Thursday, December 30, 2010

Annual Abscondments

People “purchase” (read: rent and never return) Fernando's movies over the course of the year for any variety of reasons, and they often choose items that fail to measure up to a somewhat reasonable standard of quality. Fernando only hopes vamoosing with these beauties is worth it when the souls of those thieves are judged in the afterlife. Without further ado, here's the complete list:

Dance Flick: It's a ______ Movie, but not even an authentic Zucker and Abrams crapfest. Fernando can only point to this as an example of why one should watch a movie before stealing it.

Saw VI: It's like Saw or Saw II or Saw Anything! It's got to be good! Sequelitis is a filthy lie spread by people who hate milking franchises for all they're worth!

Astroboy: Hmmm...this or Princess and the Frog or Planet 51? Astroboy is perpetually in, so it must be better than both of them combined!

GI Joe: Rise of Cobra: Damn but 80s nostalgia must have been strong that day.

Alvin and the Chipmunks the Squeakuel: Not only does it feature the most annoying cartoon creatures in the history of animation, but the title proudly sports a tooth-gnashingly bad portmanteau. It's almost as if the thief did me a favor.

Serious Moonlight: If you want a dark movie about the horrible facts of love, don't halfass it and take Broken Flowers instead.

Bloodrayne: Oh, hindsight. I guess I SHOULD have picked up that copy the guy once tried to sell me. Dreadful.

Up: Ok, this one doesn't deserve to be on this list at all. It's a good movie. But still stolen. Sorry you have to have such rotten companions, Up.

A Serious Man: I mean, it's Coen Brothers, but who's ever heard of it? Fernando loves the Bros, but hasn't seen this one. Some year he'll get around to it....but he has been saying the same thing about the Harry Potter movies since 2005.

So that's that. 2010. One hell of a year. Fernando will see everybody in 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's Always the Sane Ones

Fernando had an irregular, but competent and timely, customer who came in about once a month to rent movies. No real problems with this person; she returned her movies mostly on time and, if she was late, came in to pay off the late fees in full when the movies were returned.

All this changed one fateful day when she rented two decidedly mediocre movies, Astroboy and The Box. Movies were one day, two days, three days late. Quite peculiar for her. Fernando calls her up, phone rings, and the most obnoxious answering machine recording ever assaulted him. You know people who let their kids do the recording? Now imagine the child is about three, and there are obvious, five-second breaks in the recording when the parent is coaching the young one into squeaking out the message. And the message is a good twenty seconds long. Not fun.

Anyhow, Fernando left a friendly message reminding her she still has the movies and waited a few days. Still nothing. So Fernando called again, endured the horrid answering machine, and left another reminder. Waited a few days. Still nothing.

Now Fernando was in a pickle. Nobody was clamoring left and right for the movies because they were very, very mediocre indeed; but on the other hand Fernando did not want people to start helping themselves to his inventory, and she was not making any effort at all to return his calls. So Fernando called a third time and proceeded to sit on the issue for three more days, hoping the problem will remedy itself as the woman snaps back to sanity.

Of course, that wasn't gonna happen.

So Fernando called her one last time on a Friday afternoon and informed her that unless the movies are in his drop box by the time he gets in on Monday, he would be getting the authorities involved to assist in any future action. Lo and behold, come Sunday evening she finally called back! She apologized most profusely for not getting back sooner and swore up and down she would be in on Monday to take care of things.

Monday rolled around and she finally showed up about 15 minutes before closing, not endearing herself to Fernando in the slightest thereby. By now she has racked up almost $40 in late fees. She put down $20 on the late fee and returned one of the two movies, promising Fernando that the other movie was to be returned the next day and the remaining balance paid off. Fernando agrees to this plan, contingent on her updating her account information.

Those of you with a realistic view on humankind might guess that it did not come to pass. Nor was she in the next day. Or the next. So Fernando called her again, suffering that hellspawned answering machine once again in the process, and left another, friendly, reminder of her promise. The waiting resumed.

Five days passed before Fernando called again. And still no response.

Fernando sighed in lament, shook his head, charged her for the replacement movie, and put her on the ban list.

Those who purport to take shameless advantage of munificence often find themselves losing everything.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Fernando is trapped talking with a regular customer one evening. This customer loves loves loves to bitch. About any topic, really: his job (or more accurately lack thereof), his classes (as he attends a nearby community college), politics (which wouldn't be so bad if he was somewhat remotely informed regarding the topics on which he was ranting), and so forth. (Note: Fernando, of course, realizes that he, himself, maintains a weblog in which he does the exact same thing regarding some of his more...eclectic customers and experiences, and accepts the resultant hypocrisy). Fernando has been known to be argumentative, but only when there is the chance for at least vague progress to be made on a subject or if Fernando can do the equivalent of “owning noobs” who really should have known better. Usually, it's not worth it with this guy because the cognitive dissonance possessed by this man is mind-boggling, and he is the sort that loves baiting arguments. Sort of an IRL troll, except far more mercurial. Some days he's peachy-keen-nice and others he is a thundercloud of impotent rage lashing out against whatever target is most convenient.

Anyway, today the initial subject of discussion was the weather. “So, I heard we're gonna get dumped on pretty fierce this weekend,” he says as he prepared to leave with his movies.

Fernando nods. “Yep. Right now it's out hovering over North Dakota, Minnesota”--STOP HERE WAS FERNANDO'S MISTAKE RESUME-- “Supposed to be pretty bad.”

Minnesota? No way in hell would you get me to live out there. The place sucks.”

Fernando arches an eyebrow on purpose. “Really? Have you lived out there, then?”

No, but you couldn't get me to go if you offered me a million bucks. The place is an empty hellhole.”

Well, I mean, that's a pretty vague description that could apply to lots of places. Here, for example. I'd drop everything to head over there for a million bucks. Hell, half a million. A quarter. Even a tenth of a million.” And right there is when Fernando chose to fight this battle. Poor, ignorant Fernando.

I don't know why you would. The people there suck.”

That's not really fair. I have a number of friends who live there.”

It's empty. There's no good place to live.”

It's not completely empty. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Duluth, um....”

