"Why Blockbuster Will Never Survive"

Reader and commenter Salviati writes in to share his personal experience with Blockbuster and his theory for why they will never survive fierce competition from Netflix and the new Apple video rentals.

I am writing to explain why I am no longer a Blockbuster Total Access subscriber and never will be again. Service wasn’t always so deplorable at Blockbuster, but in the last several months I have had three very negative experiences with the chain that has caused me to turn from a Blockbuster evangelist, who persuaded my parents and friends to join the Total Access plan, to a disgruntled consumer who won’t step into a Blockbuster until they’ve reformed their customer service attitude.

Keep in mind, I was an easy customer. I auto-paid my monthly bill. I held my movies for weeks and months on end without mailing them back or taking them back to the store for exchanges. I even went for a period of 6.5 months without exchanging my movies (While being charged $17.99 all the while). In the past year I was with Blockbuster, I exchanged only 11 movies in-store. I was as profitable as they could get. But between August and today, I have had three incidences which have convinced me that Blockbuster managers are (1)Incompetent (2)Powerless and (3)Apathetic.

Incident 1: I had exchanged out a set of 3 movies in-store in August. After keeping them out past their initial due date I was billed the price of the movies which is in-line with their policy. As long as they are returned within 30 days, Blockbuster is supposed to refund the charge minus a $1.25 processing fee. However, I got called out-of-town on a business trip, and I left before being able to return the movies. Once I realized the situation, I called my local store and asked if it was necessary to have my wife return the movies while I was gone, or if I could wait a week and return them myself. His answer was that it wouldn’t be a problem for me to return the movies after 30 days, but I would be charged the $1.25 fee per movie. Great, I thought, until I got back home. When I tried to return the movies (32 days past their due date), I was told that it was impossible to return the movies, and that I’d have to pay the ridiculously marked-up used price of $40 for the three (the price at Target for all three new was $21). The manager simply wouldn’t acknowledge that one of their employees had mis-informed me about my ability to return the movies. I tried to call their corporate customer service, who could only refer me to the district manager. To cut this long story short, I spent 3 weeks calling between the store manager and district manager trying to simply refund the movies, which they still sold on their Used racks. I was repeatedly told it was “Impossible” and “the computer won’t allow it”. I know the time I spent trying to return the movies was worth more than $40, but I felt like I was being wronged, and didn’t want to let the issue go. I finally caved when I received a threatening Credit Agency letter. I thought about writing this letter to The Consumerist back then, but I figured it was partially my fault, even though I thought Blockbuster did a terrible Customer Service job.

Incident 2: This one was much shorter. Me, my wife, and her friend walking into a Blockbuster with three return envelopes to exchange. My wife, who had never exchanged movies before, didn’t know to hold onto the envelopes until checkout and sat them on top of the counter as she walked in (thinking that she wasn’t allowed to walk around the store with them). About two minutes later, I realized she wasn’t holding them any longer and walked back to the counter to pick them up. Too late. The clerk had already checked them in without pausing even for a second to see if someone was planning to use them. Again, the clerk and manager claimed that they were powerless slaves to the computer and wouldn’t be unable to let us use the credit towards any new movies since they were already checked-in. Still sore after the treatment I had received a month earlier, I didn’t want to let this go, but they wouldn’t budge. I explained that I was a long-term customer who rarely redeemed my credits, but they stood firm. We ended up paying for two movies and left.

Incident 3: Today. I tightly clutched my return envelopes as I slowly browsed the shelves for three new movies to exchange. Finally, I settle on two movies and a Wii game. Last year, I was able to use a return envelope to pick-up a Wii game without a problem. Well apparently things have now changed. After scanning my three envelopes, they scanned the three items I had brought up. $5.34. “Excuse me, this should be an even exchange.” Apparently not. Now the returned movie only counts as $4 off a $9 game rental. Oh well, I thought, “Just take it off and I’ll grab another movie”. Nope – Apparently each credit gets automatically applied to a specific item and can’t be re-transfered to another item. On top of that, they wouldn’t remove the game from my checkout and insisted that I HAD to pay for the game, even though I hadn’t payed yet and the transaction was unfinished. They insisted that the transaction WAS finished and now I had to pay for it (Which doesn’t make any sense. How can the transaction be over before I am even told what the cost will be). After much debate with the manager, they agreed to take the game off the transaction (as a “Favor”), but they couldn’t do anything about applying the credit to another movie. By this time I had already decided that I would be writing this letter when I got home, and canceling my year-long subscription to Blockbuster Total Access.

It no longer surprises me that Blockbuster is failing as a company. They are closing many stores and hemorrhaging cash. Many analysts don’t even expect them to survive more than a few years. They may not be able to compete with the price and selection of Netflix or the new Apple video rentals, but they had one thing strongly going for them – availability. I knew that if I really needed to, I could go down the street and pick up a physical movie and talk to a real person if I needed to. Now my mindset has changed. Clearly, Blockbuster has decided that their employees and even managers are too incompetent to run their own stores and must be treated like trained monkeys. Even when I found a sympathetic ear, they were simply powerless to over-ride the computer for even simple tasks. Oh well, now that Netflix has unlimited downloads at less than half of the price I was paying at Blockbuster, maybe this is exactly the incentive I needed to make the change.

What do you Netflix customers think? How’s the water in your end of the pool?

Should he switch?



Edit Your Comment

  1. ediebeale says:

    Have never had a problem with Netflix, I get a new movie 48 hours after I mail the old one, they harassed my post office to improve my mail service, and their customer service is FANTASTIC. I do not understand why anyone uses Blockbuster anymore.

  2. snoop-blog says:

    there is a BB 2 blocks from my house and i still prefer netflix. the bb by my house still has insane late fees if you just go in to the store and rent them. so screw them. my netflix is great!

  3. dwhicks01 says:

    I just go to my semi-local video store, pay $10 a month to get half-off making each movie like $1.00 (brand new ones) old ones ($0.25), and it’s on my way too and from work, so no gas is wasted. GO LOCAL!

  4. rewinditback says:

    I was heckled by a Blockbuster employee for being a netflix subscriber (wanted to rent a movie while i was waiting for my next in queue to arrive). Maybe i’m crazy but you don’t heckle somebody to get them to transfer.

    Thats like you walking into a steak joint, ordering fish, and them saying ” What, concerned about your cholesterol PANSY!?”

  5. cabinaero says:

    Blockbuster who?

    We use Netflix for things we know we want to watch; our local independent for obscure things we want to watch; and now iTunes for things we want to watch *right now*

  6. Coder4Life says:

    Heh well it sounds like you kind of got screwed and at the same time it sounds like you are a pain in the ass customer..

    Why in the world would you keep your rented movies for months at at time especially the store rentals.

    Also by keeping the movies for months at a time, you are slowing everyone else from getting the movies. So yeah you are profitable to them but at the saem time you might be costing them money in the back end. Because they have to continue to purchase more movies b/ people like you hold them for such a long time over and over…

  7. snoop-blog says:

    plus i will never do business with any chain if they can’t all be the same product or service. if i go to a mcdonalds anywhere in the u.s., and order a big mac, it will be the same all the time. i got this line of bull from my BB about them not being a corporate owned store and their poicies are different. as a consumer, i should never be able to tell the difference is how i feel, if i can’t get consistant service from a franchise, i will just refuse to do business there.

  8. TWinter says:

    I’ve had Netflix for about three years. I’ve never had any problems beyond a couple of scratched disks and they mailed out replacements for those as soon as I reported them on the website.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Blockbuster made their own failure
    -high late fees
    -sending customers to collections
    -editing their movie for content

    good bye

  10. snoop-blog says:

    my dad calls them ballbusters!! lol.

  11. IrisMR says:

    Something tells me these guys need to change their computers before these things grow a mind of their own and start eating the employees.

