U.S. commander says lack of intelligence hurts security
... and in other news
Yesterday I tested out a useful way to return opened DVDs. Wednesday I intended to buy Buffy Season 4 (as birthday loot) at Circuit City. The first box I found was slightly damaged so I grabbed another one, unfortunately I managed to pick up a pristine box for season 3 instead (what was that about intelligence? ;). I didn't realize this mistake until yesterday when I was going to sit down to watch Hush. Unfortunately I didn't happen to discover my mistake until about 30 seconds after I had removed ye all important plastic wrapping. After 5-10 minutes of choice swearing, fuming, and general grumpiness I started to contemplate how I could remedy the problem.
Option 1) Go back, fess up to being oblivious/careless and try to persuade them to let me pick up Season 4. This might have worked. It was a very specific problem and I had bought some other movies that I wasn't trying to return. I could go from customer service, to manager, to corporate in the hopes that someone would take pity and help me out. Circuit City is a big corporation and there is a reasonably decent chance that they would fix the problem if I whined about it enough. Still though, they might just tell me to piss off.... Decent odds of success, but...
Option 2) Hmmm.... look at my nice new DVD player.... the one I bought because my old DVD player was increasingly unable to play new copyprotexted DVDs.... the old one was old enough to either not have regional encoding, or to have a different/poor implementation of it... Hmmmm... I could go back and claim that the DVDs did not work on my "old" DVD player. Usually the policy for returning opened "defective" DVDs, videos, etc... is that you have to exchange it for the same item... but what if the problem is that the item just won't work with your legit equipment?
So I decided to try Option 2. I wasn't thrilled about it (I really dislike lying), but I figured it wasn't totally evil. In theory the reason they don't let you return opened DVDs is becuase you might have copied them or you watched the movie and you didn't like it. That's a little annoying. Either you're a criminal (argh matey!) or (especially if it's something rare and hard to find) you have to buy it and live with it even if it totally sucks. That's not very nice. I actually own a legit copy of Season 3 so neither one applies to me. I just needed to return them because I was braindead on Wednesday ("Hi excuse me is their a braindead claus in your return policy?"). So, I walked into the store and explained that I had just bought the DVDs but they wouldn't work with my DVD player. "All the discs give me an error saying 'only for use on a region 1 playback device' My DVD player is old, but it is region 1" The helpful customer service guy looks at the DVDs and pretty much just says ok and gives me store credit for them. I was pretty shocked (and I had to resist the temptation to be overly happy when he gave me the gift card with the credit on it)
I have 2 theories as to why this worked so painlessly. The guy could have just been totally bored with his job and not really interested in doing it right. Maybe he just got chewed out and was grumpy with his manager. He could have just done it to screw over the company in some little way. However, it might have also been because the problem that I encountered was a very specific and believable problem with DVDs. He did ask me if my DVD player was a multi-region one (perhaps thinking to offer a solution to the problem by telling me to set it to region 1) but when I explained that the DVD was region 1, but about 8 years old he just nodded and went ahead with the return. In order to assuage my slight guilt at getting away with this, I picked up the copy of Season 4 with the slightly damaged box. Eh, no big and at that point I was just happy to no be stuck with 2 sets of Season 3.
I don't intend to make a habit of this, but it does provide an interesting solution to the problem of returning an opened DVD. You couldn't really do this with video tapes because the PAL /VHS thing wasn't the same sort of problem. You pretty much can't buty PAL videotapes in the US without going out of your way to do so. Any standard VHS tape you buy will work in your standard VCR. It's only because of the copy protection on DVDs that a completely legit machine might not be able to deal with a slightly different implementation of the copy protection on a new DVD.
Personally I really dislike regional encoding because it's such a blatant attempt, by media companies, to control what I am allowed to watch. If your run of the mill big media conglomerate doesn't think that a certain product will sell in a certain market, they just won't bother releasing it there. So what if I want to buy some good hardcore Hong Kong Kung Fu flicks? or some non-mainstream Japanese Anime? I have to wait until the big media company decides that enough Americans are going to buy it? Then I have to wait for the American version (which is often different from the asian verions). Why can't I buy the version I want directly from a Japanese/Chinese distributor and have it sent to my house here? What's inherently wrong with that? They would still make money off of the sale. Would they prefer I download an illegal copy of it because I just can't buy it in the states?
A while back, I ended up buying 2 copies of the BBC miniseries for neverwhere because it was made by the BBC and only avaiable in England. One was a legit PAL copy, one was an "illegal" VHS copy which was legal for me to own since U.S. fair use laws say that I can technically own a "backup" copy of something and I can shift the media that this copy is on (i.e. it doesn't have to be a PAL videotape, it can be VHS). I bought 2 copies because I really really really like Gaimen's work (e.g. Sandman) and I wanted him and the makers of the miniseries to make their money off of a legit sale, but I also wanted to be able to watch it w/o buying a PAL VCR. I bet you most people wouldn't do that.
Eh, I'm rambling (obviously). I think I'm going to finish reading the paper now. Today promises to be another day of sitting around waiting for calls so that I can see if I'm going to be able to fix some of the business problems. Should be fun. I've really been racking up the phone time this week.