And They Wonder Why People Pirate

, , , , , , | Working | April 29, 2021

As strange as it may seem to some, I have a penchant for physical media. I like to own DVDs of shows I enjoy, and I like to get them in sets where possible.

The final season of one of my all-time favourite cartoons is released. I see occasional part-one-of-five DVDs for various seasons in my local retail store, but nothing else. I wait, and wait, and wait. A year goes by. I still can only find those parts, and only of early seasons, never of later ones. Maybe they just haven’t released them yet?

Finally, I look them up online, and I find that the distributors have a full box set available and claim to do international shipping. Perfect! I try to order a set to come to my small island, but it won’t bring up a price for it. After contacting their help center, it transpires that while they can ship some things internationally, they cannot, for a complicated reason to do with distribution rights, sell their own product to an individual consumer outside their area for some products. I just have to wait.

And wait…

And wait…

Three years pass and there’s still no sign of it in my region. But wait! I have saved enough for a wild holiday. This is likely to be the only time when I have enough flexible free time and money free to do this, so I plan to go to Disneyland! I figure, while I’m in America, I’ll try and get some of those coveted DVDs that can’t be sent to New Zealand. But I know some places are fussy about where they send to. So I contact the help team again.

I thank them for their earlier assistance over the country matter — stupid in hindsight, but I wanted to be friendly — and offer that I’ll be traveling soon, and want to know if they ship their products to hotels.

I’m swiftly informed that they won’t send them to New Zealand.

Ah, my mistake. They must have confused my thanks as to where I’m traveling. I apologise and clarify that I’m coming to America. I will be within the USA for a time. Do they deliver to American hotels?

Another fast response: “Because you’re from New Zealand, our DVD’s will not work for you”

By now, I’m puzzled. Surely they must know that region-free DVD players exist, and even if they didn’t, this is clearly a loyal customer wanting to own a legitimate copy of the source media. I politely state that I don’t care about that; I just want to know if they send to hotels.

I get no answer. I end up calling the help line a few days later, with that and another question. Once again, I get a representative who tells me that they cannot ship to New Zealand, and even once I politely clarify yet again that this will be an American hotel, they counter with the fact that I will not be able to use them outside of the country. Is America booby-trapping DVDs now?

My temper frays a little and I utter that I do not care, I just wish to buy the DVDs, to have them, regardless of how they work, so could they please answer the question. I get a resounding, confused, “I guess?”

Good! A probable answer! I try my next question: do they do delayed shipping? I order today, they send my order out next month before I travel? That one is a far simpler “no,” and I go on my way.

This is all the warm-up for the fun that is about to happen. You see, there are some other DVDs from another company that I want, so I have also been in contact with them. They are delighted to hear that I will be able to purchase directly from them, and they gladly give me everything I need to know about shipping from them. While they do not do delayed orders either, they give me their best expected shipping times and apologise that once it’s with the courier they cannot control it more closely. They advise me on what dates I can best order by for the order to reach me in a timely fashion, alongside a suggestion of going for the expedited shipping if I am worried about cutting it too close. Happy with the thought, I order from both companies on the same day with the same address information two weeks before leaving. Both companies have their products in stock and are due to ship in two to five days.

Three days after placing the orders, the first company sends me an email saying my address has bounced back. Due to my unfamiliarity with American addresses, I listed both the suburb and the city, and apparently, the system hadn’t flagged it when it was submitted. Oh, well, mistakes happen. I send the correction immediately, a little surprised that a human looking at it hadn’t figured out what was going on.

Three more days pass. I get a note saying my update has been received.

Three more. My order is now being processed.

Three more. My order is now underway! Lovely, two to five days. It might show up right at the end of my trip, but that’s fine.

Now I’m traveling. Forty-eight hours later I’m on the other side of the world, checking in to a fancy hotel. The clerk surprises me with a package that arrived almost a week before me. [Company #2]’s DVDs, a double copy for both me and my sister, shine brightly in their clingfilm. I thank the clerk kindly and fall asleep for another twelve hours.

And when do the larger [Company #1]’s DVDs get to me? They get to the hotel a week after I leave, and they take another two weeks to arrive in New Zealand from there. It costs an additional $50 that it wouldn’t have if [Company #1] had bothered to respond to my actual money as fast as they did to their desire to say they didn’t want it.

For the curious: they didn’t explode, either. My region-free DVD player and I continue to enjoy media from around the world, purchased legitimately to support creators. I also found out that New Zealand post now has a service to deal with such matters.

The lesson [Company #1] taught me was, “Don’t give them your money; they really don’t want it.”

