The guys who are still renting porn
May 6, 2016 1:11 PM   Subscribe

If you don't live in the Midwest, you'd be forgiven for not knowing that brick and mortar video stores still exist. Family Video has over 700 stores in the US and Canada. And despite the word "family" being in their name, they still rent porn. The burning question is, to whom?
posted by Chrysostom (81 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite


 
I was just discussing this with my spouse after we drove by a Family Video the other day. I'm still amazed.
posted by Etrigan at 1:18 PM on May 6, 2016


I dunno how it stays in business, but there's an adult video rental store down the road from us. I have never seen a single car in the parking lot, but somehow, they're always open.


When I was in college, my male roommate and I would make drunken bets on minor things like "which commercial will come on next", with the loser being required to go across the street to the Family Video store and rent the most ridiculous gonzo porn available.
posted by erst at 1:18 PM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


erst -- money-laundering operation? Seems ideal, since it's the sort of business I'd expect to do a lot of cash transactions.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 1:22 PM on May 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


Hey, there's a Family Video within walking distance of me!

I have a friend/co-worker who rents DVDs all the time. She also doesn't have Internet access at home. It's easy to forget that lots of people aren't as plugged in as most of us here are. Hell, I check out DVDs from the library fairly often. Lots of things aren't on Netflix or Hulu.

So basically: some people still rent DVDs, and some of those people enjoy watching porn. Not that complicated.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:23 PM on May 6, 2016 [28 favorites]


I was going to say that I'd never heard of this but then I did a search and there's three Family Videos within fifteen minutes.
posted by octothorpe at 1:31 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I dunno how it stays in business, but there's an adult video rental store down the road from us.

I have heard that the video booths in back are meeting places for likeminded individuals, so that's one reason people aren't just sitting home in front of their computers.
posted by AFABulous at 1:32 PM on May 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


it's 95 percent older men

I solved it. It's guys who can't figure out how to hide their internet history from their wives.
posted by AFABulous at 1:34 PM on May 6, 2016 [39 favorites]


The first ever full length porn I ever saw was Debbie Does Dallas, which I rented from Family Video in 2001, when I was 16 (my girlfriend who was 18 had to actually go in to rent it). The little back room. A place of legend.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:39 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I kind of like the idea that the physical act of renting a video has become so ingrained as part of the experience that switching to other options would be less satisfying.
posted by figurant at 1:44 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I have a friend who relies on her limited phone data plan for internet access. She can maybe stream two movies a month if she doesn't look up too many other things.

But also, while you're less anonymous in the face to face sense, renting videos with cash doesn't leave the trail that doing things online does.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Inside, the new porn releases cost $3.99 a pop...

Does that mean per rental, or something else?
posted by MtDewd at 1:46 PM on May 6, 2016 [25 favorites]


I do not recall the name of the outfit, but a couple of guy began a dvd porn rental site that did for pron what Netflix does for non porn. The idea is that you do not get seen by anyone, you do not have to go to the store to get and return the DVD, it is discrete, and inexpensive. I have no idea whether they are still in business or not.[ My wife knows of my comment and approves].
posted by Postroad at 1:47 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Just don't jizz on the box.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:52 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just don't jizz on the box.

YOU'RE NOT MY SUPERVISOR!
posted by The Tensor at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2016 [30 favorites]


Family Video is always hiring managers. Never regular employees, just managers. And they are doing it constantly. This has led my wife and I to several possibilities:
  • Family Video is a shitty place to manage.
  • Every position at Family Video is a "manager" position.
  • Every position at Family Video is a shitty "manager" position.
    We tend to lean towards the third option. Correct us if we're wrong.

  • posted by charred husk at 1:56 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


    well c'mon, would you rather to be a Curtained Gonzo Porn Section Associate or a Curtained Gonzo Porn Section Manager?
    posted by prize bull octorok at 1:57 PM on May 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


    The adult video store up the street is, as far as I've seen, almost exclusively frequented by beefy men in black SUVs. There's no way it's not a money laundering operation.
    posted by hades at 1:58 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


    In the early '00s, there used to be a video rental store a block away from me with regular videos downstairs and porn upstairs. It was a little embarrassing that everyone knew what you were doing if you went up or down the stairs, but I was single and didn't really care. At least there was a separate cash register upstairs. The guy was no doubt confused why I was only renting gay porn.

