Like many people,I’d always assumed that mall record store prices were based on a randomized process dictated by arcane franchise agreements and the need to pay a monthly lease.
Little did I know that the process was actually handled by some of them new-fangled com-pew-tors, running some variant of this sophisticated string of code:
160 PRINT “COMPETITOR’S PRICE FOR ITEM”
170 INPUT G
180 LET N = G*1.5
190 PRINT “OUR PRICE”
200 PRINT N
On a slightly more serious note, seeing “Camelot Music” reminded me of the short, sad existence of its northeastern sibling chain “The Wall.” There was one in the Burlington Mall, on the second floor facing a now defunct bookstore whose equally defunct name I can’t recall.
The store filled the small temporal niche between the old Music Land store where I blew all my eleventh birthday money on an Atari 2600 port of Mr. Do (which could’ve been picked up for a fiver two months later, but that’s a lifetime when you’re a kid) and the F.Y.E. where I once bought a new PS4 controller out of desperation when the mall’s EB Games didn’t have any in stock.
The Wall was a weird place, done up in a geometric minimalist moderne style somewhere between a Playmobil playset and a Montreal subway station. It felt less like an actual place than a mock-up of a music store made as a set for an art-directed late Eighties/early Nineties flick. Everything about it was designed to scream “WE ARE SERIOUS ABOUT MUSIC,” a message that was in direct opposition to its standard issue array of Current Hits and Proven Favorites.
The chain’s special gimmick was the royal blue “lifetime guarantee” sticker they’d affix to any cassette or CD purchased there. There’s still one, faded and peeling after twenty years, on the jewel case of the only thing I ever purchased there: a Men Without Hats “greatest hits” CD I picked up for Maura even though she was really looking for a digital reissue of the band’s Folk of the 80s LP. (I finally found one in Canada a couple of years ago. I don’t think she has even removed the shrinkwrap from it.)
The “lifetime” part of the guarantee only extended as far as 1998, when both Camelot and The Wall were bought out by F.Y.E’s parent company and their locations either rebranded or shuttered.
From the late Eighties through the past decade or so, any music chain doing business in the Burlington Mall had to contend with the harsh reality of having both a Newbury Comics and a Tower Records shop within walking distance at the plaza across the road. They had cheaper prices, wider selections, more space for affiliated merchandise, and a Taco Bell drive through anchoring the plaza the occupied. Why spend fifteen bucks for a “Nice Price” CD of London Calling when you could the the album *and* the newest issue of Starman *and* some Nachos Bellgrande for the same amount of coin?
At least until Tower filed for Chapter 11, Newbury Comics mutated into a Urban Outfitters/Hot Topic clone (and eventually relocated to the Mall), and Taco Bell moved its operations to a KFC in Woburn’s Four Corners district. A sad end to an era, but I’d switched to buying my music online by that point, anyhow.