I’ve always hated Sam Goody. For me, the retail chain has embodied everything that sucks about mainstream music. The stores I’d visit years ago at Fashion Valley and UTC were big and noisy. Top 40 blared over the sound system. CDs were packaged in clunky plastic containers. The stores’ employees wore uniforms, just like the folks serving pizza and corndogs over at the food court.
Thankfully, the last Sam Goody location in San Diego—a sprawling store in Horton Plaza that’s been open since 1994—will close its doors for good at the end of October. As I reported last year, the building it sits in will be demolished as part of a city project to expand the mall’s adjoining park. The store won’t re-open at another location in the mall, U-T San Diego reported.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I was taking a stroll through Downtown and decided on a whim to visit this corporate relic. What can I say? I get a fun little thrill from shopping for music. I love chatting with the clerks about new releases, and I always seem to dig up unexpected gems. I usually don’t feel like a customer who’s buying something; I feel like I’m part of a community of music listeners.
When I stepped into Sam Goody, the store was packed with shoppers. Everything was being sold at discount prices, but I still found a decent selection of indie-rock and hip-hop, including a used Digable Planets album for $4.99. To Sam Goody’s credit, not all of the music it sells is bad, and its prices aren’t too shabby, either.
But as I perused the CD racks, I soon felt a deep, almost primal aversion to the whole place. It wasn’t just the employees’ black, uniform-like outfits or the pop music blaring over the speakers. It was something about Sam Goody’s very DNA. Whatever sense of community I might’ve felt had been stripped away. My crude, ugly customer-ness was laid bare. I felt gross. I left Sam Goody without dropping a dime, and I never turned back.