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Late Fees
April 8, 2003 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Blockbuster late fee. I recently returned a movie a few hours late at Blockbuster. I was surprised to learn that the late fee was equal to what I paid for the movie- $3.25. The company line now is- "We don't have late fees. We just bill you for another seven days." This can be as high as $5.44, apparently. There seems to be no mention of this in the usual places. Shouldn't there be a legal limit to how high late fees can be? [The store clerk told me that late fees represented 40% of his store's earnings- I am not sure if this is true across the board.] I am ready for Netflix. Are you?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy (156 comments total)

 
I've boycotted Blockbuster since they fined me $50 for returning Legally Blonde a few days late. I offered to BUY THEM the damn DVD for $25, but they said no.

Of all the movies to rack up a huge fine... sheesh. Why couldn't it have been Citizen Kane?
posted by krunk at 8:16 AM on April 8, 2003


That's pretty bogue. But do they bill you for another seven days for every day that it's late or just another seven days, so you can feel free to watch it for the next week penalty-free?
It doesn't surprise me that late fees could represent such a large part of their revenue considering how often they change their late policies -- i.e. from midnight to noon and back, noon of the third day on two day movies, midnight of the second day on New Releases, having some flicks that have been out for a long time technically in New Releases, etc.
It makes me pretty much ready to go to that well-stocked independent store that's just a couple more miles away than the too-conveneient-for-my-own-cinematic-good Blockbuster.
For my money, there's never been a truer business name.
posted by chandy72 at 8:17 AM on April 8, 2003


DiscussionFilter.
posted by yhbc at 8:20 AM on April 8, 2003


Chandy72,

Most people are in a rush to drop off their videos. They learn about the late fee on their next visit. So, I think you have the legal right to watch the movie for another seven days. But, I doubt if people actually act on this right. My sense is that people drop off the movie and realize they have been hit with a late fee on their next visit. It is too late to claim the right to watch the movie then.

Krunk, $50?!! I feel bad for whining about $3.25.
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 8:21 AM on April 8, 2003


Blockbuster will bill you for another rental term if the movie is late. If the rental term is 7 days, you will be billed for an additional 7 days. If they do not have the movie in store available to rent to another person, they are potentially losing revenue because of it.
posted by Mahogne at 8:22 AM on April 8, 2003


In the UK, choices out does them every time. Less copies of the movies, but a wider choice (in my experience) and cheap charges, both to hire and to bring back late.

I don't dare go back to blockbuster... they still think I owe them £5, and I refuse to pay it. They threw me out last time I tried to hire a videos there... ;)
posted by twine42 at 8:22 AM on April 8, 2003


The library tried to bill me $142.00 for keeping 2 tattered Faulkner books for too long. According to them, it was a $12 late fee and 2 $65 "restocking" fees. Those books are like $12 on Amazon. The Library is crooked.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:24 AM on April 8, 2003


I recently switched to Netflix and I don't think I'll ever set foot in a Blockbuster again.

No lines, no late fees, no having to toss out the three(!) receipts they give you for some reason, no walking in to find nothing at all but an entire wall devoted to Sweet Home Alabama...

Blockbuster is like everything bad about retail (employees who hate their job, long lines, bad selection, the same lame movies pushed to the unwashed masses) all in one convienient place.
posted by bondcliff at 8:25 AM on April 8, 2003


You guys try to hire videos in the UK?

Wacky world.
posted by xmutex at 8:25 AM on April 8, 2003


Sandeep - Yep, albeit $50 Canadian. I didn't even think the thing was late, but they sent a collection letter to my parents (I was using an old card from when I lived at home, in a different city). You can run from Blockbuster, but not from dad!

Plus, Blockbuster changes the ratings on its movies (at least in Canada, where it pretty much changes all AA-14 flicks to R). Stay far away!
posted by krunk at 8:27 AM on April 8, 2003


People still go to video rental stores? How quaint!
posted by i_cola at 8:29 AM on April 8, 2003


If they do not have the movie in store available to rent to another person, they are potentially losing revenue because of it.

The key word there is potentially. If the system were meant to merely recoup lost expenses, they should factor the average chance that any given movie would be rented while it was late.

Charging a 100% late fee suggests that as soon as every movie was returned, it was immediately rented again. If that were the case, there would never be any movies available to rent.

I think they're bilking people. Having recently located to a small town with nowhere to turn but Blockbuster, I had to deal with it for a few months. I got fed up and finally turned to Netflix; now I'm a much happier renter. Someone should print some "Fuck Blockbuster, try Netflix.com" stickers and encourage distribution near return slots around the world.
posted by Pinwheel at 8:30 AM on April 8, 2003


Mahogne,

Doesn't that assume that the video has a chance of being rented out? In other words, your argument hinges on an over-optimistic estimate of the video being rented out. What is the probablity that an average video in Blockbuster will get rented out in a day? It is probably higher for new releases. But, I think the average movie may sit for weeks without someone picking it up. Don't they also have multiple copies of the videos?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 8:31 AM on April 8, 2003


A few months ago my housemate was 16 days late with a couple of tapes and was billed UKPounds26 for one and 15 for the other, and they were quite happy to go to the threat of debt collectors pretty quickly too.
I'd like to report that getting pay-per-view was a sign of a lesson learned but she did pay 3.50 to watch the Scorpion King last night so value-for-money clearly isn't something she has a firm grasp of.
posted by biffa at 8:31 AM on April 8, 2003


Hollywood Video does this now, too. I rented a PS2 game and wanted to keep it for another week, so I went in to re-rent it, and they told me I didn't need to. They said the daily late fee was simply the regular daily charge for renting it again.

On the other hand, I did hear from someone who worked at Hollywood that a lot of the time, they don't follow up on late fees, especially chronic ones. And if a customer comes in refusing to pay any late fees, as many are wont to do in this time of shirking responsibility, they often forgo or lessen the fee. 'Course, that could all be horse puckey, but there it is.
posted by starvingartist at 8:31 AM on April 8, 2003


I cancelled Netflix when I realized that I'd keep videos for long periods of time because there was no pressure to return them (personal flaw).

Netflix rocked, except they really have one of the worst interfaces I've seen online. Their site is category driven, but each category really prevents you from browsing, you're forced to drill down the same categories so you're seeing the same videos every time you search. You're forced to go to other sites to figure out what you want and then attempt to use the search function.

Of course, I haven't set foot in a Blockbuster for years. They have even LESS selection then Netflix. Bah!
posted by answergrape at 8:31 AM on April 8, 2003


I don't bother with movies. I read books.
posted by dong_resin at 8:31 AM on April 8, 2003


Well, I don't actually, but some prick inevitably must say so in these threads.
posted by dong_resin at 8:32 AM on April 8, 2003


Sheesh, pinwheel. Thanks for stealing my thunder.
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 8:32 AM on April 8, 2003


Doesn't that assume that the video has a chance of being rented out?

But it is being rented out. By you. When filling out the membership form I hope you read the fine print that outlines what happens on late returns, etc.

I you rent a movie, go home, watch it, and return it after 2 hours, they don't give you a discount, you still pay for the entire rental period.
posted by Mahogne at 8:36 AM on April 8, 2003


Netflix + GreenCine = happy household with rarely fewer than four movies on hand to watch at any time.

We just returned Rodger Dodger, Odison, and Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois couleurs: Bleu, and now have Trzy kolory: Bialy, Jules and Jim, and Attack the Gas Station on deck, none of which I would expect to find at BlockBuster.

(Oh and in case anyone thinks we're horrible movie snobs, I just asked the Spiderman be moved up in our que, because, well, Spiderman!!! YEAH!)
posted by jennyb at 8:38 AM on April 8, 2003


xmutex: hire=rent
posted by taz at 8:38 AM on April 8, 2003


if you owe libraries overdue fees... get a new name. friend of mine pulled this off a few years back and shirked the library for some $200 in late fees
posted by quadrinary at 8:40 AM on April 8, 2003


Also, haven't I read that BlockBuster regularly rents censored versions of movies rather than the original releases? That's enough to keep me out of their stores, even when all I want is a good, fun Hollywood flick.
posted by jennyb at 8:40 AM on April 8, 2003


Those books are like $12 on Amazon. The Library is crooked.

I'm not positive (perhaps a librarian can step in to say for sure), but I don't think libraries are allowed to buy just from anyone. They have to pay higher amounts because their whole deal is that the books are available to whomever (that is to say, they're paying extra for more expanded rights of distribution, maybe?).

I can't really recall where I might have learned this, so I could be completely off base.
posted by claxton6 at 8:44 AM on April 8, 2003


My wife worked for blockbuster during college and ended up quitting after a year because she hated it so much. After moving to Austin after college, I decided to go to Blockbuster and rent a DVD to enjoy--I returned it the day on the receipt at around 3 PM. Of course, their cutoff is noon. I got slapped with a late fee and got notes from Blockbuster trying to get me to pay it. Someone called me and I kindly told them that they could either loose my business for the rest of my life, or they could remove the late charge. My wife and I have gotten our entertainment fix at Hollywood Video, the Library, and friends collections ever since.
posted by psychotic_venom at 8:44 AM on April 8, 2003


Having worked at a blockbuster myself I can tell you a few things about this.

On the back of all the reciept paper is the contract you signed when you joined, which says that you'll pay any fees incured for having the movie over the rental period. It also says that rental periods may change without notice. It's like most EULA's you click Accept on when you install some new software and don't read because you really have to play "The Sims". I spent a good part of a year explaining to people what they already agreed to when they signed up in the first place.

Also, late fees are a huge part of company earnings. But something I found while working there. 99 times out of 100, the tapes were late to the store and you did fuck up, so you should pay your fine. Don't yell at the cashier guy, he's usually been there for 6 to 8 hours on his feet dealing with around a 100 people who want to argue their fines down. Most of the time this just pisses off the guy working the register, and they do remember you. I know, I was on register.

One tip that has helped me lately since I can't seem to get up before noon somedays - If your running a little late returning a video before noon, walk the movie up to the counter and ask them to check it in, seem confused that you think it's due tomorrow, they'll usually tell you that it's due that day, but "it's ok" they took care of the late fees. It's a small grace period the company has for tapes dropped off into the drop box. I can't tell you how many times I spent emptying that drop box to only be filled up again within the next 30 minutes.

Any more questions?
posted by Derek at 8:44 AM on April 8, 2003


Apparently blockbuster makes 15% of its revenues from late fees. I enjoyed Netflix, but I got busy for a couple of months and it hit me I was blowing $21.60 a month for nothing. I've found an independent movie rental place and I go there for my movies.
posted by tboz at 8:46 AM on April 8, 2003


So, to summarize cyberculture's conventional wisdom:

Blockbuster: BAD
Netflix: GOOD

George Lucas: BAD
Peter Jackson: GOOD

Internet Explorer: BAD
Mozilla: GOOD

SUV's: BAD
Fixed gear bikes: GOOD
posted by gsteff at 8:47 AM on April 8, 2003


Also, haven't I read that BlockBuster regularly rents censored versions of movies rather than the original releases?