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One Popped Every Minute

, , , | Right | April 23, 2021

I work in a multiscreen cinema complex for several years. The last movie starts at 8:30 pm and we’re packing up the popcorn machines, etc. around 9:00 pm. At 9:15 pm, my coworker and I have finished emptying and cleaning the popcorn machines. The lights around the popcorn bar have been turned off and the signs have all been taken down. A customer exits a cinema and goes to the bathrooms. We think nothing of it and continue our cleaning. A few minutes later, I’m sweeping and hear a loud HUH-HUM.

Me: “OH! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. Can I help you with anything?”

Customer: *Rudely* “Large popcorn.”

Me: “Sorry, ma’am, we’re actually closed now and don’t have any way to serve popcorn. I can sell you any bagged candy or bottled drinks.”

Customer: “LARGE… POPCORN!”

Me: “Ma’am, I—”

Customer: “Does that machine behind you work?”

Me: “Yes, but—”

Customer: “SO TURN IT ON!”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but the machines have been turned off for an hour and would take at least fifteen minutes to heat up. I would then have to put through a pop cycle and then reclean the entire machine.”

Customer: *Staring* “And?”

Me: “I cannot serve popcorn.”

Customer: “Where is your supervisor?”

My supervisor tries to explain to the customer that the popcorn machines have been shut down and cleaned and we have no popcorn. Eventually, because she made so much of a scene, the supervisor pulls the popcorn bag from the back that has all the stale stuff in it and fills a large box with it. The rude customer smiles at me with a gross, smug smile.

Customer: *Barely audible* “I don’t know why places like this hire useless idiots.”

This woman PAID $10 for stale popcorn and missed at least twenty minutes of her movie. Who’s the idiot here?

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Challenge Accepted

, , , , , | Right | March 28, 2021

I work at a chain bookstore in New Zealand and have an insanely good ability to find things with very little information. A guy comes in with his friend and I ask them if they need some help.

Customer: “I’m looking for a cookbook by an Australian author that’s around $150.”

Customer’s Friend: “Dude, you have not given her enough information. She will never find it.”

Me: “I accept that challenge.”

Less than thirty seconds later:

Me: “Is it The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander?”

Customer: “Yes.”

Me: “We don’t have it, sorry. It’s not so easy to get, but it is available on our website; it comes from overseas.”

Customer’s Friend: “S***, you’re good.”

Customer: “Never doubt these people, man.”

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Chaos, Panic, Relief

, , , , , | Healthy | March 20, 2021

I’m a student nurse out for a three-week practicum on a high-acuity hospital ward. Through sheer bad luck, during the first week us students are there, there are a lot of medical emergencies: cardiac arrests, patients found unconscious, comas, and vital sign measurements dangerously out of normal range. On one particular day, the emergency alarm goes off four different times, sending the whole staff running to help and sometimes taking hours to resolve with a whole team present.

Come 2:00 pm, we’re all frazzled and exhausted. Just as we sit down to write the notes for the shift of chaos, from behind the nurses’ station we hear a desperate cry: “Oh, my God, help me! Somebody help! [Nurse], help me!”

Once again, we all go running. A couple of the staff get there before me, and as they arrive on the scene I hear a crowd start laughing, as if someone has fallen for a prank, and the staff who ran to help look relieved and then disperse. I vaguely recall a passing comment I overheard at 7:00 this morning: there was going to be a CPR training happening that day that we had forgotten about because we knew we’d be too busy.

Mystery solved! All was well, everyone was safe! They’re just running a scenario!

Except the CPR training is being run by and for experienced hospital clinicians, and they are all extremely familiar with what a realistic medical emergency sounds like and aren’t afraid to show it.

They somehow manage to last for ten minutes with loud, dramatic, distressed hyperventilating, with the occasional, “Help me!” and, “Oh, no, she’s unconscious! What are you going to do?!” and, “Get help!” 

All the while, the rest of us are huddled down in the nursing station trying to write our notes and failing to tune out the sound of very realistic respiratory distress happening a few meters away.

For some reason, we don’t find that particularly calming after our adrenaline-filled day.

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They Don’t A-peer To Be Very Responsible

, , , , | Learning | March 12, 2021

My school had a fun system where, in your first year at the high school, at thirteen years old, for one hour-long slot a week, you got to have “peer support.” Your class would be taken by a small group of final-year seventeen-year-old students who would basically act as cool older siblings, do bonding exercises, and generally encourage good social behaviour, etc. The final-year students were called “peer support leaders.”

I had a blast with my experience as a newcomer to the school, so in my final year, I was all too happy to sign up to be a volunteer. I got teamed with two classmates and their boyfriends — five semi-adults and a class of around thirty kids. Shouldn’t be too bad, right?