  12. MDSasquatch says:

    Hollywood Video works very well for me, haven’t been to a BB in years and quite frankly, I don’t miss them.

  13. pcrnow says:

    Yet another reason I will never go back to BB, there is a BB within walking distance of my house and I am just too happy with Netflix (been a subscriber since 1999) to change.

  14. full.tang.halo says:

    I received a $10 blockbuster gift card from one of my more clueless aunts and to tell you the truth I have no desire to set foot into a BB even with free cash, it’s just that aggravating to go there. How they manage to stay open is beyond me. High prices, new releases never in, bad selection on anything that isn’t new, very little in the way of import films, no thanks. Netflix FTW

  15. beautifulbaby says:

    Netflix has some of the best customer service I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve had a couple discs show up that didn’t work, and at least two disappeared in the mail, and Netflix instantly sent me a replacement the day I reported the problem. The unlimited downloads are amazing (quick and fantastic quality), and they understand the concept of keeping customers happy and loyal. With all of that, I just don’t understand why anyone would bother with Blockbuster.

  16. dgcaste says:

    Didn’t you read that the google-generation is a myth? I can’t extract critical information from a document that long. Besides, Steve Jobs was right on the mark with me. Yawn.

  17. irid3sc3nt says:

    I get my movies from my local library. It’s free and I have the movie for a week. They have an excellent collection and if they don’t happen to have the movie I’m looking for, then I can get it through their interlibrary loan program. If other libraries do not have it, then my library will order it for their collection. It’s awesome (and the library workers are NICE, too)!

  18. darkclawsofchaos says:

    I think Blockbuster is still useful, Netflix is priced nice because of Blockbuster, not to say netflix are evil corporate bastards, but their prices wouldn’t be so generous wihout blockbuster. To be fair I’m not a movie afficionado and don’t use these types of services but to an outsider, this is how it looks like

  19. BugMeNot2 says:

    Never had issues with Netflix. One time a dvd came in the mail snapped in half, just reported it on site and sent it back. No questions, no charge.

    Also, Netflix has been good about aquiring some obscure cult movies when requested.

    As for Blockbuster? I think the last time I was in one of those stores was over 6-7 years ago and even then they sucked+.

  20. NotATool says:

    Really? In 30+ days there’s no time to return the DVDs? Granted, the Blockbuster goons are being kind of jerky, but waiting until the last minute to return something when you’re already in a grace period is just asking for trouble…

    But I’m with the OP on #2 and #3…talk about lame customer service…

  21. matt1978 says:

    @Coder4Life: Learn how to write and spell, goofball. Blockbuster has tons of whatever movies people are looking for, this guy wasn’t holding anyone up. Go work on coding a proper sentence.

  22. ARP says:

    I use on-demand for stuff I want now or “popular” stuff and Netflix for tv shows, indie films, etc. We’ve had a scratched video or two and one got lost in the mail, but its never been a problem. They mail out a new one right away, no questions asked. You’d be surprised how loyal people can be if you just trust them a little bit.

    I think there will always be a “video store” in some form. It may just be a kiosk like at the grocery stores, but there will always be a desire to go to the “store” to figure out what you want to watch.

  23. billbillbillbill says:

    Redbox for me. I go online and pick the movie or movies I want to watch. Next time I’m out, I stop by McDonald’s or Albertsons or all the other locations around me and it only costs me a dollar a day. Some months, we will rent a bunch of movies and pay more; other months just a couple of bucks, no membership fees, no hassle.

  24. mantari says:

    I meant to take a picture of something that was on the wall of my local blockbuster. It says they’re looking for smart people who have a passion for movies. A COLLEGE EDUCATION IS PREFERRED, BUT NOT REQUIRED.

    Holy crap… they want their employees to have college degrees?

  25. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Netlflix and Blockbuster are both pathetic, but Netflix has a better selection, so basically it’s just a choice between suck and suckier.

  26. burgeon says:

    About 13 years ago, I was at The Second City in Chicago, and they were doing a sketch about “sticking it to The Man.” Someone’s character went on a rant about how BB drives out all the cool Mom ‘n’ Pop places with the pr0n in the back through the hinged shutter doors (remember those?). Then they started shouting for everyone to throw their BB cards onto the stage to be destroyed. I had had a few annoying experiences with them, so I actually took mine out of my wallet, and threw it up there with a flick of my wrist. It traveled in a perfect arc and actually landed right at the guy’s feet (among a bunch of fake cards cast members were throwing up there), and he picked it up and said “Yes!! A brave soul named [my name]!! Striking a blow to the corporate overlords!!” Then he cut it up and yelled “And DON’T get it replaced!!” I never did…

  27. mike1731 says:

    I have had wonderful experience with Netflix — new DVD’s arrive 2 – 3 days after I return the old one, unless I’m really getting obscure selections. We still use Blockbuster for some game and last minute rentals since they’re two blocks away from home, but not for everything like we used to. We had a new chain enter our town – Family Video – which seems to have gotten the local Blockbuster more on their toes than they used to be. Oh, the wonders of competition.

  28. harshmellow says:

    I am so tired of employees saying “the computer won’t let me” or something like that. Places that play this game don’t get my business for long. I worked at BB about 15 years ago (on a much more antiquated computer system) and we were able to issue credits, even as lowly non-managers.

    As for Blockbuster the company…I think I see the little blue and yellow ticket swirling down the bowl…and it has almost reached the hole at the bottom. Their days are numbered. Pretty soon, it will be online/mail rentals and small, local video stores only. I don’t use Netflix–we use the library and a small local video store nearby.

  29. The Big O says:

    I don’t have a local option, and think Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are WAY to expensive for what they offer. I’ve had Netflix for almost a year. Gave a 6 month subscription to my pops for Christmas. I really enjoy it. I look forward to paying 3 bucks every now and then when I want to watch a 720p version of a movie through my Apple TV, in case I’m in between Netflix rentals.

  30. smitty1123 says:

    As soon as Netflix starts renting games, I’m done with blockbuster. And yes, I’ve tried Gamefly and hated them. Their two distribution centers on either coast doesn’t do me a damn big of good living in Denver. And $16 a month for 1 game and $23 for 2 games is just flipping ridiculous.

  31. xredgambit says:

    @SnoopBlog: It’s like if I got to a McDonalds and order a sweet tea, then get weird stares. You can always tell a differance between franchise and coperate stores. Odering food and policy is completly different. Now if you wanted to rent Superbad you can walk into any blockbuster and they should have it. Same for McDonalds, they all have BigMacs but not all have sweet tea.
    But as for the guy, I would call the coperate customer service desk again. The 32 days is almost set in stone. But BB is like Spider-man everybody gets one. If you call them up or ask for a number for customer service, more than likely they will give you a one time pass to return them. They call the store and boom it;s cleared. And for the credits, they must be morons, the system is easy to get around (just not for 32 day items, that is a pain to do fix) all it takes is a credit. The reason for a hastle for a void would be is that the profit sharing the store does with the movie companies doesn’t account for credits. But it was no reason for them to fix it for you. But as for the game rental, you don’t know what you are talking about. BB has never given free games for exchanges, they just made the rental $4.99, unless you are thinking about when they offered coupons. The coupons could be used on games.
    Anyway the coperate CS should have taken care of your problem without the DM.

  32. evslin says:

    Signed up for Netflix a couple weeks ago and have been completely satisfied so far. Blockbuster won’t see a dime from me pretty much ever again.

  33. waydownriver says:

    A Blockbuster evangelist? Ewww…

    Doesn’t anybody support local businesses anymore?

