Remembering the 90s: “What was it like to buy CDs, Daddy?”

The gimmick gave Blockbuster a leg up on its competitors like Tower Records, Best Buy and Circuit City, some of which had listening stations, but all of which had limits on what you could listen to. It was the closest to an Empire Records experience as I would ever come. That’s all over, of course. The crowds on Saturday were so insane that HMV had to introduce shopping baskets so customers didn’t have to juggle all their purchases on the way to the cash. A&A. Play Da Record. And the competition drove down prices so that some of the best CD bargains in the world could be found along those few blocks. Billboard has this guest column about what it was like to work selling CDs in an age when everyone collected them. During Blockbuster’s heyday as a multi-billion-dollar company dominating the home video market, the retail giant opened what it was calling the “entertainment store of the future” in the suburbs of Maryland with the tagline, “The Power to Hear it All.” This meant that customers could listen to anything in the store, in its entirety, with no pressure to make a purchase. A couple of HMVs (the flagship at 333 Yonge and the one in the Eaton Centre). And there were plans for a Virgin Megastore. This “future” concept put “power” into the hands (and ears) of the consumer, obliging employees such as myself to open (and re-seal) dozens of CDs each day to meet the demands. Music World. Is there even one store left? In 1995, I applied to work at Blockbuster Music with only babysitting experience on my resumé. After scoring the minimum wage gig ($4.75 hour) I found myself ringing up customers while wearing a name tag and “Ask me how to pre-purchase Hootie and the Blowfish” button. Back in the 90s, the strip of Toronto’s Yonge Street between Queen and Gerrard was record store heaven. Sam the Record Man. Keep reading. Starting with Tower Records on the northwest corner of Queen and Yonge, shoppers could move through at least a dozen different stores.
Remembering the 90s: “What was it like to buy CDs, Daddy?”