See, you can't even think of more than two places,” he interrupts.

Three. Um...Moorhead.”

What the hell is Moorhead? I've never heard of it.”

Out by Fargo. On the west end.”

How the hell do you know this?”

I just said, I have friends from there.”

They should get the hell out of that state. State's going to hell. They can't even elect people right. Isn't their governor election or some shit still being counted?”

Actually, that was decided back on the 8th.” Fernando avoids mentioning the fact that other states, like Michigan, are even more going to hell, because that would just set off a lack-of-work rant or a Granholm rant or God knows what. Instead he shrugs. “Different strokes. They've got their system, we've got ours.”

Still, wouldn't want to have anything to do with that place.” Then his bipolar pills kick in and he goes from cranky ranter to normalish-guy in a good mood. “Anyway, I'll catch ya later, Ferny!” And he leaves. Fernando shakes his head and sighs because some people.

He tried his best, dear Minnesotan readers. He really did.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lots of Trouble, Little Gain

A woman comes in and rents a movie, Serious Moonlight. In an ideal world all would be well and good but, this world being the world that it is, the woman fails to return the movie. A few days later Fernando tries calling her only to find the number is out of service.

Luckily, a thing called the internet exists, and, indeed, this woman is on a popular social networking site and conveniently posted her contact information for all to see. Fernando uses this to leave a message to her and she replies that she will be in to return the movie the next day. Three guesses what doesn't come to pass. So Fernando shrugs and gives her an ultimatum: either the movie is returned within the next three days or he reports its unauthorized absence to the proper authorities. Later that very same day the woman comes down to the store to explain that the movie is forever lost and plead if she could somehow make things right.

Fernando agrees to sequester the hammer of justice in exchange for the late and replacement fees being paid in full.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mother Nature Hates My Guts

It's a sunny and warm day in late April. The sun is devastating what few pockets of snow remain and, for the first time in a long time, the heater has been turned off. The door to the Dominion of Movies is propped open by a VHS rental case and the spring air is fortifying the stale, wintry atmosphere of the building's interior.

Fernando is standing at the counter talking with a customer who shares some of his geeky tendencies; specifically, regarding the HBO miniseries based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Suddenly, the wind began picking up.

Fernando likes wind. The feeling of being buffeted by a strong breeze is that of euphoria. So Fernando was overjoyed when some of that turbulence rushed into the store in a flurry of good smells and comfort.

Fernando and his customer continued their conversation when there was a massive gust of wind and a great rending tear coming from outside. Then something dark and rectangular was gusted across the street in a dust devil/mini tornado about the height of Fernando's building.

What the hell...?” Fernando asked, coming around the counter and peering outside. His shirt was flapping in the gale and he peered at the object being ghosted across the street. It finally came to rest in the parking lot of the old flower shop across the highway. It was now white, and had strangely familiar words and lettering on it.

You're shitting me,” Fernando said in disbelief. He walked out into his parking lot and looked up at his storefront. One half of his sign was missing from its usual spot, instead having been forcibly relocated to across the street.

Fernando retrieved the signage and hauled it into the back of the store. A few days later, it cost him $75 to get a guy on a ladder to reattach it. He had the repairman put extra screws into it to prevent that from happening again.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Promise Made

Fernando is keeping himself entertained one evening with Law and Order when the phone rings.

Hello, Dominion of Movies.”

Hi. I was wondering how much my late fee was.”

Sure thing...could I get your name?”

Jax T.”

Fernando was hoping it was someone else. Unfortunately, he knows that name well through infamy and a spot on his list. “$60.”

What? Really? I didn't think it would be that much!”

Well, last time you were in you rented Shutter Island. You had it out for over two weeks and disregarded my phone calls reminding you to bring it back. At $2.50 a night, plus the fact you had late fees previously, it adds up.” It is somewhat necessary for Fernando to point out at this juncture that the individuals in question had only ever rented twice.

I guess so. much would I need to pay off if I wanted to come down to rent tonight?”

All of it.”


You put a buck fifty on your late fee last time you were in, and it was at over twenty bucks then. As I said, you then rented Shutter Island and it is now at $60.”

So I can't rent?”

Not unless you pay off the entirety of the late fee.”

Well...can I rent if I promise to pay it off when I get my income tax refund in January?”

Come by in January and we'll talk.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Every year a boy who is the grandson of a lady who never, ever comes into the store stops by to visit his grandmother during his summer vacation. And every year during this visit he stops by the store every day and bothers Fernando by asking him endless questions about what movies that he hasn't seen are good (which requires going most of the way through the store's inventory to find something he hasn't seen in the first place) and why Movie X is located in Genre Y area and so forth. Fernando loves especially that The Boy is here right as he opens (or even beforehand, and who knocks on the door or window when Fernando is making the store presentable by vacuuming and cleaning the counters and sorting returns) and so there are no other customers needing help around to spare him this fate.

Most of the time the boy's hijinks are but petty annoyances, but one day The Boy went beyond the call of duty and entered full-blown obnoxious mode. Fernando was updating his inventory database with the week's new releases, and the positioning of his office coupled with the inherent lack of immersion of which database entry is capable made it all but impossible for anyone but the most highly-skilled of ninjas to escape his notice. So Fernando was fully aware when The Boy gallivanted up to the counter with a couple rental tags in his hands, and was already swiveling to assist him, when The Boy whistled. Not in a lackadaisical way, or even a sexually approving, stereotypical wolf whistle way (that would have been mighty, mighty creepy); but in a “come hither, yon servant, that ye may bask in my radiance” way.

Fernando was not amused. “You know that I knew you were there, right, and that I was already getting up to help you?”

Yeah, but I wanted to make sure you knew I was here. You were busy playing your computer game.”

Fernando glances at his monitor, across which is plastered an incredibly unfun OpenOffice database. “I was updating my inventory on the computer for tomorrow's releases. Databases are the opposite of fun and don't require my full attention anyhow.”

The Boy is nonplussed. “Oh. I didn't know. I just wanted to be sure.”

