Netflix killed the video store

By SCOTT SAALMAN
Guest Columnist

I have written a Herald column for many years, and in that time, only two were nixed before they could be published. One, written in 2010, was about Family Video. The reason it didn’t run — rightfully so — was because it really wasn’t fair to Family Video. In essence, I predicted that the video store concept would die off due to the emergence of Netflix. I disguised the column as a love letter to the store’s then manager, Christy.

Netflix then wasn’t the Netflix of today. Streaming wasn’t really a thing. We simply rented movies from a website, and they were mailed to our homes. Pretty high tech, huh?

I had long forgotten about that orphaned column, only to remember it last fall when I learned Family Video had closed. Finally! See, I was right! It should be OK to publish now.

Dear Christy,

This is the letter I’ve dreaded writing for some time. 'Til recently, I have been nothing but faithful. But, as you know, some months have passed since we last talked. The longer the absence, the harder it is to face you, to break the news of our breakup.

I feel like such the cheat.

For years, weekend after weekend, you met my needs, and I met yours. Win-win, as they say.

I still remember those three words you said to me at the counter: “What’s your number?” A jolt of excitement filled within me. For once, a woman asked for my phone number, not the other way around. But I soon realized my phone number was merely the password for my account, which was necessary to share to complete the transaction. You continued asking thereafter, that same question passing between your lips before I passed my money to you. It was a fine romance — in my mind. For you, I’m sure it was business as usual.

I’m not sure what I would have done without you and your movie store. There were so many lonely nights. It was a beautiful relationship, dating clear back to the VHS era, the 8-tracks of video.

So, what happened to us? Surely this you must wonder. Surely you feel my absence.

Brace yourself, for I have found another.

Yes, that internet tramp called Netflix came calling, sucked me in finally like a siren song.

How horrible it must be for you, a video store manager, to hear that dreadful name: Netflix.

To my credit, I long held out for your sake, even as more and more friends started singing the praises of Netflix. No thanks, I said. Never would I desert my local video store. Never would I succumb to a soul-less online movie rental service.

But last summer, temptation overtook me when a friend, Pat, pushed a coupon on me for a free month of Netflix.

Free!

Of course, I signed up, all the while believing that I would sever all ties with Netflix at month’s end when things were no longer free. My strategy was simple: Order only movies unavailable at your store. I would still rent from you those I wanted to see that you had in stock. My intentions were good.

So, how did it all run amok?

Three words: “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

In the past, I had requested that you stock this hilarious HBO series, but you didn’t seem enthused. So, at the click of a mouse, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” Season One DVDs started to conveniently appear in my mailbox. Then came Season Two; then came Season Three. Seasons Four through Seven were in my queue. Before I knew it, my free month of Netflix expired, and I willingly became an official paying customer, joining the ranks of more than 10 million subscribers. I could not quit Larry David.

I am a weak, lazy man, Christy. The movie rental part of my life is much simpler now. Any movie I want, Netflix has. I keep them for as long as I want. There are no late fees. When finished, I return them in a postage-paid Netflix-provided envelop and stick it in any mailbox. No driving is required — heck I’m saving the earth. A couple days later, another movie arrives. There are also titles available to view online at no added charge.

Look on the bright side, Christy. You continue to monopolize the movie rental business in our one-video-store town. You outlasted Blockbuster! I rented hundreds of movies from you and paid far too many late fees. I gave you my all.

But there’s a new kid in town now. Well, in cyber town. Netflix is more convenient, cost competitive and has bells and whistles you can’t provide.

It’s not you. It’s me. It’s business.

So now you know. Maybe I’ll stop by sometime, if I can ever bring myself to face you in person. You will ask for my phone number. I’ll feel a little jolt. I’ll rent a movie or two. I will likely pay a late fee. It’ll be just like old times. But don’t get your hopes up for anything long term. I need my Netflix fix. My dearest Christy, I have come clean with you. So why is it I still feel so dirty?




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