My 18 Months at Movie Gallery

My first Movie Gallery on Western Ave, Augusta, Maine

In March 2000, I was 20 years old and I started working at Envisionet, a call center under a contract with first World Spy (a free ISP that closed in a couple months after it launched) and then Microsoft Network Member Support.  I can’t describe enough just how much I hated this job.  I worked there for just over one year and when I was called on my day off to be told that I had been laid off I didn’t even care.

A month after starting at Envisionet I was bored out of my mind.  Previously I had been a second shift lead manager at a full service gas station and I worked 50 – 60 hours a week.  At Envisionet I was a straight 40 hours and I had too much time on my hands and needed something to do.  My best pal John (my partner on my podcast What Did You Watch This Week) was an assistant manager at Movie Gallery and said they needed part time help.

One night I went into the store to return movies and asked John about it, the store manager Matt was literally walking out the door and John turned and yelled, “Hey this is my buddy Mike who wants the job.”  Matt looked at me and replied “Okay, he’s got it.”  John then turned back and passed me a stack of movies and said “go shelve these.”

For the next year I worked about 20 hours a week there and it was increased to 30 – 40 after I was laid off from Envisionet.  I would have stayed at Movie Gallery, but the pay for a Senior Customer Service Associate was terrible.  Six months later in October 2001 I left Movie Gallery to start my career as a Police, Fire, Rescue, & 911 Dispatcher which is what I am still doing to this day.

Movie Gallery is my all time favorite job, and I worked at three locations during my time there.

I got to work with my best friend and made new friends where I essentially stood around talking about movies in between work and waiting on customers.  Of course the best perk that came with working at Movie Gallery was the free rentals!  We could have up to three movies out on our account at a time so I took the opportunity to finally rent all those movies that I’d wanted to see and hadn’t because I didn’t want to take the chance spending money on it in case it was dud.

We also got to take home the new releases before their official street date.  New releases came out on Tuesdays, and the Friday before we would get our shipment of the new movies so we could process them over the weekend so there were ready to go Tuesday Morning.  We could take the new movies home as long as they were back in store Monday night.

On Fridays, after opening, we would get a count of how many copies of each VHS or DVD that we got delivered. This was 2000 – 2001 and most people hadn’t transitioned to DVD yet so the majority of our rentals were VHS, but near the end of my tenure DVD was starting to take over.  We would then print corresponding number of coverbox inserts and place them in the plastic cases.  Next we would open all the VHS and DVD’s placing a bar code sticker on the VHS to be scanned when rented.  The DVD’s would get a small sticker with the Movie Gallery logo around the plastic center of the disc only, DVD’s were scanned on the rental box.

Once the movies were all stickered we would put them in their rental cases.  The final step was to take a plastic insert that went into the VHS box to keep it’s shape when we shrink wrapped them to be put on the rental wall.  At my stores the coverbox was placed in front of the rental copy.  I actually enjoyed doing this mindless work even when there a few hundred movies to process.

The store had three rental categories: the new release wall where movies stayed for one year and wrapped around the outside wall of the store in alphabetical order.  Then there was the gallery section where the older movies called home placed alphabetically by genre.  The final rental section was the porn room which is pretty self explanatory.  Each section was color coded, new released yellow inserts, gallery had blue and the porn had orange and red.  We also had the new and previously viewed movies for sale and of course candy racks and soda cooler.

Second and location I worked at the longest on Bangor St, Augusta, Maine

On Mondays we would get the pull list telling us how many copies of each movie to be pulled off the new release wall and processed into previously viewed.  Once a movie had been rented enough that it was paid for it would be sold.  Back in 2000, VHS rental copies still cost pretty near $100 a piece if not more.  Back then VHS copies weren’t available for sale in store until months after they were released on Rental.  DVD’s really changed that as it became more affordable to buy them on their rental release date as even rental copies were only $25.

Monday nights we would make room on the new release wall Tuesdays releases.  The pull list helped clear up some room so the next step would be to pull the movies that were a year old and process them for the gallery.  If there still wasn’t enough room we could start to double new releases that had been on the wall a few months so one cover box to up to three rental copies.  There was a strict one to one policy on the brand new releases.

Looking back I now realize that I shrunk wrapped a tremendous number of items.

We had an adult room at one location and the sell through in there was tremendous!  Lots of buy 2 get 2 free VHS titles and we sold a ton.  One time I managed to face a whole display, about 30 VHS cases with different titles that all had the same girl on the cover.

Tuesdays were busy because of the new releases and by the time I worked there everything was a five night rental, so they were due back on Sunday night by close.  Friday was the busiest night and everyone wanted the new releases, but they were typically still out from Tuesday.  This resulted in the worst kind of customer, the one that constantly monitors the returns box every time someone brought one in.  They would quickly run to the front “What did they return? Did they return Gladiator, Cast Away, X-Men, or Save The Last Dance?”

Flaunting what little power I had I would have a stash of the hottest rentals of the week hidden under the counter by the registers that I would save for my regular customers.  Occasionally one of the loiterers would catch that I just handed a copy of a movie that I told the I didn’t have to a regular.  They would get all angry and I would channel my best Randal and tell them they were not allowed to rent here anymore.

Other tasks were doing the late calls.  The computer would generate a list of movies that were past due, we would check the shelves to make sure they were in fact not in the store.  Then we would call the renter and let them know they had late movies and for some reason Movie Gallery had a policy that we weren’t allowed to tell them the names of the movies, I didn’t care though I would tell them.  Got awkward a couple times when it was porn titles.

Here’s a myth killer, those people that would brag about have late fees that were upwards of a hundred dollars or more are very wrong, unless they lost or damaged the movie.  Late fees were two bucks a day for new releases, 99 cents for gallery rentals and maxed out at 14 days so you do the math.

We had a monthly preview tape called Reel Player that was about 40 – 60 minutes long and would contain music videos, trailers, and release dates for rentals with other commercials on it.  This tape is solely the reason why I will never watch the movie Traffic and hate Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Also there are a couple songs that if I ever hear them it brings me right back to my days working there.

I truly enjoyed working there and only left because the pay was so bad and I realistically couldn’t survive on it alone.

Thanks for reading, I’d love to know if any of you also worked at video store and had these similar experiences.

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