Now you are sure.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Advice

One of Fernando's regulars comes into the store and peruses his selection of X360 games for a short while as Fernando fills out his rental slip and fetches his movies. When the monetary exchange is made, the man says, “You don't have a huge-huge selection of X-Box games I see.”

Well, they're $50 a pop,” Fernando replies. “And budgets being what they are, I'm forced to trickle them in far more...tricklingly than I would like. It would go more quickly if you helped me get a bigger budget to work with!” he adds, grinning rackishly and chuckling.

The customer gets the joke. “Well, you probably already know, but Family Video sells their X360 games for like $15 when they're through with them. It'll help you get a lot more for cheaper.”

Fernando thinks the man is still joking and laughs. Then the customer says, “No, I'm serious. It could really help you out.”

Now Fernando is no longer jocular. “Ok. I should give money to my biggest competitors to buy for my store a used game that is no longer even a new release that will be covered in their stickers?” Fernando pauses to give the customer a chance for rebuttal. When none was forthcoming, he continues, “That's right. I wouldn't. It would be silly. Notwithstanding Family Video has screwed me over before, so I'm even more disinclined to associate with them.”

Sorry. I didn't think about the stickers.”

Nah, no biggie,” Fernando responds. “It's not your job to think about what stickers are on which discs. Only lame people who own a video store need to do that.”

I'll pick up Toy Story 3 tomorrow, then?”

Yep, I'll have one waiting for you.”

And thus peace and order were restored.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Facial Recognition Software

Fernando is...well, put bluntly, he's pretty bad about remembering and sometimes distinguishing people. He's atrocious with names and not much better with faces. He once opined to one of his friends that he thinks Ashton Kutcher resembles John Krasinski, and was ridiculed endlessly for it.

One December afternoon (though it could very well be called “evening” because the sun goes down at about 3.30 PM) at around 4.30 a regular customer enters the store and browses about a bit. She asks Fernando for the location of The Nativity Story because it's about that time of year, and Fernando guides her to it. She picks out a couple of other movies and it's time for checkout.

You've got a free rental coming, if you wanted to use it,” Fernando informs her as he fills out the slip.

She is away reading the upcoming releases posting and says, “Oh, that's nice. I didn't know my card was already filled. I remember you just starting me a new one last time I was in.”

Fernando shrugs noncommittally. “Well, that's because your old one got filled up. It comes to $7 all together.”

She digs about in her purse for money while Fernando retrieves the movies. When he returns to the counter, her face takes on a quizzical look. “Are you sure I've got a free rental? Because I don't think I could have filled another card so quickly.”

Positive,” Fernando says with supreme confidence. He digs through the full cards pile and retrieves one bearing the name Tristana P., and sets it on the counter.

How do you know it's mine?” the woman asks. She does not look at the card immediately, for she is filling out a slip for Fernando's weekly drawing.

Well, your name's at the bottom. See?” Fernando points and she glances at the card after dropping the slip of paper in the bucket.

A pregnant silence ensues. Finally: “That's not me.”

W-what? You were just in here a couple days ago and....” Fernando trails off.

I'm Cassiopeia K.” She points to the bottom of the rental slip, at her signature, which is clearly not Tristana P.

Whoops. “Oh. Oh God. I'm sorry. You look just like Tristana. Um, with your hair done like that.”

Really? I saw her today. I don't think I do.”

Um,” says Fernando, at this point trying to salvage whatever shreds are left of his dignity, “did you want me to start you off with a new card, then?”

Please,” she says, smiling in mirth. Fernando does so and she departs after asking him to hold a couple of movies for her for the next day.

Fernando's software must be Adobe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In a Timely Manner

Fernando does custom movie ordering for people who seek home entertainment, as he has the might of a distributor behind him. Usually these are the vanishingly rare DVD releases of movies originally released in the 1960s and 70s, because anybody can go down to Wal-Mart and pick up Riding in Cars With Boys for $5.

The first time Fernando did such a custom ordering was for a couple in November of 2009 for a movie called Gargoyles from 1972, as a Christmas gift for one of their extended family members. The people who wanted it asked if he could track it down; once Fernando did so and found out the price, they agreed to it, and so the order was put in. The movie arrived with Fernando's next weekly shipment, through some dint of fate. He called the couple up to let them know the movie was in and they assured him they would be down in a few days.

They failed to show. But life gets in the way, so he called them up again and left a message that their movie was still down at the Dominion, and waited.

And waited. A week later, another call.



About a week before Christmas, Fernando calls again, reminding them that that day of object-giving was almost here and that a movie can't very well be a Christmas gift if it isn't in one's possession before Christmas. To no avail. The holiday comes and goes.

Now Fernando has a pickle. He's got a movie from 1972 that no one has ever, ever heard of and that he spent good money on. He could toss it on the sales rack, but then it would be certainly sold at a loss. With his luck, the couple would come in just as the movie was sold for $8ish to someone else. So Fernando does the next best thing.

He sticks it on a very, very high shelf out of sight and forgets about it.

Months pass, until February of 2010. The people who put in the movie order from so very long ago return to the store for the first time in four months to rent a stack of movies. Ah-hah! thinks Fernando, now I can get my money on this thing at long last!

So Fernando reaches up to the high, out-of-sight shelf and retrieves Gargoyles, the plastic wrapper of which is by this point covered in a faint layer of dust. He wipes it off on his pants leg to make it more presentable.

"Yeah, um, I've still got your movie here." He sets the DVD on the counter.

"Oh wow! We totally forgot about coming by to pick it up!"

"Er. I called you guys up about four times throughout December."

"We must not have gotten the message then. But this is great. My sister-in-law's birthday is coming up!"

"Well, it's still $18. You should probably get this out of the way. One less thing on your to-do lists."

The husband looks to his wife. "Well, we don't have that much on hand right now. But we'll be in when we return these to pick it up, don't you worry."

Where have I heard that before? Fernando thinks a trifle bitterly to himself. The movies are rented and returned the next day, but no one entered the Dominion. And the waiting resumed. Gargoyles resumed its sad, lonely perch on Fernando's top shelf.