  34. youbastid says:

    Good riddance to BlockBuster. Now if we could only say the same for the other BB…

  35. kikidrunkst says:

    Blockbuster is HORRIFYING! The store closest to my house closed during the two week period I had a movie out- with no explanation, no instructions on how to return current rentals. Not wanting to waste a trip, I called customer service to find out how to return the movie, and they referred me to another store. When I got to the second store, they told me they were unable to accept the movie, but could not tell me how to actually go about returning it. Finally, I convinced the store manager to make a phone call to figure out what to do with this movie, but by then I had already resolved never to rent from Blockbuster again.

  36. facted says:

    I’ve been a blockbuster total access subscriber for about a year now and have never had any issues with them. They send me my movies within 2 days (in NYC), and I can return them in the store and take another movie with me to go (as great as Netflix may be, you obviously can’t do that). Yes, they have late-fees for the movies you take out of the store, but that’s not a problem at Neflix…because you can’t get movies from a store ;) I really don’t quite understand what all the complaining is about with blockbuster.

  37. forever_knight says:

    @waydownriver: supporting local businesses is so last century…

  38. chstwnd says:

    This is a timely posting. After announcement of the rates went up, my wife and I decided to get out of BBO quick, but it was over the Christmas break, so I waited until we could exchange the movies we had out at the time. Well, that was the day of the new billing plan, and, even having cancelled the next discovered that we were bound for another month. No pro rated refund. Nothing. So, I was just willing to sit it out.
    On Wed, I returned two movies, and this morning realized that nothing was kicked out of our queue yesterday. I called their (unpublished) customer service number (1-866-692-2789) and hoped to get the queue kick-started (as I’ve had to do in the past). The CSR told me that their online TOS state that mailings will cease 10 days prior to the end of the paid period. Effectively, your last month is shortened by a third! I don’t remember this in the TOS when I signed up a year and a half ago, and this didn’t even apply when they cancelled our account during the summer rate hike (movies were kicked out within 10 days of the forced expiration). Furthermore, the CSR told me that it USED to be 15 days! The conversation ended when he said there was nothing he could do about it except to reactivate my account. My reply was “I sincerely hope you go out of business.”
    With all of the interaction I’ve had with them in the past month, their policies and customer service have only made me violently opposed to ever giving them my business in the future. And I have a laundry list of cautionary statements to make to any of my friends who consider it, to boot.

  39. mdkiff says:

    I have been with Netflix since the beginning, and have never been disappointed. There was a stretch when I seemed to get a lot of scratched discs, but they sent out replacements immediately when you report the problem, and the issue has largely gone away (I don’t know if they have changed their handling of the discs or what). Go Netflix!

  40. Mary says:

    I stopped going to Blockbuster years ago, almost ten years ago actually. They were too expensive, and several people I knew were hit with outrageous late fees and their tactics for collecting were ridiculous.

    In 2001, I signed up for Netflix and I’ve never looked back. I have had no problems, and sure sometimes I get the wrong disc or a scratched disc. But the percentage has been so low to be almost negligible, and they’ve always taken care of the problem quickly.

    I don’t rent new releases from Netflix though, because I don’t feel like taking those out of the pool when I can grab them from the Redbox in my grocery store for a $1.

    I’ve been enjoying their “watch instantly” or whatever it’s called these days. I wish it worked in Firefox, but that’s why I keep IE around.

  41. GirlCat says:

    We got similar runarounds from our local Blockbuster YEARS ago when
    they first started their Netflix-like service. Every single time we
    went in, there would be someone different on the desk with a different
    understanding of the store’s policy. The one thing they all agreed on
    was that the customer is wrong.

    We’ve been using Netflix for a long time and have had no problems.

  42. deadgoon says:

    Full disclosure, I used to work for Blockbuster.

    The reason the video store charges you more for the video than retail is that it COSTS them more that retail. They are not only buying the video, but the rights to rent it out as well. These videos used to cost about $100 a piece, so I figure this submitter got off lucky only being charged $40 per movie. So issue number 1 for this customer is a non-sequitur.

    As far as the other incidents, the in-store managers used to have the power to give you discounts of specific dollar amounts. The manager should have been able to take care of these situations very easily. These are valid issues and should be brought to the attention of higher ups.

  43. DrGirlfriend says:

    I have never, not once, had a problem with Netlfix. I have been a customer off and on for about 4 years. (Off-periods were during times when I was scaling back on my budget, not because of any issues with Netflix).

    Sometime last year I had a situation where I got two damaged DVD’s in a row, but all I had to do was send them back and use their feedback system online to let them know. The very next day, before I had even dropped off the damaged movies in the mailbox, they were already shipping a replacement. and I was never hassled or suspected of trying to pull a fast one on them. I believe that a good way to judge a company is not just how they perform day to day, but how they handle problems. So, at the risk of jinxing myself now, three cheers for Netflix!

  44. You can rent movies free of charge with Redbox as long as you return them before 9pm the next day. Lookup “redbox codes” and they’ll be a whole list of promotional codes you can use to do this. Of course you’re limited mostly by new releases and they will charge you if you don’t return it on time.

  45. qmsterling says:

    I love Netflix! I have been a customer for 3 years now, have never had a problem: videos come quickly, and even the one or two that arrived broken (by some mail machine) were not charged to me. Best part: Netflix has movies you’ve never even heard of, much less seen at Blockbuster, that are some of the best.

  46. chstwnd says:

    I used to be with Netflix 3-4 years ago, and was very pleased with them. When my wife and I were considering a way to watch casual movies (we have no viable cable/satellite options), Blockbuster had just instituted the in-store exchange policy, so we tried them out. At the time, the benefits outweighed the negative impact of being tied to blockbuster. And then they got greedy. We’re back on Netflix now. Netflix’s response to BBO’s idiocy? Well, they just made their on-demand unlimited with no rate increase, and their snail-mail service has always been better than BBO.

  47. shadow735 says:

    I had a bad experience with netflix, one of the movies I sent back to them got lost in the mail. I canceled my subscription about a few months later because I couldnt aford it at the time.
    They billed me two times in the amt of $32 without my permission (probably because I was on auto bill) I called them up and after about 3 phone calls and much stress they “took off” the charge, well they only took off one of the charges.
    So I called again but they claimed only one charge was done I had to fax then a copy of my bank statement but they took thier time and I had to call my credit card company to dispute the charge, the charge was refunded and netflix was notified of this.
    All in all I am very hesitant to join again, besides I buy the new DvD’s I want when they come out and if I dont but want to see a movie I rent it at Albertson’s on Mondays when new realeases are 99 cents.

  48. Kelleah says:

    @waydown river: Several people have mentioned that they use a local video store, so where is this “Doesn’t anybody support local businesses anymore” come from? Either you didn’t read the comments or you’re trying to convince everyone of your superior moral code. Either way, you look like an ass.

    If local video stores are available and meet your needs, great. If not, there’s nothing wrong with taking your money to a company that will. Get off the cross, brother. Somebody else needs the wood.

  49. Daveed says:

    I’ve never had a problem with Netflix, I’ve never heard of them siding against the customer in any situation. Be it lost discs, scratches,or for anything.

    I moved and was missing two dvd’s at one time. I called them up, got a person immediately, they just said they’d mark them as lost and send me replacement discs right away.

    One time I did actually lose a dvd, I did pay for it (I think it was a 25 dollar fee), and when I found it a month later I mailed it back and got a full refund.

  50. PDX909 says:

    I used BB maybe twice about 8 years ago and said never again. Hollywood video were good for a while but since I’ve been using Netflix for 4 or so years I’ve never looked back. Their current customer service model really can’t be beaten, and the selection of old movies, TV seasons and world cinema is the reason I’ll stay with them. So yeah, the water’s great and we get bubbles too.

  51. GothamGal says:

    I finally joined Netflix this week because of their unlimited downloading and I’ve called them twice to get it to work. Their customer service is excellent and knowledgeable, but they could not fix my DRM problem, which is a Microsoft/movie studio problem. It works great on XP, but not on Vista because my TV is my monitor.

