25 Secrets And Stories From Former Blockbuster Employees Who Worked There In The '90s And '00s
"Our most stolen DVD was The Notebook."
"Common fact: Though movies were due at noon, you didn't actually get charged a fee until after 3 p.m. They did this to make sure folks didn't get charged just because the store was busy at lunch or someone forgot to check the box at noon. So as long as you were in by 2:30 p.m., you were fine."
"There were ALWAYS customers looking for a movie that they forgot the title of, but made you guess the movie based on their super-vague descriptions of it."
"There were always people who returned the wrong VHS inside a box. Many times it would be a porn tape instead of some Disney Classic."
"Our most stolen DVD was The Notebook. We eventually stopped carrying it because we'd keep having to replace it every few weeks."
"When the store closed down, we had to do the work of packing everything up. We sent the DVDs to other stores, but we tossed VHS tapes into a big dumpster. When my brother found that out, he went there at midnight and jumped in to grab as many as he could."
"I worked at Family Video that catered to the *whole* family, meaning we had a back room. Had quite a few elderly male customers who frequented that area. My favorite was a sweater-vest wearing old man who came in nearly every day, checked out at least two videos, and always had hard candy for all of us on shift. I appreciated the gesture, but the moment he left the parking lot, that candy went into the trash."
"One of the reasons I got hired was because I answered three movie trivia questions correctly. I can't remember the first one, but the second one was 'What movie gave Halle Berry her Oscar?' (Monster's Ball) and the third one was 'What is the highest grossing movie of all time?' (Avatar, at that time.)"
"We would hide the new movies so our friends would be able to find them, and the amount of VHS tapes that we would take home to watch without checking them out was amazing...I think I probably still have about 20 of them!"
"In VHS-era times, a lady came in the moment the doors opened and requested every copy of a big movie that had just been released. The manager went ahead and let her take every available copy home since she was willing to pay for all of them. A week later, another Blockbuster employee said the same thing had happened in his store the next town over. Apparently, the lady had told him her cheating ex was really excited to see the movie, so she went and rented every single copy she could find in a 50-mile radius."
"People would steal constantly. They would line large shopping bags with foil to try to get past the sensors. Sometimes it would work; sometimes it wouldn't, but we were always told to let the people leave if they kept walking. It probably wasn't worth the company getting sued for our injuries if we got hurt."
"We kept notes on every customer's account. You'd give us your card, and there was your rental history and things we'd type about your visit, if necessary. So if you came in begging to have a late fee dropped, we'd have notes on how many times we'd done this for you before, what excuse you used, and your demeanor. If you didn't do it too often and were polite about it, we would usually help you out."
"I swear, EVERY SINGLE WEEK someone would rent the straight-to-DVD movie Gangsta's Paradise and we'd gently ask them if they were actually looking for Dangerous Minds with Michelle Pfeiffer. Nope, they were always adamant that they wanted Gangsta's Paradise. EVERY SINGLE TIME they would come back the same night and scream at us that we gave them the wrong film. No, the film you wanted was Dangerous Minds! We told you that!!!"
"The appearance requirements were super strict. You also weren't allowed to have any tattoos and men couldn't have ear piercings or long hair. Women were only allowed to have two ear piercings, but no lip, nose, eyebrow piercings or anything. No dyed hair either."
"One of our most rented movies was a film called Pirates (2005), which is a porno. No clue why we had it in stock, but it was always rented out by creepy old men, many of whom asked if I had seen the film."
"We would keep a rating list in the account notes with our initials — that way, we would make sure that if you thought a customer was cute, we’d call you up to the desk so you got to interact with them. Worked great until my manager started dating my co-worker and he got jealous of her scoring..."
"We always got to watch new releases a week ahead, and we also got five free rentals a week."
"One time, we got a huge shipment that came in a gigantic cardboard box. My coworkers and I turned the box into a robot costume using two of the yellow locks for DVD cases on top as antennae. I would wear it and follow customers who we thought were stealing."
"I used to work at a local neighborhood video store that *DID* have a porn section, and I was always asked to 'clean' the area — there was a lot of crusty stuff in there — and would also be asked by the regulars if we had their *favorite* selections."
"When we phased out VHS, we were told we had to smash every single tape with a hammer before it went in the dumpster."
"Customer and employee accounts had numbers, and most of the time, these were automatically given out. But it turned out you could change them to anything. We'd make accounts for everybody: SpongeBob, Darth Vader, you name it! The best was they were all untraceable accounts so there were so many employee thefts on them. I remember 'President Obama' owed Blockbuster like $41.50 for a used copy of Grand Theft Auto 4."
"We knew the regulars and could guess exactly what they'd want from the new releases. I'd always hold things for people I'd like."
"We played dumb games all the time. The best one was 'How many magnetic stripe stickers can we secretly attach to a coworker to get them to unwittingly set off the metal detector?' (The record was six.)"
"We were told by our district manager that we needed to push the single-bagged pickles because they weren't selling well, so my coworkers and I secretly started what we called 'The Pickle Challenge.' When our store manager wasn't working, we told teen customers that we would give them a free movie rental if they bought a pickle, ate it, and drank all the pickle juice in under a minute. One time, a kid accidentally picked one of the spicy pickles and tried to eat it really fast. He projectile vomited all over the outside front entrance and couldn't finish it. I had to hose it off, but it was worth the entertainment!"
"People would return DVDs with some GROSS things stuck to the movie cases or even discs. We'd have to scrub the cases and run the discs through a disc-cleaning machine over and over until it looked pristine. I had to work shifts where I had to scrape unknown foods, old gum, and other sticky materials off of these things just so someone else could rent it ASAP."
And lastly: "When I worked at Blockbuster in the late '00s, we’d have to convince people to sign up for Blockbuster Online because compared to that new company, Netflix, it had a larger movie catalogue and was cheaper!"
Take a trip down memory lane that’ll make you feel nostalgia AF