Saturday, September 30, 2006

Coworkers: Part 61 - Man Overboard

   At Sound Warehouse, we took reservations for upcoming New Releases. Rarely in Music, frequently in Video. Customers signed the list, we'd guarantee to hold their copy for one week. Blockbuster, on the other hand, insisted on preorders. Customers wanted to reserve a title, they had to pay for the privilege. While Blockbuster had not invented that practice, they certainly had perfected it. Loyal patrons were exposed to hard sell at rental locations. They were pressured to preorder upcoming flicks. Like humble sheep, they complied. Presale rates were very high at video stores. Music locations, on the other hand, weren't even close.
   OK, why did this matter?
   Presales were free money.
   Customers paid for movies which sometimes wouldn't be released for months. Meanwhile, Blockbuster drew interest on those deposits without actually having sold one unit. Pure profit. Free money. This was a win-win situation for ... Blockbuster.
   This had worked for their company for years. With Viacom calling the shots, however, they jumped for a new master. Viacom had acquired Blockbuster as a revenue generating cash cow, to buy Paramount Studios. Vertical integration was implemented. Presells focused on Paramount titles.
   The current Paramount box office smash.
   Titanic.
   Like half the planet, I had seen Titanic. Went on Super Bowl Sunday, to 7th Street Theater, and viewed it with several hundred very angry males. Most were working class, blue collar types who clearly wanted to be watching the gridiron finale, at home with a six pack, bag of chips, and barbeque burning down the back yard. Instead, wives or girlfriends had insisted today was "movie day."
   Frustrated guys vented their fury at the screen.
   When that sneaky iceberg pounced, cheers erupted. Passengers tumbled into freezing waters, theater goers let out rebel yells. Ship disappeared into the drink, "Die, motherfucker, die!"
   As a consequence, my perceptions of this film remained skewed. For me, Titanic would forever be a slasher flick.
   All locations were "encouraged" to presell this water logged masterpiece. Posters, counter sign ups, shelf talkers littered in the store. We took orders. Not enough, apparently. Music stores sucked. Accounting Honchos found music percentages uninspiring. We needed motivation. We needed help. Accounting notified Marketing. Those geniuses knew what we needed.
   Life vests.
   Music & Video locations alike received fluorescent orange life vests. Video clerks and front counter music cashiers snapped on those vivid reminders that the great boating accident was soon to hit video decks. Customers, dazzled by vests, would immediately crack their wallets and plunk down $20 for a guaranteed copy. Video outlet flunkies donned the orange without comment. Video staffs bought into the whole BB mindset, helped no doubt by their bb backbones.
   Vests at music locations, however, suffered. We began improvements. Drove fish hooks in them, and attached rubber worms. Next came savage gashes, repaired with duct tape. Finally, a shark was inserted into the fabric, reminding onlookers that the Titanic hadn't been a disaster for all. Humans, the other white meat.
   We wore our ghetto-ized vests, and then our presales ... sucked.
   Pat suggested the girls wear the vests, and only the vests. Pat, store princess, could be a bad influence on other females. For years, she had wanted to make "The Girls of Sound Warehouse" calendar. The chest vest was simply another example of naughty Pat. When she jokingly suggested this to a visiting female Blockbuster honcho, she was told, "Ours is a FAMILY friendly chain." Pat reminded her where families came from. Predictably, Blockbuster had no sense of humor. Too bad, this ploy would have generated free media buzz.   A handful of girls strode the backroom, wearing the vest, commando. Most declined. Two guys went complete commando.

   Store deck hands mispronounced titanic.
   Presales tanked.

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