Blockbuster’s Busted

I try to avoid complaining on my blog, but this I can not stay silent on.

Has Blockbuster lost its mind?

We went there tonight to rent The Bee Movie for our son and we were told they’ve changed their rental policy. Now they charge $4.99 for what they call “Hot New Releases”, and so much for that no late fee policy. Everything is due back in three days. If you return it late, and it’s more than five days beyond the due date, they charge you for the full price of the movie. You have five more days after that to return it for in-store credit. After that you just bought your own copy of a mediocre movie you only rented because there wasn’t anything else to watch.

Seriously? Are they kidding? I can only guess this is an attempt to force people to exclusively use their on-line service. If they want to close down their storefronts they should have no trouble doing it after this.

Here’s the thing. We were using Netflix, but decided we didn’t rent enough movies to justify paying the monthly fee. (We also tried Blockbuster’s rental by mail for a time, but found that Netflix has a larger selection and better service.) During busy periods we might go two or three months with out exchanging movies. And often we would watch pay-per-view movies, because it’s instant and convenient. Well, we reopened our in-store Blockbuster account about a month ago to get the movies we couldn’t get on pay-per-view, kids movies especially.

We walk all the way through the store tonight, and pick out our movies and there’s nothing even hinting at this huge policy change which went into effect today. We get up to the counter and the cashier takes our card and types in our account number. Then he says, “There’s something I need to explain to you before I can rent you the movies,” and he’s gravely serious about it. I start to panic trying to remember if perhaps there’s some long overdue copy of The Wiggles Go to Mars that we now owe them hundreds of dollars for.

In the next breath the poor guy launches into his monologue about the policy change. The delivery is weary and half-hearted at best, like he knows he’s signing his own pink slip. It becomes evident rather quickly that he’s delivered this information one too many times. And from his hesitant and sheepish demeanor we devise that he has received some very bad customer feedback.

He finishes his speech and then with the hopeful look of a dog begging at the dinner table, asks us if we still want the movies for $4.99 each. Out of sheer pity for him and knowing the negative outcome of disappointing an over-tired three-year-old insect movie buff, we politely say yes, pay for our movies and leave. Of course the entire car ride home was spent ruminating over the evils of Blockbuster and making bets as to how long it will be before it declares bankruptcy.

I tried to look up Blockbuster’s policy change on-line when we got home, and couldn’t find one thing about it. Not even on their website.

Well, Blockbuster, Net Flix thanks you in advance. We’re signing up with them again, and you can bet the full price of a Hot New Release that’s 10 days late we’re not the only ones!

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2 Responses to “Blockbuster’s Busted”

  1. blockguy Says:

    The stores in my city are not doing this. It’s possible (even likely) that your store is test-marketing one of half a dozen different rental schemes being tried at any given time. Or it’s a franchise location doing their own thing.
    No signage in the store leads me to think this.
    Blockbuster is dramatically de-emphasizing the online rental system since the new CEO took over. I assure you the company is not currently trying to drive customers to online.
    Can you give us a city/location for this Blockbuster store?

  2. Chris Says:

    Yep, they did this to me. I rented the movie, and return it about a day after the 5 day period. Then they charge my card. I called them and said, I returned the movie. In the past they would refund back to my card. What they don’t tell you in the store, is that when you are late past the 5 days, is that you own the movie, regardless and that all they give you is an instore credit. Blockbuster has no mention of this nearly anywhere online or readily available. I’d say, a class action is good thing to pursue with them.

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