Why It’s Just About Impossible to Rent a DVD in Barbados

Why It’s Just About Impossible to Rent a DVD in Barbados

My first post after a long break and I’m damned cranky.  I had planned to write something nice, not this.  But a trip to Chubbie’s DVD rental this morning changed my mind for me.

By the way, this isn’t about Chubbie’s, really. It’s about service.  Bad service.  Bad Barbados service.  Which, unfortunately, is too common.


I’ve been desperate to get out of my head.  The best way to do that is rum or movies.  I choose movies.  My husband Greg says, “No problem. Let’s go to Chubbie’s.”

Chubbie’s on the south coast recently closed, so we go up to the Sheraton Mall location.  We are the only people in the store.  We choose 4 movies to purchase and 2 movies to rent.

Alas, before we even approach the check-out, a power struggle has developed.  Greg hands our 6 movies to the clerk who is on our side of the counter.  In his typically friendly mannr, Greg says to the clerk, “Good morning.  We’d like to take these, please.”

The clerk recoils.  She looks at the 6 movies Greg is handing her as though they’re dog manure.

So Greg waits until she is behind the counter and he places them before her.  “Hi,” he says again, “we’d like to take these, please.”

No greeting.  The clerk says, “Membership.”

Greg says, “I’ve been a member of Chubbie’s for 30 years. You must have me in your system. We’ve always gone to the south coast store, but it’s closed now.”

“Nope,” she says. “You have to have a separate membership here.”

Another customer comes into the store.  She directs her attention to him. “A return?” she asks.

The customer says yes and the clerk slowly assists him while we stand there.

Then she resumes her position in front of us.  “Phone number.”

Greg offers his cell number.

“That a cell?”

“Yes,” Greg says.

“Can’t take a cell. Land line only.”

Greg gives the number at his office.

“I gotta call it,” she says.

“It’s Saturday,” Greg says. “No one will be there to answer.”

She sighs.  “Can’t have a membership then,” she says. “You have to have a land line that someone answers.”

“But most likely,” Greg explains sensibly, “anyone with a land line would have this same problem: they wouldn’t be there to answer because they’d be here trying to get a membership.”

“No land line, no membership,” she says triumphantly.

“Fine,” Greg says.  “We’ll just take the 4 DVDs on sale then.”

Another customer enters the shop.  Her attention once again turns away from Greg.

We’ve been at the counter 20 minutes.  I wander over to the door, anxious to get out of there.  I’m thinking, “amazon.”

She returns to my husband.  “Two of the DVDs for sale are scratched. You can’t buy those.”

“Thanks for noticing,” Greg says. “I noticed you have a number of these two titles available as rentals.  Could you please sell us two of the rentals?”

She glares defiantly.  Greg may as well be asking for her firstborn.  “No.”

Greg quietly puts his money back in his wallet and says, “Why don’t we just forget the whole thing.” As he puts his wallet in his back pocket he looks at her and says, “You won.”

I hear this and rush to the counter. “Nooooo, Greg, please,” I plead. “We’ve been here 30 minutes; I want to go home with a movie.”

Silently, Greg buys the two movies without scratches.  $24Bds.  We leave.  We’re silent in the car as we drive to lunch.

I’ve been told this bedtime story a hundred times already so I don’t know why I need to ask, but as we settle into lunch, I do anyway. “So what was that about?  It wasn’t about getting movies.”

What it was about, Greg explains, is victory.  The woman behind the counter, he explains, resents that she has to work and we “get” to rent movies. “Her job isn’t what’s important to her. What’s important to her is racking up victories.

“For instance, refusing to take the 6 dvds from me.  Victory 1.  Not accepting my cell number.  Victory 2.  Getting to turn down my membership.  Victory 3. That was a big one for her.

“Not selling me rental copies of movies even though they were selling the same title.  She savored that one.  Victory 4.  Helping other customers then wearily returning to us, the ‘difficult customers’ who are making her job such terrible toil.  Victory 5.

“The ultimate victory, of course, is that we ended up buying something.  And we’re supposed to feel grateful that she served us.  My walking out without buying anything calls her bluff.”

