Blockbuster Store Requires New Members to Sign Up For Online Service?

Reader and blogger Morgan went to his local Blockbuster to rent a movie. He’d never rented at the store before, so he needed to sign up for a membership. We’ve all done this before, but this time, something was different:

The guy at the counter told me that I had to show a driver’s license and major credit card (perfectly reasonable), pay a $10 dollar fee (a bit much, but acceptable) and sign up for their Netflix ripoff, Blockbuster Online. Wait, what? I told him that I didn’t want to sign up for Blockbuster Online, and he refused to let me start a membership without signing up. And of course I couldn’t rent movies without a membership, so I was forced to leave without my movies.

I don’t want to sign up for Blockbuster Online. I know I wouldn’t use the service enough to justify the monthly fee. I know that canceling is likely to be difficult-if the company’s this obnoxious about forcing you to sign up, they’ll be at least as obnoxious about trying to keep you from leaving.

Morgan tried emailing Blockbuster to see if this was a store-wide policy or just one rogue manager. They didn’t write back. Has this happened to anyone else? Are they inflating the subscription numbers for their Netflix ripoff by bullying in-store customers? Lame. —MEGHANN MARCO

Blockbusted [Whose Faulty Vision]
(Photo: Maulleigh)

Comments

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  1. d0x says:

    This cant be an official policy for Blockbuster, it would be another nail in their coffin. Im sure the store has to meet certain numbers of signups a month or perhaps they get a small bonus for every person they sign up so this guy was being a jerk about it and trying to force people into it.

  2. Blockbuster is in a desperate place right now. The past two years have seen them abolish late fees so that you can keep a movie for a long time without much of a penalty. Customers naturally abuse this, draining their stores of inventory. They’re feeling the crunch. It was either bullying the customers or degrading themselves even further.

  3. muddgirl says:

    I recently (within the past 30 days) signed up for a new Blockbuster membership. I did not pay $10 (as far as I can remember). I did not have to sign up for Blockbuster Online. I’d call the manager and complain, then I’d go somewhere else. I wonder if that guy was pocketing the $10 fee, too?

  4. Art Vandelay says:

    I understand not wanting to sign up for Blockbuster online, and he shouldn’t have to unless it’s a new policy. However, his fears about quitting the service are misplaced. I was a member of the program and leaving was easy, as it is with most things online.

  5. easy2panic says:

    Just tell them you live with your grandma and she does not have internet access, you won’t use library computers because they are full of keyloggers, and you won’t use work computers because that is against company policy, oh, and you have no friends who have internet access either. Eat it Blockbuster.

  6. Amry says:

    This is almost certainly an associate trying to meet his goal for Blockbuster Online signups and/or earn some sort of reward for the number of people he gets to sign up. Call the manager.

  7. acambras says:

    I agree with Amry’s assessment.

    I would ask the manager about the alleged $10 fee, too.

  8. marike says:

    Last week, I signed up with Blockbuster to rent Wii games and wasn’t asked to sign up for online services or pay extra.

    Also, when I asked to confirm the game’s due date, the guy told me that although it says to return the game in 5 days that it’s really a 12-day rental. He explained that on day 9 that I’d get a phone call reminding me to return it, but as long as I had it in before the 12th day they wouldn’t charge me extra (or for the game). So customers may be abusing this, but the employees are encouraging it, too.

  9. MarcAnthony says:

    Army was reading my mind, sounds like something I had to do when I worked retail, lie to get credit accounts opened!

    I’m so glad I don’t work there any more!
    You should have tried Hollywood Video, or another video store, Blockbuster blows!!!

  10. vatechtigger says:

    I have to say that blockbusters new service that allows you to return their dvd envelopes to the store and receive instant replacements, all while mailing you your online replacements is pretty sweet. At 17.99 for 3 at a time, you get as many movies as the 6 at a time from the mail only netflix at 40 bucks. That made a switcher out of me.

    Now this shady 10 manager deal, seems like an isolated incident to me. This did not happen when I moved over last month in New York City.

  11. Myron says:

    Given how hard the drones at the store push the mail service, they must get a commission. I think Morgan was just getting jerked around. And what’s up with the $10 dollar fee? I’ve never run into that at blockbuster.

  12. mike13241 says:

    I signed up at a local Blockbuster not that long ago, and I certainly didn’t have to pay $10. As for the attempted forced subscription to their online service? I don’t believe it was even pitched to me at the time. Sounds like there may be some second agenda going on in whatever Blockbuster he tried signing up for.

