My town has this one store that is known for providing excellent equipment for your home theatre, and it prides itself on that reputation. Top of the line goods and services are what its ads sell, so when I was looking for a region-free DVD player, I called the place thinking that if any store were to have them, this would be the one.

“What do you mean by region-free?” the young man on the other end of the line asked me.

“One that will play DVDs from everywhere no matter what region they are coded for.”

“Oh,” the guy said as if he suddenly understood. “DVDs are coded by region. We’re region one here. DVDs from other countries won’t play on our DVD players because our DVD players are region one.”

I thought my head was going to explode. Maybe he was used to dealing with idiots. I know I was.

“I understand that,” I said, losing patience. “That’s why I want a region-free player. I want one that plays DVDs from other countries.”

“Do they make those?”

“Yes,” I told him.

“And you want one?”



Wow. Okay. Great questions. “So I can watch foreign movies,” I explained a bit more slowly than what was polite.

“Why would you want to do that?”

There are people who read this column who don’t live in America. They may possibly buy into the stereotype that all Americans are ignorant and dismissive of foreign culture. They are wrong. Not all Americans are that way, but most are. This was a perfect example.

My quest for a region-free DVD player pretty much ended there. I know I could hop onto the web and find one with two clicks of a mouse, but I didn’t want the hassle. I wanted to do the right thing and shop at a local store so the money would stay in the community. Alas, it wasn’t to be. If the “experts” were this ignorant on the subject, I wasn’t even going to try a lesser store or some chain slop like K-Mart. I had beat my head against the wall enough as it was that day. I didn’t need any more lumps.

In the future, when studios around the world become more concerned with making sure people get to see their movies, perhaps region coding will go the way of Beta. Perhaps not. Until that day comes, though, when I get another hankering for a region-free DVD player, I’ll know where to turn. It won’t be to the stores who cater only to fans of American films. It will be to the web sites that cater to film addicts. It’s an interesting concept — catering to those who really love film no matter its country of origin — and it would be neat if some stores took a cue from it. Otherwise, they’re just losing business and getting mocked by people like me.

Maybe I’ll call that store back and ask if they carry any copies of the “Anacondas” DVD. Now there’s a request I think they’ll understand.

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