How Far Would You Drive To Return A Redbox DVD?

Joe lives in a pretty rural part of Vermont. Rural living has many advantages, but one disadvantage that you may not have thought of: low density of Redbox kiosks. Which is fine. You only need one, after all. Unless you’re Joe, and that one kiosk in your town has broken down. Your movie is due, and the nearest working box is fifteen miles away and in a different state entirely. We’ve discussed the customer’s responsibility when it comes to broken-down Redboxes before, but how far does that responsibility extend? Driving an extra thirty miles to avoid a $1.50 daily charge on a DVD might seem like a false economy, but maybe that depends on your schedule or on your gas mileage.

Joe sets the scene:

I recently rented two movies via a Redbox located in Bradford, VT. While at work today, a friend offered to return both films. When he arrived, the machine accepted one DVD; however, upon trying to return the second movie, the machine flashed an error message stating that the customer should contact Redbox customer support.

My friend called customer support and explained the situation. He was informed that the machine was no longer functioning, which was obvious at this point. When he asked if he could keep the movie, free of charge, until the machine was fixed, he was told that he could not do so without incurring charges. My friend was then given the option of either keeping the DVD and incurring daily charges (on my credit card), or returning the DVD to another Redbox location. Frustrated, he asked where the nearest alternative Redbox kiosk was located. Unfortunately, being rural Vermont, he was then informed that the closest machine was 15 miles away in a town in New Hampshire.

His patience exhausted, my friend hung up and drove the thirty miles round trip (in the opposite direction of home) to return the DVD in another state. For his trouble, he was offered two free DVD rentals. It seems absurd to me that my friend wasn’t allowed to keep the rentals, free of charge, until the machine was repaired. There should be a policy that allows this in instances where the nearest working machine is more than a certain distance away from the original rental site. This was the first time I used Redbox, and it will probably be my last.

I would like to humbly suggest that “one-Redbox town” become the modern replacement for the term “one-horse town.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. scoutermac says:

    I have had this problem. Fortunately I live in Indianapolis where there seems to be multiple redbox machines on every corner. I have however had a planned road trip to travel over 90 miles and returned a movie to another redbox in another part of the state.

  2. AttackCat says:

    Two free rentals is the best they can do?? A couple weeks ago I had a movie die on me about 30 seconds before the end. We called to complain and they gave us three codes. That’s pretty piss poor.

    • RandomHookup says:

      One thing they don’t tell you is that the codes expire. I don’t know how long they are good for, but they don’t let you know it’s for a limited time only.

      • scoutermac says:

        I’ve had this problem before and I sent them an email saying that I was not sure their service was worth my time and that I was considering other options. Next thing I know they send me a new code.

      • Whtthfgg says:

        I’ve asked when I got free codes. It is 45 days

        • AttackCat says:

          Yup, the e-mail they sent said 45 days from that day’s date. Looking back, I also think they comped the two movies I rented that night. Don’t remember. Anyhow, the OP got a bum deal.

  3. bnceo says:

    This is when as a customer, you don’t do business with Redbox. If you are too reliant on one machine when that machine can easily be broken, save the aggravation and use Netflix and the post office.

    Redbox should have done this: Tell Joe when the machine was likely to be fix. Let him incur fees until he returns to the box. And simply after he returns it, credit it back the extra $$ he spent holding it.

    • JEDIDIAH says:

      Better yet. Don’t charge late fees for a disk rented from a machine that’s offline.

      Although it wouldn’t have killed them to have another machine.

      • Darury says:

        What if the machine is fixed in 2 days, but it takes the customer another 5-6 days to actually return the movie? Should Redbox just accept the loss of 4 days rental because the machine was out of service the day of the first attempted return? I could see crediting for the “broken” days after the return, but simply saying no late fees is just asking for trouble.

        • EvanMax says:

          It’s further incentive for the company to keep their machines working.

        • MMD says:

          Don’t charge late fees for the days the box was broken. Seems easy enough. Any time after the fix is on the customer.