  13. kerry says:

    I’m with Amry and Myron, the employee was probaby trying to meet his quota. They push the online service really hard at my local store, to the point where a couple in line in front of me were essentially prevented from completing their transaction due to this salesguy pushing the online, he wouldn’t swipe their credit card until they took a brochure, he would have been much happier if they’d signed up. There were 5 people behind me when I finally got to check out, and sure enough he pushed it on me. I said no without explanation and he gave up. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get written up for not generating a certain number of subscriptions each month (like Victoria’s Secret and their credit card).

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    Tell them bittorrent covers all your online movie needs. Explain to anyone in line how to find it on Wikipedia. Strongly urge them to check it out when they get home. Watch Blockbuster sales reps’ faces turn red and curse you. Laugh, laugh, laugh.

  15. tadiera says:

    @Cannot Find Server:

    The funny thing is that they didn’t abolish late fees. I had a shared account with some housemates and one had taken a month to return a movie. They wanted us to pay the late fees. We told them no and pointed right at the sign for ‘no late fees’.

    He informed us that it’s only for a ‘reasonable amount of time’, but wouldn’t tell us what that amount of time is.

    I don’t go to Blockbuster anymore. I either buy movies (those I really enjoy), borrow them from friends, or utilize the wonderful bittorrent.

  16. Maulleigh says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! This happened to me too!! In the nineties, when I signed up with Blockbuster, I just had to show an ID and a credit card. This seemed all right but no money up front.

    A couple months ago, I walked to my local blockbuster to get a card just in case I ever wanted to see a movie. They charged me over ten dollars too! I couldn’t believe it! They gave me a girft card for a free rental, but I totally felt like I had banked at HSBC if you know what I mean. :(

    Glad I’m not the only one and I’m glad you’re shining a light on it and I’m glad that NETFLIX IS EATING THEIR LUNCH!!!

  17. Maulleigh says:

    PS when I balked at the sign up fee, I was basically told “take it or leave it.” I was not given a choice. Now I’m really steamed.

  18. MeOhMy says:

    PS when I balked at the sign up fee, I was basically told “take it or leave it.” I was not given a choice. Now I’m really steamed.

    You were given a choice – pay the money and join or don’t pay the money and not join.

    And I will add to this that you made the CORRECT choice in the end.

  19. Helvetian says:

    I love Blockbuster Online, been a member for three years now and never once had a problem. Competition is great and BB’s entry into online renting forced Netflix to lower their prices. I’ve been a NetFlix member since 2001, I had an old rate and then around June 2004 or 2005 (not sure?), they did a mandatory rate change. They raised the price plans by a few dollars, I capitulated and remained a subscriber. Then BB launched online rentals and Netflix quickly scaled back pricing to compete. So I am very happy with BB, because without them, Netflix dominated the market and thus frequently raised the pricing plans. BB is great, don’t knock it until you try it!

  20. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Just a reminder to some folks.. your local public library probably offers DVD rentals for free. And these aren’t 10 year old movies that no one cares about. Donations, grants, and book sales help libraries purchase new and current DVD movies.

  21. iameleveneight says:

    I would never ever ever go to blockbuster again after the time they tried to bilk me for late fees from their old game rental subscription plan they had a few summers ago.

    I have netflix and I love it. I am also in love with their new online system. If only they had more movies available.

  22. magic8ball says:

    @ Art Vandelay: leaving “most things online” is NOT easy. There have been several stories previously on this blog from people who have signed up for membership to various online things, only to be told that they have to go to ridiculous lengths to quit the service – like calling multiple different phone numbers, or sending snail mail to the corporate office, or even sending a telegram. This is not to say that ALL memberships are difficult to quit, but it’s not unusual for companies to make it difficult on purpose.

  23. smash says:

    i love blockbuster online. i used to use netflix for many years, but because they’ve classified me as a “heavy user”, they started taking a long time to ship my movies. blockbuster doesn’t do that, and i can get a free movie when i return them to the store. then my next movie is usually shipped the next day. it’s great.

  24. Sorenso says:

    I got a taste of their business when I rented from them a couple years ago, and never went back again.

    I think they got it right on Family Guy by calling it Lacklustervideo.

  25. joemono says:

    We signed up for Netflix last December. Out of the 8 movies we rented during our 4 weeks as members, 2 were unplayable, and 2 never arrived (just the top of the sleeve). We’ve since switched to BB and love it. The in store return is awesome and the employees at our location are nice and helpful. And for the record, when we first got a membership there we didn’t have to sign up for the online membership, and there was no sign-up fee.

