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What I'm Reading
  • Cold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files
    Cold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files
    by Jim Butcher

    Butcher has done it again. After 14 books, the Dresden Files is still my favorite book series. If you’re a fan, you know why you’re a fan. If you’ve never read any of this series, start with book one, Storm Front. This is not one of those series where you can pick and choose which ones you want to read. Well, you could, but it would suck.

Wednesday
Jan022013

Illustration Friday: New

A little digital painting I threw together today. Happy new year, everybody.

Thursday
Dec132012

Illustration Friday: Explore

Friday
Nov232012

Illustration Friday: Zoom

It’s been several years since I participated in Illustration Friday. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Wednesday
Mar072012

Boy, do I feel stupid.

I’m a smart guy. In fact, I often think of myself as a super genius. The video below is a humbling reminder that intelligence is relative.

Saturday
Feb112012

Operation Silent Movie

Geoff Johnston, a friend of mine that I lost contact with well over a decade ago[1], recently wrote a blog post about a poor customer service experience he had at a local record store. His squabble was only over a paltry 12 cents, so he decided to let it go. But doing so bothered him so much he had to blog about later that day.

We’ve all been in situations like that. We’ve all had experiences in retail stores or restaurants that left us annoyed and telling ourselves, “I should have said…” or “Next time I’m gonna…” We have resigned ourselves to the fact that these run-ins are an inevitable part of the human experience, and there’s no use complaining because it’s always going to be that way.

It’s not true. It doesn’t have to be that way. I hope the following story will inspire you all.

It was a crisp morning in mid-December, 2007. There was a chill in the air, One Republic’s Stop and Stare was playing on radios across the country[2], movie Harry Potter had only finished his fifth year at Hogwarts, but book Harry Potter (SPOILER ALERT) had already vanquished evil forever. I had no idea that this day would see the launch of Operation Silent Movie.

After all, I was a happy guy, because the sixth season of 24 was on store shelves. I’d already plowed through the first five discs in record time[3], so I went to my neighborhood Blockbuster to return the fifth disc and pick up the last installment. I dropped the movie into the return slot, grabbed the final disc from the shelf and paid for it at the counter.

I wasn’t even three steps out the door when I looked down and realized that the DVD I had in my hand was another copy of disc five. Someone had shelved it behind the display box for disc six. I laughed to myself, relieved that I had discovered the error before I got home, and went back into the store to swap out the discs. I stopped at the counter and told the cashier about the silly mixup.

“Hey, man. Someone shelved the wrong disc behind the display box,” I said. “Can I just swap them out, or do you need to re-scan the boxes?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, looking far too confused for such a simple transaction.

“Well, I need to swap out movies,” I explained. “Can I just exchange boxes at the shelf, or do you need to issue a credit and then ring up the correct movie as a new purchase?”

“Oh,” he said. “I can’t do that.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, sure he was joking.

“I can’t issue a credit for a movie after you’ve left the store,” he said. “You’ll have to pay for the second movie.”

“Seriously?”

“Sorry, company policy.”

This sounded so ridiculous, I still wasn’t sure he wasn’t having a little fun at my expense.

“Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that you can’t issue me a credit because I left the store, even though my feet were still on the Blockbuster doormat outside your exit when I turned around and came back in?”

“Sorry,” he said. “You’re welcome to talk to my manager. She comes in today at 4:00.”

Look, I’ve worked in retail. I understand the kid was just trying to do his job. I was annoyed, but I tried not to take it out on him.

“OK,” I said. “I’ll come back this afternoon.”

“What about your movie?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The movie you just paid for. You left it on the counter.”

“Keep it,” I said. “I’ve seen it.”

So I went back that afternoon. I walked through the door just after 4:00, ready to clear up this silly misunderstanding once and for all, and went straight to the manager. In these situations, I’ve always found kindness to be far more effective than hostility. So I turned on the Brook Bailey charm.

“Excuse me, I was in here earlier this morning, and I had a little problem that I’m hoping you can clear up.”

“Are you the 24 guy?” she asked. “Todd told me you’d probably be coming in.”

I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to explain the whole situation from the beginning.

“So, Todd told you what happened?”

“Yes, sir,” she said. Then she relayed the story back to me pretty much exactly the way it had happened.

“Exactly,” I said. “So can you credit my account for the mistaken rental? I’d really appreciate it.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I just can’t.”

I could feel my face getting warmer, and I can only imagine, turning redder.

“You’re not going to credit my account, even though your boxes were shelved incorrectly, and I was still on company property when I noticed the mistake?”

“Sorry,” she said. “Our company policy is that it’s the customer’s responsibility to make sure he has the right movie before he gets to the checkout.”

Oh, no she didn’t.

Without giving it a second thought I said, “Well, it’s my policy to never give your company another dime of my money, ever.”

With that, I walked out the door. And I never went back. Operation Silent Movie was born.

At first, I wondered if I would even be able to stay away forever. Remember, this was before Netflix started its instant streaming service. And I used to watch a lot of movies. A lot.

To my surprise, turning my back on what had been my go-to video provider for more than 15 years was much easier than I had expected. Netflix helped quite a bit.

Sure, Netflix has had its own share of missteps, but I’ve been a fan for years, and still happily pay for their service.

I’m sure that you think my one-man boycott was a worthless gesture that produced zero results. Not true. I got results-a-plenty:

  • Every time I pass a Blockbuster I am filled with a smug sense of self-righteous delight. You can’t put a price on that.

  • I’ve demonstrated to my children that when an entity–be it a single person or a multinational company–tries to serve you a giant crap sandwich, you don’t have to eat it. Your default response to this kind of treatment shouldn’t be to bend over.

  • My self-imposed embargo with Blockbuster had real financial effects.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. On September 23, 2010, Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I did it. I single-handedly drove Blockbuster into bankruptcy. Operation Silent Movie was a success. Mission accomplished.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that a lot of people in blue and yellow polos lost their jobs in the wake of Operation Silent Movie. I appreciate their sacrifices for the cause, and I sincerely hope they all found meaningful, lucrative, fulfilling employment. Even Todd.

Let that be a lesson to you, friends. I think my feelings are best illustrated by the following thoughtful stanzas from 20th-century poet D. Snider:

We’ve got the right to choose it.
There ain’t no way we’ll lose it.
This is our life. This is our song.
We’ll fight the powers that be.
Just don’t pick our destiny,
’Cause you don’t know us. You don’t belong.

Oh, you’re so condescending.
Your goal is never-ending.
We don’t want nothing, not a thing from you.
Your life is trite and jaded, boring and confiscated.
If that’s your best, your best won’t do.

We’re not gonna take it.
No, we ain’t gonna take it.
We’re not gonna take it anymore.

Wise words from a wise man. There’s nothing wrong with taking a stand. Just don’t be a schmuck about it. You don’t want to be that customer.


  1. Sadly, we live in the same metropolitan area and I could probably get in touch with him in no time at all. I’m totally linked in to all of his GooglyBlogFaceSpaceTweetyToots™, but I’ve just been busy doing really important stuff.  ↩

  2. Not on my radio, of course. If it was 2007, I was undoubtedly listening to a podcast about technology or comic books.  ↩

  3. 24 was a guilty pleasure of mine from the first episode of season one. I know it was completely implausible and ridiculous, but it was my kind of implausible and ridiculous. I never watched it on Fox. I would always wait for the DVD (this was pre-Netflix streaming) and bulldoze straight through them.  ↩