    Free Internet porn wasn't as easy to find then, or at least for me because I didn't know much about torrenting sites (and I still haven't found one with much gay porn). You ran the risk of downloading something dangerous. Also, computers were crappier and internet speeds were lower.
    posted by AFABulous at 2:00 PM on May 6, 2016


    In America the government can snoop on your internet browsing history but is prohibited by a specific law from snooping on your video store rentals (thanks to the Bork supreme court confirmation outing of his rather mundane viewing habits)
    posted by srboisvert at 2:12 PM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


    Actually, the Family Video here in Muncie recently did away with their adult video room and installed an in-store Marco's Pizza. It was the last place in town you could rent porn...um...or, so I'm told.

    The store is convenient to our weekend grocery shopping, and the rentals are a lot cheaper than what the same movie costs via Comcast's OnDemand system. No, we don't yet subscribe to Netflix. Sorry.
    posted by Thorzdad at 2:17 PM on May 6, 2016


    Like 90% of the US is crammed into urban areas, and that's where most of the internet is. There are lots of towns where if there is any broadband at all, there is a waiting list. Comcast etc. does not see rural areas as being worth the investment.

    I worked at a place like that in the 90s, and it was 99% men over 50, regulars coming in alone.
    posted by heatvision at 2:17 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


    And my erotic daguerreotype library hasn't had a customer in months!

    It's for people who are computer illiterate obviously. We all know you are only 4 seconds away from anything, often without warning.

    As for rental porn, there is not enough bleach and steel wool to have me touch something of that nature that has passed through so many hands.
    posted by adept256 at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


    The guy was no doubt confused why I was only renting gay porn.

    Really? That doesn't sound confusing at all. He undoubtedly just assumed you were gay. Now if you split your porn between gay and hetero porn, that might have confused him a bit.
    posted by el io at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


    But also, while you're less anonymous in the face to face sense, renting videos with cash doesn't leave the trail that doing things online does.

    actually, it's not anonymous - they need to see your driver's license and keep a record of your address and phone number when you rent videos

    also, there's a couple family videos in my area and there isn't anything wrong with our broadband service
    posted by pyramid termite at 2:28 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


    It's for people who are computer illiterate obviously.

    It's for people whose sexual fetish is renting porn videos. Which is why they jizz on the boxes. Jizing on the box is what allows them to... jizz... on the box. I guess it's like a time travel movie.
    posted by GuyZero at 2:30 PM on May 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


    actually, it's not anonymous - they need to see your driver's license and keep a record of your address and phone number when you rent videos

    It has obviously been a minute since I rented a video, but it's all coming back to me now.

    Oh, well. There goes that hypothesis.
    posted by ernielundquist at 2:38 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


    I don't think our broadband service is any worse than anyone else's, which is to say that it's crappy and expensive. I just think that some people don't see a reason to shell out for crappy, expensive broadband, and some of them go to video rental places. Are there Red Boxes where you live? I just think these folks tend to be older, less-wealthy and less tech savvy than your typical Mefite.
    posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:40 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


    There's also the fact that 99.9999% of porn makes you want to walk into the ocean and leave humanity behind. It must be such a disappointment to make that whole excursion only to becoming violently ill in body and soul.
    posted by adept256 at 2:41 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


    I have great Internet service in the Midwest and I still go to Family Video all the time. It is as cheap or cheaper to rent the physical DVDs from them than it is to rent them online, especially if you watch a lot of movies -- it's like $10 to get half off rentals for a month, which brings a new release down to like $2.50.
    posted by possibilityleft at 2:41 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Probably a collection of different reasons. There are people who are not allowed to have an internet connection because of past convictions, including, of course, some people on sex offender registries, especially if their offense involves online porn or solicitation. There are still people with dial-up accounts, about two million via AOL alone. There are probably people who think that looking at porn online will leave a trail of sorts but that renting it from a store won't, even though most stores require a credit card to rent. There are probably people for whom it's almost a fetish, or just flat-out is one. For a while, there were a lot of lawsuits/legal shakedowns of people who downloaded porn torrents, although those seem to have died out, or at least we're not hearing about them as much.