  52. MikeB says:

    @matt1978: Actually, BB doesn’t have tons of movies that people are looking for. I have had a couple movies in the top of my queue for quite some time, and these aren’t big blockbusters.

  53. jgodsey says:

    i used to think netflix sucked but it sucks less than BB. I used to be a power renter. I had 5 or 6 level sub and would watch and return them the same day…but secretly they SLOW you down. instead of putting new movies in the mail for you they hold them for 2 or 3 days and THEN put them in the mail. They have a secret limit on how many you can rent in a month. I let this annoy me and they i gave up. I changed my sub down to 3 discs at once and never thought about it again. I have had that level for over a year and it’s just fine. i finish them they go back. if they don’t play, i just go online and register it as damaged and they ship me another. if they get lost in the mail, i just go online and tell them. if you play by their rules they are just fine. and besides that the BB inventory bites, Netflix has almost everything.

    on the other hand if you ONLY rent new releases you are gonna be pissed off, the wait times aren’t good.

  54. Michael Belisle says:

    You won’t have any of these problems with Netflix, because there is no such thing as a Netflix store to exchange movies. He could pay Blockbuster less money if he didn’t want to exchange movies.

    @meiran: You keep IE around to watch movies, not because it’s impossible to remove without breaking Windows?

  55. trujunglist says:

    Netflix is good, but there are some problems with the service. Sometimes, although it hasn’t happened in a while, weird crap will happen and you:
    A) don’t receive the movie – to which the solution is reporting it as “lost”. Netflix promptly sends a replacement.
    B) Receive a movie, but it isn’t the right one
    C) Receive a snapped in half/otherwise unplayable movie
    D) Receive random, extra movies/cds

    B and C are bad. If this happens to you, Netflix doesn’t go ahead and send you a new movie to take care of it’s mistake, they wait for you to return it, which makes the process of getting the movie you originally wanted last for a week instead of a couple of days, which is the average time it takes them to send a movie once they receive a movie from you. I wish they did like in A, where they send out a replacement right away, and if you happen to receive the “lost” movie weeks later, just return it as normal. For some reason, they trust you to say it’s “lost” but they don’t when you say it’s not the right movie or broken, and actually have the ability to send it back. D can be good; I once got a free copy of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. Kind of strange to get a music cd randomly slipped in. I sent it back though because everybody acts like they forgot about Dre, whereas I actually did forget. I’ve also gotten a couple of random movies that were slipped into another sleeve or (somehow) arrived in a mutant envelope, which is the only way I could describe the monstrosity of an envelope I once received.
    I also have a $15/month thing at a local indie video store which works like Netflix except you obviously have to physically return and pick up your rentals. Works for me since it’s close. I like indie/foreign/crazy movies that aren’t usually hollywood hits, so the combo is nice because Netflix has maybe 85-90% of what they have, but that 10% is worth it.

  56. cmdr.sass says:

    I haven’t set foot in a video store in years and never will again. I can’t remember the last time I wanted to see a video *right now* and couldn’t wait two days to see it.

  57. UpsetPanda says:

    Netflix is great, I never considered joining BB’s program. One problem I’ve always had with BB is that their employees, in my experience, have always been rude or apathetic. Remove the human equation and we’re good.

    On another note: BB charges $9 for a game?!

  58. RenardRouge says:

    @irid3sc3nt: I agree…the library is a pretty darn good way to go.

  59. trujunglist says:

    p.s. Netflix also went to bat for me, arguing with the postal service in Chicago (notoriously terrible postal service), which was continually losing my Netflix mailers, not to mention regular mail. Eventually, Netflix somehow worked everything out because I always got my Netflix mailers from then on, as well as my regular mail! I was pretty happy with them for doing that, because my complaints to the P.O. had been ignored.

  60. savvy999 says:

    After keeping them out past their initial due date I… blah blah blah… I got called out-of-town on a business trip, and I left before being able to return the movies.

    Channeling Judge Judy…

    Incident #1: Dude, the return slot in the front of the store is open 24×7. “But the person on the phone said…” is inadmissible. Ruling in favor of BB.

    Incidents #2 and #3: BB’s corp POS systems are obviously locked down too tight, making their own employees and managers look and act like asshats. Ruling in favor of Salviati.

    Good decision to walk away before they hose you some more.

  61. LoLoren says:

    Oh, hell, I’ll jump on the Netflix bandwagon and report how happy I am with my service with them. I’ve been a customer for about a year now and have never received the wrong disk, although I did receive a cracked one once, but as soon as I reported it they sent me a brand new one. Blockbuster would have charged me for this, saying *I* had cracked it, I’m sure.

    The only thing I don’t like about Netflix is you need IE to watch the downloadable movies, and I’m not a fan of IE. I’ll stick with my Firefox and just wait for my movies by mail.

  62. rodeobob says:

    I’m another recent convert to Netflix. We had Blockbuster’s Total Advantage, 3-disk package, and we were heavy users of it. We didn’t trade in as many movies in-store as we mailed back, but we did trade some in. Ultimately, three things drove us to netflix:

    1.) The whole reason why we like DVD-by-mail is that we don’t have to go into a store, and we don’t have to return to a store! Blockbuster’s “trade-in advantage” required us to do both, which made it less of an advantage. I don’t like the experience of wandering through the store, looking for titles I might want, and having to return the movies or face absurd fees.

    2.) The in-store experience has slowly been getting worse. Before, all I could really complain about was poor selection and over-marketing of popcorn and other high-margin items. But over the last six months, I’ve been getting more wrong-DVD-cases, especially when I’m trying to rent a TV series. When the box says “disc 2” and the disk inside is actually disk 3, that’s bad. When it happens multiple times, it’s worse. But the real prize-winner is when I discover the mistake and return to the store and DON’T get a rental credit unles I raise a stink.

    3.) Blockbuster raised our prices, and changed our plan. What was $17.99 (3-at-a-time, unlimited by mail, unlimited exchange in-store) is now almost double that. Since going to the store was never that appealing, and less so now, I’d rather take my business elsewhere. But what really steamed me about the price increase was how it was done. No notice in the store, no mention of it anywhere on the website, just a single email sent along with all the other email notifications of shippments.

    Nope. Blockbuster can wither and die and I won’t miss it at all.

  63. exkon says:

    Don’t know why anyone has a problem with BB.

    I guess the main issue with the problem is at the actual store. How about the mail-service?

    I generally just use the mail service even though there is BB within 3 blocks. I rarely go to store, I’m just lazy. But when I do, I do remember to return on time.

    I can’t complain about the mail service, just as good as netflix.

  64. lemur says:

    I very much doubt that there is no way to reverse a transaction at the POS. Why? Because mistakes happen. I’m not talking about the necessity being able to do nice things for the customer or ambiguous cases. Heck, I actually have an example!

    A few months ago, I went to BB to get some movies. I was not paying enough attention to what was going on and ended up walking out of the store with a movie I had not picked up to rent. The clerk had mistakenly (I give him the benefit of the doubt) thought that another movie which was on the counter was part of what we wanted to take out. I noticed the error as we were walking out, went back, said that there was a mistake and did not want that movie. He just reversed the charge for that movie on the spot. No problem.

    Here’s the deal: any company will want to have a system which can handle errors like this. My theory is that Salviati dealt with liars or badly trained employees.

  65. ussra2 says:

    I have also submitted a complaint about Blockbuster too. Teresa has taken that email with the garbage that I was fed about blockbuster needing to keep their shareholders happy and to keep the business making money. Yet in the end we get less for our money when they constantly change their subscriptions.

  66. theblackdog says:

    Another very happy Netflix subscriber here. They’re pretty fast about getting movies out to me when I return them, so when I’m going through series discs, I don’t have to be kept in suspense for too long.

