Broken DVD Rental Machine Charges You $75 for 2 DVDs

Reader Jamie used to enjoy the convenience of those DVD rental vending machines you see in supermarkets, but that quickly changed when she was mistakenly billed $74.90 on her debit card for 2 DVDs. One would think a few calls to customer service would fix this mess but “The New Release” has left Jamie twisting in the wind. Her letter and our advice, inside…

I am submitting this complaint to you because I think that consumers should know what type of company they are dealing with when they choose to swipe their debit/credit card at one of these machines. These machines are not the property of Harris Teeter, Kroger, Food Lion, or any other grocery store that decides to offer this service to its customers. The machines are owned by a company called “The New Release.”

My experience with “The New Release”:
On 4/13/08 I went to the movie box located inside a Kroger grocery store. I was going to return 3 movies, however the movie box was out of order. I was instructed to call customer service, which I did. I spoke with a CSR who told me to place the movies inside the box on the right of the machine with the incident number she provided. I did so and kept a record of the conversation.

When I checked my bank statement on 4/28/08 I realized I had been charged $1.07 for one movie (the correct price) and then charged $74.90 for the other two(obviously incorrect). At this time I called customer service for the second time and spoke with another customer service rep. who told me that this would be corrected and that I would be charged $2.14 for the two movies (the correct price) and that I would receive a refund for the $72.76 overcharge.

04/29/08, I look at my bank account and I have been charged $74.90 with no refund and my bank account has incurred overdraft charges in the amount of $65.00. I called “The New Release” customer service center for again and Chris Borner is the supervisor that I spoke to in trying to correct this. He asked me to fax a bank statement and a written statement and he would get back to me in 24-48 hours. I disagree with the time-frame Chris gave me but I decided to fax the information and check back with him later in the day to confirm receipt. (when I called back, Chris was “in a meeting”)

After sending this fax and receiving no phone calls from Chris or any other supervisor I called back to the customer service department where I was hung up on and then when I called back I was lied to and then hung up on (I obviously have a super power that allows me to call whenever the “supervisor handling my complaint” is out to lunch, in a meeting, or out of the office). I called several more times and after escalating slowly up the ranks in the company I came to speak to Nathan Gilbert (“the supervisor handling my complaint”) who, by the way, should be fired. Nathan was supposed to have called me on several occasions and each time I ended up having to call him because he apparently does not have time in his busy schedule to make the phone calls he has promised to make.

When I FINALLY spoke to Nathan on 5/2/08 I was informed that the “New Release” had issued a credit to me in the amount of $65 and that it would take 2-5 business days to process. So, I confirmed that I should receive my refund by Wednesday 05/07/08 and Nathan said yes.

Today is Friday 05/09/08 I still have received no credit to my account and upon calling the customer service department AGAIN I was told that the credit was issued on 05/06/08. I supposed I should be shocked but since I have not encountered anyone with this company who can be honest I expected this to happen. Now, one would beg the question ‘why would Nathan tell me something had been processed on Friday that was not yet processed until Tuesday?’ I however can answer that question myself….Nathan thought he would get rid of me and have me stop calling by lying, but when I am trying to recover money that was essentially STOLEN from me I am not going to trust someone who has repeatedly lied to me. At this point I am so angry that I want to tell everyone NOT to use these boxes. I want to warn consumers about giving their personal information to a company who has no regard for their customers and their money. It is much cheaper to visit a local video store or digitally rent a move…..these movies cost much more than ONE DOLLAR….BEWARE!!!

We’re sorry to hear about this frustrating situation, Jamie. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you explain to the bank exactly what is happening with “The New Release” so that they can reverse your overdraft fee and deauthorize this company from taking any more money out of your account. We imagine your bank will work with you until “The New Release” comes through with the refund. This company may just be dragging its feet, and not necessarily running away with your money just yet, so keep the pressure on them. We do realize not everybody has one, but loyal readers know to use a credit card whenever possible since they are much better able to protect you against billing errors and fraud.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. steveliv says:

    after the submitter gets this all settled, she might need to lay off renting dvd’s until she has more than $75 in her checking account…

  2. anonvmoos says:

    debit card, 9 dollars in the bank account. 65 dollar overdraft? whoa!

    did you try asking your bank? sometimes they waive fees if you are nice.

