Running Low On In-Store Exchanges Under Your Total Access Plan? Try Visiting A Different Blockbuster Location

Hacking Netflix reports that many Blockbuster locations don’t use a centralized network to keep tabs on Total Access usage. The tip was originally reported by Kevin Tostado, who took down his post after a ball-busting conversation with Blockbuster in which they asked him to cease and desist. Fortunately, Google’s marvelously efficient spiders reached Kevin’s site before Blockbuster and preserved the post.

Here’s what he wrote:

Well, after I had blown through my 5 free in-store exchanges by mid-March (on the bottom of your Blockbuster receipt it tracks how many in-store exchanges you’ve done this month), I decided to see what happens if I go in and try a get 6th in-store exchange. Well, as to be presumed, I didn’t get a free exchange, but the online movie did serve as a $3.00 coupon off the price of the rental ($4.99 movie), which just further confused me. Apparently, buried in their FAQs it says “If the pre-determined number of free in-store exchanges is met during the calendar month, you have the ability to exchange your Online DVDs for discounted movie rentals for the remainder of the month.” The bummer is it doesn’t mention how much of a discount it is. For a .99 rental, is there even a discount?

In the process of trying to figure out the limits of the system, I realized that different Blockbuster stores are keeping track of the in-store exchanges separately. Yes, that’s right. After getting my free 5 in-store exchanges at one store, I simply took my next 5 online movies to another nearby Blockbuster and was able to get another 5 in-store exchanges during the same month.

Before dashing out to exchange your DVDs, be warned: Blockbuster is threatening vengeance on anyone who takes advantage their apparently lax oversight:

Blockbuster tracks whether individuals are abusing their online subscription plan and “gaming” the system to exceed the number of in-store exchanges they are allowed per month.

If an online subscriber tries to circumvent the terms of their plan, and in this instance gain more free rentals than allowed, we’ll know and ask them to stop if they want to remain an online subscriber, just as we’re doing with Kevin.

Make of this what you will.

Blockbuster Total Access Extra Movie Hack? [Hacking Netflix]
Blockbuster Warns Against “Gaming the System” [Hacking Netflix]
(Photo: Knowzy) (Thanks to Jeff!)

Comments

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  1. gamabunta says:

    If they can’t keep track of in-store exchanges how in the hell are they going to “keep track” of customers who decide to hustle their broken system?

    Sounds to me like they’re just making threats in hopes of scaring people from taking advantage. Besides, is threatening to cancel your online subscriber account really that bad when their service is so shitty?

  2. knightbass says:

    Why is it ok for consumers to screw a company? You’re paying for a certain level of service — cheating to get around that limitation makes you just as scummy as companies like verizon or bestbuy.

    The Consumerist should be as pissed off about this kind of crap as they are about businesses that cheat. A level marketplace will never occur if people hold on to the screw the other guy mentality.

  3. knightbass says:

    Why is it ok for consumers to screw a company? You’re paying for a certain level of service, and cheating to get around that makes you as scummy as verizon or bestbuy.

    The Consumerist should be as pissed about this kind of thing as they are about companies that cheat and steal. A level marketplace will never be achieved as long as people keep the screw the other guy mentality.

  4. faust1200 says:

    @knightbass: I agree. You can’t demand consumer rights from one side of your mouth and tell everyone how to cheat companies from the other.

  5. CaptZ says:

    I think the “hack” evens out the crappy service they already offer. Once they fix the hack…..they should work on bringing the service up to par. 6 on 1 hand, half a dozen on the other.

  6. durkzilla says:

    I think TRWTF is that anybody uses Blockbuster at all these days.

    Oh sorry, wrong meme for this site ;-)

    Yeah, the OP is a criminal, harsh on him!!!

    /ftfy

  7. CMU_Bueller says:

    @knightbass: Profit, it’s all about screwing the other guy before he can screw you.

  8. matto says:

    I call hoax; there’s no way anyone could find more than 5 watchable movies in Blockbuster.

