December 16, 2009

Man Rant -- This Week's Exercise -- Blockbuster Video

I really wanted to do one on banks this week, since it's timely, I'm various degrees of pissed-off at various banks, and I don't even use Blockbuster anymore.  But just doing the research on the rant involving banking consumes beaucoup amounts of time, and it's not a subject I want to just haphazardly skim over.  I doubt that the banking industry will be acting any more responsibly in the next few weeks, so it's a healthy scratch, but on-deck for the near-future.  Oh, and if anyone actually reads this, suggestions on "man rants" are always welcome, and need not be gender-specific.   Anyway, on to the incompetence parade showcased this week.

Blockbuster should just die already.  I know it's hardly breaking news.  In terms of reacting to trends in the home video and gaming market, they appear to resemble some aquatic leviathan air-dropped onto a glacier and asked to run windsprints.  First they get their ass kicked on-line/mail order by Netflix, who started off like the little engine that could, and now is in danger of bloat themselves.  Then, that tacky little ragamuffin Redbox started popping up outside of Seven-Elevens and grocery stores, like bored skateboard kids, offering movies six months away from steady TBS rotation, at the low, low price of a buck.  Meanwhile, Blockbuster, who undercut and overstocked and devoured its competition since the days of VHS, tries to confuse its customers, imitate its competitors, and nickel-and-dime the shit out of everybody, including its employees.

For those ignomious achievements, as well as countless others, they deserve to have squandered any and all goodwill they might have garnered due to the efforts of the people who work there, sorry, worked there, who actually care.  My last, and final, experience with them is probably no different than a lot of people's.  I picked out a couple of recent movies, was willing to pay $4.00 to $6.00 apiece for them for a week, and stood in line.   And stood.  And stood some more.  For the same interminable fifteen to twenty minutes, I'd say no less than six employees clustered around two terminals doing precisely jack-shit, joking with each other, acting like the customers were an inconvenience, and kissing the ass of their equally incompetent store manager.  Now my time isn't that valuable, I don't bill by the hour, and I understand that sometimes waiting in line is necessary, even in this world of instant downloads and content-on-demand.  But when your business is on the way down, playing grab-ass and then displaying attitude about it may make the day go by faster, but it's not going to make word-of-mouth marketing any better.   Act like a professional.  And by the way, wasting my time through blatant inefficiency, and then immediately trying to upsell me on some money-grubbing monthly rental plan once I hit the cash register isn't going to improve my mood.   I know you're supposed to say your sales pitch, and the corporate taskmasters send in spies to monitor, but you're there to take my money for whatever mass-produced schlock looked remotely interesting to me today, so save the sales pitch for smarmy assholes I don't have to deal with if I don't want to.   The fact that I'm a trapped audience because I HAVE to interact with you in order to rent some crappy game, doesn't mean I want to listen to your pimply-faced Blockbuster infomercial.  Fuck off, and take your line-of-sight candy and popcorn whoremongering with you. 

Still that pales compared to their bait-and-switch "late fees" tactics.  "No late fees forever."  That was their massive ad campaign of a few years back.   No, they don't charge late fees.  They simply convert a rental into a purchase after a couple of weeks.  So, we don't charge you if it's late, we debit your bank or charge your credit card $25.00 for a used DVD copy of "Paul Blart, Mall Cop" that you didn't bring back after a week, and if you give it back, we'll credit you back, less a "restocking" fee.   Sure, you might have been able to get a used copy of the same dreck for $3.00 or less on Amazon, or brand new at Best Buy for $15.00, but Blockbuster needn't concern itself with market comparisons or even pretend to charge you what they actually paid for it in bulk wholesale.    And when is a late fee not a late fee?   When it's called a "restocking" fee, apparently.  "Late" has such negative connotations.  Let's call it "restocking," which brings to mind happy workers spending time putting back each individual DVD box onto its place on a shelf.   So, to recap, "no late fees forever" equals a system where late means purchasing a used copy at full inflated retail price until Blockbuster hopefully remembers to remove the charge, and yet still charges you a fee for the experience.   Little surprise then, that attorneys generals from forty-eight states and the District of Columbia found Blockbuster guilty of false advertising and settled out for over $600,000 and court costs.

I'm also a veteran of their on-line competition with Netflix.   Talk about a dismal failure.   Here's a short history of my experience -- $19.99 for four movies at any time, mailed to you, and then returnable for an in-store movie.  Took full advantage of that deal.  Watched movies I never thought I would, because I had plenty of trade-ins.  A couple of months later, let's make that $24.99.   Okay, I'm still ahead, I can live with that.  Another couple of months later, it's now $32.99.   The last straw, $35.99 for four mailed movies at one time, tradeable for up to four in-store movies PER MONTH.  See ya.  You had me and you lost me.  I'm dumb, and frequently lazy, but really now, that's pushing it.

I could talk about other issues, like the annoying robo-calls from Blockbuster, the mysterious credits and debits seemingly unrelated to rentals, the e-mail spam even after I ended my membership, and the inability to stock any movie that doesn't feature Adam Sandler, but even I'm getting tired of hearing me bitch.  Suffice to say, when the last Blockbuster store sells its last copy of Transformers 2 and shutters up its doors forever, I'll go and stand somewhere by myself with my hands in my pockets and my wallet open, for a good twenty minutes in memoriam.  The sooner the better.     


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