I think it's some NC-17 or unrated films. Hollywood does it too.

*shakes fist at censored Y Tu Mama Tambien*

Also, you can probably find Three Colors, at least on VHS, and Roger Dodger at Blockbuster, and I give decent odds for Jules and Jim.
posted by claxton6 at 8:48 AM on April 8, 2003


Forget NetFlix. After using that service for six or eight months, I found I'd pretty much used up the value--and I was putting all kinds of older classics on my list--because I reached a point where it was taking a week or more between them receiving my return and sending out the next one.

I suggest you forgo even that and get a Tivo or similar. Heck with a decent card in your PC, you can use free software to provide the same service and not even pay Tivo's $12.95/month fee. Might take a little longer but it has worked quite well for me the past 18 months.
posted by billsaysthis at 8:48 AM on April 8, 2003


I've always hated Blockbuster. Their smarmy insistence on greeting everyone who entered the store with a cheery greeting always grated my nerves. What really sealed the deal for me was when they started accosting me and demanding to know if they could help me find something. I often like finding what I want to watch through serendipity and this bothered me to no end. Once, when I said I was okay on my own, the "associate" asked what movie I already had in my hand (presumably so they could help me find something similar) and I just about lost it. I may be a bit of a misanthrope, but that forced familiarity makes my skin crawl.

I, too, refused to pay my $5 late fee. They sent me several letters, at first threatening, then offering a free movie if only I paid up. Three years and counting, I'm not going back.

Sorry for the long rant...anyway, I think new technology and companies like Netflix will soon eat their lunch.
posted by Officeslacker at 8:49 AM on April 8, 2003


99 times out of 100, the tapes were late to the store and you did fuck up, so you should pay your fine.

In the constricted sense of returning it later than whatever the current arrangement was, sure. But people are complaining because too little notice is given when terms change.

I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Blockbuster settle a class-action lawsuit regarding their mishandling of late-fees?
posted by claxton6 at 8:50 AM on April 8, 2003


It's a 2 hour movie. You have seven days. They are trying to, you know, rent movies to people in exchange for money. Just turn the damn thing in sometime this week, and you won't have anything to pretend to be offended by.
posted by paddy at 8:51 AM on April 8, 2003


And remembers, libraries have more than books. Many carry DVDs. My local library has 60 Criterion Collection titles. Free DVDs, three-week rental periods and 10-cent late fees (up to $4 max). See, life isn't so bad.
posted by gluechunk at 8:54 AM on April 8, 2003


I've just moved to a new neighborhood, and have two locally owned video stores within a block or two of the apartment.

Both carry a vast assortment of independent, classic and documentary films (the latter is often hard to find), and they both feature a knowledgable staff that actually care about cinema.

I can see where Netflix or GreenCine would appeal to those who have no alternative to Blockbuster. But see if you can't support your local DVD store instead. They usually offer a better selection, lower prices, and and all around better experience.
posted by aladfar at 8:55 AM on April 8, 2003


Thank you paddy, for someone finally stating the obvious.

You knew when the movie was due back, how about returning it on time? How hard is that to comply with? As for the late fees...they seem reasonable to me. If there's no fee, there's obviously no incentive to return the movie at all.

I simply don't understand the outrage here (and I'm someone that has paid the late fees, because I'm a procrastinator). I don't love it, but, it's a condition of the service that Blockbuster provides.
posted by gabey at 8:58 AM on April 8, 2003


People complaining about Blockbuster's late fees when.. shock horror, they returned their videos late? Well, gee, I parked my car in a tow-away area to return the video, and when I got back.. my car had been TOWED AWAY. Oh my God, what an injustice. I thought it was just an idle threat to stop stupid people from parking there! I have decided to boycott parking in tow zones!
posted by wackybrit at 9:01 AM on April 8, 2003


claxton6: I start librarian college in the fall. Libraries do not have to buy special licenses to lend books. This is covered under the doctrine of first sale. Many times, libraries purchase special beefed-up versions of books so that they'll hold up. That's why all the bindings look the same. I don't know (yet) how book replacement fees and overdue fines are calculated. I assume, however, that there is a punitive, make-up-for-wasting-the-librarian's-time aspect to the fees/fines.

FWIW, a high school student restocking a video store once told me that they have to pay ~100$US for each tape to get the right to rent it out.

Also, what Gluechunk said.
posted by stet at 9:01 AM on April 8, 2003


I was one day late paying my $12 water bill and they added a twenty-five dollar late fee. It's only $12 because I don't actually use the water (I have a well) but I stay hooked up in case the well runs dry in the summer. Calls to the County & State Consumer Affairs and Public Utility Commission proved that *no one* had any regulatory power over this little hillbilly local water district. I paid the money. Now, they are expanding the district and would like to put a 250,000 gallon water tank on my property. When I asked what they were offering they actually said they were hoping I would donate the land...I have an open offer from a cell tower company for $615 a month, which I'm thinking of taking and using the first proceeds to dig a deeper well.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:02 AM on April 8, 2003


Or you can do as I just did recently, and have your girlfriend go and plead innocence to the guy behind the counter.

She hardly ever gets stuck with speeding tickets, either.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:03 AM on April 8, 2003


claxton6: I start librarian college in the fall. Libraries do not have to buy special licenses to lend books.

Cool, thanks for correcting my own personal urban legend. I was probably conflating libraries with for-profit rental outlets.
posted by claxton6 at 9:04 AM on April 8, 2003


our local video store in Vermont recently settled a class action lawsuit as well, I think we all got a free rental out of it or something. Basically the "renewal" prices, which they use now, are instead of jacked-up late fees, which was the previous industry standard practice. At our store, the late fees were actually more than the fee for the rental. This was deemed to be in some way illegal, though I personally have never returned a movie late. Our video store is 16 miles away. I think it's easier to pay attention to due dates when you have to make a special trip.

And on the library topic: late fees frequently go into the city or school coffers and not into any direct library budget, at least they do in Seattle, and at UW. Not that it's totally germane, but it's a big difference from Blockbuster fees.
posted by jessamyn at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2003


I cancelled Netflix after they lost my pootytang DVD.

I decided Netflix is too slow for me, considering there are like 5 video stores within 2 blocks of my apartment. Plus, I rent movies like 5 times a year.

As for making netflix stickers, you mean the barrage of ads online and at electronics stores isn't enough?
posted by wrench at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2003


My local indie video store has twice the selection of Blockbuster, snotty knowledgeable film student staffers, cheap prices, 2-for-1 rentals with my "I support the student radio station" card, a frequent-renter card (rent 5 and get the 6th half-price), AND they give me back a buck if I bring movies back early. I don't understand why my next-door neighbors still walk 10 blocks more to go to Blockbuster.
posted by some chick at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2003


I think they're bilking people.

Duh. With their noon return time and all the different rental periods for products, Blockbuster is working hard to maximize confusion (and, thus, exorbitant late fees). It seems like everyone who uses their stores eventually experiences the eureka moment where they realize the scam. (Welcome to the club, SandeepKrishnamurthy.)

What I hate is when people realize they've been had at the exact moment they are ahead of me in line, causing them to rain righteous wrath from the heavens for 10 minutes or more in the false hope that the teen wage slave working the counter believes in customer service.

My kids love renting movies and videogames from Blockbuster, so we have gotten the process down to ritual: Rental receipts go on the refrigerator, which we consult daily to keep from forgetting the return date. I only have to pay Blockbuster's tax on the stupid once a month. We'd go somewhere else, but Blockbuster killed off the local video store in record time.
posted by rcade at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2003


1) Open video store
2) Rent videos for a time to busy people for a one-time fee
3) If the videos are not returned on time, charge additional fee
4) Repeat (3) until video is returned
5) Grow a profitable national video chain based upon millions of people thinking they're paying for (2) when they'll really end up paying for (3) every time they watch a movie.

I'm surprised it took Blockbuster this long! The only reason they don't charge MORE per overdue day is because it would make it too obvious to consumers at time of rental that the total cost is far higher than what you pay at the counter. Go Netflix.
posted by VulcanMike at 9:12 AM on April 8, 2003


Of course, to hire videos you have to actually own a TV.

Videos... Yeah, I still hire videos. They haven't vanished yet, and they're a shit load cheaper to buy than VHS. I can't afford a widescreen TV yet, nor have we got space for one (although i accept 14" is a little small).

I don't see why late fees should be any more than the hire fees, nor why they shouldn't be in 24 hour blocks. Especially in the UK, we don't drive cars everywhere, we don't havea blockbusters on every corner, and we don't have an acre of car parking outside every store - getting back to the store the next day isn't always a piece of cake.
posted by twine42 at 9:12 AM on April 8, 2003


"cheaper to buy than VHS"

Cheaper thn DVDs. Sod.
posted by twine42 at 9:13 AM on April 8, 2003


Libraries do not have to buy special licenses to lend books.

Libraries do pay extra for periodicals. Especially scholarly journals.
posted by blakewest at 9:15 AM on April 8, 2003


I've been using NetFlix for close to a year and have no complaints. It's one of the best services out there period.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:17 AM on April 8, 2003


Blockbusters can do whatever the market will bear -- so vote with your feet.

Video chains are like every other kind of chain: if you don't make an effort to find local businesses and patronise them, they go away, and eventually the Blockbusters are the only thing left. Find an indie store and use it. Savor the fact that they're different and quirky and have bizarre staff picks and an idiosyncratic organizing principle. Talk to the people who work there. Learn their names and which ones like the kind of thing you do. After a while, going into a Blockbuster will be about as appealing as eating styrofoam.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:20 AM on April 8, 2003


In Chile, we have bazuca, decent UI and selection, and they bring the VHS or DVD to your door in under 1 hour, pick it up too if you want. You can also get food, soft drinks, etc. There's a goddamn-Blockbuster 1/2 a block from my place (they muscled out like 95% of the other video stores), but 19/20 times we order from Bazuca.
posted by signal at 9:25 AM on April 8, 2003


I switched to Netflix when Blockbuster stopped renting widescreen movies among their "New Releases". They believed the majority of their customers preferred renting full screen to wide, and couldn't be bothered to offer both. Apparently they're reconsidering this policy, but I'll never go back. Every time I went to a Blockbuster there was something to piss me off: exhorbitant late fees, long lines, poor selections, incurious & unhelpful employees.