  4. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    I can’t imagine how many packages of KÖTTBULLAR IKEA owes me for not having a store closer than 86 miles from me.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      When I went to visit my sister in Virginia, we were planning dinner one night and we all agreed on pizza. I asked her how far away the pizza place was and she said 2 streets over. Well, 2 streets and about 14 miles and we were there.

  5. PunditGuy says:

    15 whole miles? Golly.

    Must be an urban/rural thing. There’s a Trader Joe’s that’s 12.24 miles from my house, according to MapQuest, and I’ve never considered it a burden to get there and back.

    But I agree that the policy needs changing. If you show up and your return is refused by a finicky machine, you shouldn’t be charged late fees. Smacks of fraud.

    • bnceo says:

      If it’s that rural, I bet there is no traffic or lights. Fuel mileage should be great.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Not if it’s a twisty, bumpy dirt road that has a 20mph speed limit, though.

      • Shadowfire says:

        Bradford has the only traffic light in the county. It’s also on the border with new Hampshire. 15 miles seems like a lot, but that could be right.
        (I live 40 miles south of there. When you live in rural areas, driving is part of living.)

    • Chmeeee says:

      I drive 15 miles all the time, but I do it because I choose to. Making me drive 30 miles round trip to return something that should have been a 2 mile round trip is not cool. I drive 30 miles RT to get to something that’s worth spending that time and money.

      That’s 1 to 2 gallons of gas that they are making you spend because of their malfunction. If the machine malfunctioned and demanded an extra $7 on top of the $1 rental, would that be OK?

      • PunditGuy says:

        Who are you responding to? Definitely not me.

      • Firethorn6 says:

        That was how I looked at it. I figured 20mpg(rural people tend to drive trucks), $4 gas(if your gas is less, consider the rest maintenance), giving me 20 cents per mile. You hit ‘break even’ at 7.5 miles. A 30 mile round trip would cost me $6, not including my time.

        That’s 4 days of rental money spent on gas. As far as I’m concerned, Redbox should either provide netflix-like wrappers to return discs if necessary, or better yet an emergency drop-box like what post offices and libraries have had for years. Then when the repair guy gets out there to fix it, he scans in the returned movies for no late charges(as of the time the machine broke).

        • alana0j says:

          20 mpg is pretty generous I think…I drive an Impala and only get 17-18mpg city and I like to think I get better gas mileage than a truck.

          That being said, I agree completely with your idea of an emergency dropbox. I’m lucky that in my city there are at least 5 Redbox kiosks within about 4 miles of where I live, but I can imagine the frustration at having to waste gas and time just to return a DVD.

    • JEDIDIAH says:

      That is a Trader Joe’s, not a vending machine. Big Difference.

      I would drive 15 miles to get to a Fry’s or a Trader Joe’s. Wouldn’t do the same for a Redbox Kiosk and I’ve got nice well paved road, flat terrain, and not ice or snow or anything else that might make the trip inherently inconvenient.

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    I’d walk a MILE to return a Redbox DVD.

    • nugatory says:

      But I would walk 500 miles
      And I would walk 500 more
      Just to be that man who walk a thousand miles to return a DVD.

      • abruke says:

        Redbox movies were made for walkin’..
        It’s what the machine just made me do-
        One of these days those DVDs will be walkin’ over you!

  7. chucklebuck says:

    This seems like it’s playing out just like it should – he used a service, found out it sucked, and won’t use them again.

  8. Kaleey says:

    Had to vote 30. I live 15 miles from the nearest box, so 30 is my roundtrip anyway.

  9. Dagny Taggart says:

    I have tried returning a Redbox DVD to the kiosk from which I had rented it, only for the screen to tell me that the kiosk was full, and I should go to another Redbox to return it. Why is this my problem? If a kiosk can’t accept a return, I should be able to keep it until it can…or better yet, let me have another DVD from the kiosk to make room for the one I am returning.

    • scoutermac says:

      Agreed. It is kind of like returning a movie to a Block Buster and the return box is full. When you arrive at the front desk to return it they say “We are not accepting any return movies today. But you are welcome to visit a different Block Buster.”