  3. thesabre says:

    “We imagine your bank will work with you until “The New Release” comes through with the refund.”

    HAHA. That’s a great joke to read first thing on Monday morning. What bank would ever “work with you” while you’re waiting for something?

  4. anonvmoos says:

    oops, somehow i did 74 – 65 = 9 dollars

    the bank fee is probably 30 – 35 dollars so the total in the bank account would be ~$30

    again, ask your bank to waive the fee. when that doesnt work, threaten to cancel the account, they will waive it.

  5. RagingBoehner says:

    @thesabre: USAA is pretty good about it. Then again, I told a Chevy Chase Bank branch manager that I would close my account if they didn’t reverse $35 in overdraft fees due to unauthorized charges and he told me to go ahead and close it.

    This is good to know though, I use those machines a lot. I guess I’ll make sure to use my Amex and keep my fingers crossed.

  6. azntg says:

    I’m sure y’all are tired of hearing this, but this is the ONLY solution… use a goddarn credit card.

    Debit cards have their places and uses. Automated machines are not one of them.

    Oh and find a new bank. $65 overdrafts? Did the bank charge you an overdraft fee, another overdraft fee for that overdraft fee and just one more time for good measures before they capped it?

  7. EyeHeartPie says:

    @azntg:
    I agree…why would you give a machine complete access to your bank account?

  8. azntg says:

    @azntg: Check that… automated machines that are not used for the sole purpose of checking balances, making cash withdrawls or making deposits.

  9. chrisjames says:

    @thesabre: Wells Fargo, Wachovia, and even the dreaded Bank of America have worked with us on silly overdraft fees. We would just point out what the mistake was and that was usually enough. It doesn’t always work, but you have to give it a shot or you don’t have much right to complain afterwards (and we like to complain). It was still a big enough problem that we stopped using debit altogether, because it’s just too big of a risk handing over access no matter how much is in the account.

    Of course, USAA doesn’t work with us on overdrafts. It practically throws the money back at us before we can fully explain. I *heart* USAA.

  10. Scuba Steve says:

    @EyeHeartPie:

    Because it wanted that, or my clothes, my boots, and my motorcycle.

  11. blackmage439 says:

    Fail for using a debit card at a kiosk like that. There’s no telling what sort of software is on that machine, and who it was placed by. For all you know, there could be a keylogger on the connection between it and the wall, gladly recording all the account numbers that flow through the line.

    Credit cards, for the win!

  12. stopNgoBeau says:

    @azntg: @blackmage439: I suppose you say the same thing in regards to using a debit card anywhere, then? All companies that you use cards with have “machines” that process your information, just like the video kiosks. This is a case of bad CSRs, not a bad kiosk. You could have had the same problem at (dare I say) Blockbuster or any other institution that uses credit card information.

    Sure, credit cards give you better protection, but I hate using credit cards (interest, annual fees, credit impact) when I could just use the money I already have in my bank account. Most banks offer similar protection with your debit cards when they are processed as credit cards (not all, but a lot do, even my crummy bank). Why borrow when you could just pay?

  13. winstonthorne says:

    @Scuba Steve: LOL! Nice Terminator ref. :)

  14. SpenceMan01 says:

    @stopNgoBeau: Because had the OP used a credit card instead of a debit card, it would be the company’s money in the hands of the DVD rental company, not the OP’s money. A simple chargeback is all that would have been needed. As long as you’re responsible with them, credit cards are very useful and free to use (no annual fee, pay them off in full every month).

  15. t-r0y says:

    @azntg: “Debit cards have their places and uses” — Can you elaborate? Maybe I’ve missed something, but I don’t see any good uses. Can you give me an example? (that isn’t better served by a CC).

  16. kmn842 says:

    Not only is my credit card free, but I earn ~$15 a month in cash back just for using it, at absolutely no cost to me. It may drive up prices, but those price hikes will be experienced regardless of payment method, so might as well reap the benefits.