  67. de1phic says:

    The only reason I would switch from Blockbuster to Netflix (potentially) is the ability to download video. Truth is, I can’t sit at my computer watching a video for more than ten minutes. I’d much rather sit on my couch and watch it on my television. I know there are ways to do that, but that would require more time and money to make possible.

    I had Netflix for a while before Blockbuster, and my greatest problem is being lazy. If I don’t make it a point to put the movie in the mail when I’m done with it, the next time I want to watch something I’m S.O.L. I suppose Blockbuster caters to people like me more. I know I’m no more than five minutes away from being able to watch something I want (again, while sitting on my couch!)

  68. bkpatt says:

    Sorry, I’m on the boat with Coder4Life… sounds like you got the typical pathetic treatment from Blockbuster, not surprising, but unlike some you deserved every last headache. You are like the customer that finally broke “the customer is always right.”

    You can’t expect stellar customer service when you can’t follow basic store policies and instructions. You are an idiot if you took the word of some blockbuster phone monkey about the movies coming back after the 30 days. It’s a nationwide policy – over 30 days, you pay. There are reasons for those policies, and you are the reason.

    Your scenarios all sound like this: “Well, you see, I know I’m really at fault, but I’m feeding you some really lame excuses as to why I shouldn’t be held accountable, will that be enough to get me off the hook?”

    It’s no wonder they wouldn’t budge on the Wii game exchange, look at their previous 2 experiences with you as a customer. It probably would have gotten him fired, but I would have loved to see the manager take your membership card and run it through the shredder before handing it back to you as he asked you to leave.

  69. Echodork says:

    Walked into Blockbuster last night for the first time in about five years. I don’t watch many movies, but I wanted to rent a zombie flick and the first season of Lost. Price? $40. Y’know what… I’ll just pass on that. God bless high speed internet.

  70. quieterhue says:

    I’ve been with Netflix for almost three years now and I’ve never had any serious gripes. A few times I have received movies that were cracked or otherwise damaged, and they sent me a new one no questions asked. My only gripe is that you can’t use the Watch Instantly feature on a Mac.

  71. Electroqueen says:

    Library for me. Why pay good money for something you can possibly watch about once? I’ll save my money and borrow whatever I want to watch at the local library. The only time I would consider renting is if it is for a movie I HAVE to watch, and that’s never.

  72. Szin says:

    Nothing brings me greater joy than to see Blockbuster & Hollywood video die a twisted, horrible death.

  73. bigbadbyte says:

    I have been using netflix for over a year. The only problem I ever had was solved by customer support in a minute, and the rep was really nice, apologetic, and quick to make amends.

  74. Andy S. says:

    I’ve been a Netflix customer for about a year now, and I’ve never had one complaint with their service. They send a movie, I get it the next day. I send one back, I get a new one in two days. I rarely have to wait for a movie unless it’s older and in high demand (renting Christmas movies around Christmas can be a challenge).

    Their selection of independent films is fantastic, and they carry a lot of the unrated versions of films that Lackluster Video refuses to carry. I can even thank their suggestion system for directing me to a number of great movies that I wouldn’t have watched (or, in some cases, even heard of) otherwise.

    With the 3-at-a-time plan I pretty much always have something to watch, and in those rare cases where I don’t have a movie in-hand, the Xbox Live Video Marketplace makes an adequate fallback (and if the rumored Netflix set-top-box allows watching their Watch Now movies without an additional fee, even XBL will go unused).

    I do live terribly close to my local Blockbuster, but I can’t remember the last time I went there. I don’t even carry the membership card with me anymore. Nice to be able to reclaim a little bit of space in my wallet, what with all the money I’m saving. :)

  75. lmbrownmail says:

    Our library has only old movies (circa 1940’s), kid’s movies, and educational movies. So borrowing anything reasonably current from them is a non-starter.

    I go to BB maybe twice a year to get the more obscure movie – ones that Redbox wouldn’t have.

    Other than that – REDBOX!!! No membership card, no snippy salespeople, $1 + local sales tax per rental, good list of recent releases.

    Our Hollywood Video closed about a year ago with no notice. So sad. I still have a $25 gift card to the store and no place to use it!

  76. animatedantmo says:


    I used to work for Blockbuster up until about May of 2007 so things may have changed. Im a computer science student so i always had an interest in the computer systems there at work. Anyways, from what I remember the manager of the store had all of the power. Not the computer. I think that the people you encountered were simply unwilling to help. It may have been apathy, but I think its more likely attributed to the pressure they face to keep credit totals low.

    Next time someone (who isnt just a CSR) at BB claims “the computer won’t allow it” your BS detector should go off. The manager can add/subtract any amount (s)he pleases(among other things). The question is simply whether or not they want to deal with their superiors on your behalf.

    PS The total access fiasco makes me sad :(

  77. majortom1981 says:

    Blockbuster and hollywood video will go out of business because they are expensive and have limited amounts of titles. HEre at the library we just got blu-ray and hd-dvd titles and we have more selection then the local hollywood videos and blockbuster videos.

  78. tmweber says:

    For online movie rentals, Netflix can’t be beat and I’ve tried both. Total Access was nice for a while when I used it over the summer, but if your business plan can’t afford outliers like me who exchanged every movie for a free in store rental, you shouldn’t have started it. I canceled when the prices went up and the plans changed.

    For in-store rentals, if you live near a Family Video: GO THERE. New releases are 2.50 for 5 days, maybe 3 if it’s a very new release. Almost every non new release is either 1.00 or 0.50 per movie. It seems like every time I go there they have a promotion, and I’m forced by a deal to go find another movie to rent. The only problem is that they actually enforce normal late fees. Of course that’s only a problem if you’ve been using Blockbuster for 4 months and then switch back.

  79. Jamie Beckland says:

    @deadgoon: IANAL, but I believe you are mistaken. Movie studios can’t charge a video rental store a “right to rent” fee.

    This is a fundamental copyright issue – once you purchase the disc, you can rent it out as part of owning the disc. You can’t broadcast it, charge people to come in and watch it, etc, but you can rent the disc out for non-commercial private viewing. Anyone could start a video or CD rental store out of their own home with their existing collection.

    You are correct, though, that video stores used to pay exorbitant prices for their videos – usually around $100 per copy. Studios released their movies at this higher price point, knowing that the only buyers would be rental stores that could recoup a $100/copy investment. Then, once rental demand slacked, studios would re-release the film at a consumer purchase price – around $20.

    I don’t believe that this is true any more. Now, there is a lot of competition for shelf space at video stores, therefore studios give huge volume discounts to retail rental stores, hoping that a lot of discs on the shelf will make people think it is a great movie with lots of demand.

    Remember that the entire cycle of films has become much shorter. In the past, the theatrical window would be 60-120 days, airline showings and pay cable about 1-2 months after that. Then about 6 months later the video rental, then 4-5 months after that, consumer video. Then, on to regular cable, and finally broadcast after about 2 years – for a total of about 4 years for the cycle to unroll.

    Now, the whole cycle has been compressed to under 2 years. Therefore, studios release rental and consumer DVDs at the same time. Usually different versions though – the consumer one will have more crappy deleted scenes, glossier packaging, and even more lame audio commentaries, hence a slightly higher price point.

  80. PlayWithSlurry says:

    I’ve been pretty happy with Netflix. They definitely give you the benefit of the doubt concerning disks lost in the mail. I have noticed, like another person above, that if you’re ultra-diligent about watching a DVD and sending it back the same day they will slow the rate they send you movies by 24 hours or so.

    I also have some trouble because I live in a huge apartment building with a concierge desk for packages larger than the tiny mailboxes. The Netflix mailer will fit in the box, but only if it’s folded. Most of the time, though, they send it to the front desk so I have to wait for them to sort it even when I know it’s already been delivered. I hope blockbuster stays in buisness, if only to keep the price of Netflix low.

  81. Jamie Beckland says:

    @deadgoon: I wrote a long post just now, then the site erased it. Annoying.

    Here is the gist:

    You are wrong about the studios charing a ‘right to rent’. They can’t. Rental rights automatically convey with the purchase of a physical product, and movie and music studios have not been able to wrap copyright around this.

    In the past, studios released their videos and DVDs at a $100 price point (knowing that only rental companies would buy them), then several months later, at a consumer price point of $30 (then $20, now around $15 retail). Right to rent comes with both of these purchases. Therefore, anyone could start a video rental store with their own movie collection.

    Now, however, I believe that this practice has pretty much ended. There is so much competition for shelf space at the video store, that rental companies get huge volume discounts from studios. The studio wants a whole wall of the same title, which tells the consumer “this movie is great, and super popular”.

    So I don’t think the economic rationale of your argument holds water. BB is just plain dicking you over by charging you some made up price for the movie.

  82. Jamie Beckland says:

    Damn the delay in posts being updated! Sorry for the double post.

  83. bitplayer says:

    As someone with first had experience with blockbuster as a company their computers are incredibly old. It’s MS Dos based. The most simple things are made more complicated by this system. The employees weren’t lying the system really is that problematic.

  84. morganlh85 says:

    I was tempted by the Total Access plan a while back, until they wouldn’t even let me SIGN UP FOR A MEMBERSHIP at my local store. Why? Because I’m a college student with out of state ID. Their “system” won’t accept my ID. Keep in mind, I live in a COLLEGE TOWN where there are probably thousands of kids (who rent movies a lot) with IDs from another state — they are basically turning down all that profit for no good reason. It’s ridiculous.

  85. TechnoDestructo says:

    It costs NINE dollars to rent a game?

  86. deadlizard says:

    iTunes is going to do to Blockbuster what it did to Tower Records.
    Like mom and pop record stores, small video stores are going to survive
    because they have obscure indie and cult movies, plus you can’t beat
    their selection of porn.

  87. salviati says:

    Thanks to everyone for your input. I think I will definitely be signing up for Netflix tonight after all of the positive reviews.

    Sadly, after writing this article I realized that I’ve paid an average of $9.50 a pop for each of the movies I rented…not quite the deal I expected. (15 mailed, 11 instore, -3 that ended up being sold to me, and $18 for 11 months/$20 this month).

    I certainly see my part in the first incident, and didn’t really hold Blockbuster responsible for it. But the way they treated the whole situation just left a bad impression that should have prepared me for the future encounters.

    As for the second and third incidents, I totally blame BB for not meeting there end of the bargain. In incident 2, I brought in movie slips with the clear intent of exchanging them for movies. Otherwise, why would I bother to bring them INTO the store. If I just wanted them mailed back I could have put them in my mailbox. The fact that they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) exchange the movies is a problem with their system. I don’t even know what to say about incident 3. They basically refused (or were unable) to adjust at transaction that wasn’t even finished yet – basically voiding one of my coupons. And yes, each time I had trouble, I spoke directly to the managers, not the regular clerk.

    @BKPATT – This was not a “the customer is always right” issue. At least not for the last two times. It was a “The customer is NEVER right” for me. The entire reason I chose BB over Netflix in the first place was so that I could make in-store exchanges. If I wanted mail-only movies, Netflix was much cheaper. It didn’t have to be this way, if only Blockbuster would have shown a little courtesy to a customer. And from the other comments in this thread, it sounds like I’m not alone.

  88. deadlizard says:

    @majortom1981: Hollywood video already filed for bankruptcy. It’s only a matter of time the other shoe drops.

  89. mike1970789 says:

    Blockbuster = Sucks.
    Netflix = Great.

    I will never give Blockbuster another cent. They screwed their customers over royally with their late-fee fiasco. They made their money, but pissed off their customers. As soon as their was decent competition, they were doomed. I’ve never had a problem with Netflix. I know they’re not perfect, but they’ve never maliciously ripped me off the way Blockbuster has. I smile just a bit every time I drive past a closed Blockbuster.

  90. FullFlava says:

    Nine freakin’ dollars to rent a game?!? I must be getting old.

  91. SpenceMan01 says:

    Yes! Redbox! My free year of Netflix is almost up (won in a contest), and we don’t rent enough to justify the monthly recurring charge. Redbox is great, as we use freebie codes from [www.insideredbox.com] and get the first night free. We make sure to get them back in time the next day, so essentially we’re just paying for the gas up to McD’s (and we’re in that area a lot anyway).

    Netflix is very good, but like I said, we don’t rent enough. They’ve got some of the older, more obscure titles, but we mostly watch the new releases anyway.

  92. harshmellow says:

    Judging by the comments here, it looks like

    Netflix – 934,501
    Blockbuster – 0

    I think it’s a blowout.

  93. UpsetPanda says:

    @harshmellow: Well, not exactly.

    More like Netflix – 934,501 Blockbuster – 0 and Redbox – 2.

    I’ve thought about Redbox, but ultimately it doesn’t interest me because sometimes I really do want to rent a movie from 1950 and Redbox will only offer me ‘Suberbad.’ And Redbox doesn’t do TV shows on DVD.

  94. KJones says:

    I hate Lackluster Video and had my own story to tell. It’s one of those “For the want of a nail” tales. Excuse the length.

    I go into a store and pick up three films, all marked for a week but you only get for six days (that’s for another rant). At the counter, the minimum wager says, “This movie is only for 2 days”. I point out that the staff marked it, not me, but he was too dim to grasp that, so I said I’d take only the two others. The idiot had the temerity to say, “You have to rent all three.”

    I ask the store manager to come over and I explained what the McJobber said. The manager said, “The clerk can handle it, I don’t need to deal with this.” Wrong. I left the store sans movies and a few days later called the district mangager. She says, “The store manager can deal with it, not me,” and the store manager calls back all apologetic. Too late. I call the regional mangager, explaining how both sloughed off the chance to answer why, and her response? “I’m too busy, they can deal with it.” So I wrote to the head office of Lackluster containing their emails and descriptions of calls. Did they address it? Nope. Silence, and then a few books of coupons for free movies.

    All that any of them had to do was say, “Sorry, he/she/we made a mistake.” The store manager failed to take responsibility, then the district manager failed to take responsibility, then the regional manager, then the head office.

    Nobody responded until after their screw up was reported, and nobody had the courtesy to reply after they were asked the first time; maybe it would have made a difference if I had used the George Carlin seven words or been angry, I don’t know. But I never used the coupons and stopped renting from Lackluster, and I let them know it.


    Normally I don’t plug companies and I’m not now, but I notice that no one here talks about Video Update. Where I lived once had all three of Lackluster, Hollywood and Video Update. VU had the least nice building, but the best and most lenient rental policy and prices. Their selection wasn’t as good as Hollywood’s (maybe that’s changed) but better than Lackluster’s.

    Another really good point was (maybe that’s changed as well) was their outspoken policy of not demanding movie distributors or companies censor the films; they only showed uncut versions.

  95. invaderzim says:

    Blockbuster can survive. They just need someone with a ‘vision’ to move in and straighten them out. They have the people/locations/dvds – they just need someone to sit them down and say ‘THIS IS HOW WE ARE GOING TO DO THINGS…’.

  96. quagmire0 says:

    9 BUCKS FOR A VIDEO GAME RENTAL?!!? bwahahahahah! I gave up my Total Access subscription back when they started limiting the amount of exchanges you could have. So glad that I did. Nowadays I just use Redbox when I want to rent. Most times I can find a code for a free movie – if not, it’s only a $1. So long Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. It was nice knowing you.

