Record Store Review: House of Oldies
After beginning this series with a string of positive record store reviews, yesterday I had the immense displeasure of visiting House of Oldies in Greenwich Village. I don’t know if my experience was a typical one, but regardless I am certain that I will never visit this store again.
In fairness, let me first discuss the store’s few positives. If you are looking for a specific classic rock album, you can be almost certain that House of Oldies has it in stock. Their collection is extremely impressive, especially when it comes to the old standbys – there isn’t a Beatles, Stones or Doors album that isn’t available for purchase. Their website claims a ridiculous 1 million+ records in stock and I suppose that’s possible, though all you’ll see in the store is maybe a thousand – the place is small and most of the stock is apparently in storage “downstairs”. Beyond classic rock, there are other favorites of the 60s and 70s (and to a lesser extent 50s and 80s), such as the Jackson 5, Bowie, Lou Reed, etc. The pattern at House of Oldies seems to be that if they carry a particular artist, they have everything done by that artist.
So the main attraction of House of Oldies is that if there is a rare album from the 60s of 70s that you’re looking for, they will likely have it for you. And if it’s a 45” you’re looking for, I’m almost certain it’s somewhere on that wall, though you’ll have to know what you’re looking for by name. So with all that inventory, what’s not to like?
In a word: price. If there’s an LP in the store available for under $20, I didn’t find it. Then again, the prices I did see were such a turn-off that I didn’t do enough browsing to be sure. No wonder the inventory is so impressive – it’s hard to believe they ever sell anything. Don’t believe me? Here are some representative quotes from shoppers (per Yelp): “A fantastic selection of rare vinyl, no doubt. I never pass up a record shop, so I know a good selection when I see it. BUT, BUT- COMPLETE RIP OFF!” And this: “I can’t remember the last time I saw bigger rip-offs at a record store. Literally, I can’t remember, and I go to record stores frequently. I was astounded. It’s a real shame too, because they have some great vinyl there, but it’s like they’re living on another planet.” Or, to put it more simply: “overpriced craphole”. I couldn’t agree more.
In my experience, when a store is trying to sell you blatantly overpriced goods, they try to make up for it with great customer service. Consider my review of Other Music, a store I frequent often despite the prices being somewhat above market. OM has mastered the customer experience. At House of Oldies, my experience was that of being treated rudely and like a moron. The space is tight, with only a small aisle in between the two rows of LPs. Nevertheless, the owner saw fit to walk right through me while trying to put away an album, as if I was an intruder in his personal space. (Rude.) After scanning the artists named on the racks (which were sorted alphabetically … kind of. The alphabet repeated itself without rhyme or reason. Certainly not by genre, era or any other logical category) I told the owner that I was mainly looking for punk music from the late 70s to early 80s, as in, could he help me find it if he had any. The answer: “I’m going to need a band name and album title. We don’t just throw things out here and label it late 70s to early 80s. Everything is sorted by artist, as you can see.” (He could have just added, “moron.”) Hmmm. Trying not to sound annoyed, I said “I didn’t have any particular artist in mind; I was just looking to browse.” To which he answered, “Take my card and –” at which point I interrupted, “but I’m just looking –” to which he interrupted back, pretty aggressively “so you don’t want my card? Don’t take it.” I assured the owner – Bob – that I would happily take his card, as he instructed me to email him when I knew what I was looking for. And with that, I got the hell out of Bob’s store, never to return.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for an incredibly rare record from the 60s or 70s, email Bob (it’s on his website) and he should have it for you. But unless you’re made of $$, House of Oldies should be your last resort before exhausting all other alternatives.
- Sells used, new, or both: Used
- Genres: Rock (and a little else)
- Non-vinyl for sale: Nothing
- Selection: 8 out of 10
- Price: 1 out of 10
- Atmosphere: 2 out of 10
- Ease of browsing/shopping: 3 out of 10
- Used vinyl condition: 8 out of 10 (somewhat of a guess based on what I saw)
- Yelp rating: 2 stars