The Window of Shame

February 28th, 2012 · 54 comments

Ashley and her husband were visiting her in-laws in a small town in Michigan when she spotted this old-school wall of public humiliation in the local pizzeria/video store.

Says Ashley: “What amazes me is that a town with a population under 1600 has this many people who owe significant amounts of money to a video store.” (Also amazing? That this video store is actually still in business.)

!!WINDOW OF SHAME!! — Do you make your family/friends proud — This is a list of people that OWE more than $50.00

related: Roadside intervention

FILED UNDER: Michigan · money · public shaming · small town living

54 responses so far ↓

  • #1   Tesstarosa

    I wonder how long the list of people who owe less than $50 is.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #2   Ashley

    I wonder how much late fees are.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   Danny


      Feb 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.2   The White Clouds of Opium bang

      I wonder what the titles are. That list is probably much more damning.

      Feb 29, 2012 at 4:26 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.3   Nunavut Guy

      Who the hell rents videos?

      Feb 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #3   Danny

    Too bad the photographer didn’t have a higher resolution camera. I want to read the names. And to make out what the numbers are on the “$200-???” chart.

    Either way, /my/ hypothetical video store would stop renting to people before they got up to $50. It’d also have the porn right up by the front door, just to keep parents from bringing their kids in. Darned kids, always doing kid things.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:13 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #3.1   Adam

      “Either way, /my/ hypothetical video store would stop renting to people before they got up to $50.”

      Uh, it only takes a minimum of one video to get up to $50 in fees. Presumably most of these are from movies that were not returned and then a per day charge was assessed to them.

      Mar 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #4   Matt

    Looks like the town could use a Redbox. Or even one of those stand alone off-brand Redbox-like kiosks. Hmm… investment opportunity.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #5   Jon

    That’s not hard to hit $50. Rental stores get their tapes/dvds about a month or so before the home video release. Knowing that they’ll be rented, the studios charge $80-$100 easily per copy. Loss of one copy is enough to get you on the list.

    (FYI: Blockbuster/Hollywood Video chains have a special deal with studios in which they pay a per-rental royalty instead)

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #5.1   vstorevigilante

      We get our movies (small town, family-owned dealie) in a week early (so, next week’s came in yesterday), and at the regular retail feel, like $25 per copy. The only way to rack up $50 here is to be SUPER late. I can’t imagine working somewhere where every item someone lost on you because it was $80 to begin with. That’s horrifying.

      Feb 29, 2012 at 10:09 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #5.2   Zorin

      If a video store is smart, it will consider the video “lost” once the late fee exceeds the value of the video plus some margin for profit. At that point the customer shouldn’t be able to rent anything until they reimburse the store and/or return the video.

      There’s no reason anyone should owe $200 to a video store unless they rented like ten videos and lost ALL of them. Judging by that list I bet this store just keeps adding late fees in perpetuity which is kind of silly. Eventually customers will realize it’s pointless to pay a late fee three times what the video is worth and stop renting period.

      Feb 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #5.3   Tesselara

      There was this one video store that was so shitty about its late fees that I just stopped renting from them. For example: I had accidentally forgotten to put a disc back (I checked, saw a disc in there, forgetting that the clam shell had a widescreen and full screen disc, and thought I was fine) The store waited a week before telling me that I hadn’t returned the right disc. I didn’t know that I had forgotten it, and they charged me a late fee for each of those days. And the fee was exorbitant. I got to $35 in less a week. Never rented from there again.

      Mar 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #6   Melinda

    Whenever I see stuff like this, or bad checks posted in restaurants, I think, that can’t be legal under the FDCPA rules…but maybe that’s just me.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.1   chad

      you’re right. FCRA laws prohibit publishing “bad customer” lists.

      Feb 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.2   NOOOOO

      At a liquor store in town by mine they post thenames of people who wrote bad checks on a very large, visible sign, which has always made me wonder who is stupid enough to bounce checks there after seeing the sign, which has had check-bouncers names on it for YEARS (only 2-3 at a time). And why does the liquor store still take checks? It is all so puzzling.

      Feb 29, 2012 at 9:47 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #7   zenvelo

    Isn’t this why the whole “credit card on file” deal started? This store should start processing charges.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #8   eric

    everyone on that list now uses netflix.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #9   Justin

    Too bad this is also probably illegal in Michigan, which bars “Publishing, causing to be published, or threatening to publish lists of debtors,” and “Using a shame card, shame automobile, or otherwise bring to public notice that the consumer is a debtor, except with respect to a legal proceeding which is instituted.”

    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:55 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.1   Knickerbocker Glory

      I want my very own Shame Automobile.

      Feb 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.2   bombkitty

      I had one, it was a Datsun…

      Feb 28, 2012 at 9:39 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.3   infanttyrone

      There’s a 1990 Yugo convertible on Ebay right now with 4 days left.

      Drive it and the stench of shame will follow you – slowly.

      Feb 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.4   AuntyBron

      Drive a Yugo and the stench of shame will preceed you by a country mile.

      Feb 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.5   Noelegy

      My Shame Automobile was a 1979 Chevy Chevette. My friends called it the “Shove-it” because that’s quite frequently what we had to do.