    In terms of Family Video, I'm aware of at least one locally, although it may not have the adult section, since it has a Marco's Pizza. There are also adult stores, which in my casual perusal seem to have three main areas of business: video rentals, sales of adult products (ranging from bachelor[ette] party gag gifts to regular sex toys and lube to minor-league bondage gear to lingerie), and The Area in the Back. Some of them may do much more business in one area than the others.
    posted by Halloween Jack at 2:46 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


    much more business in one area than the others

    Also the #1 porn rental at Family Video.
    posted by GuyZero at 2:50 PM on May 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


    I just think these folks tend to be older, less-wealthy and less tech savvy than your typical Mefite.

    *ahem*

    bull.

    Maybe watching movies isn't priority enough for them to buy some little box and subscribe to an online service or three? Believe it or not, not everyone binges on movies and tv shows all weekend, every weekend, and part of the week. Picking-up a movie at FV or Redbox once every couple of weekends or so makes a lot more sense for them. But, don't for a second lump them into some fanciful tech-ignorant group. That's just damned lazy and, honestly, ageist.
    posted by Thorzdad at 3:05 PM on May 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


    There was a porn-only video store on the long, two-lane highway I drove every day between two small towns in North Carolina. For a long time, I thought it was a normal video rental store, as it was called "Twin Oaks Video"- completely innocuous. It seemed so strange to have it out in the middle of nowhere. So I started to suspect that it was a porn store.

    So I was on a hiking date with an ex, and we were driving along said stretch of highway, and I pointed the store out to him and said, "I think that might be a porn store, what do you think?" He laughed for a good 5 minutes and then said, "That video place is definitely porn. Definitely full of porn."

    We broke up the week after that, and maybe a few days after that I pulled into the driveway to Twin Oaks Video to see the sign on the door in big letters that warned that no one under 18 years old was allowed in the store. All porn. I never got to tell my ex that he was right.
    posted by chainsofreedom at 3:10 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


    It's not like that at all. If they knew about the infinite free porn archive that is the internet they'd use that. It's like the difference between going to the well with a bucket and turning on the tap in your kitchen.
    posted by adept256 at 3:13 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Driving across the country last summer I noticed video porn stores that seemed to be aimed at truckers. Usually in dark red states. It's the new See Rock City.
    posted by Bee'sWing at 3:25 PM on May 6, 2016


    There was a porn-only video store on the long, two-lane highway I drove every day between two small towns in North Carolina. For a long time, I thought it was a normal video rental store, as it was called "Twin Oaks Video"- completely innocuous. It seemed so strange to have it out in the middle of nowhere. So I started to suspect that it was a porn store.

    A haunted porn store!
    posted by prize bull octorok at 3:25 PM on May 6, 2016 [20 favorites]


    The average price for home broadband in the US is $76.61, according to this.

    There are lots of people who don't use the internet enough to make that worthwhile. Some rely on their cell service, some use library computers, and others may have limited internet access at home. I have a friend without broadband at home. She knows how to use the internet. She just uses it on her phone mostly, and she has a pretty low data cap. She just doesn't want or need home broadband, so she doesn't pay for it. I think she rents movies from Redbox sometimes, but as some have said, it's not because she doesn't know how to use the internet. She's a little technically inept, but mostly from lack of interest, not because she's not smart enough. It's because she's too smart to pay for things she doesn't want or need. (And she's not old, either.)