In the interests of vague brevity, the movie was finally paid for on March 18th, 2010. As of December 2009, Fernando asks for half the price of any custom orders to be paid as a deposit when the order is agreed-to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


A small family unit enters Fernando's store one evening. Father, mother, 14ish-year-old son. Fernando greets them and they immediately fan out to browse the store. Everything seems harmless enough.

Then it begins.

Hey, Mom! Look, Toy Story 3!” says the teenager.

Mother walks over and says in a very disapproving tone, “Toy Story 3? I didn't like that movie. It's gay.”

The son wanders somewhere else. “Oh, man. This place is so lame. They still have Playstation 2 titles back here. Twisted Metal Black? That game is so old!” Because, after all, there is zero profit, none, to be possibly made from keeping around games for a system that many people hereabouts still have and use. But, oh, right, it's for a gaming system that's not the current gen. That means it's obsolete and horrible.

Meanwhile the father is browsing somewhere else. “Shut Up and Sing? Why do they even have this here? It's crap. I would never watch it,” he comments to no one in particular. But he has caught onto Fernando nefarious plot to force people to watch all his movies! Dammit, the revelation of this secret plan must be nipped in the bud!

How about Why Did I Get Married Too? That's a good one,” says the husband to the wife a few moments later.

We don't need to rent it. I had a friend download it to my computer,” she responds, simultaneously admitting to digital piracy and ignorance of the difference between down-and uploading data.

How come they don't have Halo for X-Box?” asks the son from over at the video game rack. “They have stuff for 360.” Which is for an outdated...fuck it. Logical coherence is dead.

Long story short they bitch about a bunch of other stuff supposedly wrong with the store and leave without renting. Fernando wonders why they haven't yet started their own rental business with their boundless knowledge.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Capacity for Capability

Man in his late teens/early 20s comes into the store. He seems familiar to Fernando but can't quite be placed. Fernando scours the late list for him in preparation but nothing jumps out, so he is content to wait. The man browses the store for a few minutes before selecting a movie tag and bringing it to the counter.

Can I get your name?” Fernando asks, filling out the rental slip.

The man gives it, and realization dawns. This guy rented a couple of movies about six months back and had them out for three weeks before Fernando cut off late fees—older titles, both of them. The day Fernando was set to replace them and tack on an additional $40 to the late fee, they had appeared in his drop box, but it still added up to a hefty $88 all said and done. And this man was sequestered firmly on the do-not-rent list through this string of actions.

So Fernando informed the man of this, producing the rental slip in question, and he looked downright sheepish. He stammered out an apology and asked if he could rent if the bill was paid in full.

Now Fernando was speechless. Nobody—nobody--asks to pay the bill in full, especially not when getting loud and violent and threatening never to rent again was an option.

But that was indeed what came to pass! The bill was paid in full and the man was welcomed back to the store a reformed customer.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


A young man comes into the Dominion one evening and selects a movie. He brings it up to the counter and Fernando informs him, “You've got about $20 in late fees. You wanna throw something on there?”

The other raises his hands defensively. “Whoa. Late fees?”

Yeah. Hang on a second.” Fernando retreats to his magical file cabinet and digs through it a bit, retrieving the rental slip in question. “Sorry, $21.50.” He shows the young man the slip to show he's not pulling numbers out of his ass.

I have to pay these off? C'mon, man.”

Fernando spreads his hands. “I mean, what do you want me to do? You had a movie out for over a week.”

C'mon. I could've gone somewhere else. I'm just trying to help you out, stay local.”

I appreciate that. But work with me here. Look at it from this side of the counter. Throw a couple bucks on it and we can nibble away at it. I'm not trying to be the bad guy here.”

I'm not paying the whole thing.”

And I'm not asking you to. Just a couple bucks. We can take care of the rest down the road.”

He rents his movie and throws $1.50 onto the late fee. Time will tell if Fernando's kindness pays off or bites him in the ass.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

GG, Family Video

Once in a while, as has been related in the past, people return Family Video's movies to Fernando at his Dominion. Fernando is a gentleman and calls up the store and usually arranges for someone to come pick it up, or for Fernando to go out of his way to return the films should he be heading thattaway in the nearish future.

One of Fernando's regular customers rented a movie from him and failed to return it; quite bizarre, since this person had generally been punctual in returning his rentals and paid off any of the small late fees he'd accrue immediately. So, after the third day of absence, Fernando calls him up to investigate the matter.


Hi, this is Fernando from the Dominion of Movies. I'm just calling about the movie you rented a few days back. It hasn't been returned, and I just wanted to remind you.”

I returned it on Monday.” (It was now Wednesday by this point).

Well, I still have the slip in my late pile. Let me double-check to make sure I didn't shelve it and accidentally forgot to mark it as returned.” This sort of thing happens to Fernando once in a while, unfortunately, for he is only human and if he is being swamped by customers things can fall through the cracks. However, upon checking his database and the shelf, the movie in question is absent and labeled as still in the customer's possession. Fernando informs him of this fact.

Well, I don't know what happened. Let me check around the house here and I'll get back to you.” Fernando agrees and the conversation ends.

An hour or so later, the man comes into the store looking quite distressed. “Yeah, um. I'm sorry.” He places a case down on the counter—one of Fernando's cases, but inside of it is a movie from Family Video. “I accidentally returned your movie to Family Video. I'll go up there tomorrow and see about getting it back.”

Fernando pish-pishes that suggestion. “I'll just call them up right now and explain what happened. It's happened that I've gotten their videos a bunch of times before.” So Fernando digs out the phone book and calls up the Family Video in question.

Family Video.”

Yes, hi. This is Fernando from the Dominion of Movies in the small town twenty-three miles to the west. One of my movies was accidentally returned to your store a few days ago.”

Which one?” Fernando gives the title and the man excuses himself for a moment. A few minutes later, he returns. “Yeah, we've had it here since Monday. We tried giving you a call but the person who answered the phone said not to worry and that you'd be in to pick it up.”

Now this is quite odd. Fernando is the sole employee at the Dominion of Movies, and he would certainly recall Family Video calling him about possessing one of his films; he would never have had to call up his customer in that case because he would have seen that it was returned. When Fernando expressed his misgivings regarding the tale's veracity, the man on the other end became indignant.

