Policy: Blockbuster Debits $1 To Test Your Card, Then Charges You For Your Rental

For every debit or credit card transaction at Blockbuster, the company will now debit $1 to “test” your card. If the transaction goes through, they’ll then debit the full amount of your purchase. Blockbuster tells us your dollar will be returned in 3-10 business days. Reader Jason says he rented a game on Thursday and hasn’t gotten the dollar Blockbuster borrowed back yet. Will he get it before the 10 days is up?

Jason writes:

On Thursday I went to Blockbuster and rented a videogame for 8.47$. The next day I checked my online statement to find out that I was charged 8.47$, and then another separate transaction from Blockbuster for 1$. Considering the guy behind the counter had no idea what he was doing at the time I figured he made a mistake and called the Blockbuster back to investigate. They informed me that it is a relatively new policy on all in-store rentals for debit/credit cards in which before charging you the rental for the game, they first bill your card $1 to make sure that it is active, then they bill the rental in addition to that. The manager I spoke to said that they refund the $1 at a later date, but here I am almost a week later with no refund. If this is even legal, why not just charge the $1, and if it works, charge the normal rental price subtract the $1?

Ugh.

(Photo: Seth W )

Comments

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  1. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I just cut up my Blockbuster membership card.

  2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    I don’t see the need to do a “test” run – if the payment goes through it goes through. If it doesn’t, the renter will need to find an alternate way (credit card/cash.) Sounds like a money-making scheme for Blockbuster, and they hope people won’t care about one dollar, but those dollars will add up! Of course it could get refunded, but with Blockbuster’s record I’m not that optimistic.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Neecy: as a former Blockbuster manager I can explain this perfectly:

      The original story is not correct – they keep your credit card on file on your account when you create the account (or they’ll have you put one on there if you are renting any next-gen video games) – whenever you rent a next-gen game, the computer system will run a Pre-authorization of that card to determine if it’s a valid account. If that goes thru, then you can rent the game, YOU CAN PAY WITH ANY TENDER (credit, debit, cash, giftcard), it just happens that this guy used the same card to pay for the rental fee.

      The preauthorization is perfectly legal and the time it takes to be refunded is completely based on your bank/credit card co.

      Blockbuster doesn’t make any money on this…in fact, it saves them money. Customers constantly rent PS3/WII/360 games and DO NOT RETURN THEM….if they did not pre-authorize the card and the card is not valid, the customer will pay cash and never return again, and basically get a $60 game for $8!

  3. ViperBorg says:

    One more reason not to rent from Blockbuster.

  4. racerchk says:

    that has to be illegal – i would call that stealing. its like if you went into blockbuster and took a game saying you just had to try it out to see if it works and would bring it back within 10 days. where are these people’s heads?? i am cutting up my membership as i type this…good job blockbuster. you just lost another customer.

  5. Gamethyme says:

    It’s probably just an authorization hold. The amount of time for an auth hold to drop varies from bank to bank, but it’s usually in the range of 1-2 weeks.

    Most banks treat auth holds on debit cards as though they were charges, so it’ll show as a charge followed by a refund. Most CREDIT cards will only show that $1 pending, and it’ll eventually drop off.

  6. malvones says:

    surprising behavior from a company on the precipice of total irrelevancy

  7. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Gamethyme: There’s no need for them to place this hold. Either the sale goes through or it doesn’t. In any event nothing in my membership agreement authorizes them to do this, and I know because I read the agreement thoroughly when I signed up not long ago and lined out the parts I disagreed with. I know, I know… they’re not supposed to accept the agreement like that, but they did anyway.

  8. parad0x360 says:

    @Gamethyme: Not a hold if they are charging the dollar for no reason. Why not just debit the money and be done with it? Why the extra pointless step? Chances are alot of dollars are being kept.

    I’ve never once in my life heard of pre-auth for $1 before a transaction to test if the card is active. It makes no sense.

    Hell even Paypal…an incredibly evil company DEPOSITS money into your bank account as a test and they never take it back!

  9. graymulligan says:

    But, even if its an auth hold, why would they need to do the auth hold in addition to the actual charge?

    Maybe they’re charging everyone an extra dollar, and with all the ill-gottn loot, they’re hiring a “fixer” to burn down Netflix’s warehouses?

  10. Scoobatz says:

    People still rent from Blockbuster?

  11. Uh oh... Cleveland says:

    Authorization hold or not, does Blockbuster get to use this $1 until it is refunded? One dollar from each rental times interest for ten days = pure profit for these dopes.

  12. arras says:

    I don’t know about the legality of it, but I have seen several other businesses ‘pre-charge’ my card before charging me the full amount of my purchase – credit or debit, it didn’t matter. For my (bank) debit card, the $1 would take a little longer to go away, but for credit cards they would usually disappear within a business day or two.

    One time, the $1 charge triggered the fraud prevention from my bank and they shut down my card – I had to call in and verify the $1 charge and then whatever I spent at Newegg, Amazon or wherever. I asked the CSR from my bank (PNC) about the dollar charge and she said it was a fairly routine thing – sometimes the retailer will take a little longer than they should to refund it. I guess they do it in a batch process or something.

    Annoying to be sure, but appears to be on the up and up.

  13. warf0x0r says:

    I guess they really like The Onion:

  14. Pennsylvanian123 says:

    It is amazing they have any customers left to alienate.

    And $8.47 for a game rental? Wow.

    I’d be calling the state attorney general about this new “policy”. It doesn’t even pass the sniff test.

  15. blackmage439 says:

    $8.47??? For a single game? Good lord…

    You do realize that Gamefly charges just over that PER MONTH of membership? I’m never stepping foot in a Blockbuster ever again. Hell, I’m throwing my membership card in the shredder as soon as I get home.

  16. heat_sink says:

    As noted above, putting the actual charge through will tell the vendor if the card is valid. I can’t see how a separate charge enhances security in any way, and most vendors get charged per-authorization, so everyone loses.

    Many years ago, I worked at a Blockbuster. It was policy to put a test authorization _only_ for $1.00 on a customer’s card, only when they had just signed up. This was to test the card in case it were to be used for a non-return, etc. The charge was never put through for the $1.00

  17. JasonKeiderling says:

    I would bet money that Blockbuster is actually placing pre-authorizing the entire purchase price of the video game in case you don’t bring it back. Blockbuster has been trying to find ways to prevent people from renting games and not bringing them back. They don’t do this with movies because the price of DVDs compared to video games makes this less of a problem. For a while they were requiring renters to leave a deposit in order to rent a game. Sound to me like what they are doing now is requiring a deposit but not telling you about it and then flat out to you lying about the auth charge when you ask. Just a few more reasons to never shop at Blockbuster again.

  18. crabbyman6 says:

    Wow, this is ludicrous, either the sale goes through or it doesn’t. I’ve seen this from other companies, but it was generally for bigger purchases or two confirm the account and it only took a few days to get dollar back, not for renting an $8 video game.

    And anyway, $8 for a freaking video game for a week?!?! Now THAT’S stealing.

  19. JasonKeiderling says:

    Wow. My grammar is terrible when I first wake up.

  20. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    @parad0x360: Whenever I buy fuel, the transaction is always listed as pending for $1 for a couple of days and then the actual amount goes through. I recall the same thing can happen at restaurants where there is a pending charge for $1 until the amount + tip goes through.

    I don’t understand this situation though. It’s a flat price that isn’t going to change, so there isn’t a good reason for a pending charge.

  21. kJeff says:

    OMG, Gas pumps authorize a dollar when you insert the card to test it before you pump. Boycott all gas pumps!!!!!!!
    /sarcasm

    Seriously?

    This is standard and I thought it was common knowledge.

    If your bank posts a $1 test authorization as a debit to your account then you need to bring it up with the bank. If your bank runs properly, they will hold the $1 auth until the charge from Blockbuster posts and then drop the authorization.

  22. Juggernaut says:

    Isn’t this what insurance companies do? Charge you in case something happens and then maybe pay you in the event something does happen…

  23. Snarkysnake says:

    Give me a dollar and several days from now I’ll give it back (honest,I will !).

    You and I would call that an interest free loan.

    In business, it’s called a “test”

  24. yourbffjill says:

    @parad0x360: really? the last time I had to add a credit card to paypal, they charged the card $1.95, and then I had to wait 3 days for it to show up on the account, and then put the code in from the transaction line to even be able to use the card. (btw people who accept paypal love having to wait 3 days for you to be able to activate your account).

    I think it’s very common for companies to do this but usually the charge disappears within a day or two. Keeping it for a week seems excessive. I don’t like giving anyone free interest, even if it’s on a dollar.

  25. Yurei says:

    As an FYI folks, if you ever purchase anything online through a debit card (and I imagine through a credit card as well) you’ll get these things all the time. Anytime I purchase air or bus tickets, buy from an online store, have a bill set to auto pay go into payment mode, add a new card to ebay or paypal or use my debit card at stores or gas stations you’ll often see a (usually) small amount in the “pending” section of your online statement which is really just an authorization charge which they use to check the account with. It usually falls off in a couple of days automatically. The money’s not really ‘gone’, it’s just on ‘hold’. It’s annoying sometimes and inconvenient, but that’s just how everyone works these days. It’s surprising that it’s still there after a week though. The issue is probably with the bank and not Blockbuster themselves.

    If you call your bank or issuer, they can sometimes lift these authorization charges very easily. I’ve had to do it before when ebay has screwed me over with my new card I added to my account.

  26. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @kJeff: No, not all gas pumps do this. The ones I patronize don’t.

  27. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Yurei: Where do you bank? This has never happened to me except at a gas station (that I don’t buy from anymore) or by mutual agreement when starting an account.

  28. cmdrsass says:

    @Scoobatz: Are you posting from the future? Oh wait, you were just trying unsuccessfully to be clever.

    Lots of independent gas stations do this as well.

  29. 44 in a Row says:

    Whenever I buy fuel, the transaction is always listed as pending for $1 for a couple of days and then the actual amount goes through. I recall the same thing can happen at restaurants where there is a pending charge for $1 until the amount + tip goes through.

    This is one circumstance where holds are necessary, since they need to authorize the card before there’s a final amount (with gas because you have to authorize your card before you pump, and with restaurants because of the tip). The other time this is common is on online purchase, because you don’t generally get charged until the item actually ships, so Amazon will authorize your card at the time the order is placed. But for a physical, immediate purchase of an item at a fixed, known price? That’s insane.

  30. Zaphâ„¢ says:

    Sounds like they are trying to pad the bank account, so that they can lull the investors into a false sense of hope.

  31. 44 in a Row says:

    Online *purchases*. Someone needs to learn to type. Or to drink more coffee.

  32. Thank goodness that I haven’t paid for a rental from Blockbuster or Hollywood in at least 5 years. Discover card rewards FTW :D

  33. JasonKeiderling says:

    To all the people mentioning that $1.00 hold sare normal:

    $1.00 holds are normal. They always dissapear as soon as the actual transaction goes through. The fact that this guy has a $1.00 charge AND his $8.47 charge showing up at the same time can only mean that Blockbuster charged TWO things to his card. Since this was a videogame he rented rather than a movie I would bet money that Blockbuster pre-authorized his card to make sure he has enough room left to pay for the game in full should he fail to bring it back.

  34. Verizon appears to be doing this as well. Maybe its a way to get a zero interest loan. Think about how many transactions they are billing 1 dollar on and holding for 10 days.

  35. Jmatthew says:

    My guess is someone is new and doesn’t get the policy.

    I’m guessing you have to have a valid card to rent, and if you’re paying in cash they run your card for a buck to make sure it’s valid.

    If you’re paying with the card, it’s obviousely valid.

  36. joshthephenom says:

    @Uh oh… Cleveland: That’s exactly what ran through my mind.

    How many rentals do they do a month? Times $1 adds up, interest-wise.

  37. VikingP77 says:

    If this is SO necessary why didn’t they do this before?!!!! Love you Netflix!

  38. THINK_before_posting says:

    The funny part is that the normal process for a credit card thief is to purchase things like iTunes for $.99 to verify the card works. After 2-3 successful charges THEN they charge the big stuff.

    That is how it happened when my card data was stolen. Just sounds really familiar…

  39. anarcurt says:

    People still use Blockbuster? Why?

    @johnarlington: If they are just holding the money on the card then the money is still in your account and they cannot claim it as an asset. It just shows up as unavailable on your card.
    Also a point as to never use a debit card for purchases, especially if you keep low balances. You don’t know whats getting held. There is no real disclosure from the merchant. You only get a receipt for the charge. These holds DO NOT automatically come off all the time. I know for a fact that if it is a MC that the hold can stay on for up to 72 hours.

  40. axiomatic says:

    Yeah free interest loan scam from Blockbuster.

    NOTE TO SELF: Self, never go to Blockbuster.

  41. stephenjames716 says:

    8.47 for a game rental? wow!

  42. katylostherart says:

    verizon does that too.

  43. TVarmy says:

    It’s a basic rule of business: Make sure money comes in as fast as possible, make sure it leaves as slow as possible. That’s why if you get a check from a big company, it’ll come from an obscure bank in the middle of nowhere, but they’ll ask you to use your debit card to pay them.

    In this case, Blockbuster borrows a dollar from you for a week to pad their till. Assuming they make a wise decision with it, they’ll make more than a dollar from it, and be able to return it. Even if they don’t, they’re a big corporation and can absorb the loss. But what they’re doing is effectively taking out many tiny interest-free loans from their customers. That’s not right, and they’re not really giving any collateral. You’re movie doesn’t count, because they’ll charge you a late fee on it…

  44. Supedve1 says:

    Can you try and get a chargeback. Ask them to prove your signature for the $1 charge, that matches the one for the rental. I bet a few $25 chargeback fees might end this soon.

  45. SJActress says:

    Did they require him to have a credit card authorized when he started the account? When I worked in an indie video store, we authorized your credit card (for $1) when we started your account. If you took off with the merchandise or didn’t come in to pay your late fee, we charged that card (as per the signed agreement). If your account credit card expired, we re-authorized you (and made you sign another agreement with the new card) before we could rent to you again. The printed authorization is on file so we would know you card number to charge you for your fees and stolen/damaged merchandise.

    Check your agreement again. They may (SMARTLY) authorize your card EVERY time you go in so they know that the card they have on file really DOES work for charging for stolen merchandise.

    So many customers would sign up with us and a few months later when they hadn’t come in to pay their $5 late fee, we’d try to charge their card and the card didn’t work anymore. Then we got screwed.

    It’s not like they’re putting a hold on $100 or something…give it time, it will drop off.

  46. SJActress says:

    Did they require him to have a credit card authorized when he started the account? When I worked in an indie video store, we authorized your credit card (for $1) when we started your account. If you took off with the merchandise or didn’t come in to pay your late fee, we charged that card (as per the signed agreement). If your account credit card expired, we re-authorized you (and made you sign another agreement with the new card) before we could rent to you again. The printed authorization is on file so we would know you card number to charge you for your fees and stolen/damaged merchandise.

    Check your agreement again. They may (SMARTLY) authorize your card EVERY time you go in so they know that the card they have on file really DOES work for charging for stolen merchandise.

    So many customers would sign up with us and a few months later when they hadn’t come in to pay their $5 late fee, we’d try to charge their card and the card didn’t work anymore. Then we got screwed.

  47. UmiDarkfire says:

    Fun fact: If you’re using a prepaid visa check your terms and conditions for the card. Some of them state if a test transation is run, they can take 1 dollar of that test as a fee. I believe it’s green dot that does it..

  48. I use Blockbuster online and occasionally, when swapping my movies, I’ll rent an extra one and I usually pay with my debit card. I’ve never seen this charge and I check my account nightly. I wonder if it’s just a rouge store/district with this policy.

  49. TVarmy says:

    @TVarmy: Oh, and let me mention another thing: The fluidity blockbuster gains is less fluidity for you, the customer. A dollar is a small thing, but if many companies start doing this, you’ll have fixed money where you could be earning interest, or buying something that appreciates in value, or simply not have enough money on hand to buy something you want.

  50. evslin says:

    Gas pumps are different than Blockbuster. There’s no way of knowing how much gas you need before you fill up, and once you fill up there’s no way of returning the gas if your card is declined. So a pre-authorization is pretty much required.

    (Incidentally, all the gas stations I’ve been to over the last few months will hit my credit card for $1, then hit it again for the purchase price -$1. So I get two charges on my statement for “one” transaction.)

    If you bring a couple DVDs to the counter at Blockbuster and your card is declined, the store clerk keeps the DVDs and you walk out empty-handed. There’s no reason for Blockbuster to borrow a buck from you just to “test” your card. They can test your card for the full price and just keep their shit if your card doesn’t pass.

    Also, who the hell pays $8.47 to rent a video game? Any more than once a month of that and you’re better off getting a Gamefly account.

  51. bohemian says:

    $1 x 1 million transactions a day, hold that million for ten days. Anyone know what the interest on that might be?

  52. Byzantine says:

    C’mon people, just stop patronizing Blockbuster already. I stopped many years ago and my life has improved since.

  53. Breach says:

    Yeah I thought when your card was rejected and you stand there looking like an ass, you and the cashier knew instantly if your card want going to work…

  54. sean_h says:

    Don’t forget, if your chequing account only give you a set number of transactions per month, that $1 will count against that limit. So that little “test” of their could end up costing you up to $1.50 depending on your bank. Not to mention the hassle of trying to get that transaction fee waived.

  55. Juggernaut says:

    @bohemian: 5.25%

  56. TechnoDestructo says:

    @racerchk:

    “Cutting up your membership,” huh? Well, as long as Lackluster still has you on record as a member, and still has credit card info for you, what happens if they decide “we’re going to charge every ‘member’ a ‘membership fee,’”?

  57. rubberkeyhole says:

    I used to work at Blockbuster, and I can verify that this does happen. They told us to tell customers that it’s just to “verify that they had at least $1 available” and that “they’d get it back immediately.”

    Quitting that place was the best feeling I ever had…I don’t put it past Blockbuster to take any cent that they can from any customer they come into contact with, especially now that their “no late fee” policy has proven to be such an AMAZING SUCCESS!! *eyeroll*

  58. macinjosh says:

    “JasonKeiderling at 03:18 PM
    Wow. My grammar is terrible when I first wake up.”

    I hope you live in Hawaii. :)

  59. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @dry-roasted-peanuts, @kJeff: I’ve never had a dollar amount for gas show up in my account other than what I actually bought.

    I’ve had pending charges with a couple of restaurants be higher in anticipation of a tip but I’ve never gotten a pending charge of just a dollar.

  60. Michifernication says:

    If I’m not mistaking Amazon does this too in order to make sure that the bank account you’re assigning to your account is active. I’ve seen gas stations do this before too but they usually refund the money right away. Perhaps its a banking issue?

  61. Yurei says:

    @speedwell: TD banknorth since that was my only option for a bank that actually had branches outside of my state that was also convenient. And their customer service has always been top notch for me.

    @anarcurt: Some of us would love to be able to use CC’s for purchases, but since some of us don’t actually have one [yes, people like that really DO exist], we can’t do that. And yes, i’ve tried to get one a couple of times. I got sick of being denied for “insufficient credit history”. Well duh people, look at my age on the stupid application. I’m single, I don’t own anything with payments attached, I live with family, I have no real way to build credit at the moment since all of my current bills are all apparently things that don’t count towards it. How then am I supposed to build some credit if you won’t even give me a chance? It’s a vicious cycle I tell ya.

  62. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    The only thing that should be illegal is renting from Blockbuster.

  63. bravo369 says:

    what if you only had $9 in your account and decided to use it on a game. that extra $1 would cause overdraft fees etc. just saying.

    also, make sure you bring the games back on time or you’ll be out another $1+. i returned a game but got a notice in the mail that blockbuster didn’t receive it. Before i could even clear it up, i got a charge for $40 something dollars. i cleared it up with blockbuster and they refunded everything except for $1 or $2. i went back to the store saying they didn’t refund the full amount and was told that the $1-$2 was a processing fee, restocking fee or something to that effect but that it’s credited to my blockbuster account. I’m not hurting for money so $1 is no big deal but I have yet to return to find out whether it really is credited to my blockbuster account. I will bet not.

  64. Rajio says:

    You should take an extra movie or two to ‘test’ them. you’ll bring them back in a couple of days – promise.

  65. rioja951 - Why, oh why must I be assigned to the vehicle maintenance when my specialty is demolitions? says:

    Since the last attempt they tried to bill me a supposed non returned movie I told ‘em were to stick it, and they told me they would cancel my account. Best thing ever done.