  26. EnderVR46 says:

    I’ve just moved and had to get a new card at the local BB. When I got the card I signed up for their online service. No one at the store even mentioned it and there was no $10 fee, but it was something I had been thinking of doing for a while.

    As a former Netflix customer, I love them. I’ve yet to get a damaged disc, something that happened to every other Netflix rental. But best of all, they don’t seem to throttle if you rent a lot. Which is why I left Netflix.

    Now I get my 3 movies, watch them, then swap them at the store on Tuesday when the new releases come out. Within 3 days I have my new mailed movies, and can repeat the process.

  27. The Bigger Unit says:

    I’m betting the $10 fee was for “Blockbuster Rewards”. That’s what I paid for mine, and, in my opinion, it’s worth it. With it, I can walk out of BB with an insane amount of movies for $8-9. It’s Blockbuster or nothing for me…I vowed to stop renting at Movie Gallery a while back…

  28. I must agree that movie gallery is absolute crap. I worked there for quite a bit as a psuedo manager and the practices of the company were just complete and utterly insane. I did a 2 week trial of BB online and though I didn’t keep it since I don’t rent enough movies (more of a gamer, and the games I consider worth playing I prefer to purchase), if I were to rent a lot of movies it’d definitely be BB online for me.

  29. When Blockbuster was the only game in town, they offered guarantees that new rentals would be available and had a store every 10 blocks or so. Then as far as I can tell they’ve never managed to pay attention to anything their employees or franchisees were doing. Between employees telling people the best ways to abuse their policies and employees themselves abusing those policies, it’s a wonder they’ve managed to stay tread water this long. I had a friend who managed a BB and it was amazing how much he got away with. As for franchisees, I’m surprised anyone above gets the “no late fees” deal. Last I checked, every franchisee I could find opted out of that program.

    Anyway, its good to hear people are having good experiences with abusing BB’s netflix-clone program. While I sincerely dislike the company, someone needs to be riding the gravy train of their floundering attempt to stay solvent.

  30. ReccaSquirrel says:

    This is some guy at Blockbuster trying to get his numbers up. Instead of learning how to sell the service to customers, he is lying to make his job performance look better.

  31. timmus says:

    Nice to see that the Grim Reaper is finally calling Blockbuster’s name. I remember quite well what they did to the mom & pop video stores in my town in the mid-1990s.

  32. kenposan says:

    I was with BB for a long time (pre DVD days) and never had a problem. I moved and my “new” BB sucked. Bad service every time I walked in. Then came Netflix. :-)

    I have received numerous damaged discs but I have either been able to clean them up to play or I have reported them damaged online and got a replacement quickly.

  33. Bpj says:

    I was a blockbuster employee for over a year and I can tell you with certainty that it was the employee trying to suggestive sell you on the rewards membership and online free trial, but he forgot how to suggestively sell and not force down your throat the idea. When we signed up new accounts we would always say that a new rewards membership to the store is $10 and if the person complained, then we would let them know that there is a free account option. Then we would let them know that their account in the store automatically comes with a free trial of blockbuster online and help them set it up. Again, if they complain, we just give the person the info and tell them they should check it out later. It looks like you just ended up with an employee that just didn’t quite get the concept. I would definitely complain to the store manager on this one. Hope the inside insight helps.

  34. Codis says:

    I was actually told by a blockbuster employee several months ago that they have BB online quotas they have to fill. This was when they were giving out promotion codes to get two weeks free. If an employee did not convince enough people to simply take the promo code, they were risking being fired.

    I use blockbuster online alot, and have had a pretty pleasent experience. Any issues I’ve had with them were dealt with quite quickly and I always recieved a coupon for free in store rental whenever I reported a problem with a DVD. Good enough for me.

  35. tunamelt says:

    I really love Blockbuster Online because I like being able to take my DVDs that I got in the mail and turn them in for free at Blockbuster to get 3 new movies, while they mail me three more movies out of my queue.

    It’s brilliant.

    We wanted to watch some movie at 10:00 on a Friday night and got to switch the movies right away instead of mailing and waiting a day. It’s the right combo for me.

    I agree with what everyone else said—some teenager just tried too hard to sell.

  36. wasylm says:

    @tadiera:

    I had a similar experience. Basically they got rid of the WORD “late fee” and replaced it with “restocking fee” if you have the movie out for a certain amount of time. I went to rent a movie one day and was told I had a balance on my account from my previous rental.