    There are not significant numbers of people who are so technically inept that they can't find porn on the internet. Come on.
    posted by ernielundquist at 3:43 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


    A casual search on google maps tells me that there are no Family Video locations in Georgia, and all video rental anywhere near me is Redbox. I'm sure there are still mom n' pop rental places, I just wanted to see what my local slice of suburban Atlanta looked like. I have noticed some sort of video rental storefront down the road a mile or so, but haven't glanced lately to see if it still exists.
    posted by Fleebnork at 3:53 PM on May 6, 2016


    There's a place called Pic a Flic near my house where rentals are $2 for a couple of days. It's been there since at least the mid-80s. Walking down there and looking at all the movies and renting one is not only fun, but probably faster and cheaper than downloading. Internet speeds are fine. People just don't want to be anti-social shut-ins. Well... some of them don't -- the place is always at least moderately busy.

    No porn tho. If there was, a lot of it would get rented ironically.
    posted by klanawa at 3:55 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


    I haven't worked there in nearly 6 years but Hastings Entertainment used to rent porn. You didn't even have to go to a dark room. It was just in a nondescript higher few shelves in the old rental section.

    (Hastings is a pretty standard media store. Books, dvds, music, video games, assorted hot topicish junk. They also buy those medias back from customers and have a pretty decent rental section for new and older movies.)
    posted by Twain Device at 4:09 PM on May 6, 2016


    A haunted porn store!

    Guh-guh-guh-GHOST PORN!
    posted by haileris23 at 4:12 PM on May 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


    Driving across the country last summer I noticed video porn stores that seemed to be aimed at truckers. Usually in dark red states. It's the new See Rock City.

    Some of those places have billboards starting about two states away. It's clearly a big business if it can support that much advertising.
    posted by Dip Flash at 4:26 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


    Speaking of porn stores and people who rent for them, maybe it's time to mention Ali Davis's seminal work, "True Porn Clerk Stories"?

    (Amazon Link, if you want to buy it)
    posted by qcubed at 4:36 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]




    I worked at a pretty major DC video store for a number of years, and although we were known as a family-friendly store for cinephiles, the bulk of our business was actually the porn people were renting from the "adults only" room downstairs. We had a sizable collection, with new stuff in every week.

    There's a lot in the thread about who might have been renting this stuff, and although this was a decade ago, maybe I can answer a little, or correct some misconceptions? (Although I can't speak firsthand, since I never rented anything myself).

    In my experience you couldn't make too many generalizations about who was renting porn, beyond the fact that the vast majority of renters were men. There were a few women who rented things (even one or two regulars), but the majority, by far, were men. (And by the way, you could always spot the people who were renting porn ironically because they'd always be giggling the whole time, while tired, underpaid video store employees got them their copy of Pirates, or whatever.)

    We had a lot of regulars. Yeah, there was a guy who would show up the day the new stuff came in so he could look at everything before we'd processed it (I once made him wait because I was doing other stuff, and he stared at me until I gave him the stuff straight out of the UPS box). But weirdos like that were sort of the exception. Mostly the regulars were just guys who liked porn. Some were older, some were younger. Some seemed super sleazy, and others seemed like clean-cut, young, handsome businessmen who... also seemed a little sleazy, to be honest, if they were renting 8 porn DVDs every other day.

    As for the internet - employees would sometimes joke with each other like "haven't you heard of the internet, dude?" I do think some guys, especially some of the older guys, had habits that they didn't feel like breaking, and just didn't know how, or didn't want to know how to look for it online. But I think other guys just liked what we had. Plenty of people were certainly not too old to understand the internet. I'm sure some guys didn't want to have to deal with wading through the huge volume of internet porn that was out there to find something that did it for them. And porn is often released in series, so you'd see a lot of regulars stick to the same kinds of series. I think it made everything easier for them.

    And that does speak to how we sort of got to know some customer's habits. Some guys always rented a bunch of gay porn with one straight porn in there for some reason. One guy always rented gay porn on his wife's account, although she never seemed to know it was happening, or care if she did. One guy liked black men and Asian women. It was kind of a weird way to know someone, to be honest.

    Anyway, this was all years ago, and I'm writing about it now because it did genuinely interest me on some level. Part of me actually wanted to take it seriously as an anthropological question. We were seeing aspects of people's sexual lives that many of them probably never revealed to anyone else. It struck me at one point how much trust people probably had in us not to out them for whatever it was they were interested in or who they were attracted to. Really, it was none of our business.

