No, this is not a review of a long-lost album by the Who. It was my response to something that was told to me by an employee of Wal-Mart.
Regular readers of my blog know that I record my own albums of Christmas music. To do that, I not only have to be the artist and the back-up band, I also have to be the producer and recording engineer. And to be the recording engineer means that I employ headphones when I'm laying down tracks. Working like I do next to my computer, it is imperative that each track doesn't pick up another sound. For instance, when I'm recording an acoustic guitar track, I don't want the sound of my vocals bleeding over onto it. I want each track to be "pure," that is, when I go to mixing them down and choosing their position in the "stereo picture," I want each track to be clean so that they will be heard in the precise area of the overall sound picture that I am looking for. To do this most effectively, it requires a good set of headphones, the kind that go over your head and cover your ears completely. What is known as "earbuds" will not work.
Two days after Christmas, I went to purchase a new set of headphones. Having not needed to purchase new ones for a couple years, I just assumed it would be an easy task. Why shouldn't it be? You need headphones, you go pick out headphones and then you buy headphones. Simple, eh? Wake up, America!
I don't normally buy electronics at Wal-Mart, because.... well - you know why. They're usually not worth buying there. But, this time, I figured to try them, because headphones are a pretty simple thing, and they should have some that are of a good enough quality to meet my needs. Wrong! This time, I looked and found only two pairs to choose from, one being under $5 and other pair under $9. And neither pair really covered the ear, just kind of sat on the ear. I could see they weren't worth bringing home, so I asked an employee if they had any others to choose from. This is what that employee said to me:
"They say nobody wants them anymore, everybody wants earbuds."
Well, everybody does not want earbuds! When I carefully tried to explain this to her, she just shrugged and repeated what she had said, "They say nobody wants headphones anymore."
I calmly asked her who "they" were. She didn't know who "they" were, but apparently believed everything "they" said.
I would love to solve this very important question because "they" seem to have opinions about everything these days and whether or not we need various items. Let's not forget the debacle of about four years ago that I went through in trying to buy a pair of hightop tennis shoes. I went to 11 different stores before I finally found one single pair! Fortunately, they were in my size. But, the response I was getting from most of the various retailers was this: "They say nobody buys hightops anymore." When I replied that possibly it was due to the fact that they didn't have any on their shelves for people to buy, the clerks just looked at me like I was crazy. I swear they were thinking, "If nobody buys them anymore, why should we even carry them?" People will only buy what is there for them to buy. It's a simple fact. Remember when the hightop craze hit about ten or 15 years ago? You couldn't hardly find regular tennis shoes during that time. Having weak ankles, I've always worn shoes that came up over my ankle for extra support - hightop tennis shoes, hiking boots, work boots - all just above my ankle in height.
I want you to spend a few extra minutes the next time you go to a store to buy something. Any store, any product. Look around their shelves and note the fact that there are less choices for you to pick from than the last time you were there. This is not an exaggeration. My sister noted this only a few days ago to me. She buys cans of refried beans to make burritos at home for movie night. 6 months ago, she said, there used to be 6 to 8 different brands to choose from at this certain store she shopped at. She went out to this same store last week and there were now only two brands to choose from. What happened to the selection, or the choice?
This is not really a rant about Wal-Mart, but I'm going to mention them again, so maybe it is. In one of my local communities, they had a fine Wal-Mart store where I purchased several items that I used a lot. Items such as cd jewel boxes, (The original, thicker variety), high-quality cassette tapes for recording my band live, the large, economy-sized baby shampoo, (I want my hair to smell just like hers....!), the larger-sized bag of cough drops. Well, you get the idea. Wal-Mart decided that they needed a super store in this town, so they built a new one across the highway from the old one. When it was finished, they moved from the old one and closed it down. They also stopped carrying a lot of things in the new store that I used to purchase at the old one.
I thought the idea of a "super-store" was to carry even more items than a regular store, not less? I can now no longer find high-bias cassettes, only the cheap grade. They only sell the slim-line cd jewel boxes, and then, not many of those. The large bag of cough drops are nowhere to be found, only a smaller, 30% more package that does indeed have 30% more of the regular-sized package, only it's still not many. When I asked where the large bottles of my regular baby shampoo were located, an employee only told me that nobody bought them any more, so they stopped carrying them. Mind you, this was only in the brand I used, which they still had the regular small bottle on their shelves. They had baby shampoo in two other locations from where they kept my brand and in both of those other locations, they had the larger economy size in the other more expensive brands. If nobody is buying them, why are they still carrying those? Nobody that works at Wal-Mart can answer this question for me - not even the manager. I know, because I've asked to speak to the manager on many occasions. It seems like I'm speaking to the manager of Wal-Mart about every time I go there any more. But still, I get no answers. Nobody knows the answers.
But this is not an isolated Wal-Mart occurrence. Just look around you - you are getting less choice for just about everything you buy. It's only symptomatic of a deeper issue, which I will detail in another blog. Suffice it to say, it is something which is affecting the entire population of planet Earth.
I finally found a set of headphones, at Radio Shack. This is no endorsement for them, for I was trying to buy a simple, countertop cd player for a Christmas present and the Radio Shack near my hometown could not seem to get one for their stock. I went back three times after the initial inquiry and each time, the clerk said one hadn't come in yet. Once again, we are being offered less and less choice. All you have to do is look around to notice it. And when you do see for yourself, be sure to tell someone else. If enough people realize this, maybe we can make our voice loud enough to be heard. At least, while we still have the freedom to voice our opinions. That may not last much longer, either. Oh, the times they are a' changin'.
By the way, here are the headphones I ended up buying: