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Oklahomans risk becoming felons for not returning old VHS tapes

7:30 AM EDT on April 27, 2021

Remember the video rental store? My favorite childhood memories were going to Magic Movies in Midwest City every Friday. We'd get to pick out one tape after having pizza at the Mazzio's next door. The store would be in a strip mall, next to a tanning salon, and there might've been a beaded curtain leading to a forbidden room. You'd pluck the plastic tab from the box, take it to the counter, and then get a movie you'd watch three times over the weekend.

But if you didn't take it back in time, you'd suffer punishing late fees. If you never took it back, they'd sometimes hunt you down like vicious creditors. As it turns out, 20 years later you can still get busted. Two cases have popped up over the last week. From Fox25:

A former Oklahoma resident is facing felony embezzlement charges for not returning a VHS tape rented in Norman more than two decades ago.

Online documents show Caron McBride is a wanted woman for never returning 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch' on VHS tape in 1999.

[...]

Online documents show McBride was charged with felony embezzlement of rented property in March of 2000.

McBride told FOX 25 Tuesday that she doesn't remember ever renting the movie.

"I had lived with a young man, this was over 20 years ago. He had two kids, daughters that were 8, 10 or 11 years old, and I'm thinking he went and got it and didn't take it back or something. I have never watched that show in my entire life, just not my cup of tea," McBride said. "Meanwhile, I'm a wanted felon for a VHS tape."

Documents show the movie was rented at 'Movie Place' in Norman, which is no longer open.

A quick eBay search shows this movie sells for $5.99, but I promise it can be found at your local thrift store for $1 or less.

Then, another charge was launched. From KFOR:

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — A second woman says she was forced to pay hundreds of to resolve a VHS tape rental issue.

Former Oklahoma resident Kathryn Goddard was shocked to learn that a decade-old felony charge is still showing up on her record.

“It’s so ridiculous. Why is it still there? Why is it still showing? Even though it was dismissed,” said Goddard.

This all goes back more than 20 years. Goddard was a student at OU. The video store saying she rented ‘The Hunt for Red October,’ but never returned it.

These people are having to spend money, taking time off of work, and worrying about being prosecuted as felons because they forgot to return Jerry McGuire 20 years ago.

I'm a VHS collector with hundreds of those plastic slabs lining my shelves and filling boxes. Some of them are very precious to me, both because of nostalgia, and the collector market has made certain tapes valuable. The prices for some horror, cult, and even old pornography films have skyrocketed in recent years.

Many of these movies only saw a VHS release, and are highly sought after by collectors. There might be only a few thousand copies in existence, and some of us covet them dearly. For example, take this copy of the very hard-to-find Simon, King of the Witches that sold for a whopping $870 dollars. Why is a movie most of you never heard of that expensive? Exactly. It's scarce, and cult movie fans want the rarest shit out there.

But having to go to court over a copy of The Hunt For Red October? The guy that owned the video store can go down to his local Goodwill if he wants it back. Major studio tapes are literally a dime a dozen, you can barely give them away.

Petty grudges from local video store owners who got trampled by Blockbuster aside, this is an important reminder to hold onto some of your physical media. Streaming won't have everything you want all the time, so don't throw away your VCR quite yet.

And, as always - Be kind, rewind.

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