Look, I'm telling you what really happened. We called the number on the tag and somebody answered.”

Like who?” It is a fact that Fernando enjoys messing with people who spin bullshit, like telemarketers and liars.

Oh, just a guy. You know.”

Well, I mean, I don't know. I don't know at all because I don't have any 'guys' working here.”

A girl, then.”

Did this man think Fernando was in some way deficient? “Listen. There's nobody else here. There's just me, Fernando. I never got this phone call.” The man tries interrupting but Fernando will have none of it. “Here's what going to happen. I've worked with you guys to go out of my way to return movies of yours before that have been dropped off here and I'm frankly pissed at the crap you're trying to pull on me. So I expect my movie to be back in my possession by Friday. If it is not, then we shall dance a legal dance in which you explain why you have unlawfully had some of my property in your possession for almost a week.” And Fernando hangs up.

The movie was in his drop box the following morning, but Fernando is done being nice with Family Video. As for the customer, he paid off his late fees without issue and all became right between Fernando and him because Fernando follows the Golden Rule, and does unto others as is done unto him.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

∃a(NoRent(a) -> NoRent(a))

Fernando sees a man in his mid-20s come in with his girlfriend. Fernando recognizes this Girlfriend Man because of a past incident involving an unreturned movie, despite him not having come to the store in quite a long time. Fernando's memory is quite good when it comes to people owing him money. Anyhow, Girlfriend Man plucks and brings up a couple of rental tags and Fernando says to him, “You have $56 in late fees. You can’t rent until you pay that off.”

Girlfriend Man decides to get belligerent, as people always do. “From what?”

“Well, you rented a movie over two years ago and failed to return it.”

“And I got $56 in late fees from one movie how?”

“By renting it and not returning it, as I just said. Late fees add up and then it’s about twenty dollars for a replacement. It could have been a lot more, but they were stopped after less than two weeks.”

“I’m not paying $56 in late fees. Tell me what movie it is and I’ll buy a new copy, but that's it.”

“That doesn’t matter because a new copy was already bought. You still owe $56 in late fees.”

“I’m not paying $56.”

“That’s fine. Then you won't be renting.”

“I just won’t rent here anymore.”

Fernando responds, suddenly channeling The Gord, “I believe I said that just now. Door’s to my left.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Call of Duty

Fernando is at the store, preparing for a Friday opening by rearranging the week's top ten rentals when the phone rings. It's not out of the ordinary for people to call the store before opening time. Some of the time it's the distributor calling Fernando to usually give him bad news about how the next week's releases will be a day or two late and if that “would be a problem”; some of the time it's people who misremember the fact that Fernando opens at 12 PM on Saturday and Sunday and 2 PM otherwise; and some of the time it's telemarketers come out to play so Fernando can try out new characters.

Today it was a semi-regular customer, so technically Option 2. “Hi. I'm just calling to let you know I'll be out of town for the next few days and I have one of your movies. I was wondering what kind of late fees I'll be looking at.”

Peculiar. Customers usually don't keep Fernando in the loop of why his property is (sometimes ridiculously) tardy. “Um...well, since you called it'd be an extra $1.50 per day, instead of the usual rate. But, I mean, you could probably swing by the store before you go to save yourself the hassle.”

Oh. Um, yeah. I'm already out of town, though. So I can't really do that.”

Ok. Well, maybe you could have one of your friends bring it in?”

I don't really know anybody around here.”

Now Fernando is a trifle perplexed, because this young man is dating a girl whose brother is in the store probably every other day, and unless there's some really bad blood between the two siblings, it shouldn't be at all an issue to have the brother return it. At most, it'd be one, two days late.

Fernando was just about to point this out to the young man when he continued, “What if I had it mailed it to you?”

Fernando's jaw drops. “W-well I guess if you wanted to do that that would be an option. I'd have to charge you until I received it, of course. The address is on the labels on the case and disc, if you want to go that route, but--”

Ok, I'll go ahead and do that. Just wanted to let you know why it'll be a few days late and that I'm not trying to run off with it.”

This impossibly positive customer interaction has now officially boggled Fernando's mind. “Um, that works for me then. Thank you very much for calling to let me know.”

No problem. Talk to you later.” Click.




UPDATE: The movie arrived via priority mail the following Monday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Time's Charms

A hot young twenty-something woman rents a movie. The hot young twenty-something woman fails to return it and Fernando winces in folly because she lacked a formal account at the store because...well, embarrassingly, her voluminous assets distracted Fernando from ensuring he had contact information in the case exactly this would happen. Fernando uses his savvy talents to track her down via a book of faces and, fortunately, she returns the movie. Unfortunately, the late fees are not taken care of when the movie resurfaces in the drop box.

About a month later the hot young twenty-something woman returns to the store and Fernando informs her on the status (or lack thereof) of her account and late fees, and that she would not be renting unless they were paid off in full and she filled out an account application.

On this particular day, she was wearing a rather low-cut shirt and a fairly gravity-defying bra, and she made it a point of order to lean over the counter most alluringly. “Are you sure you can't let me rent?” At this point she hunches her forearms and makes vast troughs of flesh bulge explosively.

Fernando takes in the view for a moment before returning his gaze to her eyes. “I'm sure. Thanks, though.”

A flicker of confusion crosses her countenance before Fernando continues, “You still have to pay your late fees before you can rent again.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Class Act

An unfamiliar man enters the Dominion one overcast Saturday afternoon in mid-November. "Yeah, I was wondering if you had a movie I've been wanting to watch, The Hills Have Eyes."

Fernando nods and rises from his chair. "Absolutely I do. Let me go and get that for you." So Fernando hunts down the tag and brings it up to the counter to begin filling out the rental slip. "Can I get your name?"

"Newguy McHunterton."

Fernando pauses in his filling out of the rental slip. "Do you have an account here?"

"Uh, no. I'm only up here for about a week every year."

Fernando shrugs. "That's no problem. I've got a paper clipped bundle about yea thick of hunters who come up here this time of year." He holds his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.

"I'd just like it for one night."

