Sunday, June 19, 2011
One Saturday evening, I drove a mile and a half to one such store, called "Blockbuster Video." After browsing the action-adventure shelves for a few minutes, I decided on Die Hard 2: Die Harder. I'd seen the original Bruce Willis masterpiece, of course, so I pretty much knew what to expect from the sequel. I took the movie to the checkout counter, grabbed a couple bags of microwave popcorn (with butter) and left the store, eagerly anticipating the two hours of cinematic mayhem I was about to experience.
Back at home, I dumped the popped popcorn into a bowl, cracked open a Diet Dr. Pepper, and inserted Die Hard 2: Die Harder into my video cassette recorder, or as it was more commonly known, my VCR. For younger readers, or those of you with some sort of memory disorder, VCRs were devices in which you could put a "tape" and then "record" a show from television. You could also "play" a store-bought "movie" or pre-recorded "program" and sit on your couch watching it until your brain cells "imploded." It was like TiVO but without the magic. There were all sorts of problems with this technology, for example, once the tape got all twisted and stuck (usually the fourth or fifth time you played it) the movie was thereby converted into garbage. Also, when your tape ended, you had to take about five minutes to rewind the damn thing before you could watch it again.
It was like living in the Stone Age.
Here's where the trouble starts and let me remind you once again, for the purposes of this story, you are on my side.
I took Die Hard 2: Die Harder to the counter and explained the situation to Lauren the assistant manager, who appeared to be about eleven years old.
"Hi, I just rented this movie, but stupid me, it turns out I've already seen it. Is there any way I could exchange it for a different one?"
Lauren gave me a look similar to one she might have given me had I asked her to explain how the situation in Europe immediately after the fall of Germany led directly to the Cold War and if, in her opinion, the Western Allies should have acted to oppose Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.
"You want to do what?" she asked.
"I rented Die Hard 2: Die Harder, but when I started watching it, I realized I've seen it before. Can I just exchange it for a different movie?"
"I'm sorry, that's against company policy. I can't do that."
"You can't? Why not? What's the problem?"
"Well, how do I know you haven't already watched the video and are trying to get a second one free?"
"Okay. Good question, Lauren, you make an excellent point. But look. Right here on my receipt it says I paid for the video at 6:44. It is now 7:31. According to the box for Die Hard 2: Die Harder -- see right there? -- the running time is 124 minutes. I'll do the math for you, that's a little over two hours. So I couldn't possibly have watched it by now."
"Maybe you just took the movie home and made a copy."
"I wouldn't know how to do that even if I wanted to."
"Well, I can't exchange it. You'll just have to return that one and rent another movie."
Clearly, I was dealing with someone who was incapable of thinking beyond her bubble or making a customer-friendly decision. I figured I'd try to walk her through a solution.
"Lauren, listen carefully. All you have to do is scan this one back in, then let me choose another movie. I'm sure there's a procedure for this kind of thing. You must be able to do something."
"I'd need approval from the manager."
"Okay, great, let's get him out here."
"It's his day off. I'm in charge. And I'm telling you, you can't exchange movies."
"Fine, just give me a refund and I'll pay for a different one. How about that?"
"Sorry, no refunds."
"You know, Lauren," I said, feeling the anger percolating in my guts. "It's stupid-ass policies and mindless drones like you that will one day, about fifteen years from now, inspire some creative genius to come up with a system where, for a reasonable monthly fee, customers can order movies, have them mailed to their homes, keep them for as long as they like, and then simply send them back. They'll call it Mailflix or something. When that happens, Lauren, you watch how quickly Blockbuster and its 'let's-screw-over-the-customer' business philosophy fall right off the face of the earth."
"I'm going to have to ask you to lower your voice, sir, you're disturbing our customers."
That's it, Lauren, make me the bad guy.
"I'm a customer, dammit, and you're disturbing me! Now are you going to let me exchange this movie, or am I going to write a letter to your corporate office and explain how completely uncooperative and rude you've been?"
"You know, sir, because you're causing a scene, I'm going to give you your money back and ask you to leave."
I'm sure that Lauren thought she was doing the right thing, customer service-wise, and figured that by giving me a refund she would ease my hostility and send me on my way. But she couldn't have been more wrong.
"Oh, but wait, Lauren, I thought you said you couldn't give out refunds."
"I can if it will get you out of the store, you're disrupting our business."
"What the hell?! You can't give me a refund if I'm being calm and reasonable, but you can give me a refund for being a loud, obnoxious jerk? Don't you realize you're simply rewarding my bad behavior? Doesn't really make me feel like cooperating, if you want to know the truth."
I walked over to the rack of Red Vines, Whoppers, and Raisinets. "What happens if I pick up this candy display and chuck it through the plate glass window?" I asked, eyes ablaze. "Do I get a thousand shares of Blockbuster stock?"
"Sir, here's your money back. Please leave now before I call the police."
Not wanting to rehash this entire fiasco with the local authorities, I took my money and headed for the door.
"Good night, sir. Have a nice evening."
I replied with the great Bruce Willis line from Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
Wait a minute.
"Yippee-ki-yay, Motherfucker" was from the original Die Hard. The one where he's trying to rescue people from a tall building . . . with the bad guy named Hans Gruber . . . I thought that was . . .
Well, shit. Turns out I haven't seen Die Hard 2: Die Harder after all.
I'll have to put it on my Netflix list.