 1990s), and after joining in with her for the chorus, I had to explain for over ten minutes why we didn’t have it as a single.
Although whether that tops the 6 year old singing Eminem’s Stan at me is yet to be decided.
My life wouldn’t have been the same without HMV, and I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I’d never worked there. I know that most people download music and film (illegally or legally) these days, and yes maybe HMV should have kept up and done more to attract customers, but it’s still one of the high street music stores left and it was an experience I’ll never forget.
So if you can do me a little favour over the next few weeks I’d be really grateful. Go into a HMV and buy from the shelves as well as browsing them. Oh and if you change your mind about your purchase, go and put it back in the right place…we used to spend at least an extra hour in the store after it had shut just putting things back correctly. Thank you.
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