  97. stopNgoBeau says:

    @snoop-blog: Prices can differ from McDonalds to McDonalds, usually by geographical location. I say this b/c your complaint was that some stores have different prices.

    @meiran: Ever try the IE tab extension for Firefox? It basically runs IE behind Firefox. I use it for Outlook Web Access, since it has a different look and feel outside of IE. I highly recommend it.

  98. steveliv says:

    first of all, the first incident was due to circumstances that you were totally in control of, if your wife could have returned the videos before the cutoff date, why didn’t you have her do it?

    second, the blockbuster envelopes really are property of Blockbuster, if i worked there and saw envelopes sitting there unattended, i might have taken them and checked them in, is Blockbuster really responsible for your wife setting the envelopes down and leaving them there?

    third, i’ve been with Total Access since June of 2007 and even i know you can’t exchange a mailer envelope for a game, they are good for a free movie, but games are $4.99 with a mailer…

    i’m not trying to defend BB, because i didn’t enjoy it when they upped my subscription rate $2, but you’re complaints with BB don’t seem to cut the mustard…

  99. ussra2 says:

    I don’t know where my first comment went, but I have also sent a complaint to The Consumerist to investigate as well. I used to be a longtime Blockbuster customer and at first, Blockbuster had a great deal with their online rentals through the mail and it was cheap. Now they have raised the prices for unlimited exchanges and dropped the amount of dvd’s out at a time for the cheapest plan to 21.99$ for 1 dvd out at a time with unlimited in store exchanges. Yet they wait 2 to 3 days later after they receive a dvd to send you another one. Blockbuster has turned into a bad place to rent from after these experiences, in which I will never return to them. They also angered me when I changed my plan online and it didn’t update so I had to be stuck with 3 exchanges a month in store when I had changed it to an unlimited plan. Their system had a problem and yet it wasn’t there problem, it was mine.

  100. vdragonmpc says:

    I remember when I first moved to Colonial Heights… We rented from the Blockbuster there. I was in college and working graveyard shifts so we would watch the show that night and on the way to work at 11:30pm I would drop off the movies.
    I went in a couple weeks later and was told I owed a late fee and would I like to pay it now? I couldnt figure out what is was for. They told me a movie I had rented was turned in late and I owed the fee. Well being as I only actually rented for 6 hours max I told them no thanks on the fee and if it was a problem I would just go to Movie Time across the street. No problem dont worry about the fee and I rented my movies.

    cue 2 months later I get an odd collection call from a very nasty woman named “Ruth” who wants 14$ in payments owed to a Blockbuster in Colonial Heights VA or I would be reported to a credit agency. Being a right fun person I went to pay them right away: I got a zip lock freezer bag and $14 in pennies. When I popped them on the cashier’s desk she ‘waived the fees’

    Good stuff and I have never been back.

  101. snoop-blog says:

    @JD: i’m with ya! very rude employees.

    @stopNgoBeau: i was referring to the burger having the same ingredients not price.
    your never going to go into a mcdonalds and have them tell you that when they make a big mac, their store puts catsup and mustard on it because it is not a corp. store.

    bb however told me i couldn’t exchange total access movies there because their store didn’t participate in that. well, thats enough of a difference in what’s being advertised to make me feel like the whole thing is a joke, and fuck blockbuster.

  102. sarabadara says:

    I cancelled my Blockbuster Total Shit account last month after I finally had enough of their crap. I was a member for less than one year, during which they raised the price/reduced my account benefits twice.

  103. neithernor says:

    I still have bad memories from being in high school and being hassled at Blockbuster every time I used my family account (under my mom’s name, but my name was on the account, we have the same last name and lived at the same address). Every single time.

    In 3 years of being a Netflix subscriber I have had to speak to a human once, to put my account on hold (before you could do it online). I can’t imagine how badly Netflix would have to screw up to make me want to go back to that.

    @burgeon: Oh, how I love the Second City.

  104. overbysara says:

    I love netflix.

  105. NotATool says:

    Comcast may be ousting their CEO…maybe he should be hired by Blockbuster to straighten things out.


    I would almost pay to see that!

  106. lovelygirl says:

    I have never rented a DVD from Blockbuster, I usually get videos and such from the library for free. But I’m trying out the Netflix trial and I like it so far. And even though they have “secret limits” it still seems more cost-effective to rent from Netflix because now you can watch movies online unlimited along with the regular DVDs being sent to your home. I was shocked when I read online that someone paid about $9 to rent a movie from Blockbuster. That’s just disgustingly overpriced, IMO.

  107. rubberkeyhole says:

    I worked at Blockbuster for three years (from ’03-’06, and thank goodness I jumped the boat – they are an AWFUL company to work for), and I don’t see any reason why each one of these problems couldn’t have been solved in-store…the registers have a “credit” button on them that easily allow an employee to change /override prices or remove rental fees. Unless they are getting written up for overuse of credits, I don’t see why they couldn’t have been fixed, as they were at fault for each of the stated issues.

  108. Bunnymuffin says:

    Netflix + huge Bollywood selection= love!

  109. goller321 says:

    I HAD Blockbuster, until they raised the fees and lower the instore exchange to 5…. When I canceled, they offered 2 months free. Well, not only did they charge me for the month after I canceled, they then stopped service after the first “free” month. On top of that, they stopped mailing movies out almost a week before the renewal date.

    This reminds me I need to call and get a credit, or charge it back to my card…

  110. nick_r says:

    Netflix has been great to me. Always reliable service, and the very few times I’ve had an incident they’ve given me credits to make up for it. Also, the one time I called their support line, the guy was super friendly and helpful and I only waited a couple minutes for an answer even though it was a Saturday.

  111. joebobfunguy says:

    I went there once for the spend 50 get a 5 dollar gift card. After she didn’t give me the gift card, she said it was impossible because it had to be done in the same transaction. Later, a manager came over and typed in like a twenty number sequence of numbers, went through like 10 lists with more number sequences, and boom. Rang up the 5$ gift card, then comped it. So they can ring anything up there(according to her) and comp it, if they know what they are doing.

  112. aka Bitter says:


    Have to disagree with you on point #2. Based on a few chats with my local Blockbuster manager, a number of people return their mailers to the store and for a good reason. As soon as a mailer is scanned in as a store return, the next movie in your queue starts processing.

    When I return a movie and get home 5 minutes later, their site is already listing it as “Returned to Store”.

  113. vacax says:

    I am also shocked no one seems to be complaining about the new release availability on Netflix. I have about 12 new releases on top of my queue that have been there for months. It is mid-January and I am still waiting to see discs that released last Fall!

  114. aka Bitter says:


    Forgot to reply to this in my other comment…

    There are a bewildering number of Blockbuster subscription plans(like any business) as plans change over time and long term customers don’t switch(unless they make you). These include your monthly fee, how your Total Access works, along with the number and type of coupons you receive(if any).

    i.e. I get two free coupons per month for in-store rentals which can be used for either movies or games, anytime during the month. I’ve been offered several opportunities to change, including one offer for 4 movies/games per month(1 in each week of the month) but declined. I believe a new subscriber gets 1 free movie coupon per month now.

    Don’t know if it’s still the case now, but when I was a manager in the late 80’s; McDonald’s on Long Island, NY did not use mustard on their hamburgers. The McDLT and fried apple pie was also a hit or miss item at a lot of places. Franchises had a lot of leeway in adding extra items to the menu, like hot dogs and popcorn which were not allowed at corporate owned stores.