  9. jpx72x says:

    @knightbass: Hear, hear.

  10. dweebster says:

    @knightbass: Heard you the first time.

    @matto: Too true.

    I gotta agree that advocating “hacks” to take advantage of bad companies is probably not the best way to get back, or at least prominently posting it in a forum that claims to be against companies pulling this shit against their customers.

    Personally, I just stop giving them my money and make sure to share my bad experience with others in the most vocal and creative way I can devote the time to.

    Slimy companies like “Best” Buy and others who should be given the death penalty for Corporations just love when you keep giving them money but try nickling and diming them once in a while. Keep your wallet locked up and walk past their criminal enterprise guarded by receipt-check thugs and don’t be tempted to interact.

  11. rbdfoxes says:

    @knightbass: If you own a company the bottom line is that you need to live in the real world, where people aren’t going to be nice to you just because they should. You need to take care of your shit so people *can’t* take advantage.

  12. jpx72x says:

    @rbdfoxes: You mean by doing something like, “Blockbuster tracks whether individuals are abusing their online subscription plan and “gaming” the system to exceed the number of in-store exchanges they are allowed per month.

    If an online subscriber tries to circumvent the terms of their plan, and in this instance gain more free rentals than allowed, we’ll know and ask them to stop if they want to remain an online subscriber, just as we’re doing with Kevin.”

    Oh, right, they are.

  13. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    Why is Consumerist advertising a way to violate the terms of the Blockbuster Total Access program?

    Will the next article be on how to successfully shoplift from retailers?

  14. JustAGuy2 says:

    @CaptZ:

    Yeah definitely. Also, a cashier at Target was rude to me last week, so I’m totally entitled to shoplift there.

  15. rubberkeyhole says:

    goodness, I used to work at BBV, and let me tell you – for all the shit that they do to their customers as well as their employees – take ‘em for all they’re worth.

  16. Shadowfire says:

    I’m not advocating, saying this deal is ok, or what have you…

    However, why did Blockbuster make this guy remove the post from his own page? At least, the article mentions it was his own blog… how can Blockbuster make him remove it, or even pressure him to do so?

  17. CMU_Bueller says:

    @Shadowfire: Threatening legal action works wonders, even if you don’t have a leg to stand on. He basicaly has to ask himself if its something that’s worth the time and money.

  18. forgottenpassword says:

    lol! Almost makes me wish I belonged to BB’s total access plan….. just so I could take advantage! Yes Yes, I am one of those dirtbag consumers who look for any way to take advantage.

    But, since I ONLY rent from blockbuster if I have a mycokerewards free video coupon AND illegally download movies online, I dont really think I’m missing out on anything. :)

  19. forgottenpassword says:

    @forgottenpassword:

    Besides…. I remember back in the day when I got repeatedly SCREWED by blockbuster in BOGUS late fees AFTER I returned my videos ON TIME! So IMO they deserve it.

  20. in2insight says:

    Deserve? Sounds so like entitlement…
    We pay for a service, accept the terms. and if we are unhappy with service/quality/etc. we have the option of ending the relationship by no longer shopping / doing business with this company.

    As a consumer, yes, we do desereve to be treat fairyly and with respect. If we are not, see action above IN ADDITION to notify the folks in charge what went wrong.
    I have been up there. You don’t tell us, we don;t know. It can be TAHT removed.

    Don’t like the free instore exchange limit? Hey, with netlix you get none! And you can upgrade your account to unlimited in store.

    Off the box now.

  21. SexCpotatoes says:

    Hmmn…

    @in2insight: “with netflix you get none [exchange limit]”

    Yeah! They just throttle you instead (hold back movies, not like, beating/throttle).

    Did either of the companies ever stop advertising ‘unlimited’ rentals? If it is only physically possible to rent X number of movies from a service, they should have to state that number so a customer can reasonably estimate how many movies they will be ‘permitted’ to watch each month and if such a neutered ‘service’ is worth the monthly cost.

