Over this past summer, I spent a little time on the Alabama gulf coast in Orange Beach, AL. It is a pretty small town even during the tourist season, so I wasn’t expecting to find any Bargain Binge locations to spotlight. However, it turns out that Orange Beach still has a little local video rental shop up and operating. I’m honestly not sure what the name of the place is, but I am pretty sure it isn’t “BOOKS DVD Rentals”.
Typically, I adore local video shops. I have featured a good number of them on this blog, and I look for them in all of the places I travel to. That said, this place was shitty. I went a number of times over the course of the week, and nearly every visit was horrible.
The first time I went into “BOOKS” was on a whim after a grocery trip, when I first spotted the place. It was roughly 3:00pm, and I was alone in the store for about 5 minutes before the old lady behind the counter kicked me out to “go to lunch”. This, for the record, is not a stellar business practice.
The second time I went into “BOOKS”, it was with a mission in mind. We all decided that we needed to watch “Deep Blue Sea” and “Twister” to break up the Great Gamera Marathon, and I wasn’t about to pay full price for either of those DVDs. To the credit of “BOOKS”, at least the store had both of those movies. Unfortunately, the visit was once again sunk by the customer service. The same old lady was in the store, this time sitting quietly next to the entrance. She didn’t say anything when I walked in, and made no motion during the handful of minutes that I stood at the checkout counter, movies in hand. I actually gave up and left the store, as she once again gave no signs of recognition as I left the store. Once again, this is not an ideal business practice.
A few minutes later, after spot-buying some groceries, I went back into “BOOKS”. Because damn it, I wanted “Twister” and “Deep Blue Sea”, and this old woman was going to take my money whether she wanted to or not. This time, she was standing behind the counter, which was already an improvement over the last visit. I brought the movies up, and so began the marathon of membership registration.
Most video rental stores need to keep some information (via a membership typically) so that they can track you down if you abscond with a movie. Typically this is a quick and painless process: they might make a copy of your ID or have you fill out a form, and you’ll be on your way in a minute or two. At “BOOKS”, this process lasts a lifetime. She first asked if I was already a member, to which I said “no”. She then asked me if I was sure, and transitioned into the story of the 20+ year business and it’s many re-brandings and relocations in that time. I know I rented at least once from a store down here before, so I figured I might as well see if I was in the system. I mean, it could save me a minute or two, right? As she started hunting and pecking at her ancient keyboard, I instantly knew I had made a mistake. Even after she discovered I was not in the system, she kept looking and saying every name aloud that sounded like a vague permutation of “Gordon Maples”. I eventually had to interrupt her to ask for a new registration.
Around this time, one of my friends walked into the shop, wondering what on earth was taking me so long. As soon as he came in, the lady looked over my shoulder and said, in a unnecessarily harsh tone, “Can I help you, sir?”, as if he was about to steal her precious collection of beach reads on display.
Apparently the looming threat of having two individuals in the store caused her to pick up the pace, because the rest of the process went relatively smoothly. She hunt-and-pecked my information into the computer at a steady pace, and I was on my way.
The last time I went into the store, to return “Twister” and “Deep Blue Sea”, nothing eventful happened, which I was kind of disappointed by at that point. When you get that far, you have to hope for a thrilling conclusion to the epic, but that was not to be. The same elderly lady was there, but she was quick, pleasant, and sufficiently acknowledged my existence. It didn’t make up for the previous encounters, and the prices were ridiculous ($4 per night per movie as I recall), but it was definitely improvement.
I do not recommend going to “BOOKS DVD Rental” if you happen to find yourself in Orange Beach, AL. Bring your own movies, or download something, or hope your vacation internet can sufficiently handle streaming. Or, shit, go outside. The place is gorgeous, enjoy it. Don’t be like me and spend your vacation watching Gamera movies.