When the Eagles announced that they would exclusively sell their new double album Long Road Out of Eden for an entire year at Wal-Mart (and their own Web site), fans across the nation — especially those in Wal-Mart-less towns like New York City and Los Angeles — wondered how they’d get their hands on copy without journeying to the retail giant. But then we heard whispers that people were finding the new “exclusive” album at small mom-and-pop record stores and, remarkably, big chains like Virgin Megastore. We investigated these claims and discovered that the CDs are indeed being sold outside of Wal-Mart. Not only that, it didn’t take speakeasy tactics to secure a copy; some stores were boasting the album by the dozen in front display cases, where new releases are usually showcased (see above, a shot from a New York City Virgin Megastore boasting a price sticker of $18.99). “We’re aware of that — I’ve heard that some stores here are selling imports,” Billboard charts editor Geoff Mayfield tells Rolling Stone. “Someone told me it was the third-best seller for Virgin.”
We called eight Virgin Megastores in five different states, and discovered seven had Long Road in stock, although none of them had the album prominently listed in their in-store inventory directories. Of the Virgins carrying the album, most started selling it today, one week after the album’s release, while two said they started selling the CDs on October 30th, the same day as the “exclusive” Wal-Mart on-sale date, with one store even “selling out” their fairly large stock. The fact that the albums were selling out came as a surprise, considering the CD at Virgin came with price tags ranging from $18.99 to $24.99. While it is a double CD, the price is strikingly higher than Wal-Mart’s tag of $11.88. When we asked one clerk why the album was so expensive at Virgin, and whether the discs might be imports, he whispered into the phone that he “thinks they were hard to get.” A small record store in Nebraska told us they were re-selling discs that were purchased at Wal-Mart. The question now is, how did Virgin Megastore get their hands on the album, and did these sales contribute to the Eagles’ Billboard chart-topping 711,000 copies? Mayfield says, “SoundScan was [also] aware that this was happening. They audited the data to weed out double sales.” A comment from Virgin Megastore wasn’t available by press time.