  22. Rando says:

    I’ve never had netflix ‘throttle’ any of my movies. I get EVERY new release EVERY time and I have the 2nd worst plan.

  23. rellog says:

    @knightbass: Why? Because Blockbuster deserves it. They have screwed over way too many people, and personally, I enjoy screwing them back. I won’t cheat a store that deals with me fairly and honestly, but BB is neither. (BTW, you could use Blockbuster or Best Buy in that last sentence…)

  24. rellog says:

    @Rando: A couple years ago I was throttled, but since joining over six months ago after dumping Lackluster… I mean Blockbuster, I haven’t had a single issue…

  25. rellog says:

    @in2insight: No it sounds like making things square….

  26. mojoald says:

    If its the same as when a ‘friend’ worked there a couple of years ago, they do their membership uploads at night via satellite (at the time, it was the totals on their Rewards program). Additionally, theres alot of stuff that doesn’t get synchronized between stores. For example, if you run up a late fee at one location, or have outstanding late movies, it won’t be reflected at other stores. So its likely that this data either isn’t being synced until the following morning, or isn’t being synced to the central server at all. Their whole back office system is pretty poor; just look at the in-store cash register’s terminal based interface.

  27. @gamabunta: It’s not a hoax, I work at blockbuster and i know first hand that they will do that with you. People try to find so many ways to abuse any system at blockbuster, for example there’s a guy that goes to our store frequently, but he has other friends of his check out video games for him, which means that they have to open a new account every time. The point of them doing that is because they doesn’t return the games, he’s thinking he’ll check them out for that rental fee and then not bring it back, but we have his and his friends credit cards on the account, so when they don’t bring it back they just get charged for the price of the game, and then they come back bitching because they were even though i would explain to them before hand how the fee works. I’m not sure how it is at other blockbusters but at our people have pretty much stopped trying to get through some loophole in the system because they’re always getting caught one way or another.

  28. radcons says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. There is apparently no coordination between Blockbuster stores at all.
    The customer gets all the pain of dealing with a major corporation, like their incessant marketing schemes, goofy rules, and uncaring staff, without any apparent benefits.
    I’ve found it a major pain to deal with them if you happen to accidently drop your movies off at a location different from the one you originally rented them from.
    They also apparently don’t have the logistical capabilities to transfer movies from one store to another upon request.
    The stores just don’t seem to deal with each other at all.

  29. ChuckECheese says:

    @JustAGuy2: Taco Cabana dropped my burrito last week. I’m gonna take an extra helping of pico de gallo–and I might not even eat it all. That’ll show ‘em.

  30. Blinkman says:

    @CaptZ: That’s dumb. As a consumer, you have the right to STOP GIVING THEM YOUR MONEY if you feel the terms are unfair. In no way are you justified by stealing from them.

    God people are tools. They’ll do anything to justify their selfish decisions.

  31. rbdfoxes says:

    @jpx72x: Right, whatever, but we don’t need this epic call to morality on behalf of a corporation.

  32. cac67 says:

    You need the epic call to morality no matter who it’s for. If you’ll cheat a corporation, you’ll cheat an individual too.

  33. Sockatume says:

    It’s hardly raining vengeance on consumers. If you game the system, and get caught, you don’t get to do business any more. That’s how it works for businesses and it’s how it works for customers If you want to rip off somebody, don’t justify it with the “they’re a big old heartless corporation of meanies” gambit. It hardly improves other people’s quality of service, when you get away with lots of free DVDs does it?

  34. SomeoneGNU says:

    @rellog:

    Two wrongs do not make a right. Blockbuster sucks, I’m seriously surprised they’re around, but someone HAS to be the bigger person.

    In fact, as long as consumers have this attitude companies will continue to treat the consumer like a thief or a potential problem rather than try to grow the business relationship.

    No sympathy from me if someone gets canceled by this.

  35. EBounding says:

    Blockbuster is a racket. Kevin is dead.

  36. strathmeyer says:

    “Why is it ok for consumers to screw a company?”

