Do people even buy CDs any more? The short answer is yes. But the longer answer
is that they spread their media money around, buying DVDs and video games in
increasing numbers. Which is why the old-school used-CD shop has evolved into a
multimedia megastore. But where to get the best bucks for your slightly scuzzy
Soundgarden? (Better yet, where to find anyone foolish enough to take that
scuzzy Soundgarden off your hands?) For this highly unscientific survey, I
gathered up a half-dozen CDs and headed out to four Toronto stores to see what
kind of deal I could get - and to find out whether certain music went over
better at certain shops.
CDs: Baptism (Lenny Kravitz); Alphabetical (Phoenix); Auf
der Maur (Melissa Auf der Maur); Spiderman 2: Music from the Motion
Picture; You are the Quarry (Morrissey); So Much for the City
The shops: CD Replay (762 Yonge St.); Flash & Crash (499 Bloor
St. W.); Sonic Boom (512 Bloor St. W.); Deja Vu Discs (26 William Kitchen Rd.;
1076 Wilson Ave.).
To find out what the stores offered for my CDs, you'll have to
read to the end.
CD resale shops have inventories that fluctuate like the tide, so
the task of keeping tabs on what's in stock falls mainly to clerks. At Sonic
Boom, a huge shop at Bathurst and Bloor, with something like 20,000 CDs in
stock any given time, the clerks determine CD prices by eye-balling the
offerings. "For CDs, we grade them visually, and by how many we have in stock,"
clerk Tim Oakley says. "If we see it a lot, then we can't pay as much for it."
In determining prices for DVDs, Sonic Boom uses a computer to look
up how much it would cost to order a new disc, then factors in how many it has
At CD Replay and Flash & Crash, computer inventories also inform
clerks' decisions, but the stores have varied pricing mechanisms. I learn this
when they give me different quotes for the same CD. Only Deja Vu Discs has a
well-developed, highly organized pricing system in place.
Let's face it: Most of us are pretty lazy when selling off CDs
(for many of us an annual or biannual rite). We just want to get rid of old,
often bad, music and memories, and we don't mind losing a few dollars. I had
thought my CDs would be worth about the same no matter where I went. It's
surprising, then, when Deja Vu Discs, a chain of eight suburban stores, offers
so much more than the others ($30, compared to a low of $3). It does so by
keeping scrupulous tabs on inventory with a specially devised computer program.
"When we started, we knew there was definitely a void out there in
this resale business." says Aziz Walji, who is coowner of the chain with
Shameer Esmail and Hussein Musa. "There were a lot of independent stores, but
no one really did it right, with a friendly environment and systematic
He and his partners created a fair-value system that's quick and
effective, as I discover one day on a trip to the North York store, located in
a mildly depressing strip mall. A hand-written sign on the door reads "No more
than five students in the store at a time." Despite this, it feels welcoming.
Sam Stilson, the teenage clerk, assesses my CDs and tells me I would have
gotten $3 more for the Thrills CD, except it looked a bit scratched and would
have to be resurfaced. Deja Vu offers a 30-day scratch free guarantee.
The quotes given by the computer program are based on the number
of CDs in stock, sales of the CD and a few other variables the staff doesn't
disclose. As a result, prices can fluctuate in a matter of hours, though Walji
says they seldom change too much. Still, impressed by the return for my CDs,
I'm left to conclude that the system is precise enough to allow Deja Vu to work
within narrow margins - buying CDs for five or six dollars, and selling them
for a little more.
Combined, the Deja Vu stores buy more than 1,000 CDs a day, and
together have more than 60,000 CDs in inventory. If a particular CD can't be
found at one store, customers can search for it at a lookup station and have it
sent over from another.
Over the years Deja Vu Discs has expanded into DVDs and games,
with the former accounting for 40% of its business. "We've gone from being a CD
shop to a one-stop entertainment shop," Walji says.
But back to our survey. In the end, Deja Vu Discs tops the others
with a total offer of $30. The tally: Spiderman, $5; Kravitz, $5; The Thrills,
$6; Auf der Maur, $3; Morrissey, $6.
The other stores' quotes come in significantly lower, for a
variety of reasons. At Flash & Crash, a tiny boutique store with a concise
collection of really good music and DVDs, the clerk tells me he already has a
copy of all my CDs except for one. Given the confines of the place, there's
simply no room to stock duplicates. The tally: Phoenix, $6.
Meanwhile, at CD Replay, a larger store that sells both new and
used discs, I'm given no explanation for the refusal of my discs, and I'm
offered a paltry $3 for Phoenix, the best of the bunch.
At my old hangout, Sonic Boom, where once I'd been content to sell my
CDs without comparison, I'm made happy by the fact that at least they'll take
all of them, though the prices are about half those offered by Deja Vu, and
based on a dubious clerk-scrutinizing method.
The tally: Spiderman, $1; Kravitz, $3; The Thrills, $2; Phoenix,
$6; Auf der Maur, $2; Morrissey, $2. Total: $16.
No doubt there are countless other resale stores out there, but
the lesson in all this is that unless your time is more valuable than Donald
Trump's, you'd do well to shop around. And to visit your nearest suburban strip
Walji advises people to donate store rejects to Goodwill or to the
library. But based on the fact his store would offer a fiver for Spiderman 2,
I'm left to think you'd have to try really hard to get a CD turned down.
What would they pay for William Hung, I wonder?
Publication: National Post; Date: 2005 Mar 12; Section: Toronto; Page Number: