Blockbuster Weighing Charge For Total Access

Blockbuster may soon levy a $4-$6 surcharge for Total Access. By allowing DVDs to be exchanged as free in-store rentals, Total Access dangles a potential workout before couch-potatoes who would otherwise return DVDs exclusively by mail. Blockbuster is quietly circulating a survey to gauge potential outrage to a price hike.

One of the ideas is to offer Mail-Only plans, which would allow members to receive and return DVDs only by mail, without the option to return them at a Blockbuster store and exchange them for free in-store DVDs.

At the same time that the Mail-Only plans are introduced, BLOCKBUSTER Total Access may also experience price changes to reflect the added value that this program represents compared to the Mail-Only options.

Blockbuster would also add additional service tiers, including an unlimited plan allowing four DVDs out at once, and limited plans capped at either two or three DVDs per month.

What do you think? Is Total Access’ “added value” worth the price? Is this enough to consider NetFlix’s movie streaming? Tell us in the comments. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Blockbuster Online to Raise Prices? [Hacking NetFlix] (Thanks to Frank!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. mopar_man says:

    Since the local movie place is so low on prices, Blockbuster hasn’t even moved into this town yet so I can’t even begin to consider Blockbuster.

  2. Aston14 says:

    I think if their mail in prices are consistent with netflix, and their in store/mail in combo prices are slightly (but only slightly) more… it may work. Returning in store sounds like s pretty convenient thing to me.

  3. Dustbunny says:

    Pphhhbbllllttt to Blockbuster. I’m sticking with Netflix.

  4. B says:

    I’ve been considering switching from Netflix to Blockbuster Total Access, but it’s not worth the $4 a month surcharge.

  5. mike1731 says:

    I’m sorry, but with the history Blockbuster has with trick late fees, hidden charges, etc, I think I’ll avoid them. I signed up for Netflix two months ago after looking at my rental spend in Quicken, and realizing I was paying anywhere from $10 to $30/month in late fees.

  6. codegrl says:

    More nickle and diming, yay.

  7. Tallanvor says:

    Wow, that’s low…

    Blockbuster: “Here’s a complementary upgrade to this new service”
    Customer: “Wow, that’s useful!”

    Blockbuster: “Hey, you know how we gave you a free upgrade to this new service? We changed our mind. We’re going to start charging you more for it unless you go and change back to your original plan.”
    Customer: “???”

    I’m sure they’ll make money off of the people who don’t read the notice and end up getting charged more.

    I’ve been using LOVEFiLM for a while here in the UK. I’ve gotten 6 DVDs already this month. If only they weren’t twice as expensive as Netflix!

  8. bambino says:

    The store-trade-in is the whole reason blockbuster online works. They start charging for it, I’m switching to ‘flix.

  9. Mr_Human says:

    I left Netlix last year, after they started shipping me movies from Hawaii (I live in NYC). Blockbuster has been a far more consistent experience, though their website sucketh. Since Total Access, I’ve been gorged on movies; it’s effectively doubled what I normally receive on the 2-out plan. That said, I prolly wouldn’t pay extra for it, but not because I don’t thnk it’s worth it; I just can’t keep up the pace.

  10. Mike_ says:

    We tried Blockbuster Online awhile back. It was terrible. We kept having to call them when the movies we returned were not credited back to our account. For the first few incidents, they were kind enough to apply a “lost in the mail” credit and ship our next selection. Eventually, they decided we were liars, and we were keeping the movies instead of mailing them back. The exact chronology is a bit hazy (this was many months ago), but at around the same time our account was canceled, we were notified the movies we mailed back weeks earlier had been found. Idiots.

  11. mattshu says:

    It seemed to me that installing total access was B-Buster’s (ingenius) way of overcoming the problem that they don’t have as many distribution centers as netflix. Now, if they decide to charge for it, they regain the problem of not being able to compete with netflix’s shipping speed (until netflix thinks you are getting too many movies and you are throttled).

  12. QuirkyRachel says:

    See, now the reason I went with Blockbuster was because I can return/exchange in the store if I want. Wouldn’t charging more for it make the service the same as Netflix? And if so, why would we choose Blockbuster over Netflix?

  13. MeOhMy says:

    I was considering the Total Access thing because of the whole in-store drop off/rental bit. I would not pay extra for it, though.

  14. winnabago says:

    A manager of a Blockbuster mentioned to me once that the store gets credited $1.00 for each envelope they return for the customer, regardless of what the customer chooses to rent with it. They get $4.95 in my area for new releases when someone pays cash, and they get to keep it all. It’s easy to see that they HATED blockbuster online. The only way they could offset the losses was to sign up new subscribers for the online service, which further compounded the problem!

    I knew the stores were in an uproar about the service, and it was only a matter of time before prices changed to match reality. I’ll have to consider the new options and decide when it comes time for it.

  15. rdm says:

    Wow, pay extra for having a one-week delay from returning a movie in store to shipping the next movie to me? No thanks, NF wins.

  16. joemono says:

    Add me to the list of people who switched because of the in-store exchange (okay, and because of the poor service we had using Netflix). I have no interest in paying extra for it.

  17. BillyMumphry says:

    i only subscribed to total access because of the in-store return plan. I would cancel if they implemented a $ 4 price hike, but I don’t care enough about movies to get netflix.

  18. Mr_Human says:

    @rdm: No, when you return in store it gets checked in, and BBO sends out the next movie from your queue the next day. It’s won’t clear your “shipped” queue, though, until BBO gets the DVD from the store. If you’re on the two-out plan this leads to the interesting situation of having 4 titles listed as shipped. Plus, you have the ones you got at the store when you returned your movies.

  19. kimsama says:

    I’m among those who said they would just switch to Netflix if Blockbuster started charging extra for their Total Access. After all, it was the only thing that made me choose BB over NF, and if they start charging for it, I see no reason to stay, and every reason to punish them for charging for a previously free service.

  20. badgeman46 says:

    Why should I be charged extra, when I am already paying the cost of driving down to the store?! Also, I am in turn saving them the chance the DVD will be lost or damaged in the mail by returning directly to them! Also, the fringe benefits to them that I might by an impulse item or some other movie benefits blockbuster. Someone should smack all these nickel and dime companies in the face. I’ll switch to netflix if thats the case.

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

    Personally, I’m tired of the Total Access program.

    I spend an hour wandering around my local Blockbuster looking for a movie to rent. I only find it usefull for new releases, and even then, they are often out of stock.

    I also end up waiting on returning my mailed DVDs till I get around to going to a Blockbuster store. It is much easier (and faster) to just mail the DVDs back at a mailbox on the way to work.

  22. craigpress says:

    I would like to say that thus far I am very happy with Total Access. My wife and I signed up when there was no total access, but three or four instore free rentals. We probably end up watching 10-15 movies a month, which would run us $50. Now, we weren’t watching that many before so the comparison is flawed to a degree, but for $19, I get at least $50 worth of good,plus half of those I don’t have to go to the store for. While sometimes, but rarely, it takes a while to get the next movie after dropping it in the mail, usually, I have one that I can use to go get a new movie at the store 3 minutes away. I imagine this is the situation for most total access users. When a movie they claimed to have shipped didn’t arrive, we just made few clicks on the website and the problem was fixed.

    Sure they have nickel and dimed me in the past, but I keep my movies for more than 1 week, and in the past ~6 months, haven’t paid a single late fee, plus the first month was free.

    If they decide to increase the price $2 from what I pay now, I will think about it, but really $2 isn’t a big deal. If they keep raising the price, sure I’ll jump. But lets keep this in perspective. If netflix told you they would offer the same service for $2 extra would you sign up?

  23. squidbrain says:

    I must admit I love the Total Access thingie. I almost never return a DVD via snailmail. Its like getting twice as many DVDs. I think I’d pay another $4.

    As an aside I used to have Netflix but quit after they would not deal with my web issue. I couldn’t update my queue and when I emailed them I got a canned response “we can’t deal with each request individually.” What a crock.

  24. William Mize says:

    Just switched to Total Access this month, said goodbye to Netflix, and, like the commenter above, am *gorged* on movies.
    I feel like Mr. Creosote from “The Meaning of Life”.
    Bring me a bucket!

    I’d have to say “No” to the surcharge being floated in the above survey. That just ain’t right.

  25. daversion says:

    They’re not really in a position to be raising prices. Their tactic to incorporate their stores as leverage over Netflix was a desperation move. It is apparent Netflix is superior in almost every way that it can compete with BB.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that for the last month or two, the new movie is no longer shipped out when they scan the returned one at the store. They wait till they receive it so they can keep more movies in circulation. Maybe its just me, but the service hasn’t been as fast since I started noticing the perceived change.

    I’m a Total Access member now because I like to be able to trade the movie in and get my free monthly coupon for a game rental. If they jack the prices up $4 so I can spend my time and coin to drop their movies off, they will have definitely lost one customer.

  26. lainemcd says:

    I’ve had BBO for four months now – 3 at a time unlimited and they haven’t been sending movies for weeks!! When I called to complain, they hung up on me. When I emailed to complain they disconnected my service without asking me. They have now offered a free month, but after “their computers were down” for three weeks on my dime, a free month for my troubles hardly seems worth it.

    Plus, when you go to the store to get a new rental, they end up sending you the same movie- so you get it a week later (thanks to ungodly show shipping on their part).

    I am so fed up and discouraged with them I am inches away from defecting back to Netflix where I was relatively happy for three years.

    If this fee is enacted I am sooooooooooo out of here!! Has anyone had a similar experience?>

  27. etinterrapax says:

    I’ve been with Netflix since 2002 and wasn’t tempted to switch even with Blockbuster’s enticement, but I have a friend who insists it’s better because you can return movies in-store. But then she complains that all the in-store discs are scratched, or sets have missing parts, and the store management just says there’s nothing they can do about it. The advantage is what, then, exactly? Probably the surcharge will do her in, too.

  28. Dave says:

    I’ve been with Netflix for about a year now. One of my roommates was a subscriber to Blockbuster Online because of the free in-store rentals, so I got to see what the experience was like.

    The reasons I decided that Netflix was better for me were:
    A) I didn’t want to have to go to a store to rent a movie or pay late fees (the Blockbusters in Tallahassee still have them)
    B) I watch lots of TV on DVD and the Blockbusters in my area don’t carry much of a selection
    C) Netflix has a distribution center closer to me than Blockbuster does (Panama City vs. Lakeland, respectively), so I get a movie from Netflix 2 days after I sent one out as opposed to 5 days with Blockbuster.

    The prospect of Total Access was interesting to me, but like I said, I subscribed to a DVD-by-mail service so I wouldn’t have to leave the house. If I were a subscriber to BBO, I wouldn’t make use of the Total Access feature, so I definitely wouldn’t pay more for it.

  29. exkon says:

    This would really depend on how close you lived to a blockbuster and if you want to “wait” for new movies to arrive. I don’t like the surcharge, so I just might drop it so I’ll do mail only service.

    But I do have to say that the feature is quite nice.

  30. syabut says:

    I have Blockbuster Total Access and received 15 DVDs each month the last 2 months on a 4/at time-unlimited plan at $23.99/month. Excluding tax, that is $1.60/DVD. I always return DVDs to the local store around the corner to get another DVD, so my cost drops to $0.80/DVD. Even with a $6 surcharge, my cost would be only $1.00/DVD which beats Netflix cost since I assume I would only be able to rent about 15 DVDs a month with the same plan.

    I was a longtime Netflix customer and switched. So far Blockbuster online service seems to be about the same if not better than Netflix, although I don’t care for the site interface too much. I regularly keep 2 day rentals from my local store over 5 days and have yet to be charged a late fee or restocking charge.

  31. I just started “Total Access” about a month ago. Thus far, I love it. The ability to take it back to the store is what gives it the edge over Netflix, as well as the monthly free coupon I can use to rent games- usually 8 bucks.

    If they hiked the prices, you can bet your ass I’d consider dropping the program or switching to netflix.

  32. adamondi says:

    Living near Seattle, where both Netflix and Blockbuster Online have distribution centers, time of shipping and all of that is never a problem for me. It is always a two day turnaround when I send a movie back to BBO. For instance, I sent two movies back on Monday of this week, got my notice that two new movies shipped out on Tuesday, and got them in the mail on Wednesday.

    I simply do not need the “convenience” of Total Access. I have never used it. If I want a movie right away, I just use the free in-store rental coupons that I get each month with BBO. So if they decide to start charging extra for the Total Access part, then I will happily say “screw that” and go with the mail-only option. Of course, if they also eliminate the free game or movie rental coupons that I get each month with the mail only option, then I will switch to Netflix in the blink of an eye. The online viewing option of theirs has been pretty tempting thus far.

  33. Scuba Steve says:

    Blockbuster makes more money off of the “processing time” it takes to send and recieve your movies. You rent less and they make more per rental off of you.

  34. MMD says:

    I signed up for a 2-week trial of BBO, even though I’m a Netflix customer. (I teach college and it was winter break, so I had some extra time to watch movies!) I was pretty gleeful about the “double-dipping” of renting for free by returning the DVDs to the store AND getting the next ones in my queue once the store mails movies back. That was, in my mind, the one clear advantage of using BBO over Netflix. Remove that advantage and I have no incentive to switch. Even though there are occasional blips in my Netflix service, they’ve actually been fairly responsive when I’ve bothered to complain (discounts, credits of an extra disc, etc.).

  35. chadbarwick says:

    I subscribe to Netflix precisely because of this type of blockbuster shenanigan. My tipping point was the streaming video at home for Netflix. It is a neat service, though the selection is still in its infancy. The streaming works well and keeps me occupied since I don’t have cable.

    With the three-movie deal, it adds a ton more functionality to Netflix than any blockbuster coupon would.

    Netflix is a solid experience.

  36. timewalker2099 says:

    Well, I would love Total Access, if I could use it. But the stores in the Memphis area are franchise owned, and choose not to participate. They will take the online coupons for free rentals, but not for purchases (buy 2 – get one free) and they won’t accept the envelopes to return the movies/rent in-store.
    They also still charge late fees daily.

  37. niccernicus says:

    When BB first offered the drop-off at the store option, I checked it out online.

    Am I wrong in thinking you can only do it once per month? Or has it changed? The only reason I would even consider BB over Netflix is the in-store exchange. BB is such an evil company, I refuse to give them money.

  38. lonebannana says:

    I’d move to the 2 DVDs at a time and turn in the movies at the store. It’d be the same price.

    I use the coupons to get video games for my boy; two coupons, a game every two weeks. Except for candy, I’ve not laid a DIME down in a BB store.

    Anyway, i find it hard enough nowadays to find anything worthwhile to watch, let alone THREE worthwhile things to watch. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of Low budget horror movies.

    If it wasn’t for going into the store i would miss out on all of those hilarious, crappy, low budget horror movies.

    That’s good, right?

  39. golgiapparatus says:


    No, you can do it as often as you have mailer envelopes to turn in.

  40. glitterpig says:

    No, you can do the in-store dropoff as often as you want. I get about 6 discs a week (three mail-in, three in-store returns). If you’re using BBO heavily, it’s a no-brainer. If you only want a couple movies a month, it wouldn’t be worth it. (I also have BB stores both right next to where I work and near my home, so it’s very convenient for me to do in-store dropoff/rentals.)

    When I joined BBO, I was paying $21/month for three discs. Then they raised the price, but I was grandfathered in for 6 months. Then they raised my price, but improved the coupons. Then they lowered the price. Then they started TA. If they decided to charge for it, I’d probably go with the 2-at-a-time plan, since that’s less than the price I started with (and with in-store returns, I’d still have a ton of movies all the time.)

  41. Bix says:


    Any idea why yours were shipped from Hawaii? They have a hub in Flushing that covers the area.

  42. alicetheowl says:

    I’ve had Blockbuster Online for several years, now, and I’m pretty pleased with it. I had some trouble with my postal service snapping the discs in half, and with the USPS’s slow service in my area, but I don’t blame any of that on Blockbuster.

    It seems to me, though, that if they’re going to start charging for the one thing that makes their service clearly superior to Netflix, they’re shooting themselves in the foot. I can see paying $2 more per month, but $4 more? I think I’d downgrade my service to the two-out-at-a-time plan before I’d pay that.

  43. The Walking Eye says:


    I had Netflix until I went back to college and had to drop it, but I loved it. Anyway, while I had it I would get movies sent to me from 3/4 different distribution centers. Most of the time it would be Bowling Green, KY but Cincy, Indy and another got into the rotation regularly. It’s gotta partially be due to which movie you want and where a free copy of that is.

    Seems really strange that someone in NY would get a movie sent from Hawaii, though. In my experience, it didn’t really matter where the disc came from, I’d still get it the next day (mostly, my post office was weird on deliveries) and never later than the second day.

  44. murraycg says:

    The only reason not to use NetFlix is the fact that Blockbuster allows the in-store exchange. I dare them to charge me another cent. What if they do? I cancel tomorrow. Hear that BLOCKBUSTER??? I WILL CANCEL THE SECOND YOU RAISE THE FEES.

    Don’t ruin a good thing!

  45. Amry says:

    Amen to most. I’d been thinking of ditching my Blockbuster Online subscription for Netflix (mostly because it was taking up to a week to get my new movies) when they started the Total Access thing. I’ve loved it so far – the instant gratification of getting the movie in the store is awesome, and I’m pretty sure they send your new movie out as soon as they scan the old one in at the store, so I’ve been getting my new movie in about 2 days.

    Anyway, I dropped my plan down from 3 at a time, unlimited per month to 1 at a time, unlimited with the advent of Total Access, because I’m getting the same number of movies per month this way. I’m guessing this is where the surcharge comes in – I can’t be alone here.