    Who’s screwing whom? Why is it alright for companies to take advantage of stupid people, but not for consumers to take advantage of stupid companies? If it makes you feel any better, it was always easy to “screw” Blockbuster for a number of reason because the stores don’t communicate with each other. You know, back before Netflix.

  37. sixninezero says:

    This is so simple it hurts, it is called integrity.

    You know the rules, so abide by them. You would expect anyone you deal with to honor an agreement. If people didn’t pull these shenanigans to cheat a company the company could spend more time making their services better, but instead they have to keep an eye on the fruit stand because their customer is just as likely to walk off with an apple as pay for it.

    Grow up people, it isn’t your decision to punish their stupidity. Every week this blog calls out companies that prey on the lack of understanding by the consumer exactly the way a free market system works. If the service/product provider isn’t meeting standards they will be forced out of the market. Don’t like Blockbuster? Stop patronizing them.

  38. pegr says:

    They likely have no on-line system but can certainly batch transactions and get you on the back side. They likely don’t push transaction details back out, as to do so would be a lot of data going back to the stores for no real advantage. Would the store in Chicago need the data from LA?

  39. nikkomorocco says:

    @rellog: i’m not as lucky as you. i dont think i’ll be seeing I Am Legend within the next 3 calendar years. “very long wait?’ i bet. granted all the movies i get i end up returning within 2 days so i’ve constantly got things coming and going. i dont think they like that.

  40. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Okay, I had been a Blockbuster onilne member since it first begain, and I have watched the features dwindle, and the price increase. Over time you have gotten less for more money. It stinks.

    But that doesn’t mean it is right to scam the company. BUT…I have to say, if I was still a Blockbuster member, I would do this. Why? Well if they cancel my membership, I’d just switch to Netflix (which I did anyway)…and I’m the kind of person that would try and get more than I pay for.

    Would I advertise this as a way of making a point to Blockbuster about how mad I am about their changes? No. THAT would be switching to Netflix.

    If you take advantage of this hack, you are greedy.

    If you truly dislike what Blockbuster had done, switch to Netflix.

  41. NightSteel says:

    @rbdfoxes: For some reason, I find it terribly entertaining that there is still a ‘blame the victim’ mentality when it’s the company that’s the victim, instead of the consumer.

    I think rbdfoxes has it exactly right. People around here are quick to tell consumers what they could have done better. This seems like a pretty clear-cut case of what the company could have done better. If it’s OK for a company to behave unethically because of a consumer’s failings, then I say it’s OK for a consumer to behave unethically because of a company’s failings. Can’t have it both ways, people.

    I say the same thing whenever free market fanboys pop up: The problem with the free market is a problem of ethics. If all companies and consumers acted ethically (neither of them tried to cheat each other), the free market would work great. Instead, we have monopolies, price-fixing, companies who care only about their stock price, government controls created by corrupt officials, and consumers who are out for nothing but themselves.

    It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and as long as people make excuses for unethical corporate behavior, I have absolutely no sympathy for companies who are victims of unethical behavior themselves, especially when those companies are some of the worst offenders.

  42. RandomHookup says:

    I have a ‘one free movie a week’ card from Blockbuster (got it free from MyCokeRewards) and I have to take it to the same store every week (it’s one of the rules). I assume it’s because their systems can’t handle the tranaction without blowing a gasket.

  43. Mr. Gunn says:

    The Marionette: I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

    Sounds like they might as well have been on an honor system, with such lax oversight.

  44. @Mr. Gunn: Not sure if i can make it more basic but pretty much i was saying that there are those customers trying to screw over a company but then they want to seem like the victim somehow.

    @RandomHookup: That’s because blockbuster is a franchise. Some of them offer some things others don’t. I’m sure you’ve noticed that happen quite a lot in other places that are franchises. I’ll be honest i’m not too fond of blockbuster, i’m working there because it’s paying money, but i’m just telling people what’s what since i actually know what happens and am not going by assumption like others are.