Jennifer Hillier

Blast from the past

Sep 16, 2010 | Uncategorized

Recounting a conversation about sex and violence yesterday on the Killer Chicks blog took me right back to my video store clerk days.  I worked in a neighborhood store (a family-owned business, not a Blockbuster) for three years, and during that time, I made a lot of friends, made a few bucks, and watched a lot of movies.

It was mainly a weekend business – Fridays and Saturdays were crazy.  But during the week, one clerk was enough to handle the flow.  Tuesdays were always my “solo” day, which was cool, because on Tuesdays the New Releases would come out.  This meant that on Monday nights, after the shipments came in, we could bring home any new movies we wanted for free, so long as they were back in the store first thing the next morning.

If the store wasn’t busy, I could sit at the counter and do my homework, read a book, or just watch movies.  We had TVs all over the store (tube, not flat screen) and we could watch anything we wanted, so long as they were rated PG.  My favorites?  Grease, The Princess Bride, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Grumpier Old Men.  If the store was really quiet, I might also watch Stand By Me or Dumb and Dumber, but these ones were riskier because Stand By Me had a dead body in it, and Dumb and Dumber had a diarrhea scene (tee hee hee).

Steve would come in for free rentals all the time (yes, we’ve been together that long).  I think he watched every straight-to-video action/kung-fu/horror movie ever made back then.  We were encouraged to watch everything (except the pornos) so we could recommend them to the customers.  We were even reimbursed for one movie ticket per week at the theater, so we could talk up the New Releases before they arrived in the store six months later.

Useless but interesting trivia:  Did you know that when Braveheart came out on VHS back in 1995, it cost $150 PER VIDEO?  New Releases were always expensive back then.  It took a long time for the store to make their money back.  A significant part of our revenue actually came from X-rated films.  In contrast, they cost about $30 per tape, and they’d rent for $5.99.

All told, the video store was a fun place to work.  The best part of the job?  Free movies!  The worst part?  Having to tell a customer he owed fifty bucks in late charges.  The most interesting part?  The customers who rented pornos.  They never looked like how you’d expect them to.

What was YOUR first job?

(Don’t forget to pop over to Killer Chicks, where the fabulous Joann Swanson is discussing dark themes in young adult fiction.)