Of course, it's just a matter of time before they buy out Netflix.
posted by coelecanth at 9:26 AM on April 8, 2003


In the constricted sense of returning it later than whatever the current arrangement was, sure. But people are complaining because too little notice is given when terms change.
During the time I worked there, we went from midnight to noon because people were complaining they couldn't get out of the house to return it before midnight and would rather return it on their way to work. And from my renting there, the policy hasn't changed since, except for the addition of more days to the weekly rentals, only allowing you even more time to return the video's. The policy has to have been in effect for the last 3 years, which is around the time I started working there. Towards the end, I would have people who had been renting for months before under the new policy come in and argue with me over the validity of it. Also, there is a sign on the door as you leave telling you when they are due back, employees are made to tell you when they're due back, and the date for the return of each movie is printed on the reciept. I mean, how hard is it to remember to return a movie?
Or you can do as I just did recently, and have your girlfriend go and plead innocence to the guy behind the counter.
This works amazingly well. Trust me. And next time, tell her to try and get some free "Favorites" coupons so you can get some free rentals. They're usually easy to come by.
I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Blockbuster settle a class-action lawsuit regarding their mishandling of late-fees?
I remember working there and towards the end this came around. Blockbuster did a quick policy change and gave the employees the company line of "Don't talk to the media", which wasn't a problem because no one knew anything.
Also, haven't I read that BlockBuster regularly rents censored versions of movies rather than the original releases?
The company line on this was that we are a family store, but there's still soft core porn on the shelves of the store I worked at. You just have to search for it.
FWIW, a high school student restocking a video store once told me that they have to pay ~100$US for each tape to get the right to rent it out.
This was amazingly true. For some damned reason, video stores have to pay upwards of $120 to rent a single video from a studio to rent it out to people. It was great seeing the look on people's faces when I told them that...
posted by Derek at 9:30 AM on April 8, 2003


Wayne Huizenga...
posted by nthdegx at 9:30 AM on April 8, 2003


claxton6: I was mostly kidding in my criticism. They knocked off the $130 in restocking fees when I returned the books. Rock on, Libraries.
posted by techgnollogic at 9:31 AM on April 8, 2003


claxton6: I start librarian college in the fall. Libraries do not have to buy special licenses to lend books.

(offtopic) Maybe that's something you'll learn in librarian college?

Another thing to keep in mind is that Blockbuster is basically owned and controlled by Viacom who also own: CBS (and its subsidiary record companies), UPN, Paramount Studios, cable companies, comic book publishing houses, theme parks, regular publishers, MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Showtime, TVLand, half of Comedy Central, TNN, The Movie Channel, FLIX, a third of Sundance Channel.

Just keep that in mind next time you fork over an extra $3.25
posted by jeremias at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2003


Every time I have rented from them (which is VERY rarely) they printed the due date and time directly on my receipt, which kept me from having to calculate their horrendous 7 days - 1/2 day + pi + at noon unless full moon then at midnight return policies. So I won't say they are making it overly hard to know when things are due.

Video on Demand on the cable system is pretty nice. Typically a 12 hour window, you watch when you want to. I can Tivo things on premium channels, and if its something I just HAVE to see that badly, I'll buy the DVD, because chances are, I'll want to watch it again if its that good. And if it isn't, I'll sell it on half.com or spun.com.
posted by benjh at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2003


1) Open video store
...
5) Grow a profitable...


Wait, I thought Step 1 was "Steal Underpants".

/reference
posted by thanotopsis at 9:36 AM on April 8, 2003


I heard that Blockbuster harnessed nearly a billion dollars in late fees last fiscal year.

I hate them in many ways. I understand that they're considered a necessary evil, but man...

Part of that hate, I must admit, derived from ogling the video games for rent for consoles I didn't own.

Still, I went with Netflix for a while, thinking that by living in NYC I could be assured some modicum of decent delivery times. I was very wrong.

50% of my ordered DVDs arrived at all, and some of those were sometimes a week in coming. I just came to the conclusion that those Netflix envelopes are high theft targets, since people easily enough can identify that it's a DVD inside, even if they can't tell what DVD it is.

Netflix NEVER gave me a problem about reporting a lost DVD, but I was sick of truly only having a single DVD in hand, the other two having been pilfered at some point between Flushing, Queens (where it was sent from) and my home.

I wish them luck, but it wasn't a solution for me.
I'd rather try them again than go to Blockbuster's, though.
posted by Busithoth at 9:36 AM on April 8, 2003


Officeslacker, Blockbuster and other stores (Gap, A&F, etc.) greet their customers personally as they come in the door because it's been shown to reduce shoplifting. Something about giving people personal attention so they feel like you're keeping an eye on them, rather than putting out the fake security cameras. I can't find the article I read this in offhand, think it was in Psychology Today or New Scientist... I hate running into "greeters" too...
posted by whatzit at 9:36 AM on April 8, 2003


I am ready for Netflix. Are you?

Get on the boat, already.

(or at least stop patronizing lackluster national chain stores owned and operated by religious fundamentalists)
posted by scarabic at 9:39 AM on April 8, 2003


(if you have to link to explain it...'taint funny.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:42 AM on April 8, 2003


And whoever mentioned the libraries and expensive periodicals: I got a real kick out of these, here are some numbers from Yale's Engineering Library and Alabama's Business Library. When I went to the University of Minnesota I think they were paying around $30k annually for one of the main physics journals, but can't find UMN's costs online.
posted by whatzit at 9:42 AM on April 8, 2003


"I've always hated Blockbuster. Their smarmy insistence on greeting everyone who entered the store with a cheery greeting always grated my nerves. What really sealed the deal for me was when they started accosting me and demanding to know if they could help me find something."
Just what Blockbuster do you frequent?!?! Unless this is satire and I'm just being stoopid okay i'll go in the corner now and be quiet until i get called on...
posted by chandy72 at 9:46 AM on April 8, 2003


Ahem. Warning: NetFlix commercial ahead (I am not, nor have I ever been, employed by NetFlix, Inc.)

I. Love. NetFlix. The following is basically a long love letter to NetFlix. Besides the valid criticism of their interface above (and, on preview, Busithoth's complaint that they were slow in his region), I can't imagine any reason to denigrate the service. Clearly, it's not useful to everyone. If you don't watch movies that often, or if you're into an esoteric selection of movies that they probably don't have, then don't use the service. I'm their perfect target user. I have missed out on a lot of classic movies in the short span of my life thus far, and I want to rectify that. Netflix helps me to ensure that I always have a good, well-researched choice of movie at hand.

I vaguely remember the sensation of walking into a rental store and completely forgetting all the movies that I always say I need to see, not seeing anything that grabbed my attention or seemed to suit my mood, finally settling on The Waterboy after a long, painful period of indecisiveness, and returning it late to the video store after watching it and being thoroughly unenlightened. With NetFlix, every time I think, "Hey, that's a movie I need to see!" I just add it to my rental queue. And if you're conscientious about watching and returning your movies at a good pace, you can get a lot of bang for your buck. I live in Boston, and if I put my NetFlix DVD in the mail before 1 p.m., I often receive the next DVD on my list two days later. It's insanely fast. And no extra postage charges. And even if I only watch five movies a month, I still spend less due to the late charges that would inevitably have accrued otherwise, and the convenience is worth the cost.

Also, I've never had to deal with their customer service. When I sent back a video and they still hadn't received it six days later, I merely clicked a button online that said the DVD was lost in the mail. I was taken to a form that said, "Thank you for reporting the lost DVD, and sorry for the inconvenience! Your next title is on its way!" When the DVD that I had mailed (and reported as lost) finally arrived at NetFlix, they sent me an e-mail letting me know they got it.

Also, I had put a movie on my queue for which the DVD had not yet been released (Pennies from Heaven). After it had languished there, awaiting release, on my queue for a little while, I got this message from the company:
Dear Matthew,

The movie Pennies From Heaven (1981), has been removed from your Rental Queue as it is will be not available on DVD. We do carry the original 1936 version of the film with Bing Crosby -- if you are interested in renting it, please click the link below:

Pennies From Heaven (1936)

-Your Friends at Netflix
This obviously wasn't a form letter, meaning that they had actual people going through the queues, noting movies that had gone undelivered. That alone makes the company worth my dollar.

As for railing against late fees, I'm going to have to echo the sentiments of paddy, gabey, et al. And they said it well enough for me not to have to say it again.

Last word, on independent video stores. I'd call them overrated. Our prime indie video mini-chain here in Boston is Hollywood Express. They have a spectacular selection, 2-for-1 rentals on Tuesday, snotty film student clerks, convenient locations, and you can return your movie to any of the three branches, no matter where you rented it. That said, their late fee policy is even more predatory than Blockbuster's ... rather than just re-renting the movie, they charge you the entire cost of rental every day it's late. Where this really screws with you is when you turn in your videos late after taking advantage of the 2-for-1 rental, and you find you owe a separate late fee on each video.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:46 AM on April 8, 2003


I'm pretty sure most distributors and publishers give public libraries 20-40% discount (scroll down on page to see terms from various publishers) - at least in Canada.
posted by Jaybo at 9:56 AM on April 8, 2003


hey! they deserve the money! i mean, there wouldn't even BE such a thing as blockbuster if foul technology hadn't tried to run the motion picture industry into the ground with it's evil VCR! jack valenti, that hero, did his best to quash the vile things but failed in the face of millions of thieving consumer rabble anxious to pirate hollywood back into the stone age! so hollywood HAD to allow the 'legal' tape industry to establish itself so that it could then buy it all up! and that wasn't cheap! do you have any idea how many mansions went without annual gold replating and how many oil changes for the mercedes got skipped? i mean, jeez, first filthy consumers virtually wreck a perfectly good entertainment industry and now they bitch about attempts to recoup the costs THEY THEMSELVES caused hollywood to have to spend! good lord, people have got their priorities bass ackwards!
posted by quonsar at 9:57 AM on April 8, 2003


I've always hated Blockbuster. Their smarmy insistence on greeting everyone who entered the store with a cheery greeting always grated my nerves.

That doesn't bother me as much as the light-blue shirt/khaki pants ensemble that all the employees are required to wear. That's just creepy.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:59 AM on April 8, 2003


Whatzit, I know I've seen that article on greeters as well, I never thought about it in this case. Perhaps it's because I live in Canada where that policy hasn't been as widely adopted. It seems so artificial and forced, which is what bothers me so much.

And Chandy72, I'm serious. There is a blockbuster on Rideau St. in Ottawa that does (or at least did) this. It's not in the best neighbourhood, so perhaps it's an extension of the policy Whatzit describes of discouraging shoplifting.
posted by Officeslacker at 10:01 AM on April 8, 2003


I've always hated Blockbuster. Their smarmy insistence on greeting everyone who entered the store with a cheery greeting always grated my nerves.

I don't know where you live, but in DC there isn't any greeting--just a bored indifferent blink.
posted by batboy at 10:10 AM on April 8, 2003


I like the policy of just charging another rental. Makes more sense to me than some arbitrary overdue fee or something. It seems more civil, polite even. Like, instead of assuming I am a delinquent or a thief, they just assume that I wanted to watch the movie some more. I'm flattered, really.

(Incidentally, my most embarrassing late fee was Cool as Ice. Three weeks late for some reason.)
posted by mikrophon at 10:10 AM on April 8, 2003


can't resist sharing my own blockbuster expriences, because for the longest time i lived on telegraph and alacatraz in berkeley -- right across from the 24 hour jack in the box (argh!) and kitty corner from "THE WORST FUCKING BLOCKBUSTER EVER" (TM).

my own experiences with their terrible service were limited -- mostly restricted to waiting in a line when there were three cashiers behind the counter, marking videos or even talking on the phone to their friends while folks were clearing their throats or otherwise trying to get their attention so they could check out: it wouldn't be until one of the employees would say to another: "DAMN, GIRL, THERE'S PEOPLE IN LINE AND SHIT, WHY DON'T YOU GET ON A REGISTER? DAMN."

of course, it was retail, and it was retail in, basically, the ghetto, and so most people didn't really complain because shitty service was really the norm. there was, of course, a nice independent video shop up the way, that was both cheaper and *had* better selection (at one point, the blockbuster near me inexplicably cut the size of their store in half -- they didn't rent out the additional space, or even appear to use it to stock old videos -- they just put in a wall and put up window blinds over the windows that now, i assume, looked in on an empty room, or possibly a meth lab.) but they were a twenty minute walk away, and not so fun to go to when i was sick or hungover (when i was most likely to want a video) -- thus, i would end up patronizing blockbuster anyway.

my favorite moment, however, was when i was in there (waiting in line, most likely). And the woman asked to get a free video rental -- because, well, it had been promised if "Titanic" or whatever other popular blockbuster was in stock. The clerk looked a little confused and turned to a seated man, who was apparently the manager -- he shook his head "We're not doing that." The clerk then happened to point out a large sign directly behind the woman that read : "WE GUARANTEE TITANIC TO BE IN STOCK -- OR YOU GET A FREE RENTAL." The manager, without even looking up, replied "I don't care, we don't do that here." All the clerk could do was shrug and apologize to the woman.

Where I live now (downtown san francisco) there's tons of places to rent videos, but only if they feature hardcore sex on them. Presumedly, I could just rent the porno version of everything (Hairy Potter and the Chamber of Sluts, American Pies, The Wadfather III [not as good as the Wadfather II, really]) -- but, uh, obviously the production values aren't quite as good. The closest place to rent decent videos is about one or two BART stops away from me (Leather Tongue or Lost Weekend Video in the mission) -- and so, I'm another happy Netflix user. Of course, I couldn't imagine having netflix and living outside of CA, unless they have multiple distribution centers (i'm largely unaware of their distribution chain). Usually I can get a DVD turned around in two days, which isn't terrible at all; and I figure if I can watch about three a week, I'm getting a really good deal. Also, the queue system with Netflix works very well for me, as I can't count how many times I've been in a video store and thought, oh, I'd like to rent that next time or something, or had a friend tell me about a decent flick, only to completely blank on what movie I want to see the next time I'm actually renting a video -- now I just add it to my queue or whatever.

The only complaint I have is that the ratings system seems to break every three minutes -- which, if you're browsing by ratings, screws up the list of movies entirely, as it immediately switches over to a random "by title" search -- one would think this is something that would operate a little more solidly for a company that's been in business a number of years.
posted by fishfucker at 10:15 AM on April 8, 2003


Heavens to Betsy, anybody notice there is a war on?
posted by beagle at 10:15 AM on April 8, 2003


oh, also I should remark that there is a Hollywood video near my mom's house that seems to stock only direct-to-video releases. Their selection is an embarassing parade of films that have either never seen the big screen (SECRET AFFAIRS OF MY SISTER), or never aspired to (CRAZY BACKYARD BUNGEE WRESTLING IV).
posted by fishfucker at 10:17 AM on April 8, 2003


Hollywood video does the greeting thing too. But I don't think they go far enough. My new chain of video stores will encourage the staff to leap upon the backs of browsers, riding them around and offering advice and encouraging them to rent the latest Eddie Murphy effort.

Also, I used to go to Hollywood because they would offer you the option of paying your late fees now or later. If you let them slide long enough they would just charge them to your credit card. Also, their late fee was the same as the rental fee, and for the same length of time, which was nice.

One more thing about Hollywood. The one I used to frequent featured the most apathetic staff I'd ever experienced. "Kafkaesque!" they would cry "This copy of The Perfect Weapon starring Jeff Speakman is a week late! You owe us $7.50!"

"No it's not." I would say. "You must have made a mistake."

They'd shrug and remove the late fees. If I was feeling particularly full of joie de vivre, I would just flat out ask them for free stuff, and about nine times out of ten, they'd give it to me. Especially impressive was my refusal to believe that I had failed totally to return a movie. I went so far as to imply a suspicion that the peon who had checked the movie in had probably stolen it.

Months later, I noticed the movie behind the TV.

So I use NetFlix now, and I am happy. I have noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of damaged DVDs lately though, which annoys my neighbors as I screech like a pteradon when Brotherhood of the Wolf freezes right in the middle of a really good guy-getting-kicked-in-the-head scene.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:20 AM on April 8, 2003


We've known about this for months, it's nice if you're renting a video game and want to keep it another week. I've never had a problem with this practice. If we don't get it back in time, we get another week with it. What's the problem?

Late fees with my local library are more expensive (1 dollar per day)
posted by dreamling at 10:25 AM on April 8, 2003


I'm pretty sure most distributors and publishers give public libraries 20-40% discount (scroll down on page to see terms from various publishers) - at least in Canada.

In the US, at least, periodicals vary from being discounted to actually being marked up for libraries. It's scientific and scholarly periodicals that are the real insane killer price-wise, and depending on your distributor [big libraries rarely buy directly from presses anymore, so Baker and Taylor get a chunk of the savings, not your local library] books aren't always much cheaper either, especially to get them library bound, tagged and catalogged. I know this is terribly off-topic, maybe we could start a bookfilter thread?
posted by jessamyn at 10:26 AM on April 8, 2003


My local video store has blocks you can rent in advance. $100 got me 100 rentals, including new releases and DVD's. Took more than 2 years to use them up.

And $1/day late fees, paid in cash, so as to not use up my $1 rentals, please, thank you. No cash in your pocket? Pay the late fee next time I'm in? Don't mind if I do, thank you very much.

And their selection is insanely huge. They also offer 40 rentals for $60, or 15 for $30.

Check around, you might be surprised at what's already available as far as a better deal in your own neighborhood.

As a side note, my sister lives in the country, and she loves NetFlix.

And on preview beagle, the war hasn't even gotten good enough ratings to knock the infomercials off the local Fox station in the afternoons here. Sure, it wouldn't cost them anything to put up the straight Fox news feed, but apparently even an infomercial brings in more revenue. Go figure.
posted by dglynn at 10:30 AM on April 8, 2003


For those who don't know, Green Cine is partnered with Bay Area Video Coalition and the San Francisco Film Arts Foundation, so by supporting them you are supporting independent film. I have been a member for several months and I LOVE it.
The final straw for me was when my local funky alternative video store I was a member of reached into my bank account and yanked out $35 they claimed I owed for late fees incurred 10 MONTHS AGO!!! They had never once notified me of these fees at anytime during those 10 months that I continued to rent there. After receiving a less than lukewarm reaction from the owner about this situation I promptly closed my account and moved on to Green Cine.
posted by evilcupcakes at 10:31 AM on April 8, 2003


Of course, to hire videos you have to actually own a TV.

Not when all computers built in the last four years (or so) have come with DVD players, you don't. I haven't owned a TV in years, and I still love Netflix.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:34 AM on April 8, 2003


Here's an idea: return your movies on time!


I worked in video retail for about 12 years (3 of them for the chain stores). If there's one thing I got tired of, it's people bitching about having to pay late fees.

While you're busy not returning your movies, the store is losing revenue on people who want to rent it. If you can't return the movie on time, don't rent it!

If you're unaware of the store's late fee structure or return time... ask!

If their prices are too high, rent elsewhere.

This goes for any store you rent at. Not just the chains.

It's not rocket science.

The best video store Toronto ever had, Art & Trash, went out of business because of morons not paying their late fees.
posted by dobbs at 10:40 AM on April 8, 2003


In the last 6 months, Netflix has improved amazingly, at least for me in Seattle.

On Monday when I left for work I put ELIZABETH in a return envelope for the mailman to pick up. It was of course gone when I got home. Just now (Tuesday morning) I received email from Netflix "we have received ELIZABETH. Please rate it now."

I expect to have a new movie in my hands tomorrow or Thursday, by which time I still won't have watched the other two DVDs sitting on my player.
posted by GaelFC at 10:47 AM on April 8, 2003


I stopped renting videos after incurring > $100 of late charges on movies three times in as many months. Each time I had a few videos rented, then went out of town on little notice and didn't think to return the videos first.

I'm far happier with my current setup of a DirecTV subscription with all the movie channels, and a TiVo. And when that doesn't get me a movie I want, then I just head over to amazon.com and I have the video in a couple days, with no danger of late fees.
posted by mosch at 10:48 AM on April 8, 2003


I've used Netflix for almost three years, and I love them. I live in San Francisco, and the delivery time to and from the distribution center is one business day. I generally return the movies pretty quickly, so the per-movie cost is much lower than the independent video store right around the corner. Netflix's selection is much better than the video stores.

The main drawback is that you can't select a movie to match your mood, but if that happens I just return them without watching them. Because the turnaround time is so quick and I don't think if paying a fee for the individual movies, I don't mind doing this at all.

fishfucker's complaint about the stability of the ratings system is valid, but I find the system to be eerily accurate. If Netflix says I'll give a movie three stars, I usually do.

Blockbuster and other stores (Gap, A&F, etc.) greet their customers personally as they come in the door because it's been shown to reduce shoplifting.

Greeters at places like always annoy me because they're so blatantly insincere and I don't like being treated like a shoplifter, so I leave. I wonder how much business they lose this way.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:51 AM on April 8, 2003


I also hate BlockBuster, not just because of their shifting late fee policy (which is annoying), but mostly because:

1) Their movie selection sucks ASS

2) They refuse to carry Unrated or NC-17 movies, prompting the studios to provide censored versions of those films in order to get them on the BB shelves. BB has also been known to get studios to censor their R-rated films in a special 'BlockBuster version'. The ripple effect of this policy has been to encourage self-censorship among the studios -- rewriting or editing adult-themed films during production to get an R-rating.

I'd love to patronize my local independent rental store, but there are none left in my city. It's all BlockBuster, Hollywood Video and the department/grocery store video areas.

I also went with Netflix, and I love it. I won't go into as much detail about my current devotion to Netflix, but I get 10-12 rentals each month, which is an excellent value for $21. And I love the fact that I can sample the mainstream hits as well as more obscure indie and foreign films.

Fuck Blockbuster!
posted by Dirjy at 10:57 AM on April 8, 2003


As a former Blockbuster Store manager (I left about a year after Viacom bought the chain), and I know some things have changed since the mid-late 90's, I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in.

Yes, late fees are a HUGE revenue producer. In your store budget, it has its own line. You are expected to generate a certain percentage of your store revenue in late fees. And you have to meet your numbers...