  17. ColoradoShark says:

    Why isn’t this just a call to the bank telling them it is a fraudulent charge?
    The OP authorized $1.07 x 3 or $3.21.
    The vending machine charged more than was authorized.

  18. Tmoney02 says:

    To everyone blaming the OP for not using a credit card…

    Are you the same ones who when talking about clearing up debt, saying one should cut up all credit cards till debt is payed off? Could the OP be using this tactic and thus only have a debit card?

    Could the OP forgot their credit card and decided to use a debit card this one time?

    Point is there a number of reasons why the OP might have not used a CC and everyone piling on isn’t addressing the people that are actually in the wrong…The rental company and possibly the bank if they don’t work with her on the overdraft.

    ——————————
    That all being said the poster needs to realize that not all machines in supermarkets are owned by the same company. Saying you will never use them again is not being fair to the other companies, such as red box who have been excellent whenever I have used them. If the poster had a bad experience at a grocery store they wouldn’t swear off all grocery stores they would find a competitor. If a competitor is available I would suggest the OP not shun it just because it is a machine.

  19. PlanetExpressdelivery says:

    Is it time to file suit in small claims court and serve the summons to the kiosk? I’m pretty sure you could get both your money and overdraft fees in one swipe.

  20. mabus says:

    i have used redbox many times with no problem. however, i saw the machine at kroger (with a kroger pimp sticker on it no less) and have thus far avoided using it.

    just another thought, if the store from which these dvds were rented has their logo on the machine, you may want to call that store’s corporate office to complain. maybe they can help you gain some traction against “the new release”

  21. dragonfire81 says:

    “One would think a few calls to customer service would fix this mess but…”

    Sadly this is the exception in today’s world. To get most issues solved properly it will take at LEAST two or three calls. Let’s hear it for outsourcing.

  22. dragonfire81 says:

    Oops my fault, I thought that read “one would think A call to customer service…”

  23. t-r0y says:

    @Tmoney02: Not everyone who suggests using a CC rather than a debit card is blaming the OP. This is just another chance to remind people of what problems can be resolved easier with a CC than with a debit card. Again, not blaming the OP.

    As for the ‘clearing up debt’, use a check or cash. If those aren’t an option, then maybe the purchase is a luxury (DVD rentals).

    I agree that the problem is with the rental company, and to some extent the bank, but the point most of us ‘debit card’ bashers are trying to make is debit cards offer almost no protection and don’t let you keep your money while a charge is being disputed.

    The “Don’t use a debit card” dictum does get old, but apparently we have more souls to save.

  24. Fivetop says:

    Send them a demand letter for the $138 + change. Include a copy of your above complaint and tell the company you own a computer, a printer and a roll of Scotch tape. Then inform them you are willing to post a copy of your story on every one of their machines in your town unless they resolve your issue.

  25. dragonfire81 says:

    Also did you know some call centers TRAIN their employees to say the supervisor is “in a meeting” or “out to lunch” when you ask for one?

  26. @ steveliv

    Yeah because obviously someone who has less than $75 in their checking account doesn’t deserve an evening or three’s relaxation of a rented movie for a DOLLAR oh seven.

    /sarcasm

    Go back to trolling the World of Warcraft forums.

    I would also take this to your Bank, and explained the charge of $70+ was an unauthorized charge.

  27. MeOhMy says:

    @PlanetExpressdelivery: “I placed the summons in the box on the right side of the machine along with the incident number you gave me. See you on Judge Judy.”

    This sounds like a real fly-by-night company. I definitely wouldn’t do business with them, but I have heard good things about Redbox. If there was one in my office, I’d use it a lot. I don’t go to the grocery store frequently enough to make it work that way.

    Always, always, always keep a buffer in checking account. Sometimes that means enduring a little hardship. It’s worth the trouble. Unless you’ve got some sort of magic (and free) overdraft protection that automatically feeds your checking account from savings if you have an overdraft.