  46. Helvetian says:

    They lowered the pricing of the mail only subscription by $1, so instead of $9.99 it’s now $8.99. The difference is $4 on the 1 at a time plan. A great value for people interested. I applaud BBV and LOVE the service. Competition is amazing, so before most of you denigrate them remember one thing: Netflix’s monopoly. Prior to BB, Netflix was gouging consumers and raising prices left and right. First it was $14.99 for 3, then $17.99, then $19.99 and loyal customers were never grandfathered. We were forced to move to the new terms and pricing. It wasn’t until BB launched their service, that Netflix decided to not only scale back their pricing but offer more lower-tier plans for low-volume customers and high end plans.

    So I am delighted with BB’s Online service, and look forward to more competitive choices and pricing innovation. People often like to bash without trying the service. BB is great, their CS is great and my DVDs arrive in one day too. Never had a problem, excellent service. I was a Netflix customer since July 2000 and canceled them around 2004/2005 (whenever BB launched) and never looked back.

    As far as the streaming is concerned, doesn’t interest me. And the streaming enabled movies are limited and lackluster. Too many restrictions, whereas Total Access is unlimited and straightforward.

  47. Netflix has the edge with many more titles, and Blockbuster’s business practices definately had me suspicious when they decided to compete with Netflix. No way. I don’t trust them.

    Full disclosure: I have a small investment of stock in NFLX.

  48. Helvetian says:

    The throttling issue is not one I would call an ethical one. And about title selections, I have yet to find a movie that BB doesn’t have that I actually want to see. I know Netflix has more titles, but titles I don’t see myself ever watching, etc. It’s like with cellphones, everyone wants a carrier with coverage in the boonies, Apple Pie USA, a cave in a Mt Rushmore but why? Unless you’re going to be there, why does it matter?! Like T-Mobile says “coverage where it counts” and for BB “movies that you want to watch.” I don’t care if Netflix has 1.5M movies, it’s a matter of movies I want to watch.

  49. Yossarian says:

    I subscribe to BBO instead of Netflix for 2 reasons: the free game rental each month and this throttling of heavy users I’ve heard Netflix does.

    Since my bf hasn’t used the free monthly game rental in about 3 months, and they’re considering a rate hike, it’s making NF sound a lot better because I never return movies in-store anyway.

    So who can tell me what constitutes a heavy user for Netflix customers?

  50. Helvetian says:

    The pricing will remain the same, so there’s no need to switch just because you don’t use the extra free benefits. BB is not hiking rates, they are providing a choice. The mail only option with a free in-store coupon or the same option for an extra few bucks with TA added. Nothing changes, no need to cancel.

    Also unlike NF, BBO does grandfather people and lock them in as long as they remain a customer.

  51. Helvetian says:

    I should have added they are only considering to charge an extra $4 but at the sametime the current pricing levels are lowered by $1. So instead of $14.99, it would be $13.99 for mail in unlimited 2 with monthly store coupon or for $4 more, you add TA. Seems fair to me.

  52. micturatedupon says:

    again, with the opera bitching:

    if i could delete movies from my queue in opera, i’d stick with bbo.

    i called them up, and they suggested i use IE. i was insulted, and given a free month, as their website is due for an ‘upgrade’, which ‘may’ fix my issue.

    glad i kept NF as a backup, i don’t think i’ll be keeping it beyond that free month.

    as a poster above said, their website does indeed sucketh…big donkey balls.

  53. Helvetian says:

    I didn’t know it doesn’t work well with Opera, I’ll have to check that out since I have Opera. However IE7 is my main browser.

  54. Lee Jones says:

    I use BB. I switched from the 3-a-time to the 2-a-time because of “return your DVD at a store for a free rental.” Frankly, I’ve gotten used to it, but I wouldn’t pay extra for it.

    If I got stuck doing only mail-ins again, I’d probably try out Netflix, and see which I like better. BB has my loyalty so far BECAUSE of the return-at-store thing. That’s it.

  55. rolla says:

    eh, an extra few bucks for in-store rentals is worth it. I’ve used both services and find that NF is much slower to get me movies than BB. Once i return my DVDs to the store and finish watching my in-store rentals, my by-mail rentals have arrived. MUCH MUCH faster than NF.

  56. JustIcedCoffee says:

    Let’s not forget THROTTlING —
    I rented and watched the last season on Queen as folk within a week and they put me on the slow track to hell. I switched to netflix because of mad crazy late fees at blockbuster. I think throttling is much more predatory than late fees. I knew I was being bad when I didn’t return the DVD to the store, but with netflix It’s a subjective bad from the point of view of the ‘company’
    Let’s not forget that blockbuster online has brought down Netflitx prices — another good thing for consumers.
    I watch too many dvd’s so the Total access would be worth 4 dollars easy. One rental is 4 bucks in seattle.