Saturday, May 8, 2010
An unjust rule
So I did something I'm kind of embarrassed about this past week, because I like to think I'm better than that.
Actually, it was technically last week -- last Saturday. But I just discovered it on Wednesday.
Yep, for what may have been the first time in my life, I returned an empty DVD case to the store. Or in this case, the library. Total rookie move.
Here's how it happened: I finished Georgia Rule, which I reviewed a couple days later, last Thursday night at the gym, and simply forgot to ever remove it from my portable DVD player. The three movies I'd rented from the library -- which also included The Thing (which I watched Friday night) and The History Boys (which I didn't watch) -- were due back on Saturday. I almost always open each case to check for the presence of an actual DVD -- in fact, you could call it a pre-return ritual -- but this time I failed.
And since I didn't use that portable DVD player again until my next trip to the gym, on Wednesday, that's when I discovered my oversight. In fact, I was taken aback to see the credits of a movie rolling when I powered on my DVD player, because I hadn't yet inserted my DVD du jour: Are We Done Yet?, which I'm also reviewing. For half a second I wondered if the last images that had played on this screen had somehow burned into its memory, before recognizing the more obvious answer as what was actually happening. I then slapped my forehead. Metaphorically, anyway.
When I got home from the gym, I discovered I would have found out about my mistake shortly anyway. My wife reported that there was a message on the machine from the library. She volunteered to return it the next day, and I handed over the disc.
But what really perturbed me was their response at the library when my wife came in with the DVD. They told her that I would, in fact, be charged late fees on the movie. Now, I go to great lengths not to be a single day late on my library returns, because they charge $2 per day per movie. At least, I think that's what they charge -- I almost never have to pay it, so I'd have to check. So it was pretty irritating to hear this.
Granted, I'm a dumbass for failing to return the DVD. And if it had been playing in my regular DVD player, rather than the one I use at the gym, I probably would have discovered the mistake the next day. But a combination of factors -- the use of the secondary DVD player, the failure of the library to call me about it for four days after I returned the case -- meant that I might owe the Los Angeles Public Library, whom I have only ever praised on this blog, nearly $10. Nearly $10 for one crappy movie. I get paid only twice that to actually review it.
My argument is that I should get credit for returning the case. It wasn't an instance of me being a lazy slacker who didn't give a shit about the due date -- I just made the equivalent of a mechanical error, which could happen to anyone. Surely I didn't do it intentionally. I guess if the library were offering their rebuttal, they'd say that I could purposefully pull a scam like this if I wanted to extend my rental without fears of an additional charge, and then just tell them "Oops!" later on. But I think the renter deserves the benefit of the doubt in this case. Mistakes like these should be covered under the umbrella of customer service. If they really think a little lenience on their part would open the floodgates to a bunch of customers returning empty DVD cases without penalty, then that qualifies as paranoia on their part.
As I said above, I do have almost nothing but good things to say about the LAPL, and its large collection of DVDs at various branches. Sure, I'd like the rentals to be three days rather than two, but it's a small complaint. If they hold me to this fee, however, I may have to change my tune. Especially since they sat on their knowledge from potentially as early as Saturday, all the way to Wednesday, before notifying me. I could accuse them of intentionally hiking up the late fees that I owed them.
To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised. You probably know that every government agency in the state of California wants to bring in as much revenue as it possibly can, to bridge some of the massive budgetary shortfalls. For example, don't bother contesting a traffic ticket in California these days -- you will lose.
But my guess is that the library will capitulate under the slightest pressure from me. If I show even an inclination toward foot stomping, they'll probably waive my fee. As well they should. I think I've got a legit argument.
I especially hope they bend the rules for Georgia Rule, because it really wasn't good.