“But I wanted a movie,” I said.

Long silence.  I offer, “I still don’t understand the psychology of all this.  A lot of retail people in the States are lazy but they don’t seem to carry a grudge or anything. And the happy eager-beavers who love giving good service make up for them.”

Greg says, “That’s not how it is here, Janie.  Sadly.  She sincerely believes she has a demeaning job.

“The fact is, it’s she who demeans her job.”

32 Responses to “Why It’s Just About Impossible to Rent a DVD in Barbados”

  1. greg says:

    We recently ran research groups on service in Barbados. Everyone, of every gender, race and age-group, agree that our service is appalling.
    Yet we all put up with it.Why?
    By the way, everyone in the research swore that THEY themselves gave perfect service. Hmmm….

  2. greg says:

    …and now that we have Apple TV, we never, ever have to go to Chubbie’s, ever again! hooray!

  3. Alice says:

    I found your blog while researching info about a possible trip to Barbados, and I love your writing! Your thoughts make me want to visit there even more, even if some cashiers are not so friendly.

  4. […] … continue reading the Planet Barbados article Why It’s Just About Impossible To Rent A DVD In Barbados […]

  5. Bob Foster says:

    The DVD’s you bought are probably bootleg. Why won’t the police put them before the court like they do with the vendors in the city?

  6. Bob Foster says:

    Oh I forgot. How do you get “Apple TV”? Maybe I won’t have to put up with MCTV or Direct either.

  7. me says:

    A fabulous article on poor customer service standards was polluted near the end by guesswork and attempted mind-reading.

    It is entirely possible that Greg blames the woman for “decisions” entirely out of her control.

    Not selling scratched DVD’s, not taking cellphone numbers et cetera aren’t really the issue here. The issue is her rude, unresponsive, and unhelpful *manner*.

    Scientific research strongly correlates ongoing patterns of such behaviour with:
    – perceived and actual absence of control in the workplace;
    – abusive behaviour from supervising workers or bosses.

    In other words, poor management.

    Poor behaviour by low-level workers, and poor management by those above them.

    I pray for our future.

  8. jdid says:

    I would have walked out too. Absolutely appalling!

  9. Sungirl1 says:

    I’ve never had this kind of problem with Chubbies ( I Mainly use the one at Mall International) , but can almost guess I know which store you visited (and she really needs to get another job).

    I agree with “Me” saying that unfortunately she is just doing her job. It’s management that doesn’t have a clue. you own how many video stores and you require your customers to apply and be a member at each one?? In the 21st Century?? You have to be joking. and you close one store, so what happens with the members at that store.. they just go away?? Haven’t they heard of computers and networking??? and they don’t take credit cards either.. this is a problem for me actually.

    I personally buy the for sale copies now, cause it’s easier than having to remember to take them back and my children and I get to watch them again and again.. and it was nice that she did tell you 2 were scratched, but remember, she was going to rent those to you at first.. so was it really good customer service when she said she wouldn’t sell them??

    But.. it was her job.. she is on the front line of her employers business. She has potentially lost business for the owner by this one action.. Maybe someone needs to let her know…

  10. cookie says:

    just reading this made my heart race and my palms sweat. for ages i thought it was just me and my irish/nyc temper that didn’t mix well with “some” sales personnel in “some” retail outlets here. it is my husband that will walk away from me when i decide “enough is enough.” my favorite are those that speak so quietly i have to ask SEVERAL times for them to repeat what they said AND people that won’t reach for either my money or my credit card and insist (by lack of movement of hands) that i reach over and hand them my payment or place it on the counter.


    by the way, we were longtime renters from Chubbies on the south coast and went through the same thing when we had to “join” the Chubbies in St. Philip. phone number, waiting period, deposit, first born, copy of mortgage, all for a tape that won’t play properly or a DVD that will just freeze for no reason.


    ok, enough. Must. Have. More. Coffee.

  11. […] galore, Apple TV means I never, ever again have to step foot inside Chubbies video rental, home of scowling service.  As Greg hooked the thing up, I danced around the house like the Munchkins in Wizard of Oz when […]

  12. Ha! Yes, Bob, it would be so great not to have to deal with these folks, either! Maybe someday we’ll have complete control over everything that comes into our homes, making our homes the sanctuaries they should be. Btw, I love the Apple TV so much … ! It’s just a small box with a hard drive in it. The movies and television shows come to your TV through the little box using an iTunes account. It was very, very simple to set up. The box itself doesn’t cost a whole lot … where they make their money is selling access to the entertainment we choose to watch.

  13. Scientific research strongly correlates ongoing patterns of such behaviour with:
    – perceived and actual absence of control in the workplace;
    – abusive behaviour from supervising workers or bosses.

    Well said. You’re probably exactly right, too. I myself have no idea the reasons. I’ve never seen contempt for customers like this. It amazes me because I would (and do!) characterize Bajans as really kind, really good people. But far too many who work in service seem to be a breed unto themselves. I don’t understand partly because I myself get amazing satisfaction out of helping people who query me about a place to stay in Barbados. Doing so gives me the opportunity to make someone happy and — !! — I might even make a booking, which is how I earn my living. You can’t “train” an employee to care, though, can you?

  14. I agree that management doesn’t have a clue if they can’t network the stores in their chain! With currently available software this is not difficult. As far as buying the for-sale dvd’s … I’m with you on that and ultimately I was so, so glad we were not permitted to join and rent because then we’d have to go back there … aarrrggggh! Btw, Sungirl, I love your little house drawing with the sun. Did you create this? I love it!

  15. Thanks for making me laugh … ! When I first came to Barbados, like you, I thought it was me …. I thought I was somehow offensive. I thought over time I’d learn what it took to be treated kindly by clerks. But I’ve since found out that no one is exempt! I’m still laughing at your note .. yes, the indecipherable mumble and not taking the payment .. ! Yep, been there done that! Still, all in all, I’ve lived many places but it’s this little island that truly feels like ‘home’ to me. It’s not only the physical place that’s beautiful, either. The good people here are SO good. The clerks who make us crazy … well, a good walk along one of our pristine beaches sure helps. Um, guess I’ll see you there!

  16. me says:

    “You can’t “train” an employee to care, though, can you?”

    Oh, but you can. Which doesn’t mean that it’s always a good expenditure of time, money, and effort to try. Sometimes you just gotta let substandard staff move on. When I worked in government, I didn’t have the authority to fire anyone, and I found that the vast, vast majority of rude, slipshod workers I encountered were increasingly polite and helpful with firm, respectful, empathetic management.

    I guess my own observation is that too many businesses and managers (unwittingly) train staff in exactly the wrong habits… over and over and over, always blaming the staff, and never (ever!) thinking that their own management choices might be contributing to the problem. You just can’t find good help!

    Again, too, I question the implication that the staff member didn’t care. Why do we assume this? Isn’t it possible that (e.g.) she’d just been chewed out for the sixth time by management for doing what she refused to do for you, and that her huffy manner was an inappropriate expression of appropriate frustrations?

  17. You make me think. You’re right … everything about a business — efficiency, product quality, customer relations — flows from management, doesn’t it? Of course it does.

    You’re also right about the employee whom I judged as not caring. Seemed that way to me when I was all worked up about her behavior, but of course I could be and probably am dead wrong. Your comment made me remember a book that had a big impact on me: The Four Agreements — in particular, “Don’t make assumptions.”

    Thank you.

  18. Sungirl1 says:

    Yes, I created the little house..proud of myself for that one.. just a little “paint” project to create my own avatar…

    My favorite saying is – Don’t make an “ass” out of yourself. Never assume anything.

    I waited in line at a very popular and well known chinese establishment in a very well known location today.. First time in a while. The owners are very nice people, but the employees leave alot to be desired. We were served the rice and the to-go box was passed to the next in line.. When I asked for my “main” she said in a flat voice, something about waiting.. she mumbled or my bad ear didn’t hear the whole thing. I said “excuse me” .. my daughter responded that we would have to wait. So we did.. others came behind us and were served other things, But I watched this youngish lady and thought.. If this women could actually be taught to handle customers, even in a line asking for food, life would be SOOOO much better. The staff was talking amongst themselves.. and when asked questions they mumbled responses that were completely unhelpful to the person asking. “Do you have any tofu??” “no”.. “Bean curd” .. “no”.. Not, no I’m sorry, if you are vegetarian, we can offer you this.. but simply no.. and with no expression or concern that a customer was going to walk away at all.

    The owner was there, working as well, but looking after other things.. Just too bad he didn’t see the exchange. Unfortunately, if I ever see him out and comment on this, he will likely tell me that he has the best staff he can hire for what he can pay.. and he just has to deal with it.

    A sad state of affairs in the service industry in Barbados

  19. Jack Bowman says:

    The basic problem, I think, is that too many Barbadians working in the services sector confuse “service” with “servility”. To some extent it’s understandable, given the country’s history, but it’s extremely bad news for an economy based largely on services.

  20. RENEE says:

    I blame Chubbies and the food place owners for the bad service. It is all their fault. I am sure Chubbies put poster on the walls to encourage people to rent tapes. They invested in a datbase system for rentals, and has security devices in the store to protect and manage the tapes. I am sure they have an accounting system and other business tools and procedures to ensure profitability. But as for customer service that is back burner no body aint checking for that. There is no training or MONITORING or FEEDBACK system for service quality as long as they get the tapes sold that ill mannered woman is doing a great job. BUSINESS MANAGERS in Barbados DO NOT CARE ABOUT SERVICE.

  21. Well said. I suspect this is the core issue. Thank you, Jack.

  22. Really good point about businesses that tend to every detail about running a business except customer service!

    You can tell when management makes it a priority to train (i.e., invest in) staff – and you can tell which places these are by their consistent high level of service. The Hilton offers fantastic customer service. So does Dwellings. Walkers World. Greg and I eat at Mama Mia’s often and brunch at Terasu nearly every Sunday partly because of the service we receive.

  23. lol...lol says:

    lol……i’m guessin those who wrote about chubbies rude CSR are white….lol…..1..u do need a land lind to join 2….f the movies r scratched u dnt sell them…3..its not about victory jus as u customers wnt respect CSR deserve respect ya’ll wlk in a store doesnt say gud evening/morning r watever den comes to the counter and ask CSR questions and expect CSR’s not to have an attitude….n bootleg movies r movies with pple wlkin across screens the movies they have r copied off the originals……u mayb need to visit one of the other locations and c f u get the same treatment as u did in Sheraton…n when it comes to returnin movies they r brought back by u customers scratched wen they werent given scratched………….lol……..oh i so hate pple n they stupid shite tlk

  24. summer girl says:

    Adding my piece on this customer service at chubbies, am 99 percent sure that this behaviour is in the minority not every chubbies you entered your given service like that , procedures are meant to be follow and am sure the person in question was following procedures but took it a little too far my take would if you go to a bank whatever they ask you to produce you give it same applies but it is how the situation is handle , people tend to take they problems out on csr and tend to think that csr are stupid but that is far from the case am sure the service at all chubbies are not like the service received at sheraton and don’t let this deter people cause i have received worst service from places you would never think that can happen

  25. diamond says:

    Recently went to courts to purchase a microwave ,talk about service there is never a time you walk into any of these stores mind you a black person that is, you can receive immediate attention from these service reps it,s like they think you don,t have money . i went to purchase a microwave spent like 20 minutes browsing csr sitting like 2 feet away not once did she ask if i needed help not until i told her i was purchasing the item and i was paying cash did she respond how rude is that i find a lot of courts staff leaves a lot to be desired my only reason for buying the item from courts was because 1. i really needed it having been with out one for a week and 2. dacosta mannings price was a lot higher, had not for those reasons i never would have bought it from there these staff need to wake up and know we don’t have to come into there store to buy anything maybe i should have waited what’s done is done but i promise i have one account with them and as soon as the last cent is paid i am done with courts , there are a lot of irate customers out there about courts and they figure cause there prices are low people will put up with bad service wrong bajans need to boycott courts .