Back in the day, when BBV required a credit card to sign up for free (otherwise there was a $5 charge and we needed to see 2 pieces of ID), there were several times where I charged someones credit card for several hundred dollars. I'd charge them the retail price of the tapes (sometimes more that $100 per tape) and all of the accrued late fees. I believe the most I ever charged was over $800. The fine print on the sign up form gave BBV the right, as you were signing a contract. As for the high retail price, many tapes were released "For rental only." They were flicks that had no real market for retail sale, but your store needed to have on the shelves. (Much of the straight to video market in the 90's were priced that way, for example. It could cost $120 retail, $70 wholesale, to replace a Shannon Tweed B-movie classic.)

As for greeting, it's a shoplifting deterrent, we weren't just being friendly. As whatzit said, it's a way of letting shoplifters know that you are aware of their presence and are being watched. If a higher up (or myself for that matter) caught someone not greeting every customer, there would be hell to pay. I could go on and on... Lord, I do not miss working in retail...
posted by bawanaal at 11:00 AM on April 8, 2003


Am I dumb? I found out about their late fee and made sure ever after to get the tape back on time. I assume that it is their store and so they set their rules. I deal with them or not. My choice. Yes: not many choices since they have wiped out competition. But, hey, that's true of hardware, biz supplies and just about everything else. No competion has made capitalism work.
posted by Postroad at 11:17 AM on April 8, 2003


I'm sorry, but, aside from the no late fees concept and the mail approach, I see no difference between Netflix and Blockbuster in terms of selection. Just try putting the oeuvres of Eric Rohmer, Dario Argento or Guy Maddin on your queue. You can be almost completely certain that you won't see the movies until months from now. Because every other self-respecting film geek is thinking exactly the same thing that you are. Meanwhile, there isn't a problem renting a crap film like Ghost Ship or Friday After Next. Netflix also seems to take their sweet time in replenishing your movies after you send them in.

Not so with Cafe DVD, which much like the above-referenced GreenCine, offers a bevy of alternative titles (including a nice exploitation film section). While their scripts sometimes munch due to high traffic, their customer support and their turnaround time (often next day after email, which is more than you can say for Netflix) completely blows away Netflix, despite Netflix's distribution centers -- at least in the San Francisco area.

Of course, I had a problem with Netflix a year ago when they demanded that I pay the cost in full of a DVD that I never even received from them. I cancelled my membership and told them to fuck themselves.

But I have never experienced any problems with Cafe DVD. Every DVD has arrived with celerity. Cafe DVD doesn't bombard you with the colloborative filtering bullshit that Netflix relies almost completely upon through their website. (For example, check out Netflix's listing for Dancer in the Dark. The film is a bleak, gut-wrenching film from Lars von Trier with ironic musical numbers with Bjork. Why the hell would I possibly be interested in something as frivolous as Superhit Songs From Amitab Bachan, the first DVD they have listed?)

Cafe DVD, by contrast, respects that you have a pretty good idea of what you want and they pretty much leave you alone with this kind of nonsense. Not so much as a single spam newsletter recommending the likes of Mark Wahlberg's latest piece of turd comes in your inbox. Just "This DVD shipped," "this DVD returned," the way it should be.

One other thing about revenue: the online DVD rental companies make a killing because most people only rent about four DVDs a month. But I read a NYT article (can't find -- archives now closed) last year that mentioned that Netflix, et al. actually loses money if you rent more than seven DVDs a month. Since most people fall under this level, it's a system that works. But die-hard cineastes are left in the lurch. Because ultimately it's about profit rather than reliability.

That Cafe DVD continues to send me DVDs with swiftness despite the fact that I manage to get through four DVDs a week (and sometimes more) is a tribute to their integrity.

But to get back to the thread at hand, yes, Fuck Blockbuster!
posted by ed at 11:19 AM on April 8, 2003


1. Video stores don't pay more for rental copies of movies. If Blockbuster is paying $111 for One Hour Photo on VHS, that's because that's what it costs. To anybody and everybody. (If anything, rental places get a bulk discount.) Why does it cost that much? Because that's how the studios made revenue from rental places. But it's not like there was a special surcharge employed against video stores. In time, all VHS movies drop off to a more reasonable purchase price -- but at that point, video stores don't need them.

DVDs don't work this way at all, because in order to get the DVD technology adopted, they had a low sell-through price (you have to work really hard to find any single-movie DVD that costs more than $45 -- Criterion's stuff costs $40 if there are extra features, and even the featuriest major studio release rarely costs more than $35). Blockbuster has raised a hissy fit over this, but the studios seem to be sticking to their guns, which is a rare consumer victory. (Although Warner Bros., who really championed the cheap DVD approach -- on the premise that lots of people wouldn't rent for $5 what they could buy for $15 -- fired their top DVD guy a few months ago. Hopefully it's not a harbinger.)

2. Blockbuster is making a huge move toward becoming a movie retailer, in large part because DVDs aren't getting more expensive. Their selection isn't great, but they say they'll match anyone's price, and they have a lot more locations than, say, Best Buy. This, too, could be a consumer victory, because it puts cheap DVDs nearer to potential purchasers, although you have to consider the consumer defeats of having mega-retailers undercutting everyone else's business.

3. Whether a Blockbuster carries unrated movies is up to the Blockbuster. You'll never find hardcore porn, but I've seen the unrated Y Tu Mama Tambien in three different stores.

4. Why am I spending so much time at Blockbuster? Because they sell their used DVDs, often at great prices. Every few months they have a 3-for-the-price-of-2 sale, or an everything's-$10-sale. You have to check out the movies you've purchased, because they can be abused by renters, but I haven't gotten burned yet. During these frequent sales, their prices are better than any of the other local used DVD merchants. That's where I got my Blade II, Spider-Man, Mothman Prophecies, Amelie, Lilo & Stitch, Ginger Snaps, etc.
posted by blueshammer at 11:25 AM on April 8, 2003


Greeters at places like always annoy me because they're so blatantly insincere and I don't like being treated like a shoplifter, so I leave. I wonder how much business they lose this way.

As a former Target door greeter (summer job in college), let me just let you all know that it was, hands down, the worst job I have ever had in my life.
posted by eilatan at 11:26 AM on April 8, 2003


Funny, I don't worry about any of this with Blockbuster.

I hooked up with somethign they call the "DVD Club" (it might no longer be offered but we are stillg randfathered in).

I pay like 26$ a month or something and keep out 3 DVD's at a time, return em whenever I want and take out new ones whenever the mood hits. Most I take back in a day or three, some I keep out for weeks at a time.

No stress, no confusion, no extra charges and I don't have to wait for Netflix to ship anything.

Even before this, Blockbuster was fine with me. It isn't THAT hard to figure out if you keep it too long you have rented it again.

There is a real sense of entitlement out there I just don't get.
posted by soulhuntre at 11:30 AM on April 8, 2003


On GreenCine: My SO decided he wanted to see Salo. This is pretty hard to come by, but GreenCine listed it in their available films on a long wait. We put it in the que at #1 and waited... and noticed that other, lower in the que long wait items were shipping sooner. So my SO wrote to GreenCine, who admitted a mistake in listing the DVD as available for rent, then bought a copy and sent it to us. And now I can say I've seen Salo, despite not feeling like I gained much from the experience (besides getting intermittently queasy) other than being able to say I've seen it.

Also, either the owner of the place or the guy who runs the website emailed my SO to compliment him on a "favorite movies" list he'd made in assocaition with his GreenCine profile, which I thought was a pretty cool thing to do and helped to engender a feeling of community around the service.

PS to ed: Horray for Dario Argento!
posted by jennyb at 11:52 AM on April 8, 2003


Thanks to jennyb and ed for the GreenCine and Cafe DVD recommendations. I've been looking for a service similar to NetFlix, but refuse to patronize NetFlix itself because they engage in pop-up advertising.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:12 PM on April 8, 2003


Uhhh, are you all insane? :)

Honestly, I could see your argument if the movies and your receipt didn't explicitly state the return time, but they all do!

There's no excuse to grouse about something when you've clearly returned the movies late. If you can't get back in time from/to work to return the movies, quit renting the 1-days! It isn't like there's fuzzy blockbuster hamsters sitting outside "pushing" tapes on you or something.

I couldn't care if the late fees were $10,000, it would make no difference as long as a) they're posted conspicously and b) You were informed beforehand that if you returned the video late you'd have to pay it.

All the rental receipts I've ever gotten tell me I either return the video on time or I buy it. I'm lucky they (being my local video shop, which isn't Blockbusters, but isn't all that different) only charged me $3 in late fees the last time I screwed up. Yeah, I admit it, I SCREWED UP.

BTW, Derek, I now understand why I got a confused look from the cashier when they meekly told me I had that $3 late fee. I said to them "No Problem." It didn't even occurr to me to try to weasel out on something I screwed up on. I have more pride than that, I think.
posted by shepd at 12:27 PM on April 8, 2003


First we liked Blockbuster, when their return time was midnight. Never paid late fees. Then they moved the return time *forward* 12 hours, to noon the following day, and we racked up late fees pretty much every weekend. Somehow we would always remember at 11:58 that the movie was due. This went on for a long time... we got better but were still paying at least $8/month in late fees. Then Blockluster tried the Netflix-style plan in our area, so we went for it. Loved it for about three months, but got fed up with the crappy selection and especially the "full-screen preferred" policy. The fact that the plan was good for only one store sucked too -- often the movie we wanted would be checked out at our closest store, but available at the one a mile away (this sucked when we were addicted to the first season of 24 on DVD -- actually paid for a few rentals because we couldn't wait). We cancelled the plan and switched to Neflix a few weeks ago. LOVE IT! Service in our area is quick. Returning is as simple as bringing the discs to work with me and dropping them next to the front counter. Adding the the queue whenever we feel like it is *wonderful* -- no more staring blankly at the same old bad selection every Friday night (geez, we were spending at least half an hour per weekend in that damn store). Eventually we might tire of the NetFlix selection and consider something like GreenCine, but I don't see that happening for a long time. So far, I haven't been able to think of anything that I want to see and which NetFlix doesn't carry, unless it's not out on DVD yet (Paper Moon...).
posted by greengirl at 12:31 PM on April 8, 2003


Forget about late fees, the real reasons to hate Blockbuster (as mentioned already):

• They continue to pressure the studios into "rental pricing" DVDs. In other words, back to the old days of VHS when a new film costs $90 when first released so only video stores will carry it for rental, rather than selling it to the consumer directly on first release. Many people laugh this off as never happening, but don't under estimate Ballbuster's clout:

• They (indirectly) censor films by refusing to stock certain rated and non-rated titles. Or even worse, refuse to stock a film entirely regardless of rating - which is what happened with THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST years ago when it was first released on video.
posted by jca at 12:49 PM on April 8, 2003


Honestly, I could see your argument if the movies and your receipt didn't explicitly state the return time, but they all do!

We never argued abut the fees, and never had a problem remembering when something was due, *if* we happened to think about it. Blockbuster is diabolical with the Noon return time -- they say "due at Noon on Sunday," but we hear "due Sunday" and tend to not think about returning movies until we are out doing errands, which is usually in the afternoon. The only way we could manage to get stuff back on time was to train ourselvves to hear -- and obey -- "Saturday at midnight" instead. I could count on my fingers the number of times we actually returned something the morning of the due date.