  28. EyeHeartPie says:

    @ColoradoShark:
    The thing is that these machines keep an open authorization on your card because the rentals are $1 per day, and you can keep them for as long as you want. Therefore, you aren’t actually charged until after you return the movie.

    @t-r0y:
    That’s exactly what I was thinking. Using a debit card at one of these machines is basically giving the machine your account info, and authorizing it to withdraw whatever money is required to pay for the movie. You are leaving an open-ended transaction in the machine’s memory that isn’t closed until you return the movie. On a credit card, this is no problem since all the buyers’ protections come into play, but with a debit card, you are giving an automated machine direct, open-ended access to your bank account.

  29. hogfan11 says:

    I have used New release on multiple occasions. I once rented a DVD that was so scratched it would not play. I called the customer service folks and they told me to return that one and rent another copy of the same movie. They credited me 2 dollars, one for the original and 1 for the scratched one. I have never been dis-satisfied with them.

  30. Mike8813 says:

    I rented from “The New Release” once. I hadn’t seen Borat yet, so I figured I’d check it out. What I received was a silver disc with “Borat” written across the top in black sharpie.

    That troubled me…

  31. anarcurt says:

    @thesabre: Most bank managers will tell you to get the company to give you the OD fee and that ‘they can’t do anything’. This is a lie of course. Every bank manager’s compensation is tied to the branches revenue. Fees are considered ‘non-interest income’. Your fee contributes to their bonus. As a rule of thumb try to ask for a fee refund at the beginning of the month. If its close to the end of the month and their quota of fees is not met they will do everything they can to not refund you a fee.

  32. JustThatGuy3 says:

    @stopNgoBeau:

    Why borrow when you can just pay? Well, when you can borrow at 0% interest, get better rewards (1.5% cash back in my case), and get better protections (if there’s a dispute, the money’s in MY pocket until it’s resolved), I’ll go ahead and borrow, thanks.

  33. TPS Reporter says:

    This is the real world, and maybe not everyone has the credit to get a credit card, that doesn’t charge 30% interest. Maybe someone doesn’t want one. I have one and hate having it, but it is a necessary evil. And the amount in her bank account has nothing to do with her renting a DVD. That’s her business. I’ve used Redbox and haven’t had any trouble until they started putting a $10 hold on your credit card. Not a big deal, but I thought it was stupid and I really don’t have much time to watch DVD’s anymore.

  34. steveliv says:

    @TakingItSeriously:
    i was being sarcastic as well, but no need to call me a troll, fyi, i’ve never even visited a warcraft forum…

  35. milk says:

    When my company refunds money to credit or debit cards, it takes a few days before it shows up on the customer’s statement. That’s what I’ve always experienced elsewhere. This was unfortunate, but having them issue a credit on 5/6 and waiting for it to show up on 5/9 doesn’t sound wrong.

  36. Lucky225 says:

    Son of a biznatch, everytime I got to HEB those “New Release” movie rental machines are out of order like 1 in 4 times. I saw the 800 # and was thinking about renting from them and keeping the dvd’s longer then usual, just calling everyday to report it was out of order or something, screw that if they can’t get it right when it’s really out of order.

  37. t-r0y says:

    @MrBill38: But if you pay it off every month, 30% interest is no problem.

  38. MBZ321 says:

    I don’t understand what the big deal with using a debit card is. If it has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it, you deal with them and have almost the same protection as a standard credit card. As long as you didn’t enter a PIN on the machine (I have never seen a DVD machine where you enter a pin..it automatically counts it as a Credit transaction), deal with your bank/Visa/Mastercard to take care of it.

  39. psm321 says:

    I had this happen to me with The New Release and got a refund w/ no hassle. I didn’t have an overdraft fee to deal with in my case though. The Kroger has since replaced the machine with a different (more expensive) brand

  40. EyeHeartPie says:

    @MBZ321:
    Problem is that debit card fraud is much more harmful to the affected party. If someone gets hold of your debit card and charges stuff, you lose that money from your bank account, i.e. the thief has your money, and even filing a chargeback takes time, so basically while you are getting the fraud dealt with, you are out however much money was taken from your bank account.

