ill_p560What’s the Business Ethics? Should the Employees in Video Stores be Movie Buffs?

It seems like a good idea – knowing the product – being able to understand questions – give good recommendations. But they are not always move buffs. Sometimes, they know very little about films at all.

For me personally, this isn’t much of a problem, I am a film buff, myself and know what I want to rent or buy. Of course, sometimes they think they’re film buffs. I’m sorry, one recommendation, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, is never going to be a classic.

But let us return to the question: Should the employees in video stores be movie buffs? I think they should at least have some rudimentary knowledge because of something that happened to me.

Now, I live in the Bible belt and here among many there is a certain pride in not being cultured, knowledgeable or educated. One day I wander into a video rental place and have a look around. There’s a couple of John Wayne films that I had seen when I was in my teens that I wanted to watch again as an adult. So, I’m back there in the shelves looking for Rio Bravo and El Dorado, when I come across the film, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

I had seen Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. I don’t remember where. It may have been on cable or a friend rented it. I think it’s a pretty good film but generally I don’t watch lesbian films. Now I have seen a lot of films involving lesbians but this isn’t quite the same thing. The film is not a lesbian film so much as it is a LESBIAN film. It shouts and screams and at the top of its lungs proclaims that it is a lesbian film. Okay? LESBIAN!!! And as for rating, it’s a hard R. How hard? Think of steel or diamonds.

I immediately see a vision in my mind of a Bible belt family just home from church about to watch what they believe is the usual redemptive tale of a white hatted cowboy slaughtering bad guys or Native Americans and winding up with the appropriately virginal school teacher who cannot restrain her ardor for a man who kills so casually. And instead the family gets to learn about female sexuality in a new and controversial way.

So, I, a good citizen and business ethics teacher (which means I can’t so much as eat a grape in the supermarket – a student might see me) carry the film up to the front and ask the clerk to move it from Westerns.

The conversation goes like this.

“You say this film isn’t a Western?”

“That’s right.” I reply.

“Does it take place in the West?”

“Well, yes it does.” I admit.

“Are there actual cowgirls in it?”

“Well, they do wear chaps.” I was not willing to disclose the absence of other clothing.

“Then why should we move it?”

“Look, just watch it, okay?” I give up, not willing to explain the significance of Uma Thurman’s outsized thumbs.

He gives me that look which means “I will go through the motions of appearing to take your concerns seriously but as soon as you leave this is going back in the Westerns.”

And it was back there the next time I came in.

As business ethics go, this is a small problem, no matter how traumatized the formerly happy middle class family that sees it, may become.

And of course, I did my ethical duty, so I can feel good about myself. But maybe, just maybe it would be a better world if the sales clerks in video rental places knew more about films.

James Pilant

 

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