  26. mad black woman says:

    Customer service at chubbies sheraton is appalling has always been
    management needs to take a look at that cause in these hard economic times no one will throw away money like that i know i would not why the service at some of the other branches are not like that management needs to seriously take a look at that and who is running the store cause trust me i,ve had my encounters maybe there will be a silver lining and service will change after this.

  27. stephen says:

    I had the most appalling service from Mama Mia on the south coast. To go into detail would take up too much server space, but it was the personal service that was the worst I’ve seen in years, culminating with the guy leaning on our table to take a telephone call while taking our order after having tried to argue with us while placing our order. I used to be a regular there; we haven’t been back in a year and when our overseas visitors come here we don’t send them there anymore. Shame, we loved the food, but I can get insulted anywhere, so why pay for it?

  28. Oh, Stephen, I hate bad service so much … ! Insolent service, even, is what it sounds like you got. Oh, how this burns me to hear! Like you, I adore the food at Mama Mia – both locations (the location by the US Embassy has an entirely different feel and is very pleasant, with great food, too). I’ve had good service at both locations and I hate hearing of your rotten experience. You know what I’d do? I’d go in and talk with Mama face to face, Stephen. Tell her what happened. She is a true Italian mama and she wants all her “children” to be happy … If you loved Mama’s in the past, then you owe it to Mama to enlighten her of your bad time. She would definitely want to know. To give up Mama Mia over this bad experience would be a shame … you’ll be missing out on so much good food! If you do this, let me know what happens. Good luck!

  29. sue says:

    Everyone is blasting the crs about bad service , but did anyone ever stop to remember that a story has two sides.And that the people complaining only want you to hear their side and not realy telling the whole truth about what realy happened. Think About It.

  30. You’re absolutely right. There are two sides to every story. Following on your point, my husband uses an expression: “We see the world,” he says, “not as it is, but as we are.” How true.

  31. Loving Barbados says:

    Visitors to a new country often simply do not know all the subtle cultural rules of engaging with strangers. And locals usually are not conscious of having these social norms which can trigger their negative reactions when visitors don’t behave according to expectations.

    I learned this the hard way when I started living in Australia years ago. I would go to the local Milk Bar to buy milk each evening as milk used to go off very quickly back then. During the first 2 visits I became increasingly aware that the ladies behind the counter were displeased with me. I asked my Australian partner what I was doing wrong and he said, “Well, you don’t say ‘Thank You’ do you!” I replied “of course I always say thank you!” and he said, “but you don’t look them in the eye do you?” I was aghast, as looking an American sales person in the eye to say thanks when handing over payment would be considered very rude. But he told me that not doing so in Australia would be considered as if I was saying I thought I was better than them. So on the 3rd visit I bravely held eye contact with the sales person when I said Thank You as I paid them, to which they both beamed big beautiful smiles at each other and then at me too. Whew – sweet Victory! Who knew – eye contact in Australia is so different to the USA!!!

    In Barbados, saying “Hi, Good Morning” while smiling and looking the sales person in the eye then responding considerately to their response seems to be essential – what other unspoken rules are there that visitors need to know?

  32. Beautifully said, Ann. I agree that we should not be so quick to judge others; rather, we need to get to know the social norms of wherever we happen to be. I’ve been in Barbados for six years now and think I’ve cracked the code: Be Nice First. Barbadians are generally reserved but once I extend myself and engage a Bajan I find they’re fun-loving and very, very warm. I love the Barbadian people overall and a few in particular I love very, very much, which explains why I live on that paradise island 🙂

    As I write this, I’m in San Francisco, a city I lived in for many years before moving to Barbados. I love this city and still have a small home here but people here differ greatly from Barbadians in that strangers don’t say hello in the street as they do in Barbados. Here, people pass by one another in complete silence. I have learned in Barbados to say hello to everyone I pass (and I love connecting with people in this friendly manner) but when I do that here, people seem to be afraid of me or think I’m a nut job .. !

    So I guess the rule is, “When in Rome …”

    Thanks, Ann,

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