    Uh, to close my embarrassingly long comment about people's porn renting habits (although the social aspect of it really did interest me), yes, every employee had our favorite porn titles for hilarity or awkwardness. It got us through the day.
    posted by teponaztli at 6:18 PM on May 6, 2016 [37 favorites]


    Before people started using no script, ad blocker, and other assorted utilities to protect against someone jacking their browser (hehe), visiting porn sites was an invitation to computer hell, and that's why a lot of these guys won't DL or stream. They know about the porn, but they are worried about computer viruses, so they get their fix the old fashioned way.
    posted by Beholder at 6:37 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


    Pretty much the same experience as teponaztli. I worked in an indy video store in Raleigh for about 2 years while in grad school. One guy used to come in every couple days and rent 5 videos at a time (rent 4 get the 5th free!) like clockwork. We had regular couples, singles, a few ladies. The most awkward was when the professor in the office next to my cubicle came in to rent some bondage porn. We also had an "employee favorites" rack. Mostly just choices made because of the ironic titles.
    posted by snwod at 6:56 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


    snwod, oh God, yeah, I'd forgotten about the one or two times I'd see someone I knew while they were waiting in line, only to have to ring up their selection of super hardcore stuff. It was a little awkward.

    Did you ever have to call people about late movies? My store did, and we were supposed to leave a message saying which ones were overdue (because customers would throw fits unless we were specific). But sometimes we wouldn't realize something was a porno until we were already leaving a message, so sometimes the message would be like "hi, we're calling to let you know your copies of Air Bud, Are We There Yet?, and Teenage... uh, Mutant Ninja Turtles are all overdue."

    Or, God, sometimes we'd be checking someone out and remind them that something was overdue. Sometimes a customer would DEMAND to know what it was, because OF COURSE they returned everything on time! And we'd sort of hedge and be like, uh, you rented it last Friday... But they'd still DEMAND that we tell them what it was, so eventually we'd have to say "uh, Big Wet Asses 25?" Awkward for everyone involved.
    posted by teponaztli at 7:11 PM on May 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


    "The guy was no doubt confused why I was only renting gay porn."

    To masturbate?

    "(And by the way, you could always spot the people who were renting porn ironically because they'd always be giggling the whole time, while tired, underpaid video store employees got them their copy of Pirates, or whatever.)"

    Not Polanski's best work, but pornography?

    I worked in a college town video store for a couple of weeks, and we were expected to know ALL the movies there, or at least enough to make a recommendation — especially if women asked for porn. As part of your first couple weeks there, you were expected to watch three rentals per night, so I'd be watching Caligula the same night as Eraserhead and Scanners. While it broadened my horizons at the time, now most cult films just kinda schmear together in some sort of Roddy McDowell/Parker Posey fever dream.
    posted by klangklangston at 7:17 PM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


    They're just people set in their ways.

    The other day, my wife recommended getting something from RedBox.

    When she said this, we were literally watching Netflix over an Apple TV.

    DUDE.
    posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:29 PM on May 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


    I've had fever dreams about Parker Posey but I must say you just took it to another level.
    posted by Ber at 7:29 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


    There was a bigger-budget porn movie called Pirates. I remember it from my days working at a video store with a porn section upstairs. People renting from the upstairs room selected the empty boxes and brought them downstairs to the register to get the movies. They were supposed to put the boxes in opaque plastic bags (provided by the store) so families browsing the Disney section wouldn't be exposed to Butt Nuggets Vols. 1-thru-infinity, but not all of them followed the rules, of course.

    The stairs to the upstairs was across from the check-out counter. One man came in wearing bicycle shorts when I was working with one other woman. He spent about ten minutes in the porn room, then slowly paraded down the stairs with a very visible boner. He stopped so that his crotch was at our eye-level, put his hands on his hips (which he then thrust forward), and proceeded to engage us in a lengthy conversation about the store's rental policies. I moved just a little bit further right on the Kinsey scale that day.
    posted by LindsayIrene at 7:40 PM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


    In 2005-6, I definitely remember watching an older gentleman pick up something along the lines of, "Anal-Fest," while I was waiting in line with my grandfather in Videotron. I guess Quebec is similar in this sense. When you live in the Saguenay, maybe porn is a strangely personal experience.
    posted by constantinescharity at 7:52 PM on May 6, 2016


    There was a bigger-budget porn movie called Pirates.

