He designed the system on basic human decency, and it failed almost immediately. Such abuses of goodwill have plagued mankind as far back as history goes and as recently as the DIY video rental fiasco at the local waterpark.
In hindsight, the idea for the do-it-yourself video rental could hardly be described more positively than ‘absurd’ and ‘utterly stupid’. He created the system after video rentals lost their prominence in a last ditch effort to squeeze out any remaining revenue from tapes we still owned. Essentially, the system operated like a lending library with a tip jar set out.
Murphy, my boss and the mastermind behind the project, emptied the tip jar into the register every evening. From my vantage point working as cashier, I could observe just how pathetically minuscule the daily profits were compared to the waterpark’s. People just refused to pay when not supervised.
Even from the start, I had never been on board with the idea. When he first suggested it, I had voiced concern that people wouldn’t respect the rules. Murphy responded that “if we treat the customers like children, they’ll behave like children, but if we treat them like adults, they’ll behave justly.” I suppose that’s a nice sentimentality, but it entirely failed to account for teenagers.
In addition for consistently checking out movies without paying, local high-school kids would also take it upon themselves to relieve our stock of children movies and adult films. Then they’d swap the tapes and return them to the shelves. I heard hear-say that they called it the pornography game.
After a long series of customer complaints, Murphy bestowed me the honorary title of video rental quality assurance manager. As such, I got to check that every tape contained the right movie. Despite being hired as a cashier at a waterpark, I now found myself digging through old videotapes for a living.
It didn’t take long for the teenagers to adjust their game accordingly. They began writing over the tapes themselves instead of just swapping the cases, so I would have to physically watch every movie to guarantee that nothing had been altered. Because they would sometimes just change out the audio or tamper with the final scenes of the films, I constantly had to view the entirety of the movies with sound to insure their quality.
I tried persuading Murphy to drop the project, as he was losing money with me working the rental full-time, but he would hear none of it. It seemed utterly absurd that I couldn’t just run the place like any other rental store or stop the teenagers as they checked out their movies, but Murphy remained adamant in his resolve and seemed to think that such a thing would go against the spirit of the project. The DIY rental was his idea and we’d all be damned if it didn’t work just fine. Surely the project could function if Murphy would ditch either the porn or the children’s movies, but still he refused, informing me that those were the only two kinds of films ever rented.
And thus my days went by, watching old children’s shows and dated pornography. Of both genres, I memorized every movie in our catalog. I knew every line before it was spoken, every character before they appeared, and every fuck before it was given.
I would sit in the back of the rental area, scornfully watching every teenager check out their products. My lips moved sub-consciously along with the dialogue.
I began to work late into the evenings, growing embarrassed when customers, whom I often knew, observed me watching pornography for a living. My hours drifted later and later into the night, until I would arrive after the waterpark itself closed, just to watch the videos. I kept tabs on when each video was checked out and returned, so I only had to watch the newly returned.
Generally, that was about four movies a night.
My schedule flipped to accommodate working a night-shift. I slept during the days, just to show up in time for work. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered ditching work entirely and pretending to have watched the videos, but Murphy religiously watched the security tapes and would know if I slacked off even one night.