my claim to fame.

images The company I worked for didn’t only make cellphone accessories.  They made everything.  Or they brought everything in from Asia, that is.  Low-cost audio and videotape, headphones, television antennae, remote controls, audio and video tape cases, record cleaning fluid, speaker wire, wire splicers, coaxial cable, audio cable, surge protectors, PC speakers.  Everything.

It was all pretty cheap, aftermarket stuff, but also very functional.

One of the things that they brought in from Asia were the little, yellow seven-inch adapters like the one you see in the photo.

As a label owner, these things cost money.  You could buy a package of ten adapters at a retail store for somewhere between $2 and $3.  It was a totally disposable purchase, if you were a consumer – go to the record store, pick up a few CDs and seven-inches, and while you’re standing at the counter, you’d see a little package of yellow adapters.  You’d think Oh, I need some of those, and you’d grab a pack and toss it on the counter.

As a label owner, though, things were different.  When you manufactured a seven-inch, the “standard” record had a big hole in the middle – the kind that needed an adapter.  It was infinitely more convenient to make a “small hole” seven-inch – the kind with the, umm, small hole in the middle.  The small hole enabled you to pop your seven-inch on any standard turntable, without the need for an adapter.  

You also had to pay a premium for a small hole.  I have no idea why.  But it cost more.

One day, I checked into our company’s inventory system and saw that we had 880,000 of these yellow adapters in stock.  They cost a fraction of a penny each.

A fraction of a penny.

And yet if I walked into a retail store, it was between $2 and $3 for a package of ten.  Pure profit for someone.  A stupid and unnecessary expense for a record label owner.

It was one of a rapidly-growing list of injusticies that indie labels had to deal with that I had started to form in my head.  If I wanted to put out records, I had to put out seven-inches because I couldn’t afford to put out CDs.  If I wanted to put out seven-inches that every turntable could play, I had to pay a little more to have a small hole in the record.  Otherwise, the people who bought my records had to go out and find a package of ten adapters for $2 or $3.

It cost us more money to be cheap than it cost the corporate monsters to be extravagant.

Anyway, one day I went out for lunch, and when I came back, I saw some yellow pieces of plastic on the ground in the parking lot.  I got out of my car and realized that it was some of those adapters.  

I looked a little more closely, and saw that there were a bunch of them, strewn around on the ground in the parking lot.

That’s weird, I thought.  Somebody must have dropped these.

As I started to walk towards the rear entrance of the building, I passed the dumpster.

There were thousands of them in the dumpster.  The entire dumpster was filled.  Alongside the dumpster, there were boxes of them.

I raced into the building and found the product manager for audio equipment.

“Hey,” I said.  “You’ve got a dumpster full of seven-inch adapters outside.”

“What’s a seven-inch adapter?” he asked.  He was the product manager for them.

“Those little, yellow, plastic things you stick in the hole of a seven-inch.”

“Oh, you mean a forty-five?” he asked. “Yeah, we discontinued them.  They’re obsolete.”

Obsolete.  Meaning nobody needs them anymore.  Except for, well, everyone I knew.  

“What are you doing with them?” I asked.

“We’re throwing them in the trash.  It costs us more to have them in the warehouse than we can ever make by having them in our product line.”

I waltzed into the CEO’s office.  Without knocking.  He looked up.  “What can I do for you?” he asked.

“We threw away those little plastic seven-inch adapters,” I said.

“We did,” he responded.  “They’re obsolete.”

“Can I take some?” I asked.

“Can you take some?” he asked me back.  “They’re in the garbage.  Are you coming into my office and asking me if you can take something that we’ve already thrown away?”

“I am,” I responded.

“I guess I don’t have to worry about you stealing anything from us, if you’re asking for permission to take something from the garbage.”

“Well, when I say some, I mean a lot,” I explained.  “Thousands.  Boxes and boxes, as many as I can fit in my car.”

He looked at me quietly for a second.  “They’re garbage, Al.  You can take all the garbage you want.”

“I’m going to give them to people who would normally pay for them,” I said.

“They’re garbage,” he said. “You’re saving me money by taking them.  Thank you.  Tell your friends I hope they enjoy them very much.”

I walked back to the dumpster and backed up my car.  I opened the hatchback and tossed in a box of ten thousand of them.  Then I closed the hatch.

Then I opened the hatch again, and grabbed four more boxes.  Then I put a sixth and seventh box on the passenger seat.

I took seventy thousand seven-inch adapters.

Seventy thousand.

When I got home, I put two boxes of ten thousand aside for me.  Because someday I might need twenty thousand yellow, plastic seven-inch adapters.

Then, I made a list of indie labels that I knew.  Labels that put out seven inches.  Pop Narcotic.  Mag Wheel.  Harriet.  Carrot Top.  Ratfish.  Simple Machines.  I can’t remember all the labels, all I know was that there were ten of them.

Then, I packed up a bunch of boxes – five thousand to a box.  I hand wrote ten nice letters and put them on top of the seven inch adapters.  The letters read something like this:

Hey.  It’s Al, from Dromedary.

I also work for an electronics company.  Today, I came home from lunch and found thousands of these things in the dumpster.  I asked the CEO why he was throwing them away, and he said “because they’re obsolete.”

Every time you sell a seven-inch to an indie rock fan, please put one of these obsolete adapters in the package with it, for free.  There’s no reason we should be paying extra for a small hole, and there’s no reason our customers should be paying extra for a package of ten of these.

I got some nice responses from that.  I just couldn’t see throwing them away when the indie kids were still paying good money for them, and the label owners were scraping their pennies together just so they could afford a full-color, printed sleeve.  Nearly a million of these things were just thrown in the trash, and my friends were still paying for them.

So that’s my claim to fame, unfortunately.  I handed out almost 70,000 (I gave away the rest a few years later) free seven-inch adapters to indie label owners and distributors.  I was at a club one night and I was introduced to someone who owned an indie label, and he looked me right in the eye and said “I know you.  You’re the seven-inch adapter guy.”

Chances are, if you bought a seven inch from an indie pop label in 1995, it came with a yellow seven-inch adapter that I pulled out of the dumpster from my old job.

You’re welcome.

~ by Al on June 1, 2009.

4 Responses to “my claim to fame.”

  1. That’s the greatest story I’ve ever heard. Probably. I got choked up. Almost. Thanks for being you. (I mean all of that.)

  2. […] My Claim to Fame.  The story of how I provided 70,000 vinyl 7″ adapters to indie labels all over the country […]

  3. This is really a great blog. I stumbled upon it accidently and have really enjoyed the tales. I have a history in Hoboken and the BH music scene and it’s been fun reading about familiar places and names.

  4. Thanks, Tom. Glad you enjoy!

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