Working in a Porn Store: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

ApplePolisher_150x300Hi! I’m Heidi Belleau. All week long, I’ll be stopping by various blogs promoting my new series and novel, Apple Polisher (Rear Entrance Video #1), out now from Riptide Publishing! I’ll be around to answer all your questions and comments, and I’m doing a very naughty week-long giveaway, so stay tuned!

Today, I’m talking about my real-life experiences working a porn store, which is what inspired the whole Rear Entrance Video series!

The Good: Cool Co-workers

Porn store staff kind of get a bad rap in Apple Polisher. Christian’s co-workers are lazy, manipulative, rude, dishonest and just all around nasty to be around. In the real world, my co-workers were the hands-down best part of the job. Sure, working in a seedy sex shop attracts some less-than-savory people, and then there’s the stoners applying for the job as a joke, but they get weeded (ahem) out quick, leaving some pretty amazing people.

You have to have a certain special something to make it selling porn. You have to be clever and assertive enough to not get tricked into talking dirty, but you also need to be open-minded and cool and even a little kinky yourself, because customers who feel judged are customers who don’t spend money or come back.

The staff of my porn store was me (secretly kinky nerd girl who almost didn’t get the job because I looked too “straight laced”), a retro bombshell submissive, a movie geek professional Dom, our tiny goth manager with full arm sleeve tattoos and an inexplicable love of country music, and a sweet pagan girl with a penchant for Birkenstocks and flowy skirts. Almost all of us were queer, but more than that, because our jobs got so damn weird sometimes, we were family. We understood each other. We loved each other. I can’t say a single bad thing about anybody.

The Bad: It’s Still Customer Service

Anybody who’s ever worked retail or food service knows what I’m talking about. Demanding customers. Shoplifting. People trying to return used sex toys thinking “the customer is always right” means they can share their body fluids. People who yell at you for no reason, other than because you’re there and they know they can get away with it.

One of the hands-down worst parts of the job was hunting down late fees. Nobody liked to do it, no customers liked to pay them, but it had to be done. If you collected off their credit cards (as the contract they signed gave you permission to), you might have a furious customer storming in as soon as the bill came through. If you asked them to pay up before renting their next title, they might toss their rental right in your face and storm out, never to be seen again. If you called their home number to remind them they had late items, you might wind up talking to a significant other or child who didn’t always appreciate you saying you couldn’t say why you were calling.

The Ugly: Sex Shop Sex

I’ve worked a fair few customer service jobs, and it’s a reality of the position that sometimes you get hit on. At Subway, I had customers smooshing their faces against the sneeze guard to ogle my breasts.  At the movie theatre, I had guys asking when my shift got off, if I’d join them in the cinema.

At the porn shop I still got hit on, but the nature of the business meant that things got a little more . . . x-rated. Even if I didn’t want them to. In my year working at an adult video store, I was groped, asked if my boobs are real (do I look like I can afford fakes?), propositioned to peg a guy, even told if I was a “good girl” a customer would “pay my tuition”.  One man brought me nude photos of himself.

Luckily, because of the nature of the store, my manager was way more used to dealing with dudes with boundary issues than any of my managers at my more conventional jobs. When it went too far, or I felt threatened, she was always there and had my back. One night when I had a particularly shady character say he was going to come back at closing to take me out, one of my coworkers bussed across town with her boyfriend to make sure I got on my bus safely. Now that’s what I call loyalty.

About Apple Polisher

Apple PolisherBLURB: This straight-A student has a dirty little secret.

Christian Blake dreams of being a kindergarten teacher, but making the grade means maintaining a squeaky clean image: no drinking, no drugs, no swearing, no sex. And definitely no falling for his new roommate—tattooed bad-boy Max, who may or may not be a drug dealer.

Most of all, it means no working at a porn store. But Christian’s aunt has cancer, and her beloved Rear Entrance Video will go bankrupt if Christian doesn’t take over managerial duties. Soon enough, Christian finds himself juggling sticky twenty-five cent peep show booths, a blackmailing employee, and a demanding professor who likes to make an example of him.

And then there’s Max, who doesn’t know anything about the store, but hates Christian’s preppy sweater vests and the closet Christian forces him into when they’re together. Max just wants Christian to be himself—even though Max is keeping secrets of his own. Christian struggles to find the impossible balance between his real life and the ideal one he thinks a teacher needs to live . . . all while trying to keep his aunt’s dream alive without losing his own.

ELIZABETTA’S REVIEW:

Christian thinks he has to be an apple polisher, thinks that in order to be a good kindergarten teacher, he has to be a goody-goody, perfect, by-the-rules kinda guy. Unfortunately, he thinks this also means living a lie in the closet.