Fernando, meanwhile, has retrieved a membership application. "I just need you to fill this out for me. It's a quick and painless process."

The man looks down suspiciously. "I don't want to be a member. I'm just up here for a week each year. I just want to rent this movie."

"I understand that. But I need for you to fill this out before I'll rent to you."


Oh boy oh boy oh boy, that's just begging for a frank response. But, tempting as it is for Fernando to be impossibly forthright, he instead says, "It's a standard membership application that is store policy, like what you'd need to fill out to rent anything anywhere else. Name, address, phone number, driver's license or credit card number."

"You want my driver's license number?" At this point, the man's eyebrows knit in the way that happens when people who usually get their way...don't.

"Or credit card information, that's correct."

"Fuck you. Keep your fucking movie." And the man shoves the rental tag and membership application-card-thing to the floor from the glass countertop. "Asking me for my driver's license, un-fucking-believable...." he mutters as he storms out.

Fernando now wishes he'd given the forthright response, which is, "I've never seen you before, you don't live around here, and I'd like some information that helps ensure that my property will be returned."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Success in Haggling is Tied to One's Charisma Stat

A man who infrequently comes to the store and even more infrequently rents enters the Dominion one October evening with two big boxes. “Hey, uh, yeah, I was wonderin' if you wanted to buy some old VHS tapes offa me. I need some quick cash. Thirty bucks for the whole bunch.”

Fernando is mildly intrigued, since he does sell used VHS tapes and people occasionally buy them to bring them to their hunting camps and other wilderness hidey holes. So he meanders over and takes a look at what the man's got. Lots of James Bond. Some were movies that the man had purchased from the Dominion at a nebulous point in the past, for they still bore the Dominion's stickers. Others were things Fernando would probably never be able to sell because everyone already owned the film in question, like the two copies of What's Love Got to Do With It cluttering his sales rack (He has even more in the back room. What the deal is with people and having owned that movie is a mystery for the ages). The cases are for the most part decent-looking, but a few have obvious water damage to them. All in all, maybe fifty, sixty movies total.

Fernando rubs his forehead and does some quick business math aerobics and says, “I can give you twenty dollars in credit for them.”

Well, I was hopin' to get some cash. There are a lot of them in there. You could resell 'em for over a hundred dollars.”

Sorry, I only give credit for trade-ins. And the unfortunate fact is that there are a lot of crap commons that everybody already has two or three copies of.” Fernando points to the first Austin Powers movie leering up at him from one of the boxes as an example. “And some of the cases are a little dingy and beat up so they don't look nearly as nice on the rack. And you have maybe fifty movies here, and I don't sell used VHS tapes for nearly enough to make a hundred bucks off that number.”

Well, how's the credit work?”

Fernando is a little stunned at this question. “It's pretty much a credit account and if you rent or buy stuff it gets used up.”

Oh. Well, can ya make an exception? I really need the cash right now.”

Fernando spreads his hands. “I'd love to help you, but it's store policy. It makes the accounting much less messy for me on this end. If you really, really wanted cash for them, though, I can give you ten.”

Well, I say they're worth at least thirty bucks.”

Twenty in credit or ten in cash is the best I can do.”

Oh, ok. I'll check up at the Sound Shelf and see if they can do me a better deal. I really need the cash right now.” Yes, yes, Fernando gets it. You need the cash right now. But regurgitating the same tired plea for the fourth time after the first time didn't work is an exercise in irritation.

Yeah. Sorry.” Fernando goes back to his desk, for he has had enough of this.

The man then proceeds to fill out a slip for Fernando's weekly gift certificate drawing (without renting anything, of course) and leaves.

UPDATE: The individual in question returns to the Dominion about a week later and informs Fernando that he sold his boxes of tapes for $16 at the Sound Shelf. So good for him? He also didn't rent. Again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advice Givers

Around these parts, the time of the year in which it is legal to hunt deer is impossibly serious business, to the point that schools and businesses close. A great many people come from out of town and Fernando sees them for only about one week a year, but he nevertheless considers them to be regular customers; he recognizes their names and faces and these people make it a point to stop in nearly every day during the season. Fernando enjoys their business and they, if their actions are any indication, enjoy Fernando's businessmanship.

In this case, a person Fernando has never seen before enters the store about half an hour before closing. He is wearing hunting camo gear and has in tow a teenage son also wearing hunting camo. He saunters up to the counter and slams his hands down upon it and asks, “D’ya have any huntin’ videos?”

Fernando pauses at his work (he’s currently updating the late list) and says, “No, I’m afraid we don’t.”

“Well, why not?”

Fernando now needs to come up with a good reason, since no hunter has ever asked this question of him at any point in recorded history. So he falls back on the old standby he uses whenever anyone asks why he doesn't have Movie X: “Because they wouldn’t rent very well.”

“It’s stupid that you don’t have them. If you had some here I would be renting them, but now you just lost a customer.” The person Fernando has never seen before then exits the store. Fernando goes back to updating the late list.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

If Only It Worked This Well With the Ladies

An elderly gentleman comes into the store to drop off some movies for someone else. As he turns to leave, Nature decides to do Fernando a huge favor and it begins to downpour something fiercely. The man scratches his cheek before turning to Fernando and saying, “Well, this weather's no good for anything. What kinds o' action flicks ya got?”

So Fernando comes out from behind the counter and begins leading the man on a perusal of the store, pointing out this and that new release that falls under the category. The man finds three or four titles that interest him but he eventually settles on the Clash of the Titans remake, mentioning the fact that he's heard good things but isn't sure that he'd like it because it's not the “right kind” of action.

Well,” says Fernando, “it's crappy weather, and I've heard it's going to be crap tomorrow, so you may as well pick out something else in case this one's not up to snuff. What kind of action were you going for?”

Fernando quizzes the man on his movie likes and the man mentions having enjoyed the Matrix movies and is a fan of Nicolas Cage. And the perusal of the store continues, and the man has a number of other, different-action, titles pointed out to him.

I've got something by the guys who did The Matrix here—Ninja Assassin. It's not The Matrix, obviously, but it's a very similar style of action filming.”

Lots of this, then?” The man pantomimes bullet time asskickery.


