I’m going to post a few of my memories of growing up in Charlotte with Brodt’s Music Store as the place to get everything. There were other music stores in this area, but none was comparable to Brodt’s.
This situation made me angry at the time, but looking back I must grin at the way events unfolded in this story. It was 1979 or 1980 I believe, and we were studying Handel’s “Messiah” at Wildacres Music Camp. I wanted a few extra scores for rehearsals and students who might want to sing before making a decision to attend the camp, so I bought three extra G Schirmer scores. At the cash register, they were each stamped with the Brodt’s stamp, marking them as purchased from the store.
Time passed, weeks and possibly months, until the time to use them came. I gave one to a student and very quickly she noticed that some pages were upside and down. Oh dear! I looked at it and indeed one or more signatures were sewn in upside down; the score was useless. Let’s try another … same thing. No! Another? Again, the same inner signatures were solidly sewn in upside down! At this point, we simply shared and I told them to go buy their own copy when the store opened on Tuesday. (Brodt’s was always closed on Mondays.)
And on Tuesday, I took the “Messiah” scores back to exchange them for good copies. Bob Atkins told me that I had to speak with Mrs Brodt, and I did. I showed her the problem and asked for an exchange. I was dumbfounded when she refused. She said it wasn’t her fault, it had been too long, I didn’t have a receipt, and maybe a couple of other excuses. I pointed to the Brodt’s stamps proving I had bought them there. Mrs Brodt was immovable! Her completely one-sided thinking was for the store and she knew that an exchange would cost the store something in money and time for return shipping and such, I’m sure. I just stood there and pointed out that I was a loyal customer for many years and sent other young students to the store for their music. She said no and that I might try contacting Schirmer’s. Bob Atkins just stared. Doug Zeller, I believe, was there, and he was also staring. Confused and hurt by a completely unexpected and negative experience from someone I had known and patronized for years, I took my bag of defective scores and left the store quietly.
Well, I did contact Schirmer’s! I called the New York store and spoke to someone in the choral department. When I told them about the defect and about Mrs Brodt’s reaction, there was much hooting and guffawing from their end! He said he “knew Gladys” and I could of course exchange them any time. Since I was attending Westminster Choir College, I asked if I could wait until the Fall term and he said, “of course.”
When I did make it to Manhattan and visit Schirmer’s, I took my three defective scores back to the Choral Department and showed them the problem. “Oh,” said Frank (I believe it was Frank), “You’re from Brodt’s, right?” Yes, and he broke out in a big smile. I asked if he remembered my call, and he beamed, “Yes, of course. Who could forget Gladys?” He took my Brodt’s bag with its three scores and dumped the whole thing into the trash. He then brought out six “Messiah” scores and told me to “spread them around” to other students. I asked why give me six — no receipt, no paperwork, no register entry, nothing — and he said that “we all have to stick together.” He indicated that he had had other dealings with Mrs Brodt that had produced similar bad customer experiences and that that’s just the way she was. Looking back, I feel sure that he knew his location of Schirmer’s was closing soon due to economic pressure and not bad customer service. Later, the Schirmer’s at Lincoln Center closed and only Patelson’s served the musicians of the area. Sadly, they’re gone now.
The postscript to the story comes from the next time I saw Mrs Brodt. I approached her in the store and said hello. She was as friendly as she ever was and I’m sure had forgotten all about “my” problem. I told her that indeed I had taken her advice and saw Frank at Schirmer’s in New York. She asked if they gave me an exchange. I said that, yes, they had, and that they even gave me extra copies to make up for the problem. She squinted a bit indicating that she didn’t think that was good business. And before I could tell her why she should be the one to practice good customer relations, she smiled and said I should be grateful that she had given me the proper advice. At this point, I admitted defeat to myself, and went on looking around the store. Can a leopard change its spots?