Confessions of a Video Store Clerk

I had a flashback the other day to when I was working at a large stationary/office supplier and a customer called me a ‘F*@#ing American’ as he took his purchases. Lovely guy.

I am probably as far as you can get from being American, but being a big fan of the US and of pretty much every single American I have ever met (except that crazy guy who took me to Ireland and cried over dinner), I was very confused as to what he was trying to achieve by calling me this.

A video store in Iowa

Image via Wikipedia

I have no idea why that memory popped into my mind, but I started recounting all the crazy experiences I had while working in customer service in my younger years. I realised after running through the numerous times I was yelled at, insulted and disgusted, that with the exception of the one experience mentioned above, they can all be attributed to one thing – I worked in a video store.

After dropping out of my first year of uni, I spent about 18 months working at a massive video store in the suburbs of Melbourne. I had been studying Media arts and working in a video store seemed like the ultimate job for a drop-out.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and met some awesome people but at the same time, I came up close and personal with some of the dregs of society.

The New Release Junkies

Probably the worst of all video store customers are the New Release Junkies – the ones who come in at least three times a day asking ‘any new movies? Any new movies?’ It’s like they have a radar and as soon as a delivery guy comes through the store, they magically appear, hovering, grabbing and pleading while you’re trying to establish exactly why you have ended up with 300 copies of The Man Who Sued God and why everything keeps scanning up as Shallow Hal.

The Games Junkies

As above, these people hover, but it’s PC games that they are after. They’re on edge and can literally spend hours in the store or waiting outside, ready to pounce at the first sign of a delivery guy. They know when the games are coming out, they know when they should have arrived and they sure as hell know when you’ve stashed them in the back room until the official release date and they’re going to do whatever necessary to get to them!

The Combination Junkies

So combine the top two, and you’ve got some seriously obsessed people who really need to get out of the house more (and going to the video store and back does not count as an outing)! They hover between the games and the videos, they know the release dates of not only the games, but the movies as well and they have also been known to come in repeatedly on a Saturday hoping that some miracle of miracles has occurred and the delivery driver has decided to bring new stock on the weekend – just for them!

The Porn Hirers

So, if you are someone who hasn’t quite mastered the art of using the internet and you still like to go to a video store and hire the same videos that have been… used… by other people with similar interests, may I suggest that you do not borrow from a video store where the only person working is a perky 19 year old female. In fairness, I was willing to let the odd filthy movie pass by without too much judgement, I totally get it, people have needs, blah blah blah, but when we get to the stage of five pornos for $10, you can rest assured that I am judging!

Our store had two regular borrowers of porn, both of whose faces are quite literally burnt into my memory, even 9 years later. The creepy one was a really old man who would always come in during the day, generally late morning and always take out five videos, all porn. He was sweaty and gross and I used to make every effort to minimise the contact I had with the actual videos while processing his rental, picking them up by the corner to scan them, before flinging them over to the door side of the counter. I had it down to a fine art. I wouldn’t make eye contact with him and he’d be out the door with no more than five words exchanged between us.

No more than forty minutes later, without fail, he’d be back. He’d shuffle in, drop his videos into the returns chute and be off. Luckily each video was only a few minutes in, so it wouldn’t take me long to rewind them all…

The Late Night Creeper

I wish I was in the habit of naming people here as this one had a totally suitable name for the creeper that he was. I was warned as soon as I started working that he would turn up late at night, hover around the store, changing his mind, hassling the staff and trying to stop you from closing… ‘You’ll smell him before you see him’ one of my collagues explained… and oh, smell him I most definitely did!

Our store had two entries and despite keeping us open 15 minutes past closing, he would always insist on departing through the back door (which he knew would be locked), before riding his bike back around to the front door and trying to get back in. This failing, he would proceed to the overnight chute, where he would lift the cover and scream into the store ‘I made a mistake! I meant to borrow the Wizard of Oz!’ Ah, creeper…

The Horrible Children

I absolutely love kids and I am fairly confident that if anything was going to put me off ever having them, it would be working in the video store. Although looking back, I suspect the parents had as much to do with it as the kids did.

There were several horrid children who would frequent our store, but one in particular stands out. She had pigtails and we shall call her ‘Annabella’. Granted, in the real world she would have been cute, however I now associate the name with the screeching of a mother desperate to get her unruly child under control.

The highlight would have to be the day Annabella broke into the ice-cream cabinet and insisted on having one bought for her, which she promptly ‘lost’ and left the store… At closing time (about five hours later), it was found under D in comedy… absorbed into the covers of at least three different movies.

The Vomiting Child

So I totally understand that children get sick and that when they are sick, taking them to borrow videos might seem like a nice idea. Hell, it might even BE a nice idea. However, if you’re one of those mothers who is concerned that they might throw up themselves if they try to clean the child’s vomit up from the entire counter area, I would not only suggest that you do not take your sick child out in public, but that maybe you reconsider motherhood altogether.

Trust me, I totally understand the feeling of ending up elbow deep in your child’s vomit and dry-reaching while trying to remember why I even left the house that morning.

P.s. I think you never coming back to our store was a really good idea.

There were so many more worth mentioning, the people who would ask me to fill in their Centrelink books pretending they’d applied for a job every month… the couples who would launch into an all-out argument in the new release aisle every Saturday night… the creepy guy who used to bring his kids in and stare at me while telling me I looked incredibly similar to Jodie Foster… All those people who kept stealing Eddie Murphy’s Raw and Delirious… That nutcase who accused me of stealing his money and having ‘an arrangement’ because his bank froze his credit card…

To this day, I cannot spend more than five minutes in a video store without getting nervous. I feel myself looking at the people surrounding me and categorising them in my head. Crazy parent. Unemployed with no intention to ever work. Couple who should stop renting movies and leave the house for a change…

If you fit into one of these categories, I apologise for any offense caused. You taught me many valuable lessons in life and for that I am grateful.



  1. Marianne

    Thanks for that laugh and trip down memory lane. I cringed right along with you remembering the late night customer. I nearly lost my breakfast with the memory of the stench!

  2. I'm Not Famous and Neither Are You

    This is hilarious!!! I can completely relate to this. I used to work at FYE where I had to ask people for their zip codes to track the demographics of our shoppers. Every once in a while a creepy guy would say something like, “I’ll only give you my zip if you promise to come to my house” and wink. It was slightly degrading. Also, a father once brought his two young kids with him to purchase anime porn. It was horrifying.

  3. Amelie

    I remember fat sweaty guy! my bro and me always referred to the new releasers as scavengers, they kinda remind me of lining up for a pleb ryan air flight. great blog lady!

    • tennizzlle

      Haha, thanks Amelie! I can’t believe how clearly I remember all our crazy customers. I struggle to remember people I met a week ago, let alone almost ten years ago – clearly they’re burnt into my memory! Ah, good times… 🙂

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