Tag Archives: Rumbelows

July 12th 1975

“Started at Dixons. Only sold a pair of headphones all day”

Dixons’ Southampton store was located at the (relatively) unfashionable end of the town’s High Street. But, despite being in competition with the likes of Comet or Rumbelows (not to mention the plethora of independent electronics retailers), it handled a lot of foot traffic and was very busy indeed.

The hi-fi department was at the rear of the store on a raised platform. I was put under the training and supervision of Dave H., an experienced Dixons’ employee and somewhat archetypal old school salesman who ‘hustled’ customers wherever he could.

I think that’s probably why I only sold a pair of headphones all day. Dave would either beat me to any customer who expressed even the vaguest interest in things or would happily steer my customers in his own direction whenever I didn’t have a clue (which was often) and had to ask him a question.

Also, unlike him, I was perhaps a little to ‘honest’ with my answers to customer enquiries. If they asked me if a particular amplifier or tuner was any good I would refer to my memory bank of ‘magazine reviews’ and tell them what I had read. Not always with a positive spin. That would often send potential buyers away to think again.

For all his public persona, Dave was actually an OK guy. Very friendly and very approachable when he was off the shop floor. We shared lots of long chats about the hi-fi industry whilst we had our tea breaks or lunches together, and he confided in me that he was hoping to get out of Dixons “very soon”.

He and a pal of his had started up a loudspeaker company and they had just started manufacturing top quality speakers which they planned to sell via ads in the specialist hi-fi magazines. I showed immediate interest in his plans and he promised that he would loan me a pair of the bookshelf models they built for my appraisal, a promise he kept just a week or so later.

So, anyway, my ‘career’ in the hi-fi industry had commenced. I’ll be honest and say whilst Dave was a decent enough supervisor and the pay was OK, the job was horrible. Apart from the short breaks I was on my feet all day long, and I felt very out of my depth in dealing ‘cold’ with customers and trying to talk knowledgeably about things I (admit I) had scant knowledge about. Plus I was forced (rather than out of personal choice) to wear a ‘shirt & tie’ outfit which made me feel uncomfortable, not least because the heat in that low-ceiled claustrophobic hi-fi department was often unbearable.

How long will Dixons hold my attention? You will have to wait and see where fate takes me next… to be honest it was something of an unexpected twist.

Advertisement

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975 Diary Entries

February 23rd 1973

“H-Term” / ” Went into Eastleigh and got new glasses frame – will cost £10.80 (Phew!)” / “Bort new record cloth in Rumbelows” / “had to go out on bike at work – Roger’s got flu”

Wow, specs were expensive even then! £10.80 is the cost of 4 or 5 albums in 1973. I secretly suspect, however, that my Dad forked out his own hard-earned money on my behalf.

I had totally forgotten about retail chain Rumbelows (from where I ‘bort’ a new record cleaning cloth). The chain was as utterly ubiquitous as Dixons or Comet ‘back in the day’ with branches on almost every high street.

The one in Eastleigh (now, I believe, home to a Carphone Warehouse?) was a weird mixture of mainstream record store and cheap electrical white goods.

It seems strange that, for something that was ‘everwhere’, there is scant mention of the chain online these days, although one research page reminded me that the chain was once owned by (Thorn) EMI, sponsored the Football League Cup from 1990-1992 and gave up the ghost as (shockingly, to me) recently as just 1995.

In other news…. damn that bloody Roger!

Of all the jobs at Lancaster & Crook, having to make deliveries around the neighbourhood – using the ‘bloody’ bike – was by FAR my most hated.

I was used to riding a bike with sit-up-and-beg handlebars and with an element – only an element mind you – of cool. The shop bike was the exact opposite. The frame size was completely inappropriate for me, the seat height (set for the 6ft+ Roger dude) too high for my teenage testicular area and the look as ugly as hell. Get a few households grocery deliveries in the rack on the front and the bike became as unstable as you could ever imagine.

I also became a figure of fun for the local gangs of ‘thugs’ with catcalls heading my way on a regular basis, only adding to my lack of confidence when riding it.

Indeed, I’ll go so far as to say the bike ID’d me as a “bit of a twat” in the eyes of the ‘hard kids’ in the neighbourhood, a stigma which I never lost until… well, really until I left. (35 years later, when I return to England and stay with my Dad, I sometimes recognise a few of those wankers – now balding and as fat as hell – grimly walking the same streets with their fugly wives and even fuglier children and consider karma to have worked)

Crap I HATED that bike. The comedy at the end of this “Open All Hours” clip (followed by this one and then of this one) pretty much sums up my feelings.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1973 Diary Entries