We’ve been members of a local, independent video store for years. We hadn’t rented many movies from the store for the past couple of years though, mostly because we went for a long stretch when Charlie was younger wherein we really didn’t watch any movies. Lately, however, Mark has been renting children’s videos for Charlie at the local video store. Though we’re also members of Netflix, renting from the store in town made us feel good about supporting the local economy.
A few weeks ago I got a call from a clerk at the video store. She told me we had a DVD checked out that was 11 days overdue.
My first thought was, “Why would you wait 11 days to tell me my video is overdue? Surely, by day four or five it’s pretty safe to assume that I’ve forgotten to return it. Eleven days just seems like you’re waiting to call me until I’ve racked up a huge late fine.”
That’s what I would have liked to say to the clerk. Instead, I said, “Ok. What video is it?”
She replied, “I can’t tell you that because of privacy reasons.”
Then, she added furtively, “I can tell you it’s a Charlie Brown video.”
Yes, indeed, I see how we might want to keep that information private from me, the renter. I told her we’d look for the DVD and return it.
And look for it we did. Everywhere. We didn’t find it. Mark thought he’d returned it with a couple of other DVDs but we acknowledged to each other that it could be misplaced in the house. Mark went to the video store and paid our $12 penalty which represented the cost to replace the video.
Yesterday, I received another call from the video store for another overdue DVD — this one due nine days ago (while we were on vacation). This time the clerk revealed that it was a Wiggles video (by the way, we just saw The Wiggles live, in concert, which just about made Charlie explode with excitement). Again, we started to look for the DVD, but now we had our suspicions. Was the video store involved in some kind of racket? Two grossly overdue videos in one month seemed unlikely. We didn’t find the DVD, so Mark went to the store to talk to the clerk. She asked him a whole series of questions:
“Could the DVD have fallen somewhere and be hidden in your car?” No, we looked everywhere in the car.
“Could one of your son’s friends have come over and taken the video?” No, friends don’t come over. We’re anti-social.
“Could you be colossal idiots who can’t keep track of a simple video?” Yes, but we’re pretty much only willing to accept that explanation the first time you call.
Finally, Mark decided to just have a look around the video store. Within minutes, he’d found both “missing” videos, shelved in exactly their correct spots. He brought them to the counter to show the clerk. Her response? She pointed out that the DVDs were missing their sticker barcodes:
“Could our son have removed them?” Why, yes, it is entirely possible that he could have removed them without our knowledge.
“Please tell your son not to remove the barcodes.”
Apparently, the store’s computer tracking system only works with barcodes. When DVDs are returned, the clerk scans the barcode on the DVD and the computer takes the DVD off the patron’s account. I guess the computer doesn’t permit searching for a DVD by title to see who has it checked out. So in the event that the barcode is missing from a DVD when it is returned, well, the clerk just reshelves the DVD without actually taking the DVD off the user’s account. And, nine, ten, eleven days later the clerk calls up the patron and demands money and the DVD. The store’s policy, it seems, is not to check first to see if the DVD is already on the shelf.
To give her credit, after Mark showed the clerk the two videos — including the one we paid $12 to replace — she appeared slightly embarrassed. However, rather than giving Mark back his $12, she gave him a $12 gift certificate so we could rent more movies from their store. Finally, she told him again not to let Charlie touch the barcode.
Although I like the idea of shopping locally, I think this is one store we’ll skip in the future. Shopping local should never trump good customer service.