Thursday, August 2, 2018

my favourite job was at a dvd store

I worked in two DVD stores while I was in high school and university. I'm 22, so arguably on the fringe of not being able to say 'I grew up going to the DVD store', but I'm somehow a veteran of a business very much from the yesteryear. Growing up was coloured with trailer loop discs, monthly pamphlets, the death of VHS, being angry that the DVD library only stretched so far, and seeing the business literally disintegrate before my eyes.

It is a little strange to know that just three years ago, I was spending my spare nights and Saturday mornings allowing people to take home (potentially scratched) DVDs while watching the same trailers loop around every 45 minutes. With the way things in the world are now, the whole DVD store model was never built to last - never mind the fact that when you rented out videos you had to rewind the tapes yourself. Unimaginable.

Now, when I say that my favourite job was at a DVD store, there isn't really a lot of competition - I've not had the best run with employment since both of the DVD stores I worked at closed down. I did, however, learn a lot about myself while spray and wiping discs and trying not to judge people who actually rented stuff from the R18 section.

The most inconsequential lessons first:

  • If someone has racked up over $40 of late fees, you're probably never going to see that DVD again
  • Bruce Willis and 50 Cent had a fairly fruitful straight-to-DVD career
  • The NZ distributed copy of the movie Stolen Lives (which stars a young Jessica Chastain) spells Jon Hamm's name as 'John Hammm'
  • The solution that is used in scratch removal machines (that business must have also gone down quickly) will dry your hands out like nothing else, gagging just at the thought of it
  • People usually hate the movies you like and aren't afraid to tell you about it and you'll judge them based on their rental history anyway (but anything starring The Rock or literally anyone else from the Fast and Furious franchise is sure to be a bonafide hit)
  • There's actually quite a few ways you can display DVDs on a shelf. My favourite is to showcase one and then stack the DVDs horizontally with the spines out. This works because a) it seems to be the least messy when customers touch it, b) you can quickly scan through the movies, and c) I could aggressively display The Prestige as being the main pick for a thriller starting with P

The more useful and applicable lessons:

  • It kinda sucks when other employees don't care about the product as much as you do, but I genuinely think the people who are working in the few DVD stores that are left really actually care otherwise they wouldn't still be there
  • Working sole charge shifts until 10pm actually really sucks, especially when you're a girl who needs to catch a bus at that time in a really iffy suburb (but you do learn your street smarts and how to be over protective when it comes to security)
  • Being exposed to 1000s of trailers teaches you so much that you end up doing your Honours dissertation on how movie trailers actually tell you more about the industry than the movie itself - no, just me??
  • I know what it looks like when a business rapidly starts declining, and there's nothing that can be done to save it. I also know what it looks like when the franchise stops supporting the business, and all of a sudden its on its own. I've seen a lot of warning signs in the DVD store business that I've seen in a couple of other jobs I've been in - which is probably a very unique perspective to have

The most important lesson of all, though, was that actually believing in the product that is paying your wages is incredibly important. For me, anyway. It sounds so simple (especially if you've been reading this blog for a while), but it has been a long hard road for me to realise that some of the issues I've had with motivation at my other jobs weren't because I was bad at them, it was because I just couldn't bring myself to really care about the endgame. I'm definitely an all or nothing kind of girl, which could be a flaw as much as it could be a strength. I didn't really realise this too much when I embarked on my post-uni hunt for jobs and it got me in a bit of a corner, but I'll be starting a new job soon that brings me back to getting movies seen by people. Jury's out on whether it'll work out, but I have a good feeling about it, which is a start.

Really, though, had I not had a DVD store in my life, I wouldn't have known I had a passion for movies that would take some pretty bizarre forms. I attribute a lot of my successes to Blockbuster and I am happy that I have a few of those life lessons under my belt at such a young age. It is weird to think that there's a small handful of these institutions left in the country (let alone the world).

But also, the one plus side of not working in a DVD store is that my DVD collection pretty much stopped growing three years ago. Which definitely came in handy when I moved 3/4 of the way up the country. Even though my collection took up a good 1/5 of our carload. How on earth did I have the money to buy all of them and can I have it back please?


  1. Great post! I get you. I worked at a movie theater in high school and it changed my taste in film for the better because I saw everything. Worth all the times I got burned by a rogue popcorn kernel or had had to untangle film from the projector.

    1. Omg getting burned by rogue popcorn kernels was the worst!

  2. I hung out at a used record store for nearly 7 years which also sold DVDs as I found a lot of gems there. The people who worked there were cool. I miss that place.

    1. Ahhh used record stores always have some great DVD finds, and equally great people working there!


  4. When I was in school I REALLY wanted to work in my favourite cinema but you couldn't get a job there if you didn't speak Russian (that good old post-Soviet country charm) and I never felt confident enough. I would've loved to work in a film rental shop but these were all out of business by the time I was old enough to work. . .I remember seeing the one I used to rent VHS from at least every other day to watch with my Mum close down, and it actually broke my heart.

    I really love this post & I think it's a good sign you should carry on writing!! I'd love to hear more stories & lessons from the video store.

    1. Aw no! I would have loved to have worked in a cinema, actually - but my office I work in now is in a cinema building, so I guess that counts? Haha. But yes it is so heart breaking to see DVD stores close down! They were so important in our childhoods!

      Thanks! I'll try to keep writing <3

  5. Thank you for sharing the post, remind me all the memory about the VHS and DVD days.
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  6. Awesome post! I've been trying to get a job at a local movie theater because I have a feeling it'd be challenging but fun more about film and interacting with people who care (or don't) about movies. DVD stores were one of my favorite parts of being a movie buff, and my sister and I were super bummed when the last one we had in our area closed.

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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