    When I questioned why I was being charged a late fee when they supposedly don’t have them anymore, I was told it was a restocking fee. So I asked, is it a fee? “Yes.” Is it because my movie was out for a certain amount of time? “Yes.” Then it’s a late fee, regardless of semantics, you assholes. I’m done with Blockbuster.

  37. MonkeyMonk says:

    I love hearing all the stories about former “heavy use” Netflix users who left for Blockbuster online after having their rentals throttled. It’s an amazing business move on Netflix’s part: Identify costly customers, make them unhappy and drive them away to the competitor where they’ll act like a trojan horse virus and bring the competition down.

  38. Amsterdaam says:

    Didn’t have time to read the comments, but as a previous employee of Blockbuster, I can tell you that a membership is free. The 10 dollars you were charged was to sign you up for Blockbuster Rewards, a useless service unless you sit in your house all day every day watching movies. This service is optional and extra. He also tried to get you sign up for Online, which is another commission for that CSR. So basically, he sucessfully duped you into an unnecessary 10 dollar fee that was optional (you were willing to go along with it), and then tried again on the online. I’ve seen quite a few CSRs employ this technique, and it is encouraged by management.

  39. bennyb says:

    somebody at Blockbuster INC. better read this post and straighten things out.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/92251022@N00/383713081/

  40. glitterpig says:

    Nice. I love BB Online, but the in-store service is… well, iffy at best. Still, I rent about 20 movies a month for my $20 fee, and I’m pretty sure they just changed it so you can use the coupons to rent games too, so you’ve got all your media needs taken care of for one price. As to restocking = late fee, not really – they charged those late fees every day your movie was late; the restocking fee is like $2 no matter how long you had it out. (Varies a little by state, I think.)

    Enjoy it before they go bankrupt!

  41. gm_axis says:

    I work at Blockbuster and this most definitely NOT coporate policy. Although our corporate warlords are so obsessed with getting in-store signups that if this particular store was able to make a success of this egregious tactic then I think they would probably turn a blind eye.

    Every store has to get a certain amount of online in-store singups every week. If the weekly quota isn’t filled then whatever is left carries over into next week. It’s pretty bad.

    As for the online service, in my opinion it’s far better than Netflix. You wait half the time to get your movies if you bring them into the store, and you get twice as many movies (because you’re trading them out in the store). What’s the catch? There is no catch.. basically because Blockbuster at this point is willing to lose money to compete with Netflix. And I’m pretty sure they are.

    Boo hoo. Maybe they’ll have to dip in their cash reserves from years of charging $4.59 for a movie.

  42. TheZenArcher says:

    I’m also a switcher from Netflix to BBOnline and overall far happier with the services. Netflix still leads in breadth of titles and website organization and appeal, but “throttling” frequent renters became an absolute deal-breaker for me and I would not return to them until that policy is dropped even if BB went bust, like Hollywood Video seems to have. The ability to immediately fix unplayable discs by exchange is also a very strong plus (admittedly I live very close to a BB location but don’t hate me because I’m beautiful). More DVDs for less $ = Netflix needs to quickly reexamine their policies, which is what competition if all about. Since BB still has to pay business space rent and utilites and such I cut them some slack: silly as it sounds, I still like having actual stores around, rather than living in some online-only world. If my small contribution to BB helps keep that world afloat, I can live with that.

  43. OnoSideboard says:

    This is a great example of why everyone should go to local video stores. I love my neighborhood rental place, Vulcan Video in Austin. They have a ridiculous selection of movies (new releases and obscure stuff), a great set-up (I personally love the Cult section and the directors’ wall), great prices (rent-one-get-one-free every Tuesday and Wednesday), and the staff, while irritatingly hipster, are usually really friendly and have good suggestions, have seen every movie on the planet, and if it they like you will wipe your late fees or give you other discounts. Oh, and membership is completely free.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would go to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video or whatever other huge national chain, unless it is literally the only game in town.

  44. They gave me a girft card for a free rental, but I totally felt like I had banked at HSBC if you know what I mean.

    I don’t know what you mean? Is HSBC shady?

    Ditto to what OnoSideboard said about local chains: the store near me will rent out entire seasons of a show at once instead of making people rent out a volume at a time (which by the time you’ve seen the entire season you’ve spent enough to buy it).

  45. silverlining says:

    Someone else said this too, but the $10 was probably for the “Blockbuster Rewards.” Not worth it when I had it.

    Blockbuster’s customer service is deplorable. When my dad had a stroke and was in critical condition in a hospital a four hour’s drive one way from my home, and in my rush to get there I forgot to return my movies on time, Blockbuster refused to let me renew with my credit card over the phone. Even after I explained the situation. And it’s not like they have a great selection of movies.