    With a credit card, you are not actually losing your money because you haven’t paid the credit card company yet. That makes it much safer since you are not actually out any money, whereas with a debit card, that money is tied up and unable to be used for an emergency that may arise while the bank dithers over whether or not fraud was committed.

  41. the-wanderer says:

    @Mike8813: You do realize that’s what the pressed Borat DVDs look like, don’t you?

    Do a GIS for Borat DVD and check out some of the images on the first page of results.

  42. Kajj says:

    @t-r0y: Luxury? I defy you to find a “Ten Easy Ways to Save Money!” article that doesn’t suggest renting movies to watch at home instead of going out. She didn’t even splurge on a bricks-and-mortar rental store. Those places charge five dollars a pop.

    And for everybody smugging about how YOUR credit cards don’t cost you ANY money because you are PERFECT consumers… people with less than $75 dollars in their checking account tend not to get the choice offers. When I was making that little money I couldn’t even get a card without an annual fee.

    The young and the poor deserve to be treated with respect too, by corporations and by this site.

  43. JustThatGuy3 says:

    href=”#c5650762″>EyeHeartPie:

    Very well put.

  44. t-r0y says:

    @Kajj: No offense intended Kajj. And you’re right, DVD rentals at $1 a pop aren’t a luxury. I’m not rich, but I think my ability to obtain a CC without an annual fee has more to do with my credit rating, not my checking balance.

    Other than an annual fee, there is no direct cost difference between a CC and debit card. The cost difference only comes in to play with late payments or overdraft charges. And it seems to me, that both are the responsibility of the card holder — UNLESS some inept merchant overcharges your debit card (steals your money) and you’re hit with the overdraft charge. This will not happen with a CC. You get to dispute the charge before paying it.

    1) With a CC, you’re out $50 (maximum) if a fraudulent charge hits your card ([www.ftc.gov]). With a debit card, you could be liable for up to $500.

    2) With a CC, a bad merchant can’t take your money, just your line of credit. But with a debit card (even the VISA Zero Liability), the money is taken from your checking account! And you don’t have the money anymore.

    3) With a CC, you don’t have to pay the charge until the merchant can prove that you owe the money. But with a debit card, you’re money is gone and YOU have to prove it was an error or fraud! You may get ping-pong’ed by the merchant and your bank.

    So, bottom line: I would recommend a CC over a debit card to anyone that can get one — even with an annual fee.

  45. forgottenpassword says:

    sorry, but I am going to have to agree with all the debit-card-bashers advocating using a credit card instead.

    Debit cards have been trouble since they first came out (take it from consumer advocate clark howard… who warned me off of them years ago). Sure… they HAVE gotten much better, but a credit card just cant be beat when it comes to protection.

    And if you are not responsible enough to used a credit card …. well…. go ahead & take your chances using a debit card that is linked to all the money in your checking account.

    Thems the breaks! *shrug*

  46. Mike8813 says:

    @the-wanderer: Holy shit! I had no idea! Thanks for the heads up… I feelz dumb…

  47. You hate your job but you're still working there? says:

    Thankfully my mom (a frequent customer) has never had a problem with Redbox. I don’t think she uses her debit/credit card as debit, though.

    My boyfriend and I had a similar problem when I used his card to print out a USPS shipping label. The printer had problems so I didn’t manage to get it printed. The website mentions that if you click “No”, that it didn’t get printed properly, that it will not charge your card and take you back to your online shopping cart. However, in the e-mail it lets you know that your card is charged and will be refunded 2-10 days later. All it took was a five minute talk with the bank (Huntington)- and a quick check on the website to corroborate that the wording was iffy- to make sure no overage charges would be applied in the meantime, and everything’s been hunky-dory so far. They even gave the boyfriend a copy of his current statement with a signature and explanation from the manager, in case we had to go back later and explain to another less-understanding CSR about what was going on.

    If you do need to use a debit card (which does happen sometimes whether Consumerists want to admit it or not), talk to your bank first, so that you’re not getting hammered with late fees on top of your issues with the company at hand.