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OPINION: A spinning scam

At my age, I'm one of those senior citizens who always seem to be the target of scams and consumer-protection warnings about scams.

Even so, one of few times I fell for a scam of sorts, I was a young man, recently married, living in a rented house off East 10th Street in Sioux Falls and looking for a nice turntable to play some albums.

I should have been at the prime of my scam-fighting powers then, right? I was 24 years old, a college graduate working for a daily newspaper. Journalism school taught me to question anything and everything, yet I walked into a little record store and second-hand shop in town and emerged with a (nearly) free console record player and a promise to buy one album a week for a year.

They say turntables and vinyl records are making a comeback. Well, back in 1968, vinyl albums and turntables were the only way to hear music on demand. Radio existed, AM mostly, with plenty of static and nothing approaching commercial-free programming. We listened to radio, sure, but it was nice in the evenings to plop a long-playing 78 rpm platter on the turntable, drop the needle arm and kick back to music we chose ourselves.

It was a simple time, no earbuds or headphones or Walkmans or iPods or satellite radio or Bluetooth speakers. Just a turntable and a stack of vinyl. Did we really need to improve on that? I suppose that's like asking why someone saw the telephone on the kitchen wall and said, "We really should take that baby out to the car and drive around talking."

Nancy brought our first record player into the marriage. It was one she had at school in St. Paul. It was the size of a briefcase. The lid opened, and there was the turntable. The sides detached and there were two small speakers. Wow. Surround sound.

I appreciated that record player, because I'd gone through college relying on my roommate Mike's ancient turntable. We'd take turns loading our favorite records. He leaned toward Jay and the Americans. I had a couple of Chet Atkins' albums and a collection of Elvis hits. We played the grooves right off of those platters, I'll tell you.

Anyway, maybe a year after Nancy and I married, her turntable gave out. Little wonder. It had belonged to her big brother first. Old and much used, it had served well, but it was time to move on.

Driving home from work one evening, I saw the offer in a window display of the small record store: "Buy a record a week for a year, get a player free.'' I cut across the rush-hour traffic and into the lot. Turned out, it wasn't quite free. I paid a modest down-payment to take the bulky console out the door. I also signed a pledge to purchase a record every week for one year. As I told Nancy, "That means after a year we own this baby and have 52 albums to play.''

I'm not going to say the selection of albums was "salted'' during sale week, but the next time I visited to pick up the first of my 52 weekly albums, I no longer saw "The Beatles'' or "Bobby Vee: Live on Tour'' or the Beach Boys' "All Summer Long.'' I saw "Bobo Motion'' with Willie Bobo, an obscure album by Larry Carlton and several collections of top-hit songs sung by people who sounded not at all like the artists who had made those songs popular.

Some weeks, the pickings were slim. Once in awhile, I'd find a gem, like "Whipped Cream and Other Delights'' by Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass. No matter the selection, I took home an album. Larry Carlton turned out to be great. Willie Bobo wasn't bad. Some of the others? Not so much.

At year's end, we owned the console record player. We also owned 15 or 20 decent albums and a fair number of musical dogs. All's well that ends well, but now that I'm a vulnerable senior citizen, I wouldn't fall for a deal like that so readily.

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