‘Started new Job – GREAT!”
Seems as if I was a little more excited to be at Francis Records than I was on ANY day I ventured to Lancaster & Crook supermarket, doesn’t it?
I really did fall into the new job very quickly too, revelling in the fact that I was now one of ‘those guys’ behind the counter who I admired and envied so much. Suddenly my opinion on music – for whatever it was worth – held some sway. (“Yes sir, have you ever heard Aphrodite’s Child?“)
Do I remember my first ever sale? Somewhat weirdly in what has otherwise been an utter desert of memories, I do. Elton John’s double opus “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road“. Do I remember the price. Reverting to type… nope!
Mrs Francis was a quirky old stick to work for. I guess in time – and certainly when I ended up with my own store – I eventually understood just why she only ever wanted things done her way. Because, ostensibly, her way worked. She was adamant about how every sale had to be processed, but when you’re 17 years old it just seemed ‘petty’.
This was before the days of big (even small) fancy tills. Every sale was written in a simple duplicate book, the top page of every ‘paired twin” duly rubber stamped with Francis Records’ address and phone number. The pages in these books weren’t even self-copying, thus requiring a succession of little sheets of carbon paper.
As well as handwriting the customer’s receipt, Derek and I had to ensure we also wrote the details of any transaction down on a “daily sales sheet”, basically the top page of a writing pad sitting somewhere in the near vicinity. Whilst we were able to conduct cash sales ourselves, any cheque or credit/debit card sale HAD to be handled – at least initially – by Mrs Francis… awkward if she happened not to be around at that very moment. In these circumstances we had to run downstairs and see John in the classical department and ask him to handle the sale. Bizarre, but true. However, cash WAS king so the incidents of credit or cheque sales were (perhaps surprisingly nowadays) admittedly rare.
Customers would come to the counter with their LP requirements sleeved in plastic covers which we would then fill from the masterbags in the racks behind us. People would have to ASK for singles (45’s) as there were scant few ‘picture sleeves’ in those days for customers to browse through. Cassettes were a little more problematical as the racks required a key to open them.. and Mrs Francis had the key. Again, if she wasn’t around John had to be summoned from downstairs.
Customers’ purchases would be placed in a 13″ or 8″ square paper bag advertising the Francis Records name. If we sold a poster we would wrap & tape a bag around it by way of some strange ‘proof of purchase’.
Mrs Francis DID teach me – from this early age – the ‘right and proper’ way to answer a telephone call in a manner that made the caller feel respected. It’s something I never forgot and I used pretty much the same style of greeting 11 years later when I opened my own shop.
One thing that I did of my accord – maybe at my Dad’s suggestion? – was wearing a tie to work. Whilst Mrs Francis would have been quite happy for me to wear more casual clothes, I actually spivved myself up a little each week, preferring decent trousers, a crisply ironed shirt (thanks Mum!) and, yes (the ultimate establishment icon), a tie.
Little did I know that this day in 1975 would represent the very beginning what eventually turned out to be an almost 22 year ‘romance’ with the music (and/or video) industry.
So, a belated THANK YOU Mrs Francis for giving me this early opportunity. Not just for kick-starting my eventual career but for handing me that inate ability that all record shop workers have for being somewhat dismissive and sneering of other people’s music collections!