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Wednesday, April 12, 2006 

Customer Appreciation

For the most part, working in a video club is quite boring. I’ve noticed that most people are creatures of habit. You can set your clock by them. You know what days they’ll rent, what movies they’ll rent and not much out of the ordinary happens. But every now and again, you meet people who are distinctive when you take the time to get to know them. People who make a lasting impression on you.

Several years ago, one such customer became a member at our stores. At first glance, I thought he was someone to watch but not in a good way. His appearance was unkempt, he never spoke much, never even smiled for the first couple of months. But he was a regular client and rented a lot of movies. But that’s not what made me rethink my initial opinion about him. It was his choice of movies. He wouldn’t just rent the most popular titles and predictable movies. He’d watch classic movies and Cannes/Sundance/Venice Film Festival award winners which is almost a rarity for most customers. Especially for someone who was only 19 years old and an immigrant from Kazakhstan whose grasp of the Greek language was on par with mine at the time. I figured I had to know more about him so every time he came in, I’d try to draw him into a conversation, asking him what he thought of the movie he just returned. I tried to suggest more movies which I assumed he’d like based on his previous rental history and siga, siga (slowly, slowly) he became more socially interactive.

After a few months of movie talk, I told him I was curious as to why he would rent the same movies 5 and 6 times each. I was humbled by his answer.

Rouslan, an ethnic Greek, emigrated from a small town in Kazakhstan where there wasn’t much to do. So he’d go to the cinema. The ‘cinema’ in his very small town was an old hall with a big screen but because the owner’s projector was a relic of the Stalin era, it didn’t work so he would buy video cassettes from the closest city…about 200km away…and the customers would watch a movie on a 21” TV he bought which was powered by a small generator. He wouldn’t change the movie until he had made a small profit from the current video cassette. Since it was a small town and quite poor, this meant that it often took more than a month for him to recoup the cost of the gas to travel the distance to buy another one plus the cost of the video cassette. As a result, the movie goers would end up watching the same movie at least 15 times and Rouslan became accustomed to not just watching a particular movie, but memorizing all the lines in it and every single person who worked on the movie by reading the credits at the end…from the gaffer to the director. Rouslan’s mind became a database of movie trivia.

So now he’s become addicted to movies because he has such a variety of them here and rents quite a few to make up for lost time. When he likes a movie, he can’t help himself and therefore, he must rent the movie at least a half dozen times. He said that the movies allow him to travel the world and introduced him to many concepts previously unknown to him like apartheid and the women’s suffrage movement. He considers movies to be his sole educator on popular culture and credits them for becoming literate in Greek since he was lost in the cracks of the education system when he first came to Greece at the age of 12.

He’s 23 now and I consider him to be our best customer and my most favourite. I’ve learned so much about his world through the things he experienced growing up in a remote part of the planet and he’s made me appreciate my own upbringing in Canada and all the opportunities that I had taken for granted but were denied to him.

Because of all the obstacles he had to overcome just to be able to live, work and buy a home in Greece, I have such an incredible amount of respect for him and find myself wondering just what kind of life he would have had if, by chance, like me, he had been born in a country full of possibilities and opportunities.

Hm, here is one of these stories that makes blog reading worth engaging into.

Wow.

That's really beautiful.

I lived in South America before retiring to Greece. I saw thousands and thousands of escapees from the iron curtain countries, arriving to the Brazilian shores penniless ( so we thought) and shoeless. If conditions in Greece are hard for expatriate greeks, wait until you see conditions in Sao Paolo and then Greece will feel like a honey comb.
In less than twelve months these escapees of shoeless, toothless immigrants became owners of stores and shops and formed a merchant class. The amazing thing was that their talents for capitalism exceeded their taste for it.

Subsequently, as more of their penniless kindred kept arriving, the causes for their ersatz prosperity emerged into the open.
The impecunious hordes were bringing with them "diamonds", polished and unpolished in enviable quantities. I never was able to find out how in conditions of supreme hardships, communist banditry, and limited opportunities these "toothless, shoeless people" had succeeded in amassing such precious valuables in their eastern Gulags.

That's another amazing story Seawitch. I think people with open hearts and minds do tend to meet the best people.
Thanks for this. You and Rouslan brightened my day.

loxias, traveller, diva ...I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I really enjoyed listening to it when he told me. He's also great for book reviews...every time he reads a book he likes, he tells me to buy it in English. I wish all my customers were as interesting as he is.

vlamiro...I'm talking about an immigrant who is a wonderful person and you're telling me about 'toothless, shoeless' people???? Please don't use my blog as a receptacle for the garbage that comes out of your mind.

Seawitch I'm sorry I didn't reply to the idiot above when I read his comment earlier. You have your fair share of lame brains here don't you?

vlamiro, what the hell are you on about and how on earth does it relate to this wonderful post? Not that I'm interested in your answer but I just think you should engage your brain before you comment.

Vlamiro may have inherited his brain from an auctiong and his comment betrays its shortfalls; but I need confess that his or her brainless contribution gave me a good hearty laugh

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