There are certain things that you can expect to be able to get at a gas station convenience store. Harassment by twentysomethings hawking CD's of a douchey-looking "country rap artist" -  whatever the hell that is - should not be one of them.  This was the situation I was almost confronted with while stopping in momentarily at a gas station on West Adams this past week.  Luckily, I was ready for it given past experiences.

Photo courtesy Darren Gauthier
Photo courtesy Darren Gauthier

Now, I'm not making this up.  I was the one who took the photo (left) which was used in a recent post by Wes Adams from our sister station, US 105. In the article, there are horror stories involving "Mikel Knight," this cheesy looking Bro-country dude, his painted bus with his face airbrushed on it, and the aggressive harassment-like tactics  his "street team" uses to extract money from people in parking lots across the country. Beware of these guys.

I found myself in this particular convenience store parking lot because I was picking up a package from the Amazon Locker, an awesome feature we wrote about recently on this blog. I'm sure Amazon wouldn't appreciate its $99/year-paying Prime customers being shaken down by unruly, aggressive frat dudes on behalf of some creepy redneck rapper. Who gave these pests permission to be there in the first place?

I believe it is incumbent upon gas station owners to provide as painless of a process for filling up. Given the somewhat egalitarian nature of a gas station -  people from all income levels need gas - and the captive customer being forced to stand there and pump his/her own gas, people are easy targets of soliciting. In the past, I've been panhandled at a gas station more times than I care to count or remember. I've had dirty "homeless" people ask for a lift so they can buy some day-old bread or a cup of coffee. I've even had shady looking dudes in rented white Ford vans try to sell me el cheapo stereo speakers (which I later found out was a long running scam operation so prevalent it has its own Wikipedia entry. Rental car companies, why do you allow this? It gives your company a bad name when you're indiscriminate to whom you rent your vans.   The type of music promotion used by Mikel Knight and his crew takes its cues from the white van guys (search "white van scam" on YouTube and you will see an endless list of videos from all over creation.)

Amazingly, an incident in my not so distant past prepped me for hand with whatever may have come my way as I was retrieving my Amazon package. (For the record,  pun intended, I was able to quickly obtain my item -  ironically, music CDs I had purchased from Amazon - and get back into my car  just as one of the other street team members notice my presence and tried to make eye contact. I just looked the other way and merge drive back in the traffic, stopping at the red light and taking the photo you see above.)

One of the nuttiest things ever to happen to me at a gas station was several years ago when I went to an Exxon "on the run" in my home  town. At the time, they were having a sale on ice cream flavor that I just happened to adore and still do,  so I made a specific trip to take advantage of the sale.  I pulled up to the front door and immediately noticed there was a whole bunch of male teenage youth milling around.  Now I know what you're thinking: you wouldn't of gotten out of the car because nothings worth having to deal with in the face of what looks like a gang member meeting… But you don't understand, this ice cream was great!

Anyway, I get out and start walking to the door when one of the youths approaches and says, "hey, mister! We've got our own CD we're selling! You  want to buy one?"

Naturally, the answer was no, and I really resented the question, and who the hell sells a CD at a gas station in 2013 especially to some fat, middle-aged pasty pale guy?  And again, who gave you permission to be here in the first place? Does the Exxon Mobil Corporation know what you're using their property for?  Once again, why do we have to put up with this crap? Instead of screaming out "back the F up,"  I played it cool and funny by responding, without breaking my stride in the slightest, "you wouldn't happen to have any free samples would you?" Instantly, things got ugly. One of the other teens, the one standing next to the guy who had approached me, himself had a permenant resting angry scowl on this face. He did not look like the kind a guy who could put on a charm offensive. He took the liberty of responding to my casual, tossed out response.

"No, FAMILY GUY... we DON'T."

Yes, that's right: the resident angry guy in the organization made a caustic crack comparing me to the rotund Peter Griffin from the animated TV series.  I knew in a moment that this aggressive young resident of gangland USA was not familiar with the winning friends formula of Dale Carnegie.

Insulted and pissed that I was, I just kept walking into the store, saying nothing, and went straight to the cooler to get my ice cream (luckily they had it in stock.)  I resisted the urge to grab the cashier by the lapels and ask her who the hell sanctioned teenagers selling compact discs in the middle of a summer afternoon when I'm trying to spend my money with them for their ice cream.  I just wanted to pay, take my purchase, get in my car and hightail it back to my house. When I walked out, the teens were attempting to solicit someone else a few feet away. I immediately saw an opportunity to teach these fellas a lesson. After I got in my car and started up, I drove past them and rolled down the window to let them in on what their angry buddy's little comment just cost them.

"Hey guys,  just letting you know, I'm the program director of the two biggest radio stations in this town and you just made the biggest $20 mistake of your life."

In the rearview mirror, I could see them start to run to catch me, almost instantly giving up, and the angry guy getting shoved by two of the others for his display of temper.  I loved it. ( Later I sent an email to the company which owned the gas station and told them how much I did not appreciate this kind of hassle when simply trying to either buy gas  or whatever. I never got a response.)

Unfortunately, the story takes on something of a dark and evil turn. It was a very similar situation last summer in my hometown when Alton Sterling, a guy selling unauthorized homemade CDs outside a convenience store gas station got into an altercation with police which led to his shooting and death, weeks of riots and protests at the hands of outside agitators, and the injuries and deaths of police officers in my hometown, allof which ripped the heart and soul out of the town where I grew up. It's like the old saying, you can never really go home again. And it all started with someone aggressively using a less-than-cutting-edge way of distributing music, done aggressively in a location where it ought to not happen.

So you will forgive me if I seem a little less than appreciative of the shenanigans of Mr. Knight and his minions.  Aside from the fact that this kind of confrontational marketing is insulting and proves that no one in their right mind would buy your music if they weren't trying to get some dude out of their face.

Gas station owners, take responsibility in providing a safe, comforting and welcoming atmosphere for paying customers to purchase your products sans harassment.  Friends, when you see something like this happening, let the police know immediately; these are shady guys doing this.

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