When this topic of study was brought up to me by this web magazine’s editor, Duane L. Martin, I jumped on it. I’ve been working in retail sales for years and at least four of those years have been spent in video stores. I’ve seen all types of folks rent the latest Hollywood dreck and the most recent independent schlock, so I think I’m more than qualified to comment on this subject. First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: Everyone loves movies! I don’t care how poor or rich you are, or how much of an education you may have; everyone loves killing time with a good or (in my case) bad movie. Sure the "groundlings" of today’s society enjoy the mindless series of films pouring into theaters and video stores from Hollywood, but even their rental habits are beginning to change. Let’s take a closer look at the renting habits of the noble savage that is man… ok, and woman! (And to all those out there that own or manage a video store, pay attention, this could save your business and/or job… or not… hell I don’t know! Just read this!)
The Video Store
This is the shrine of cinema, despite the growing number of people renting movies over the internet (you lazy bastards, get off your butts and walk, ride a bike, or drive to your nearest mom & pop shop and rent a few flicks). A good video store will cater to the majority of local customers and carry enough product to keep said customers happy. I realize that not all stores have the budget of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video/Movie Gallery, but you should definitely try and have a good number of the hottest new releases. It’s also important to keep a good stock of older "catalog" movie titles. And remember, variety is the spice of life, therefore have a good selection of everything from Action, to Foreign, to Anime, to Sci-Fi, etc. I’ve noticed that in the current region I live in, Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy films reign supreme which means that most customers would definitely take "Lord of the Rings" over "Passion of the Christ" anyday. However, the best store near my house (my former place of employment) also caters a lot to people with "normal" tastes in film.
Average Working Class Stiffs (a.k.a. Blue Collar Workers)
These folks have a pretty varied taste, but generally they enjoy the latest mainstream action and comedy films. Depending on the sex of the person renting the films, you can pretty much guess what they’re going to get: Women consistantly get the newest chick flicks and dramas (some of the cooler ones do in fact rent Horror films), while men drift more toward Action, Comedy, and Horror. In a few rare cases, some of these "working stiffs" do shock me and rent the occasional Foreign Language Film, that is until I mention that the film is subtitled. That alone changes a lot of minds! In short, these guys and gals are easy to please and are easily influenced by flashy advertising campaigns and positive word of mouth from other fellow Blue Collar stiffs.
White Collar Workers (a.k.a. The Rich and Educated, a.k.a. "The I’m Better Than You… and Smarter Too!" Crowd)
From lawyers, to doctors, to anyone in a high paying job that doesn’t require one to stack lumber or stone, these folks are the businessmen and women of our crazy world. I’ve noticed that they seem to rent everything the Blue Collar Workers do, with one major difference. Every arthouse and foreign film is fair game for White Collar folks. It seems like they do this out of love for cinema, but I think it’s because they’re trying to look smarter than they probably are. While your average Blue Collar worker will talk about the size of the lead actresses’ chest or the number of cool explosions, the White Collar viewer will talk about the cinematography and the skill of the film’s award winning cast. No they’re not all pompous and overbearing, but it only takes a few to give the rest a bad name.
The Welfare Crowd
You’d think folks would spend their welfare checks on food and clothes and such, but no! Once those checks come in, the video stores receive a ton of business at the first of every month! And you’d think folks that are hard up on cash and trying to survive would be thankful to watch any movie right? Hell no! These lazy S.O.B.’s are so damned picky that it makes me want to scream! In an age where everyone is a critic, these folks are the worst! I can’t believe they expect a cash refund or an exchange because they didn’t like a movie. Hmph! The nerve!
The Movie Nerd Collective
I’m most at home with this societal niche because well…. I am a movie nerd (or movie "geek" if you prefer). This group is made up of folks of all walks of life who live only to enjoy movies and comment on them. The guys and gals that are movie nerds are highly opinionated, but do stand aside when hearing someone else’s opinions on cinema. They watch just about anything, but most groups focus on the Sci-Fi, Horror, Fantasy, and even Anime genres, while also enjoying a little of everything else. I’d say this is the most balanced group of movie viewers out there.