  115. pezjohnson says:

    The only prolem I had with Netflix was when they started doing Blu-ray. I got sent Talladega Nights, but the disc was scratched a I sent it back after filling out the form online to get a replacement sent. For some reason they sent me the Blu-Ray copy, when I don’t have a blu-ray machine, and they made me jump through hoops to sign up for HD-DVDs (which I rented to watch at a friend’s house). I wrote an email to customer service and they fixed the prblem by allowing me to rent two more movies at a time as a one shot deal. I thought that was just fine since it was a mix up.
    I still love Netflix. Sometimes I’ll use redbox to rent something right away and not wait for the mail.

  116. synergy says:

    I love my Netflix. I’ve had my account since about Sept 2005. I’ve had nearly no problems and the minor things I’ve had have been handled rapidly and professionally via automation, email, or recently a very efficient and competent CSR when I encountered a minor problem when setting up for their “Watch Instantly” feature.

  117. arachnophilia says:

    i have this great advantage of getting in the door early.

    i have two blockbuster accounts, both generated while i worked their during high school. that means that i have no credit card on the account. they can try and charge me. :D

    when you apply for your accounts, you can try and ask about providing some other form of secondary ID instead of a credit card. but i’d imagine with the change in late-fee policy, they probably won’t let you any more.

  118. stephenjames716 says:

    $9 for a game rental?! WTF!

  119. justaconsumer says:

    Blockbuster’s business model was based on late fees and putting mom and pop video stores out of business. They are crooks. Do not go to blockbuster.

  120. nardo218 says:

    @vacax: I’ve never had that happen. But, there’s precious little newly released movies I’d want to watch.

  121. There is one overarching flaw in his logic:

    You can’t rent a wii game from Netflix.

    The dearth of quality in the mail order game rental business will ensure that Blockbuster will stay in business at least 4 more years, and possibly beyond that.

  122. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    I hope Hollywood Video is next. This incident happened to me back when “The Beach” came out with Leo Dicaprio. DVDs were VERY new. HV had one display case with about 2 dozen DVDs. According to HV I walked in about 10 min before closing time on a wed nite and rented “the beach” and THREE other DVDs. The “ID card” presented had’nt been used in the store for over a year. In fact, the very week before I had to get a NEW card because my old one was lost. The manager showed me the security video of the two youngsters using the card and immediately I said “I have NO idea who those kids are, I don’t have a DVD player, and I would NEVER rent anything with Leonardo Dicaprio ESPECIALLY “the beach”. The manager mumbled “we just want our product back”. Being the smart ass that I am, I asked “Why don’t you call the phone number they gave your guy and ask when they plan to return these DVDs?” Nothing but a blank stare. I pressed on, why did her employee not question why this old card (which was supposed to be marked as LOST) would suddenly show up and is now allowing four DVDS (ahem: “PRODUCT”) to walk out with no photo ID shown? Again: “Well sir, it’s now about getting our product back”. She said it was 80 dollars per DVD and that was final. Afterwards I REFUSED to go into HV and never looked back. NetFlix Forever!

  123. LAGirl says:

    Netflix is awesome. have been using them for a few years. great customer service, great movie selection, good pricing, easy to use. what’s not to love?

    recently, i wanted to see ‘Streetcar Named Desire’. didn’t feel like adding it to my Netflix queue and waiting a few days to get it in the mail. i still had a Blockbuster account, so i drove to the closest location. of COURSE they didn’t have it in stock. they told me to go to another location that would DEFINITELY have it in stock. drove there and they didn’t have it either. looked around for something else, but it was all crap. i left empty-handed.

    after that? decided i would NEVER, EVER use Blockbuster EVER again.

  124. SecureLocation says:

    Why would anyone use Blockbuster when Netflix exists?

  125. CyberSkull says:

    Netflix works great for me.

  126. HungryHungry says:

    I was a Blockbuster employee for a period of about 6 months with my employment ending a few weeks after the intializing of the “no late fees” policy. And let me tell you if you had me as your CSR these problems would have been resolved in store and with minimal to no hassle.

    I suppose its possible in the last couple years things have changed but while I was working there I had the power to give credits at will. Come up to my register and casually mention that the movie you are exchanging skipped a bit at a certain part and I’d give you a credit for another movie. Even if the only reason you told me is so I don’t re-shelve it and you weren’t looking for a freebie. Anytime a customer had a problem of some sort with our store/service I’d give them a credit or more to their account. You know why? Because thats how you get customers to come back after a bad experience. I was told giving credits were up to my discreston. Nobody checked how many credits I gave and all I had to do was make a little note on the account as to why and which nobody ever read. And if you were a cool person and you had a minor issue in store with something not being there I’d hook you up. For example, girl came in once looking for FIFA which was out I could tell she was really dissapointed so I gave her account a credit and rented World Tour Soccer to her so she could check it out and have a soccer game to play. She was so happy with how I treated her that she started becoming a more regular customer. hmmm interesting how that works huh?

    When I was a CSR my focus was on helping out customers not the company. BB paid me the same regardless of what I did and gave me absolutely no reason to care about their success or failure. But I didn’t want people to have shitty day on account of the store if I could help it. On Fridays and Saturdays we had to have somebody walk the floor wearing a bright red apron (oh joy … we tried to hide it many times) and upsell to customers. I hate upselling so when it was my turn I’d spend the whole time making recommendations and helping people find what they were looking for. I got a lot of sincere thank yous for helping people find a good movie for them based on their tastes and never once was I thanked for trying to talk somebody into one of our programs.

    FWIW my employment ended because I decided so. I was tired of their policies, and low pay. The final straw that resulted in me quitting was them scheduling me to work Christmas Eve and New Years Eve while leading me to believe I’d make time and a half. Well turns out BB doesn’t consider those two nights holidays and gave me the big ol’ screw you after the fact.

  127. ReccaSquirrel says:

    @harshmellow: Hardly a correlation. Those of us who love Blockbuster, know enough by now that once a week, Consumerist posts the same story, different submitter of how they got screwed over.

    Sorry, if I don’t feel the least bit sorry for some guy that returned a DVD 32 days after it was due and expected a refund back. Its clear as day on the receipt for in-store rentals.

    Blockbuster accidently charged me for a movie I returned which, incidently, knocked my credit card over the limit. Am I upset? I was, but I let the manager of the store know my dissatisfaction. Did I get anything for compensation? Nope. Did I care? Nope. I’m not an entitlement gnome.

  128. HungryHungry says:

    holy crap … Your store WRONGLY charged you for something you had already returned pushing you over your limit and did nothing to make it up to you? AND YOU SAT THERE AND TOOK IT? Thats just being a pushover and its that mentality that results in corporate retail stores seeing us as nothing more than a wallet to them.

  129. LumpOfCole says:

    Number 1) You kept the movies past 30 days “because of a last-minute plane trip?” I wonder how many times the Blockbuster employees have heard that one. I’m sorry, but if you can’t manage to return a rental even 30 days after the due date or get someone to do it for you, it’s time to pay full price for those movies.

    Number 2) Your wife learned a lesson about leaving in-store exchanges on the counter, lesson learned. You hold onto them and switch them out at the counter. Again, put yourself in the shoes of Average Joe Blockbuster Employee. If lot of customers return onlines through the slots, how are employees supposed to ward off the “But actually I had onlines but I accidently returned them on the counter / through the slots, can I have these rentals free please?” excuse.

    Number 3) Online envelope exchanges have never, ever been able to be used for any game rentals of any time. Ever. Ever. Ever. Online e-Coupons were able to be used for either game or movie rentals, yes, but not the envelope exchanges. This was simply mistaken memory on your part, but I’ll still give you a half point on this one. Employees should always tell the customer whatever discount they’re going to get on a particular item through a promotion like Total Access if it’s not free off the bat. The employee, before scanning, should have told you that you would be getting this game for $4.99 instead of $7.99, and if that was alright. I’ll also give you the way the employees handled the situation after scanning was entirely wrong, because if you haven’t totaled out and paid for your items, then they should be able to credit off that $4.99 and the rental.