Monday, October 08, 2007

Blockbuster Video blues

Every so often we get caught between Netflix mailings and we have to suck it up and risk going to Blockbuster. Each time I go there,I make a private resolution to just get a video and get out of there, but all too often I end up getting sucked into the vortex that is Blockbuster retail culture...
Exhibit A:
I pull a disc off the shelf. It says on the cover disc Deadwood season 3 disc 3. I give the Blockbuster maid my dough and go home. Unfortunately, when I look at the disc I discover that what's inside is season 2 not season 3. Soooo I drive back to Blockbust'me, and I ask for the correct disc. The clerk, the same girl, takes the disc scans it and informs me that since this is a new release I owe another 50 cents (the figure is not exact but close enough). I look at her and say, "Huh?"
Without missing a beat and without the slightest trace of regret she blandly repeats, "New release, that's 50 cents more please."
"But you gave me the wrong disc."
"No I didn't."
"The shelf said Season 3. This is Season 2."
"Somebody put it in the wrong place."
"Yes. Somebody-not-me. Somebody-me ,however ,took your shelving arrangement seriously and rented this disc. Then that same somebody had to get back into his car and drive all the back here just so that somebody here could tell him that he owed them another fifty cents for having made the mistake of believing this disc was what it was advertised to be."
"We can't help it if discs get misshelved, sir."

You know, it' very hard for me say this but I see her point on this case...even though it pisses me off to say so. I need to read all the labels from now on just like I'm supposed to read food labels...lesson learned, grudgingly.

Exhibit B
I rent a vhs video on a Wednesday night, Searching for Bobby Fischer. It's a five day rental. on Friday I get around to playing the last half of the movie and discover that the last fifteen minutes are unwatchable due to some sort of tracking problem with the tape, everything is garbled, frustrating.
Friday evening I skip, (trying to stay upbeat you know) down to Blackbuster serenely believing that I'll be home in a matter of a few minutes with a credit slip for another video in my pocket.
At the counter I recognize the same Blockmeister maiden. She is young, cool and solicitous in a way that might be confused with sweetness were it not coated with a teflon-like, computer generated delivery that only coincidentally jives with whatever energy you might be bringing her way. She will never know my name, she will forever need to ask me if I have a Blockbuster card or driver's license. I am not a customer to her so much as a training script, a walking meme, that triggers a protocol that she has learned how to execute with ease, if not with feeling.
I tell Blockmaiden my situation. She listens and informs me that credits may only be issued on the day of the rental.
"But,..." I'm already stammering. "It's a five day rental. I didn't even open it until yesterday."
"That's our policy sir. Same day as rental."
"But the tape is damaged. I paid you for a video and you gave me a damaged product."
"The policy is the same no matter what."
"But I didn't do anything wrong. You did. I paid you and you gave me a broken video. I took it home. I tried to watch it. It didn't work. I immediately brought it back well within the agreed upon rental deadline. What did I do wrong? Why don't I get my money back?"
She stares implacably at me as though I'm misfunctioning, stuck on a track endlessly looping.
"can I talk to the manager?"
"Yes...she'll be in tomorrow."
"So let me get this straight. In the future if I rent a video for five days, I have to watch the whole thing on day one just to make sure it isn't broken so that if it is broken I can still get my money back?"
"the policy is..."
"Let me just ask you one thing....Do you wish the policy were different? Would you like it if the policy allowed you to make this right?"
"The manager will be here tomorrow..."
"You really don't want to help me out here do you? You're not gonna say to the manager, gee, if we're sure the guy's not scamming us can't we just give him a credit? You're not gonna say that to the manager are you?"
"Is there anything else I can help you with sir?"
Suddenly I felt terrible. The whole exchange had been futile and worse it had driven each of us further into our own retrenchments. She had given me nothing but corporate policy, chapter and verse. I on the other hand had been keen to see her as some as some foil to my own Everyman. Have I missed something crucial and cultral? Did I grow old without realizing it?
The counter over which we look warily at one another is not a place on which to lean one's elbow and exchange pleasantries and sly smiles, it is rather the cool sterile surface over which plastic goods and plastic money glided from one realm to the other, each one, the goods and the money, bount to be translated into pulsing electrons streaming into electronic bank accounts or shimmering across HD flatscreens. I feel like a stick being held in the current of a moving stream. I feel turbulence at every side of me and yet just over there across the counter it is all placid and smooth sailing. The young woman on the other side of that counter might as well be from Mars or...France? (kidding, sort of).
I leave vowing never to return to Blockcrusher, and yet I have to admit that it's strange to take solace in the thought that in a day or so there will be a netflix video in my mailbox, placed there as if by magic or by gods whose names are unpronouncable to me at this moment.


Anonymous Missy said...

I'm sorry for your anguish. Also, I wish your posts had an "email" link at the bottom 'cause I'd send this post to some of my movie snob friends who have similar movie rental store stories. Sad, really. Even in a town the size of Salem, there aren't any independently owned movie rental places. Does the library have the likes of the Bobby Fisher movie?

10:31 PM  

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