    That was a moment where bigger budget porn films started getting made and there were a bunch of articles predicting that big-budget and high-quality was going to be the Future Of Porn. I don't recall many articles prognosticating about low-budget clips on tube-sites, but perhaps there were a few.
    posted by Dip Flash at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


    I don't rent porn, but I do miss video rental places. One of the chains used to have a summer thing where for like $5 a month, you could rent 5 movies, and just trade them in every day if you wanted. It was fantastic, when trying to amuse a houseful of kids in the Time Of No Shadow, that is late summer in Texas. Also, there's a ton of movies that I would watch if I could just rent them the day I actually have time to sit down, but I don't consume enough media to justify adding Netflix or simulacrum to my already obscene internet and cable bill.

    Plus, there was something fantastic about small video stores, where the clerks knew film and would recommend something I might never otherwise seen, or just browsing racks and finding strange things.
    posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:59 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


    Yeah, I sincerely miss working in a video store.

    By the way, Pirates made a big deal about how big their budget was, but it was actually pretty cheap and they just publicized it as having cost a million dollars (or whatever it was) to get attention. And it worked!

    He spent about ten minutes in the porn room, then slowly paraded down the stairs with a very visible boner. He stopped so that his crotch was at our eye-level, put his hands on his hips (which he then thrust forward), and proceeded to engage us in a lengthy conversation about the store's rental policies.

    Man, I'd have kicked him out and banned his account. We had a security camera in the adult room, and we always got people trying to pull shit like that in our store (or much worse). It was one thing to catch someone jerkin' it behind a shelf of "Real Teens" DVDs, but if they ever tried to pull something like what you're describing, they were gone. I don't remember if we ever called the cops on anyone, though - usually the assistant manager would just scream at them and threaten to call the cops (she was pretty intimidating).
    posted by teponaztli at 8:45 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


    I have the pleasure of being privvy to the porn purchasing habits of a large number of people; don't ask how. Anyway; there are only a couple people out of 3,000 customers who purchase porn on a regular basis, and they tend to rent the same ones multiple times in a row.

    This leaves me with the following questions

    1) I know they have the internet, do they not know how to google?
    2) Did they miss the ending and want to find out what happens?

    The rest all appear to get their porn from the Internet like all right thinking people with a high speed connection and unlimited bandwidth.
    posted by NiteMayr at 9:29 PM on May 6, 2016


    Margaret Cho on what happened when she and her SO forgot to return a porn tape on time.
    posted by brujita at 10:08 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


    I do not recall the name of the outfit, but a couple of guy began a dvd porn rental site that did for pron what Netflix does for non porn.

    There was probably more than one, but I knew one of the founders of SugarDVD, which did this. Looks like they are still around, but they've also moved on to streaming and DVDs, much like Netflix. I'm not sure if they are producing original content.
    posted by jimw at 10:30 PM on May 6, 2016


    they tend to rent the same ones multiple times in a row.

    I can totally understand this, where a video has a combination of things that tick all of your boxes, or is the only video that ticks a very specific box.
    posted by clorox at 10:42 PM on May 6, 2016


    I think the video place in our town ( "Video Environments Plus?" ) owns the strip-mall they're in, so that keeps overhead low.
    posted by mikelieman at 11:32 PM on May 6, 2016


    As part of your first couple weeks there, you were expected to watch three rentals per night

    Wow. That's a pretty big obligation to place on a retail clerk. Was that to be done on your own time, or while you were on the clock? If it's the former, sounds like unpaid labor. Who has that much extra time each day?
    posted by krinklyfig at 1:03 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Guh-guh-guh-GHOST PORN!

    and he would have gotten off on it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids
    posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:51 AM on May 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


    and he would have gotten off on it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids

    "Who'd have thought the ghostly SpoogeBob figure running around terrorizing everyone was actually the cranky caretaker in a SpoogeBob costume from an old parody?"
    posted by sebastienbailard at 3:14 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


    Does Family Video also have Happy Scrappy Hero Pup?
    posted by TedW at 4:33 AM on May 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


    I dunno how it stays in business, but there's an adult video rental store down the road from us.