      My anti-Shame Automobile was the 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood I drove in high school.

      Mar 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #10   danke

    is it just me or does the handwriting look like Thank You Terry handwriting?

    Feb 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #11   bluebunny27

    Once I rented 8 dvd’s, all at once … I could keep ‘em all for a whole week. Then I bring ‘em all back and the next week I get a call from the video store asking me to return all the dvd’s or else I would have to pay late fees, well .. I had already brought ‘em all back on time, sorry, I was explaining this to ‘em over and over for days in a row, several conversations. I was 100% sure the whole time I had brought ‘em back all at once and gave them to their employee there. They kept insisting I was guilty. I had to argue a lot, they were asking me to pay hundreds of dollars, I think they were saying it was 75$ per dvd, so … around 600$ … My name would have be at the top of their list with big arrows pointed at my name there with such a debt ! ;-) Getting a huge debt with a video store is definitely possible … long story short they finally found the dvd’s right there in the store, they had put ‘em back on the shelves without scanning them as returned so they were sitting there in the store but in the computers all of ‘em were still at my house, doh … The moral of the story, never pay with a credit card at the store, they would definitely have charged the 600$ on my card if I had used it there, those places are usually not very reliable so you can get stuck with a huge bill because an employee made a mistake.

    Feb 28, 2012 at 11:40 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.1   Dana

      Something like that happened to me at a public library, although it was one book and a little over $30. I had to pay for it, then I went and looked for other books to borrow.
      It was sitting on the shelf.

      Feb 29, 2012 at 2:30 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.2   bookworm

      I thought it was standard practice for video stores to use a credit card in order to open an account. So choosing not to pay with credit after that wouldn’t make much sense; the purpose was already defeated.

      Feb 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #11.3   shepd

      Use a burner CC. Find a CC with the soonest expiration and use that, or a CC that you figure you will soon be cancelling. Or, if the store is really stupid, a rebate CC/prepaid CC.

      Mar 3, 2012 at 11:48 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #12   Nahhh bang

    Back when my kid was in middle school, her backpack was stolen with a rented video in it. We reported it immediately to the store owner (a small indy, not one of the big chains), with a copy of the police report; she promptly informed us we now owed her $118, the replacement cost of the video. So, yeah…it’s really easy to run up an alleged $50 debt with a video rental store.

    In most cases, it’s probably not legal debt, though…which is why a store owner like this one would put up a “Window of Shame” instead of taking people to small claims court.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 12:24 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.1   vstorevigilante

      I work at a video store – how on EARTH was the replacement fee $118!? Ours are $15 MAX for an old movie (we’ll usually charge $4 though) and $20-25 max for a new release, and this is in 2012. Your store sucked. That’s awful. I have no sympathy for late fees (and most of them are 100% the fault of the renter), but situations like that, exceptions have to be made.

      Feb 29, 2012 at 10:04 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.2   vstorevigilante

      (if for some reason it sounded like I was calling shenanigans on you, I need to clarify I absolutely wasn’t, I’m just appalled at your misfortune with your shitty video store!)

      Feb 29, 2012 at 10:12 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #12.3   shepd

      If this happened quite a while ago, it’s easily possible. I remember seeing the list price for Terminator when it first came out on VHS. It was $149. And back then, many times, video stores had to pay MORE for rental rights on the titles.

      Mar 3, 2012 at 11:46 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #13   The White Clouds of Opium bang

    At a certain point, laziness crosses the threshold into simple defiance. So in that sense, I wish these people godspeed. May they enjoy that copy of Taboo II for another 25 years.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 4:43 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #13.1   Tesselara

      Laziness crosses the threshold into simple defiance. Love it! I’m thinking that everyone in that town kind of hates the owner of that video store.

      Mar 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #14   Lori

    I was driving through Arkansas once and there was a small town with a combination gas station/convenience store/video store. They had a posterboard sign up with people who were barred from the store. There were about 10 people on the list, including “John Smith Sr.” and “John Smith Jr.” I would love to know what got them all barred.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 6:25 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #15   Dane Zeller

    I have a list posted on the window of my living room that shows all video stores that owe me $35 or more. There is just one on it: Blockbuster. I have a gift card from them before they sold to another company. They refused to honor it, before or after they changed hands.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 8:05 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #16   vstorevigilante

    As a video store clerk, I can’t be mad at this note. I get yelled at daily by people complaining about their late charges. Hell, I’m here 5 days a week and even I have late movies all the time, and am expected to pay up. And I do, because it’s my own fault. We would never get away with posting such a list, although we ARE the only game in town… so… perhaps.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 10:02 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #16.1   DrChalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

      Do people in your town not have access to the internet?

      Mar 1, 2012 at 7:46 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #16.2   vstorevigilante

      We have a large elderly population, but beyond that – gaming. Xbox, PS3, etc. Game rentals (and also, stolen games… goodbye, $65 product) are huge.