I’m nearly to this point myself. Movie Fanatics eat, sleep, breathe, talk, walk, and preach movies. They spend thousands of dollars a year just to build up their movie collections, and brag consistantly about what they own, what’s coming out that they’re going to buy, and keep up to date on every movie project religiously. I’m not saying Movie Fanatics are bad people, but I am saying that if you’re friends with a movie fanatic, are dating one, or are related to one, get them help! Buying DVDs is an addiction. Forget drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, because DVDs are the main addiction of the next generation!
Know It Alls
AAAAAHHHHH! I can’t stand these folks! No matter what you know is pure fact, you are still wrong and they are right! I’ve gotten into numerous arguments with these losers and I revel in every small victory I have over them! MWAHAHAHAHA! There’s one guy in particular that I always get into a battle of wits with. He just can’t seem to get his facts straight and will fight to the end, even if he realizes he’s completely wrong! Just admit defeat and move on in life! Jeez!
Cheapskates aren’t really worried about the movies they get as much as they worry about saving and/or extorting from harmless video store employees. Quality isn’t necessarily the issue, but quantity is. You’ll see a lot of these people flocking to video stores on days where there are special deals, and you’ll definitely see them fighting over even the smallest late charge. Cheapskates are living, breathing examples that prove that the customer is not always right.
Visitors from foreign lands who are vacationing or settling down in this grand ole nation. Rather than toss out racial stereotypes or slurs ("We’re in America so why don’t you learn to speak American?!"), I’ll just say this: Handle these folks with care if you’re working in a video store. By doing so you are bettering foreign relations and promoting tolerance of other peoples….. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Just kidding! Damn it you foreigners, learn to speak "Engrish!" Rather than going straight to the "Foreign" section, these folks seem to watch just about everything, probably in their quest to better learn the English language.
The most skiddish group of people you will ever see. Some don’t really care and will readily acknowledge their renting of a sex flick. But then you have the guys that act so secretive that they’d make James Bond envious. They go as far as to rent a family film or even a religious film (paying pennance for doing the five-knuckle shuffle?) in order to "cover up" or at least feel better about renting a film concerning anal gang-bangs or what have you. These folks hail from different age groups (at least eighteen in my corner of the world), genders, and (::shudder::) sexual orientations. I have noticed that a good number of those that do rent porn are older men that are married, which really doesn’t give me much hope for my future.
Now you may be curious about the rental behavior of certain age groups. Well I for one cannot tell you, because everyone on the face of this planet has their own taste in film. A movie I may love may be considered as absolute garbage by you, and vice versa. What a person rents comes down to several key factors, such as their current emotional state. A person that is in a bad mood may rent a comedy to lighten things up or may rent a violent action or horror film in order to further fuel the fires of their discontent with life. You could also say that an individual’s upbringing and/or personality could sway their choice; it’s a definite plausibility. If someone is raised on cutesy kid films and sheltered, they could become a bit rebellious later down the road and rent some extremely violent films, or they could continue their streak of blissful ignorance; it’s pretty much a coin toss. At best, the renting habits of the common man (and everyone else) is purely random, but it’s fun to speculate on what certain folks will rent. A positive buzz about a film, a flashy movie trailer, or eye-catching box art is all that stands between a person and ninety-minutes of cinematic hell or bliss. Even people who have a more "refined" taste in film.
Well I hope you have learned something from this article and I hope I haven’t offended anyone; if you have been offended by this article in any way, just remember that it’s meant to be satirical and fun. If your sense of humor didn’t kick in at all then you have my sincerest pity. Otherwise, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the world of movie rental habits, and before I go, I want all of you readers to do two things: 1. Slow the growth of the internet/snail mail rental companies. Don’t sign up with Netflix or Blockbuster, and if you are signed up, cancel your subscription or just let it lapse. You’re just further showing how damned lazy the human race is getting. 2. Be sure to support independently owned (i.e. Mom & Pop) video stores and try to shun the larger chains (particularly Blockbuster). It’s really hard for smaller stores to keep up in this highly competitive market, and they need any help they can get.