Sounds good.” And the man selected that movie as well.

As for Nic Cage....” Fernando says, guiding the man to the older releases, “He hasn't really had anything brand-new come out based on what you like recently. But this one, Bangkok Dangerous, came out about, eh, two, two and a half years ago. He's a hitman. Solid and action-packed.”

Never heard of it, but I've been to Thailand a couple times, back in 'Nam,” the gentleman replies, but Nicolas Cage is on the cover and any arguments he may have wanted to put forth are invalid. He selects that one too.

As Fernando begins filling out the rental slip, the man asks Fernando his name and Fernando gladly gives it to him along with a business card, and the man says he'll probably be in tomorrow to rent again for he found Fernando to be quite personable and informative. Thus did Fernando add another regular customer to his fold and receive warm fuzzies for the day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Big Brother

Teenage girl comes in and rents a stack of movies, one of which is Toy Story 2 on BluRay. Fernando points out to her that she has the BluRay copy and that the DVD is available if she likes, but she assures him that she has a player at home. So the transaction goes through and Fernando is made merry.

The following day, her father returns the movies and says to Fernando, “Yeah, this one movie we rented last night wouldn't work. It's BluRay and we don't have a player.”

That's odd. Because last night when your daughter was in I pointed out that A) she has the BluRay copy and the DVD was available but that B) you guys have a player for BluRays.”

Well, what do you want to do about it?”

Fernando had not been having a great day up to that point because his distributor had been a pain about getting his releases for next week to him in a timely manner; an unnecessarily belligerent customer was the last thing he wanted to deal with. “What do you want me to do about it?”


Fernando ponders for a moment. “Ok. For starters, I'll need a list of every piece of electronic equipment in your house. Everything, from tvs to dvd players to microwaves to back massagers. Brand, model, and year.”


Because,” Fernando interrupted, now that his ire had been roused, “if you expect me to be aware of what electronics you do and do not have in your household, I'll need that information, in advance, in order to stop you from renting items that I don't know don't work with the electronics you do or do not have, so we can prevent this from ever happening again.”

The father left.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time Assuredly Does Not Heal All Wounds

A man Fernando has never seen enters the store and selects four cases from the rack, bringing them to the counter. This obviates that he has rented here at most one time previously, as any remotely regular customer knows to select the rental tags, so Fernando sets the customer to filling out a membership application while Fernando takes a peek at the ancient-aaaaancient late lists, just to be sure.

It turned out that Mr. Cases had late fees going back over four years, from before Fernando ever set foot in Someone Else's Dominion as the humblest of cashier jockeys. But, as he inherited all accounts payable and receivable when he took over, the fee was his to collect. It was not an extensively, amazingly large one ($26), but one that had lingered for quite a long span of time and that Fernando thought should need to be paid off fully before the individual in question could rent again. When Fernando informed him of this, the man feigned obsequiousness and pleaded to rent his flotilla of movies anyway, promising to bring money to pay off the late fees the next day. Fernando suggested the man bring the money tomorrow to pay off the late fees, and then he could rent.

Unsurprisingly, he never returned.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Parental Responsibility

Fernando must sadly deal with people who are, for want of a better term, irresponsible, and it is no surprise at all that their children adopt such mannerisms as well. It should also come as no surprise that the parents go into angry rant mode when they attempt to rent and are informed their offspring racked up late and replacement fees. One such conversation went as follows:

I can't rent to you until these late fees are paid off.”

What? How did I get $61 in late fees?”

Your daughter was in a few weeks back and rented two movies, neither of which was ever returned, despite my numerous calls. I even sent a letter certified mail. These fees add up.”

You can't charge me for that!”

Actually, I can. She rented under your account.”

I'll tell her to pay them off.”

That's very nice of you. If and when that happens, you can rent again.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trust Issues

Fernando leases a $2.50 rental to an irregular customer one rainy Saturday evening and he departs. The next day, at around 3 PM, he returns with the movie in tow.

Yeah, this movie didn't work in my player. Can I get a refund?”

Fernando, not being an idiot, proceeds to determine the veracity of this claim by placing the disc in his own player. As he's firing up the TV, he asks, “So, any particular part that caused it to not work?” Fernando also notes that the inner jewel case is shattered straight down the middle when previously it had been intact.

Oh, y'know, it didn't load at all.”

That's the favorite type of thing for Fernando to check, because it takes so little time and effort. And, lo and behold, it works. Not only do the previews and FBI warnings load flawlessly, but so, too, does the title screen and even the first scene of the movie when Fernando selects the Play Movie option.

But Fernando is not totally heartless when it comes to operating his Dominion. “It's working fine for me here. Maybe your DVD player is just a little musty on the inside or something. I can let you have this for another night on the house, if you like.” The man agrees to this plan and departs.

Around 6.30 that evening, he returns again. “Yeah. It still didn't work. Can I get my money back now?”

Well then,” says Fernando. “It worked fine for me, and I've never had anyone else complaining about it. I can give you credit towards another rental.”

So a free rental?”

No. Credit towards a rental. $2.50.”

You sure you won't get my money back?”

Listen. You were standing right there earlier when you saw it worked just fine. I'm already doing far more than I ought to because this disc is in no way dysfunctional and I am trying to scratch out a living. You can take credit, or nothing.”

Fine. I'll take the credit.”

Fernando then proceeds to make an entry on his credit table for him when the man interrupts. “Yeah, I'd like to have you fill out something I can hold onto, so I can trust you not to forget.” This, of course, is translated from the language of poor customers as “I don't think you're going to give me that credit, you cheap bastard.”

But Fernando humors the man and, taking one of his free rental stampcards, scrawls “$2.50 credit” in nice, black ink upon it. The man, now apparently satisfied, proceeds to fill out a slip for Fernando's drawing despite having been nothing but annoying and not renting a goddamn thing.

The joys of working with the public.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Happy Halloween Tale

One of Fernando's most regular of customers comes in one day in October and asks if he has the documentary An Inconvenient Truth. She is a teacher, and her science class was studying global warming, and she felt it would be a helpful educational tool in discussion on the topic. Fernando agreed with her and allowed her to borrow the movie free of charge, as Fernando is an ardent believer in lifelong education and “paying it forward” to the next generation.