      • Stickdude says:

        No, it’s not like that at all. With Redbox, you’re trading some convenience – a more limited selection, the possibility that you can’t return the disc to your preferred kiosk, etc – for a lower price.

        If you want the convenience (and higher prices) of Blockbuster, then by all means rent from Blockbuster.

        • MMD says:

          Yes, I agree to more limited selection when using Redbox.

          But no, I’m not agreeing to “the possibility that you can’t return the disc to your preferred kiosk”. If the kiosk is broken, that’s on them, and if they don’t make it right, they lose a customer.

      • calquist says:

        Yes, because Blockbuster should be held as an example of how to run a business #justsayin

  10. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Despite the fact that some folks here think it’s no big deal, consider that Bradford is on the edge of the White Mountains (think twisty 2-lane blacktop roads). Consider that gas is around $3.60/gallon there and if he gets, say, 25 mi/gal, it will cost about $4.30 for gas plus regular car costs plus time (an hour and a half maybe).

    Not only is this Redbox problem an undeserved pain in the ass, it is an expensive pain in the ass.

  11. ECA says:

    I had the idea of redbox long ago..BUT I had a different idea..
    For music/movies/Games..
    you insert your OWN DISK(you should know what works)
    and the machine would BURN a disk of the materials selected to be placed on the DVD..
    The machine would look at the disk and ask HOW you wanted the data.

    THEN sell you the disk.
    Movies for $5..NO STOCK in the machine to hold.
    AND burned in the format you wished/wanted..PDA/Xbox/PS3/DVD player/DIVX/MP2/MP4/AVI/……….

    A selection of FREE/DEMO/TRAIL software.
    You could have THOUSANDS of songs, movies, games on such a machine very easily..

    • ECA says:

      PS, and you didnt need to return the disk..

    • scoutermac says:

      This will never work. The MPAA would shutdown Redbox for piracy.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:


      (Quickly looks up address of U.S. Patent Office and phone number of nearest patent lawyer.)

    • George4478 says:

      As an avid outdoorsman, I would be interested in an automated trail software machine.

    • mikedt says:

      IBM attempted this a while back for music CDs. They wanted kiosks in record stores and you could select the tracks you wanted and burn them to cd. If I remember correctly licensing from the various labels was a big enough pain that they wrote off the whole idea.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      You want me to keep a few blank discs with me in case I decide to rent from Redbox? I’d expect to find my discs warped, faded, and cracked after being forgotten in the car for a couple weeks.

      Better idea: Download the movies onto a flash drive or SD card.

      Even better idea: Download them onto your PC at home… Oh snap! That’s what Netflix does already!

    • JonBoy470 says:

      Actually, have the machine store a supply of blank discs. You’d avoid a significant quality control problem that way. Actually, your big problem would be time to vend the disc. So the customer would take some amount of time to make a selection. Let’s say this is similar to a current Red Box. But then, where a Red Box vends a movie in, say, a minute, your “Burn Box” would take 5 or 10 minutes (depending on amount of content to burn). This would severely limit the number of customers your Burn Box could serve in a given time.

      Also, the customer has to wait around for their disc, or your Burn Box has to hold the completed disc for an indefinite time while the customer does other shopping, and vend it when the customer returns later.

  12. hiCombest says:

    The real question is how long should he wait…meaning which we would be cheaper waiting for the in town machine to be repaired or driving the longer distance to return the DVD right away. With a standard mileage rate of 55.5 cents per mile (includes gas and depreciation), the 30 mile round trip will cost him $16.65. If he’s being charged a $1.50/day by holding the DVD, he has 11 days before that will cost him more than the extended trip. Chances are within those 11 days the machine will be fixed and/or he might need to do that longer drive that goes near the further Redbox for another errand.

  13. Chmeeee says:

    The poll is FUBARed, I can’t even see the choice that I selected in the results.