    Went with Netflix after that little incident and have been very happy with them.

  46. Morganth says:

    This is Morgan checking in. Thanks, everyone for your comments–definitely sounds like this Blockbuster employee (or store) is to blame, not the whole company. I’ll call Blockbuster corporate to confirm, and then get in touch with the store manager to complain.

  47. bob0012 says:

    First off they were already ripping you off with the $10 fee. A membership at blockbuster is free, however right now they are pushing their $10 rewards membership as well as Total Access.

    Secondly, although you can look at this as a lone bad employee, unfortunatly this comes down from above. It’s one of those situations where they don’t tell the employees to do this, however they strongly suggust that every new customer sign up for rewards and blockbuster online. They then follow this up with reports that tell them how many new members signed up for them. Poor numbers = getting bitched at.

  48. TechnoDestructo says:

    @timmus:

    When they moved into Fairbanks, AK, they bought out Video Express, one of the local chains. They claimed “we’re going to be adding 10,000 movies!” No, what they did was shut down one of the three locations and move those tapes to the other two stores.

    Later, they opened a new location, across from the location they shut down. They bought out the inventory of one of the stores for one of the other local video stores. Some of those movies ended up at Lackluster, but most of them didn’t. The store they bought out had a pretty good selection of foreign films, the new Blockbuster had MAYBE 10 percent as many. The old store had every Peter Jackson movie to that point except Bad Taste. Lackluster carried none (not even Heavenly Creatures and the Frighteners.)

  49. AnnC says:

    Or take a bunch of DVDs from random parts of the store, bring them to the checkout stand and when the total comes up say you changed you mind and walk out.

    Just kidding. Don’t do that; it’s not very nice.

  50. dshiznit00 says:

    I also work at a Blockbuster store and I’m tired of being pressured so hard to up sell customers. I’m going into my 3rd year with them. When I started, they focused on making sure that all the customers were happy, no matter how many credits we had to give to keep them that way. Now we’re pretty much told to fight and argue with customers (especially at my store) to avoid a credit. We get NO individual commission or recognition for what we sell. The company offers a bonus at the end of a quarter to all employees but no store in my district(15+ stores) got it because the company raised the goal so high. The pay is crappy (State Min wage) and they delayed raises again for employees (It’s now been 18 months since the last time CSR/Shift leads have gotten our annual raises).

  51. Trai_Dep says:

    @MonkeyMonk:

    Netflix’s throttling on heavy customers was boneheaded, IMO. The marginal costs associated with serving their most fevrent, wild-eyed, film addicted customers was merely the extra postage of sending a couple extra titles every couple of weeks.

    The benefit was incalcuably valuable word-of-mouth advertising.

    The fact that they tried sneaking the changes was a huge black eye when caught. Then sued. Then lost the suit. Then complied with the loss in the most miserly way possible (changing the user agreement retroactively).

    I was so disappointed I quit Netflix. Then badmouthed them enough to get at least eight ppl not to try Netflix.

    Pretty expensive way to save postage on Netflix’s part.

  52. elisa says:

    Use the local library, if there’s a good selection. My local library (Los Angeles County) system has a lot of new & newer movies, and of course classics. And with that many branches, you can almost always find what you want. Free, or a small fee that goes to supporting the library. I’ve managed to survive without a movie store membership, watching many many movies, by using the library & the internet.

  53. xxheath226xx says:

    I work at blockbuster, the company really pushes us to sell onlines so it could have been that persons way of doing it, but you do not have to sign up, and there is no fee to be a member, thats optional as well, all you need is a license and major credit card, don’t let anyone fool you! The $10 fee is for the rewards which earns you free rentals, totally optional. I’m curious as to which blockbuster did this to you, you should report that store, they are not doing what they are supposed to do!

  54. Shootingstar7678 says:

    I just wanted to tell you that since I work for Blockbuster they can’t deny you a membership if you don’t sign up for the online service. They only charge a $10 fee to start up a new account with Blockbuster rewards which means for every 5 rentals you get one for free. I’d definitely call the manager of the store that you were in because that sounds wrong..

  55. Shootingstar7678 says:

    @xxheath226xx:
    It’s amazing to what extent the head honchos make us do! You know what I don’t like the fact that they base your hours on how many onlines/rewards you sell or have people sign up for. BB is totally in it for the money now and not making the customer happy which IMO is bs. And I’ve only worked for BB a few months!

    I’m starting to really regret screwing up at Movie Gallery because at least there you could get as many hours as you wanted!