Oklahomans risk becoming felons for not returning old VHS tapes

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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19 Responses


  1. I knew a guy who got popped for some minor offense. He paid the fine and was told his record would be expunged.

    Years later, he applies for a job and is rejected. Why? This offense had NOT been expunged but was still on the books. The hoops he had to jump through to get that rectified—vey ist mir, it was shameful!

    Moral of this fable: if the “authorities” tell you something has been done or will be done regarding your “permanent record”, double check that shit. Then double check again.


  2. Big Tech has taken a page from Blockbuster’s playbook. Pulled up Netflix on the Smart TV, rented a copy of Porky’s II (greatest movie of all times!) for a buck and some change. Bastards are sending me threatening text messages and emails demanding I return the movie. Weird part is I have to send bitcoin to some Nigerian prince or they’re gonna put me in jail.


  3. How the hell does the “embezzlement” of a VCR tape rise to the level of a felony? Even in Oklahoma, that’s a messed up criminal statute and a crazed district attorney at work.

    Is this a great state or what?


    1. Back in the day, we would buy a tape for ten or twenty bucks, but those rental places had to have a license to display to the public in some shape or form. It seems I recall someone saying back then that they were paying upwards of two or three hundred for each movie to cover the royalties, which was a significant amount of cash in 1985. Back then, anything that involved property worth more than fifty bucks (about a quarter in todays dollars) was a felony.


      1. In the year 2000, there is no way that used VCR tapes of Sabrina and Red October were worth anywhere near $50.


        1. They probably had added months of late fees to the cost of the tape to make the “crime” a felony.


          1. Actually, “Failure to rewind” was the escalating factor.


    2. because they could have rented out Sabrina the Teenage Witch like 7500 times over that time period, sounds fair. Think the Norman case got properly tossed.


  4. I remember those ads back in the 80’s right along with the one where the guy was put into the jail cell with the rapist for stealing cable tv. I agree that those tapes were expensive for the shops due to the royalties, but it would seem that the statute of limitations would toll out on a crime that involved property that’s been obsolete for the past 20 years.


    1. Not to mention, it seems they would just charge you for the tape, and they had to have insurance for lost and stolen items. The whole thing was nuts.


  5. If I remember correctly, if you didn’t return a tape within a certain period of time, they just charged your credit card for the cost. I can’t believe these have any merit.


  6. Statute of Limitations?


  7. It’s a shame that we scammed all the time. Legal scams are the worst.

    It just hate that this state does so much to detract from our quality of life. You know, the govt is supposed to be “of, for and by the people”.


  8. Louis (or anybody else, reading this), do you know anybody who repairs VCRs? I have one with a loose thingy, where you fasten the cable into. Otherwise, it still worked, before I disconnected it, so I could plug in a (hated) mini box. It had gotten corroded or something and I broke it, trying to get it unfastened. I still actually record TV shows, with another VCR.


    1. It doesn’t sound like you need a VCR specialist – only someone who repairs radios, TVs, and other electronics.


    2. There is a guy that does vintage audio repair out of Masquerade costume rental on Classen. If he can’t, he might know somebody


    3. I know a few guys, but unless it’s a really nice unit you might just replace it. There’s a new shop called JB’s Analogue in Warr Acres with a lot of vintage electronics


  9. I looked up a few TV repair people, (there seem to be very few), and asked them if they worked on VCRs, and they said no. And that was a few years ago. Well, I just thought I’d put that inquiry out there, since it appears some orher people, out there, are still using this antique technology.


  10. Bored prosecutors in small towns with little crime, across America are gonna start going after people who didn’t return VHS tapes decades ago. Quick and easy way to make money on court fees

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