    Now I only set foot in lackluster video to buy cheap DVDs or games, and only pay cash.

  66. dantsea says:

    Everyone shrieking about Blockbuster getting some sort of “interest free loan” should also know that they don’t actually get the money from the $1.00 preauthorization. I’d explain it further, but I get the feeling that I’d have better luck debating the concept of cold fusion with a hamster suffering from ADD.

    Having said that, I do think it’s unusual that Blockbuster would do the preauth. They’re not a restaurant where the amount might change, they’re not an online store like iTunes, which does 24-hour billing. You know what the total’s going to be at checkout.

  67. DWMILLER says:

    is blockbuster on the worst company list? my little independepant dvd store is good. they stil can piss you off but it is mostly due to the employee texting and working at the same. blockbuster pissed me off many moons ago. never been back since. we will see their demise soon enough!

  68. TrinityRS says:

    Y’know, it probably costs them more money in debit fees than it’s worth to charge/refund that $1.

  69. nick_r says:

    Brilliant plan to get Blockbuster out of the red, one dollar at a time.

  70. DeanGurges says:

    We just got a Redbox machine in my town. It’s the best thing ever, and I
    never plan on going back to Blockbuster.

  71. dantsea says:

    @sean_h: Really? I seem to recall that accounts operating under such a scheme are only charged for cleared transactions. A preauth is never a cleared transaction.

    @bravo369: Similar to above, most banks hit you with overdraft fees on cleared transactions, though I’m certain some banks *coughbofacough* might have different practices. However, since we’re burning straw here, if someone spends their last $9 on a videogame rental, overdraft fees might be the least of their problems.

  72. b612markt says:

    What’s Blockbuster?

  73. Zerkaboid says:

    This may have been made clear already, but I worked at Blockbuster about a year ago (ugh, yes it was horrible, I am now a happy Netflix customer) and our policy was that to rent a game you needed to have a valid credit card (NOT debit) on your account. Anytime a game was rented we had to do a preauthorization to confirm that the card was valid. It sounds like this clerk is just improperly trained.

  74. Zerkaboid says:

    Concerning my previous comment, the credit card needed to be on file so that if you didn’t return the game we could charge you for it. In theory this policy makes sense, but it’s often carried out improperly.

  75. chenry says:

    Well that’s retarded. Looks like I’ll be renting from Rogers Video from now on.

  76. cynu414 says:

    AppleTV FTW. You can see the trailer before you rent too.

  77. darkryd says:

    Dear Blockbuster:

    My debit card is not your personal cookie jar.

  78. BuzzDar says:

    I know when i worked for blockbuster that 1.00 charge is NOT a test to see if the card is active. THEY only run the card once and when it ran it firsts takes 1.00 when blockbuster processes the rest of the ammount usually with in 24 hours it takes the 1.00 away and adds the correct fee. i know when i was a shift manager they can accept debit cards but was told not to accept them but to only run them as credit.if the 1.00 is still on your account ontop of the regular amount then this is something you need to take up with your bank. this is NOT a Block buster problem.

  79. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Rent locally! Stop patronizing Blockbuster.

    $8.47 for a game rental? Seriously? Couldn’t you buy it used for maybe 2-3 times that and like, own it?

    The local video store here bends over backwards to offer excellent service, new movies, and more obsure titles.

    They charge less than Blockbuster. They are open later and earlier. They will order a movie if they have enough requests. They rent games for $3.99 for several days.

    Once they even told me to bring in payment when I returned the video I was renting, when I had forgotten my checkbook.

    I’ve lived in many states, and everyplace I’ve lived has had at least one or two awesome local video stores. I’m aware of two others where I live now.

  80. BuzzDar says:

    i know i can pay 7.99 to rent games at a local video store or pay as low as 19.99 for ps3 games at walmart.

  81. htrodblder says:

    With a overall debt of over $500 Million, yes million, Blockbuster was recently listed as the #1 company with the potential to fail in the next 12 months, and now my question. The company does go belly up, every transaction on that day has a $1.00 test charge, do you suddenly become a creditor?

  82. FACEMACHINE says:

    Jesus christ.

    I work for a recently converted blockbuster, as in we were a private franchise and were recently bought out by blockbuster corporate

    They just informed us of this new policy, though we only do it for next generation game rentals. We (the employees) find this new policy just as annoying as the customers, since we’re about as in the dark as you all.

    In my store at least, we were informed that the card will not be charged, but its just to check that the card CAN be charged. We all thought that was a little BS anyways.

    I’d love to just ignore this policy, but we’re told that if we don’t follow it, we get terminated. This job is awful.

  83. EricaKane says:

    Somebody said it earlier, but I think what is going on is that they are authorizing the card in case you don’t return the game..then they charge you the full retail price of the game – like $60 or so. So there are two things going on (1) authorization in case of non-return and (2) the rental fee. This place sucks.

  84. Lambasted says:

    @bohemian: That’s the first thing I thought of too. It’s all the interest.

    Testing your card must be the new code word for “unlawful borrowing”. Snakes.

