Melanie and I were recently perusing the movie selection at a nearby Redbox in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. We noticed that if you tried to put an R-rated movie in your “cart,” you were presented with the following message:
The notice seems friendly enough, but Melanie and I don’t recall ever seeing such a message when renting from Redbox in Florida. We find this rather amusing. Now, perhaps it’s simply that Utah has many more children per capita, and so Redbox is being extra cautious by trying not to rent to those who are technically below the recommended viewing age. (For the record, it’s not a law that persons under 17 cannot see R-rated movies, even without an adult. The MPAA ratings system is voluntary, and theaters and movie rental companies typically adhere to the recommendations as a matter of policy. But it’s not a legal matter.) However, I suspect that the age confirmation feature found at Utah Redbox kiosks is meant primarily to warn customers that they have added an R-rated movie to their cart, something that many Utah customers would hope to avoid. In other words, I take the age confirmation message to be Redbox’s thinly veiled way of saying, “Heads up! That’s an R-rated movie you just selected! Just warning you, in case you didn’t realize it!”
Of course, if Redbox has bothered to add this message especially to Utah kiosks, they must feel it is necessary. But why would that be? Can’t customers see that a movie is rated R before putting in their carts? Well, yes. But if enough customers have inadvertently rented R-rated movies in the past and then complained about it to Redbox, Redbox may deem it worth their time, money, and effort to update their kiosks to make them more Utah-friendly. I know, I know, this is something of a conspiracy theory on my part. But if there is any truth to my speculations, I have to roll my eyes. It’s ludicrous how much handholding companies are required to do of their customers. If you put an R-rated movie in your cart, that’s your problem. If you’re lucky enough to notice ahead of time and don’t want to watch it, don’t. But if you do watch it and then wish you hadn’t, don’t complain to Redbox. That’s like shooting the messenger, when really you should be shooting not even the message-sender, but yourself! Stomp your feet. Bite your pillow. Holler, “Gosh darn it!” But don’t waste the time of a Redbox customer service representative because you made a mistake. I can just imagine how these phone calls must go. “I didn’t know it was rated R! I don’t watch R-rated movies! I’m not going to pay for it!” “My kids saw something they shouldn’t have! I didn’t realize I was turning on an R-rated movie! What are you going to do about it, Redbox?” Lame.
Well, if that weren’t bad enough, Melanie and I recently went down to Utah county, which even by Utah standards is unbelievably Utah-ish. Movie rentals down there are even more extreme, with Redbox not at all pretending that Utah county residents are anything but strict Mormons who avoid R-rated movies as a matter of religious faith. Check out the warnings that appear onscreen as you try to rent an R-rated film at a Provo kiosk (you may need to click each picture in order to better read the messages):