    I have heard that the video booths in back are meeting places for likeminded individuals, so that's one reason people aren't just sitting home in front of their computers.


    There's one not far from where I live. There's never more than one or two cars at the most parked there at any given time. Except this one time when I saw one of the small buses belonging to one of the groups that provides transportation to the disabled parked by the entrance.
    posted by tommasz at 5:44 AM on May 7, 2016


    Maybe some people want to watch porn on their 50 inch tv instead of their 15 inch laptop or 5 inch phone screens.
    posted by double block and bleed at 5:52 AM on May 7, 2016


    The most awkward was when the professor in the office next to my cubicle came in to rent some bondage porn. We also had an "employee favorites" rack.

    Awkward juxtaposition.
    posted by Joe in Australia at 5:52 AM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


    maybe it's time to mention Ali Davis's seminal work,

    I see what you did there.

    I forgot to mention in my tale of rural Carolina haunted porn video shops, that Twin Oaks Video definitely had viewing rooms in the back, and always seemed to have at least one or two cars parked in the lot, regardless of time of day. The More You Know.
    posted by chainsofreedom at 6:52 AM on May 7, 2016


    adept256: "And my erotic daguerreotype library hasn't had a customer in months!

    It's for people who are computer illiterate obviously. We all know you are only 4 seconds away from anything, often without warning.

    As for rental porn, there is not enough bleach and steel wool to have me touch something of that nature that has passed through so many hands.
    "

    Wait until you have to use cash. Or a restroom door handle.
    posted by Splunge at 9:09 AM on May 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


    "Wow. That's a pretty big obligation to place on a retail clerk. Was that to be done on your own time, or while you were on the clock? If it's the former, sounds like unpaid labor. Who has that much extra time each day?"

    On your own time, for a part-time job. The movies were free for employees. I got fired for renting the owner's sister a free movie, after the owner's sister told me if I didn't, she'd get me fired (the owner's sister was an on-again-off-again employee). It was a place where despite making minimum wage and having shitty, unreliable scheduling, they had a fantastic collection and scores of undergrads applied there every week. Some employees lasted decades there; some were lucky to make it a month.
    posted by klangklangston at 9:56 AM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


    What I don't get is: If you're so keen on a film as to rent it multiple times, why not just buy the thing?
    posted by Mr. Excellent at 10:13 AM on May 7, 2016


    What I don't get is: If you're so keen on a film as to rent it multiple times, why not just buy the thing?

    Then you'd have a porn stash.

    You have to find a place to stash it.

    Loose floor board, hollowed out bible, sock drawer, that kind of thing
    posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:56 AM on May 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


    I can totally understand this, where a video has a combination of things that tick all of your boxes, or is the only video that ticks a very specific box.

    Wow, I can't believe there are other people out there who are into ticking boxes.
    posted by skewed at 7:52 PM on May 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


    You have to find a place to stash it.

    Loose floor board, hollowed out bible, sock drawer, that kind of thing


    Quick! To the woods!
    posted by Joe in Australia at 7:59 PM on May 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


    So, I sold porn at a specialist retailer for a decade or so before my kid came along. There's some pretty good summations here of why people want physical copies.

    The ability to get rid of it once you've watched it (we had something like a rental system going, "swap" where you'd pay the equivalent to a rental cost to exchange DVDs of a similar value - this meant if someone ran off with a vid we wouldn't be out the full cost of jack) is a big one.

    So is the ability to physically lock up a movie. I had one set of regulars who were a married couple with a big ass lock box under their bed full of bondage movies, whips, chains, the works, and the key lived on Mum's keyring, where her brood of kids couldn't get to them. They didn't want their kids stumbling over that kind of thing while doing online research for their homework.