They also used to print like 5 or 6 slips of paper for every transaction. Coupons, special offers, some "points" deal that I never understood, the cash register receipt, the movie due date receipt, etc. I'm sure this was designed to make it easier to lose the one slip with the due dates on it.
posted by greengirl at 12:50 PM on April 8, 2003


Proudly boycotting Blockbuster since 1993 for needlessly discriminatory hiring practices against applicants who might even like to burn a rope in their own spare time (as if their silly little job-tasks requires such presence of mind).

Nevertheless, Cheech and Chong's "Up in Smoke" is available for rent in all their locations, cuz a buck's still a buck.
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:54 PM on April 8, 2003


Funny, I don't worry about any of this with Blockbuster. I hooked up with somethign they call the "DVD Club"

Oh yeah, I remember the Blockbuster radio ads last year in which they basically claimed they came up with the concept of "unlimited" dvds and no late fees for a monthly fee. Those were always good for a laugh.

Btw, there was also a 9/6/02 MeFi thread about Netflix (where I listed why I no longer use them).
posted by gluechunk at 1:07 PM on April 8, 2003


A hundred comments for this?
posted by Potsy at 1:11 PM on April 8, 2003


Library. Inter-Library Loan. 'Nuff said.
posted by *burp* at 1:12 PM on April 8, 2003


this is my favorite trick my girlfriend taught me a while ago.. if you're just a day late on your return for a blockbuster movie, bring it to a different store.. they won't charge you for that extra day for bringing the video to the wrong store.
posted by lotsofno at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2003


shepd: Thank you.

While I agree that the amounts set for late fees are onerous, there's a reason - inconsiderate renters wouldn't bother returning them without late fees. Blockbuster isn't your mom - they don't take your personal life into consideration when you don't show up on time. Their return policy sucks, agreed - but, you chose to rent from them, so you're stuck following it. A s for weaseling out of fines, that smacks of a lack of honor. I mean, come on - what schmuck changes his name to get out of paying fines owed to the library? If you screw up, you should at least have the common decency to admit it and pay the fine.

With that said, you don't have to rent from Blockbuster if their return policy sucks. Netflix's policy is better, their selection is great, and it's a more laid back approach. If you want better return policies, vote with your feet & your wallet - spend your money at Netflix or your local independent rental business.
posted by FormlessOne at 1:23 PM on April 8, 2003


*I sometimes use a newsagents around the park who also has a massive selection of DVDs for rent. They buy some rental titles, but mostly retail and its at the whim of the guy there and their pricing is £2 overnight or weekend whatever. A few months back I rented 'The Simpsons' season one over a weekend (which was madness because I watched most of them over with the audio commentary). The selection is pretty good.

*The central library in Liverpool City Centre also gets some things on DVD (although with a wierd purchasing policy -- four copies of 'An American Werewolf in Paris'? two copies of 'Crossroads'?), but their VHS selection is heaven, with shelves upon shelves of foreign film and independent cinema -- it's like a giant archive of the Sundance and Edinburgh film festivals. Until a couple of months ago when we got a new cinema in the city this was mostly the only access anyone had to this kind of film. Their charge for both is £2 per item per week (with concessionary discounts).

*The local Blockbuster has quietly been selling off its remainder VHS stock at 49p an item. But in the UK, the selection from shop to shop is terribly sporadic. My local's selection is extremely poor, whereas the one which is a bit further away is very good on TV titles.

I tend to see most films at the cinema when they come out, otherwise I tend to buy them used or from places online like Play. DVDs in the UK are mostly cheap enough now that if you take into account travel expenses, rental charges and possible late fees it really is cheaper to buy, especially since most titles are out at the same time retail and rental. This was borne out last year in the DVD retail and VHS rental charts. The DVD charts top five featured things like Star Wars, The Rings and Harry Potter. Top of the rental chart sat the Nicole Kidman film 'The Others'. Only American Pie 2 appeared in both. People seem to only want to rent films which they wouldn't dream of buying.
posted by feelinglistless at 1:27 PM on April 8, 2003


I hate to derail here, but - what about those of us who only ever rent video games from Blockbuster? Is there an online equivalent? I'd love a Netflix-like service that exclusively dealt in games (especially if they stocked hard-to-find titles and/or imports). I'd love very much to cut my Blockbuster card to ribbons, but indie video places only ever rent movies...
posted by wanderingmind at 1:33 PM on April 8, 2003


Dear MetaFilter,

Despite outward appearances, I do know how to spell "queue." Thank you for not outwardly making fun of me.

xoxo,
jennyb
posted by jennyb at 1:36 PM on April 8, 2003


Wandering, you want redoctane.com. I haven't used them myself (tried about a year ago, none of the games I wanted were less than "long wait", cancelled immediately) but I have used their Dance Dance Revolution store, and they pretty much rock out.
posted by majcher at 1:44 PM on April 8, 2003


FormlessOne:

Heck, even with the late fees and such, people still don't return stuff to Blockbuster. I am told with distressing frequency at our BB store after finding yet another unavailable anime or such that "I guess that one's stolen. Call us back and we'll see if we can find that."

Me: "Are you planning to order another one?"

Them: "I doubt it."

Or something to that effect.
posted by Samizdata at 1:48 PM on April 8, 2003


FormlessOne: It's all in the attitude. For example, there was a mom-and-pop video store in my old neighborhood that was utterly flexible if I returned something late. Like the rest of the rational world, they didn't abide by hard bureaucracy and ridiculous specifics, but simple dates (i.e., "due on Sunday"). They didn't try to fool the customer by saying, "You have the video for 5 nights," when in fact this translated into 4 days if you counted the days on your fingers like normal people. Get the video in by closing time, get it through the doorslot if you made it after the closing time, and it wouldn't matter. Because ultimately cared about repeat customers like me who rented shitloads of movies over the weekend.

Because no bullshit was involved, because basic human interaction went down (not the kind of greeter crap that implies cordiality, rather than genuinely expresses it), I was on a first-name basis with all the employees and, in particular, the manager. I was more inclined to rent videos there. Even suggested a bunch of titles to give the film more of an art house/cult movie selection for the neighborhood. The manager thanked me, saying that there were actually a few people in the neighborhood who were looking for things like Dead Alive.

I rented from Blockbuster in its early days. That was how I saw all of Kubrick's, Scorsese's and Cassavetes's films in my teens. There was a time in which they practiced the same cordiality as the mom-and-pop place. There was a time when you could talk movie shop with the guy behind the counter. But when I discovered that I could only find cut versions of movies, when even the basic friendliness I encountered boiled down to the Almighty Dollar, I walked away and didn't look back.

With this late fee racket (and the $50 "late fee" described by krunk is clearly a racket), Blockbuster clearly values revenue over repeat business. It's one thing to cop to a late fee and pay a reasonable amount. It's another thing to swindle the customer over something that shouldn't be nearly this exorbitant.

jennyb: Don't fret. Your queue ball breaks a good pool game. :)

Wandering: Also check out Govojo.
posted by ed at 1:50 PM on April 8, 2003


I am simply amazed at the amount of belly aching going on about Blockbuster. Someone complained about the three receipts you have to throw away. Here's an idea, keep one of them, it has the due date and time on it! My local Blockbuster is about 7 blocks away, and parking is not provided. If something is due back at noon the next day, I usually drop it off the night before. Am I brilliant or what?

I rented Margaret Cho's Notorious C.H.O. from Blockbuster and if that's NC-17 I would hate to see what gets an R rating! By the way, Cho does a funny bit about not returning a video (Beaver Fever) on time.

I have friends who love Netflix. They do have one complaint that annoys me. If you rent a movie that has two disks, that's considered two rentals.
posted by whatever at 1:51 PM on April 8, 2003


Blockbuster is diabolical with the Noon return time -- they say "due at Noon on Sunday," but we hear "due Sunday" and tend to not think about returning movies until we are out doing errands, which is usually in the afternoon.

I thought that was actually a great improvement, after too many instances of racing to watch a movie and get it back to Blockbuster before they closed at midnight. (This was some time ago, when the rental period was short.) I used to rant that anytime before they opened the following morning should be good enough.

I have to agree that I don't see what's so hard about returning movies on time.

My pet peeve about Blockbuster s their stocking fullscreen versions instead of widescreen. And yet some of their stuff is widescreen (maybe when they're not given a choice?) All too often its a crapshoot.

A friend of mine has used Netflix for years and says it makes a big difference how far away their warehouse/order center is from you. It used to require several days for discs to arrive until they opened one less than 100 miles away -- now usually gets movies within a day.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:25 PM on April 8, 2003


Proudly boycotting Blockbuster since 1993 for needlessly discriminatory hiring practices against applicants who might even like to burn a rope in their own spare time (as if their silly little job-tasks requires such presence of mind).

Thank You for making my job seem as if it was pointless. First, 75% of my co-workers were doing some type of drug at the time, mostly pot, while the rest of us were on huge caffiene highs.

Second, the job was hard. Imagine grandmothers yelling at you, when you did nothing wrong. Or even snot nosed brats complaining that they couldn't find barney. My personal favorite, teenage boys and girls who tried everything to let me rent R rated stuff to them. I for one don't give a crap, but when they lie right in front of me or try to get me to do it in front of my manager, then I have to have a little fun with them.

Third, I had nightmares for months about working there and restocking shelves and ringing up lines of customers that would never end...

Blockbuster was hell, but don't talk shit about what you don't know.
posted by Derek at 2:28 PM on April 8, 2003


I rented from Blockbuster in its early days. That was how I saw all of Kubrick's, Scorsese's and Cassavetes's films in my teens. There was a time in which they practiced the same cordiality as the mom-and-pop place. There was a time when you could talk movie shop with the guy behind the counter. But when I discovered that I could only find cut versions of movies, when even the basic friendliness I encountered boiled down to the Almighty Dollar, I walked away and didn't look back.

I for one, when I worked there, was always talking about movies with the customers. I'd spend an hour with some 60 year old guy talking about classic westerns. Half the people in the store did the same thing. Joe, a part time guy who worked the morning M-F shift spend 70% of his time talking to customers about the movies, and he loved it. This, by the way, was only about 3 years ago. I'd love to go back to Blockbuster to work, just for that chance again.
posted by Derek at 2:31 PM on April 8, 2003


As blueshammer mentioned previously, Blockbuster is great for picking up used DVDs and games cheap, especially during their Buy Two, Get One Free promotions. I still think their used DVDs are a little expensive. $14.99 for a used DVD is high when you can get a new one for $15.99 at Target the first few days of release. However, if you wait long enough the prices come down. ($9.99 for The Royal Tenenbaums, anyone?) Their used PS2 section is a joy to behold for a cheapskate like me, too. I just picked up Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 for $6.99 and PaRappa 2 for $9.99. Screw that paying $50 crap.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:43 PM on April 8, 2003


A little OT, but MegoSteve, speaking of buying used games, does anyone else find it a little unfair that you can't sell used PC software?

