A twelve-year-old degenerate needs a spot for daily operations: someplace that's secluded, where he can stash his collection of pornos and light a bunch of weird shit on fire, and no one will bother him. For my best friend Noah and me, the central vector for our troublemaking was behind the Blockbuster Video in our neighborhood, where, between the summers of sixth and seventh grade, we lit an unprecedented amount of weird shit on fire. That, in itself, was a triumph.
But our most awesome victory came at some point around mid-July, when we discovered a bunch of tossed-out old Blockbuster VHS cases in the dumpster. It was like we didn't even have to talk about what we were going to do with them. Instinctively, we both just knew we were going to fill those things with dog poop and put them in the drop box.
So we did, and then loitered in the parking lot out front for about six hours waiting to see what was going to happen, until Blockbuster was just about to close. In retrospect, it's hard to believe the staff didn't smell the poop wafting out of the drop bin, because we'd put about fifteen of those things in there, and they were all stuffed with it. Maybe they did and just didn't connect it with the drop bin; it's hard to say.
Certainly nobody in there was expecting what came next, which we witnessed in the dark from a distance of about twenty feet through the fluorescent glow of the plate glass, and which was worth every second of the wait: the clerk carelessly lifting the casing from the bin and popping it open on the way to the be-kind-rewind machine, the turds exploding forth like kernels of jiffy pop, his acne-plagued expression turning from surprise to bafflement to disgust to rage. It was priceless.
Looking back, I understand that it was probably wrong to inflict that on an innocent rental clerk. But I don't regret fucking with Blockbuster.
If you're old enough to remember a time before Netflix, you'll remember the nightmare that was renting movies from Blockbuster Video. The seemingly arbitrary pricing ensured that you could never really know how much you were going to pay for any given rental, and the draconian return policies made certain that you would be paying ten times that price anyway -- suddenly you owed Blockbuster, like, $80. Plus, the selection was terrible. People used to stab themselves to avoid going to work there (true story).
That's why Netflix was a success. If you think about it, the original Netflix model actually runs totally contrary to American economics: We don't want the movie we want to come in the mail on Friday; we want that shit now. But what made Netflix attractive was that it wasn't Blockbuster. Even when Blockbuster launched the DVD mail-in subscription service Blockbuster Total Access in 2006, it was still Blockbuster -- at its peak, the service had managed to attract over 3 million customers, but then customers realized that, if you put a video game in your queue, a charge that was never mentioned at the time of the order would randomly appear on your bill at the end of the cycle. Turns out, even if it came in the mail, Blockbuster was still Blockbuster.
It was like Adam Smith's invisible hand of capitalism at work. And a couple of years ago, Blockbuster declared bankruptcy and announced its intention to liquidate its assets.
Sadly, that hasn't happened yet. A few weeks ago, Colorado-based Dish Network bought Blockbuster at auction for a measly $320 million and announced that it would keep 500 Blockbuster stores open (that's about 12 percent of the 4,000 stores Blockbuster operated at its peak). But the news gets even worse: Yesterday, Dish CEO Joe Clayton joined hands with Governor John Hickenlooper to announce that the company is bringing its new acquisition home: Blockbuster will now make its headquarters in Douglas County.
If nothing else, this development offers me an opportunity to correct the wrong of my sixth-grade self, which was that instead of surprising some poor Blockbuster video clerk with a casing full of dog turds, I should have surprised the management of Blockbuster with dog turds. After all, they're the ones with the shitty business practices. So if you need me, I'll be running some packages full of feces down to Douglas County.
And I'm not going to stop until I get the late fee for the most expensive copy ever of True Lies off my credit report.
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