Did you reserve tapes at your video shop?

ITDuring the era of renting VHS tapes from video shops, I would often reserve a film to ensure that I could see it on a particular day. Usually this involved visiting the shop at an earlier time and making arrangements with the owner. Fortunately, there was never a charge for this service. My local video shop was pretty small and managed its catalogue of tapes on paper rather than with a computer. This changed in later years with the advent of affordable database software, but throughout the late 1980s, reserving a tape was typically done in a large paper ledger. As a young film fan, the experience allowed me to vividly imagine what it would be like to borrow money from Ebeneezer Scrooge.

One film that I can remember renting in this way was IT (1990), the Tommy Lee Wallace directed adaptation of the Stephen King novel. I was really excited to see the film as my friend had said that he had heard that it was terrifying. We were about twelve years old at the time, so we spent a fun night staying up late watching the movie. When my pal awoke in the morning, I had left a brightly coloured balloon floating near his pillow. For anyone who has seen IT, suffice to say that the prank got the desired reaction.

Part of the excitement of booking a tape was having to wait until after 5pm for it to be returned to the shop by the previous customer. There were always a few anxious telephone calls to the grizzled entrepreneur who owned the shop. He would eventually utter the magic words: “it’s in”.

Do you have memories of reserving VHS tapes at your local video store? If so, publish them on this site by emailing your story to videocultures@gmail.com.

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