(or at least you can't around here... the couple of store that were doing it got "busted" for it)
posted by shepd at 2:53 PM on April 8, 2003


117 comments (and counting) on Blockbuster fines! If you weren't so busy commenting on Mefi, maybe you could get out and return those "dem overdew videos."
posted by newlydead at 3:04 PM on April 8, 2003


Ooh! Look what I found! BallBuster's collection note for my $51.64 Legally Blonde late fee.

Check the top -- I can redeem the note for a free rental! That's gotta be worth $51.64, right? No? Oh.
posted by krunk at 3:52 PM on April 8, 2003


Good work, Krunk.
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 4:02 PM on April 8, 2003


I can't remember the last time I rented a video anywhere. Once the digital cable with all the movie channels, 30 PPV channels and then the I-control channels on top of it was hooked up to the TV, there was never any need to drive anywhere and worry about late fees again. Even before I got the digital cable though, I had a DVD player, and if there was something I really wanted, I'd buy it on DVD when it came out. Less annoying than going to Blockbuster (the only thing close to where I live) and cheaper than my hubby and I going to see it in the theater (with the crying babies and all). I do think about renting video games form them from time to time, but it just seems like such a hassle. Easier to wait until the game comes down in price and then just buy it. I guess you can tell, I'm pretty patient about how long it takes me to see a movie or play a game. :D

I agree with those of you though that are saying to just get the movie back. We always had late fees because the store isn't in a convenient location for us, so it always got put off, so we always paid late fees (and yes, we paid them without whining). That was back when rentals weren't for multiples of days though. I think with a week to get it back, even I could manage to do it on time.

Side note: Why is it that when everyone is talking about the war, people are griping because we are talking about the war. When we aren't people are griping because we aren't. What's up with that?
posted by Orb at 4:07 PM on April 8, 2003


A Videostore Named Desire.
On Santa Monica near Barry in LA.

New releases, anime, HK and foreign, DVD and VHS

Open 365 days a year

$1/day, late fee $1/day

It stays in business because the adult rentals cost more and have a crazy late fee -- no one disputes late fees on adult rentals. It's a perfect system. Mike is brilliant.
posted by linux at 4:13 PM on April 8, 2003


Once upon a time, I was standing in a very long BlockBuster checkout line, maybe 12 people, with 2 cashiers on the clock.

Someone being rung up had picked up an empty box or something, and their cashier ran back out to the shelves to find another. On his way back he lingered for over a minute to help some hot young girl find something she was looking for, while we all waited, glaring at him.

There was, in fact, a third employee there: a grizzled, mumbling, disheleved young man who looked like he'd ben awake for 17 months straight.

But did he open a third register? No. His job was to stand out, by the customers, and supervise the ever-lengthening line.

He prodded us again and again to move over and stop blocking the aisle (whether or not anyone was trying to walk by). We all got sick of him pretty quick.

He finally asked someone to move over, and they ignored him. At this point, he mumbled under his breath (but loud enough for us to hear):

"Well, I guess no one here respects a BLACK man."

Sheezus.
posted by scarabic at 4:21 PM on April 8, 2003


The whole reason I won't rent from blockbuster (besides the fact that there's a decent place much closer) is that I returned a film on time. The employee didn't check it in properly. They charged me for the cost of the film, despite the fact that the store only owned one copy of the movie, and it was sitting on the shelf.
posted by drezdn at 4:28 PM on April 8, 2003


For anybody in the neighborhood, I recommend Video Express on 30th Ave, Astoria, Queens. Friendly, knowledgeable, well-stocked, and inclined to take it easy on you with the late fees if you apologize politely.

Word to wise about the Netflix recommendation engine: it's skewered toward studios that give them a deal on the DVDs. From what I heard, they'll never recommend a Paramount film. For unbiased recommendations, see movielens.
posted by muckster at 4:39 PM on April 8, 2003


hey, I don't get it: so, should I get a Blockbuster card or not?
posted by matteo at 4:44 PM on April 8, 2003


But did he open a third register? No. His job was to stand out, by the customers, and supervise the ever-lengthening line.

This happens a few times, in a good store, the manager will log onto the persons cash register and handle some people. In a bad store, what you explained might happen. Opening another register, depending on the time of day, is a very annoying procedure, because it's another drawer they have to work on at the end of the shift or the end of the night.

The whole reason I won't rent from blockbuster (besides the fact that there's a decent place much closer) is that I returned a film on time. The employee didn't check it in properly. They charged me for the cost of the film, despite the fact that the store only owned one copy of the movie, and it was sitting on the shelf.

Then you should have talked to either the Store Manager or the District Manager, who's numbers are on the sign in front of the cash register. While it may have been the cash register guy who was dicking you over, doesn't mean every store is like that. Besides the fact that if there was only one copy that they owned and it was sitting on the shelf, they would only try to charge you the late fees incured, not the cost of the movie.

Blockbuster in most respects is like any other retail store, if you're in the right, and even if you're not, if you complain enough and keep going up the ladder, you'll reach someone that doesn't want to deal with you and will take it off your account. Always try the district manager, they're usually at odds with every store manager in their district.
posted by Derek at 4:44 PM on April 8, 2003


Derek-

I don't know..... Here at the library where I am employed, one of our volunteers is the father of the Vice President of the company.
(Jesus, that was a lot of "of's."

I still couldn't get my 9 dollar late fine taken care of after I was in the hospital and was not able to take them back in.

Screw 'em. The video store down the road from me rents videos by the day. 1 buck for older movies, fifty cents for cartoons and family rentals, and 2 bucks for new releases. You pay when you turn them in, not before. I like the system, as I usually watch the movie the night I rent them anyway.
posted by bradth27 at 7:03 PM on April 8, 2003


A *ahem* friend of mine tells me that (in the UK at least) you can get away with replacing the DVD you rent with a blank CD-R before you hand it back in to Blockbusters because they never check what's actually on the disc. Some of the stores still don't have the equipment to play the stuff that they rent out.
posted by tapeguy at 7:21 PM on April 8, 2003


Wired, "The Netflix Effect": "Netflix doesn't just deliver DVDs, it tells subscribers which ones they'll probably like, thanks to the Netflix recommendation engine — a combination of 29,000 unique lines of code and a database of 180 million film ratings known as CineMatch. It's based on the assumption that movie viewers all watch the same narrow range of big-budget films only because they don't know any better." The article also mentions Blockbuster's attempt to compete in the online mail-DVD market.

And here's a surpisingly detailed seven-part overview on Netflix's design.
posted by ed at 8:03 PM on April 8, 2003


Thank You for making my job seem as if it was pointless. First, 75% of my co-workers were doing some type of drug at the time, mostly pot, while the rest of us were on huge caffeine highs.


Then why do they require a hair test just to get a job there? The military doesn't even require a hair test. Seems a bit excessive for what is basically restocking shelves and running a cash register.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:52 PM on April 8, 2003


Wanderingmind - There are about 6 or 7 places trying the netflix model with videogames. Just do a google search for online video game rental and you'll see a lot of the sites in the listings and ads.
posted by gspira at 9:05 PM on April 8, 2003


I'm located in Montreal, Canada and use the Canadian version of Blockbusters. One of the reasons I do so is that I am often travelling on business and my Blockbusters membership keytag is accepted at all Blockbusters nationwide; so I can rent a DVD to play on my TiBook laptop when I'm staying in a hotel. Can't do that with an indie shop.

Secondly, I've discovered that the rental rates are different in different parts of the country. In my home area of Montreal, the average rental rate at BB for a new release DVD is around $5.50 CDN. I'm now in Truro, Nova Scotia visiting my parents and picked up a new release at the local Blockbusters for only $4.29! So there is definitely something about what the local market will bear...

Thirdly, I don't know if it's because it's in Canada, but I've found that most Blockbusters up here prominently post their rental fees and late "renewal" fees. The renewal fee is usually a prorated version of the rental fee. In other words, if you had rented a week long rental at $5.00, and it was a day late, you would only be paying about .75¢ to $1 per day; so you would only be paying another full $5.00 if you kept it for another full week. This could just also happen to be local policy at the particular branch. I always make a point of checking for signage or asking staff, as it is not always consistent from branch to branch.

Speaking of particular branches, I've found distinct differences in the customer service and attitude of staffers of the three different BB's located within driving distance of my home. I also end up going to the smaller shop, even though they have a slightly smaller selection, because they didn't have as snotty an attitude, were more liberal about late fees, and often had excellent regular deals (Rent a new release from Monday to Wednesday and get a "Favorites" rental free).

A note to those interested in expanding their DVD collections, I've found the Canadian Blockbusters are often a great deal on "pre-viewed" or used DVDs; *much* more so than their American counterparts. I've found that I can often purchase what was a popular DVD (such as Gladiator, Shrek or Monsters, Inc.) for as little as around $15 CDN (close to $10 US). (It also depends on the location; another BB only 5 minutes drive away was selling the same used DVD for $18 CDN.) On several occasions when I was travelling in the States, I would check out rental places for used DVDs and would find the same sort of used DVDs selling for about the same price, but in US currency! So what I bought for $15 CDN would be selling for $15 US, or about $22.50 CDN!!! So take note, if you love to buy inexpensive used DVDs and make it up to Canada, the rates are usually much better and you will really benefit from the currency exchange! Also, it's sometimes worth checking out a smaller BB branch, as their used prices can be a few dollars cheaper than a bigger branch with a larger customer base.

Over the past few years, I've slowly collected DVD movies and I have to say that pretty well 98% of them are used. I like movies, but not at the sticker price. When buying them, I always make a point of inspecting the DVD on-site, before bringing it home. If I find obvious scratches, I can often get them to exchange it for another used one that is less scuffed, even if you have a 7 day grace period to check it out at home - I mean, why not start off with one with no *obvious* defects. I've even had a rental guy go and exchange a minor scuffed used DVD I was purchasing for a "new" one that was still in the rental section, because it was easier for him than digging through the used box.

I also have some sort of Canadian Blockbuster membership kit/booklet that has $2 off new release movie or game rentals each month, as well as 2 forgive-N-forget coupons, and a free rental on your birthday; all for $9.95 CDN (about $6.75 US) and if you keep an eye on their flyers, they often have $2 off coupons on the special membership, bringing it to only $7.95 CDN (about $5.30 US). This membership also gives you $1 off the purchase of any used movie (VHS or DVD) all year. Depending on your rental patterns and combining it with 2-1 rental offers; it can pay for itself several times over during the year.

As a result of their occasional 3 for 2 used movie sales, coupons and Canadian prices, I've been able to expland my collection to about 50 DVDs for a fraction of the cost of what it would have cost me brand new.