  14. George4478 says:

    I’ve only used Redbox a couple of times even though the kiosk is about a 1/2 mile from my house. When I went to return my rentals the kiosk was full, turning a 5 minute task into nearly an hour. I have plenty of other TV/movie options that don’t require that much prep/wrapup time, so I never used them again.

    I noticed the other day that the nearby Redbox site has a pair of kiosks side-by-side. Popular location.

    • scoutermac says:

      Most of the Redbox’s I see now in Indianapolis have two side by side now.

      • hoi-polloi says:

        In our area many of the larger stores like groceries have two machines. Convenience stores typically only have one. There are so many locations in my area that this is a non-issue, but I’d imagine I would have just kept the disc overnight and checked back.

        I once returned movies for a friend of mine. I’ve only rented a disc at a time, so I had no idea how tedious it was to drop off five movies at a time.

  15. GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

    Easy formula. How much does gas cost per gallon/daily late fee. In this case, with gas being around $3.50 a gallon, if there is no expectation to fix within 4 days, then drive to return.

    • George4478 says:

      Me: Will the machine be fixed within 4 days?

      Redbox support: Yes

      Me: How do you know? You have the repair technician’s schedule?

      Redbox support: Uh, yes.

      Me: Really?

      Redbox support: Of course. We have no vested interest in giving you bad information which would increase your late fees. Or in giving you a quick, incorrect answer which will allow me to resolve your issue in our tracking system and increase my productivity metrics.

      Me: Hmmmm. I don’t think I believe you know when the machine will be fixed.

      Redbox support: Come on, sir. Don’t be ridiculous. When’s the last time a customer support line gave you wrong or misleading information?

      • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

        In that case, drive the miles, it’ll be worth it.

      • Scoobatz says:

        Exactly. There’s no telling when that machine will be fixed. Before you know it, you just became the first person to buy the DVD at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. This isn’t an issue of how far someone will drive to return a DVD. It’s whether or not you are willing to pay a potential outrageous fee to return it.

  16. truthandjustice says:

    Truth be told . . . EVERYONE, whether currently paying by CC or cash or check, is ALREADY being charged a SURCHARGE for your purchases. That surcharge has ALREADY been built into the merchants’ pricing formulas, as a normal cost of doing business. Every product on the shelf ALREADY has a surcharge built into it’s pricing.

    So now, with these new surcharges, we will be getting surcharged TWICE. WOW — how incredibly well fairness and equity work in the free enterprise matrix. (/sarcasm on full throttle)

  17. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    the closest redbox to my house is 4 miles away, on my way home from work AND i have free redbox codes i got off frozen food purchases. still haven’t ever used them. between netflix discs and streaming, i haven’t been desperate enough to stop for a disc on the way home

  18. NinjaPayTheBill says:

    This happens to me often. They like to suggest I drive to another location (I won’t). They like to offer free codes (I prefer not to have free codes). I kindly suggest they refund my money for any additional day and they always do :)

  19. spartan says:

    What if Joes friend didn’t drive, and had walked or biked the 2 blocks or whatever to the broken Redbox machine?

    Would he have to walk 30 miles to return it.

  20. chiieddy says:

    Why is ‘5 miles’ in the poll and not showing in the results?

  21. Dagny Taggart says:

    To be honest, I have more issues with Redbox customers than I do with the company itself. There is nothing that makes me seethe more than being in a line several people long in front of a Redbox when the person in front is on his cell phone, browsing titles and reading the descriptions to the person on the other end. For the love of God people, it’s all online! Make your decision before you even get to the kiosk! It shouldn’t take me 15 minutes to return a video!

    • RedOryx says:

      Even better, you can actually use the website to hold a movie for you. I’ve done that when I know in advance I want a movie but am at work and can’t actually get to the kiosk for another few hours. This way I don’t have to worry about driving there and all copies are gone.

      • Dagny Taggart says:

        I do that as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t clear the morons out of your way once you get to the kiosk.

  22. atomix says:

    I wonder what they would have done if he threatened to chargeback any late fees. Surely the paltry late fees would not be worth the credit processing fees and labor through the dispute process.

