Back in the olden days, it was a privilege to rent movies. When my family bought our first Video Cassette Recorder from Penny's, we made a point of choosing a VHS player because though we had heard great things about the technical aspects of Beta, there was a wider selection to be found at our local video store of the larger, less flashy kind. This was back when the choices of video stores was extremely limited as well. You could rent movies from the local appliance store, if you happened to be there picking up a part for the dryer anyway, or you could join the club at The Video Station.
Back then, you had a choice: you could join up and rent your movies for three dollars for the first tape and two dollars for each additional, or you could pay five dollars for your first and three for each additional without a membership. Yearly memberships were going for twenty-five bucks in those days, so this seemed like a no-brainer for my family. We love our movies, and we especially enjoyed that extra perk of being able to reserve those hot titles that non-members would have to wait weeks, maybe even months to see. Yes, membership did have its privileges.
Which probably explains why it was such an easy thing for me to slide into my job at another video store a few years later and immediately start hawking the benefits of being on the inside. At my store you could even buy a lifetime membership, and you could pay for your rentals in advance for just two dollars apiece. The savings just kept adding up. If you were willing to commit.
Funny story: The video store I worked at closed. It closed before a lot of our customers got a chance to use all their prepaid rentals. The competition back in the late eighties was so fierce, we had to drop that whole membership deal. People who bought lifetime memberships were confounded by this. They were even more confounded when they discovered that when we said "lifetime membership" we really meant the lifetime of our store. Whoops.
It would be easy to blame chains like Blockbuster for swarming in and offering all their titles with no memberships and extra copies of "Top Gun" so you didn't have to worry about reserving it. It would be even easier to point out how fast the home video market ballooned back in those salad days. But the blame lies squarely with me. I could have been content to wait the extra week or two to see "Repo Man" on tape. I didn't need to reserve it. If I had been more patient, I probably could have caught it on cable. Or at a midnight showing on campus.
But I demanded video. I wanted it in my home and I wanted it on my terms. Now I pay for Netflix because the choices I have on my bloated cable package is insufficient. I want to see movies when I want, where I want, and that's generally right now on my couch. I pay a monthly fee to the cable company. I pay a monthly fee to Netflix, who just raised their prices. Just don't call it a membership, please.