How long before video stores go the way of travel agencies?
Remember the local travel agent? They'd advertise on local TV and they had tiny offices with globes on the signs and maps on the walls. You'd ring them up if you wanted a surrogate to get you the best deal on a hotel in Chicago or a rental car in Boston.
Then the Internet struck, with its multitude of websites, and the American traveler became his or her own travel agent. The middle man, as so often has happened after the Internet, was cut out, like a tumor.
Why pay someone to do something that we could do for free, and still get discounts to boot?
So I wonder about the fate of the corner video store.
Actually, you may have to drive past quite a few corners before you find a video store these days.
NetFlix, the Red Box kiosks, the Internet (of course) and more people owning BluRay discs than DVDs, are all contributing to the slow death of the local video store, I'm afraid.
But some of it is the video store's own doing.
Take late fees. Please.
One of the allures to the above alternatives to renting movies is that none of them will charge you a late fee. And late fees, if we're just talking between us, is surely a big revenue gainer in the video rental business.
One of the reasons why late fees are so common is that the due dates for the movies are all over the map.
This one's due in two days. That one's due in three days. You have a full week on that other one. Oops, better get THIS one back TOMORROW. Or else.
We used to run a late fee balance at one of the local stores like a drunk would a bar tab.
Even asking for a printout of the due dates, which the store gladly provided, didn't always prevent Video A, B or C frome being brought back tardy.
But here's the deal: video stores must be feeling the heat from their competitors. So why not back off on the late fees? And I have just the idea to make that happen, and make the video store more attractive.
If I ran a video store, I'd advertise that every movie in the joint, from A to Z, was a one-week rental. Every single one.
Doesn't matter if it's a "new release." Doesn't matter if it came out on Tuesday, or 12 years ago. Every one of my films, you can have for a week.
Simple. Easy to remember.
Will people still be tardy, even under that arrangement? Sure. But that's on them.
I'd even call my place One Week Video. Seriously.
Think of it. You come in, browse, grab a bunch of movies, pay me and know that everything is due one week from today. Simple. No muss, no fuss.
I'd even have seven different types of bags, each with a day of the week on it. You come in on a Monday, you get a Monday Bag. And so on.
"Honey, when are these movies due back?"
"What does the bag say?"
Of course, you go beyond the seven-day limit, and we have a problem. But I won't tag you for very much. Promise.
It's an idea that makes far too much sense, which is why it won't be adopted.
Which is part of why the video store will join the travel agent, the drive-in movie and mini-golf in the Dungeon of the Forgotten.
Sooner, rather than later.