I don't play a musical instrument and neither does Mrs. Pincus. So, what were we doing in Guitar Center, a local outlet of a chain of music stores? We were buying a birthday gift for Mrs. P's cousin's little boy who is a budding ?uestlove, Neil Peart or (God forbid) Ringo Starr. And, what store won't we ever set foot in again? That's right, Guitar Center.
When we received an invitation to the four-year-old's birthday party, Mrs. P — the Queen of unique and thoughtful gifts — decided on a cool pair of drumsticks. She had seen the youngster pounding away on a small drum kit in some videos posted by his mom on Facebook. I thought it was cool too, but I hadn't been in a music store since the last time I took my son to get his guitar restrung and that was years ago (and that was at Sam Ash, Guitar Center's biggest competitor).
My wife saw a pair of tie-dye decorated sticks on Guitar Center's website, but was disappointed when she discovered they were only available online. So, this afternoon, we drove out to Guitar Center to peruse the stock in search of a pair of of comparably cool sticks. We parked and entered the store. It was dimly lit. The walls were lined with guitars in every conceivable shape and size. A few long-haired dudes handled a few of the instruments. Just ahead of us was a separate room with a large sign reading "DRUMS" in metallic purple letters above the door. On the other side of the threshold, we were greeted by a goateed dude who offered assistance.
"We're looking for a pair of drumsticks for a four-year-old," my wife explained.
Evidently, this guy heard "Buddy Rich" instead of "four-year-old" and launched into a technical pitch as though we were newly-hired roadies and we were setting up the stage for the Newport Jazz Festival. When Mrs. P finally conveyed that she was shopping for a child, he provided a selection of drumsticks covered in glitter up to the silicone tips. As my spouse made her selection (the red and blue ones), the counter phone rang and the clerk dude excused himself to take the call. He "uh-huh"ed and "mm-hmm"ed for five minutes. Other customers wandered into the drum room as his phone conversation continued. Those same customers wandered out of the drum room as his phone conversation did not let up. Finally, my wife approached the counter and motioned to the clerk dude that she'd like to pay and get on with our lives.
Then things got strange.
He asked for a photo ID and information with which he could start a profile for their customer database. When she produced a credit card, he asked for additional identification. ("Oh, you don't have to take it out of your wallet. It's just for your own protection.," he said reassuringly.) Then he presented the receipt.
"Hang on to this," he insisted, "the girl at the front door needs to see it before you leave."
Sure enough, a young lady who resembled Chrissie Hynde circa 1982, blocked our path to the exit. "I just need to see that.," she said in a monotone as she reached for the receipt in my wife's extended hand. "Can I just check the bag, too.," the girl added. She scanned the contents of the bag — two sets of drum sticks and a baseball cap with a gold Zildjian logo above the bill. She confirmed that the items corresponded to the inventory listed on the receipt. She stamped the paper slip and, still expressionless, handed it back. "Have a good day." she said, as though it was an effort to say it. I quickly glanced around the store and noticed that a good amount of the staff were watching a good amount of the customers. Us included.
In the parking lot, we climbed into our car. "Well," my wife said, "their motto should be 'Guitar Center — where we ignore you then treat you like a criminal.' "
"I guess musicians are not to be trusted.," I replied.