The class was rowdy. Barely any of the kids listened, fewer were interested in the actual fun times we had in store for them. A few actively would try and ruin it for the others. We all grit our teeth and tried to work through it. We were relatively successful and managed to make a dent in some of the bad behaviours.

The funny thing was, at the end of the semester, for the last class of peer support, you were allowed to do something fun with your group. This included taking them out of school! You had to get things signed off beforehand, but if you dotted your Is and crossed your Ts, your group basically got a cool afternoon of whatever fun activity you could devise.

So, of course, no one could agree on what we wanted to do for the outing. The five leaders talked and decided on a plan: on a specific morning, we would go to rōpū (home class) of our class and get them to vote on what they wanted. I got permission from my teacher to miss my own rōpū and then went straight to my peer support’s rōpū before class commenced. The other leaders were nowhere to be seen. I waited for ten minutes… no sign. Rōpū is only fifteen minutes long, so I finally went in on my own and took the vote. About two-thirds of the class was there, but it was enough. I included the whole list I’d been given, which included go-karting, movies, and a few other things.

Movies won by a fairly decent margin. Great! Fun video times. I made my way to the Volunteer Coordinator — a teacher who made sure we knew what “activities” were assigned week to week — and let her know what the kids had voted on. She wrote it down but said we’d left this too late to take them out of the school, so we’d have to do it on-site.

No worries! Still unable to find my other leaders in their designated classes, I used my first break to go and approach a teacher I had an awesome rapport with, who I knew had no class during the peer support slot. I explained to her what was up, and she agreed that it sounded like fun. She simply asked that we keep it down a little as she’d be grading papers in the office next door. Perfect! Kids have chosen an activity and we have a place to do it!

You know I wouldn’t be telling this story if all went right from here.

Fully halfway through the day, after checking at each class-change for my co-leaders, I found one at the start of lunch. I quickly told him that I’d taken the vote — without accusing him or the others of ditching me for that — and let him know the kids had voted for the movies. I also let him know I’d told the coordinator, and since we couldn’t take the kids out of the grounds, I’d also secured us a classroom. So all that was left to do was organise the snacks and the movie.

He looked at me like I’d grown a second head and then told me in a condescending tone that I was an idiot. Didn’t I know they had all agreed that they were going go-karting? I was a moron for running around and doing all of this stuff because they had already done all of this hard work without telling me. He made fun of me in front of several other people until I had to leave to go and hide somewhere in tears from distress. I knew it wasn’t true, thanks to having talked to the coordinator, but I had no idea why my co-leader was being so cruel to me.

As you might guess, this genius was lying. No plans had been filed, no permission slips signed. So, come the morning of the treat day, the other three finally decided they should come back to school — never found out where they’d been all that day— and told me that they’d handle the movie and the snacks and pizzas, since I’d already done everything else. I was a little reluctant, but they assured me they would get a good one. I figured the miscommunication about the vote must have been a mistake and they’d found out they weren’t able to just whip thirty kids out of school on a whim.

At lunch, they told me they’d gotten the movie. Perfect! Now to wait until the last class of the day to go grab them.

The previous week, I’d made a list of the kids. This was a treat, after all, so it was supposed to only be for the kids who’d been receptive and learned, while those who’d been antagonistic or disruptive would stay in the math class they’d normally get out of. I made my way to the movie classroom to get everything set up, and five minutes later, everyone was there. Everyone.

Okay, fine. Maybe the others had made a judgement call that even the naughty kids should be allowed this treat, too. Fine, I just wish they’d bothered to tell me before I went to the trouble of the list. As the kids were filing in, though, one of them turned to me and said, in a really snotty tone, “I hear we’re not going go-karting because you went and had a little crrrry.”

I had no idea how to respond, so I just muttered something about the vote, and figured that was the end of it. Time to watch a movie and relax.

Then, I found out what movie the others had thought was perfect for these thirteen-year-olds.

American Pie.

The kids went absolutely nuts. They started running around, drumming on the desks — hands, feet, drumsticks; you name it, it was hitting the desk — banging the fire-escape door repeatedly, howling… actual, kid-you-not howling. I started rushing around, trying to calm them, as I knew that there was someone next door trying to grade. As you can imagine, this only encouraged them. Meanwhile, the other four people in the room, my former allies, my supposed co-leaders? They were just sitting there and basically laughing at my attempts to stop this chaos.

It got so bad that the teacher stormed into the room and had to stay there for the rest of the period. I don’t know if she ever realised what movie was playing, which is one small mercy.

I’m pretty sure the other four did not get their certificates saying they’d done this volunteer program. It also took me a long time to trust people on group projects again, especially when others failed to turn up to arranged meetings.

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