About a week later said customer returns to the store carrying a large piece of posterboard. Fernando is intrigued by this, as customers do not usually bring along pieces of posterboard when they come a-renting. But, lo, this piece of posterboard was a large, approximately two-and­-a-half by one-and-a-half foot card from her entire class reading, “Thank you, Mr. Ferny (they did not want to deal with the hassle of how to spell Fernando's last name)! The movie helped us learn about global warming and what we can do to help the earth.” and with a veritable phone book of names on the card's inside.

Fernando pinned it to the wall of his store and it now proudly gazes down upon his Dominion.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reservations Over Reservations

Fernando has a customer come in and ask about a movie. All the copies of said movie were out, and the customer asked if it could be held for the next day, where it would be picked up around five. As Fernando was jotting down the information in his Notebook of Infinite Justice, he asked, “Could I get your number to give you a reminder?”

“I don’t think you need to. I won’t forget.” Fernando cringed on the inside upon hearing those words.

Fast-forward one day to 5 P.M. No customer appears. Come quarter to six, Fernando digs up the customer’s phone number in his records and makes a call, whereupon the customer says she cannot make it tonight, but would like the reservation to be moved to tomorrow.

“Absolutely I can do that for you.”

“Great. I’ll be in around 2 to pick it up.”

“Well…I don’t know if a copy will be around right at 2.”

“What do you mean you might not have a copy? You’ve got one right there.”

“Yep. I’ve also got a waiting list two deep on this movie for tonight.”

Cue the hysterics. Eventually it was agreed that the customer would come in tonight to pick up the movie.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rules is Rules

Fernando has a weekly drawing at the Dominion of Movies. Every time someone comes in to rent or buy a movie, he or she fills out a slip of paper for a gift certificate for free rentals. A short set of rules was posted near the bucket but they mostly described how one won and the limits of entry (as much as you wanted). It used to be the case that Fernando would allow people to fill them out even when not renting, but one day that privilege was heavily strained and ultimately revoked.

A teenager came into the store with four of his buddies. They putter about for roughly twenty minutes, spending most of the time loudly proclaiming about how “awesome” this or that particular horror movie is, before the leader finally selects an older rental and brings it to the counter. Fernando goes about filling out the rental slip, taking the gent's money, and retrieving the film while the teen and his buddies begin stuffing the ballot box, as it were.

When Fernando sees them tearing through his meager stock of fill-out slips in a frenzy of contest entering, he says, “You know, it's one per visit.”

Doesn't say that on the rules,” said the ringleader, and he is actually correct. The rules say nothing about limiting the number of entries per visit.

That may be so, but it's not really fair to the other people who enter.”

They should do it too then. Nothing's stopping them.”

You're're right,” Fernando agrees. He scoops his hand into the bucket and removes a handful of slips, then begins picking through them, crumpling up and disposing of the renter's duplicates and the ones submitted by the four not-renters.

Hey, you can't do that!” one of the associates says.

Fernando does not look up from his sorting. “The rules don't say anything about that.”

Yeah they do! They say anyone can enter!”

Correct. They do not, however, guarantee anyone can win.” The troop of recent pubescents exit the store in a huff and Fernando immediately undertakes a necessary project: a new set of rules to explicitly close that nasty, textual loophole.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How to Chickify Your Heroine

How to Train Your Dragon is an excellent movie. It's cute and funny and action-packed and features Gerard Butler at about his hammiest. It also has Astrid, the lead female protagonist who is, for the first two-thirds of the movie, an awesome example of female asskickery in action. She enrolls in dragon-slaying school and is, by far, the most competent of all the students there.

Then the film's first major climax takes place (I shan't spoil any details for those among my unnumbered readers who have not seen yet seen it) and Astrid miraculously and instantly and surprisingly transforms from a cocky, smarmy badass to Generic Female Love Interest, and all of her previous skill is swept aside to make room for shoehorned “niceness” trying to pass itself off as character development, maybe. Designated Male Protagonist Hiccup (who I admit I found quite likeable, and whose character was never derailed) proceeds to carry the day and Gets the Girl at the end of it all. Oh, and there are totally cool dragons.

Now, people like happy endings; I certainly do provided it's genuinely earned and not some obvious legacy reward. But a happy ending does not necessitate having everything wrapped up in a nice, pretty bow and pairing off all the males and females into happily-ever-after couples. Why couldn't the movie have been about a guy, his dragon, and an awesome female lead who doesn't swoon for the guy?

How to Train Your Dragon is not a movie about the budding romantic relationship between two (or more) characters. It's not a movie asking the sorts of existential questions we all face in our own romantic endeavors and exploring the psychological intricacies of True Love. Can a movie that isn't a romance/romantic comedy have a little bit of lovey-dovey goo tossed in? Absolutely, if it allows the viewers to glean more depth in the characters in question, like in, say, Up. HtTYD just throws in the Astrid-Hiccup pairing and the verisimilitude of Astrid's motivations goes up in smoke. It doesn't provide any insight to her character; we know from the opening scene that Hiccup has the hots for her, and that she can't tolerate him in the slightest, and that she is impossibly irked as he consistently one-ups her in training. Then something happens and we get a girl who, while admittedly still Tsundere, finds herself d'awwwing at Hiccup and his spiffy dragon ride, their previous rivalry forgotten entirely. Oh, and the other (characterized far, far more one-dimensionally) students don't react to this sudden change at all.

Maybe I'm being a cynical hardass about all this (Ok, I am a cynical hardass about all this). How to Train Your Dragon is a fun, pretendland family film and (probably) shouldn't be torn to shreds because its writers decided to throw the protagonist a, heh, bone. The movie's main message is one of understanding the motivations behind actions, avoiding stereotyping, and being open to the possibility of questioning strongly-held traditional beliefs. It, however, could have done just fine without the apparently necessary romance. Toy Story did splendidly and is a timeless classic in the same genre, and it didn't need a love interest to achieve that.

Not every single story needs to provide True Love, people.