  85. xthexlanternx says:

    This is making sure the card is real so if you steal the game or DVD that they have a way to pay for it. I honestly hate things like this, but I think the minor inconvenience is worth it because it keeps rental prices low.

  86. JustIcedCoffee says:

    I just went to Blockbuster here in seattle, used a online return mailer as payment, and didn’t get a dollar debited from my account.

  87. Brien says:

    This is a pre-authorization ONLY for Wii, PS3, and Xbox360 games. They do it to test the credit card on the account (not the one used at the time, although they can be one and the same) so that if not returned, they know the customer will be charged for the game, and they won’t lose $50-$60.

  88. Raziya says:

    Finally! One good thing about living in the middle of nowhere – there’s no Blockbuster within like 50 miles!

  89. bokharni says:

    I am a current employee of Blockbuster. this is routine, and is not a charge. if this charge actually went through, and took $1 out of your account, it was a mistake made by the clerk that checked you out.
    The policy is that they do check your credit card for $1, but it is a pre-authorization, and will never actually take a dollar from your account. it will show up on your bank account as “pending” and then, after a few days, will disappear.
    Again, if it ever goes through your bank, and takes $1 out, it was a mistake made by the CSR. the pre-authorization will only show up on your account for a few days as “pending.”
    Also, we’re required to do this for Wii, PS3, and Xbox360 games because much of the time those games are payed by cash, not credit card, and a credit card on the account is a way blockbuster can charge if you steal the game, and never return it.

  90. ludwigk says:

    @joshthephenom: For a temporary authorization, Blockbuster does not actually receive the dollar. The credit company basically holds that much of your available credit aside to ensure account activity and available balance. For small transactions, $1 is typically enough. You are not billed for a temporary authorization, and in the case of a debit card, the money is not removed from your account. You can’t even pay off a temporary authorization because it is not part of your balance, it only affects your available credit.

    Even if Blockbuster did receive the dollar, what makes you think that your $1 dollar for 1 week interest free loan, after merchant services charges mind you, is going to net them any profit?

  91. Lucky225 says:

    This only happens on credit as far as I know, and only when you OPEN the blockbuster account.

  92. jwheeler0222 says:

    I work at Blockbuster.

    We are supposed to tell the customer about the Pre-authorization charge. ( Called PA1). And they have the option of paying the $1 charge or to not rent the games. The 1 dollar PA1 is only for XBOX360, WII, and PS3 games.

    These games are our BIGGEST source of revenue, so this is the way they choose to protect it.

    We don’t even see the dollar, it’s only to ensure that the account is active.

    For example, in one case at my store…before we started PA1, there was a customer who kept charging games to different debit cards with no $ on them. (You can see the issue that leads to when someone is renting multiple times a week)

    The CSR in this case did make a mistake, by not informing him of the PA1, but Blockbuster isn’t making any sort of profit off of it.

  93. Grive says:

    For the people who claim this is a preauth and Blockbuster doesn’t see a penny of it.

    At least in the two banks I use the most, held charges that are not applied do not appear on my transaction list – you only see that the amount I owe and my available credit are less than my credit limit, or that my available funds are less than my total funds in my debit card.

    I was pretty sure this was standard procedure. So having a $1 charge listed would mean the charge did go through, and later a $1 deposit would appear.

  94. jspeed04 says:

    A lot of you guys are ridiculous! Oh my God, the reason that BB and HV as well debit this from your account is because they are ensuring that the card that you give them to set up your account is not fake, to ensure that it is a running account. It only happens ONE time, and it does get credited back to the account. This person clearly just signed up for an account with the said store, and it ensures that if this person decides to keep the game, then he will be charged accordingly. What you guys don’t think Netflix does this too? Any rental company will charge you a dollar at first, and they will also charge your account if you steal their movie. And actually, things like this keep the prices of games and movies down! Chill out, seriously.

    Flame me for speaking the truth.

  95. Again, blockbuster is a franchise. They may do that pre-charge for $1 at their store, but at our’s we don’t. As long as you have a credit/debit card on your account that isn’t expired, then you can rent games. If there’s no card on your account or if it’s expired then you can’t, simple as that. I do understand though why they would do the $1 charge because even if you have a card that isn’t expired, doesn’t mean there’s no money on it, such as a debit card, the person then rents the game and doesn’t return it and since games aren’t free we have to pay to replace it and the cost goes up.

  96. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    They are paying more in fees than they would get in interest, but an auth hold doesn’t get them interest.

  97. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @jspeed04: TOTALLY not impressed with your melodramatics, sweetie.

    And even less impressed with companies who treat their customers as adversaries.

  98. tyllwin says:

    I just talked with someone who happens to work at my local BB about this, and what I was unoffically told was this:

    In theory, the policy there is that the $1 charge in addition to the rental fee is because (again, in theory) they may go against *two different cards.* The $1 hold goes against the card used to set up the account, to ensure that it’s still live and can be charged for the game if you never bring it back. The rental fee goes against whatever card (or cash, for that matter) you’re using to rent the game, which may be a different card altogether. It looks weird when the cards happen to be the same card, but they may not always be the same card. She didn’t say, but my impression was that they think this is fine because of the agreement you initially signed regarding the card securing the account, while setting up a non-return charge against whatever card you happened to pull out for the rental would require additional paperwork.