I'm still not crazy about ALL Blockbusters locations, as it depends on the local staff/management and their attitudes and customer service; but for my personal rental habits and due to wanting to be able to rent while travelling -- it fits well for me -- for now... I'd love to give Netflix a try, but when I contacted them about expanding to service Canada; they said they had no plans to do so -- oh well!
posted by Jade Dragon at 9:11 PM on April 8, 2003


consumerFilter: Let it all out, people! :)
posted by elphTeq at 9:43 PM on April 8, 2003


elphTeq- OK then!!......I bought a whole bunch of decomissioned movies from a video store which had gone out of business (for about 40 cents a piece), and I've been trying to watch those instead of renting. Next in my cue: "The Snows of Mt. Kilamenjaro". and "The 39 Steps".
posted by troutfishing at 10:13 PM on April 8, 2003


I love Netflix, and have upgraded the service twice to the point where I'm now entitled to have 8 movies out at a time. I still pay less per month than I used to pay in LATE FEES to Blockbuster. With 4 kids, a husband who likes action movies and a wife who likes romantic comedies we need a wide range of movies...

Forget NetFlix. After using that service for six or eight months, I found I'd pretty much used up the value--and I was putting all kinds of older classics on my list...

This is a self-created problem, billysaysthis. Netflix has fewer copies of older movies, so it takes longer until they come available to be shipped to you. The solution is to put more movies in the queue. Netflix will send you the highest ranked movie in your queue that they have available the day they receive one of yours back.

One annoying thing is that the "New Releases" on Netflix aren't queued up in order of popularity or demand, in fact, the opposite. They deliberately try and steer you away from the most popular new releases, probably just trying to distribute the rental demand across their inventory.

Easy fix: open up a browser window with blockbuster.com and a second one with netflix.com. Pick the movies off the blockbuster list and add them to your netflix queue.
posted by JParker at 11:21 PM on April 8, 2003


Then why do they require a hair test just to get a job there? The military doesn't even require a hair test. Seems a bit excessive for what is basically restocking shelves and running a cash register.

Whoever told you that you were going to have a drug test was on drugs. No one I know at blockbuster ever had to do a drug test. And a hair test is even more silly since they cost around 60-120 per person to do. Do you really think they'd actually pay to drug test you. If they really were forceful about a drug test, then it wasn't because of company policy, it was most likely something about you.
posted by Derek at 11:50 PM on April 8, 2003


Netflix: I'm still a user, despite my less-frequent movie watching (I've just downgraded to two per-monthly titles, which is a more reasonable $13.99/month fee).

While it's tragic to see my favorite independent video rental store lose business by the day due to companies like Blockbuster and NetFlix, it's merely a sign of changing times, due to the impact of the Internet, plus the dramatic changes in both the film industry, the proliferation of DVD and the diverging genres of movies available to rent (or own).

Blockbuster can still eat my ass, however. They've never been good.
posted by Down10 at 1:45 AM on April 9, 2003


Man, there's a lot of catharsis on this thread.
posted by Down10 at 1:47 AM on April 9, 2003


question for Derek and other knowledgable people: with all the variation (as pointed out by Jade Dragon, among others) between various Blockbuster locations, are Blockbuster stores franchised? or is it just a huge chain?
posted by Vidiot at 3:39 AM on April 9, 2003


it's simply another example of corporations stealing from the customer. period. on a late return, blockbuster is entitled to collect what has been deprived of, and nothing else. if a movie rents for $2 a day, and you return it 8 hours late, you owe them 67 cents. maybe throw in an hour (generous) for restocking. call it 75 cents. hourly calculation a bit too granular for your taste? good. call it a day. $2.00. anything else is scalping the customer. of course, customers agree to be ripped off in advance, when they sign up. so there's nothing that can be done until people start to vote with their shoes and wallet. and that's unlikely to happen to any great degree. american sheep must have their movies.
posted by quonsar at 5:51 AM on April 9, 2003


Derek, I don't know when you worked for Blockbuster, but in my day (ca. 1989-1991) drug tests using hair samples were most definitely required for all employees, both in corporate stores and franchisees.

Vidiot: Again, my knowledge is a good ten years or so out of date, but in the early 90's most BBV stores were owned by the company, with scattered mid-sized franchises around the country. I don't think they bothered with single-store franchises. The corporate chain was partially built by acquiring regional chains.
posted by jjg at 6:05 AM on April 9, 2003


jjg, that's exactly how the franchise I worked for went under. BBV corp threatened to open corporate stores in the same town as our franchise stores and undercut us until we went under or sold to them. We wound up selling.

As far as working for them, it was one of the most fun jobs I've had. I was in my early 20s, in college, getting paid to work a relatively stress-free job (come on.. shelving tapes and helping customers? What do these people have to bitch about?) and renting movies for free. Like I said, it was a franchise, but BBV controlled them pretty strictly. I don't think it was too much different than the real thing.

My own BBV (as a customer) story: I returned a movie to the wrong store accidently. The right store got it back from the wrong one after a couple days, but they still charged me for 14 days of late fees. I wrote their customer service department in Texas and told them I would instruct everyone I knew to go directly across the street to Hollywood Video if they didn't remove it. They did. Of course, I haven't been to one in almost a year now since I discovered Netflix.
posted by goto11 at 7:32 AM on April 9, 2003


I don't know where you live, but in DC there isn't any greeting--just a bored indifferent blink.

Or a pair behind the counter discussing Cher's latest hairdo while you're waiting at the front of the line to pay for your rental.
posted by fredosan at 7:48 AM on April 9, 2003


I would just like to reaffirm many people's feelings expressed in this thread: Blockbuster sucks, Netflix rocks.
posted by ericrolph at 8:29 AM on April 9, 2003


Samizdata: Agreed - there are simply too many people who believe that, because it's someone else's property, it's OK to be negligent with it.

ed: Agreed - that's exactly my point. Blockbuster doesn't engage in a deceptive business practice (maybe they do, who knows), just a lousy one. If you do business with them, by definition you agree with (or are stuck with) how they do business. I'm not defending Blockbuster in any way; they're one of the reasons I stopped renting entirely and went to the very infrequent pay-per-view bit. Sounds like you've got access to a sweet local spot who's willing to go the extra mile for customer service and repeat business - by all means, do business with them. They're happy for the revenue, you're happy for the service - a dream made in capitalism. :-)
posted by FormlessOne at 8:39 AM on April 9, 2003


Blockbuster and other stores (Gap, A&F, etc.) greet their customers personally as they come in the door because it's been shown to reduce shoplifting.

What's to shoplift from Blockbuster? Popcorn?
posted by Summer at 9:22 AM on April 9, 2003


question for Derek and other knowledgable people: with all the variation (as pointed out by Jade Dragon, among others) between various Blockbuster locations, are Blockbuster stores franchised? or is it just a huge chain

There are some franchised stores that still have to follow the strict policy of blockbuster inc. I've had to talk to a few of them, because when you sign up your account with a franchise store, it only works with them, and not the national network. At least that's how it was when I was working.

What's to shoplift from Blockbuster? Popcorn?

Tons of teenagers and adults would come into my store and steal tapes by just opening the box and pulling the tape out. We were instructed not to chase after anyone caught stealing, but one of the assistant managers and I didn't care for that policy. Most anything in the store can be shoplifted, it's not to hard to get it around the detector as you leave the store.
posted by Derek at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2003


What's to shoplift from Blockbuster? Popcorn?

I second what Derek said. I've been to quite a few video stores (Minneapolis, MN and Boston, MA) which display only empty casette boxes, and pull the videos from behind the desk. Not only does it make inventorying what's out much easier, but little to no theft happens. Never underestimate the power of free, as in five-fingered, entertainment. There's a reason Best Buy, Sam Goody, et al, have the little magnetic security devices on every $20 movie/CD.
posted by whatzit at 5:22 PM on April 9, 2003


There are about 6 or 7 places trying the netflix model with videogames. Just do a google search for online video game rental and you'll see a lot of the sites in the listings and ads.

Actually, there are more than a dozen. NYTimes article. (Free reg. required, yadda yadda yadda.) Read it before they charge ya for the archive.

Here are some that they listed: GameLender, RedOctane, GoVoJo, GameFly, Spunel, VeeGeeZ, NonStopGames, and NumbThumb, AngelGamer, GetAnyGame, and GamesForRent.
posted by Fofer at 8:04 PM on April 9, 2003


I have a roommate who works at Hollywood Video. He was kind enough to make a note on his account indicating I can rent movies on it. Their current policy is employees can have three movies/games rented at a time, and they must be returned within the standard rental period.

He also gets movies before official release. I'm really going to regret it when we no longer live together. This is my movie rental suggestion: get a friend who works at a video store.
posted by mikeh at 9:45 PM on April 9, 2003


Though not exactly an independent movie store, I have found I Love Video (maybe they are only in texas) to be a very good place. (At least the one in austin) has a decent selection, funny/irreverent 'reviews' written by the staff pasted on the movie boxes, a good docu selection (a must), and plus, you dont have to have your late fees paid off to rent again. They let you pay some, or none at all, depending on how much you tell them you can 'afford' right then.

To me, that is the beauty of the smaller store as compared to the corporate chain: they are willing to work with you because your individual business is actually important to them. Blockbuster can afford to blow off and alienate as many individuals as they want, as their brand recognition is already deeply engrained in our cultural consciousness and it is unlikely that will fade anytime soon.
posted by jono at 1:50 AM on April 10, 2003


I've been to quite a few video stores (Minneapolis, MN and Boston, MA) which display only empty casette boxes, and pull the videos from behind the desk.

I thought that's how Blockbuster always did it. My mistake.
posted by Summer at 4:02 AM on April 10, 2003


Summer, at least here in Cambridge (the only one I've been to recently enough to comment on), the video boxes are empty, but behind them are the boxes you actually grab to check out, the video is in a custom Blockbuster box (with description, actors, ratings, etc.). At these other stores the movies weren't anywhere you could touch them... *shrug*
posted by whatzit at 6:16 AM on April 10, 2003


Whoever told you that you were going to have a drug test was on drugs. No one I know at blockbuster ever had to do a drug test. And a hair test is even more silly since they cost around 60-120 per person to do. Do you really think they'd actually pay to drug test you. If they really were forceful about a drug test, then it wasn't because of company policy, it was most likely something about you.

The manager of a local blockbuster told me that when I was applying for a job, and friends who worked there complained about the hair tests since the person who did it was a bit heavy-handed with the scissors. (as in, the patch of hair missing is noticeable from a couple feet away).

Oh, and thanks for hinting that, because your experience with blockbuster's drug test policies differs from mine, I must be on drugs! Much appreciated.
posted by Kellydamnit at 11:10 AM on April 10, 2003


Oh, and thanks for hinting that, because your experience with blockbuster's drug test policies differs from mine, I must be on drugs! Much appreciated.

Actually it could have been a poor attitude, or comments on your customer account that led to them pushing for it. Or that store found that it saved them a lot more in the long run by doing hair tests. We didn't hire a lot of people because of the simple fact that people already working there knew them and were asked by management if they were a good worker or not.

Most employees only last for a year, then they quit or get fired. That's why I believe that a hair test was almost silly to do. Hair tests are for a record of drug use in the past 5 years, a piss test is good for 6 months and is a whole lot cheaper, which would you choose if you were them?
posted by Derek at 3:46 PM on April 10, 2003


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