      Mar 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #17   mama2tnt

    I always used to be indignant when the local (small, independently owned) video store around the corner said I still had a movie out – but wouldn’t you know it, it turned out they were ALWAYS right; the movies turned up under the couch, etc. And yet, even when it was completely my fault (“Oops! I finally got around to watching this movie that’s a week late, here ya go”), they would chop the late fee in half, even when I protested (“No, that’s not right, it was my fault, charge me the whole thing, thank you anyway, nice people”). They really knew their movies, too – while I recovered at home from surgery (and was on some rather strong pain medication), they bent over backward to help me choose movies my addled brain could watch. And yes, they were finally driven out of business by Netflix, et al. Sigh.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 10:50 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #17.1   Sean Jungian

      Yeah, @mama2tnt, I’ve done the same sort of thing. If I rented a dvd rated “R” or otherwise inappropriate for my son, (I like scary movies), I would hide it up on top of the refrigerator or somewhere else he was unlikely to stumble across it and accidentally watch it while I took a nap or something. SEVERAL times, I forgot about it up there, and our local joint was always very easy to deal with about it, usually cutting the fee in half or just zero-ing it out altogether. I never just assumed they would do that though, I always came prepared to pay the fee.

      Mar 1, 2012 at 3:14 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #18   hiptobesquare

    I’m really concerned that this is my college town and my name is on that list.

    Feb 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #19   People Person

    ¡I think this is in Mexico!

    Feb 29, 2012 at 5:59 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #20   Nunavut Guy

    I think Charlton Heston used to rent videos.

    “Oh the humanity”

    Feb 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #21   DrChalkwitheringlicktacklefeff

    This is probably one of those video stores where if you lose or accidentally damage the $10 video you’ve borrowed from them and offer to replace it they insist it be purchased from a particular supplier who charge $50+ for it. Video stores are always running those kinds of scams.

    The other thing about this ‘Wall of Shame’ is that with things like this you inevitably reach a point where it no longer shames the people involved because once there are more than like a dozen names on the list, nobody is going to bother reading it.

    Mar 1, 2012 at 7:41 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #21.1   Melissa

      It’s probably a Badge of Honor at this point to get your name added to the list.

      Mar 5, 2012 at 10:35 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #22   Team Cassandra bang

    Oooh, lots of new names! Somebody FaceBooked me this and I remembered howmuch I missed this place. I’m thinking death MIGHT be more effective than shame;p:

    Mar 1, 2012 at 8:36 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #23   sj

    I would feel comforted knowing I was not the only flake in town.

    Mar 1, 2012 at 10:21 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #24   Redheadwglasses

    I once owed about $25 in late fees, which I had to pay the next time I wanted to rent something (which was rare). They also were doing a charity thing where you could contribute to a movie rental fund for children in the hospital. I mentioned wanting to contribute to this prior to them telling me about my late fees, so when the late fee thing came up, he waived them because I”d given a similar amount to the charity. Cool beans!

    Mar 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #25   What century is this?

    Why is that list HAND WRITTEN? Its ridiculously LONG.

    Mar 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #25.1   infanttyrone

      First thought was an Amish community where computers weren’t used, but then, they wouldn’t have much truck with movies, would they.

      Maybe it was just an art installation intended to evoke a bygone era, something like an Al Stewart song might do…

      On a morning from a Bogart movie
      In a country where they turn back time
      You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
      Contemplating a crime

      Why should this make you think of Max Headroom and credit fraud ?
      Please use complete sentences and remember that spelling counts.

      Mar 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #25.2   Noelegy

      I love that you referenced “The Year of the Cat” and Max Headroom. ♥

      Mar 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #25.3   infanttyrone

      G-g-g-glad it lit up your c-c-c-circuits.
      The Chevette (up there & back then) was also featured
      in a number of Bill Hicks’ comedy routines.
      If you know Bill then you’ve probably been exposed to them.
      If you don’t know Bill, drop by YT anytime and start sampling.
      One Night Stand is a great 30 minute starting place.

      Mar 2, 2012 at 1:11 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #26   Pingy

    I own a video store (very small, independant. Lots of documentary foreign, arthouse etc) and I don’t know about in other countries but here we pretty much pay *around* the same price that the normal consumer would pay for a DVD, we might get bulk deals if we get a certain amount of product but generally the purchase price that WE pay is not much different than if you had bought it from a major chain. I don’t think they’ve done that thing where you pays hundreds of dollars for a new copy of a movie – since we also rarely get films before the retail sector anymore.

    If we ask someone to replace a damaged or lost item, we will generally only charge what it would cost for US to get that movie back in. We do send non payers and people who don’t return things (ie: thieves) to our debt collectors to deal with and they sort of charge flat fees that cover ‘late fees’ and then replacement. (So $60 for a movie – 1/2 late fees, 1/2 replacement cost)
    We also do the late fees are half price if you pay on return.

    In regards to the ‘scam’ where video stores charge $50+ for a replacement from their certain supplier I can still see this as legit.
    I need a new copy of Underworld (1) At the moment, it’s $40 (rrp) from my supplier. If a customer wanted to rent that ASAP then I’d be paying that, plus the freight cost for delivery. It could easily be around the $50 depending on supplier.

    Mar 16, 2012 at 9:07 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up


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