My Career As A Video and Photo Thief

For two years in college I worked at a grocery store as the photo lab guy.

During my employment, the store was moved after my first year.   Initially that department was a combination where we did video rentals, photo processing, and sold perfume.

When the store moved to its new location they decided to eliminate the movie rentals.   The perfume counter got its own section, and I no longer got to spritz my coworker with Prescriptives Flirt for fun.

Before the store closed and moved, however, we needed to settle up all the outstanding videos that customers hadn’t returned.   There was a long list of delinquent accounts, and for some reason I believe several copies of the movie Anaconda were unaccounted.

This was at a time where the average price of a movie to a video rental store was about $90 or so.   But it wasn’t just customers that had not returned the VHS tapes.

I, myself, had borrowed over 20 movies without officially checking them out.   Even though we had one of those big deal security magnet things that would scream like a bastard if you even got near it, movies kept disappearing.   This was because Joy (my co-worker) and I kept borrowing movies without paying the $1.99.

Video Store Security
I'm pretty sure these are also responsible for me never getting a girl pregnant.


In the few days leading up to the store moving, Joy came to me to discuss our plan.

Joy: So, how many movies do you have?

D.J.: Twenty.   You?

Joy: Twenty.   What’s the plan?

D.J.: Hmm.   No idea.

We were holding about four thousand dollars of cinema that certainly did not belong to us.   I’m pretty sure since we conspired, we were looking about a possible felony conviction.

But our objective was never to steal.   We just took the movies home that weren’t rented, watched them and then brought them back the next day.   Except we weren’t great with the “bringing them back the next day” part.

So, here we were, two 21 year olds with 40 movies, and a problem.   It’s not like we could have dumped them in the overnight dropoff slot.   First of all, these movies were never officially rented.   It doesn’t take a detective who specializes in video store robberies (yes, that’s a real specialty – I checked) to figure out   that the only logical culprits were the people that could safely move product past the metal detector gate.

If we had forty days, we might have been able to slide one back in per day, behind it’s respective box cover without arousing suspicion.   But we had two days until the official close of the rental department.

So, we kept the tapes.   We weren’t thieves.   Well, not intentionally, anyway.   It just worked out that way.

I’m pretty sure our manager Barbara told us when doing the books that a ton of tapes had been stolen.   We shrugged, walked away, and went home to watch Waiting for Guffman for the sixth time courtesy of our employer.

Waiting For Guffman
Not that I endorse stealing, but this was better than Das Boot, which I also lifted.

Joy and I never learned any real moral lesson from this experience.   At the new store, where we worked exclusively as photo lab technicians. the both of us never once paid for our own photos, despite always taking pictures at parties and on vacations.

I bet between the two of us, we never actually stole anything other than photos and videos in our entire lives.   Well, one time I borrowed an air conditioner from my friend Peter, didn’t like it, and upgraded to a better one by trading it in and spending an extra $60.   When Peter asked where he air conditioner was, I just shrugged.   It never occurred to me it wasn’t mine to upgrade and keep.

I thought about marrying Joy, as we were very compatible.   We both liked stealing from our employer, but only minor things like movies and 3″x5″ matte finish prints.   We were both attractive, and wore literally the same outfit to work each day.

Sadly, it didn’t work out, and in fact, we never shared even a kiss.   We were too close as friends.     We did, however, share a passion for making duplicate copies of gross photos (usually naked townies who seemed to participate in swinger parties) and sharing them with each other.

This, too, is stealing.   Technically.

D.J. Joy
Between her denim blouse and my corduroy pants, how could we NOT end up together? We didn't.

Note : I finally did get rid of all the videos in 2004, just before purchasing my condo.   It was time to shed this bounty, and I posted it on Craigslist under the free section.   Four Mexicans came to pick it up within the hour.

2 thoughts on “My Career As A Video and Photo Thief”

  1. Joy Wingader says:

    Just read the 9/12 post. Hilarious. As the aforementioned co-worker, I have a few things to add/clarify.

    We did “borrow” movies. And we honestly did intent to bring them back. I mean, like I really want a copy of “Ten Things I Hate About You” in the plastic rental box. That one’s a classic, I would definitely try to buy that with the cardboard cover for my collection. (Also, one of Heath Ledger’s first movies if you didn’t know.)

    I also purged my VHS collection sometime in 2004/2005. We sold about 100 tapes for a grand total of $5 to someone at a garage sale. You know those are still being peddled at flea markets to this day.

    He also forgot to mention the time I borrowed the wedding ring from our outstanding jewelry department pre-move. I might even still have it in a drawer somewhere. I think that I have some deep seeded issues that I might need to discuss in my next counseling session regarding why at 19 (DJ’s much older than I am) I would want other college age video renters to believe that I was married, with an obviously fake diamond on my left hand.

    We didn’t end up together — or even hook up. And over 10 years later, we’re still friends. Guess we made the right call on that one!

    The picture he posted is, hmmm… wow. I didn’t know that still existed. I thought only the one of us behind the counter where my hand is moving in a rapid motion towards his crotch area was still in existence — fully clothed in our matching white button downs and khakis. Also, this picture clearly demonstrates why pleated pants/shorts are a bad idea, for everyone. My purse is Coach which I was very proud of at the time. And obviously hair straighteners had yet to be invented.

    I still have memories of college that I’m not positive are mine. Did I go to Cozumel for spring break in ’98? Or did I only develop a million and one pictures of the trips my peers went on?

  2. D.J. Paris says:

    I hope it is clear why I am such pro-Joy after reading your response.

    …and come to think of it, I probably should have asked your permission before revealing to the world that you’re dirtbag thieving scum.

    I do love you. Hooray for you!

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