    Policy at that particular store is that it’s done only for more expensive games (Wii games, but not, for example, for any PS2 games); and her claim is that how long the $1 is held is really up to the bank, because from BB’s perspective it’s immediately released.

    People in the trenches being what they are, she may be wrong in how she understands it of course — or she may be right and other people are misapplying the policy so that the $1 hold goes against the card being used for the rental rather than against the card securing the account; but it seems plausible to me that the “two card” notion is why they’re doing a hold at all.

  99. Then again speedwell they wouldn’t have to go with such measures if some people weren’t stubborn enough to steal games. We used to keep all of our movies out on the floor area. But because quite a few customers decided it’s right to steal movies from the cases we have to keep the newer releases behind the counter (since those were the ones that were being stolen). See where I’m going? A company wouldn’t have to do the $1 Refundable charge to make sure someone’s account wasn’t a fraud if people would be more honest.

    Customer: “Heheh, let’s use this crappy account to ‘rent’ a game for $9 and not return it.”

    Pretty childish if you ask me. There was a small mom and pop convenience shop that was just a few miles from here. But because of the area there were a lot of thefts, so the prices went up on things. Not to mention they had to put up some bullet-proof glass around the counter, which is a damn shame. And why did they have to do things like that? because of the people who thought it would be ok to steal and rob. Besides, I said all blockbusters don’t do that. People should be more specific as to which franchise it is that is doing the $1 charges anyway.

  100. For those who don’t remember signing up for Netflix, they preauthorize your account as well. However, since it’s a flat monthly rate, there is only one preauth. Actually, mine took a little too long to come off and I called up to find out what the problem was (it turned out my bank was being slow, it wasn’t them). Still, I didn’t mind the preauth once since this was going to be a recurring charge, and I can understand them wanting to confirm that they have it right (as a reverse, it would suck if your direct deposit information was slightly off and you weren’t getting your paycheck…authorization can be a good thing). It seems a bit much to preauthorize every charge. Maybe the first few if you were a new user. I think that would be a good compromise-one or two preauthorizations and then if you showed up in the clear, congrats, you’re a full-fledged customer. Change of card on the account means a new preauthorization round.

    As a side note, my local video store (ugh I hate you Kim’s) preauths your card for $100 when you join. So incredibly screwed up.

  101. JollyJumjuck says:

    The OP might get the dollar back, but if it’s a debit card, chances are the transaction counted toward his “service fees” for the month. So in addition to the annoyance of having $1 taken from the account, the bank might also charge a “service fee” for the transaction.
    If I were to open the till at a store and swipe a dollar, saying, “I’ll bring it back within 3-10 days,” chances are I would be charged with theft. But hey, it’s okay when the corporation does it!

  102. ChuckECheese says:

    I learned recently if you want to do a vacation mail hold or mail forwarding online, that the USPS requires you to register a credit card that they charge $1 “for identity verification.” The funny part is that they don’t return your dollar. In the FAQ, the post office explains that they keep the dollar to cover “processing costs.”

  103. czarandy says:

    This is why you should use credit cards. Then there’s no reason to get upset over trifles.

  104. Techno Viking says:

    Because in America, Americans tend to use illogic behind their reasoning. So that’s why you still don’t have your dollar back.

  105. joshthephenom says:

    @ludwigk: After reading more on this, I agree with your first paragraph. In regards to the second, I’ll play along. I would like to state at the time of my post we weren’t sure if the $1 transaction was just for games or all rentals. Though Blockbuster is definitely in a decline, I would guess that they still do at least a five hundred thousand rentals a day, and probably more, but I’ll keep the number low just for the heck of it. Now, even if we take out half of that for merchant fees, that leaves $250,000. I would guess that leaving $250,000 in a bank account would earn a bit of interest, which would be profit for them. Even at low interest rates, it would be pure profit for virtually no work. The writing’s on the wall: Blockbuster is hurting. Why wouldn’t they want to do something like that if they could to make a little extra money?

    All hypothetical numbers of course. I tried figuring out Blockbuster’s rental numbers, but couldn’t find any sources, so I just made a guess.

    I’ve heard of other businesses doing similar practices. Like if they owe you money for something, they’ll hold onto it as long as possible before sending you the check, because as long as they have that money they’re still drawing interest from it.

  106. vermontwriter says:

    Blockbuster isn’t the only company doing this. I just ran into it with Six Flags and have also experienced it with online florists. Six Flags has had that extra $1 charge on my credit card for 7 days now. Last time I used ProFlowers, the charge was there for 14 days.

    My credit card company told me the charge only goes away once they’ve received the paperwork from the company that processed the charge.

  107. hi says:

    It seems to be the new trend of nickel & diming, but now it’s $1. I changed my address online at the post office website and they charged me a dollar to verify my info.

    I’d charge Blockbuster for this loan they are taking out with your money. Highest interest rate possible.

  108. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    $8.47!? To rent a game?

    I ran away from BlockBuster when it was still about $7 to rent a videogame (still too much). Screw it. Use GameFly, and I hope Netflix buys GameFly. That would be SWEET.

  109. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    The link to continue reading comments is busted.

  110. biswalt says:

    @czarandy:

    Read his post, it’s a policy on all debit cards and credit cards.