    People who aren't great at tech are another big demographic, and older men make up a lot of this - the reason why MILF stuff does so well in hard copy is that older men, despite what you'd suspect, very often want to see movies of with women their own age in them. I had one chap tell me he was physically disgusted watching movies with girls thirty years his junior in them, it made him feel like they were children. As has been pointed out, folks with limited internet access (both due to logistic or financial issues) also use DVDs, and people who are paranoid about leaving a paper trail online. We didn't keep any identifying details at all - the swap principle means all you gotta do is pay full price for that first flick - so if you don't want your credit card info out there online, or you share a card with a spouse who'd take umbrage to porn spending, you got some anonymity just getting physical movies.

    There's also a curatorial aspect. It's really straightforward finding a movie you like in a physical store - go in, look at the box, done. If you aren't great at wading through the *everything* that tends to be present online, and you have a limited amount of time to jack off, physical movies are really easy to navigate. I'd get folks just starting - often newly out older gay men, women, couples - asking for help, people who didn't want to acidentally download Butt Destroyers 5 when what they needed was something with a bit of a storyline and some cudding in it. Conversely, people who only want butt destruction style of things would ask for directions away from the cuddling, which was always a bit intense but it goes with the turf.

    That said, it's dying off. The whole industry (sex toys and porn) are going online, and there's only so many little old men to go round.
    posted by Jilder at 8:14 PM on May 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


    "In my experience, very few people still rent porn," says Dave Walter, my old boss at the independent video store. "Those who do, however, are remarkably loyal. And what's weird is that they rent the same goddamn things every time."

    Not like any video store I've ever worked in. We had some questionable Traci Lords stuff in the mid-nineties that may have been produced prior to her reaching legal age that was popular when it became a potential issue (which I think we pulled pretty quick), but otherwise, porn didn't create a lot of nostalgia. If it wasn't new, it wasn't new, and few of the customers I worked with had any interest in seeing the same thing twice. Most wouldn't even bother finishing a cassette - I had a coworker who would habitually mark the "release point" on unrewound tapes. He figured all anyone really needed to know about the particular film could be found at or near the sharpie line on the cassette's plastic window.
    posted by Graygorey at 11:08 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


    He figured all anyone really needed to know about the particular film could be found at or near the sharpie line on the cassette's plastic window.

    Another benefit of membership in your video store!
    posted by mikelieman at 4:48 AM on May 8, 2016


    Then you'd have a porn stash.

    You have to find a place to stash it.

    Loose floor board, hollowed out bible, sock drawer, that kind of thing


    I once read an article about somebody whose job was to handle and dispose of the assets of people who died with no next of kin. One detail they volunteered was that the porn stash was always in a drawer by the bed. Makes sense, if you think about it.
    posted by jonp72 at 7:56 AM on May 8, 2016


    I have heard that the video booths in back are meeting places for likeminded individuals, so that's one reason people aren't just sitting home in front of their computers.

    There's a classic sociological study called The Tearoom Trade, which is about men in the 1960s who had anonymous sexual encounters in men's restrooms. The methods were very ethically questionable & could in no way we replicated in academia or journalism today, but one of the interesting findings of the study was that a lot of the men having gay sex in restrooms had a self-image as straight men with high sex drives, who just needed a little "variety" on the side to satisfy that drive. (I'm reminded of the Roy Cohn speech in Angels of America where he insists he is not a homosexual but a straight man who has sex with men.) Anyhow, it's possible that something similar might be going on, even if the hookup doesn't happen in the store. Men have hooked up for anonymous sex with other men in straight porn theaters, as Samuel Delaney put in his memoir Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. So the idea that men might use a family video store for similar purpose sounds somewhat plausible.
    posted by jonp72 at 8:07 AM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


    Jon72: There's a store not far from where I used to work that does more money leasing out small rooms upstairs for men who want to have anonymous sex with other men than it does in sales. It's totally a thing.

    One of the sadder days for me was when one of my regulars, a man in his eighties, tearfully brought in his whole collection of much treasured rare VHS because he was certain that he was going to die soon and he didn't want them to find them. Never saw him again so I guess he was right.
    posted by Jilder at 6:45 PM on May 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


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