My kids get angry with me when I refer to the local DVD rental place as a “video store”. Apparently, it offends their Gen Z sensibilities – along with any mention of “record shops” or the movie “Star Wars”.
Anyway, I’m going to risk their wrath here by saying that the other day I returned our weekly rentals (six for six dollars!) to the local video shop.
I was careful to make sure that I was, in fact, returning a total of six DVDs and that all cases had both the disk and the paper insert in them. I have learned this the hard way, having returned DVDs in the past without one or the other. But never without both, I’ll have you know. Because returning a completely empty DVD case would be just silly. Ha! As if I’d ever do that! Okay, so yes, I have done that. But just the once, mind. Just the once.
When I got home, I found one of the DVDs sitting on the kitchen table, as if to mock me. But I’d returned six! SIX! I’d counted them and everything!
In a flash of realisation, I rang the video shop and explained how I thought I might have accidentally returned one of my own DVDs instead of the shop ones.
The man on the phone, who said his name was Damien, was very cagey about it.
“And?” he asked, somewhat suspiciously.
“And, well, did you happen to find any DVDs returned that didn’t belong to the shop?”
“Yes, I have one here,” was his reluctant response. A silence followed, which I soon realised I was supposed to fill.
“Ah, I’m not really sure which DVD I’ve accidentally returned. You see, we have a lot of them… ” I said.
More silence. I was *this close* to saying “Just throw me a frickin’ bone here, mate, and let’s both get on with our lives… ” but didn’t, because I knew that it was this man - and this man alone – that stood between me and the safe return of our disk – whichever one it happened to be.
“I’m assuming, though, that it was one of the kids’ DVDs?” I ventured tentatively.
“Yes, it is a children’s title,” he replied with the kind of tone that implied he might break into “Three words. First word: two syllables” at any moment.
This time I kept silent. He obviously couldn’t take his own medicine because he cracked soon enough.
“It’s a film based on a Doctor Seuss book…” he suddenly blurted out.
“Then it’s Horton Hears A Who!” I exclaimed jubilantly.
“Yes, that’s it,” he said, with just the merest hint of defeat.
“Could you please put it aside and I’ll come collect it tomorrow?”
“Yes, I’ll be here between 10 and 6.”
“So I should ask for ‘Damien’?”
“I’m the only person rostered on.”
“So I’ll know who you are because you’ll be the guy behind the counter, right?” I joked.
“Yes,” he replied. The fact that he was the only person rostered on for 8 hours was obviously not a joking matter.
And there ended the conversation.
It all got me thinking. At first I thought Damien was being so funny about the whole thing because there are people out there taking advantage of mistaken returns. You know, claiming them as their own and then flogging them on ebay. I mean, all those phone calls they’d have to make and all that driving around fraudulently collecting the DVDs would be totally worth it for the $0.99 they’d make per disk (plus postage). Like, totally.
And then the penny dropped. I realised that Damien’s shop probably relied on mistaken-returns for a lot of its new stock. I mean, the place still has VHS tapes for rental, for god’s sake, which a) gives a license to people like me keep calling it a ‘video shop’ and b) can’t be a sign of a thriving business, right?
Hot damn, no wonder Damien was so damn cagey.