    As to the $1 charge, laughably illegal. I’m a manager of a retail store, credit card machines come with credit back/void features, so that the $1 could be credited back almost instantly, I have to do this routinely whenever wrong numbers are keyed in. I can void anything as long as I don’t close out my credit card terminal. And it’s hogwash that BB needs to “test” the account. If you don’t have money in the account for a BB purchase or rental, the credit card won’t go through. It’s not like BB hand scans these cards and then sends them off for processing like this is 1980 or anything.

    My advice would be to contact a lawyer about a potential class action lawsuit, especially if this was not advertised as part of the price.

    PS. Anyone think this might be the reason BB is still in business, they’re living off their ill-gotten gains and accrued interest?

  111. TVGenius says:

    Get over it. Sam’s Club gas stations and a lot of other places do the same thing. That’s why you should use your debit card as a credit card whenever possible. Credit transactions will show up almost instantly, whereas debits will take a couple days to show up at times.

  112. Teapotfox says:

    As others have alluded to, the $1 charge is a pre-authorization of the credit or debit card that secures the rental account. In a corporate store, a pre-auth for one dollar must always be done when a customer rents one of the new generation games (Wii, Xbox360, PS3) to make sure the card on the account is active. If the card is declined, the customer must update the account with an active card at that time to be able to rent the game. Sometimes the card being pre-authed is the same card the customer uses to pay (as in this case), sometimes it isn’t (or the customer is paying cash). It will always show up as a separate charge for $1.

    The reason for checking to see if the card is still active is to help make sure that if the customer takes a $60 game out of the store for a $7.99 + tax rental fee, the card on file will successfully be charged for the game if it isn’t returned, and the balance owed won’t just sit there, increasing the store’s net bad debt.

    The exception is if the BBV is in a state that does not permit credit cards to secure accounts (Maryland, for instance). I suppose franchise stores may also have different policies.

  113. Teapotfox says:

    @biswalt:
    Except this isn’t processed by hand, swiping the card through the credit card reader. It is sent automatically through the point-of-sale system using the credit card information on file on the person’s account. BBV employees can only see the last four digits of that credit card number, so if the person uses a card to secure their account and doesn’t have it with them, there is no way an employee could refund that money on the spot to the card itself. They don’t have access to customers’ credit card numbers… I would think that very fact would be reassuring.

    You are also obviously confused about what the fee is for and the fact that it is a separate transaction that has nothing to do with the method of payment for the rental itself. A person could have an invalid card on file and rent movies, rent games for older systems, etc… It is strictly for the new generation game rentals because they are so expensive for the store to replace. They want to try to ensure that the card on file (which is there specifically to allow the renter to rent these games) will actually work if the game is unreturned. A customer could want to pay cash for the rental, but the card that is on file still must be checked for validity. And that information IS available to all customers–BBV corporate stores all received signs indicating the special policy for the new gen games as soon as the policy took effect, and the info has been posted since.

  114. comicgeek77 says:

    i worked at a blockbuster when i was a teenager and back then people either had to leave a cash deposit or cough up a credit card to open a new account. the store would mail a check to the customer for the cash deposit (minus whatever they owed the store) after sixty days or they had rented and returned ten things. for the credit cards all we had to do was run a one dollar pre authorization on the card to make sure it was good and not overdrawn and after a week the dollar would automatically get cut loose back to the card owners account. however most of my coworkers were idiots and couldnt understand how the credit card machine worked and would just run this charge through as a dollar sale. and people called up constantly complaining about the dollar charge making me bring up their accounts and type a dollar refund into the card machine. this used to drive me nuts especially because of all of the people i am sure dont look at their balances closely enough to notice the dollar charge or didnt think a buck was worth the hassle to complain about and just let it slide. i am sure my store alone was pulling in at least five hundred extra bux a month this way.

  115. The Commenter Formerly Known as StartingAces says:

    1 week x 1 game at lackluster = 8.47
    vs.
    1 month x 1 game at Gamefly = 15.99 (even better rate if you get more).

    I know GF has its own problems, but it’s far better overall.

  116. eccsame says:

    I recently ran into this problem at a Blockbuster in Maryland when I attempted to rent a game. My account isn’t secured by a credit card, but I’ve been renting for years without a problem. They told me that they had a new policy. I told them no. Rather than pre-authorizing my credit card for fifty dollars, I offered to give them a fifty dollar cash deposit, refundable when I returned the game. They refused, saying it had to be a credit card, as that was their policy.
    Something about that seems wrong.

  117. Anonymous says:

    It’s a pre-authorization hold, using the credit card that you currently have attached to your Blockbuster account. And it is only for $1, not the full amount of the game cost. With everything– a movie or a game– if an item is kept out more than a week past the due date, it transfers ownership to your account: It charges you for the full price of the item, usually the previously-viewed cost.

    Customers still have a month to bring the item back and only owe $1.25 in restocking fees; after that point it can usually no longer be returned, as the store has already gone through the process of replacing their copy.

    The pre-authorization, at least at the store I work at, is only done on PS3, Wii, and XBox 360 games. With a new one of those costing an average of $50 or more, Blockbuster has to ensure that they’ll get that copy back. That’s why they run the pre-authorization: to make sure the credit card on your account is active and valid, and will allow us to automatically charge it in the event that the item is not returned.