Christian is a college student in a teacher training program that has an unbelievable list of decorum and comportment requirements. This gets him into a quandary when he falls for one of his hunky housemates, Max, who doesn’t believe in closets and may or may not be a drug dealer. It also makes Christian hesitant about helping his sick auntie Beverly with running her small business while she is under-going chemotherapy. Managing a porn shop called Rear Entrance Video doesn’t quite fit in with that whole kindergarten-teacher persona.

So Christian is conflicted about who to be true to… himself, his family and friends, or the demands of his chosen profession. Really, it’s all about him not worrying about what others will think of him and learning to grow a pair. You just want to give him a good shake. But that’s Max’s job.

“Apple Polisher” starts off a bit slowly for me, the story quietly meanders around Christian, his auntie, and his four new housemates of which Max is one. It isn’t until Christian and Max hook up that it feels like the plot starts cooking— when Christian is faced with his prejudices and self-doubt. Can he and Max make a go of it? They seem to keep a lot of secrets from each other…

Max and Christian are far from perfect, they are not glossy, pretty-boys, they have real life issues. I like how they bumble through the ups and downs, and how Christian finally gets a backbone. I had a small issue with the story towards the end when Christian, who has been so overly concerned with his image, throws caution to the wind to commit an act that goes against everything he has been fretting about. Don’t get me wrong, it is a hot, sexy moment, but it just seems too soon and feels too out of character to me.

The author nicely shapes a community of quirky characters including Rob and the other housemates who come through for Christian, and even a motley crew of porn shop employees and customers. And that porn shop is a perfect setting for a good dollop of humor and the absurd (and, yes, sex). This is the start of a series where we’ll get to know the other housemates better. I look forward to more Rear Entrance Video shop adventures and continuing on with Rob’s story, up next.

ELIZABETTA RATES IT: four-stars_0

Buy it now!

Add it to your Goodreads shelves

GIVEAWAY

What would a series about a porn store be without the porn? And so, to celebrate Apple Polisher’s release, I’m doing the only sensible thing and giving away a week long membership to super high quality gay porn website CockyBoys (link obviously NSFW!), home of Christian’s favourite performer, Jake Bass!

Prefer your gay sex in written form? Not legally able to view pornography in your region? You can still enter and get the value of the prize put toward a Riptide Gift Certificate instead!

Either way, all you have to do is leave a comment here with a way for me to get a hold of you. At the end of the week, I’ll pick one lucky winner. Every comment counts as one entry, so be sure to follow the whole tour for your best chance at winning!

::~::~~::~::

About Heidi Belleau:

Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write. She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!) When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her newborn daughter or standing in line at the local coffee shop, waiting on her caramel macchiato.

You can:

find her tweeting as @HeidiBelleau,
email her at mailto:heidi.below.zero@gmail.com,
or visit her blog: http://heidi-below-zero.blogspot.com.

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Comments
  1. Trix says:

    I always wondered what it’s like for porn shop employees…thanks for the review, too!

  2. H.B. says:

    I’ve accidentally called a erotic bookstore or something along the lines since it was listed as a B&N store number and got told off for my gender. I never knew why but it kind of makes sense if stuff like that happens in a porn shop. Oddly enough I’m not surprised that kind of thing happens.

    Thanks for the blurb and fantastic review.

    • Yeesh, they did? How rude. I would have never told off a female customer calling in. Women were still a part of our customer base at the store, they weren’t JUST “wives and girlfriends”. But yeah, calling to collect late fees and getting a wife or partner was always super uncomfortable and a little ethically suspect. Let me tell you, I don’t wanna get involved in somebody else’s marriage…

  3. goodreads says:

    Elizabetta – thanks for the review. I’ll read it for the “community of quirky characters”.

    Heidi – thanks for sharing your memories; it piqued my interest for the above mentioned community.:D
    What you said about the natural selection leaving only cool co-workers was interesting. Some jobs would be impossible without a team you can rely on. I don’t work in a porn shop but I related to that.:)

  4. ilhem says:

    “goodreads” is Ilhem being a klutz. Why can’t I edit my comments??!!

  5. Megan W. says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience working in a porn store. I have always wanted to buck my “good girl” persona and work at one. Might check out a few local shops to see if they are hiring ;-). Having a good team is essential for turning a negative customer experience into a positive one.
    freakgrly at aol dot com

  6. KristiP says:

    I loved Apple Polisher, and I’m really, really looking forward to Rob’s story.

  7. elizabetta says:

    LOL! I was wondering who that was you goof 😀

  8. Penumbra says:

    Very interesting look into working at a porn store 🙂

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

  9. elizabetta says:

    Hey Kristi – glad you enjoyed it!!! We’ll be putting up a review of book 2/Wallflower later this fall. Stay tuned.

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