  23. Martha Gail says:

    Maybe it’s because I live in such a high population area (Dallas), but everywhere that has Redbox two to three machines next to each other. There’s usually a line behind each one, too.

    • Not Given says:

      I just checked. There are 4 Redboxes in a town 35 miles away. There is another 3 in a town 30 miles away in another direction. A town 50 miles away has a lot of them but it would only show me 20 results out of 50.
      Blockbuster says there are no stores nearby.
      I don’t think there is any DVD rentals here any more unless one of the convenience stores has some.

  24. who? says:

    Pretty sure I wouldn’t go 5 miles, unless it was on the way to someplace else. But there are 6 redboxes within walking distance of my house, so I’ve never really faced this dilemma. If I lived in a one redbox town, I’d probably get disks from Netflix.

    Playing up the whole “another state” thing, though? States there are like, what? 5 miles apart or something?

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      Actually, they are zero miles apart. There’s no DMZ between states in New England. Of course you have to cross the Connecticut River to get from VT to NH and might have to avoid being eaten by Connie, the legendary river monster.

  25. Rubberduckgrrl says:

    Sorry dude. Welcome to Vermont! No billboards, lots of fresh air, few modern conveniences, and much of the state rolls up at 5PM. Don’t’cha just love it? (Yes, I am a Vermonter.)

    • chucklebuck says:

      I love Vermont for all the reasons you list. When I get the itch to get away from it all, Vermont is the first place that comes to mind.

    • Dirt Farmer says:

      I don’t understand. You want billboards? I live in Vermont and love the lack of billboards. I nearly get whiplash when I drive out of state, trying to read all those stupid signs, but I cannot NOT look at them.

    • nybiker says:

      I’m visiting a friend this week in Hyde Park. Quiet (well, except for me mowing 2 or 3 acres of his lawn – I offered to do it since it was getting to about 6 inches or more in most places and he works from home, so mowing takes time from work).
      Great service at Shaw’s.
      Tomorrow I go to Ben & Jerry’s for the tour. For once, I’m the tourist and not the local (I see plenty of tourists when I am home in NYC).
      I get to hear the chickens in the morning and during the rest of the day as well.

  26. Raziya says:

    Hello, Joe from Bradford! I lived in that town for 7 years when I was in high school and my parents are still there. Sorry you had to drive to Lebanon I assume to return it. :(

  27. Rick Sphinx says:

    I wouldn’t drive any extra. If I found the box out of order, I would notify them that I tried and it was broken. Make them tell you what to do to return it, and not have to pay extra. In fact, if you have to drive further, they should pay you. I say, you are responsible to return it from where you got it. If there is one in same shopping area, I would make attempt; I would not drive several miles or more to do it. Make Redbox customer service deal with it, that’s what they are there for.

  28. dush says:

    Exactly why I never have and never will never use redbox.

  29. jeremiahinpa says:

    I’ve had this happen on return. I called the toll free number on the front of the machine in question and explained the situation to the customer service representative. I explained my displeasure with the need to drive across town to another machine to return the disc. The Redbox customer service representative waived the charge for an additional day rental and provided a free rental code via text ‘for my trouble’ by calling in and reporting the malfunctioning machine.

  30. jeremiahinpa says:

    I’ve had this happen on return. I called the toll free number on the front of the machine in question and explained the situation to the customer service representative. I explained my displeasure with the need to drive across town to another machine to return the disc. The Redbox customer service representative waived the charge for an additional day rental and provided a free rental code via text ‘for my trouble’ by calling in and reporting the malfunctioning machine.

  31. MikeVx says:

    Hmmm. If I stick a pin in a map where my house is and use a string to draw a circle at two miles out, the area covered has around 15 Redbox units that I know of, and I don’t use the service. There are probably a lot more that I don’t know about. I use Netflix, largely because in the entire time I’ve had an account with them, I’ve rented maybe 5 discs that might show up in a Redbox. I live in the Downriver area south of Detroit.

    If I actually rented a disc from Redbox, it would take a catastrophic power outage to prevent me from returning it.