The King and I

Article written by:
Romeo Moran
Author: Romeo Moran
Ro is our resident wrestling geek. Don't mess with him; he'll elbow drop you out of nowhere.


I’m no longer sure of where I bought my first flash drive, but chances are it was most likely at CD-R King. I don’t remember much of the details anymore, save that it was only 512 MB at the price of maybe an 8 or 16 GB today (Moore’s Law1 hadn’t gotten flash drives that far yet) and that I bought it more than five years ago at the old, smaller CD-R King store at the Alabang Town Center.

Fast forward those six or so odd years later, and things both have and have not changed for the homegrown, upstart computer accessories shop. This impressive growth is both amazing as well as irritating, for reasons you’ll find out later. (Though if you’ve already shopped at least once at CD-R King, you may already know why.)

Today, I realized that I’ve been a loyal customer for so long, having been with the franchise almost every step of the way, and I know exactly why I keep coming back. I found that I’m proud of CD-R King like a father who has seen his child grow into an adult, and I believe I’m entitled to the feeling because I’ve always shopped there.

Let’s begin with their biggest, most obvious selling point. Their selection of items is huge, and not to mention, amusingly varied. The franchise has gone from just selling, well, the eponymous blank CDs (the old ATC branch I mentioned earlier wasn’t the mall’s first CD-R King incarnation; it was preceded by a tiny stall stocked with spindles upon spindles of CDs.) to accessories ranging from the really important (CDs, flash drives, memory cards, mice, keyboards, etc) to the ridiculously trivial (various USB trinkets, including a USB tranquillity fountain, USB fan, and a USB mini-fridge for your single special Hershey’s Kiss, I guess), and to the downright… insane.

CD-R King: Aiding and abetting crime since 2011.

I’m desperately trying – and already failing – not to sound like a shill here, but you will find every computer-related thing you need in here, save for the actual computers. (So far. But word on the street is that they’re working on that.) Not only will you also find things that you never thought anybody was selling in the Philippines, but you might also find things that you never thought you needed before.

I never thought I could still live out my dreams of being Frank Sinatra in this century. Thanks, CD-R King! 

I’ve gotten a lot of important things from the store; I’ve gotten the usual blank CDs and DVDs, flash drives, micro SD cards, I’ve also gotten a set of headphones, a USB adapter for my DualShock 2 controllers, and a universal charger for my netbook, my latest purchase. This year, after buying that, I am now convinced that this store has and will have everything I will ever need, as long as I seek it. (Really, where else can I get a DVR in this country?)

The beauty – and curse – of it all is that it’s all a steal. (No, not like the money counterfeiter. Come on, man. Don’t even think about it; it’s not worth it.) The ordinary Filipino might walk into a different electronics store and unless he’s a major enthusiast with loaded pockets, he’s not going to walk up to the counter with anything. But he is going to walk in to CD-R King and find a lot of things he’d like to own going for ordinary Filipino prices, and that’s a huge part of CD-R King’s appeal. It’s also one reason why all stores are always packed, hence a curse.

However, I’m not going to pretend that the its cheap goods are top quality; they’re cheap for a reason – CD-R King still has a stigma of selling defective, if not inferior goods, and I won’t deny that and the fact that it still happens today. Years ago, I bought an external hard drive casing that ended up frying the drive, burning all the data inside. But that was then, and this is now. My dad recently bought a flash drive that did not work; fortunately, they’re friendly enough to replace it.

But to their credit, while their products are not the best in the market, they’re getting more and more reliable over time. The netbook charger I bought went for more than half of what I would have shelled out for it at Gilmore, but its engineering leaves just a little bit more to be desired. The headphones I bought sound kind of tinny because it doesn’t kick enough bass. At the end of the day, they both work like a charm, so I don’t complain – I do understand the saying that you get what you pay for. And that’s the Filipino mentality: something that is, in reality, subpar, but works the way you want it to? At a low price, too? Deal!

You might be lucky if this lasts half as long as an original DualShock 2, but it costs waaay less than half of that, so who cares? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

For all the accessible electronics they offer, though, they fail in one important area of entrepreneurship: customer service. I’m not going to beat around the bush: CD-R King still operates under an ass-backwards point-of-sale system.

From the big, armory-like branches to the smallest hole-in-the-wall shops, the setup is the same; everyone is forced to wait in line as only one or two cashiers deal with the person in front, by hand. Every receipt and voucher is painstakingly written out, and they have to go to the back just to get change. This is the real reason why every CD-R King store is full, and nobody’s going anywhere else because anywhere else is expensive. For a franchise considered to be the harbinger of technology to the Philippine masses, you’d think every branch would be automatically equipped with a cash register by now.

How long are you willing to stand in line for your USB-powered naked baby tranquillity fountain?

In all fairness to them, the members of the service crew do know their stuff. They may seem like simple minimum-wage laborers to you (who totally don’t deserve minimum wage, if they are being paid minimum wage), but they know exactly what to do when you ask for an FM radio modulator for MP3 players or a USB adaptor for DualShock 2 controllers. Sure, all of that is printed in big, bold letters on the bright packaging, but not having to talk down to anyone after waiting forever in line is quite the relief.

This system just isn’t working for CD-R King. I wouldn’t call it outdated, but it is backwards, and it’s more of a system that they’ve outgrown. This turo-turo setup for a consumer electronics business works for a small-time cellphone stall in one of those electronics tiangges because those stalls have never had to serve more than two or three customers at a time. That may have been the case for CD-R King’s early days, but it will no longer do for a chain that is aware that it provides so much to a customer base that equally demands as much.

The market for cute little USB trinkets is no joke, son. People kill to get their hands on these things. 

So what does CD-R King need to do? Simple: adopt the setup that, oh, I dunno, every other store successfully uses. Give everyone access to what they need to buy, and have one or two counters with actual cash registers open to ring them up. I know space is limited, but when you make the actual transaction easy, you will get rid of long lines, thus clearing up space for everyone to use. Most people come into the store to buy small things, and rare is the person who goes to CD-R King to buy an LCD TV. (But I have considered the thought for when I have the cash to burn.)

But I guess that even if CD-R King doesn’t change its ways, I would still keep coming in. I’d still brave the long lines for a couple of DVDs. And I predict most of its customers will, too. If you’re not already a customer, then I don’t expect you to start supporting right after you read this; I just ask that you consider them, if at least in a pinch.

Meanwhile, I already have this long running mental note of things I have to buy from the store – some out of real necessity, some out of premeditated necessity, and some out of pure kicks. (Maybe a USB digital picture frame.) I know I could easily get the best in many other stores, but I keep coming back because, well, I like to think that this is a store I helped build, and it has never truly let me down.

We’re all willing to endure a little to get what we want in the end. Even if it’s just a USB fountain.

1 - Moore’s Law is a “law” in computer engineering that says the number of transistors one can cheaply put into an integrated circuit doubles around every two years. This is how we progress from expensive 128 MB to expensive 8 GB flash drives over time, and we can only go forward from here.

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